• Offered by ANU College of Law and the Department of Political and Social Change
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific / ANU College of Law
  • Course subject Laws
  • Areas of interest Australian Studies, History, Law, Asia Pacific Studies, Politics
  • Work Integrated Learning Other

The rule of law is a specific historical development of global significance, and one that is inextricable from colonial histories and postcolonial conditions. Proponents

throughout the world, including Australia and the Asia-Pacific, point to it as a solution to an array of problems. Critics for their part lambast it as neocolonial and

exploitative. In this course, we cover the ground between these poles by turning to the rule of law in its particulars, through study of its relationship to colonialism and postcolonialism in Asia, Australia and beyond. By bringing together extractive colonial and settler colonial cases we aim to identify similarities and differences in the experience

of colonialism and the rule of law, and query both the idea of the rule of law as preeminent political ideal for our time as well as contrariwise positions that treat it as

nothing other than a fig leaf for colonial domination and oppression. Importantly, we will also look at the continuing legacy of colonial legal and political histories, and the

relationship of the rule of law to political and social crises in our time.

By taking an historical and cultural approach to the rule of law, we will expand and deepen our understanding of these regions' pasts and present day conditions, as well as

adopt an empirically informed perspective on how and why the rule of law is so pervasive. Students will gain new insights into legal history and colonial power in a wide

variety of places, including but not limited to Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Singapore, as well as through regional organisations. They will also consider in detail

how the interaction between colonialism and the rule of law in Australia is at once distinct from and similar to that of the country’s regional neighbours.

This course is jointly taught in the College of Asia and the Pacific and the ANU College of Law. The Department of Political and Social Change is offering the course for

students enrolled in the Bachelor of Asian Studies and Master of Asia Pacific Studies, and in the ANU Law School for students enrolled in LLB and JD programs. The

course will also be open to students in the Bachelor of Arts, and we expect interest from students doing the sociology, politics, development studies and human rights

majors in particular. The course is deliberately interdisciplinary in its contents, modes of instruction and methods. It draws on a rich comparative socio-legal,

anthropological, sociological and political scientific literature that in recent years has delivered an impressive range of studies on the rule of law in different colonial times

and places, and work that ties the empirical contents of the course to overarching concepts of legality, authority and power.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Synthesise, define and critically analyse keywords and contemporary debates shared across the disciplines of law, history, politics, and culture, focusing on advanced critical approaches to the rule of law, law and development, colonialism, and post-colonialism.
  2. Compare, contrast and critically evaluate contemporary issues in the rule of law and colonial legacies across Asia and in Australia.
  3. Recognise, distinguish and appraise research and methods across different fields in law and the social sciences.
  4. Evaluate and compare a complex variety of textual sources from a range of different disciplines, contexts, and genres.
  5. Plan and execute independent interdisciplinary research with the support and under the supervision of the course convenors.

Work Integrated Learning


Other Information

Classes may be offered in non-standard sessions and be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (a minimum of 36 hours). Please refer to the LLB timetable for dates. Please contact the ANU College of Law Student Administration Services to request a permission code to enrol in classes offered in non-standard sessions.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Two short response essays over the term: 600 words each, value 15% each (30) [LO 1,2,4]
  2. Final research essay: 2,500 words (50) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]
  3. Group presentation (20) [LO 1,2,3,4]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have 3 contact hours per week (a minimum of 36 hours). Students are generally expected to devote at least 10 hours overall per week to this course.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must be studying a: Bachelor of Laws (ALLB) and have completed or be completing five 1000 level LAWS courses; or Juris Doctor (MJD) and have completed or be completing five 1000 or 6100 level LAWS courses. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ASIA2120 Colonialism & the rule of law.

Prescribed Texts

There is no prescribed texts.

Preliminary Reading

A modern, burgeoning, and diverse literature makes up the reading for the course. Indicative foundational readings on the idea and practice of the rule of law include:

Paul Gowder, The Rule of Law in the Real World (2016)

Martin Krygier, The Rule of Law (2016)

Margaret Radin, Reconsidering the Rule of Law (1989)

EP Thompson, Whigs and Hunters (1975)

Indicative readings on the rule of law and settler colonialism include:

Jon Altman & Melinda Hinkson, Coercive Reconciliation (2007)

Eve Darian-Smith, Religion, Race and Rights (2010)

Donald Denoon, Settler Capitalism (1983)

Des Manderson, Kangaroo Courts and the Rule of Law (2012)

Indicative readings on the rule of law and extractive colonialism include:

Nasser Hussain, The Jurisprudence of Emergency (2003)

Elizabeth Kolsky, Colonial Justice in British India (2010)

Randy Kostal, A Jurisprudence of Power (2005)

Keally McBride, Mr Mothercountry (2016)

Indicative readings on the rule of law in the postcolony include:

Nick Cheesman, Opposing the Rule of Law (2015)

Jean & John Comaroff, Law and Disorder in the Postcolony (2006)

Mark Massoud, Law's Fragile State (2013)

Jothie Rajah, Authoritarian Rule of Law (2012)

A full draft syllabus has been completed and has been circulated to staff with whom consultations have been held. It is available on request.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $4860
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5820
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3707 17 Feb 2025 24 Feb 2025 31 Mar 2025 23 May 2025 In Person N/A

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