The ‘Africa’ Bar in Paris: Extractive economies and connected histories of globalization

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Research Seminar

Speaker: Dr Sara DEZALAY

Lecturer in International Relations Cardiff University

School of Law and Politics

Tuesday October 3rd 2017, 2:00-4:00 PM

ULB Solbosch - IEE Kant Room, Avenue F. D. Roosevelt 39, 1050 Bruxelles

Open to all but online registration required ► HERE


With the 2008 global financial crisis and Chinese economic growth, the African continent has re-emerged as a source of mineral riches, a boon for the expansion of global markets, and a new site of legal globalization. Yet - discussions on these developments tend to reflect the protracted political and development ‘dependency’ of African states, with lawyers involved in corporate dealings on the continent either denounced as mercenaries at the service of neo-colonial ‘looting’ or idealized as missionaries of the rule of law.

The ‘’Africa’ Bar in Paris - the empirical focus of this presentation - emerges as a microcosm of connected and enduring histories that position lawyers operating on the African continent in a ‘cross-roads’ space between politics and economics, shaped by the legacies of the ties between Paris the métropole and its former African colonies. A key intermediary site for corporations seeking to extract natural resources on the continent and invest in its emerging markets, Paris was also a beachhead for the expansion of US-led globalization of corporate law in Europe from the 1980s.

On the basis of biographical interviews, this presentation traces the social and professional structure of this ‘Africa’ Bar in Paris. Dominated by predominantly French, male, lawyers operating in the Paris branches of major US and UK law firms, this Bar operates under the contradictory shadow of the clout of the Françafrique and the restructuring of commodities markets under the impetus of financialization and global regulatory frameworks. These on-going developments highlight the continuous connections between corporate and state power in the trajectory of the state and legal markets on the African continent and help trace the stakes of an open research agenda on extractive economies, knowledge, law and politics on the African continent.

Sara DEZALAY is a Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Law and Politics, with a background in international law and politics. Her research focuses on legal globalization dynamics. She adopts a broad historical focus to connect the transnational legal dynamics to the reshaping of international   and national politics, with a specific interest in the position of the African South in globalization.  Her research uses a micro-level approach that relates legal transformations to professional practices, the trajectories of lawyers and the production and circulation of legal knowledge. Her empirical work connects multiple sites of deployment of legal globalization: from transnational practices of adjudication of public and economic disputes, the operations of international criminal courts through to the national level in postcolonial settings in the African South. In her current project she focuses particularly on the role of law and lawyers in extractive economies on the African continent. Parallel to her position at the Cardiff School of Law and Politics, Sara Dezalay is a Visiting Fellow at King's College London, a Senior Research Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto, and an Affiliate researcher at the Cluster of Excellence 'The formation of normative orders' at the Goethe Universität, Frankfurt.