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The Hegemony of the Written Word

Should Public International Law and International Law be positivist, admitting only written standards and norms? Or should weight and credence be equally available for oral narratives, especially those from the non hegemonic groups?

Published onMay 07, 2023
The Hegemony of the Written Word

The legal academy values written scholarship over and above oral renditions of juridical history. Written scholarship in law schools often represent colonial perspectives. To decolonise, TWAIL scholars and other post-colonial scholars are critiquing the textbook narratives. I discuss this type of decolonization elsewhere. It is a way to construct a counter narrative of non hegemonic groups.

In his book chapter, “What Makes Oral History Different,” Portelli writes

oral sources give us information about illiterate people or social groups whose written history is either missing or distorted.[1]

Despite the dominance of the written word in legal education, our social media platforms have the power to place oral, pictorial, and video content on the same plane with the written word. Placing equal value on all forms of scholarly content allows diverse histories, viewpoints and legal perspectives prominence and recognition in the legal academy. It contributes to the decolonization of knowledges and of legal education. It displaces the journals and publishing houses, and law schools as the locus of scholarship and brings it into spaces traversed by scholars and others. It makes knowledge and scholarship accessible. Let's de-link from coloniality by centering movement, music, gestures and oral histories.

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o writes about the hegemony of the written world in a book published in 2012 entitled, "Globaletics: Theory and the Politics of Knowing". Read his words in the clip below.

Oral history as de-linking from coloniality (created by Tamara Lewis on Canva, images from Wikicommons and on


Portelli, A. (2009). What Makes Oral History Different. In L. D. Giudice (Ed.), Oral History, Oral Culture, and Italian Americans (pp. 21–30). New York: Palgrave Macmillan US.

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