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Island and Mainland: Perspectives on Law and Humanities

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Island and Mainland: Perspectives on Law and Humanities

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Location: St Mary's University

The scholarly practices of law and humanities are far from unitary. Law and humanities has different styles, variable approaches, multiple concerns, hazy limits, moveable foundations. It cannot be stratified into a singular order of knowing—be it legal or humanistic. But it might be said to have something to do with reacting against the black letter techniques and ideals that have emerged to dominate recent forms of legal scholarship and pedagogy. It might also be said to have something to do with wider traditions of meaning-making and ethical reflection—traditions that are by no means exclusive to a legal realm of activities (if we can delineate such a realm). It might also be said to be connected with analysis of the various and plural forms of normative orders that populate contemporary societies. Terms like ‘materiality’, ‘form’, ‘culture’, and ‘critique’ appear relevant, but perhaps not determinative or exhaustive.

Amidst these shifting imaginaries of what constitutes law and humanities, it might be possible to pick out certain traditions of thought, specific styles of engagement. These approaches—be they branded ‘law, culture, and the humanities’, ‘cultural legal studies’, or ‘law and humanities’—might even be said to have geographic progeny, with their scope and language somehow seeming to be dependent upon whether they emerged on an island or a mainland. This metaphor of island and mainland (although perhaps not a metaphor) is distinctly Eurocentric, but the island in question perhaps thinks of itself as not quite part of any particular continent. Thus, the study of law and humanities in England takes on ‘Anglo-American’ stylings. The mainland, meanwhile, has a ‘continental’ feel—whatever that might mean. And what of the antipodean ‘cultural legal studies’ that emerges from a further geographic remove from both island and mainland? Is this, too, an identifiable style of legal humanities thinking?

Such provocations no doubt produce responses, disagreements, accusations of generalisation, of overlooking cross-pollinations and—from certain viewpoints—the arbitrariness of all boundaries and categories. Perhaps. Perhaps we should talk through such complexities, with conversations between and about different perspectives on law and humanities, from those inhabiting and hailing from various islands and mainlands. For the scholarly practices of law and humanities—whilst variable, moveable, and multiple—are of huge value in a world that seems, perhaps, to be forgetting something important.

Draft programme

  • 9.45-10am: Welcome and Tea/Coffee
  • 10am-12pm: Session 1: Emanuele Conte, Connal Parsley. Discussant: Thomas Giddens
  • 12-12.30pm: Lunch
  • 12.30-2.30pm: Session 2: Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Anne Wagner. Discussant: Angela Condello
  • 2.30-3pm: Tea/Coffee
  • 3-5pm: Session 3: Angela Condello, Thomas Giddens. Discussant: Luke Mason


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