UKZN Indigenous Knowledge Expert Addresses International e-Forum
An indigenous knowledge expert at UKZN - 2018 Distinguished Teachers’ Award holder and 2019 National Teaching Excellence Award recipient Professor Fayth Ruffin - represented the University at a virtual International Faculty Development Programme (IFDP) forum hosted by the Director of International Relations at Chandigarh University (CU) in India, Professor Rajan Sharma.
The IFDP is an annual gathering of academic experts from more than 20 institutions of Higher Education around the world who share best practice concepts in various fields, including agriculture, applied science, biotechnology, business management, civil engineering, education, and law.
Over the years the event has provided a great opportunity for networking, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the event was held on a virtual platform for the first time in four years.
Ruffin, who was requested to speak on International and Comparative Law, presented on the role of epistemologies inherent in indigenous law in creating global co-operative legal processes. She also discussed the importance of comparative indigenous law in understanding International Relations from its rudiments.
Ruffin explained International and Comparative Law in an historical and contemporary context, highlighting that Law, including International Law, was irreducible to state-centrism. She explored the interconnectedness between people, business, governance and territories along with public and private legal and justice affairs and conveyed epistemological distinctions between westernised law and indigenous law
She reviewed multiple levels of coloniality within the framework of the legal profession, law societies, law practice, legal education and westernised jurisprudence as a whole. She discussed the means of indigenising legal education in an inclusive and 21st century manner and also highlighted the role of empiricism and socio-legal studies in restructuring legal education curricula.
Members of the Law Faculty at CU said they found Ruffin’s presentation enlightening and engaged with her about the fact that the concept of divorce did not exist in Indian indigenous law but was introduced by the British legal system. They also asked why plea bargaining techniques that originated in the United States were not working in India and also how social constructions could be overcome.
Responding, Ruffin explored the varied distinctions between axiological approaches to law and justice and providing examples of how to make legal education more inclusive of plural ontologies, epistemologies and methodologies.
Sharma said he was grateful to Ruffin for sharing her expertise in indigenous knowledge as well as International and Comparative Law. ‘Please accept our sincere appreciation for the outstanding interactive session you made. It is really great inspiration and motivation to young faculty and research scholars,’ added Sharma.
Words: Hazel Langa