Archive for the ‘Theory & method’ Category

Bodies of Law / Law and the Body

An interdisciplinary conference for postgraduate and early-career academics in the area of law, gender and sexuality

Friday 30 March 2012

School of Law, University of Westminster, London, UK


Law mediates various power structures and is interwoven with numerous other knowledges that participate in the construction, normalization and regulation of bodies, such as medicine, social media, religion and the nation-state. Numerous feminist legal scholars have commented on law’s intimate relationship to, for example, medical discourses, arguing that the shape of legal power has changed to more regulatory and disciplinary forms. Inevitably law’s relationship to bodies/states of embodiment alters as it takes on these increasingly pervasive roles. One might conclude that the notion of a space where the law will not intervene is a liberal fantasy, out of step with the reality of law’s operations. How, then, should law be evaluated and/or harnessed?

Our interdisciplinary one-day workshop aims to cover these and other issues pertaining to law and the body.

Venue – Room CLG.09, New Cavendish Site, 115 New Cavendish St, University of Westminster http://www.westminster.ac.uk/about-us/visit-us/directions/cavendish

Conference fees – £15; includes lunch and refreshments

Registration– registration closes 20/03/12.  Places are limited. Please click link and follow on screen payment instructions https://epayments.westminster.ac.uk/webpublicecs/newpay.asp

Further information – please see our website at http://clgs-pecans.org.uk/ or contact Nikki Godden at n.m.godden@durham.ac.uk

Download the programme here: PECANS 2012 Provisional programme

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Nikki Godden

Nikki is a doctoral student at Durham Law School, Durham University. She is co-creator and editor of Inherently Human.

Elizabeth M Schneider & Stephanie M Wildman (2011) Women and the Law Stories (Foundation Press)

Women and the Law Stories is a wonderful collection which tells the litigants’ tales that are a part of, but are typically excluded from, the legal history of landmark US cases which focus on women’s rights.  Chapters explore and evaluate feminist critiques of the relevant case, area of law and legal concepts in light of and in relation to these stories. The editors introduce the collection explaining that the telling and hearing of women’s stories (and, more generally, those of the powerless, disadvantaged or oppressed groups in society) has been a cornerstone of feminist method, practice and theory.[1] Or as put by Ann C Dailey, ‘the use of storytelling reflects a belief that personal and situated narrative is central to a proper understanding of justice’.[2] However, storytelling is not just a means to an end; it has an important normative dimension which reflects the idea that all voices, all storytellers, are equal and yet diverse and unique in many ways.[3] Embracing and following this storytelling tradition, the book reveals the ‘less well known’ personal narratives which ‘deserve wider recognition’.[4] In so doing, it challenges the dominant stories of these cases, and the ‘conventions of legal scholarship and institutional histories’.[5] To this end, the last chapter is a ‘hidden’ story, an ‘everyday’ case, which highlights ‘women’s experiences of anonymity and invisibility in the legal system’ and legal literature and mainstream scholarship.[6] While the stories are therefore valuable in themselves, the chapters also reflect on and interrogate feminist debates, approaches and concepts –  such as ‘gender stereotyping’ (Chamallas), equality  (Bartlett) equal versus special treatment (Wildman), access to healthcare and abortion (Copelon and Law) – exploring the implications for today and potential ways in which to move forwards in feminist legal theory and law reform. (more…)

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Nikki Godden

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. (more…)

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Jamie Heckert (guest blogger)

Lambeth Council in London is attempting to address sexual violence committed by men with a website and poster campaign: Know the difference.

While the council might be appreciated for encouraging men to take responsibility for their behaviour, the campaign is full of contradictions that I fear will undermine that intention. The posters try to draw a very neat line between good and bad sexual behaviour – the difference between “back to mine” and “back off” or between “get it on” and “get off me”. They then go on to say, “Real men know the difference. And so does the law.” The difference, of course, is between consensual and nonconsensual, between desired and undesired, between playful and harassing.

But does the law really know the difference? The basis of the state is a social contract to which we are deemed to have already given our consent. Consent here means to put up with rather than to actually desire [1]. We aren’t asked our desires (other than to vote for very limited options every 4-5 years).  If law assumes that we consent to its authority without caring about the complexity of our desires, how can it possibly “know the difference”? If the law is the role model for “real men”, it doesn’t surprise me that we still see so much sexual violence in our culture. Sex, we might hope, takes place between free and equal people choosing together to make it happen. State law, on the other hand, is imposed by a small group and enforced by another. It is neither free nor equal. (more…)

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 feminists@law: a new, peer-reviewed, online, open access journal of feminist legal scholarship, hosted by the University of Kent. Visit the website of ‘feminists@law here.

In the first issue

The first issue features an article on the association between feminist and open access movements by Carys Craig, Joseph Turcotte and Rosemary Coombe; reflections by Drucilla Cornell on the 20th anniversary of the publication of Beyond Accommodation: Ethical Feminism, Deconstruction and the Law; thoughts on current and future agendas for feminist legal studies from Africa, Europe, North and South America and Australia; and a video of a roundtable discussion  with Brenna Bhandar, Julia Chryssostalis, Elena Loizidou and Janice Richardson on the ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’ of feminist legal scholarship.

About the journal (more…)

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Annual FWSA conference, 5-7 July 2011, Brunel University

Since the final decade of the twentieth century, discussions about and within feminism have often focused on feminism’s place and relevance in today’s Western societies and on the conceptualisations of the relationships between different strands and waves of the movement. This conference seeks to redress the focus on internal and generational divisions by exploring potential feminist futures and investigating new directions in feminist, gender and women’s studies across activism, theory and practice in a range of disciplines and through a variety of social and cultural phenomena. As such, the event aims to address both where feminism is going as well as where it has not yet been, including areas of enquiry which have been neglected or ignored in past decades and approaches which conceptualise or help to shape potential feminist futures. We welcome paper and panel proposals from a range of disciplines across the sciences, arts and humanities. (more…)

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Chantell Burrows & Nikki Godden (Blog Editors)

In the Press

All over the world women were celebrated, inspired and acknowledged for their achievements.   It’s a time to reflect on the progress that has been made towards gender equality, as well as raising awareness as to particular challenges women still face in certain countries, and problems that are shared worldwide.  On 8 March 2011, in its 100th year, International Women’s Day has acquired a dominant presence in the press globally.

From the UK, the Guardian had a fantastic webpage dedicated to the day – check this out if you haven’t already for the many and varied reports and stories – and all the comment articles were written by women.  Overall, the feeling conveyed is of both pride and disappointment.  Women should be proud to celebrate their history and progress in many ways, but we should not lose sight of the issue at hand.  (more…)

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Neil Cobb (Blog Editor)

I assume that like me many of you in the UK will have come home in the last few days to a large purple packet on your doormat, with the 2011 Census questionnaire inside. The UK Census is carried out every ten years, and as the explanatory notes make clear, we are all expected to take part “so that services in [our] area – like schools, hospitals, housing, roads and emergency services – can be planned and funded in the future”. However, it was only when I sat down to complete the document that I remembered that one question has been omitted, yet again, from the questions posed to respondents: a question asking for information about the sexual orientation of householders and their families. My gut reaction was one of irritation, followed quickly by foreboding: as a self-identified gay man, I was completing a document that would define future funding of the services in my local area in a way that completely ignored my sexual identity. What did this mean for me, and other LGB people in the UK?


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Jamie Heckert

(Anarchist Studies Network)

Congratulations on the creation of this new space for connection and communication. I love the passion for equality that underlies it and share your desire to explore what this means in regards to law, gender and sexuality. So much so that I want to share some of my own thoughts and feelings.

I recently attended the Transforming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Lives conference in Brighton. A number of the speakers focused on legal methods of transforming lives; some of them were politicians or lawyers themselves. (more…)

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