Rex Nettleford Lecture on Colonialism and Its Legacies: Coming from, not staying at the roots: dealing with colonial legacies of language and law in South Asia and beyond

Professor Nandini Chatterjee, Professor of South Asian History at the University of Exeter, will deliver the inaugural Rex Nettleford Lecture in Oriel College’s Harris Lecture Theatre at 5.30pm on Friday 20th May. The lecture, named in honour of former Honorary Fellow and Orielensis Professor Rex Nettleford, former Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, is intended to contribute to the advancement of academic research into the legacies of colonialism in all its forms.


Professor Chatterjee’s lecture is titled: 'Coming from, not staying at the roots: dealing with colonial legacies of language and law in South Asia and beyond'.


In her lecture, Professor Chatterjee will explore the practices of language and law in pre-colonial India. She will show how in early modern India, under the Mughal empire, the boundaries between various linguistic and legal traditions were porous, allowing for creative and pragmatic mixing in various contexts. Of these contexts, law was a particularly fecund area for complex and braided language use. With the advent of colonialism however, such linguistic and legal mixing was deemed to be unnatural and undesirable. Colonial administrators, missionaries and Indian socio-political activists all participated in the flattening of languages and laws into homogeneous, mutually exclusive entities. In such a situation, decolonisation is a fraught endeavour which risks replicating many of the ideas and practice of colonial governance. Professor Chatterjee will propose that the way forward is to discard the idea of an unsullied precolonial past, and instead work creatively and ethically towards futures that embrace impurity, humanity and playfulness.


Following the lecture there will be a presentation for the winners of Oriel’s Rex Nettleford Essay Competition, in which Year 12 students were invited to submit an essay addressing specific aspects of colonialism.


For more information about the lecture and to book your place, please visit the Oriel website.