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Olakpe, Oreva (2021) South-South Migrations in International Law: The Case Studies of Nigeria and China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis is focused on understanding how particular communities in the Global South, demonstrate the ‘law of the everyday’ and the ‘law from below’. This thesis studies communities engaging in different forms of South-South migrations and what this says about approaches to international law at the regional, national and local levels. This is essentially to unpack knowledge on South-South migrations and the different meanings or manifestations of marginality, exclusion and power stratifications in the Global South. The study of South-South migrations as an important part of the international law experience is still budding because this area has been ignored or understudied. This thesis uses ideas from Third World Approaches to International Law and contributes a fine-grained analysis using legal ethnographies and case studies to understand how law occurs or is encountered in migrant communities in the Global South. Focusing drawing significance and knowledge from experiences of undocumented or displaced migrant communities in the Global South, this thesis aims to take the interrogations and questions of international law beyond those locales that are discussed as “traditional” sites of knowledge of the law into spaces that are thought to be on the fringes of or outside the reach of the law. Drawing on original ethnographic fieldwork carried out in China and Nigeria between 2015 and 2016, I study how China and Nigeria interpret their responsibility towards undocumented and displaced migrant communities on the fringes of society and how this interpretation shapes how these communities experience and understand the law to argue that hierarchies and exclusions in the Global South are as a result of an imbibed lack of responsibility towards undocumented or displaced migrants in international law. Because of the centrality of migrant identities in determining state responsibility, I also study intersectionality to understand how undocumented and displaced migrant communities are positioned within the state in the Global South, shaping their experiences of the law, exclusions within their societies, and their struggle for access, recognition and acceptance in the Global South. Finally, I study the informal justice mechanisms in such communities as a result of the exclusions and hierarchies created by international law, the practices of the state and the elite in the Global South, as well as the failure of formal justice mechanisms. I argue that even the most marginalised communities are dynamic when they encounter the law and that there are numerous contributions these communities make that have great significance at the international level –if only they are unravelled, discussed, and elevated beyond the confines of colonial definitions of boundaries, citizenship, and space. This thesis argues that in order for international law to be reformed and for the law to be truly international, these narratives, encounters, and experiences of the law must become just as significant as the developments and experiences of the law in the West.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Gina Heathcote
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2021 18:25

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