Critical Race Theory Meets Third World Approaches to International Law

By and large, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) exist in separate epistemic universes. This Article argues that the borders between these two fields are unwarranted. Specifically, the Article articulates six parallel ways in which CRT and TWAIL have exposed and challenged the racial dimensions of United States law and international law, respectively. It foregrounds the related ways in which both CRT scholars and TWAIL scholars have: contested the legalization of white supremacy; marked and problematized the degree to which regimes of inclusion can operate as mechanisms of exclusion; staged important if non-identical critiques of colorblindness; engaged and repudiated neoliberal, racialized claims about the social responsibility and agency of Black people and African nations; confronted perceptions that both literatures exist outside the boundaries of the presumptively neutral scholarly conventions of constitutional law and international law, engendering either criticism or willful dis-attention or non-engagement by mainstream scholars in both fields; and remained invested in reconstruction and transformation of and within law, seeking to maximize law’s emancipatory potential for racial justice and substantive equality, while remaining clear-eyed about the limits and costs of such engagements and the need to effectuate change in other arenas, such as social movements.

About the Author

E. Tendayi Achiume is a Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, and a research associate of the African Center for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Devon W. Carbado is the Harry Pregerson Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.