Happy New Year and welcome to 2024! Followers of this blog will know that it is my usual practice at the start of each year to publish an annual summary of the previous year – with a focus on my activity on the blog. I also mention any other outputs, like publications, social media posts and videos. I have written this sort of summary each year since 2016. Ultimately, this is my way of taking stock of each year, both in terms of what I put out there, and the “out there” that I put the work into. This year’s round up and my activity on the blog in the previous year has been much reduced for many reasons: burnout, twitter’s decline and witnessing annihilation. As such, the annual summary itself is short, but I will conclude some thoughts on law and the persistence of annihilation in its name.
My first blog post of the year, “Arrivederci Adieu Odabo 2022“, was an emphatic farewell to the year 2022. In it, I commented on a host of things about 2022. I also reflected on the question how we become human once more. A refrain I returned to in 2023. People often try to heal division, by saying things like “despite how divided we are, we are all still human”. But ultimately, it is the failure to accept that we are all human that really divides us.
In February of 2023, I attempted a brief answer to the multifaceted question, “What is Decolonisation?” My main aim in the short 6-minute video was a reminder that decolonisation is not(just) curricular redesign, but a way for academics to contribute to a project of world(re)making. Taking this idea further, in March, I wrote a reflection on academic activism, “Activist or Academic or Both? The Quandary of Scholactivism for the Minoritised in the Ivory Tower.” In that essay, I questioned both the labelling of academics as “activist” and the role of the academic in society. Because, if as scholars we seek to change nothing about the world, what is the point of us?
From March 2023 onwards, the blog and myself were dominated by monograph-y things. I found out that you have to spend as much time telling people about an academic book as you spend writing an academic book! You also earn very little from it directly. My book Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge: Reflections on Power and Possibility was published by Bristol University Press on March 15 2023. I had written a blog post about the content of the book in 2022. As I describe it, the book “aims to contribute to thinking through new pathways to lead us to new questions that help us drag ourselves out of the night of human suffering into the light of new worlds.”
A short publicity note (still in the zone!):
If you have read “Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge” and you know anyone who you think may want to read it, let them know.
If you are so inclined, here are some of the other ways that you can support this publication:
- Recommend the book to your institutional library
- Think of at least one person who would benefit from this book and let them know about it.
- Read the book
- Write a review on Amazon, Goodreads or Storygraph or any other similar platform
- Write a review for an academic journal (let me know if you need a copy for this)
- Share news about the book via your social media networks
- Invite me to speak about the book at your law school.
If you are still looking to get Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge, either for yourself or your institutional library, I recommend using the publisher’s website. The paperback will be released in March 2024.
Across 2023, I wrote a number of other blog posts about the book, including one about some of the reasons why I wrote the book: “How do We Find the Right Language and Tools for Decolonisation in Legal Education?” In that post I cite the Zong case, asking why it is absent from legal study and the implications and results of that absence. I was in a conversation with Beth Kamunge-Kpodo and Katie Bales about the book in 2023. We had such a great conversation that we decided to publish it! It is in two parts as follows:
- with Katie – ““In Words the Subaltern Cannot Speak”: Can we use decolonisation to uncover the silences and absences in legal knowledge?“
- with Beth – “What does it mean to dream of new anticolonial worlds from within the law school?“
For the New Books Network, I was also interviewed by Kendall Dinniene. Have a listen below:
There have also been a couple of really good reviews of Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge.
- Russell Sandberg reviewed it for the Social and Legal Studies Journal.
- Shailesh Kumar’s review was for Frontiers of Socio-Legal Studies.
Part of the reason for my burnout is that I have been “on tour” with the book. The video below gives a brief summary overview of various stops along my book tour in 2023 – these included Derry, Brasilia and San Juan. As always, the video is set to danceable music. This time its “Jerusalema” by Master KG, featuring Nomcebo. I have enjoyed being on tour, but it has also been exhausting!
In between all of the above, I also managed to pop out some other publications in 2023. Many of these had been written ages before. For example, I started writing the first one on the list, roughly around the same time as I got the contract for Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge! Here they are:
- Adebisi, Foluke I. “Educating for the End of a Necropolitical World What Happens Beyond Decolonisation in Legal Education? Foluke I Adebisi.” Biopolitics and Resistance in Legal Education (2023).
- Adebisi, Foluke I. “The Sea Casts Its Net of Justice Wide: A Speculative Judgment for What Has Been Left to the Waters of Despair.” In The Anthropocene Judgments Project, pp. 59-71. Routledge.
- Adebisi, Foluke I., Suhraiya Jivraj, and Ntina Tzouvala, eds. Decolonisation, Anti-Racism, and Legal Pedagogy: Strategies, Successes, and Challenges. Taylor & Francis, 2023.
- Adebisi, Foluke I., and Yvette Russell. “Troubling Law’s Traditional Canon by Teaching Law and Race.” In Decolonisation, Anti-Racism, and Legal Pedagogy, pp. 256-268. Routledge, 2023.
Another personal highlight for 2023, was that in August I became a full professor of law. This is something I am still processing, but I suspect I will write about it in more detail soon. I was really not expecting and was pleasantly surprised by how many people were genuinely delighted about the news. I am very bad at handling compliments or words of congratulations. So forgive, if I responded awkwardly to your congratulatory message. I am profoundly grateful to everyone who reached out and even those who didn’t. I am now one of about 60 Black women who are professors in the UK (out of a total of 23000). When I started in academia there were 14. So we can call that progress? But the overall picture is still bleak, and so while I am rejoicing for myself, I am still sad about the overall picture:
As I write, “Israel’s air and ground assaults in the Palestinian territory have killed about 23,000 people… The vast majority of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been forced to flee their homes.” Up to 12,000 Sudanese have been killed… eight million are displaced, and nineteen million children are out of school. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, seven million people are displaced… 25 million have so little food that their lives are in danger… Again, we are counting the dead, while those who have the power to stop annihilation… mostly do nothing, or attack elsewhere. Those who care seem to merely be screaming into the void. It has been hard to process this seemingly intractable characteristic of humanity. I wrote previously how the genocide in Rwanda drove me to seek answers for the inaction of the international community within the study of law. In Decolonisation and Legal Knowledge, I explain how often this quest meets with disappointment:
I, like many others before and after me, came to the law school, because I heard freedom and justice and peace in its name. However, in time we all learn, though often not so explicitly, that the coloniser’s justice is not justice for the colonised. We learn that ‘the claim of the universal translatability of the English word “justice” … is an extraordinarily presumptive one’ (Gordon 2013: 70). We all learn that peace is not equally distributed. We all learn, eventually, that freedom for those racialised below the abyssal line is not the same for those racialised above it. (v)
There are currently attempts to find justice for Palestinian annihilation at both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. On Sudan and the DRC, all we hear is tumbleweed. In 2024, will the law fulfil its promise for deliverance from annihilation, or will it continue to be the mountain against the speck of dust? Time will tell. 2024 will tell.
So, what to do with 2024?
I don’t usually do New Year’s resolutions. Not making resolutions, in my opinion, helps to avoid expecting to make leaps between [socially constructed] years without bearing the responsibility of necessary personal changes each day I live. In addition to this, the state of the world is so violent and uncertain as to render almost any resolution futile. Each year, I lower my expectations for humanity. So here are my thoughts on what we can do with 2024:
Seek the truth diligently, then speak it.
Rigorously figure out what is right, then do it.
Always leave a place, any place, better than you found it.
And specifically for academics…
Try very very very hard to not work on weekends.
Keep getting better at saying “no”.
Remember that academic work is work.
It’s 2024 people. We are still here.