LLS Staff Seminar #4: The Moving Location of Empire: History, Anthropology and the Living Archive of International Law

In the fourth La Trobe Law School Staff Seminar for 2015, Dr Luis Eslava, Lecturer in International Law at Kent Law School will examine the relationship between international law and imperialism in the context of the Bantu Experiment.


Borrowing insights from critical historiography and the anthropology of international law, I engage in this presentation with the longstanding relation between International Law and imperialism, using late colonial footage produced by the Bantu Education Kinema Experiment as the departing point for my analysis. Between 1935 and 1937, the International Missionary Council conducted the Bantu Experiment, in coordination with the colonial governments of the British protectorates and mandates in Tanganyika (today Tanzania), Kenya, Uganda, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (currently Zambia and Malawi). The objective of the Bantu Experiment was the production of educational films to be screened to ‘native’ people by mobile cinemas. The films used local actors, and their tone was overtly pedagogical. Plots were intentionally formulaic, striving to capture ‘the native point of view’. Thirty-five films were produced in total during the two years of the project. Today, only three of these films survive. As I will argue, the Bantu Experiment helps us understand the dynamism of late imperialism, as it played out at one of the most important moments in the formation of a modern international legal order under the League of Nations, and as it continues to inform our present global relations. 


Dr Luis Eslava is a Lecturer in International Law at Kent Law School, a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Law School, and an International Professor at Universidad Externado de Colombia. He teaches and writes in the areas of international law, international legal theory and history, anthropology of international law, public law, law and development, and urban law and politics. His forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press, Local Space, Global Life: The Everyday Operation of International Law and Development, adopts an ethnographic methodology to examine the current international focus on local jurisdictions, demonstrating the academic and political value of the interdisciplinary study of international law.


Date: Wednesday 6 May 2015

Time: 12.45 to 2.00pm

Venue: Martin Building, Level 3, Room 362A, La Trobe University, Bundoora

Cost: Free

RVSP: Light refreshments will be provided.  Registration is required at Eventbrite for catering purposes.

Marc Trabsky