When British Justice (in African Colonies) Points Two Ways: On Dualism, Hybridity, and the Genealogy of Juridical Negritude in Taslim Olawale Elias

  • Mark ToufayanEmail author
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 29)


Taslim Elias’s scholarship on the impact of English common law on the growth of African customary law illustrates the intersectionality negotiated between ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’, universal and subaltern laws. His intellectual portrait is also useful as a heuristic device to excise the doctrines, strategies, imageries, and narratives of progress elaborated about ‘Africa’ and ‘law’. Elias decried the contempt and ignorance exhibited by colonial masters towards native customs and laws; he also vilified judicially crafted ‘repugnancy’ and ‘public policy’ doctrines as instruments of colonial policy to prevent British justice from looking both ways, by ensuring that British standards were the ‘objective’ criteria of abrogation and change. Yet he nonetheless saw these doctrines and English law as a unifying force in the emergence of a unified Nigerian legal system. This article argues that this paradox in Elias’s work and his struggle against the asserted dualism between English law and African customary law must be situated in the context of the rise of an African legal consciousness or juridical Negritude, home to various political projects of nation-building, African cultural liberation, and development which strategically intersected in their unstable relationship to law and Western culture. This signals a turn to ‘hybridity’ in legal discourse and Elias’s professional trajectory seeking to develop a uniform common law for Nigeria as a way to explicate the workings of this relationship, and how African law is inscribed in the interplay of cultural forces constantly (re)negotiating the boundaries of their engagement with one another. This, in turn, reveals a complex picture of mediating between the simultaneous participation of Third World intellectuals in various struggles and personal or ideological projects within African humanism, which an analysis structured around the stability of centres/peripheries conventionally distorts.


Supra Note British Colonial African Society Political Project African Philosophy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OttawaOttawaCanada

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