Scholars discuss postcolonial critiques of global migration law in EUI-Hertie School workshop


Collaboration of Centre for Fundamental Rights and EUI in CIVICA network with universities in Africa and North America.

On 10 June, a diverse group of scholars at various career stages gathered at the Hertie School in Berlin and online to present their papers employing post- and decolonial approaches to global migration law. The workshop Decolonising Global Migration Law was hosted by the Hertie School's Centre for Fundamental Rights and the European University Institute, as part of the CIVICA alliance, in collaboration with the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand and Temple University.

While post-colonial critiques are well-established in most fields of international law, many areas of the complex intersection between colonialism, bordering and migration law remain underexamined. The workshop aimed to contribute to the growing body of scholarship on decolonising global migration law and control practices.

Based on an open call for papers, the organising committee selected fifteen papers (from over 50 submissions) for presentation, bringing fresh insights into global migration law and the history of the global governance of migration, exploring refugee law, labour migration, nationality and statelessness.  The presenters and organising committee exchanged ideas on racial bordering, colonial continuities and discontinuities, and the possible remedies and responses to enduring colonial legacies and inequalities of migration opportunities.

With the aim to create a diverse scholarly community to discuss these themes, scholars from around the world were able to share their work in a constructive and supportive academic environment, as well as receive dedicated comments and feedback from senior academics and other participants. The workshop paid particular attention to the work of researchers who are at the early stages of their career, including advanced PhD students, in the spirit of the CIVICA call to support early career scholars and facilitate conversations that bridge disciplinary divides.

“This workshop reflects the values of the Centre,” said Professor Cathryn Costello, Co-Director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights. “We generally offer our second-year doctoral researchers the opportunity to organise an international workshop, thereby supporting other early career researchers and opening up new areas of academic inquiry and collaboration. In this case, Hertie School PhD researcher Vera Wriedt convened a deeply scholarly, thought-provoking workshop, bringing together a unique constellation of academics."

Neha Jain, Dean of Equality, Diversity and Inclusiveness, Professor of Public International Law and Co-Director of the Academy of European Law at the European University Institute, represented the EUI in the workshop’s organising committee. “Workshops such as these are central to CIVICA’s mission,” Neha said after the event, adding that these initiatives showcase the alliance's leadership “in generating and sustaining peer and mentoring networks between scholars at different career stages in the Global North and South.”

The day after the workshop, the group met for a tour led by activist Joshua Kwesi Aikins, a PhD candidate at University of Kassel's Department of Development and Postcolonial Studies. The tour was titled, “The Everyday Presence of the Colonial Past: A Decolonial City Walk in Berlin's 'African Quarter' (Afrikanisches Viertel)”. It combined the history behind the street names that celebrate Germany’s colonisers and colonies across Africa with insights into contemporary politics of renaming, remembrance and reparation.


Written by Ellen Thalman (Hertie School) and Luisa Della Pietra (EUI)

Workshop programme

Panel I, Chair: Başak Çalı,Professor of International Law, Hertie School, Centre for Fundamental Rights

  • Karin de Vries, Associate Professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Sumedha Choudhury, PhD Researcher, Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness, University of Melbourne

Discussant: Mohammad Shahabuddin, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Birmingham Law School

  • Natalia Cintra, Research Fellow, University of Southampton
  • Rodolfo Ribeiro C. Marques, PhD Researcher, Geneva Graduate Institute IHEID

Discussant: Diego Acosta, Professor of European and Migration Law, University of Bristol


Panel II, Chair: Cathryn Costello, Professor of Fundamental Rights, Hertie School, Centre for Fundamental Rights and Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford

  • Anam Soomro, Postdoctoral Fellow, Berlin-Potsdam Research Group, KFG, The International Rule of Law— Rise or Decline?
  • Samuel Berhanu Woldemariam, Lecturer, University of Newcastle Law School Australia

Discussant: Tobias Berger, Junior Professor of Political Science, Freie Universität Berlin

  • Ruben Wissing, Migration Law Research Group, Ghent University

Discussant: Loren Landau, Professor of Migration and Development, University of Oxford and African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand


Panel III, Chair: Ashwini Vasanthakumar, Associate Professor, Queen's Law School and Visiting Fellow, Hertie School

  • Nawal Mustafa, PhD Researcher, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Vera Wriedt, PhD Researcher, Centre for Fundamental Rights, Hertie School Berlin

Discussant: E. Tendayi Achiume

  • Thomas Spijkerboer, Professor of Migration Law, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Aneesha Johny, PhD Researcher, National Law School of India University Bangalore

Discussant: Cathryn Costello


Panel IV, Chair: Nicholas Maple, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of the Witwatersrand

  • Asma Atique, Postdoctoral Visitor Fellow, York University, Canada
  • Moria Paz, Research Fellow, Stanford Law School

Discussant: Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Associate Dean for Research, I. Herman Stern Research Professor, Temple University

  • Megan Bradley, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Development Studies, McGill University, Montreal
  • Leila Kawar, Associate Professor of American Culture, University of Michigan

Discussant: Neha Jain, Professor of Public International Law, European University Institute


Closing observations

  • E. Tendayi Achiume, Professor of Law, UCLA Law School and UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
  • Jaya Ramji-Nogales, Associate Dean for Research, I. Herman Stern Research Professor, Temple University
  • Loren Landau, Professor of Migration and Development, University of Oxford and African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand
  • Mohammad Shahabuddin, Professor of International Law & Human Rights, Birmingham Law School