Open Seminar: Power and Pluralism in the International Law of Property: On the Difficulties of Decolonizing Investment Law

Professor David Schneiderman

(University of Toronto/Gothenburg)

The Transformations of Property Project, Presents:

The Pasts and Futures of Property Seminar Series #1

  • Date: 30 January 2020
  • Time: 10:15–12:00
  • Venue: Styrelserummet at Faculty of Law–Lund University
  • Organizer: Dr. Leila Brännström

The recognition and protection of property under international law takes many forms. It takes its most muscular shape in the regime to protect foreign investors, entitling these actors to exorbitant damage awards against capital-importing states for breach of international treaty obligations. Multinational business firms operating abroad have been able to secure such protections at the urging of powerful capital exporting states and their lawyers in departments of state and foreign affairs. It is an extraordinary achievement in the contemporary legal world. One strategy for blunting the privileged position accorded to foreign economic actors is to refer to other operative regimes, for example, ones that protect the communal property interests of Indigenous peoples. Evidence of this strategy can be found in José Alvarez’s article on ‘The Human Right to Property.’
At this seminar, I will sketch a book chapter on the difficulty of decolonizing investment law. I plan to argue, first, that the legal security provided to foreign investors by investment law exhibits features characteristic of the legal hegemony achieved by colonial settlers over First Nations, namely, the dispossession of land, the displacement of local law, and the ‘depoliticization’ of development. That is, international protections for metropolitan-based entrepreneurs consolidate victories similar to those secured by the ‘internal colonialism’ of Indigenous peoples in the Americas. In addition to mapping similarities between foreign investment law and the law of settler states, I will argue, second, that the logic and practice of investment law makes it more difficult to engage meaningfully with Indigenous peoples regarding their relationship to traditional lands. As a consequence, it is highly unlikely that investment law’s property protections will disturb unbalanced power relations between Indigenous peoples and settler states. What is elided by those promoting international property is the continuing exercise of power and authority over subject populations, within and without of capital exporting states.

If you wish to attend the seminar Please send an email to Leila.brannstrom [at] for instructions and material.

*** This is an open event /// No registration is required ***

*** This event is organised in collaboration with: Transnational Law and Politics Research Group ***