Empire in Motion: Indirect Rule, International Law and Our Colonial Global Order

mobile cinema

Melbourne Law School
Thursday 17 May
1:00pm - 2:00pm
Room 223, Level 2

Between 1935 and 1937, the International Missionary Council conducted the Bantu Education Kinema Experiment. Undertaken with the financial support of the Carnegie Corporation and the Colonial Development Fund and in coordination with the British Colonial Office and the colonial governments of the British protectorates and mandates in Central and East Africa, the objective of the Bantu Experiment was the production of silent educational films to be screened to ‘native’ people via mobile cinemas. Embracing the emerging principle of ‘indirect rule’, the films sought to capture ‘the native point of view’ by resorting to an ‘ethnographic sensitivity’ in regards to local cultures, concerns and needs. In its intention to educate ‘natives’ from ‘within’, the films used local actors, their tone was overtly pedagogical and plots were intentionally formulaic. I will argue in this talk that the Bantu Experiment is a telling moment through which to examine the nature of modern international administration as it was configured in the inter-war period, and, most importantly, the mobility and multi-located nature of late imperial locations. I will suggest that this mobility and multiplicity of locations is a feature that continues to characterize the workings of today’s international order, and the key role that ‘indirect rule’ plays in its functioning.

About the presenter

Dr Luis Eslava is a Senior Lecturer in international law at Kent Law School, a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Law School, and an International Professor at Universidad Externado de Colombia. He also serves as Global Faculty at the Institute for Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School. He teaches and writes in the areas of international law, international development, international legal theory and history, anthropology of international law, public law, law and development, and urban law and politics. He is Co-Director of the Centre for Critical International Law (CeCIL) at the University of Kent, and Co-Director of the Collaborative Research Network on International Law and Politics at the American Law and Society Association.