Mr Mothercountry: Colonialism and the rule of law

Date & time

12.30–2pm Thursday 7 September 2017


Moot Court

ANU College of Law, 5 Fellows Road, The Australian National University


Professor Keally McBride, University of San Francisco


For interstate visitors, we offer suggestions for accommodation near ANU.


Desmond Manderson

Presented by Department of Political and Social Change

Keally McBride

One of the most interesting areas of scholarship in recent years has been the relationship between colonialism and the rule of law.  Several important books have used the materials of legal history to interrogate the meaning, development, and effects of the rule of law in colonial and post colonial societies.  

The new book by Professor Keally McBride is a major contribution to this scholarship.  Mr Mothercountry: The man who made the rule of law, draws on original archival research of the writings of James Stephen and his descendants, as well as the Macaulay family; explores the gap between the ideal of the rule of law and the ways in which it was practiced and enforced; and considers what the historical legacy of British Colonialism means for how different groups view international law today.

On the occasion of the visit of Professor McBride to the ANU, this seminar features  a panel discussion of the themes and questions raised by this book, in conversation with the author.  It is sponsored by the Centre for Law Arts and the Humanities, and the Department of Political and Social Change.  


  • Professor Keally McBride »

    She received her graduate degrees at University of California at Berkeley with a focus in political theory, and is happy to be back in the Bay Area after teaching at Cornell University, Tulane, Temple, and the University of Pennsylvania. She has published three books, Collective Dreams: Political Imagination and Community, Punishment and Political Order, and with Margaret Kohn, Political Theories of Decolonization: Postcolonialism and the Problem of Foundations. In summer 2016, Oxford University Press will publish Mr. Mothercountry: Colonialism and the Rule of Law.

    Her current research is focused on the sharing and solidarity economies in the Bay Area, and understanding how different economic practices are evolving locally.

  • Moeen Cheema »

    Moeen Cheema is a Senior Lecturer at the ANU College of Law, and the Convenor of the LLM program in Law, Governance and Development. Moeen has considerable experience of research, teaching and consultancy in the fields of comparative public law, criminal law, and legal and political developments in South Asia.

    Moeen’s research is interdisciplinary and draws on critical approaches to law. He is especially interested in constitutional politics and judicial review; criminal justice systems; intersection of state and Islamic law; and post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.

  • Desmond Manderson »

    Professor Desmond Manderson is an international leader in interdisciplinary scholarship in law and the humanities. He is the author of several books including From Mr Sin to Mr Big (1993); Songs Without Music: Aesthetic dimensions of law and justice (2000); Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law (2006); and Kangaroo Courts and the Rule of Law—The legacy of modernism (2012).

    His work has led to essays, books, and lectures around the world in the fields of English literature, philosophy, ethics, history, cultural studies, music, human geography, and anthropology, as well as in law and legal theory. Throughout this work Manderson has articulated a vision in which law's connection to these humanist disciplines is critical to its functioning, its justice, and its social relevance. After ten years at McGill University in Montreal, where he held the Canada Research Chair in Law and Discourse, and was founding Director of the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, he returned to Australia to take up a Future Fellowship in the colleges of law and the humanities at ANU. 

  • Nick Cheesman »

    Currently I hold an Australian Research Council grant to document where, when and how torture occurs in Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. In 2016-17 I am working on this project at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

    The study follows my doctoral dissertation on the politics of law and order in Myanmar, which was awarded the ANU's Crawford Prize, and the President’s Prize of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, published as Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar's Courts Make Law and Order (Cambridge UP). 

    Before coming to the ANU, I worked in Hong Kong with a regional human rights group. Earlier I convened a people’s tribunal on food scarcity and militarization in Myanmar. And I lived and worked in a refugee camp in Thailand.

  • Meera Ashar »

    Meera Ashar's research interests lie at the intersection of history, political theory and literary studies. Her work addresses questions about identity, self-representation, colonialism and postcolonialism. She is currently completing a manuscript on the controversial nineteenth-century novel, Saraswatichandra, and has recently started work on a set of oral folk narratives that were compiled and published as ‘children’s stories’ in the late colonial period. Meera is also working on a collaborative project on broader questions of colonial education that will start with an examination of debates on education in India and Hong Kong and later hopes to include other postcolonial nations.

    Meera is the Director of the South Asia Research Institute (SARI) and the Secretary of the South Asian Studies Association of Australia (SASAA). She has previously worked as an Assistant Professor at the City University of Hong Kong and has been an LM Singhvi Fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge.


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