Research project

Postcolonial bordering: Discursive contestations in human rights law

About the project

During collective expulsions, people are forcibly returned without the possibility to explain their individual circumstances - implying the denial of any protection or other needs. This interdisciplinary research examines to what extent human rights law can counteract such exclusion at the border and traces the forms of statehood and subjecthood that emerge through legal discourse. In order to critically appraise the applicable human rights provisions, uncover the mechanisms underlying the denial of access to allegedly universal protection and highlight  transformative counterpoints, the project dissects regional jurisprudence in the European and African human rights systems through the prism of legal and post-colonial studies. Thus, the research brings together two pertinent but often disconnected bodies of literature and contributes to filling a gap in legal analyses on migration, which tend to overlook postcolonial theory and its insights into the colonial logics shaping border violence.

This doctoral project is funded by the Hertie School and the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation.


  • Vera Wriedt, PhD researcher, Centre for Fundamental Rights