Shahab Shahabuddin

Colleges, School and Institutes

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.

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.

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 important scholarships at all stages of his higher studies. He was an Overseas 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.

Research interests

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

Willingness to take PhD students

Yes

PhD projects

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.