An international conference organized by the Centre interuniversitaire d'études québécoises (CIEQ) and the Centre d'histoire des régulations sociales (CHRS)
Montreal, May 7 and 8, 2009
This conference seeks to stimulate reflections on the multiple, historically constructed relationships between justice and public space in the Western world from Antiquity to the present. In light of recent discussions and criticisms of the Habermasian conception of the public sphere, the intent is to situate judicial history within a broader perspective which takes into account the different forms and functions of public space across time. While all approaches are of interest, four themes seem especially promising in this regard:
1-Justice has long been a key concern in public opinion. But the notion of justice as constructed by the public deserves critical scrutiny. With regards to changes in the justice system, some studies of legal culture have attributed a very real transformative power to public opinion, whereas others have emphasized the predominant role of legal specialists. Regardless of its relationship with such specialized interest groups, public opinion can nevertheless certainly be seen as a force which has helped shape the evolution of judicial institutions.
2-Conversely, it is also useful to examine the role of justice in the construction or the control of public opinion. The judicial sphere has above all been a locus of speech and of writing through which information has circulated, from public rumour to the everyday practices brought to light by legal practitioners. It has also been a space for discussions and debates publicized by the press and by judicial publications. Justice has moreover long been a spectacle, whether within the courts or in public, and has thereby contributed to the construction of popular representations of and attitudes towards authority. Finally, the courts have also been regulators of public opinion: magistrates, as guardians of public liberty, have contributed directly to the vitality of the democratic public sphere, but have also acted as censors to limit or even repress speech and writing.
3-The phenomenon of the judicialization of politics also suggests other avenues that merit study. Current news provides frequent examples of the intrusion of the judicial into spheres where the democratic will and public debate should in theory reign supreme. Considered from a historical perspective, this phenomenon allows for reflections on the role of justice in the construction of the public sphere, for example through examinations of such long-standing issues as judicial independence or the political uses of the courts.
4-Finally, there is the growing importance of state justice as a locus for the resolution of conflicts related to broader social issues. Since at least the end of the nineteenth century, the justice system has in effect become a central part of the development of new forms of state intervention in areas such as labour, health or childhood. To what extent and in what manner was this a form of judicialization of social problems, whereby areas previously considered private became objects of state intervention?
Proposals from all disciplines within the social sciences and humanities will be considered, insofar as they include a significant historical dimension. Proposals should include the presenter's academic title, institutional affiliation and complete contact information (email address, postal address, telephone number) along with the paper title, a 250-word abstract and a short CV. Papers may be presented in French or in English.
Note that the conference proceedings will be published.
Due date for proposals: September 15, 2008
Proposals should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Programme committee: Pascal Bastien (Université du Québec à Montréal); Rachel Couture (Université du Québec à Montréal, Ph.D. student); Donald Fyson (Université Laval); Jean-Philippe Garneau (Université du Québec à Montreal); Vincent Milliot (Université de Caen); Paolo Napoli (École des hautes études en sciences sociales); Thierry Nootens (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières); Normand Renaud-Joly (Université du Québec à Montréal, Ph.D. student); Marc Renneville (Université Paris 8); Xavier Rousseaux (Université catholique de Louvain).
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