Human Rights Beyond the Colonial Imagination: Legal Empowerment and Techniques of Delegitimation

Emese Ilyés, Melania Chiponda, Sukti Dhital, Meg Satterthwaite, Aakanksha Badkur, Antonio Gutierrez, Bethany Carson, Dyari Mustafa, Felipe Mesel, Francesca Feruglio, Noor Mushin, Poorvi Chitalkar, Shreya Sen, Tim Kakuru, Tom Weerachat, Tyler Walton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Community-based and participatory methods are often marginalized within institutions of power. In this article, we—a group of community advocates, lawyers, scholars, and researchers from across the globe including Thailand, India, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Italy, Iraq, Argentina, the UK, Puerto Rico, and the United States—have collectively gathered ways that community based, participatory legal empowerment research has been delegitimized across these contexts, and offer practical strategies to break out of this white supremacist colonial imagination and interrupt and respond to these instances of silencing and erasure. Our gatherings enable us to bring to life the rich particulars of each of our unique contexts and through this richness begin to see how larger dynamics span the globe. The micro illuminates the mechanics of the macro. This critical analysis that is possible in such a participatory space allowed us to identify these strategies of delegitimation that we were experiencing despite our very different positionalities and histories. These techniques of delegitimation fall into three broad themes: using traditional research as defence, attacking the credibility of communities including denying their humanity, and acts of self-invalidation. These techniques, whether enacted by donors, companies, government agencies, or academic institutions, seek to disempower the lived experiences of community members involved in legal empowerment. By cataloguing these experiences we hope to better understand techniques of silencing and oppression, and to trace the ways that systems of power reinforce their standing through these immediate and interpersonal responses to the voice of the collective.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)432-448
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Human Rights Practice
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2023


    • critical psychology
    • decolonization
    • liberatory methodologies
    • participatory action research

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations
    • Law


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