LAW, SPACE AND THE POLITICAL: Critical Legal Conference 2015 (3-5 Sep. 2015)

full name / name of organization: 
University of Wrocław, Poland

Call for Streams – Deadline: 31 March 2015

For this year's Critical Legal Conference – the first one ever to be held in Central and Eastern Europe – we invite stream organisers to reflect upon the complex relationship between law, space and the political, encouraging a broad understanding of those three notions. In particular, by law we understand not only legal texts produced by legislators, judges and scholars, but also a broadly conceived legal culture, social attitudes towards law, as well as other normative orders which compete with state-made rules (often affecting the actual extent of rights of human subjects). With regard to space, we have in mind both space in the literal sense, that is three-dimensionally determined areas of the globe, a continent or a city, as well as space in its metaphorical sense, as social space. Finally, regarding the political, we see it as the fundamental conflict dividing society, either in an antagonistic or agonistic manner.

Looking from our Central European perspective, we have a special interest in the centre/peripheries dialectic, and the interrelationship between economic and political peripherality on the one hand, and various cultural transfers on the other, with particular reference to legal transfers (encompassing both specific legal institutions, as well as 'units' of legal culture, such as legal theories, concepts and doctrines). On the other hand, we invite reflections on the role of law in forging and upholding the centre/periphery dynamic, both in Europe and in the world. For instance, it is worth exploring how legal systems protect the current systems of wealth distribution and how they impact upon the perpetuation of the peripheral socio-economic status of post-colonial countries.

Looking from a broader European perspective, we are interested in exploring themes linked to a critical inquiry into the European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice. Potential streams could focus on the interrelation between law, including the now legally binding EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and the political in the European space. As particularly worth exploring we consider the tension between a purely economic vision of this space, propelled by the hegemonic neoliberal ideology and the underlying social antagonisms. The latter have become even more acute due to the on-going crisis and pose an actual risk of undermining the equality of EU citizens. All this leads to the emergence of assymetrical dynamics in the definition of European space, tilted towards one specific (neoliberal) interpretation (e.g. of the internal market). Furthermore, the free circulation of human subjects, goods, capitals and judicial decisions in the European space – in the absence of a self-standing 'European model' – raises the issue of conflicting visions of society between EU Member States, both as regards social justice (e.g. trade union rights), and the moral foundations of society (e.g. in the area of family law). Another aspect worth exploring in this context is the status of human subjects with regard to legally defined space, including such aspects as 'irregular' migration and the underlying tension between nationals, i.e. persons enjoying a direct link with the legal space of a state, and non-nationals deprived of this status.

Focusing on smaller spaces, such as urban spaces, we invite stream proposals aimed at exploring the privatisation of public space and in particular its impact upon human rights, such as the right to the freedom of expression, as well as the opposing move of publicisation of private space, as in the case of squatting. Furthermore, we invite inquiries into the legal and political aspects of spaces of protest, such as those recently created by the Occupy movement and by the Indignados, or, over three decades ago, by the Solidarność movement in Poland. Moreover, urban and suburban spaces invite an exploration of the dynamic between geographical space (rich neighbourhoods and gated communities vs. poor areas) and socio-economic space, and the role of law in upholding or reducing this distance.

Moving right down to the space of buildings and spaces within buildings, the theme of this year's Critical Legal Conference could also be understood as referring to legal proxemics, that is proxemics of law-related spaces, such as courtrooms, parliaments or law school classrooms. Enquiries could focus on the relationship between the arrangement of such spaces and the underlying ideological assumptions as to their political or depoliticised nature or as well as on the impact of legal proxemics on the upon social perceptions of the law.

Finally, the interrelationship of law, space and the political cannot leave out the vexed question of space and sovereignty as well as spaces of the state of exception. In particular, we invite, on the one hand, stream proposals exploring how sovereignty is constructed spatially, and on the other hand, the rising phenomenon of 'spaces down by law', such as extraterritorial military bases, 'rogue states', and other areas and territories which escape the standard legal order, including territories of an unclear status under international law or 'special economic zones'.

The above interpretations of the theme of the 2015 Critical Legal Conference are, as always, only indicative and other creative understandings of this year's theme of 'law, space and the political' are more than welcome.

Adam Sulikowski
Rafał Mańko
Jakub Łakomy

Stream abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted to no later than on 31 March 2015.