Call for papers

call for papers| instructions for submission

Please note that the call for papers is now closed.

We begin by noting that law is conventionally taught and practiced, in South Asia (though not only there) by treating it as an autonomous and self-sufficient phenomenon. The doctrinal researchers regard law as autonomous and believe it is capable of giving an account of itself. The law also tends to be narrowly conceived as what judges, legislators, or the police ‘do’ – ignoring the diffuse structures of power and governance, and practices of regulation, normalisation, and biopolitics that penetrate bodies and condition behaviour.

The notion that law is autonomous (legal formalism or legal positivism) has been subjected to sustained challenge over many decades by scholars who draw on social science methodologies, as well as by the law and literature movement, and by activists who constantly challenge the positivist image of law. Broadly conceived, these scholars seek to explain law as a social, anthropological, historical, and economic artefact which should be understood and studied as such. This implies also that we trace the genealogies of categories which inform law, and the images and imaginings of law in contemporary social science theory. All this suggests that the law is not confined to state law or the appellate judiciary. Not only it remains a fact that state law remains inherently plural; it interacts with plural regimes of customariness. We wish to understand how forms of state and non-state law mutually constitute each other and how they relate to different structures of power and techniques of violence.

Methods and techniques drawn from the social sciences are central to understanding the market, legal structures, regulation and statecraft in the era of globalisation. In mapping the field of law and social sciences, we interrogate the place of law and economics in the larger context of the scripting of the transformation of legal and regulatory regimes. We recognise that while regulation has emerged as a field in conversation with the discipline of economics, there is very little work which details the intersection of regulation with law. Moreover, the conversations between regulators and lawyers do not seem to be informed by social science frameworks and methodologies. The Law and Social Sciences Network (LASS) reflects the interests of those scholars who wish to engage with interdisciplinary research on the transformation of legal and regulatory regimes from varying empirical and theoretical viewpoints.

LASS recognises that much scholarship informed by the social sciences in South Asia has been engaged with social movements and forms of activism which have challenged law’s power to deny, censor, hurt, humiliate and kill. The engagement with this politics of hurt has led to many passionate debates about the place of law in our work and in our politics. Yet in South Asia, the research, teaching and practice of law that draws on the social sciences has been relegated to the margins, and radical activist engagement with law devalued by official discourses of judicial reform. LASS invites reflexive engagements from scholars and activists about the relationship between law and social movements.

The Law and Social Sciences Network (LASS) was constituted to map the field of Law and Social Sciences in South Asia. Its objective is to bring together academics, lawyers and researchers engaged in innovative legal research in South Asia which employs social science methodologies. Building on existing conversations, LASS hopes to stimulate the development of further research into the links between knowledge production, techniques of government, and the ever transforming interdependencies of power, law, and resistance. LASS promotes an examination of how law and/or regulation is constituted as an object of study, and an interrogation of the conditions of its truth claims.

LASS may or may not necessarily inhabit the intellectual and political zones of comfort or of distress created by the habitus of postmodern jurisprudence. We invite critical engagement with the global travels of mainstream networks of Law and Economics, Law and Society or Critical Legal Studies, by providing a sustained critique of the fascination of progressive Eurocentric scholarship for South Asian law, economy and society studies.

LASS may equally turn its attention to the precious and precocious critiques of the “dark side of [European] modernity” which rarely attend to the histories of colonization and the Cold War as these have affected South Asia We remain sensitive to the fact that the very expression ‘South Asia’ embodies forms of epistemic geopolitical imperialism. LASS remains particularly anxious concerning this essentialization of identity and by the same token resists its translation into an “area studies”. Further, it needs saying that some new geopolitics is now in the making. LASS thus calls for an appreciation of the histories of diversity and plurality, within which inescapably new traditions of law/society/humanities tradition of discourse may be further re-imagined. What purchase this may constitute for the tradition of the distinctive European post-Enlightenment critical legal studies tradition is an important thematic inviting further dialogical/discursive fellowships of juristic learning.

These methodological challenges are suggested with a view to inviting their further elaboration. Contributors should be mindful of these methodological concerns as they address issues in the following more specific settings. In particular, papers, panels, and presentations are invited on:

  1. CONSTITUTIONALISM, REFORM AND RESISTANCE
    • Constitutionalism, rights and regulation. Has the discourse on constitutionalism met new challenges in relation to changing statecraft, international law, or human rights in South Asia? How does regulation intersect with rights discourses? How do pictures of the written and unwritten scripts of constitutional law circulate in different sites of law and life?
    • Languages of power and of resistance. What literary and visual representations of the law and resistance to law exist in the South Asian region? In what ways, the 'poetics' tend to subvert politics? Herein we signal the problematic of the multiplicity of the official languages and the politics of translation. How does the politics of resistance constitute the fields of law, creativity and collective action? What are the trajectories that turn the public domain inside out and force new sensibilities and new paradigms that foreground a different understanding of “justice”?
    • The politics of law and judicial reform. What is the politics of law and judicial reform? How are histories of such reform to be archived and evaluated? How do different forms of representations [such as the media or those emanating from social movements] engage with projects of law reform? Do contemporary engagements with reform and resistance benefit with tracing the genealogy of categories, and discursive shifts which create new forms of subjection and subjectivities?
    • Colonial and postcolonial imaginations of the law. The challenges by legal historians and postcolonial theorists in thinking through law and social forms have led to a rich body of literature on law and society in South Asian contexts. We invite contributions interrogating colonial as well as neo-imperial formations of law, governance, and regulation. This panel retains an interest in the contestations on law’s past as these relate to the constitution of the nation-state, and reflections on the impact of history in the reconstitution of law as an object of study.
  2. THE BODY, TECHNIQUES OF GOVERNANCE AND REGULATORY POWER
    • The practices of governance in relation to environment, health and sexuality. What are the processes of govermentality which sanitise, medicalise or pathologise some forms of life? What form of regulatory power inhabits the constitution of waste and how does it participate in the formation of public aesthetics? How is the body encountered in public or administrative law? Is gender/sexual orientation/disability a site of recognition that allows us to critique the manifold elisions in the body of the law?
    • Technology, Life and the Law. The relationship between science, technology, the body and resources are mediated by the state-corporation alliances in a globalised era. What are the ways in which we may interrogate the deployment of technology to control bodies and life forms, and the regulation of both life and technology through law?
    • Technosciences, Environment, Risk and Regulation: How have human rights and social movement discourses pursued this relationship? What images of a ‘risk society’ remain constitutionally legitimate? Are these ideas revisited in the context of the environmental contemporary discourses, such as the global discourse on climate change?
  3. PROPERTY, LABOUR, DISPLACEMENT
    • Property in different domains of law and life. What are the new challenges faced today in thinking through property rights and discourses? What are some new forms of property emerging through new phases of economic reform? What futures one may envisage for agrarian reforms? What kinds if new property stand invested, particularly in relation to the changing regimes of intellectual property rights in South Asia?
    • Labour rights, livelihoods and mass displacement of peoples in contemporary contexts of globalisation. What is the relationship between law and regimes of impoverishment in South Asia? In particular, how may globalization affect constitutionally mandated visions of development as most benefiting the worst-off peoples? As concerns worker’s rights, what legacies may we derive from the histories and narratives of working class movements in South Asia? How may we ‘read’ these alongside with the globalization–induced programs aimed at creation of ‘flexible labour markets’?
  4. VIOLENCE AND SUFFERING
    • Social suffering and political violence. This has multiple dimensions not fully exhausted by the figure of the detainee, torture and disappearance; forms of collective violence and atrocities in everyday and collective contexts; and the modalities of capital punishment and custodial violence have elicited critical research. How is the everyday conceptualised in these contexts? Beyond, and related to this, remains the question of the reproduction of foundational violence of the law. This emerges of course in the context of India-Pakistan partition; yet it also emerges equally fiercely, for example, in Afghanistan, the erstwhile Tibet, and Burma. This conference invites full attention to the postcolonial ‘nacropolitics’ (to deploy here the phrase-regime of Mbembe).
    • Terror, Law and Biopolitics: What is the relation between terror, law and bio-politics? Or what would constitute the jurisprudence of emergency or exception in South Asia today? Put another way, we need to explore fully the law-society relationship between the pre and post 9/11 forms of wars of, and wars against ‘terror.’ How may have the South Asian studies tradition, at all, addressed ‘terror?’
    • Movements of autonomy and secession: The South Asian experience remains marked by constitutional and ‘extra’-constitutionalinsurgencies. How has the construction of the political been conceptualized and narrated in law and society studies tradition in the ‘region?’ How does militarization of protest and of governance proceed to reproduce new forms of ‘barelife?’

call for papers| instructions for submission

Instructions for submission of papers

The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals. Individual proposals are welcome, as are proposals for full panels. Papers will also be considered on any related theme. 500 word abstracts should be submitted no later than 15th June, 2008. 500 word abstracts should be submitted to Pratiksha Baxi at lassnet [at] gmail [dot] com; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this order: author(s), affiliation, email address, title of abstract, body of abstract. We will get back to you within 8 weeks. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted to the conference secretariat and distributed to the discussant and fellow panel members no later than 01 December 2008. The maximum duration of individual presentations within each panel will be 20 minutes.