“Postcolonial legal systems embody the paradoxes of decolonisation” – 5in10 with Jihane Chedouki

Jihane Chedouki holds a PhD in Law from the University of Poitiers (France). She also graduated in Public Law and Political Science, respectively, from the Faculty of Law of Tangier (Morocco) and Panthéon-Assas University in Paris. Her doctorate focused on the legal protection of cultural heritage in the Arab States. She is currently working on a project entitled “Regulating War in Times of Modernity: A Critical Approach of the Comparison of International Humanitarian Law and Islamic Law on the Use of Force”. Jihane was a EUME Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in the academic year 2019/20 (Photo: private).

What was intriguing to you when you were a child? What is it that you always wanted to know about the world?

I was intrigued by geography for two reasons. I partly grew up in Tangier, a city situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, rooted in Africa but overlooking Europe. I was fascinated by its geographical proximity to the shores of Gibraltar and Tarifa. Contemplating this landscape raised many simple questions when I was a child and an adolescent: how people are living their everyday life on the other side and if it is different or similar to ours. My father also worked as a humanitarian in many places such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of Congo in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, which added new horizons for me. His accounts of his work and the resilience of refugees and internally displaced people in times of crises broadened my imaginary at that time from my inner social circle to other worlds and cultures.

How do you explain your current research project to your students?

My research project aims at analysing the comparative approach to Islamic law and International law. In the last two decades, scholars, and international organisations have been interested in the perspective of Islam on issues regulated by International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law as an attempt to either “provincialise” the narratives about international law or democratise the international law regime in Islamic societies. Therefore, I seek to decorticate their comparative methods that aim to establish either differences or similarities between Islamic law and these subfields of international law.

Which stations of your academic journey were particularly formative to you?

It definitely was my doctorate period. It was an unlearning process when I had first to challenge all the assumptions concerning the formation of law and its origins. I realised that behind the impersonal and general character of the law reside a variety of paradigms that determine the purposes of a given rule and its reception in the society where it evolves. Comparative law was for me the adequate discipline through which I questioned many legal institutions and systems in different spaces and periods. Furthermore, conducting a legal comparative study with regard to the protection of cultural heritage in the Moroccan and Egyptian legal orders was an added value for this unlearning process. As a result, I learned not only about the colonial character of cultural heritage as a legal institution, which is still determining our relation to the past, but also about the paradoxes of decolonisation (as a political momentum) and postcolonial legal systems that are the incarnation of these paradoxes.

Which publications or academic events (workshops, conferences, lecture series…) inspired you recently?

Recently, I have been re-reading Chinua Achebe’s trilogy: Things Fall a Part, Arrow of God and No Longer at Ease. I also read the novel of Moroccan writer Mustafa Oueriaghli, The Dawn Gates (أبواب الفجر). Both authors eloquently express pre-modern and modern worldviews and their collision in times of colonialism, respectively in Nigeria and Morocco. They convey the unheard voices of the colonised that I rarely encounter, for example, in the official archives produced by colonial administrators. Furthermore, comparing pre-modern and modern perspectives is the main topic that I am still trying to find a methodology to navigate in my research project through comparative law. These novels are also a constant reminder for me to make a place for unheard voices in the conception of this methodology.

What are your plans for your stay in Berlin?

It is always exciting to have a new start in a new country. This time, I discovered Berlin only by random walks through its streets instead of planning ahead to visit museums or historical landmarks, and I was not disappointed. Each time I came across places that surprised me, particularly in the south and east of the city.


Citation: “Postcolonial legal systems embody the paradoxes of decolonisation” – 5in10 with Jihane Chedouki”, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 09.11.2020, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/25386.


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