The Past and Future of the Legal Left: Celebrating Duncan Kennedy’s Scholarship

by | 6 Jun 2014

Duncan Kennedy

Below you can watch the conference on ‘The Past and Future of the Legal Left: Celebrating Duncan Kennedy’s Scholarship’ which was held at SOAS, University of London on 22 May 2014.

This conference honoured Professor Duncan Kennedy, one of the most influential legal theorists and left critics of our time. After teaching for more than four decades at Harvard Law School, Professor Kennedy announced his intention to retire. Kennedy’s brilliant contributions have challenged our thinking on law and its role in society. He never shied away from controversy and engaged in a variety of academic and political debates. Admirably, he was able to commit simultaneously to both an intellectual critique and left-wing politics, without the political stifling critique or the latter undermining the political. In addition, Professor Kennedy was not content with offering critique and deconstruction, as some of his writings included highly specific and programmatic proposals.


Brenna Bhandar | Hugh Collins | Joanne Conaghan | Matthew Craven | Costas Douzinas | Gina Heathcote | Duncan Kennedy | Paul Kohler | Prabha Kotiswaran | Roy Kreitner | Nicola Lacey | Nimer Sultany | Dina Waked | Lynn Welchman | Raef Zreik


Duncan Kennedy is the Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School. He is a founding member of the Critical Legal Studies movement. Kennedy received an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College in 1964 and in 1970 earned an LL.B. from Yale Law School. After completing a clerkship with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, Kennedy joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1971 as an Assistant Professor, becoming a full Professor in 1976. He has received an Honorary Doctor of Private Law, University of Amsterdam, 2005; Honorary Doctor of Law, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia, 2010; Honorary Doctor of Law, Université de Québec à Montréal, 2011; and an Honorary Doctor of Law, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, 2012. His influential publications contributed to a diverse range of fields of law and knowledge, including legal and social theory, legal history, law and economics, contract law, and legal education. His five books are: Legal Reasoning: Collected Essays (Davies Group Publishers 2008); The Rise and Fall of Classical Legal Thought (Beard Books, 1998 [1975]); A Critique of Adjudication [fin de siècle] (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1997); Sexy Dressing, etc. (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1993); Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy (AFAR, Cambridge, 1983). His dozens of widely-cited articles include: “Freedom and Constraint in Adjudication: A Critical Phenomenology,” 36 Journal of Legal Education 518 (1986); “Form and Substance in Private Law Adjudication,” 89 Harvard Law Review 1685 (1976); “A Semiotics of Critique,” 22 Cardozo Law Review 1147 (2001); “Three Globalizations of Law and Legal Thought: 1850-2000” in The New Law and Economic Development 19 (Cambridge University Press, 2006); “The Stakes of Law, or Hale and Foucault!,” 15 Legal Studies Forum 327 (1991); and “The Structure of Blackstone’s Commentaries,” 28 Buffalo Law Review 205 (1979). He also contributed to many public debates in journalistic writings, inter alia, on the war on Iraq and Israel/Palestine. More information and a complete list of publications are available on his personal website:


Brenna Bhandar is Senior Lecturer of Law at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, SOAS. Prior to joining SOAS, Bhandar was a lecturer at Kent Law School and Queen Mary School of Law. She has been a visiting lecturer in Canada and South Africa. Her areas of research and teaching include property law, equity and trusts, indigenous land rights, post-colonial and feminist legal theory, multiculturalism and pluralism, critical legal theory, and critical race theory. On her current research project, she examines techniques of ownership and dispossession in settler colonial contexts. Building on her doctoral research, which focused on theories of recognition and Aboriginal rights, she traces the relationship between the emergence of modern property law and settler colonialism, revealing how emergent forms of value were produced in conjunction with a thoroughly gendered, racial capitalism. Another recent research project has culminated in the forthcoming publication of an edited book: Plastic Materialities: legality, politics and metamorphosis in the work of Catherine Malabou (Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming), co-edited with Professor Jon Goldberg-Hiller. She is an editorial board member of Feminist Legal Studies, and on the international advisory board of Law and Society Review.

Hugh Collins became the Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford in 2013. He obtained his BA (1974) and BCL (1975) from Pembroke College, Oxford, and an LLM (1986) from Harvard Law School. He was a Fellow in law at Brasenose College, Oxford from 1976 to 1990, when he became the Professor of English Law at the London School of Economics, where he was also head of the department of law for two terms of office. He has been a Visiting Professor at New York University Law School and Boston University Law School. He has served as a member of the editorial committee of The Modern Law Review since 1991, and as a founder and editor of the European Review of Contract Law. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2006. His publications include: Regulating Contracts (Oxford University Press, 1999); Justice in Dismissal (Oxford University Press, 1992); Marxism and Law (Oxford University Press, 1982).

Joanne Conaghan is a Professor of Law at the University of Bristol Law School, having previously taught at the Universities of Exeter, Kent, and San Diego, California. She has published extensively in the field of feminism and law. Her publications include: Law and Gender (Oxford University Press, 2013); “Feminism, Law and Materialism: Reclaiming the Tainted Realm” in: Margaret Davies, Vanessa Munro (eds) The Ashgate Research Companion to Feminist Legal Theory (2013); and ‘Rape Myths, Law and Feminist Research: Myths about Myths’ (with Yvette Russell) in 22(1) Fem. Legal Stud (2014). Joanne is a founding member and former editor-in-chief of the international journal, Feminist Legal Studies, and an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Matthew Craven is Dean of the School of Law at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, SOAS. He is also Director of the Centre for the study of Colonialism, Empire and International Law. His publications include The Decolonization of International Law: State Succession and the Law of Treaties (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007); The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: A Perspective on its Development (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995). He is also co-editor of Time, History and International Law (Leiden; Boston: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2007); and Interrogating the treaty: essays in the contemporary law of treaties (The Netherlands: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2005).

Costas Douzinas is Professor of Law and Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. Educated in Athens, London and Strasbourg, Costas has taught at the Universities of Middlesex, Lancaster, Prague, Athens, Griffith and Nanjing. Costas is a founding member of the Critical Legal Conference; founding member of the Birkbeck Law School and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities; managing editor of Law and Critique: The International Journal of Critical Legal Thought and managing director of the publishing house Birkbeck Law Press. Costas has written extensively in legal and political philosophy, human rights, aesthetics, literature, art and critical theory. His books include Postmodern Jurisprudence; Justice Miscarried; Law and Psychoanalysis; The End of Human Rights; Critical Jurisprudence; Nomos and Aesthetics; Human Rights and Empire; Resistance and Philosophy in the Crisis. He has edited the collections Law and the Image; Adieu Derrida; The Idea of Communism; New Critical Legal Studies; The Cambridge Companion to Human Rights Law; The Meaning(s) of Human Rights. His What Are Human Rights and Radical Philosophy of Right will be published in 2015. His books have been translated in twelve languages.

Gina Heathcote is a Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies and Deputy Undergraduate Programme Convenor at the School of Law at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, SOAS. Her publications include: The Law on the Use of Force: A Feminist Analysis (London: Routledge Cavendis, 2011).

Paul Kohler is Head of School of Law at SOAS. He was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge and has taught Law at a number of universities including UCL and New College Oxford. He has written widely in the areas of property law and trusts and is co-author of the Law in Context textbook on Property Law published by Cambridge University Press. He was previously Head of Best Practice & Change Management at Nabarro, where he led a Knowledge Management team tasked with transforming working practices via the introduction of new technology. He is also a Visiting Fellow at Queen Mary College, University of London; a Chief Examiner in Land Law for the International Academy of the University of London; and a member of the Bar Standards Board.

Prabha Kotiswaran is Senior Lecturer in Law at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London. She received her undergraduate law degree in India from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore and an LLM and SJD (doctorate) from Harvard Law School. Her publications include: Dangerous Sex, Invisible Labor: Sex Work and the Law in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011) which won the SLSA-Hart Book Prize for Early Career Academics. Current projects focus on an economic sociology of law, the law of human trafficking and governance feminism.

Roy Kreitner teaches commercial law, law and political thought, and jurisprudence at the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University. His research focuses on private law theory, the legal history of contracts, and the history and theory of money. He is the author of Calculating Promises: The Emergence of Modern American Contract Doctrine (Stanford University Press, 2007). Kreitner, who earned his SJD at Harvard University, has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Council for Higher Education in Israel, the Israel Science Foundation, the European Union’s TMR Network Project on European Private Law, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Virginia and at the University of Toronto. He has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies and a research fellow at the Institute for Global Law and Policy. He is currently working on a book on the history of money in the US in the period leading up to the establishment of the Federal Reserve.

Nicola Lacey is School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy at the London School of Economics. From 2010 until September 2013 she was Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, and Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory at the University of Oxford. She has held a number of visiting appointments, most recently at Harvard Law School. She is an Honorary Fellow of New College Oxford and of University College Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. Nicola’s research is in criminal law and criminal justice, with a particular focus on comparative and historical scholarship. Over the last few years, she has been working on the development of ideas of criminal responsibility in England since the 18th Century, and on the comparative political economy of punishment. She is currently working, with David Soskice, on American Exceptionalism in crime, punishment, and social policy. Nicola also has research interests in legal and social theory, in feminist analysis of law, in law and literature, and in biography. Her publications include: A Life of H. L. A. Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream (Oxford University Press, UK, 2004).

Dina Waked holds a doctorate (SJD) and an LLM from Harvard Law School, an LLB from the Faculty of Law at Cairo University and a BA in Economics from the American University in Cairo. With the support of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, she joined the School of Law and the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) of Sciences Po. She is also active in the University College of Sciences Po since 2007 as well as ‘within SKEMA Business School – ESC Lille and the American University in Cairo. She teaches courses in Comparative Competition Law and Economic Policy, Global Antitrust and Development, Law and Economics, International Business Law, International Trade Law, and Law in the Middle East. She has also acted as consultant on a mission to compliance and evaluation of competition law in developing countries. Her research focuses on issues related to competition, development and growth in the South. Her recent work aimed to identify measures against cartels on a sample of 50 developing countries and use econometric tools to assess the effectiveness of the application of competition law in these countries, assessing the effect of enforcement on growth trajectories. Dina Waked uses the analysis of growth as an alternative to the evaluation of the application of laws that focus on static traditional political objectives to be reborn an original design more suitable for economic growth and development to countries. His doctoral thesis was awarded the 2012 Harvard Law School John M. Olin Law & Economics Prize.

Lynn Welchman is Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, SOAS. She formerly served as Head of School of Law at SOAS. Her publications include: Women and Muslim Family Laws in Arab States. A Comparative Overview of Textual Development and Advocacy (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2007); Beyond the Code: Muslim Family Law and the Shar”i Judiciary in the Palestinian West Bank (Kluwer Law International, 2000); Islamic Family Law: Text and Practice in Palestine (Women’s Centre for Legal Aid, 1999). She is also the editor or co-editor of: Islam and Human Rights: Advocacy for Social Change in Local Contexts (Global Media Publications, 2006); Honour: Crimes, Paradigms and Violence against Women (Zed Books: London, 2005); Women’s Rights and Islamic Family Law: perspectives on reform (Zed Press, 2004).

Raef Zreik is a graduate of the Hebrew University (LL.B., 1988; LL.M. magna cum laude, 1997), Columbia Law School (LL.M., 2001), and Harvard Law School (S.J.D., 2007). His Ph.D. dissertation addressed Kant’s concept of right. Currently an Assistant Professor at Carmel Academic Center and Co- Academic Director of the Minerva Center for the Humanities at Tel Aviv University, Zreik has also taught as a visiting professor at Georgetown Law School, the University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University law schools, and was a researcher at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. His research and teaching address questions related to legal and political theory, as well as citizenship and identity issues. His publications include: “Living Together: Jacques Derrida’s Communities of Violence and Peace”, in E. Weber ed. Living Together (Fordham University Press: 2013); “The One State Solution: Anatomy of a Discourse” in HaMerhav HaTziburi (2012); Law, Identity, and Arab Jewish Relations in Israel (Co-editor with Ilan Saban, forthcoming, 2014); “Has The Wheel Come Full Circle? Civic Service Debates in Israel” in: T. Maissen and F. Oz-Zalsberger (eds.) The Liberal Republican Quandary in Israel Europe and the United States: Early Modern Thought Meets Current Affairs (Academic Press: 2012); “When Winners Lose: On Legal Language” in International Review of Victimology (2009); ”Notes on the value of theory” in the Journal of Law and Ethics of Human Rights (2007); “The Persistence of the Exception: Remarks on the Story of Israel Constitutionalism” in Thinking Palestine (edited by Ronit Lentin, 2007); “Palestine, Apartheid and Rights Discourse” in the Journal of Palestine Studies (2004); and “Palestine as Exile” in Global Jurists (2003).

First session

Left Politics and Left Legal Theory – Strange Bedfellows?

Second session

Encounters with Critical Legal Studies

Third session

Legal Left and Left Politics – Tensions and Possibilities


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