Call for Applications: Law, Culture & Humanities Graduate Student Workshop 2014

In conjunction with its just-announced Annual Meeting in March 2014 at the University of Virginia, the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities will once again hold a Graduate Student Workshop. I attended last year’s workshop in London and highly recommend it. ASLCH is a wonderfully eclectic scholarly community—and peculiarly supportive of graduate students and interested in mentorship. Here’s the announcement:

The Annual Law Culture and Humanities conference is pleased to offer a graduate student workshop designed for graduate students who are undertaking research that cuts across law, cultural studies, literature, philosophy, legal studies, anthropology, political science, economics. The workshop is designed to provide mentoring, practical advice on publishing and applying for work, as well as have some fun. Applications to the workshop should include a statement of research, a current curriculum vitae, and a short statement of the paper that each student will be presenting at the conference. There is limited space for the workshop, and so we cannot admit all (although we will do our best!). Please forward your application to ckellogg[at]ualberta.ca by November 15.


CFP: Law, Culture & the Humanities Annual Meeting, March 10-11, 2014, Charlottesville, VA

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities has announced its 2014 Annual Meeting. I’m particularly excited about next year’s conference, as it will be held at my home university, the University of Virginia.

Here’s the call for proposals:

We are pleased to announce that the Seventeenth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities will be held at the University of Virginia School of Law, March 10-11, 2014. We invite your participation.  Please note, panel and paper proposals are due Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities is an organization of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary, humanistically-oriented legal scholarship. The Association brings together a wide range of people engaged in scholarship on legal history, legal theory and jurisprudence, law and cultural studies, law and literature, law and the performing arts, and legal hermeneutics. We want to encourage dialogue across and among these fields about issues of interpretation, identity, and values, about authority, obligation, and justice, and about law’s place in culture.

This year’s conference theme is as follows:

The Politics of Law and the Humanities: Crisis, Austerity, Instrumentalism

How will law and the humanities scholarship fare against the pressure of the science and technology paradigm that has now permeated the institutional frameworks of academia? Will it mime the general humanities and, as suggested by the defeatist pomp of many national “crisis reports”, merely retreat to its traditional position as the well-mannered guardian of liberal values? Will law and the humanities scholarship be subsumed under the science paradigm’s instrumental ethos by either taking on aims and objectives sanctioned by government policies or by domesticating its own political potential to address those very same policies? Or can we imagine more salutary alternatives to defeatism and instrumental subsumption?

The terrain is well known. The ongoing economic crisis has engendered a worldwide decline in funding for research in the humanities showing sharp decreases between 2009 and 2012 with funds almost cut in half each year. The global trend is also detectable at national levels, with growing gaps between public investment into STEM subjects and the humanities. But the changes do not merely concern the fiscal prioritization of diminishing resources. The social sciences, including law, are under constant political pressure as lawmakers question the value of curiosity-driven basic research. This pressure is then mirrored at the institutional level of individual law schools emphasizing their vocational remits at the expense of research and scholarship. And this research and scholarship is itself increasingly cast in reformist, practical, and “policy relevant” terms, and directed to issues of perceived topical and regulatory concern.

The implied allegation is simple enough: basic research in the humanities and social sciences is, if not obsolete, then at least a luxury we can’t afford in these times; because it cannot satisfy the more immediate needs of market-driven societies in the current economic climate, it is politically irrelevant.

But can we imagine new ways to claim – or, perhaps, to reclaim – our political relevance? Are we relevant in other, perhaps more radical ways? And if we are, how? Is there a politics that is specific to law and the humanities? Or can we articulate the limits to the conversation about “relevance” in a way accessible to minds focused on instrumentality? How might we respond to our critics, or do we ignore them?

Participants are encouraged to reflect on this broad, but not exclusive, conference theme.

In addition to sessions that connect to the theme, examples of other types of sessions we expect to organize include: History, Memory and Law; Reading Race; Law and Literature; Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism; Speech, Silence, and the Language of Law; Judgment, Justice, and Law; Beyond Identity; The Idea of Practice in Legal Thought; Metaphor and Meaning; Representing Legality in Film and Mass Media; Anarchy, Liberty and Law; What is Excellence in Interpretation?; Ethics, Religion, and Law; Moral Obligation and Legal Life; The Post-Colonial in Literary and Legal Study; Processes and Possibilities in Interdisciplinary Law Teaching.

We urge those interested in attending to consider submitting complete panels, and we hope to encourage a variety of formats-roundtables, sessions at which everyone reads the papers in advance, sessions in which commentators respond to a single paper. We invite proposals for session in which the focus is on pedagogy or methodology, for author-meets-readers sessions organized around important books in the field, or for sessions in which participants focus on performance (theatrical, filmic, musical, poetic).

How to register:

ASLCH uses a two part registration system (this will all be explained in detail on the website). First you register your paper or panel and pay a $35 membership fee. Then after January 10th, 2014, assuming your paper or panel is accepted, you go back to the same website (an email will be sent on that day to remind you) and pay the conference fee.

Here is the link to register: https://www.regonline.com/17thannualmeetingLCH


Futures of American Studies Institute 2012: Would You Like Some Speculation With That?

A few highlights from this year’s Futures of American Studies Institute, held June 18-24. The Institute, which takes place every summer at Dartmouth College, is a lively week jam-packed with plenary lectures and grad student workshops. It’s a great place for grad students to connect with top-notch scholars from around the U.S. and Europe, receive feedback on their own work, and generally take the pulse of the field. Sleep is optional. This year, a sizable crew of us tweeted the plenary lectures, which allowed us to share notes and discuss tangents while talks went on.

I was fortunate to be part of the workshop led by Alan Nadel. Over four days, ten advanced grad students presented work in progress and received feedback from each other, Alan, and other faculty whom we invited individually. (We were assigned to workshops roughly based on areas of interest; there was a foreign policy/governmentality theme in my group.) I invited Andy Doolen to join us when I presented my dissertation prospectus, and was grateful for the rich, detailed comments he provided. Alan and my workshop-mates also offered great suggestions.

Some of this year’s hot topics, in no particular order:

  • Race and speculative fiction. I know it’s been a while since white geekdom completely ruled the speculative genres. But these days, it seems like if you’re doing ethnic studies and haven’t at least thought about futurism or sci-fi, you might as well go live in a cave. Most memorable were Aimee Bahng on “queer Asian American futurity” in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl and Soyica Diggs Colbert on the prophetic in Octavia Butler’s Parable series.
  • The financial crisis, or, speculative everything. Speaking of living in caves, the housing market crash and general economic apocalypse have heightened interest in property, markets, and global capital. Indeed, the “What if?” that lies at the heart of “speculation” (financial and literary) seems to offer an exciting convergence of the material and the imaginative—and what do American studies scholars love more than that? Although I tend to get skeptical when literary critics put on their economist hats, I really enjoyed Annie McClanahan’s talk on photography and the foreclosure crisis.
  • Geography and territory. For better or worse (mostly better, I think), disciplinary boundaries don’t faze American studies scholars. Often borrowing theory and methods from human geography, scholars trained in literature or history are producing increasingly nuanced work on territory, space, and mapping. I especially liked Elizabeth Maddock Dillon’s talk on theater as a “virtual commons” and Andy Doolen’s on the “failed” explorer Zebulon Pike and the American geographic imagination.
  • Neoliberalism (or, I suppose, liberalism for the earlier period folks). The field of American studies tends to be, to put it mildly, critical of the faith in individualism and “free markets” that underlies today’s global capitalism. A good portion of the speakers related their topics to capitalism or uneven economic development. I especially liked Donatella Izzo’s talk on The Great Gatsby and “democracy to come” (à la Derrida).
  • Digital humanities. The final afternoon featured a digital humanities “unconference” (very fashionable, in case you didn’t know), with lightning talks on a wide range of DH projects. Major props to Lindsay O’Connor, who spoke on the new Praxis Program at U.Va., Mary Caton Lingold for her work with sound technologies at Duke (which you can follow on Twitter at #dhsound), and Jane Greenway for her archival project with the Schomburg Center.

There were also occasional hints about the rather sorry state of humanities higher education. A panel on (the end of?) academic publishing put a damper on things, even after John Carlos Rowe’s uplifting decision to go open access with his latest book. Also, in between (and, I confess, during) lectures, six of us from U.Va. were also checking Twitter and our overflowing inboxes for the latest on the President Sullivan debacle, which fortunately came to an end this past Tuesday.

Finally, and importantly, I want to extend a huge thank you to the U.Va. English Department for funding my and my classmates’ attendance. (But shhh—don’t tell the neoliberals who now run higher education that money is being spent on humanities enrichment.)


Law, Culture & the Humanities 2012: Panel on “Global Citizens: Violence and the Transnational Subject”

This past weekend in Fort Worth, TX, I was pleased to be part of the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. This year’s theme was “Representing Justice.” Tweets can be found at #ASLCH.

Audrey Golden, Nicolette Bruner, and I formed a law and literature panel called Global Citizens: Violence and the Transnational Subject, graciously chaired by Marc Roark of The Literary Table. Here are the paper abstracts:

Translating the ‘Self’ from Central and Eastern Europe: Putting Theory to Practice thought the Works of Aleksandar Hemon and W.G. Sebald by Audrey Golden

The second half of the twentieth century has borne witness to forced migration and statelessness in numbers previously unimaginable within modernity. Through the works of Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian-American émigré writer, and W.G. Sebald, a second-generation German novelist, this paper looks to the narratives of displaced persons and questions the role literary theory might play in imagining the processes of transnational movement and of internal “self-translation” that emigrants must undertake. This paper conceives a broader and more abstract model of “translation” that looks beyond natural language to include a cultural self-translation, and then asks if such a process is fraught with previously unimagined identity problems, or whether, although stemming from acts of violence, translating oneself might have ameliorative qualities for an individual caught between places, or in “nowhere” spaces.

Corporate Citizenship as U.S. Empire in Richard Harding Davis’s Soldiers of Fortune by Nicolette Bruner

Published in 1897, Richard Harding Davis’s novel, Soldiers of Fortune, describes the travails of a mining company that operates in the fictional Latin American country of Olancho, a thinly-veiled version of Cuba. The hero, filibustering engineer Robert Clay, facilitates the success of the corporation through military and financial interventions in Olancho. Meanwhile, Clay romances and marries Hope, the young daughter of the sole owner of the company’s stock. In this paper, I examine how Davis complicates the boundaries between corporate employer and human employee even as he glorifies the deeply unequal relation between U.S. corporations and the countries they exploited for profit. Corporate imperialism, as represented by the incursion of the U.S. citizen stockholder and his employees upon Latin American territory, becomes more than a matter of domination, but also an illustration of the complex interdependencies between business, storytelling, and violence in the fin de siècle.

Another Vietnam: War, The Archive, and the USS Kirk by Mai-Linh K. Hong

In late 2010, National Public Radio (NPR) aired a special series about the USS Kirk, a U.S. naval ship that was sent during the fall of Saigon to rescue the “remnants” of the South Vietnamese navy. The rescue was accomplished partly by transferring the Vietnamese ships’ sovereignty to the U.S. through a change of flags, a peaceful, quasi-legal transformation that dislodges the conventional Vietnam War narrative of violence and moral failure. Placing this “never before told” redemption story in the context of today’s U.S. war in Afghanistan, my project examines NPR’s historical revisionism and its production of a new visual iconography for the war that has haunted all later U.S. wars. I argue that, with “the archive” a site of suspense in the Wikileaks era, the rewriting of Vietnam must be understood as a response to contemporary anxieties about American imperialism, militarism, and national identity.


CFP: Spatial Perspectives: Literature and Architecture, 1850–Present

The following call for papers might interest our readers:

Spatial Perspectives: Literature and Architecture, 1850 – Present

FRIDAY 22ND JUNE 2012
UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, FACULTY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to foster a dialogue between literature and architecture by bringing together papers that encompass the diversity of thinking about these two disciplines and the ways in which they engage and interact. This will be one of the first conferences to examine the intersections of architecture and literature globally over a broad timeframe.

The conference is organised by Nicole Sierra (University of Oxford) and Terri Mullholland (University of Oxford). Contact us at: literature.architecture[at]gmail.com

More information may be found at the conference website.


CFP: “Occupied: Taking up Space and Time,” March 22-24, 2012

Seems quite a few graduate conferences this year are tackling interdisciplinary themes relating to space! Indiana University–Bloomington’s Annual Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference seeks papers on the theme of:

“Occupied: Taking up Space and Time”

We are issuing a Call for Proposals for scholarly and creative submissions for an International Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference entitled “Occupied: Taking up Space and Time” to be held at Indiana University – Bloomington from March 22-24, 2012.  This 9th annual conference is hosted by the graduate students of the IU Department of English.Recent calls to occupy space for indefinite durations have provoked us to consider what it means to occupy or to be occupied both spatially and temporally.  The current position of “occupy” as a political buzzword confers a multiplicity of new meanings onto a concept already charged with complex histories and forms.  This conference seeks to explore the cultural significance and interrelations of its many meanings and implications, from mental pre-occupation and obsession, to the physical spaces we occupy (locked bathrooms to occupied nations), to the ways in which we spend or take up time.  Tracing the theoretical, formal, and political implications of this issue necessitates a variety of methodologies and disciplinary perspectives, so we particularly welcome interdisciplinary approaches considering any time period. Below are some suggestions for possible topics. This list is by no means exhaustive; rather, we hope these ideas might inspire some exciting new thoughts related to the theme:

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CFP: Graduate Colloquium on “Indigenous Spaces,” February 15, 2012

The newly created Collaborations on Indigenous Studies Project (CISP) at Columbia University is accepting paper proposals for its first graduate student colloquium:

Indigenous Spaces:

Pushing the Boundaries of History, Bodies, Geographies, and Politics

A Graduate Student Colloquium

Presented by

The Collaborations on Indigenous Studies Project (CISP)

Columbia University

February 15, 2012

We invite graduate students to submit proposals for a graduate student colloquium on the theme of Indigenous Spaces: Pushing the Boundaries of History, Bodies, Geographies, and Politics, to take place at Columbia University in the City of New York on February 15, 2012. Contributors are encouraged to think about ‘indigenous spaces’ that connect indigenous communities, bodies (understood in a broad sense), histories, geographies, and academia.

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CFP: “Exploring I–Lands: Borders, Identity and Myth,” March 16-18, 2012

The University of Virginia Department of English Graduate Conference seeks paper proposals from graduate students in all disciplines. Featured speakers will be Lorna Goodison and Jahan Ramazani. Abstracts are due January 21, 2012.

“Exploring I–Lands: Borders, Identity and Myth”

March 16-18, 2012

Borders abide and abound—between disciplines, between languages, between periods, between persons, between genders, between communities, between generations, between the self and the world. They define us in both liberating and limiting ways. This conference will investigate how borders and barriers are made, broken and refashioned, giving special attention to individual and national identities and the mythologies that inform them. Just how impermeable are such borders? Is there an unshakeable human drive to draw them?

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Law, Culture & the Humanities Graduate Student Workshop

From the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities:

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities (ASLCH) welcomes applications for its first ever Graduate Student Workshop, to be held March 15, 2012. The half day Workshop immediately precedes the ASLCH Annual Meetings, to be hosted by Texas Wesleyan University School of Law March 16-17, 2012. Applicants can be graduate students from any discipline or law students with scholarly interests in Law, Culture, and the Humanities.

The Workshop’s aims are to promote the future development of the field of Law, Culture and the Humanities through the development of our junior colleagues by bringing together graduate students and established scholars in Law, Culture, and the Humanities. During seminars, panel discussions, informal conversation, and shared meals, we will discuss scholarly work, give feedback on student research projects, address issues pertinent to professional development, and facilitate scholarly networks between graduate and faculty colleagues by encouraging intellectual community.

The Graduate Student Committee of ASLCH for 2011-2012, who will be planning the Workshop, includes Paul A. Passavant, Chair (Department of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges), Austin Sarat (Departments of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought and Political Science, Amherst College), Stewart Motha (Kent Law School, University of Kent), Marianne Constable (Department of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley), and Ravit Reichman (Department of English, Brown University).

ASLCH will subsidize the participation of up to 15 successful graduate student applications. The deadline for applications is Friday December 2, 2011. Applications should be sent electronically to Professor Paul A. Passavant, Department of Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Passavant [at] hws.edu).

Applications should include a Curriculum Vitae (CV), the title and abstract of the student’s proposed paper for the ASLCH Annual Meetings March 16-17, 2012, and a letter not longer than two pages describing the student’s status in graduate school, the student’s dissertation or significant interest in Law, Culture, and the Humanities, and what the student hopes to gain from attending the Workshop.


Osnabrück Update: Law, Literature, and the Nation

Law, Literature, and the Cultural Presence of the Law,” a workshop convened by Claudia Lieb and Brook Thomas as part of the Summer School, has been examining the many possible relationships between law and literature by focusing on “the nation” as a site of disciplinary convergence.

The workshop’s well-structured reading list began by tracing the history of citizenship and the nation-state, and moved on to literary theory treating law and the nation, including work by Guyora Binder/Robert Weisberg and Homi Bhabha. As a “law and literature” case study, the workshop then examined E.E. Hale’s Civil War-era short story, “The Man Without a Country” (1863) in view of the historical controversy that inspired it: Clement Vallandigham, a Union politician, was arrested and punished for speaking out against the Civil War. The Vallandigham case sparked a “reply” by President Abraham Lincoln arguing that the government may, during times of rebellion, suspend habeas corpus, prohibit anti-war speech, and try protesters in military court. The case raised constitutional issues that have resurfaced several times in U.S. history, most recently, of course, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hale’s patriotic short story should interest those who study nationalism and citizenship. It concerns a young American man who speaks out against his country and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life never seeing or hearing another word about the United States. Over time, the man (named Nolan, a play on “no land”) feels the loss of his country deeply and by the end of his life is a fully reformed, though still exiled, patriot. Although the story is fictitious, Thomas notes, some readers took it to be true and its nationalistic message resonated widely; it was a staple of American high school curricula until the 1970s and has experienced something of a revival since 9/11.


Law, Language & Culture Reading Lists from Osnabrück Summer School

Many thanks to Director Peter Schneck and the faculty of the Summer School for giving permission to share these valuable reading lists.

The reading list for Workshop 1, entitled “The Complex Relation between Culture and Law: Methods, Concepts, Approaches,” was posted earlier.

Detailed workshop descriptions can be found here (scroll down for links).

Workshop 2: From Human Rights to Civil Rights to Cultural Rights

Convened by: Helle Porsdam & Cindy Holder

  • Anaya, S. James. Indigenous Peoples in International Law. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Read p. 129-48.
  • Jones, Peter. “Human Rights, Group Rights and Peoples’ Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 21.1 (1999): 80-107.
  • Porsdam, Helle. “Divergent Transatlantic Views on Human Rights: Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.” From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read p. 92-113.
  • —. “Divergent Transatlantic Views on Human Rights: The Role of International Law.” From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read p. 114-35.
  • —. “Transatlantic dialogues on copyright: cultural rights and access to knowledge From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read p. 136-64.
  • Raz, Joseph. “Rights and Individual Well-being.” Ratio Juris 5.2 (1992): 127-42.
  • Reidel, Laura. “What are Cultural Rights: Protecting Groups with Individual Rights.” Journal of Human Rights 9 (2010): 65-80.
  • Supreme Court of Canada , R v Van der Peet [1996] 2 S.C.R. 507

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Osnabrück Summer School on Law, Language & Culture: Methodology Reading List & Keynote Talk

Greetings from Osnabrück, Germany, where I am attending the International Summer School on the Cultural Study of the Law, this year themed “Correlations: Law, Language and Culture.” The program is an annual, two-week series of workshops for graduate students and new scholars, taught by faculty from various disciplines. I am grateful to Professors Peter Schneck and Sabine Meyer (and their staff) for organizing the Summer School, as well as to DAAD, Osnabrück University, and the other organizations that fund the program.

The opening workshop took place over two days and concerned methodological problems in interdisciplinary study of law, language, and culture. Workshop convenors Kay Schaffer and Martin Zeilinger compiled this reading list for participants (shared with permission):

  • Brown, Wendy. “‘The Most We Can Hope For’: Human Rights and the Politics of Fatalism.” South Atlantic Quarterly 103.2/3 (2004): 451-63.
  • —. “Neo-Liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy.” Theory and Event 7.1(2003): n. pag.
  • Coombe, Rosemary J. “Contingent Articulations.” Law in the Domains of Culture.” Ed. Austin Sarat, Thomas R. Kearns. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1998. 21-64.
  • Holder, Cindy. “Culture as an Activity and Human Right: An Important Advance for Indigenous Peoples and International Law.” Alternatives 33 (2008): 7-28.
  • Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995. Read Chapter 3: Individual Rights and Collective Rights; p. 34-48 and Chapter 5: Freedom and Culture; 84-101.
  • Mezey, Naomi. “Law as Culture.” Cultural Analysis, Cultural Studies, and the Law: Moving beyond Legal Realism. Ed. Austin Sarat, Jonathan Simon. Durham: Duke UP, 2003. 37-72.
  • Olson, Greta. “De-Americanizing Law and Literature Narratives: Opening Up the Story.” Law and Literature 22.1 (2010): 338-64.
  • Porsdam, Helle. From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read Chapter 8: Transatlantic dialogues on ‘law and literature’: from ‘law and literature’ to ‘law and humanities’; p. 165-81.
  • Schaffer, Kay, and Sidonie Smith. Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004. Read p. 35-53; 123-52.
  • Thomas, Brook. “Reflections on the Law and Literature Revival.” Critical Inquiry 17.3 (1991): 510-39.

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Law and Society Panel on Legacies of Colonialism in Indigenous Communities

My other favorite panel from the Law and Society Association’s Annual Meeting was Narratives of Il(legality) in Liminal Indigenous Locations, held Friday. The panel included four very moving, thought-provoking presentations on the ways colonialism and legal and cultural oppression impact North American indigenous communities today.

The first three presentations dealt with legacies of Canada’s residential schools policy, which forcibly removed aboriginal children from their homes and raised them (if you can call it that) in conditions of abuse, deprivation, and denigration.

Carole Blackburn spoke on Blackwater v. Plint (2005), which arose from widespread sexual abuse at one church-run residential school. The government and church were held liable, but liability was mitigated because the court found school officials had no actual knowledge of abuse—despite the fact that several children reported the abuse to police and nurses. Blackburn examines the cultural conditions that made abuse of aboriginal children invisible to the defendants and the court. Lack of “actual knowledge,” she argues, is really a willed “ignorance that requires active dissociation” from injustices committed against the children.

Justice Melvyn Green of the Ontario Court of Justice spoke on his experiences as a rotating judge in the Gladue Court that handles sentencing of aboriginal criminal offenders, who are overrepresented in prisons by a factor of seven. While the Court carefully considers mitigating factors specific to aboriginals, Justice Green was very forthcoming about the Court’s limitations. Sentencing, after all, is the “tail end” of the process and earlier interventions are needed. Disparities in crime and imprisonment rates are part of “an inheritance of unbridled colonialism”; they result largely from “cultural genocide” propagated by Canada’s residential schools policy.

Jane McMillan’s paper concerned unintended consequences of the Residential Schools Settlement agreement of 2007, which compensates aboriginal Canadians who can prove they went to a residential school. Part of the claims process requires victims of abuse, many of whom are traumatized and have never spoken of their abuse, to detail their experiences in writing and undergo a hearing in order to receive extra compensation. (The seventeen-page form includes an appalling page of checkboxes listing various acts of sexual abuse and how many times they were done.) This culturally and psychologically insensitive process, while cathartic and healing for some, is for others a re-victimization.

Finally, Ann Tweedy traced the racialized notion of “self-defense” in U.S. jurisprudence to illuminate current problems with Indian sovereignty and gun control. Tweedy argues that stereotypes of Indians as “savage ignobles” (which arise, ironically, from Indians’ own efforts at self-defense against white settlers) have led to a long history of curtailing Indian sovereignty. The result has been widespread lawlessness on reservations due to Indians’ inability (and U.S. Attorneys’ refusal) to effectively prosecute crimes, particularly rape of Indian women by non-Indian men. At the same time, the right to bear arms must be understood in the context of white settlers “defending” themselves against what Justice Kennedy, only a few years ago, called “Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears and grizzlies and things like that.”


Law and Society Association Conference Update: Panel on the War on Terror

First, I am very grateful to the organizers and faculty of the Law and Society Association’s Graduate Student Workshop, which wrapped up on Wednesday. It was a terrific and inspiring program—I highly recommend it to other graduate students who do what I will affectionately call “law-and-blank” research.

Second, I attended several great panels during Days 1 and 2 of the LSA Annual Meeting (see Twitter at #LSA2011), but will detail just one of my favorites for now. Yesterday’s panel Exploring the Discontinuity in the War on Terror at the Margins and Beyond featured exciting papers by Paul E. Amar, Asli Bali, Darryl Li (a.k.a. @abubanda), and Wadie Said, with commentary by Sudha Setty.

Bali presented “Subordination by Law? Discretion and Discrimination against U.S. Muslims beyond September 11th,” which argued that since 9/11, executive branch powers have expanded alarmingly to create a de facto preventive detention system for Muslim Americans, dodging anti-discrimination laws. Bali described, among other things, two supermax-style prisons that hold terror suspects, 95% of whom are Muslim. (The rest are called “balancers,” meaning they are there to prevent—laughably—suggestions of religious or ethnic profiling.) She also points out that counterterrorism laws have effectively added aggravating factors to many minor crimes solely because the offender is Muslim; credit card fraud, for instance, has a tendency to become a terrorism-related felony if committed by a Muslim.

Li’s paper, delivered by Bali in his absence, examined “Global Civil War and American Power.” Li argues that the Global War on Terror (GWOT) operates largely outside the existing law of armed conflict, constituting a sort of “global civil war” in which US power is projected through weaker states and non-state actors. He eloquently refers to this as a “haunting of sovereignty” that does not fit traditional paradigms of either international or non-international armed conflict. Li’s evocative language and creative analysis can also be seen in his recent article, “Hunting the Out-of-Place Muslim,” which demonstrates how Muslims’ physical mobility is constructed as threatening and aberrational.

Amar’s paper, “The Human Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism,” traced the interplay between stereotypes of Arab “timebomb” masculinity and UN-style feminism up through the recent Egyptian revolution. Said’s paper, “The Message and Means of the Modern Terrorism Prosecution,” discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s exceptional treatment of terrorism to contextualize Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2009), which codified a broad interpretation of the 2007 material support ban.


Law and Society Association Graduate Student Workshop: Keynote Talk on Intersectionality and EEO Litigation

I’m in San Francisco for the Law and Society Association‘s 24th annual Graduate Student Workshop (today and tomorrow) and Annual Meeting (June 2-5). The official Twitter hashtag for both is #LSA2011.

The Graduate Student Workshop opened tonight with a terrific keynote talk by Lauren Edelman entitled “Blurring Lines for Sharper Knowledge: Toward a Multi-Method Approach to Critical Socio-Legal Studies.” According to Edelman, critical race theorists in the legal academy and “traditional” social scientists are typically skeptical of each other’s methods. However, she argues, there are many opportunities for these scholarly factions to support each other’s intellectual projects.

For example, Edelman combines quantitative social science methods with Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality to examine the way EEO discrimination claims with more than one basis of discrimination are treated by the federal courts. Her team’s study finds strong evidence that intersectional discrimination claims are less likely to succeed than non-intersectional ones. This means, for starters, that white women are more than twice as likely as non-white women to win discrimination lawsuits and that white men are more likely than either non-white men or non-white women to win discrimination lawsuits. The implication here is that the law is not good at handling the complex kinds of discrimination faced by people who have multiple disadvantages. The lead researcher on the study is Rachel Best, a graduate student who will soon finish her Ph.D. in Sociology at UC-Berkeley.


Woodson Symposium: Final Day & the Future of Africana Studies

I made it to only one panel today, but it was a good one. Texts and Methodologies of Africana Studies explored current challenges in African and African American studies and offered intriguing glimpses of the future of these evolving fields. I found two presentations particularly interesting.

Jemima Pierre of Vanderbilt University gave a paper entitled “Writing Ghana, Imagining Africa, and Interrogating Diaspora,” in which she discussed the complexities of race relations in postcolonial Ghana, and then offered an insightful analysis of the intellectual gaps that Africana studies must bridge with regard to diasporic and African experiences. Pierre notes, for instance, that the separation between African and African American studies means that scholars of Africa often ignore race and blackness, while those who study race and blackness tend to overlook Africa. She calls for a new theorization of diaspora that is able to synthesize the processes of globalization with postcolonial formations of race.

 

W.E.B. Du Bois

Lawrie Balfour of the University of Virginia shared research from her new book on W.E.B. Du Bois, and spoke about the need for new ways of thinking about race that can fruitfully connect past and present injustices. Du Bois, Balfour argues, believed that remembrance of past wrongs must be accompanied by a commitment to redress of continuing harms associated with slavery and racial inequality. In her beautifully chosen words: “the constitution of the past is itself a political question,” and we must be wary of the “inauguration of a ‘postracial’ era.” A premature “colorblindness . . . renders us insensible” to too-frequent “violations” of our democratic ideals.


Woodson Symposium: African American & African Studies at Work in the World

Today was Day 2 of the Carter G. Woodson Institute‘s 30th Anniversary Symposium, themed “African American & African Studies at Work in the World,” at the University of Virginia. The three-day program is packed with thought-provoking panels, keynote speeches, and musical and dance performances. I’ve tweeted most of the events so far, but wanted to share some favorite talks here.

Carter G. Woodson

Yesterday’s highlight was a panel after my own heart, “People Out of Place: Race, Space, and Social Movements,” moderated by Timothy Lovelace, featuring Risa Goluboff, Craig Barton, and Scot French, all from U.Va. Goluboff’s talk traced the history of vagrancy laws, which “regulated the physical and economic mobility” of marginalized Americans, particularly blacks, until the laws were declared unconstitutional in 1971. The talk by Barton, an architect, demonstrated how built environments can render “invisible,” literally and socially, racial minorities whose labor is necessary to sustain the structures. Barton also told the moving story of the Scrabble School, a former segregated black school that has been converted into a contemporary civic space. French screened and discussed his documentary film That World Is Gone: Race and Displacement in a Southern Town, which tells the story of Vinegar Hill, a historically black area of Charlottesville that was destroyed in the name of “urban renewal.” (The film won the Audience Favorite Award at the 2010 Virginia Film Festival.)

Also yesterday, Yarimar Bonilla of U.Va. gave a terrific talk called “Non-Sovereign Futures? Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment,” which began to map the many Caribbean islands that are neither independent nor colonized, but something in between. Her research asks what “sovereignty” means in an asymmetrically globalized world where political and economic independence do not necessarily occur simultaneously.

This afternoon, a panel entitled “Bio-Politics: Race, Health, and the Body,” featured a terrific talk by J.T. Roane of Columbia University on the social and racial connotations of the so-called “obesity epidemic.” Roane traces the technologies and mechanisms by which fat bodies have become “visible” as such, obscuring the structural problems that lead to poor health for blacks and other marginalized groups. For example, Roane argues, the BMI (body mass index), originally developed as a population-level indicator, was later adopted as an individual measure, which helped shape the discourse of obesity into a “politics of self-control rather than of the economics of food production and resource allocation.”

This evening, Dorothy Roberts of Northwestern University gave a lively keynote address entitled “Race, Gender, and Biopolitics in the Genomic Age.” Roberts described how the idea of race as a biological concept has reemerged through genetic technologies, a seemingly paradoxical (and certainly insidious) trend in this supposedly “post-racial” age. Roberts’ new book, Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century, looks fantastic and I can’t wait to read it.


War Stories and the ‘Legal Geography’ of War

This weekend I attended (and live-tweeted) “Law and War: An International Humanitarian Law Workshop,” a two-day training for law and graduate students. It was held at the University of Virginia School of Law and co-sponsored by the ICRC, the American Red Cross, and the U.S. Army’s JAG School.

Among the highlights was Kenneth Anderson‘s presentation on the use of drones and targeted killing as part of the allied counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Anderson raised some interesting conceptual issues about contemporary warfare: Does war have boundaries? When an armed conflict moves from one location to another, which laws of war govern? Is there, in Anderson’s words, a “legal geography” of war?

The law of armed conflict (LOAC) is based upon classification of conflicts, starting with the distinction between international (state-on-state) and non-international (all other) armed conflicts. Civilian protections and combatant privilege don’t kick in until a conflict has met the threshold for either category, and the rules differ substantially between the categories. Consequently, location and intensity of fighting as well as identity of the participants are key to a LOAC analysis.

A common view, according to Anderson, is that armed conflict is located wherever its participants are. If an armed conflict authorized to take place in Afghanistan spreads to Pakistan, say, through the use of U.S. unmanned aircraft (drones), it is unclear which, or whether, LOAC rules apply. And if the U.S. were to, say, have the CIA rather than uniformed armed forces control those drones, it is unclear whether the actions even fall under the umbrella of LOAC. If LOAC does not apply, then what law governs? Is the U.S. operating in a legal void?

This is one example of how modern warfare, with its fuzzy geographic boundaries and blurred distinctions between soldiers and civilians, confounds LOAC.

My interest, as a student of literature, lies in how we conceptualize and narrate war when the traditional elements of a war narrative no longer exist. Where is war set? What is a front line? Who is a combatant and who is a civilian? To the extent that LOAC follows entrenched understandings of war, sovereignty, and combatant status, it is a window into the structure of the war narrative. When war as the law describes it ceases to resemble war on the ground, interesting things happen to the stories we tell about war. More to come on this.


What Happens in Vegas: Law, Culture, and the Humanities

Just got home from a wonderful two days in Las Vegas. I didn’t even set foot on the Strip; why would I, when so much interdisciplinary excitement was happening at the 2011 Law, Culture, and the Humanities conference? The program was varied and interesting, with many panel options for each session. I live-tweeted the panels I attended.

It was especially nice to hear from newer scholars, currently in Ph.D. or J.D. programs, who are combining literary and cultural theory, historical research, and legal analysis. Two memorable presentations in this vein: Rebecca Ryder Neipris’ “Terroir-ism” offered an intriguing meditation on the cultural roots of legal protection for geographical indication, a concept that arises from the value consumers place on the “somewhereness” of a product. And Kirstine Taylor’s “Southern Exceptionalism or New South?: ‘White Trash’ and the Politics of Southern Modernization, 1944-1969,” argued that a violent, vulgar “white trash” figure served as a foil to the “modern” white southerner who could then lay claim to a (rather insidious) sort of racial innocence.

On Friday, I was honored to be part of the “Memory, Slavery, and Civil Rights” panel with Mark Golub and SpearIt, whose projects were mind-broadening and beautifully presented. The eloquent David Tanenhaus provided commentary. I was thrilled that our panel received this kind write-up from Anders Walker on the Legal History Blog!