From Colonialism to COVID

Louise Wise

From Colonialism to COVID: Reimagining and Decolonising the Law on Genocide from the Perspective of Brazil’s Indigenous Groups

Small Group Project 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil represents an existential threat for indigenous groups; but the current moment can also be seen as an acceleration of deep historical processes of group destruction with long-term colonial roots. Last year, lawyers made a submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) calling for Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, to be investigated for genocide. A few months later, civil society groups sounded the genocide alarm again as COVID-19 spread through vulnerable indigenous communities. Inspired by the recent submission to the ICC, this project is also cognisant of the limitations, systemic blindness and colonial roots of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention (UNGC), within which the former is framed. The UNGC embodies silences and biases which undermine the possibility of viewing colonial, structural and attritional forms of group destruction as genocide. The project thus starts from an assumption that existing law on genocide must be reimagined and decolonised — this challenging conceptual task is its primary focus. 

Rejecting the epistemological authority of the UNGC, the project aims to co-produce practice-oriented, victim-centred theoretical research on genocide and the law, with potential to fundamentally reshape legal concepts and interpretive frameworks on genocide. To do this, following an online workshop, a method of extended, collaborative, dialogic writing will be employed to stage an interdisciplinary conversation on the law and genocide. Drawing together practicing lawyers, Brazilian activists and indigenous groups with academics working on critical and postcolonial perspectives on the law, genocide and state crime studies, the project will explore the kinds of conceptual and legal innovations such a radical transformation might involve in practice. Also engaging with emerging thinking and practice around “strategic litigation”, it seeks to creatively push at the boundaries of conventional legal concepts and paradigms from the perspective of indigenous victims of genocide.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at [email protected].