The erasure of the global south in international law - Francqui International Chair

Level - Target audience

PhD students working in the field of international migration law. The course addresses issues that are important in particular to research in fields of law that claim to be international (including human rights law), and therefore gain to being confronted with the critique of international law as being peculiarly European.

Organising and Scientific Committee

  • Prof. Dr. Marie-Benedicte Dembour - Faculty: Law and Criminology at UGent - Department: European, Public and International Law / Human Rights Centre    E-mail:

This is part of a Francqui International Chair to which 7 Belgian universities in addition to UGent are taking part, namely, Antwerpen, KUL, UCL, ULB, VUB, Saint Louis, Hasselt.

Other members of Organising and Scientific Committee


This course invites participants to reflect about the ways in which international law is formulated in ways that negate global South’s experiences and conceptualisation. What we know as ‘international migration law’ reflects a particular global North (European) perspective. The aim is to pool resources and expertise existing within the group of participants in order to explore how the erasure of the global south occurs in various fields of international law.


The course will juxtapose:

(a) European sources (in particular: doctrine and jurisprudence) on international migration law and other fields of international law students may want to address (environmental law, the response to global pandemics, the law of armed conflict or trade; doctrinal issues such as customary international law);

(b) critiques of such sources as being European by authors such as Chimni, Achiume, Anghie, Rajagopal; and

(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 compared to what European sources assert as being international.

Objectives and learning outcomes

•    Students 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;
•    Students will be familiar with the implications of that critique for specific fields of law, such as international migration law and other fields of their interest;
•    Students will be able to decide to what extent that critique is relevant for their own ongoing research;
•    Students will be able to develop that critique in their own research, and to develop their own research through that critique – to the extent they have decided that the critique is relevant.

Dates and Program

The course will open with the inaugural lecture of professor Spijkerboer:

  • Tuesday 20 January 2021, 5:30 pm: inaugural lecture by professor Spijkerboer. Thomas Spijkerboer is professor of migration law at the Amsterdam Centre for Migration and Refugee Law of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. His current research is about international migration law in Africa, with particular attention to European pressure. He has also done research on gender and sexuality in European asylum law; the role of courts in migration law; the legal position of illegalised refugees on the streets of Amsterdam; and border deaths as a human rights issue.

The 8 sessions that follow will consist of presentations by participants (students and researchers) concerning the three kinds of materials outlined above (European doctrine and jurisprudence; critique; doctrine and jurisprudence from the global South):

  • 8 sessions on Tuesdays 2 and 16 February, 2, 16 and 30 March, 13 and 27 April, 11 May 2021, from 2-5 pm.

If held physically, the session of 2 February will be in Gent, the following sessions will rotate between the other universities participating in this International Franqui Chair. Even if held online, Prof Spijkerboer will still go to the other universities to hold the online session – and will be available to meet PhD students on a one-to-one basis in the morning.

  • Tuesday 1 June 2021 : closing Francqui seminar with guest speakers at UGent

Registration fee

Free of charge.


Please follow this link:

Places are limited; If the course is fully booked, you can send an email to and request to be added to a waiting list.

Teaching materials

For the first session, reading material will be given beforehand, and will consist of texts by Anghie, Chimni, Achiume and Díaz, amounting to plm. 150 pages. Part of that session will be devoted to discussing the substance of the other sessions, in particular the balance between the three kinds of materials (and at each session, this can be revised). For international migration law, materials will include authors (Acosta, Hamadou, Odhiambo) as well as case law (Inter-American Court of Human Rights, African Commission and Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, courts in Colombia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea). The idea is that students actively contribute materials in fields and regions/countries that are relevant for their own research.

Number of participants

Around 15 participants if the class is held online; up to 25 participants if it became possible to hold the class physically. 

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

•    100% attendance of the 8 classes, except in case of absence for compelling reason;
•    One or more presentations;
•    Active participation in the intellectual process during the seminars.