Call for papers: Law and the City - Annual Graduate Conference


Published: 4Dec2020

The Graduate Law Students Association (GLSA) of McGill University’s Faculty of Law is pleased to announce the 14th edition of the annual McGill Graduate Law Conference on the theme of Law and the City. The conference will take place on the 6-7 May 2021 at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Due to the uncertainties regarding travel and possibility of in-person activities, the conference will take place in a hybrid format: primarily online, with some in-person activities planned for those able to meet in Montreal. The Conference Committee will disclose the exact format of the conference a month before the conference based on the recommendations of Québec's public health department.

Call for papers

The links between law and the city span centuries, from Plato, imagining in The Republic the ideal law as a city and the ideal city as a law, to the rise of the Roman law, to the medieval city order – “Urban air makes you free” – to Renaissance legal utopias. The list goes on until our postmodern, post-industrial times, where global metropoles are umbilically linked to law.

The contemporary city is a space where law comes to life, turning into an almost tangible phenomenon. Intersecting with the urban tissue in a variety of ways, the law in the books becomes the law in action, working within various social situations, sometimes adapting, often failing to resolve conflict.

We invite students, PhD candidates and young researchers from law and other disciplines to send their 250-350 words abstracts by 31 January 2021.

The abstracts will be accepted via EasyChair:

We encourage applicants to consider various topics linked to the questions of law and the city, including, but not limited to:

  • The historical and contemporary theoretical and philosophical approaches to law and the city, e.g. political and legal doctrines related to utopias of an ideal city;
  • The local, national and international regulations regarding cultural heritage protection;
  • The issues regarding urban design, which can be both beneficial (e.g. encouraging companies to move to a city) and discriminatory (e.g. leading to architectural exclusion and structural inequalities);
  • Issues concerning Indigenous communities and rising urbanization;
  • The urban space being a commemorative space (e.g. issues regarding monuments, street names, national monuments);
  • The historical and contemporary legal status of independent and semi-independent city-states, e.g. Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau;
  • The extent to which contemporary global cities (e.g. New York, Los Angeles, London) become actors in the international law discourse, surpassing traditional national boundaries;
  • The various ways social changes interact with legal rules and instigate legal changes;
  • The legal consequences of smart cities;
  • Facial recognition technologies and mass surveillance;
  • Predictive policing and the automation of the criminal justice system;
  • Criminal policies leading to the criminalization of poverty in urban settings;
  • Issues concerning discriminatory policies of the municipal police forces;
  • Issues concerning the treatment and legal statues of the homeless;
  • Issues concerning the prison system, with correctional institutions becoming dysfunctional ‘cities’;
  • University cities becoming urban spaces co-created by local citizens and students, bringing various challenges to the legal system – and legal education;
  • Issues regarding campuses, which are, in a way, mini-cities, and consequences studying on a campus may have on legal education;
  • The various ways in which cities balanced the protection of public health and individual liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dean Maxwell & Isle Cohen Seminar on International Law

We would also like to invite all contributions from the area of international law, which will be presented during the conference as a part of The Dean Maxwell & Isle Cohen Seminar on International Law. Aside from the 250-350 words abstracts sent via EasyChair until 31 January 2021 on the link above, the Seminar contributors will need to prepare 2,500-3,500 words blog posts to be sent until two weeks before the conference, i.e. by 22 April 2021. The blog posts should present the essence of the Seminar participants’ papers and will be published online by the Conference, serving as a base for discussions during the conference.

The working languages of the Conference and the Seminar are English and French. Contributions in both languages will be accepted.

The Conference Committee will inform the authors of both the Conference and the Seminar submissions on its decisions until the end of February.

For any and all questions, email [at]



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