(Legal) Adaptation. – Call for Submissions – GLSA Conference (5-6 May 2022)


Published: 25Nov2021

Since its 2019-2020 edition, the Graduate Law Students Association (GLSA) Conference has combined cinematography and the law. In 2019-2020, the organizing committee planned a conference inspired by the movie Love Actually and presented various panels discussing the legal implications of trust and intimacy. The 2020-2021 committee then organized a conference entitled “Law and the City”, to homage the famous TV series and movies Sex and the City.

In the spirit of maintaining this new cinematographic tradition, the GLSA of McGill University’s Faculty of Law is now pleased to announce the 15th edition of the annual McGill Graduate Law Conference inspired by the movie Adaptation. (2002).

The conference, entitled “(Legal) Adaptation.” will take place on 5-6 May 2022 at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The conference will be hybrid, meaning that it will host both online and in-person activities. The exact format will be disclosed in March 2022.

We welcome submissions in English and French from current masters and doctoral students, recent graduates and early-career academics specializing in law and related disciplines. The conference is intended to build a community among graduate students from different institutions, to provide participants with a stimulating environment to discuss their work, and an opportunity to learn and develop skills necessary to communicate and animate their research.

Conference Theme: (Legal) Adaptation

The evolution of law in a variety of contexts has long been an interest of theorists and practitioners. In the words of de Montesquieu, “the political and civil laws of each nation … should be adapted in such a manner to the people for whom they are framed that it should be a great chance if those of one nation suit another. They should be in relation,” he argued, “to the nature and principle of each government... to the climate of each country, to the quality of its soil, to its situation and extent, to the principal occupation of the natives … to the degree of liberty which the constitution will bear; to the religion of the inhabitants, to their inclinations, riches, numbers, commerce, manners, and customs” (Baron de Montesquieu, De l’esprit des lois).

In our fast-moving world, law must also adapt to the many challenges posed by epidemics and emergencies, technological development, ecological disarray, political uncertainty, and much, much more. Whether one conceives law as a cause or an effect of social change, legal adaptations abound across jurisdictions and over time. Individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and states constantly facilitate and resist legal change. Legal adaptation thus emerges as a phenomenon that involves all sorts of actors and that is deeply entangled with the sites, networks, and systems of thought that bind them together.

We accordingly invite participants to tackle this broad and complex topic from many different angles. Viable approaches may come in the form of - but are not limited to - the following questions:

  • Legal education. What is legal education’s role in adapting to current global issues (health, environmental crisis, migration)?
  • Legal institutions. Can specialized tribunals better adapt the practice of law to specific issues (e.g., the new sexual violence tribunal in Quebec)? What part should law have in the creation of private judicial bodies influencing fundamental rights and freedoms?
  • Legal theory and philosophy. How does vagueness (general principles and constructive interpretations) relate to legal adaptation? How does adaptation compare to alternative approaches to socio-legal change (e.g., coexistence, coordination, competition)? What are the hermeneutical components of legal adaptation (e.g., intention, creation, representation, and performance)?
  • Comparative legal studies: What is adaptation’s role in legal transfer and transplants? Can and should postcolonial polities adapt to constitutionalist ideals?
  • Legal practice. How must legal practice adapt to today’s legal market?
  • Law enforcement. Considering the increasing critiques of police corps and their practices (and/or in other disciplinary domains, like border control), how should they change and be changed to serve the needs of justice?
  • Air and space law. How can space law be adapted and developed to govern the exploration and new uses of outer space, the Moon, and other celestial bodies? How should practices in the aviation sector be adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic?
  • Indigenous legal traditions. How can or should state laws adapt to Indigenous Peoples’ legal traditions and forms of governance? How to distinguish between legal imposition and legal adaptation? What principles of adaptability can be found in Indigenous law? Can and should they be adopted by other forms of law?
  • Managing Covid-19 & averting the next pandemic. How can law cope with the growing burden on healthcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., privatization of healthcare, the introduction of telemedicine for the provision of health care services)? How can principles of federalism and regulation of competencies be adapted to better prepare for new pandemics? Should intellectual property law adapt to ensure equitable access to scientific discoveries? What are the legal implications of vaccine mandates (e.g., in the context of employment, access to education, or travel)?
  • Environment & climate change. What is the relation between legal adaptation and climate change? How could or should it affect biodiversity conservation, pollution crises and global energy transitions? What roles does it play in connection to environmental justice, climate litigation, or the recognition of the rights of nature? What role may different actors and institutions have in effecting legal change for ecological adaptation—from courts and legislatures to corporations, civil society organizations, and “eco-terrorists”?
  • Human rights and diversity. How can legal adaptation help to enforce economic, social and cultural rights (e.g., in relation to food (in) security or housing crises)? How may the law adapt to new forms and increasing flows of migration? Are there legal obligations to adapt public spaces for equitable use and access for all?
  • Law and technology. What are the legal challenges of e-entertainment (e.g., Tik Tok, Only Fans, Twitch) and new technologies (e.g., the expanding use of software like Teams and Zooms)?

We welcome submissions inspired by these questions, as well as those that interpret this year’s theme differently. We particularly invite new theoretical, practical and/or interdisciplinary perspectives. In the hope of facilitating cross-pollination of knowledge and methodologies, we also welcome submissions from researchers in disciplines other than law and encourage forms of expression other than papers (e.g., short films, artwork, etc.).

Dean Maxwell and Isle Cohen Doctoral Seminar Series in International Law

The conference will be held in collaboration with the Dean Maxwell and Isle Cohen Doctoral Seminar Series in International Law, which is held in honour of the late Maxwell Cohen and his wife, Isle. As Dean of McGill University’s Faculty of Law (from 1964 to 1969), Maxwell Cohen was pivotal in establishing McGill as an institution at the forefront of legal education in Canada. He remains renowned for his international law scholarship.

In 2022, this seminar will take the form of a half-day panel discussion on international law topics inspired by the conference theme. The seminar will be led by up to eight doctoral students: up to four authors of papers and four discussants. The papers will be circulated to the discussants and the attendees of the seminar in advance. Each discussant will commence the discussion of each paper, to which the author will have an opportunity to respond, before opening up to the rest of the panel for a general discussion.

Please indicate in your submission whether you would like to be considered for this seminar, either as a paper presenter or a discussant. You may make a submission to be a discussant whether or not you also submit to present a paper during the rest of the conference.

Submission Details

To apply, write to gradlawconference.law [at] mcgill.ca with subject line “2022 GradLawConference — [Your Name]” by 21 February 2022, with the following:

  1. if you wish to present a paper for the General Conference: indication of the chosen event (“General Conference”); your name, full institutional affiliation, and contact information; the title of the work; a 300-word (maximum) abstract; up to 5 keywords.
  2. if you wish to present a paper and/or be a discussant for the Dean Maxwell and Isle Cohen Doctoral Seminar: indication of the chosen event (“Seminar”); your name, full institutional affiliation, and contact information;
    • if you wish to present a paper: indicate the title of the work; a 300-word (maximum) abstract; up to 5 keywords;
    • and/or, if you wish to be a discussant: indicate the areas and/or questions of research that you would feel comfortable discussing.

While each participant will be selected to contribute to either the General Conference or the Cohen Doctoral Seminar, it is possible to jointly apply to both. To do so, please include all the information above in your application and divide it into two sections.

Selected participants will be notified in March 2022.

Publication – GLSA Research Series

Participants interested in publishing their papers should inform the committee of their wish, once they are selected for the conference. A full version of the paper is not requested to apply to the conference nor to express interest in publication. Final versions are expected to be shared with the committee at the latest on the last day of the conference (i.e., 6 May 2022). While the committee encourages submissions for publication and is devoted to offering a space for graduate students and young scholars to publish their work, members of the committee cannot guarantee that all submissions will be published. ;

For further information on the publication process, please see glsars.library.mcgill.ca

Enquiries and Information

For all enquiries, please contact the organizing committee at: gradlawconference.law [at] mcgill.ca.

All relevant information about the conference can be found on the conference website, which will be updated regularly: mcgill.ca/agcl

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