LASSnet Conference 2010, CfP

LASSnet 2010: Siting Law
Second Conference of the Law and Social Sciences Research Network (LASSnet)
DECEMBER 27-30, 2010
Venue: Foundation for Liberal and Management Education (FLAME), Pune

The Law and Social Science Research Network (LASSnet) was established in 2007 to bring together scholars, lawyers and doctoral researchers engaged in the research and teaching of issues connected with the law in different social sciences in contemporary South Asian contexts. The idea was to create a common forum for the exchange of ideas, work, materials, pedagogies and aspirations from a range of different institutional locations and theoretical frameworks. Given how much of our understanding of the law in South Asia has been shaped by the experience of social movements, we also hoped to provide a space in which activists, legal practitioners, and academics of all stripes could get together to share experiences and reflections. The creative tensions that emerged from such conversations, we felt, might lead to new agendas for both research and practice in the future.
The inaugural LASS conference was held at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawarharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, in January 2009. In the inaugural conference of LASSnet, we saw a number of conversations across disciplines among legal scholars, practitioners, activists, anthropologists, historians, philosophers, social theorists, political scientists, economists and science and technology scholars. For the second edition of the LASSnet conference we have chosen to continue with such inter-disciplinary excavations, and to venture further afield.
By focussing on the multiple sites of law we seek to open out ways of thinking about the social life of law and legality and its relation to questions of violence and injustice in South Asia. We recognize that the project of modern law emerged through the universalizing of a particular form of rationality and established itself in a large part of the world through the violent history of colonialism. The project of law and the project of modernity often became synonymous, and legal scholarship also tended to reproduce this relationship.
We are therefore interested in enquiries that critique monolithic forms of legal rationality. If the project of critiquing is to have any relevance, it is in its ability to conjure possibilities and alternatives that have remained unimagined. Thus another way of thinking about the relationship between law and the social sciences would be through the metaphor of ‘sighting law’, which invites us to look at a range of social practices which have either been marginalized as custom or dismissed as affect and hence deemed irrelevant to legal theory.
To be attentive to the multiple sites of law is also to be attentive to the role played by the social sciences - particularly anthropology and history- in opening out the way we think of law as a cultural and not merely as a legal process. LASSnet seeks to extend the ways in which the law can be ‘cited’ in other disciplines, and we hope that the sub themes of this edition of the conference allows us to collectively explore the diversity of forms that may exist, both within the formal legal structure as well as outside it.
The routes which social scientists and legal scholars took to the sites of law, and the methodologies that they developed have traditionally been accounted for in terms of their differences. We wish to see this difference as being precisely the common ground on which we stand, and as the basis on which we can cite scholarship about legal experience differently.

While the Steering Committee will make its selection from as wide a basis as possible, we would particularly welcome presentations that address the following themes, which we see as especially interesting to consider in the contemporary South Asian context. Please note that the sub-themes are merely illustrative of the goals of the conference and are not exhaustive.

1. Law’s Publics: Counter legalities and Counter Publics
The law often claims to have an unmediated access to the public, for instance in Public Interest Litigation or in the determination of what counts as legitimate public purpose. Struggles for the recognition of socio-economic rights and dignity have often been premised on the claimants being recognized as legitimate public actors. What role is played by the law in the constitution of a public, and what role is played by the notion of a public in thinking about the legitimacy of the law? Conversely, what role is played by the law in the constitution of the hybrid realm of public-private entities which facilitate the flows of a globalised capital? Is the valorized language of illegality the only means of expressing resistance to law, or can political struggles, marked by their inability to be properly constituted in the sphere of liberal legality, resurface as counter publics who nevertheless stake a claim to legitimacy? In a time of ever more inventive forms of neo-liberal violence, how can counter-publics avoid capture by a legal apparatus intent on re-territorialising the terrain of the political?
2. Law like Love: Law and Affect
The ‘affective turn’ in the social sciences is beginning to speak to legal debates. How do we begin to undertake a genealogy of the affective life of law in which reason and unreason intermingle? To explore the affective life of law is to understand the ‘body of law’ not merely as an archive of legal judgments, but to engage seriously with ideas of corporeality in law, and to acknowledge that the power of law emanates as much from its affective force as its symbolic power. How does the law deal with this messy world of affect and emotion, and what are the ways through which inter disciplinary scholarship can redress the historic disavowal of affect in legal scholarship?

3. The Careers of Constitutionalism in South Asia
Constitutions as a genre have deep roots within the histories of European universalism. The emergence and experience of postcolonial transformative constitutions, marked by a different relation to questions of justice, time and memory, have significantly altered this universal narrative. How do we account for the various histories of this transformative, and even insurgent constitutionalism? At the same time there seems to be a tension between the constitution as a text of governance and text of rights. How do we critically uncover other histories and sites through which we can understand the careers of constitutionalism in South Asia? Finally, how does contemporary constitutional theory respond to the challenges posed by the emergence of the new global economic constitutionalism?
4. Theatres of Justice
Living as we do in an age saturated by hyper-science and hyper-media, we have a plurality of places in which legal norms are produced. The blurring of the lines between media, science and culture makes it imperative for us to explore the new and emerging sites of legal meaning. There is sometimes even a blurring of these spaces, as evidenced in various reality TV shows that mimic the structure of the courts. How for instance do ideas of expertise move from the laboratory to the court and back? How do images of legality produced in a studio serve as the basis of a new legal imagination? How are we to understand these multiple scenes of the law, in which the formal judicial process appears as one of the many competing actors in the theatres of justice?

In keeping with the eclectic spirit of LASSnet, we welcome submissions that address concerns of the LASSnet broadly, including papers, panels, and presentations on the four sub-themes detailed above. We welcome proposals for panels as well as for individual paper presentations.
Panel proposals: Panel coordinators should submit a panel description of 300 words as well as a proposed list of panelists (ideally no more than four per panel). The panel description should be accompanied by individual paper proposals for each panelist, following the instructions below. Coordinators may also choose to propose a chair or discussant for the panel as a whole.
Individual papers: Paper abstracts (300 words) should be submitted to Siddharth Narrain and Sruti Chaganti at lassnet2010@gmail.com. Abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this order: author(s), affiliation, email address, title of abstract, body of abstract. Abstracts should be submitted no later than July 1, 2010.
We will get back to you within eight weeks of receiving an abstract. If an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be submitted to the conference secretariat by November 15, 2010 and distributed to the discussant and fellow panel members no later than December 01, 2010. In the case of pre-formed panels, this will be the responsibility of the Panel Coordinator.
The maximum duration of individual presentations within each panel will be 20 minutes.
Further announcements about registration, funding and venue related details will be made available at www.lassnet.blogspot.com and (in due course) www.lassnet.org. Please contact Siddharth Narrain or Sruti Chaganti (lassnet2010@gmail.com) for additional information.

Lawrence Liang (lawrence@altlawforum.org), Alternative Law Forum (ALF) (www.altlawforum.org)
Siddharth Narrain (siddharth.narrain@gmail.com), ALF
Sitharamam Kakarala (ram@cscs.res.in), Centre for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS) (www.cscsarchive.org)
Sruti Chaganti (sruti@cscs.res.in), CSCS
Maya Dodd (mayadodd@gmail.com), Foundation for Liberal and Management Education (FLAME), Pune (www.flame.edu.in)
Pratiksha Baxi [LASSnet anchor] (Pratiksha.Baxi@gmail.com), Centre for the Study of Law and Governance (CSLG), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
Shrimoyee Ghosh (shrimoyee@gmail.com), CSLG, JNU
Stewart Motha (S.Motha@kent.ac.uk), Kent Law School, UK
Arudra Burra (arudraburra@yahoo.co.in), Princeton University, US
Brenna Bhandar (brenna.bhandar@gmail.com), Kent Law School, UK
Anuj Bhuwania (anujbhuwania@gmail.com), Columbia University, US