Happy Holidays and Feminist Friday with Fathima Cader!

For the last Feminist Friday of 2017, we are thrilled to have the spectacular Fathima Cader!

Fathima Cader practises labour and employment law in Toronto, having previously served in legal clinics in Toronto, Dar es Salaam, Vancouver, and Ottawa. She teaches at the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor, where she is also a Senior Fellow with the Transnational Law & Justice Network. In this latter capacity, she serves as the Coordinator of the Sri Lanka Series, a public lecture series on contemporary social justice movements in Sri Lanka. Her research and advocacy interests are particularly focused on state constructions and regulations of terror and national security. To that end, her recent publications include “Terror’s Lawfare” in The New Inquiry on comparative analyses of anti-terror laws in Canada and Sri Lanka; “Made You Look: Niqabs, the Muslim Canadian Congress, and R v NS” in the Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice on the rights of veil-wearing complainants in sexual assault cases; and “Tamil, tiger, terrorist? Anti-migrant hysteria and the criminalization of asylum seekers” in Briarpatch Magazine on the mass detentions in Canada of Tamil asylum-seekers fleeing Sri Lanka. Her other publications include creative non-fiction in Hazlitt and Warscapes, poetry in Apogee Journal and Canadian Woman Studies: les cahiers de la femme, and criticism in The Funambulist.

The qualities I admire most in a law professor are…My law prof heroes tend to be those engaged in behind-the-scenes activism outside the classroom and outside the law (i.e. beyond strategic litigation). Besides how multifacated and grounded this makes their legal research, I’ve found this commitment to the margins also often translates into creativity and generosity in how they relate students – especially those students who are structurally barred from accessing or excelling in legal practice. 


The traits I deplore in a law professor are…I struggle with careerism, something we’re all exposed to. Law professors are given a great deal of power (if variegated across the vectors of tenure, gender, race, etc), and it is very easy to exploit and to abuse those power dynamics – for example, in our relationships with students, but also in our relationships with the media and government bodies. We’re encouraged to think of ourselves of experts, rather than accomplices. So, to my previous point, I’m grateful for friends and colleagues who modelled matter-of-fact humility in how they understand their legal work in relation to the people most harmed by law’s violence.

The best time of day for writing is…The small hours of the night.

My feminist heroes are…So many, and so contingent. For what it’s worth, I like to approach my Feminist Legal Theory syllabi as an homage to the innumerable friends, activists, and scholars who challenge and encourage me to interrogate feminism’s faultlines. For example, Dionne Brand has remained for me, through the years, a touchstone in thinking about the language of law and violence. More recently, I’ve been very grateful for Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s theorizing of the relationship between law, land, and nationalism.

Right now I am working on…I’m in Sri Lanka at the moment, where ‘reconciliation’ is (not unlike Canada) the word of the day. But eight years from the war’s end, peace remains precarious: the disproportionate torture of Tamil people by the state remains ongoing, while domestic and international ‘terrorism experts’ turn the sights on the island’s diverse Muslim communities. The peddling of familiar and anachronistic allegations of Muslims becoming ‘radicalized,’ while Buddhist monks coordinate attacks on churches and mosques, is, in the deja-vu it inspires, very frightening. I will shortly be returning to Toronto to a stack of papers to mark and a string of hearings to prepare for, but while here, I’m working on skeletons for essays on war and survival, land and terror.

Right now I am reading… I was halfway through As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (2017) when I left Toronto. I finished reading the very acerbic The Sellout (2015)  by Paul Beaty on the train ride between Colombo and Batticaloa. Looking forward now to getting as many new Sri Lanka-related books as I can find and fit in my luggage.

And I wish I were reading… More poetry. And The Search for Justice: The Sri Lanka Papers, edited by Kumari Jayawardena and Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena (2016).

I would recommend that all IFLS readers read…

If I wasn’t a law professor, I would spend my time…Perpetually TBD.

The biggest difference between academia and private practice is…I love that I’m never entirely comfortable in either – neither with academia’s disconnection from human connections, obligations, and consequences; nor with private practice’s general fetishization of casework. I’ve found it immensely generative to be at conflicted and unsettled at the dis/juncture between theory and practice.

Thank you Fathima! You’re an inspiration.

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