Workshop: Scenes of Unrest: Law and Humanities Dissent

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Since the global financial crash of 2008, we have witnessed increasing levels of unrest and social discontent around the world (the various Occupys, the Spanish and Greek Indignados, the Arab Spring, the continuing disturbances in Brazil). Each of these moments raises significant questions for legal scholars: from the nature of police power, the role of law in austerity and the emergency state, to issues of intra– and extra-​systemic constitutional change and revolutionary social transformation. This workshop gathers together a number of the foremost scholars working in the field of ‘Law and Humanities’, and invites them to consider how the various ‘law and…’ methodologies (law and literature, film, theatre studies, etc.) enable us to think through our contemporary conjuncture. It challenges them…

A Labour Party of protest or government? Bringing politics back in

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A party of protest or a party of government – according to Gordon Brown these are the options, the choices at stake, suggesting they are very different things, polarities even. Those who protest don’t govern and those who govern don’t protest. But is this right? Social movement organisations, the back-​bone of the protest movement, also govern – as generations of peace camps, such as Greenham, prove too well. Running sustainable protest camps involves organising, administering, and making political decisions – from how to allocate charitable donations, to dealing with refuse, cooking, police intrusions and arrests. Social movement organisations also govern by generating norms, sanctioning in multiple ways those who fail to conform. Admittedly, this is governing at a small-​scale and what I want to focus on here is…

Nils Christie’s ‘Ideal Victim’ applied: From Lions to Swarms

Ben Woolfitt, Finding her at long last to assuage my despair (2006)

Gaining victim status under international law is a fickle privilege – as easily granted as it is taken away. Libya’s refugees and migrants who are escaping the country’s economic collapse and violence are a testament to the use and abuse of the victim label under international law. Within the space of a few years, they have gone from being labelled victims of Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal regime to being labelled illegal immigrants and part of a ‘swarm’. Following the death of Norwegian sociologist and criminologist Nils Christie on 27 May this year, several tributes were paid emphasising his huge influence on the disciplines of Criminology and Criminal Law. His work has been, with a few exceptions, far less influential in international law. Yet, there is much international…

Equities: A Review of the Equity & Trusts Research Network Workshop

Plurality of Worlds

Men of law have certain scruples and are unable to eliminate justice from the law completely without twinges of conscious. But it is not possible to retain it because of the difficulties it involves, the uncertainty of operation and unpredictability it entails. In a word, judicial technique implies that bureaucracy cannot be burdened any longer with justice.[1] Equity is protean, traversing a number of registers, from the law formerly emanating from the English Court of Chancery (now inscribed within the architecture of modern law and legal governance) to important jurisprudential questions concerning forms of judgment within and beyond law, and ethical modes of conduct(ing) and relating to law. In this sense there is no ‘equity’ as such but rather equities, each with…

Sovereignty as Tension: Sri Lanka and Its North-​East

Shanthi Chandrasekar: Maya-cube (Acrylic on Canvas)

Even as neo-​liberalism attempts to trans-​nationalize the globe, the nation continues to be popular among many communities in both Europe and the postcolony. For Marxist postcolonial thinkers like Neil Lazarus (1999:48) and Timothy Brennan (1999:25 – 26), the nation and the nation-​state function mainly as communities of resistance to globalization and American-​centered global cosmopolitanism. But in places like the UK, Spain and Belgium and in many parts of the postcolony such as Somalia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the nation exists as a vibrant political entity primarily because it refuses to tolerate the character of the state under which it lives and due to its desire to have a state exclusively for itself. Nations in these places predicate their demand for self-​rule on historical claims over…

Is there only power or the wilderness? On Labour selecting a leader

Is there only labour

Instead of obsessing about taking power in five years, Labour should support projects of social transformation today. This is the kind of leadership Labour needs. In power or in the wilderness, the British Labour Party it would seem has two settings. Or, at least that’s what they tell us. The present struggle over leadership of the Party has brought these two settings to the fore … and while three candidates seem to think they can offer power, one candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, they tell us can only offer the wilderness. Across media and Internet, commentators argue over this depiction of Corbyn. Critics point to polls showing low general electoral support, the inability of left-​wing Labour leaders to get elected … think…

A Tangled Web: The Vested Interests of the EU Right

Corruption

UPDATED WITH ADDITIONS 14/​7 at 10:30am BST To understand the Greek crisis and the stream of ever worsening deals between the EU and Greece, it is essential to understand just how involved the EU main players have been in the creation of this situation over the past decade. Across much of the media there has been a focus on the character of Syriza as a movement and Tsipras or Varoufakis as politicians and economists. Again and again we have seen aspersions being cast on the credibility or competence of the left. Curiously, there has been little interest in the mainstream on the web of vested interests on the EU side. On The Automatic Earth Raul Ilargi Meijer celebrated the emergence of little ‘factoids’ which complicate…

Their Law: The New Energies of UK Squats, Social Centres and Eviction Resistances in the Fight Against Expropriation (Part 2 of 2)

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The eviction resistances in London express the contestation of private re-​appropriation of homes through powerful displays of collective strength. They are an emergent movement that demonstrates an ever co-​dependant dance between law and protest. Private accumulation interjects in the business of making homes which ironically but unsurprisingly fails miserably because it actively seeks to remove people from where they live. But the huge property behemoths like ‘Lend Lease’ and ‘CapCo’ care not, because they want the ‘right people’ in their new builds, and to demolish and erase the lives already there. Sound familiar? Colonialism is colonising itself it seems. But these lives are vibrant, verdant, vital, and redolent, will not be wiped away and are time and time again coming…

Their Law: The New Energies of UK Squats, Social Centres and Eviction Resistance in the Fight Against Expropriation (Part 1 of 2)

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For anyone old enough to remember themselves as a teenager during the nineties, with fond memories of piercing their own ears (multiple times) whilst listening to the second album of The Prodigy ‘Music for a Jilted Generation’ [self-​piercing nostalgia optional], they will recognise ‘Their Law’ as the musical response to the criminalisation of rave culture’s collective enjoyment of ‘repetitive beats’ directly legislated in Section 63(1)(b) of the Criminal Justice Act and Public Order Act 1994. The metallic screams and staples pulsate into an abrupt “fuck them and their law” where the Braintree boys quarterise their angry sentiment against enclosing law, the voice of a radical resistance felt in lower frequency bass, vibration, body, the tribe, the people — rave terms. I think of Their Law…

One no, many yeses! The Greek Referendum

OXI

A victory for OXI would not just help restore a sense of dignity to Greece; it would strengthen the ground for anti-​austerity struggles across Europe. Today, Greece has an opportunity to make history. The brave decision by Prime Minister Tsipras to call a referendum on the creditors’ inhumane ultimatums has turned the tables. The government’s steadfastness in the face of extreme pressures — both from abroad and from within — has given people across Europe a renewed sense of hope. It would have been easy to cave in to the financial asphyxiation of the creditors and the terror campaign of the domestic and international media. But so far Greece has held its ground, and today it stands firm and upright as millions take to the polls for the…

Sovereign Exception: Notes on the Thought of Giorgio Agamben

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Key Concept Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, the first book of his multi-​volume Homo Sacer project, urges a reconsideration of theories of sovereignty as put forward ‘from Hobbes to Rousseau’ (1998: 109). The theory of sovereign power offered by the book is based on the state of exception (as in Schmitt[1]) and the production of a bare, human life caught in the sovereign ban, which constitutes the threshold of the political community. Responding to Foucault’s theory of biopolitics, in which human life becomes the target of the organisational power of the State, Agamben argues that there exists a ‘hidden tie’ between sovereign power and biopolitics, forged in the exceptional basis of State sovereignty. Sovereign Power and Law Sovereign power,…

On Destroying What Destroys You: An Interview with Thomas Nail

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Thomas Nail is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver and author of The Figure of the Migrant (Stanford University Press, 2015) and Returning to Revolution: Deleuze, Guattari, and Zapatismo (Edinburgh University Press, 2012). His publications can be accessed at: udenver​.academia​.edu/​T​h​o​m​a​s​N​ail One may see the aims of Hostis* and feel a tinge of moral discomfort when it begins to ask questions regarding the status of migrants, of refugees, and of exiles,[1] if only for the very reason that there remains some commitment on our part to the idea that to be content with a politics of recognition and a strategy of representation perpetuates the illusion of emancipation when all that can be achieved is Statist inclusion. In other words, once recognition…

The Greeks Deserve Better from Europe

OXI

Greek Prime Minister Alex Tspiras announced a July 5th Referendum on whether Greece should accept the Troika’s final demand that Greece accept additional austerity measures in exchange for further loans. Countering the ‘shock and awe’ tactics of the Troika, the Greek leaders have drawn a ‘red line’ in the sand: democracy, not neoliberal hegemony, will decide whether Greece will accept further austerity or cut loose from a dysfunctional European monetary system that was still born in 1992.[1] As Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis stated: The Eurogroup Meeting of 27th June 2015 will not go down as a proud moment in Europe’s history. Ministers turned down the Greek government’s request that the Greek people should be granted a single week during which to deliver a Yes or No answer…

‘The Republic of Love’

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Almost a month has passed since the verdict of ‘Yes For Love’ was returned in the same-​sex marriage referendum in Ireland. For the people who drove the campaign; for those who canvassed during the hard emotional slog of its last month in particular; for all those who told their stories of hurt, of lives lived in closeted fear and repression in newspapers, on TV, across social media, to family and friends; for the LGBTQ young people who had not before witnessed the extent and depth of homophobia written in to longstanding norms as to what and who constitutes the ‘nation’; for those who had to face the harsh truth of homophobic discursive violence enacted under the guise of ‘democracy’ and ‘balanced…

The In/​determinacy of Human Rights: A Response to O’Connell

Paul O’Connell recently argued that human rights are not a trap for emancipatory and radical projects. They can be productively placed with different discourses like anti-​capitalism, anti-​racism or queer politics, generating productive moments of resistance. He argues against what he calls a ‘monolingual’ idea of struggle where movements can only engage with one discourse at a time. We can escape the dominant rendering found in international human rights law, and instead engage with an ‘emancipatory multilingualism’ where rights are joined with other counter-​hegemonic ideas. Wendy Brown is his foil here: Brown… argue[s] that in light of the renewed vigour of American imperialism, perhaps instead of human rights support for indigenous movements in post-​colonial societies,… other narratives would be more efficacious in resisting the…

Turkey Joins the Purple Wave in Europe: Striving for Democracy Amidst Hostility and Violence

Co-leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP)

The aspirations for greater freedom and democracy with the onset of the Gezi movement in 2013 had given way to despair in the face of increasing state repression and the absence of rule of law, that have by and large suffocated freedom of expression in the country. Indicating a clear move away from democratization efforts towards a form of competitive authoritarianism, many have questioned whether there was any room left for oppositional politics anymore in the Turkish political landscape. In timely fashion, the recent elections have reinvigorated hope and a sense of solidarity for those seeking an alternative future. In what has been considered as the most important elections in recent history, Turkish voters have expressed their discontent with the authoritarian tendencies pursued by…

Big Oil’s Ethical Violence

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International attention has once again turned to the murky record of BP’s oil operations in Colombia. The High Court in London is to hear a case against BP, filed on behalf of Gilberto Torres, a former trade unionist who was kidnapped and tortured by state-​linked paramilitaries in 2002. In a trial in Colombia, the kidnappers said that they took direct orders from pipeline operator Ocensa, in which BP had a 15% stake. They stated that Ocensa paid them an extra $40,000 for the job. Legal cases such as this are vital: they aim to hold corporations to account and to contest systematic impunity. Torres’s London-​based lawyers hope the lawsuit will open the way to hundreds of other cases on behalf of community leaders, activists and…

Human Rights: Contesting the Displacement Thesis

As a general rule, the precise significance of historical shifts, developments or movements can take a long time to reveal themselves. This is no doubt also true for human rights. For good or ill, and in many ways that remains to be seen, the language of human rights has become ubiquitous in moral, philosophical and political discourse over at least the last thirty years. Over this period we can point to instances where the language of human rights has been used to mobilise support for political prisoners, to prevent evictions of shack dwellers and to advance the cause of same sex marriage. By the same token, there are numerous episodes where the language of rights has been used to consolidate corporate power…

Reforming the Welfare State for Saving Capitalism

[Given the recent success of Free Education movements and higher eductaion trades unions in blocking the ‘Teach Higher’ work casualisations proposals at the University of Warwick, we thought the below missive from Wildcat Germany was appropriate grounds for a pause. It’s a little old (1999) but a goody, particularly because it makes clear that the wage is but one side of the of worker’s role in capitalism, the other being that worker’s role in production. The argument runs in part that anti-​casualisation battles, which specifically focus on equal pay for equal work, separate the wage issue from the issue of control of the production process. From the perspective of production ‘casualisation’ is meaningless; what is happening is that labour is being organised in…