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Lecture | Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminar (LIMS)

Colonial Memory and Constructions of Race in Dutch Legal Education

Thursday 27 May 2021
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2020-2021
Via: https://smart.newrow.com/room/?qjg-259&fr=lti

LIMS talk by Alison Fischer (Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society / KITLV [Royal Dutch Academy of South Asian and Caribbean Studies], Leiden).

In the summer of 2020, tens of thousands of people took to streets and squares around the Netherlands under the banner of Black Lives Matter (BLM). Participants’ grievances were rooted in Dutch soil. Chants urged municipalities to ‘Kick Out Black Piet’ and speakers called for Dutch institutions to reckon with their colonial histories and legacies of racialized hierarchy.  The last five years have seen more critical voices and perspectives on Dutch colonial and racial legacies. The protests suggest that recent research can be accepted or incorporated into Dutch public life.

A nation’s law schools are an ideal place to study the transmission of its cultural archive and postcolonial memories, because legal education is both ‘profoundly national’ and unabashedly normative. Law schools emphasize not only the content of laws, but how laws should be drafted, interpreted and imposed. Legal cases are studied as the ‘official record’ of historical events: they assign responsibility, apportion blame and sometimes attempt retribution; they can also, however, exclude certain facts and narratives as irrelevant or insufficient and in doing so can threaten or erase the significance of certain stories or perspectives to the historical record.

How does Dutch legal teaching (re)construct, (re)form or contest colonial and racial hierarchies as aspects of Dutch public memory? What happens during periods when these hierarchies are actively contested? This talk will describes ongoing research into these questions, including theoretical frameworks for inquiry and initial case studies in the period following Indonesian independence.


The Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars (LIMS) aim at fostering further discussion across disciplines on migration-related topics and creating an open dialogue between the speakers and the attendees. The seminars are a platform for those at Leiden University working on migration-related topics.

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