Julen Etxabe has produced a wonderful series of conversations with leading (critical) legal theorists and we are thrilled to bring it to you. Each of these short interviews (around 30 minutes each), introduces how the different theorists explore law and legal thinking. He interviews Mark Antaki, Rebecca Johnson, William MacNeil, Panu Minkkinen, Jennifer Nedelsky, Scott Veitch, and James Boyd White. This is an extraordinary space which will help to think about legal theory teaching. But it is also pitched at a level that might be suggested to undergrad students who would like to explore other traditions of legal thinking.
Julen writes: ‘What is jurisprudence and how would you characterize it? What is the role of jurisprudence in Law Schools? Is it valuable for students to take it as a mandatory course? What are the challenges and the rewards—intellectual, pedagogical, and practical—of teaching it? How is your own approach to jurisprudence informed?
In a series of 30-minute interviews, I asked these and similar questions to seven leading “legal thinkers” in Canada and other parts of the world, including the United States, Australia, Finland, and Hong Kong. The conversations were recorded via zoom in August-September 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, as a pedagogical tool to be used in the classroom. The conversational style of interviews hoped to generate a sense of proximity with the authors that could somehow compensate for the lack of in-class interaction with students.
Before watching the interviews at home, students read short biographical details of the interviewees with one accompanying article by them. Afterwards, they were invited to post their reactions and comments in our online community in canvas. During the contact sessions, substantial time was devoted to discuss the interviews in break out groups. Students shared what they found worth noting, illuminating, or thought-provoking, and especially those aspects which resonated more closely with their experiences in the law school, their legal education, or as students of jurisprudence.
One thing that transpired most vividly in the conversations was the variety of approaches and the breadth of jurisprudence. Rather than as a well-bounded discipline, or as a canonical set of texts, topics, and authors, jurisprudence emerges as a lively and expansive field of study. The authors seem less committed to forms of abstract theorizing than to situated and creative thinking, and they highlight productive ways of engaging, addressing, and acting upon the myriad ways by which law is brought to life.
The seven interviews collected here are geographically and culturally diverse, with different methodological and legal backgrounds. I hope to enlarge the plurality of voices during a second round of conversations in the summer of 2021.