• 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, Politics
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Graduate Attributes
    • Transdisciplinary

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 transdisciplinary 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 transdisciplinary research with the support and under the supervision of the course convenors.

Indicative Assessment

  1. The proposed means of assessment for this course will provide students with at least two pieces of assessment, including one piece during the semester. More information about the means of assessment, including the relationship between the assessment and the learning outcomes of the course, will be available in the Class Summary and on the course WATTLE page.  (100) [LO 1,2,3,4,5]

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  • Classes offered in non-standard sessions will be taught on an intensive base with compulsory contact hours (approximately 36 hours of face to face teaching). The course will also require advanced preparation through assigned readings. In total, it is anticipated that the hours required for completion of this course (class preparation, teaching and completion of assessment) will not exceed 120 hours.
  • Classes offered during semester periods are expected to have three contact hours per week. Students are generally expected to devote at least 10 hours overall per week to this course.

Click here for the LLB Program course list

Inherent Requirements


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

Students must rely on the approved Class Summary which will be posted to the Programs and Courses site approximately two weeks prior to the commencement of the course. Alternatively, this information will be published in the Program course list when known.

Preliminary Reading

Students must rely on the approved Class Summary which will be posted to the Programs and Courses site approximately two weeks prior to the commencement of the course. 


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
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.

There are no current offerings for this course.

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