This conference seeks to explore the ‘meaning-making’ functions of law and examine the role played by imperial law in the fashioning of cultural identities.
Conceived within the broader thematic of colonial law and cultural change, this conference is the final academic event planned within the AHRC funded multi-disciplinary research network – ‘Subjects of law: rightful selves and the legal process in imperial Britain and the British empire.’
While the transformative effects of colonial legal governance are widely acknowledged, scholars no longer agree that this was solely a matter of the transference of the concept of the individuated, possessive, egalitarian and reflexive self from post-Enlightenment Europe to other regions of the world through the instruments of private property, rule of law and an adversarial concept of rights. Research has shown that inequality and hierarchy, communitarian and special interest claims, discretionary rule and the circumvention of due process, were not merely the result of occasional accommodation of local culture or deviation from true British standards, but the very substance of colonial rule itself. Moreover, law may itself have imposed or incited statements of cultural alterity, not merely accommodated or contended with it.
While admitting the mutual tainting of narratives, recent literature related to law and empire highlights the agency of those that learnt to speak in and through the language of law. It also points towards the intertwining of multiple representative genres –legal, political, anthropological, literary and dramatic – in creating, sustaining and subverting the meanings of legal events and subjects.
Conscious of that multi-disciplinary realm of study, we invite colleagues to explore:
•How far and in what ways were occasional and stylised legal representations related to other modes of conceiving of oneself and others, for example, in religious and philosophical thought, social commentary, and political campaigns?
•How significant are legal events themselves in the process of generating durable conceptualisations of individual and collective identities?
•How do we use, discard or qualify the concept of agency in explaining how and why people engaged with imperial law?
•How do we read legal texts and other texts about law – do we, for example, continue to quarry the genealogies of particular cross-genre discursive forms, or should we pay specific attention to the conventions of each form?
•And finally, what exactly is colonial or imperial about this process of cultural translations through law?
While the principal aim of the network is to investigate the contours and processes of cultural and legal change within the British empire, comparative insights from other imperial/colonial contexts would be very warmly welcomed.
Deadline for proposing panels/individual papers: 31 May 2013. Please send 250-word panel proposals and/or 150-word paper abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org Panel proposals should preferably be accompanied by 3 paper abstracts, although papers may be subsequently assigned to panels with the consent of panel organisers. Notifications of acceptance of proposals will be communicated by 17 June 2013. There might be opportunities for fee waivers for up to 2 graduate students. We will not be able however to cover any travel or accommodation costs.
Dr Nandini Chatterjee
Lecturer in History
Department of History, University of Plymouth
Room 05, 4 Portland Villas
Phone: +44 (0)1752 585132
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