Friday, April 10, 2009

"Genealogies: Excavating Legal Modernity," Critical Legal Conference 2009, University of Leicester, September 11-13, 2009.

Theme: The ongoing publication and translation of Michel Foucault's Collège de France lectures has revived an interest in scholarship reviewing the philosopher's deliberations on law. The lectures have generated a new wave of governmentality studies within critical legal scholarship and, moreover, a number of secondary texts reassessing Foucault's relationship with law have either recently been published or are imminently due for publication. The default view on Foucault's relationship with law was often modelled on the so-called "expulsion thesis" (Hunt-Wickham): for Foucault, law is irrelevant. The lectures, especially from the mid and late 1970s, have provided a wealth of new material that would suggest that Foucault's take on law was much more nuanced and complex than had previously been thought. Several possible perspectives can be adopted. The law (or more accurately the "juridical") was, perhaps, less a social institution and more a rationality that permeated the political and epistemic technologies of early modernity. Understood rather as a rationality than an institution, the juridical may well have subsided in late modernity in relation to a rationality of the norm even when legislative initiatives have quantitatively speaking proliferated (e.g. François Ewald's social law). But some aspects in the newly published lectures would call for an even more radical rehabilitation. Not only does the juridical provide distortive "ideological" cloaking functions, but institutions still adhering to a juridical rationality may also offer the ultimate structural guarantee for the optimal functioning of both disciplinary and governmental technologies (the family and disciplinary institutions, legislation and the economy, etc.). Plenaries: The Keynote Address of the conference will be delivered by Marcela Iacub (EHESS/CNRS), French legal historian, feminist and author of, amongst other books, a genealogy of the legal concept of "propriety" (Par le trou de la serrure. Une histoire de la pudeur publique, XIXème-XXIème siècle, Fayard, 2008). A second plenary session will be a panel discussion on the necessity to revise the so-called expulsion thesis often attributed to Michel Foucault in secondary literature: law is irrelevant. Panellists are Peter Fitzpatrick (Birkbeck), Colin Gordon (Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust) and Véronique Voruz (Leicester). Streams: Revolutions in Natural Law Critical Property Theory: The Powers of Property Labour, Work and Equality Tragic Jurisprudence Laws of Empire Virtual Worlds, Virtual Law? Mapping the Terrain of WTO Law Genealogy of Human Rights from a Third-World Perspective Further information may be found here:

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