The erasure of the global south in international law


During this intensive course, by Prof. Dr. Thomas Spijkerboer (VU Amsterdam), participants reflect about how international law is formulated in ways that negate experiences and conceptualisations in the Global South. For instance, what we know as ‘international migration law’ actually reflects a particular Global North (European) perspective. A similar pattern is visible in other branches of international law. The aim of the participant-driven course is to pool resources and expertise within the group in order to critically evaluate how erasure of the Global South occurs in various branches of international law (e.g. human rights law, environmental law, public international law).

The course will juxtapose (a) European sources (in particular: doctrine and jurisprudence) on international migration law and other branches of international law students introduced by participants (environmental law, the response to global pandemics, the law of armed conflict or trade law; doctrinal issues such as customary international law); (b) critiques of such sources as being European by authors such as Chimni, Achiume, Anghie, Rajagopal, (c) sources (academic texts, jurisprudence) from the global South, in particular from Africa and Latin America, that potentially shed a different light on international law than the European sources assert as being international. The concrete topics will be decided upon by the participants during the first session.

This course is part of a Francqui International Chair, in which 8 Belgian universities are involved: UGent, UAntwerpen, KU Leuven, UHasselt, UC Louvain, ULB, VUB & Université Saint-Louis.


  • Inaugural lecture by Prof. Dr. Thomas Spijkerboer.
  • Seminar-style course of 8 sessions: reading group + presentations by participants concerning the three kinds of materials outlined under content (European doctrine and jurisprudence; critique; doctrine and jurisprudence from the global South), moderated by the trainer.
  • Bilateral (ie. one-on-one) meetings between Prof. Dr. Thomas Spijkerboer and participants concerning their PhD research.
  • Closing international symposium, for which the 8 sessions will provide input. Format and content of the closing symposium will be developed during the course together with the participants.

Participants are required to attend the 8 sessions (except in case of absence for compelling reason); to deliver one or more presentations; and to participate actively in the intellectual process during the seminars.

Learning outcomes

After attending this course, participants will ...

  • be familiar with critiques of international law as being dominated by the global North, formulated in Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and decolonial critiques of international law,
  • be familiar with the implications of that critique for specific areas, such as international migration law and other fields of interest to the participants,
  • be able to decide to what extent the studied critiques are relevant for their own ongoing research,
  • be able to use the studied critiques in their own research, and to develop their own research through that critique (to the extent they have decided that the critique is relevant).


An important part of preparing for any further professional step is becoming (more) aware of the competences you have developed and/or want to develop. In the current course, the following competences from the UHasselt competency overview are actively dealt with:

  • intellectual competences:
    • critical judgment
    • conceptual thinking
  • interpersonal competences:
    • collaboration
    • oral communication
  • task-orientedness:
    • project planning


For whom?

  • PhD students in law, postdoctoral researchers in law
  • Estimated number of participants: 15 (from all participating universities)
    Number of participants UHasselt: minimum 1, maximum 2


  • Opening lecture (streamed): 20 January 2021 - 17:30
  • Seminar sessions: 2 February, 16 February, 2 March, 16 March, 30 March, 13 April, 27 April, 11 May 2021 - 14:00-17:00
  • Closing symposium: 1 June 2021

    Total contact hours: 25 hours + full-day symposium.
    Total estimated preparation time: 40 hours (reading materials).


  • The course will take place online. However, Prof. Dr. Spijkerboer will visit each of the participating institutions (UGent, UAntwerpen, KU Leuven, UHasselt, UC Louvain, ULB, VUB & Université Saint-Louis) and ‘host’ the seminar from that location.


  • Registration has been closed
  • As places are limited, registering does not automatically imply that you will be able to participate. You will be notified by email in due time.
  • Please cancel your registration at least one week in advance in case you cannot make it (cf. cancellation & no-show policy).


  • Participants are required to process reading materials. For the first session, reading material will be given beforehand by the trainer, and will consist of texts by Anghie, Chimni, Achiume and Díaz, amounting to around 150 pages. Part of the first session will be devoted to discussing the substance of the other sessions, in particular the balance between the three kinds of materials. The remaining reading materials are composed by the participants, who actively contribute materials in fields and regions/countries that are relevant for their own research.

Acknowledged as?

  • category 'advanced discipline-specific knowledge' - workshop/course useful for the PhD student's own research