Annual Conable Conference in International Studies
Refugees, Asylum Law, and Expert Testimony: The Construction of Africa & the Global South in Comparative Perspective
April 12-15, 2012
Rochester Institute of Technology
Specialists are increasingly invited to comment on the petitions of asylum seekers and refugees from Africa and the comparative Global South. Commentary may take a variety of forms, including consultation, written reports, formal affidavits and ‘live’ oral testimony and cross-examination in court. The 2012 Conable Conference – convened jointly by Rochester Institute of Technology and Cornell University – proposes exploring new research situated at the dynamic interdisciplinary intersection of law, scholarship and activism pertaining to African asylum petitions and refugee status determination in a comparative international context.
Asylum petitions and refugee status determinations are rich documentary archives tethered to discrete legal contexts – variously, immigration tribunals, courts of appeal, panels of experts or citizen-subjects, according to jurisdiction – by knowledge and expertise. Embedded within asylum and refugee narratives, and their successive iterations in rulings, judgments, country of origin (COI) information, appeals and precedents, are analytical categories, constructed identities, and personal narratives of fear, trauma and violence. And a paradoxical relationship is unfolding, insofar as new knowledge is produced, but it emerges in Westerns courts and rarely in the Global South.
Expert testimony in support of, and occasionally in opposition to, asylum petitions and refugee status determination, features prominently in North American and European courts and elsewhere. It is well known in the legal community that petitions and appeals accompanied by expert reports have a significantly greater likelihood of success. And just as courts are increasingly drawing upon expert testimony in judicial deliberations about asylum seekers and refugees, expertise is emerging as an academic “niche industry” with attendant standards, protocols and guidelines, mirroring those of legal fields with a longer tradition of expertise, such as patent, copyright and intellectual property. Moreover, while experts may often postulate from a disciplinarily locus, the venues featuring and authorities drawing upon expertise increasingly expose scholarship to the interdisciplinarity of law, activism and social justice.
We are interested in new research exploring the construction of expertise and the emergence of ideas and the production of knowledge about Africa and the comparative Global South in the context of asylum petitions and refugee status determinations. We seek empirical, analytical, and theoretical scholarship from any disciplinary, cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective exploring how experts and legal fora construct or have historically constructed Africa, and expertise pertaining to Africa and the Global South in comparative perspective. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the construction of ethnic, religious, racial, national, age, (dis)ability, gender, health, sexual and other identities; the emergence of analytical and social categories, such as female genital ‘mutilation’, domestic violence, trafficking and ‘re-trafficking’; forced marriage; the role of precedent; the place of history and memory; the role of customary law; the emergence of and constitutionality of new legal venues for asylum and refugee status; the concept of legal convergence; the legal basis of credibility and/or plausibility; the determination of and granting of standing as an expert; mediation by the non-governmental sector; physiological, medical and psychiatric expertise; substantiation and proof of torture claims; competing modes of governance; historical patterns in the deployment of expertise in history; the emergence of specialized industries and new academic sub-disciplines, including, but not limited to ‘forensic linguistic’ analysis, country of origin research, and nationally-mandated research directorates; the pedagogy and clinical practice of asylum, refugee, and immigration law; and issues pertaining to human subject protocols, including confidentiality, consent, discovery, and disclosure. We welcome any additions to possible topics.
This conference has five goals: (1) to bring together into conversation scholars, practitioners, and activists producing expertise in the context of refugee and asylum law as it pertains to Africa and the Global South; (2) to explore new scholarship and research pertaining to the emergence of categories and identities deployed in refugee determinations and asylum petitions; (3) to publish an interdisciplinary collection of critical and rigorous scholarship on the emergence of categories and identities in asylum and refugee law; (4) to facilitate networking and interaction of conference participants and harness the potentials of collaboration for legal strategy, knowledge transfer and learning; (5) to inspire pedagogical and curricular development towards problem-solving competencies pertaining to asylum applicants and refugees from Africa and beyond.
Abstracts of proposed papers of 1-2 pages and a CV for review by the multidisciplinary steering committee are due by September 1, 2011 by email to BNL@RIT.EDU. Papers may not be published or accepted for publication elsewhere. Prospective participants should indicate any and all sources of funding for travel and accommodation. Limited financial assistance is available and will be prioritized for those from the Global South. Decisions will be made in October 2011. Short drafts of 10 pages for consideration and comment by the consulting committee are due by December 1, 2011. Papers of 25-35 pages for pre-circulation among all participants are due by February 1, 2012. Registration is required of all participants.
Benjamin N. Lawrance, Ph.D.
Barber B. Conable, Jr. Endowed Chair of International Studies
College of Liberal Arts
Rochester Institute of Technology
92 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, NY 14623-5603
Fax: 585-475-5777 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit the website at http://www.rit.edu/conable/
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