On 25 and 26 July 2011, Postgraduate and Early Career Academics Network of Scholars (PECANS) held an international workshop ‘Interrogating (In)Equality’ at the University of British Columbia, Canada, hosted by the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies. Thoughts were shared, new ideas sparked and debates flourished: it was a great conference and good way to meet other researchers from across the globe, working in the field of law, gender and sexuality. The panels were carefully constructed with complementary papers, raising interesting and, often, complex questions on topics such as: gender and supra-national governance; sex, violence and law; motherhood, autonomy and law; feminism, colonialism and the legal subject; gender, identity and equality; hate crimes, constitutions and the potential for autonomy; and spatial relations of law, gender and sexuality. A thought-provoking paper was given by the keynote speaker Dean Spade, and there were also extremely useful skills sessions on applying for academic jobs and publishing research on law, gender and sexuality.
Given the title and remit of the conference, the themes covered and fundamental questions raised were perhaps unsurprising:
- Is equality – whether formal, substantive or transformative equality – a (potentially) useful conceptual tool to advance the interests of minority groups?
- Can the language of human rights capture and address the harms suffered by people worldwide? Or will the deployment of the legal language of rights always have harmful repercussions?
- How do we pay attention to both the particular and social groupings/universal, without individualising or over-generalising?
- Is law part of the problem? Should we abandon law entirely? How much can or should we demand from law?
More surprising were the ideas as to possible ways to move forward with or transcend dilemmas that were brought to and generated by the conference. Hopefully this blog opens a space in which to voice and continue these debates.
Finally, to those on the PECANS committee and at the Centre for FLS, UBC, huge thanks are due. And for postgraduates and early career researchers in this area who haven’t been to a workshop hosted by PECANS, do make sure to keep an eye out for up and coming events!