Category Archives: What we’re thinking/reading/doing (IFLS blog)

What’s interesting these days?

a little bit new: Knop, Michaels and Riles, From Multiculturalism to Technique Feminism, Culture, and the Conflict of Laws Style”

Because I can definitely use help in negotiating the issues raised by Knop, Michaels and Riles.

“From Multiculturalism to Technique: Feminism, Culture, and the Conflict of Laws Style” By Karen Knop, Ralf Michaels & Annelise Riles, 64 Stan. L. Rev. 589 (2012) |


The German Chancellor, the French President, and the British Prime Minister have each grabbed world headlines with pronouncements that their states’ policies of multiculturalism have failed. As so often, domestic debates about multiculturalism, as well as foreign policy debates about human rights in non-Western countries, revolve around the treatment of women. Yet feminists are no longer even certain how to frame, let alone resolve, the issues raised by veiling, polygamy, and other cultural practices oppressive to women by Western standards. Feminism has become perplexed by the very concept of “culture.” This impasse is detrimental both to women’s equality and to concerns for cultural autonomy. We propose shifting gears. Our approach draws on what, at first glance, would seem to be an unpromising legal paradigm for feminism—the highly technical field of conflict of laws (conflicts). Using the nonintuitive hypothetical of a dispute in California between a Japanese father and daughter over a transfer of shares, we demonstrate the contribution that conflicts can make. Whereas Western feminists are often criticized for dwelling on “exotic” cultural practices to the neglect of other important issues affecting the lives of women in those communities or states, our choice of this hypothetical not only joins the correctives, but also shows how economic issues, in fact, take us back to the same impasse. Even mundane issues of corporate law prove to be dizzyingly indeterminate and complex in their feminist and cultural dimensions.
What makes conflict of laws a better way to recognize and do justice to the different dimensions of our hypothetical, surprisingly, is viewing conflicts as technique. More generally, conflicts can offer a new approach to the feminism/
culture debate—if we treat its technicalities not as mere means to an end but as an intellectual style. Trading the big picture typical of public law for the specificity and constraint of technical form provides a promising style of capturing,
revealing, and ultimately taking a stand on the complexities confronting feminists as multiculturalism is challenged here and abroad.

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Law, Feminism, [short] Fiction: A reading group at Osgoode (York)

a casual reading group looking at short fiction, assorted wednesday afternoons at 230

Please let us know of your interest by picking up readings from Lielle Gonsalves in the IFLS/Nathanson suite on the third floor of the law school — and putting your name on the Reading Group list.

Location TBA (watch this space/or if you put yourself on our list, we’ll send you a note)

Click here for a pdf poster to print or send.

Sonia Lawrence & Kate Sutherland


September 26

women lawyers
Margaret Atwood, “Weight” (1991)
Michele Martinez, “The Mother” (2009)
Ruthann Robson, “His Sister” (2000)

October 10

women & criminality, murder, prison
Laura Lippman, “The Crack Cocaine Diet” (2005)
Sharyn McCrumb, “A Predatory Woman” (1991)

October 17



November 7

abortion; infanticide; class; race; immigration
Heather Birrell, “Frogs” (2012)
Nadine Gordimer, “Happy Event” (1952)

November 14

classic feminist SF; reimagining reproduction,

gender, & gender relations;colonialism, dystopia
Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild” (1984)
Raccoona Sheldon (aka Alice Sheldon, aka  James Tiptree, Jr.),“The Screwfly Solution” (1977)
Lisa Tuttle, “Wives” (1976)



December 5

women lawyers; personal injury, negligence,


Judith McCormack, “The Rule of Last Clear Chance” (2003)

academia; illness; disability; sexuality; torts;

Ruthann Robson, “black squirrels” (2000)



New on SSRN Reva Siegel, Dignity and Sexuality: Claims on Dignity in Transnational Debates Over Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

Dignity and Sexuality: Claims on Dignity in Transnational Debates Over Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage by Reva Siegel :: SSRN.


Dignity’s meaning is famously contested. This essay explores competing claims on dignity in late twentieth-century debates over abortion and in the first decisions on the constitutionality of abortion legislation that these debates prompted. Advocates and judges appealed to dignity to vindicate autonomy, to vindicate equality, and to express respect for the value of life itself. Appeals to these distinct conceptions of dignity are now appearing in debates over the regulation of same-sex relations. Analyzed with attention to competing claims on dignity, we can see that in the debate over same-sex relations, as in the debate over abortion, a crucial question recurs: Do laws that restrict non-procreative sexuality violate or vindicate human dignity? Agonists who hold fundamentally different views about sexuality share an allegiance to dignity, enough to fight for the authority to establish dignity’s meaning in debates over sexual freedom. Today, as in the 1970s, dignity’s meaning is being forged in cross-borders conflict over dignity’s sex.

I am looking forward to reading this and thinking about Canadian jurisprudence which has struggled to define and operationalize “dignity” in a variety of equality rights contexts. See for instance, Denise Reaume, Discrimination & Dignity available on SSRN here.


Carrie Menkel-Meadow @ssrn Parties, Lawyers and Dispute Resolvers: What Difference Does ‘Gender Difference’ Make?

Women in Dispute Resolution: Parties, Lawyers and Dispute Resolvers: What Difference Does ‘Gender Difference’ Make? by Carrie Menkel-Meadow :: SSRN.


For a symposium on Women In ADR, this article reviews the existing and controversial literature on whether gender difference makes a difference in dispute resolution. In addition to focusing on the more conventional literature on whether women negotiate differently from men, this article reviews the complexity of women in additional roles in dispute resolution, including as parties, lawyers, third party neutrals (including as judges, mediators and arbitrators), witnesses, clients and experts. Not surprisingly, the role of gender salience and performance in modern dispute resolution is ever more complex as context and role matter and most dispute resolution “events” now involve many participants in many different roles, providing greater complexity for both academic analysis and practice. The author, one of the earliest commentators on the role of gender in dispute resolution, reviews the early theoretical claims, including her own, and deepens our understanding of when and how gender might be salient in dispute resolution and when it may be only one of many factors affecting how disputes are resolved and what people expect of dispute resolution processes. Ultimately, role, context and complexity of matter may structure how salient gender is in dispute resolution.