Critical Legal Conference 2023: Sanctuary

by | 9 Aug 2023

Update 9 August 2023: The deadline for registration has been extended to 18 August 2023. The call for papers, registration, and provision draft programme is available here:

Durham Law School will host the Critical Legal Conference 2023. Since its first annual meeting in 1986, the Critical Legal Conference (CLC) has been a key site for the critical study of legal and political questions both in Britain and internationally. It attracts a wide range of radical legal and political thinkers from across the globe.

Sanctuary has multiple meanings. Durham, host city of the CLC2023, is through its history closely tied to many of these meanings. It is important to us as organisers to root the conference in Durham as a place of sanctuary, to make our travel and our gathering in person worthwhile and meaningful. As such, our theme and call for streams is directly built on Durham and its history.

For centuries, Durham was the seat of both spiritual and secular power through the rule of the Prince-Bishops. This small town in the North of England did not only have an important cathedral and divine jurisdiction but was given, in exchange for the defence of England against the Scottish, its own legal jurisdiction. The idea of sanctuary played an important part in the history of Durham but has also been continuously subverted here. Its ambivalence becomes most obvious when standing on Palace Green, in the centre of the peninsula where Durham was first built: A cathedral opposite a castle, overlooking a prison; places of safety and imprisonment, with terrible crimes hidden behind high walls. Durham University, one of the oldest in the country, is only a stone-throw away; it, too, has a complex relation to sanctuary. Later in the 19th century, Durham then became a centre for the rise of the trade union movement, a new power of the collective. Trade unions, their institutions and events, such as the Miners’ Gala, have offered a different kind of sanctuary in modern times.

We invite you to join us in thinking with and against the idea of sanctuary, wherever and however it occurs. This might involve critical engagement with the figure and treatment of the sanctuary seeker, as, for example, represented by refugees and migrants. Similarly, we are interested to hear about places of refuge, whether physical or spiritual, such as biblical cities of refuge, intellectual refuges or safe/unsafe spaces. We would also welcome papers or panels that adopt our approach but not our focus, telling other stories by tracing concepts though time in a certain place. We would also welcome you to reflect on the idea of sanctuary and its related notions more abstractly, subverting or even rejecting our theme. We particularly welcome papers or panels which challenge the usual conference format and offer other ways to maximise the usefulness of our time together.

The call for papers is now open. Please submit your abstract (max. 350 words) responding to the call of one of the individual streams listed at, including our general stream.

Papers will typically consist of a 15-minute presentation, which will be grouped together with 3 or 4 other presentations within 90-minute panels. However, we are open to alternative formats (some streams expressly call for these), so feel free to propose something different. Let the stream convenors know if you need any particular resources and we will try to make these available.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is 30 June 2023. Please note that the conference is intended to be in-person.

For any questions, please contact the conference organisers, Henry Jones and Johanna Jacques.


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