Talk by Alexa DeGagne, 2015-16 Visiting Scholar in Sexuality Studies
The Journal Feminist Legal Studies at QMUL under QMUL Sr Lecturer and FLS Editor in Chief, Osgoode D.Jur and recent IFLS visitor Ruth Fletcher (other members of the Ed Board of FLS here) is hosting a seminar this summer in London (UK) entitled Mixing Feminism, Legality and Knowledge, cosponsored by the IFLS Here’s the link to read (open access) Ruth’s Editorial in FLS describing the genesis of the seminar and the choice of the “kitchen table” as an organizing metaphor:
FLaK promises to continue the dialogue that Chronotopes engages by approaching legality at the kitchen table, a spacetime that is laden with a mix of emotional and financial investments. The meaning and significance of kitchen tables rest in part on their embeddedness in the building as a whole, on their role in providing a site for preparing and eating food, while being open to being used in other ways: for conversation, play, homework. Some kitchen tables work slowly and deliberately. Others are sites of frantic and fast mess. Still others are characterized by their refusals to conform. The kitchen table—so much more than empirical object and felt experience—will provide FLS with an opportunity to reflect on the elements that make up legality and the chronotopical movement between those elements. (Fem Leg Stud (2015) 23:241–252)
The list of participants and more should be coming soon from the Ed Board – in the meantime, you can read the description of the seminar (and the three focal points) below or here. IFLS is co-Sponsoring, with a goal of picking up some of these conversations in a meeting to be held in Toronto in the summer of 2017, making all the links that we can across our substantive and geographic removes. Also, of course, Toronto in the early-ish summer – almost as good as Toronto in the early Fall.
Feminist Legal Studies @ Queen Mary, University of London 30 June – 1 July 2016
Feminist Legal Studies invites participants to gather at QMUL and consider anew the relationship between feminism, legality and knowledge. In anticipation of FLS’s 25th birthday in 2017, we would like to think with others about the kind of ‘kitchen table’ that FLS might provide into the future. We are delighted that the Institute of Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode will join us as co-host.
How might feminist legal studies – the approach and the journal – best use its food, equipment, techniques, time, space, mood, energy and commitment? How shall FLS scholars and associates make the most of what we have in a room that can sometimes be confining and confusing, yet also exciting and sustaining? How do others engage with the processes and products of our kitchen table?
In considering such questions and more, we propose to draw reflexively on feminist legacies of praxis, internationalism and openness, as we stock-up and critically reflect on decolonizing techniques, know-how, protest and publishing practices.
1. Stocking up with decolonizing techniques. We will begin by thinking about processes of stocking up as we consider decolonizing techniques of knowledge. Feminist commitment has lived with a critique for some time, a critique that emphasises the unevenness of the legal terrain occupied by feminists with others. One thread of that critical conversation addresses whether FLS should be more explicit in engaging across disciplines and knowledges by opening up the category of ‘legality’. FLS has a significant legacy of opening up key categories such as gender and sexuality, and feminism has long sustained itself by working through a mixture of methods and disciplinary approaches. Does ‘FLS at the kitchen table’ offer the potential of a methodology for capturing the interactive, multi-perspectival, situated processes of knowing and making legality, without losing an appreciation for the particular vernacular of legal officialdom? Do science and technology studies and live art approaches to cycles of practice, reflection, experimentation and routinisation, with their labs, workshops, hubs and long tables, offer interesting parallels for kitchen tables? Decolonizing perspectives offer a lot to this conversation precisely because they have developed extensive expertise in making themselves heard on their own terms while speaking to pluralities and universalisms. Therefore this session will address how best to stock up the FLS kitchen table by focusing on different ways in which decolonizing techniques have been mobilized, and the feminist knowledge gained along the way.
2. Doing legal know-how. Feminists have a long and inventive history of finding, generating and adapting legal know-how. Women’s centres and LGBT phonelines, among others, became expert at translating information about life and law in response to everyday problems from a lack of housing to living with violence. These processes of taking hold of information, deploying it to improve life, while keeping an eye out for translational potential, have something to tell us about successes and failures in making law listen. At the same time, the boundaries between different elements of know how – information, advice, listening ears and resonant voices – thicken and thin out in tension with legal aid cuts or non-provision, professional and research governance, and promotion of voluntarism and civic activism. And yet activists, students, women’s groups, trade unions, pro-bono professionals, clinics and advice-centres continue to find ways of providing know-how and supporting engagement with legal processes as people make and remake their lives. What can we learn from these creative and routine deployments of legal knowledge?
3. Enacting dissent. Protest is one significant way in which feminists have mobilized knowledge of law’s effects towards its critique and change. Marches, hunger strikes, knicker-bombing, graffiti, slow handclaps and even silence have been among the many techniques used to register disagreement with legal conditions. These different forms of protest invite us to consider not only the timespace which generates the urge to step out and turn the legal gaze back on itself, but also the knowing ways in which protests name legal problems and suggest solutions. Overtly feminist forms of protest – slutwalks, chaddi campaigns, SistersUncut, SpeakingofImelda – draw attention to protest’s diverse forms of self-differentiation and adaptation. Protest makes use of legal knowledge and intervenes into legal relations in the same moment that it pulls away from legal capture. Policing of protest generates particular challenges for critical engagement as spaces are closed down and brutalizing power extinguishes life. In considering different processes, performances and genres of protest, we hope to think more about how different moments – boiling, simmering, steaming – of dissent work knowingly through and against legality. 4. Getting the word out. ‘Getting the word out’ motivates all kinds of publishing activities as we strive to communicate ideas, findings, reflections and even hunches. FLS, in common with many academic journals, publishes a mix of original articles, interviews, commentaries and book reviews, accessible largely via institutional subscription with some limited open access content. We aim for diversity in content so as to reflect the different stages of academic knowledge production as writers share their reading, document their exchanges, and provide considered critical analyses. Feminism has long recognized that some of the deepest learning happens on the street, or in the kitchen, rather than in the university. At the same time, academia, including academic journals, provides an important set of tools and spaces for making the most of that learning. As colleagues and friends experiment with open access media, how should FLS, as an established subscription-based journal, best maintain and develop existing knowledge-distribution networks while encouraging engagement with the ‘FLS collection’ and the rapid on-site responses of social media? In considering this, we would like to open our kitchen-table up to insights about archival and curatorial practices, experimental and alternative publishing, sustainability within corporate and university structures, feminist engagements with copyright, critical editing practices and creative dissemination in the age of social media.
Happy International Women’s Day! This event comes highly recommended from the IFLS book club, who had the chance to read and listen to Leanne’s lovely stories and songs last week (you can listen free here).
International Women’s Day Lecture
“Islands of Decolonial Love: Exploring Love on Occupied Land” Leanne Simpson
March 9 @ 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
OISE Auditorium, Ground Floor, Accessible Space
252 Bloor Street West (St. George and Bloor)
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is “a gifted writer who brings passion and commitment to her storytelling and who has demonstrated an uncommon ability to manage an impressive range of genres from traditional storytelling to critical analysis, from poetry to the spoken word, from literary and social activism.” In 2014, Leanne was named the inaugural RBC Charles Taylor Emerging writer by Thomas King, and she was also nominated for a National Magazine Award for her short story “Treaties” published in Geist 90. In 2012, she won Briarpatch Magazine’s Writing From the Margins prize for short fiction. Leanne is the author of three books; Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back, The Gift Is in the Making and Islands of Decolonial Love, and the editor of Lighting the Eighth Fire, This Is An Honour Song (with Kiera Ladner) and The Winter We Danced: Voice from the Past, the Future and the Idle No More Movement (Kino-nda-niimi collective). Leanne holds a PhD from the University of Manitoba and has lectured at universities across Canada. She is of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry and a member of Alderville First Nation.
This event is open to the public. ASL will be provided.
Sponsors: Women & Gender Studies Institute; WGSSU; Principal’s Initiative Fund, New College; Adult Education and Community Development Program; Indigenous Education Network; Transformative Learning Centre.
A few IFLS book club members will be meeting up for a casual drink after the event. If you’d like to join, send me an email at email@example.com.
Tracy Robinson, University of the West Indies, Social Justice Education – Loving Laws
I and many others have been involved in strategic litigation in the English speaking Caribbean that challenges the constitutionality of laws criminalizing same-sex sex. Many of us rely heavily on reason, especially forms of legal reason, to question laws that criminalize same sex sexuality. Yet the historical rationalist critique that that nationalists in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean are defending laws that are the product of colonialism has remarkably little traction where these laws still exist. It tends to miss how ‘[s]entiment is the ground against which the figure of reason is measured and drawn’ (Stoler). The relationship of many Caribbeans to 19th century laws criminalizing same-sex sex is a deeply affective one—of loving laws—that is partly prefigured by knowledge practices of the Caribbean common law state. In this paper I want to explore how technologies of law, and especially of what I term ‘a Caribbean common law’, helped to establish an affinity to some laws as, to borrow from Amar Wahab, ‘a state of reason’. Sentiments about legal kinship and belonging have been used to forge community and identity in the Anglophone Caribbean and forge heteropatriarchy as a form of ‘indigenous’ culture. I am also interested in exploring how process of legal reification—codification and consolidation of criminal laws in the 19th century and the methodologies of ‘saving’ of these laws through Caribbean constitutions—as well as gendered and sexualized international legal rhetoric also contributed to loving laws.
About Tracy Robinson:
Tracy Robinson (Jamaica & Balliol 1992) is a lawyer and senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona, where she teaches gender and law, constitutional law and Commonwealth Caribbean human rights, among other subjects. She was the Chair of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights from 2014-2015, and currently serves as its Rapporteur for the rights of women and rights of LGBTI persons until the end of her term in December 2015. Tracy has served as a consultant to international agencies such as the United Nations Fund for Women (now UN Women) and UNICEF, and she has advised Caribbean governments on topics related to gender and children’s rights legislation. She holds a Master of Laws from Yale University, a Bachelor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Law from the University of the West Indies.