ACLA 2017: Queering the Law: Dialogues on Justice, Transgression and Optimism

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Looi van Kessel and Tessa de Zeeuw, Leiden University

In the context of events such as the recent upsurge in police violence in the US, the rhetoric surrounding the influx of refugees in Europe, and ongoing violence that targets queer communities, this seminar poses the question of justice in relation to the concept of queerness. What questions do alternative structures of political, social and romantic organizing pose to normative social forms? Does justice reside in forms of re-, and counter-alignment, or in the very questioning of the idea of alignment? In other words, how can we read performances and experiences of eccentricity as modes of destabilizing the L/law?

Recent queer thinking seems to be taking two roads: one towards a negativity which seeks to destabilize normative structures of belonging, and which engages with the performance of disavowal and transgression; and a positive one that turns to the question of what affective ties motivate us to attach to lives that are unsustainable in current social conditions. Where the work of Lee Edelman and Leo Bersani can be read as exemplary of the former, Lauren Berlant and Jose Muñoz are examples of the latter. We invite participants to bring these two forms of queer theory in dialogue; to consider forms of attachment to normative lives despite experiences of injustice and to consider modes of transgression as viable ways of addressing injustice; to debate how each strategy is critical of normativity; and to discuss how these strategies are related. But also to think about these questions in the context of a more conventional sense of law, as in legal codes, regimes and institutions, case law and forms of critical jurisprudence.

In order to not only address, but also engage with these considerations in a more dynamic way, the seminar will take a dialogic form inspired by Berlant and Edelman’s encounter in Sex, or the Unbearable. Rather than having participants present individual papers, we want to give critical thinking a more dialogic form in this seminar by setting it up as a workshop. We ask the participants to prepare a 10 to 15 minute case study that allows the group as a whole to think critically about the questions stated above. For each session, two participants will be matched up to converse with one another about the case studies they present, after which the group as a whole may participate in the discussion. These case studies will be distributed beforehand.

Case studies may comprise readings of visual or literary works of art, but also anecdotes of events that have received media attention: from case law to ancient tragedy, from outbursts on Twitter (e.g. #BlackLivesMatter) to canonical films, from forgotten jurisdictions to accounts of history. Case studies should lead to discussions about moments of destabilization and restabilization, gestures of opening up and filling back in, movements of de- and re-alignment, and affects like despair and hope.

Please submit your abstract of 250 words via The site will be open for submissions from September 1 to September 23. For further queries please contact the seminar's organizers: (Looi van Kessel) or (Tessa de Zeeuw).