Assassination, Necropolitics and Afropessimism: Reading the Legacy of Thomas Sankara as Revolutionary Contingency in International Law

In this paper Vidya critiques the historical disciplinary narrative accounts of “assassinations” in international law through an excavation of the obscured contingencies produced by particular assassinations upon revolutionary emancipatory projects, imaginaries and futures. Vidya will argue that assassination should be understood as “a legal practice of death-making” – one which produces particular kinds of hidden systemic contingencies that have been overlooked in traditional accounts of assassination in international law (i.e. international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict). To illustrate this argument, she will examine the assassination of Thomas Sankara, revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso, and the effect of his death on Burkinab√©, African and decolonial emancipatory imaginaries.

This seminar is presented by Associate Professor Vidya Kumar (University of Leicester) and Convened by Dr Adil Hasan Khan (Melbourne Law School). An afternoon tea will be provided to attendees. Please click on the button below to register.

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Thomas Sankara by Joy Hanoun

Based in London UK, Dr. Vidya Kumar is an Associate Professor at Leicester Law School, University of Leicester in United Kingdom. She holds a D.Phil. in law from the University of Oxford as well as degrees in political theory and is a qualified barrister and solicitor in Canada. She is currently writing a monograph on the place and history of revolutions, revolutionaries, and revolutionary change in international law and international legal thinking. Her most recent publication examines how conceptual history can assist in understanding whether revolutionaries belong as an concept in international law: “Revolutionaries” in eds Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh, Concepts For International Law: Contributions to Disciplinary Thought (Edward Elgar, 2019, forthcoming). Email:

Adil Hasan Khan is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Melbourne Law School, where his research seeks to explore the intersections between international law and disasters, with a focus on South Asia. He completed his PhD in International Studies, with a specialization in International Law and a minor in Anthropology and Sociology of Development, at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva.

  • Associate Professor Vidya Kumar
  • Dr Adil Hasan Khan