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Naz K. Modirzadeh, '[L]et Us All Agree to Die a Little': TWAIL's Unfulfilled Promise, 65 Harv. Int'l L.J. (forthcoming).

Abstract: Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) has aspirations to transform the tools and institutions of international law — which have served for centuries to construct, enact, and extend Western exploitation and domination — into tools and institutions for Global South empowerment, agency, and freedom. Characterizing itself as an intellectual and political movement, TWAIL promises to pave a path forward through a combination of scholarship and politics to achieve radical change. In this Article, I argue that TWAIL’s promise is unfulfilled — and that, if TWAIL’s current trajectory continues, its promise is likely to be unfulfillable. I first sketch TWAIL’s origin and key successes, including bringing awareness to the colonial roots and neo-imperial present of international law. Yet I contend that TWAIL’s diverse critical insights have not led to cohesive conceptual, doctrinal, or political positions, which would serve as tools to empower Global South-based actors. I argue that this is, at least partly, due to TWAIL’s ambivalence towards the Third World state, its absence of a theory of legitimate political violence in international law, its failure to identify a methodology of representing the ‘voices’ of the Global South, and to the growing influence of an academic ethos I call ‘critique-as-wellness.’ For those motivated by TWAIL’s ambitions, I suggest three possible directions to take: the construction of a grassroots-centered campaign in the service of Global South peoples; the formation of a movement focused on empowering Global South states; or a coalition originating from the Global North aimed at reshaping Western attitudes and actions towards the Global South.