Centaur Jurisprudence: The Legalization of Culture and the Enculturation of Law
The Centaur Jurisprudence Project invites paper proposals for a conference that is organized by the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, and which will be held in Montreal, Quebec, on Friday, February 21, 2014.
See our conference website for program and registration: www.mcgill.ca/culture-law
Many claims to justice ask law to be responsive to the lived experiences of those to and through whom it is applied. “Culture” is one label attached to collective forms of this lived experience. But what does it mean for courts and other legal institutions to be culturally sensitive? What are the institutional implications and consequences of such an aspiration? To what extent is legal discourse capable of accommodating multiple cultural narratives without losing its claim to normative specificity? And how are we to understand meetings of law and culture in the context of formal legal processes, such as when a criminal defendant invokes the acceptability of domestic violence within his ethnic community, when oral traditions are presented as the basis for an aboriginal land claim, or when the custom of ‘bush marriage’ is evoked as relevant to the prosecution of the war crime of rape?
A traditional approach to law anchored in positivism tends to construct the encounter between law and cultures as one of subjugation: cultural practices are vetted to assess compatibility with existing legal rules. Cultural anthropology would see a more horizontal interplay of practices and symbols, with law constituting just one more cultural field. As such, law and cultural anthropology would seem to correspond to different ways of imagining the world, to distinct epistemes. However, legal pluralism, rejecting a narrow focus on formal law and state institutions, offers a vision of law as dynamic and inherently open to “culture”.
This one-day conference will explore the potential of legal pluralism to account for the varied and dynamic roles of culture within legal discourse. Can legal pluralism create a richer model of legal knowledge, one that reflects plural cultural narratives, while still offering a normative foundation for formal legal processes? Or does it entail abandoning a distinctively legal discourse in favour of an assemblage of anthropological and legal knowledge or “centaur discipline”? In short, can legal pluralism bring culture within the domain of law?
Four panels will explore these questions from a multidisciplinary perspective in the context of international law, aboriginal law, alternative dispute resolution, and the recognition/accommodation of minority cultural practices. A fuller description of the Centaur Jurisprudence Project is available here [.pdf].
Paper proposals must be between 300-500 words in length and should be accompanied by a short résumé. Please submit your documents to centaur [dot] conference [at] gmail [dot] com. Any query may be directed to the conference convener, Professor René Provost (rene [dot] provost [at] mcgill [dot] ca).
The closing date for submissions was 15 July 2013. Successful applicants were notified in early August 2013.
An initial 3-5 page sketch of the paper must be submitted by 1 November 2013 for circulation among panellists and feedback from the conference committee. Presenters must submit a draft paper by 15 January 2014, ahead of the conference on 21 February 2014. Final papers should be between 5,000 and 10,000 words. Selected submissions will be considered for publication in an edited volume on the conference theme.
Airfare and accommodation of presenters will be covered by the conference organizers.