UK Public Law, ‘Race’ and Primitive Accumulation in the Chagos Archipelago

The Centre for Law and Social Justice invites you to a talk in the seminar series on race and the law.

Speaker Biography:

Dr Tanzil Chowdhury is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Public Law at Queen Mary University of London and the Co-Director for the Centre of Law and Society in a Global Context. His research focusses on War, Public law and Accumulation by dispossesion. He was previously a Research Fellow at Birmingham Law School, where he assisted on a report examining key provisions of Gibraltar’s 2006 Constitution for the Territory’s Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Reform, and was the President’s Doctoral Scholar at the University of Manchester. He was also a Research Associate at the University of Essex and has held visiting positions at the New School, (New York), New York Law School (New York), Hong Kong University (Hong Kong), Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris), Yeshiva University (New York City), and the Université Catholique de Lille (Paris).


Executive Robbery: UK Public Law, ‘Race’ and Primitive Accumulation in the Chagos Archipelago


This paper explores the relationship between UK public law and primitive accumulation, taking the dispossession of the Chagos Archipelago (known as the British Indian Ocean Territory) as its point of departure. Though this event is typically understood as fortifying US military power in the Indian Ocean littoral region, this paper argues that the dispossession was also part of a wider geography of primitive accumulation in which UK public law was central. To substantiate these claims, this paper presents a relational geography of a materialist public law. This re-conceptualises the scales of UK public law, extending an examination of its effects and impact beyond the territory of the UK and locates UK public law within a global geography of capital accumulation. Further, this paper draws on Marxist legal theory to situate UK public law’s relation to capitalism and, specifically, the ways in which the technologies of UK public law (re)produce primitive accumulation. Drawing these threads together, the paper offers a reconsideration of UK public law’s role in the Chagos Archipelago as an example of executive robbery, a form of racialized dispossession enacted to construct infrastructure- here, a military base- that was key in facilitating accumulation in Iraq in 2003, what is described as a ‘war on waste’. Finally, it explores the racializing effects of this legally-enacted primitive accumulation by considering how ‘race’ is produced and participates in conferring the ‘displaceability’ of the Chagossians and how it constitutes their subsequent class position in Mauritius.


All are welcome. This is a free event, though registration is required via Eventbrite.

The information you provide will be held by the School of Law, University of Leeds under the University's Data Protection Policy. We will use this information to provide you with updates relating to the event you have registered to attend and may contact you following the event to request feedback (feedback is optional). Information will be retained until the event has passed unless you request to be kept informed about future events from us.