DU Law Faculty organises special lecture on the ideology of postcolonial states
On August 4, 2022 the Faculty of Law, University of Dhaka organised a special lecture event titled as "The 'Ideology' of the Postcolonial State: Some Critical Reflections on Nation-Building, Liberal Individualism, and Development".
The lecture took place at Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban at the Dhaka University premises. It was graced by the presence of Dr. Mohammad Shahabuddin, Professor of International Law and Human Rights, University of Birmingham, as the keynote speaker; Professor Dr. A.S.M Maksud Kamal, Pro-Vice Chancellor (academic), University of Dhaka, as the Chief Guest; Professor Dr. Shima Zaman, Dean (Acting), Faculty of Law, University of Dhaka. The event was presided over by Professor Dr. Asif Nazrul, Chairman, Department of Law, University of Dhaka. The panelists included Professor Dr. Salimullah Khan, Director, Centre for Advanced Theory, University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh; and Dr. C.R. Abrar, former Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka. Mohammad Golam Sarwar, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Dhaka, moderated the event.
In her opening remarks, Professor Dr. Zaman welcomed the eminent scholars and stated that without an interdisciplinary approach knowledge remains incomplete. She then transferred the floor to the speakers for discussions.
While discussing his recent book namely "Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States" published by the Cambridge University Press in 2021, Professor Dr. Shahabuddin noted that all but a handful of the countries are postcolonial states whereas majority of the states including the western liberal democracies are not completely in ethnonationalist patterns. He further put forward some questions including – why are postcolonial states more vulnerable to this phenomenon? How do postcolonial states respond to the ethnic minorities? What role does international role play in all of these? While analysing the answers to these questions, he focused on the roles of international law and argued that the lack of its execution leading the very international law scheme to be a part of the problem.
Professor Shahabuddin also shed light on the definition and manifestation of the term 'ideology' as a series of modes of operations through which asymmetric relations of power are established. He investigated the ideology of postcolonial states through 'nation-building', 'liberal-individualism', and 'development' and discussed the marginalisation of minorities within the spectrum of the three categories.
He also emphasised that minorities are often seen as a threat to the states they are part of and cited relevant cases to substantiate this idea. The presence of normative inconsistencies in the liberal-individualist ethos of postcolonial nation-building was also illustrated by the speaker. He also talked about the provisions for minority protection versus individual liberalism in the postcolonial liberal states.
As the event progressed, Professor C.R. Abrar lucidly presented the summary of the crucial aspects denoted by Dr. Shahabuddin referring to his book and pertinent resources. The term 'ideology', Professor Abrar stated, is a set of ways in which ideas and meanings create and sustain relationships of domination. Moreover, throughout his speech, he urged for the need of awareness and sensitivity of states towards the protection of its minorities.
Professor Salimullah Khan then put efforts to discuss the symbiotic relationship of the so-called postcolonial states with the colonial powers which has led to the evolution of the understanding of 'ideology'. Throughout his eloquent speech, Professor Khan emphasised on the historical formation of the postcolonial States.
Acknowledging the importance of the discussions made by the distinguished speakers, the chief guest, Professor Dr. Maksud Kamal talked about the domination of colonial powers and the presence of this particular phenomenon across different jurisdictions, even at times regardless of their postcolonial identity.
Lastly with reference to the Constituent Assembly Debates of Bangladesh (1972), Professor Dr. Asif Nazrul put forward his idea of different categories of vulnerable groups who can be given protection as minorities along with the religious minority groups. By showing his gratitude to all the esteemed guests, speakers, and panelists he concluded the formal session.
The discussion by the panelists was followed by an open discussion. Throughout this open discussion, pressing questions on the framework of the constitution of Bangladesh regarding secularism and cultural relativism of human rights were brought upon by the audiences, specially students, academics, and researchers. In short, the panelists, guests and participants addressed the needs, issues and challenges regarding the protection on minorities in the postcolonial states, and the evolution and practice of the notion of 'ideology' of such states through nation building, liberal individualism and development.
Event report by Nowshin Noor, student of Law, University of Dhaka.