Streams

Corporate Imaginaries

Convenors:  Penny Crofts (University Technology Sydney), Timothy Peters (University of the Sunshine Coast)

Contact:  Penny Crofts (penny.crofts@uts.edu.au), Timothy Peters (tpeters@usc.edu.au)

 

It has long been asserted that corporations are legal fictions. This suggests that corporations are creatures of legal imagination – given an existence, attributes and capacities that they otherwise would not have. Even as we express concern about the harms caused by corporations and their increasing wealth and power, so many of our hopes and desires are bound up with corporations. Do cultural legalities proffer opportunities and hope to challenge corporate imaginaries? Or are we stuck in an increasingly dystopian nightmare by the creatures we have created? Papers can include both explorations of cultural representations of corporate imaginaries, as well as corporate or legal instantiations of cultural imaginaries.

Empire’s Debtscapes: Reparations, Decolonisation, and Possibilities for Justice

Convenor:  Maria Giannacopoulos (University of New South Wales)

Contact:  Maria Giannacopoulos (m.giannacopoulos@unsw.edu.au)

 

In the settler colony or colonial debtscape of Australia (although there are many others) decolonisation is still to come. And in the conditions of ongoing colonialism machineries of law are key infrastructures seeking the elimination and replacement of First Laws and First Nations Peoples. Colonial law in Australia is born from and enabled by unpaid sovereign debt but legal apparatuses work ceaselessly to hide this fact. By acting as if Australia was not founded in conditions of illegality, the reign of an illegitimate law is affirmed. This works to bury the sovereign debt owed to First Nations Peoples and licenses the accumulation of further debt through criminalisation of Aboriginal people and the licensing of extractive violence against their lands and waters. Austerity is unleashed not on those who owe debt as but as punishment against those to whom immeasurable unacknowledged debt is owed.[1]

As Kojo Koram reveals in Uncommon Wealth: Britain and the Aftermath of Empire (2022) Britain didn’t put the empire back the way it found it. Nor did empire and the pioneering of early forms of capitalism stay outside of the imperial centre. Empire, Koram skilfully tracks, structures the modern British state itself. The British state can be seen as an imperial debtscape[2] where the debts structuring it are both obfuscated and unpaid.

Koram has argued that reparations have once again returned to public discourse since ‘effective anti-racism requires a confrontation with the presiding trends of capitalism.’[3]  Often dismissed as a political impossibility, reparations are again being posited as ‘legal mechanism not just for addressing the racially inequitable impact of historical wrongs like slavery or genocide but also for coming epochal cataclysms such as climate change and the global migration crisis’.[4]  What are the possibilities for decolonial justice in instances where the accrual of debt and the perpetration of harm by the colonising state is ongoing?

This stream invites contributions interested in unravelling the interconnected questions of Empire, colonialism, capitalism, settler law, sovereignty, prosperity/austerity, extractivism, debt and the possibilities for decolonial justice through reparations.

 

[1] Maria Giannacopoulos, https://overland.org.au/2023/12/were-doing-everything-but-treaty-law-reform-and-sovereign-refusal-in-the-colonial-debtscape/

[2] Maria Giannacopoulos, “The Colonial Debtscape”, in S Perera and J Pugliese (eds), Mapping Deathscapes (Routledge, 2021).

[3] Kojo Koram, “The Legalization of Cannabis and the Question of Reparations”, Journal of International Economic Law, vol 25 (2022).

[4] Ibid.

Exploring Tensions in Law and Legal Semiotics

Convenors:  René Cornish (University of New England), Kieran Tranter (Queensland University of Technology), Wei Yu (University of Melbourne)

Contact:  Wei Yu (wyyu2@student.unimelb.edu.au)

 

Legal semiotics is a dynamic field at the intersection of law, language, culture, and society, marked by the inherent tension between semiotic representation and legal interpretation. This call invites scholars and researchers to delve into the complexities of tension in legal semiotics either linguistically or visually, exploring its cultural, social, historical, and legal dimensions, while also considering shifts in meaning through semiotic analysis. This call seeks contributions that critically examine tensions in law and legal semiotics, highlighting its multifaceted nature.

Feminist and Queer Imaginaries

Convenors:  Swethaa Ballakrishnen (University of California Irvine), Marco Wan (University of Hong Kong)

Contact:  Marco Wan (mwan@hku.hk)

 

The papers in this stream explore how notions of gender and sexuality are sustained, interrogated, and transformed in different geographical and temporal contexts. They ask how legal imaginaries might impact upon the ways in which we experience identity and desire, and investigate how newness enters law. They probe how and why other imaginaries — literary, popular cultural, sculptural, musical, amongst many others – intersect with those of law, and the possibilities that can arise from such intersections.

From Positronic to AI: Analyzing the Portrayal of Intelligent Machines in Robot Stories

Convenors:  Yeliz Figen Döker, Daniel Chia Matallana, Habibe Deniz Seval (The Digital Constitutionalist, DigiCon)

Contact:  Yeliz Figen Döker (yeliz.doker@digi-con.org)

 

Isaac Asimov’s Robot series is a groundbreaking exploration of the relationship between intelligent machines and humans, as well as law and society. This stream will delve into Asimov’s nuanced portrayal of intelligent machines, examining how his stories reflect ethical dilemmas, societal impacts, and philosophical underpinnings related to creating intelligent machines. Asimov’s “Laws of Robotics” serve as a central theme, proposing a foundational ethical framework that is often tested in his narratives by intelligent machines. Through analytical discourse, this stream will assess the relevance of Asimov’s vision in the contemporary context, where advancements in AI technology are increasingly blurring the lines between science fiction and reality. By comparing Asimov’s hypothetical scenarios with current developments in AI, the stream seeks to uncover insights into the evolving relationship between humans and machines, highlighting the enduring significance of Asimov’s work in guiding ethical considerations and regulatory frameworks in the age of AI. By conducting a comprehensive review of Asimov’s narratives, this stream will contribute to the broader discourse on the ethical, legal, and social implications of AI, reinforcing the necessity of holistic approaches to AI development and deployment.

Hope and Law

Convenor:  Sarah Trotter (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Contact:  Sarah Trotter (s.trotter@lse.ac.uk)

 

How do hope and law relate to one another and engage with each other? The purpose of this stream is to create a space within which to explore this question and to examine the ways in which law constructs, imagines, and acts on hope. This could be from the perspective of a specific area of law, but the question is also one that implies more fundamentally a study of the potential and limits of law itself. It asks: what is the capacity of law when it comes to hope? How, if at all, might law secure hope? How might it disrupt and obstruct the possibility of hope? And what is it that law is doing when it speaks to hope? These questions presuppose some notion of hope; and there will be space and time within this stream to consider this further and to think about different conceptions of hope (and ways of imagining these conceptions). But within that context, the overarching ideas of the stream are twofold: that we might learn something about law by looking at it through the lens of hope; and that we might learn something about hope by looking at it through the lens of law.

Imaginaries and the Future of Legal Professions

Convenor:  Chantal McNaught (Bond University)

Contact:  Chantal McNaught (chantal.mcnaught@student.bond.edu.au)

 

The Imaginaries and the Future of Legal Professions stream invites scholars, practitioners, and visionaries to explore the dynamic interplay between imagination, law, and societal transformation. As we navigate an era of rapid technological advancements, shifting power dynamics, and evolving social norms, our understanding of legal systems and their impact on individuals and communities is ripe for critical examination. This stream seeks to dismantle entrenched narratives, challenge conventional wisdom, and envision novel pathways for legal practice and justice.

Imaginaries in/of Legal Education

Convenors:  Benjamin Goh (National University of Singapore), Sabarish Suresh (National University of Singapore)

Contact:  Benjamin Goh (b.goh@nus.edu.sg), Sabarish Suresh (s.suresh@nus.edu.sg)

 

Whilst historically conditioned, the imagination has been the faculty of novelty, difference, and change that profoundly unsettles established ways of legal education. In Desmond Manderson’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ (2008), the law and humanities castaway salvages ten items with which to create ‘a whole new curriculum under the searing sun’. Four texts, four images, and two pieces of music prompt the scholar’s rethinking of the limits and potentiality of legal education. Theoretical, doctrinal, and vocational courses in the law school are each incited to take on new forms better suited to the density and plurality of experiences registered in the medial objects and practices to which the humanities, of all the disciplines, have been especially attentive. How might the law classroom be reimagined with insights from literature and the humanities? Law and humanities scholars are warmly invited to contribute to this stream on the practices and value of humanities-oriented legal education. Join us in staging a series of conversations on the transactions between interdisciplinary legal research and teaching.

Imagining Law’s Subjects

Convenors:  Jeannine Marie DeLombard (University of California Santa Barbara), Peter Schneck (Osnabrück University), Laura Zander (Osnabrück University)

Contact:  Jeannine Marie DeLombard (jdelombard@ucsb.edu), Peter Schneck (peter.schneck@uni-osnabrueck.de), Laura Zander (laura.zander@uni-osnabrueck.de)

 

This stream explores the imaginaries in which law and literature constitute their subjects – in the past, present, or future. Law and literature, together and independently, constantly deploy imagery, imaginativeness, and imagination to envision and activate as well as to disable and dismiss an extraordinary array of subjects and subjectivities. This stream invites presentations that examine how law and/or literature literally envision their subjects through verbal or graphic imagery; offer imaginative new approaches to subjection/ subjecthood/ subjectivity; or imagine their subjects in ways that contest, challenge or complicate the real, the empirical, or the known. We also encourage presentations that create a counter-current within this stream by exploring how law and literature refuse, disavow, or foreclose the visionary, creative, counterfactual, or even fantastical assumptions or suppositions by or about their subjects.

Imagining New and Alternative Legal Internationalisms

Convenors:  Claerwen O’Hara (La Trobe University), Valeria Vázquez Guevara (University of Hong Kong)

Contact:  Valeria Vázquez Guevara (vvg1@hku.hk)

 

The international legal order, as we knew it, has changed. In the 1990s, there were claims that we had reached the ‘end of history’ (eg Fukuyama, 1992). An historiography emerged which held that, with the Cold War out of the way, a vision for international law and institutions that had been laid down in the post-WWII period could now be fulfilled (see Craven, Pahuja and Simpson, 2019), signaling a new era of international stability and legal certainty. And yet, since the early 2000s, we have witnessed significant international changes, including an escalating environmental emergency, the emergence of new ways to wage armed conflicts, the proliferation of new technologies to convey international influence and power, the decline of ‘old’ international powers and the rise of ‘new’ or ‘emerging’ ones, as well as increasingly overt ‘backlash’ against the international institutions and legal norms of the post-WWII international legal order.

While it is common for international lawyers to read these events in a register of anxiety and pessimism, this stream seeks to strike a more curious and perhaps even hopeful tone by opening up a conversation about the new and alternative internationalisms that are emerging. In a world where the old is dying and a new hegemonic order has not yet been born, we ask, how can we understand, challenge and re-imagine international law anew?

This stream will bring together papers on the following suggested themes but not limited to:

  • populist internationalisms

  • reparation claims and international law

  • Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL)

  • queer and feminist approaches to international law

  • First Nations’ international law

  • international law from below and anti-capitalist international legal imaginaries

  • new ways of imagining the relationship between humanity and the environment

  • the shifting boundaries between the local and global

  • alternative transitional justice and post-conflict institutions

  • new and alternative international tribunals and courts (eg people’s tribunals, restorative justice)

  • new methodological approaches to questions of international law (law and art; law and literature; law and humanities methodologies…)

Law and the Inhuman

Convenors:  Kathleen Birrell (La Trobe University), Scott Veitch (University of Hong Kong)

Contact:  Kathleen Birrell (k.birrell@latrobe.edu.au)

 

The notion of the inhuman is prompted by the intellectual turn toward the mutuality of human and nonhuman emergence and a renewed disruption of the binaries of modernity. This turn prompts a consideration of how law is constituted, reconstituted and anticipated by inhuman socialities and normativities. This scholarship has coalesced in the idea of the inhumanities (Yusoff), a disruptive analytic that reflects a broader concern with the nature and limits of the humanities as a form of knowledge in our contemporary context.

In this stream we are exploring how the notion of the inhuman prompts a rethinking of conventional legal concepts, such as subjecthood, rights, duties, reparations and loss, and more expansive ideas of obligation, refusal, care, de- and re-worlding.  Thinking about how the inhuman, and the inhumanities, challenge conventional notions of human normativity and subjectivity – in law, politics, ethics, and economics –  we invite papers that explore the possibility of reconfigured fields of normativity as ecological and technological forms become increasingly indistinct.

Legal Imaginaries across the Asia Pacific: Vernacular Laws and Literatures

Convenors:  The LI-AP Project

Contact:  Shane Chalmers (chalmers@hku.hk), Desmond Manderson (desmond.manderson@anu.edu.au)

 

We invite scholarly papers or creative works that focus on the interplay of legal and literary pasts and futures in the Asia Pacific. This will involve paying attention to the diversity of legal imaginaries across the very different terrains, literatures, and epistemologies of the region as these are articulated through text or image, in time or in space. Contributions might document and analyse how the imaginary works to modalise and valorise legal orders, historically or in the present, or alternatively explore literatures’ potential to ‘write back’ against these legal imaginaries. What in particular is ‘vernacular’ about these laws and literatures? How might a focus on the distinctive, the local, and the specific rejuventate the project of imagining and reimagining their relationship?

The Stream is part of the Legal Imaginaries across the Asia Pacific: Vernacular Laws and Literatures Project (LI-AP), a collaboration between scholars in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Background image Oscar Oiwa, Oiwa Island 2 (2013-2016). Photo © Oscar Oiwa Studio, NY