Shahab’s research falls within the broad genre of postcolonial and critical legal studies. The critical underpinning of his research challenges many of the inherent assumptions of international law and human rights. His research interests include history and theory of international law, Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), international human rights law, minority rights, and ethnicity, nationalism, and ethnic conflicts.
His monograph Ethnicity and International Law: Histories, Politics, and Practices (CUP, 2016) is the first-ever systematic analysis of the role of ethnicity in the making of international law. While ethnicity remains a peripheral issue in international legal discourse and appears relevant only as a pejorative descriptive criterion, as in ‘ethnic conflicts’ and ‘ethnic minorities’, Ethnicity and International Law reversed this understanding of the relationship between ethnicity and international law by tracing the central role that ethnicity plays in the historical development of international law. Similarly, his second monograph Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law (CUP 2021), which has been completed under the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, offers a ground-breaking comprehensive theory of the postcolonial state in international law from minority perspectives. Offering an analysis of the geneses of ethno-nationalism in postcolonial states, the book argues that nationalist elites address the problem of ethno-nationalism in general and minorities in particular by identifying the ‘postcolonial state’ itself as an ‘ideology’. In this regard, the book also explains how international law plays a key role in the ideological function of the postcolonial state.
In recent years, he has received a number of research grants including the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2018-2020), the British Academy Writing Workshops Grant (2018), Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) Research Grant (2015), Brown University’s Brown International Advanced Research Institute (BIARI) Grants (2016), and the Japan Foundation Fellowship (2016).
In addition to academic research, he is also actively involved in policy work. He worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bangladesh as its National Consultant in 2011/12 to conduct compliance studies on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). These reports have been published by the National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh and used for policy reform recommendations to the government.
For Shahab’s research updates, follow him on Twitter @MShahabuddin77