Professor Mohammad (Shahab) Shahabuddin

Professor Mohammad (Shahab) Shahabuddin

Birmingham Law School
Professor of International Law & Human Rights

Contact details

Address
Birmingham Law School
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

Professor Mohammad Shahabuddin teaches and researches in international law and human rights with special focus on the history and theory of international law, ethnicity and nationalism, and human rights. His teaching and research is informed by critical, postcolonial, and TWAIL (Third World Approaches to International Law) scholarship. He is the author of Ethnicity and International Law: Histories, Politics and Practices(Cambridge University Press, 2016) and Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021). The latter is part of the prestigious Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law series.  He is also the editor of the seminal volume Bangladesh and International Law (Routledge, 2021) and an Editorial Board member of the Asian Journal of International Law. Shahab is a recipient of the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2018-2020) and the Japan Foundation Fellowship (2016). He was Deputy Head of Birmingham Law School (Staffing and Strategy) in 2020-2021.

Qualifications

  • PhD (London)
  • MA (Yokohama)
  • LLM (Dhaka) Gold medallist
  • LLB Hons. (Dhaka)

Biography

Mohammad Shahabuddin is a Professor of International Law & Human Rights at Birmingham Law School. He first joined BLS as a Senior Lecturer in 2016 and was later promoted to Reader in International Law & Human Rights. Prior to joining Birmingham, he served Keele University as a Lecturer in Law from 2014 to 2016. He also held visiting professorships at Yokohama National University (2013-14) and Keio Law School (2014 & 2016) in Japan. He has been a Faculty Member for Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP) Workshops since 2013. He is an Editorial Board member of the Asian Journal of International Law (Cambridge Journals).

Shahab was the Founding Chairperson of the Department of Law & Justice at Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh during 2011-2013. In this role, he successfully led the curriculum development process for this new law school with the vision of introducing critical and interdisciplinary legal education in the country.

Shahab’s research has a global audience. He has given invited talks at leading institutions in 6 continents. He received the prestigious Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship (2018-2020) and the Japan Foundation Fellowship (2016) in recognition of his innovative research in international law and human rights. He is the author of Ethnicity and International Law: Histories, Politics, and Practices (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2021). The latter is part of the prestigious Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law series. He has also published numerous original articles and chapters in influential journals and edited volumes on various aspects of the theory and history of international law and human rights. He is the editor of Bangladesh and International Law (Routledge, 2021). This edited volume with 27 chapters is the first comprehensive analysis of international law from Global South perspectives with specific reference to Bangladesh. 

As a National Consultant of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), he conducted Bangladesh 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) in 2011/12. He also served at the Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA) – the oldest civil society think-tank in Bangladesh – as its Research Director from 2011 to 2013. 

Shahab completed his PhD in international law at SOAS, University of London. He received prestigious fundings at all stages of his higher studies. He was an Overseas PhD Research Scholar during 2008-2011, a Japan Development Scholarship (JDS) Fellow during 2005-2008, and a British Chevening Fellow in 2004. He received the Chancellor’s Gold Medal and the Justice Amin Ahmed Gold Medal in 2000 for outstanding academic performance in LLM studies at the University of Dhaka.

Postgraduate supervision

Shahab is happy to supervise postgraduate research students in the areas of International Law and International Human Rights Law. He has specific interest in supervising PhD students in the field of international legal history, international legal theory, third world approaches to international law, ethnic minority rights and ethnic conflicts, and right to self-determination.


Find out more - our PhD Law  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.

Research

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 (Cambridge University Press, 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 (Cambridge University Press, 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.

His edited volume Bangladesh and International Law (Routledge, 2021) is the first comprehensive analysis of international law from Global South perspectives with specific reference to Bangladesh. The book not only sheds new light on classical international law concepts, such as statehood, citizenship, and self-determination, but also covers more current issues including Rohingya refugees, climate change, sustainable development, readymade garment workers and crimes against humanity. Written by area specialists, the book explores how international law shaped Bangladesh state practice over the last five decades; how Bangladesh in turn contributed to the development of international law; and the manner in which international law is also used as a hegemonic tool for marginalising less powerful countries like Bangladesh. By analysing stories of an ambivalent relationship between international law and post-colonial states, the book exposes the duality of international law as both a problem-solving tool and as a language of hegemony. Despite its focus on Bangladesh, the book deals with the more general problem of post-colonial states’ problematic relationship with international law.

Shahab is an Editorial Board member of the Asian Journal of International Law (Cambridge Journals).

In recent years, Shahab 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

Other activities

Selected Talks:

  • Shahab’s talk at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law, University of Cambridge on ‘Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International law’ (14 February 2020) is available here.
  • Shahab’s talk at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford on ‘Postcolonial Boundaries, Self-Determination, and the Rohingya Refugee Crisis’ (30 October 2019) is available here.

Publications

Recent publications

Book

Shahabuddin, M (ed.) 2021, Bangladesh and International Law. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, 1 edn, Routledge, Abingdon, UK. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003107958

Shahabuddin, M 2021, Minorities and the Making of Postcolonial States in International Law. Cambridge Studies in International and Comparative Law, vol. 154, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108678773

Shahabuddin, M 2016, Ethnicity and International Law: Histories, Politics and Practices. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Article

Shahabuddin, M 2019, 'Postcolonial boundaries, international law, and the making of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar', Asian Journal of International Law, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 334-358. https://doi.org/10.1017/S2044251319000055

Shahabuddin, M 2019, 'The ‘standard of civilization’ in international law: intellectual perspectives from pre-war Japan', Leiden Journal of International Law, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 13-32. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0922156518000559

Shahabuddin, M 2018, 'The myth of colonial ‘protection’ of indigenous peoples: the case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts under British rule', International Journal on Minority and Group Rights, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 210-235. https://doi.org/10.1163/15718115-02502008

Shahabuddin, M 2014, 'From Exclusion to Civilisation: ‘National Spirit’ as a Response to Western Imperialism in Nineteenth Century Japan', Jahangirnagar University Journal of Law, vol. 2, pp. 15-46.

Shahabuddin, M 2014, 'Historicizing ‘Law’ as a Language of Progress, and Its Anomalies: The Case of Penal Law Reforms in Colonial India', Asian Journal of Comparative Law, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 213-240. https://doi.org/10.1515/asjcl-2013-0065

Shahabuddin, M 2013, 'Liberal Self-determination, Postcolonial Statehood, and Minorities: The Chittagong Hill Tracts in Context', Jahangirnagar University Journal of Law, vol. 1, pp. 77-96.

Shahabuddin, M 2013, 'The Colonial ‘Other’ in the Nineteenth-Century German Colonisation of Africa, and International Law', African Yearbook of International Law, pp. 15-39.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Shahabuddin, S 2019, Ethnicity. in J D'Aspremont & S Singh (eds), Concepts for International Law: Contributions to Disciplinary Thought. Edward Elgar, Gloucestershire, pp. 279-293.

Shahabuddin, M 2017, Nationalism, Imperialism, and Bandung: Nineteenth Century Japan as a Prelude. in Bandung, Global History and International Law: Critical Pasts and Pending Futures . Cambridge University Press, pp. 95-107. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316414880.008

Shahabuddin, M 2016, Human Rights and the Law. in A Riaz & M Sajjadur (eds), Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Bangladesh . Routledge, pp. 283-292. <https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Handbook-of-Contemporary-Bangladesh/Riaz-Sajjadur-Rahman/p/book/9780415734615>

Shahabuddin, M 2014, Primordialism and otherness: the ‘ethnic’ underpinning of ‘minority’ in international law. in F Jenkins, M Nolan & K Rubenstein (eds), Allegiance and Identity in a Globalised World. Cambridge University Press, pp. 522-541. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139696654.031

Commissioned report

Shahabuddin, M 2013, The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: A Study on Bangladesh Compliance. Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission. <http://www.nhrc.org.bd/PDF/Study%20reports/Study%20report%20CAT.pdf>

View all publications in research portal

Expertise

 

International law with subject specialisation in history and theory of international law, ethnicity and nationalism, minority rights, and ethnic conflicts

Area specialisation: Bangladesh; the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT)