Tag Archives: Sarah Keenan

{Book Launch} Sept 22: Subversive Property: Law & the Production of Spaces of Belonging by Sarah Keenan (SOAS)

 IFLS Speaker Series & Socio Legal Studies Speaker Series

{Book Launch} Subversive Property: Law and the Production of Spaces of Belonging with Sarah Keenan (SOAS)

Monday September 22  230-4   IKB (Osgoode Hall)  Room 2003 22SeptSarahJKeenanROOM CHANGE IKB 2027 FACULTY COMMON ROOM

Sarah Keenan is lecturer in Law at SOAS, University of London.  She teaches Property, Feminist Legal Theory and Indigenous Land Rights and is also engaged in community-based struggles around each of these issues.  She’s been to the IFLS before, see these posts.          

pdf poster for sharing, printing here

This book explores the relationship between space, subjectivity and property, arguing that new political possibilities for property may be unveiled by thinking about property in terms of belonging rather than exclusion.  While most socio-legal theories of property focus on the propertied subject and that subject’s right to exclude, this book shifts focus away from the propertied subject and on to the broader spaces in and through which the propertied subject is located.  Using case studies, such as analyses of compulsory leases under Australia’s Northern Territory Intervention and lesbian asylum cases from a range of jurisdictions, the book argues that these spaces consist of networks of relations that revolve around belonging: not just belonging between subject and object, as property is traditionally understood, but also the less explored relation of belonging between the part and the whole.  This presentation will discuss the main themes of the book to suggest ways in which subversive property might offer a conceptually useful way of analysing a wide range of socio-legal issues.



Light refreshments will be provided

Questions? Please contact the IFLS administrator, Lielle Gonsalves LGonsalves@osgoode.yorku.ca


Joanne Conaghan and Yvette Russell consider progressive legal strategizing through 'rape myths' controversy

Taking on Helen Reece’s mythologizing…..

New in Print: Joanne Conaghan and Yvette Russell Rape Myths, Law, and Feminist Research: ‘Myths About Myths?’. In: Feminist Legal Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2014.  Feminist Legal Studies is available via Springer Link here.

Read the introduction here.

ABSTRACT: In an article recently published in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, the legal scholar Helen Reece argues that the prevalence and effects of rape myths have been overstated and the designation of certain beliefs and attitudes as myths is simply wrong. Feminist researchers, she argues, are engaged ‘in a process of creating myths about myths’ in a way that serves to close down and limit productive debate in this ‘vexed’ area. In this article we argue that Reece’s analysis is methodologically flawed, crudely reductionist and rhetorically unyielding. We locate Reece’s analysis within the wider theoretical field to show how her failure to engage with feminist literature on rape other than in the narrowest, most exclusionary terms, yields an approach which impedes rather than advances public understanding and panders to a kind of simplistic thinking which cannot begin to grapple with the complexity of the phenomenon that is rape. We conclude by emphasizing the continuing commitment of feminist researchers carefully to theorize and (re)map the fraught field of progressive legal strategizing in order to identify and counter the kinds of risks and shortcomings of political activism with which Reece is rightly concerned.

See also

Nov. 28 2013 Davina Cooper “Question Everything? Rape Law & Free Speech”  http://criticallegalthinking.com/2013/11/28/question-everything-rape-law-free-speech/

At one level, the con­flict con­cerns how crim­inal law and pro­cedure treat (and should treat) rape — whether “or­dinary” people have a series of be­liefs about rape that make them less sym­path­etic (than they should be) to women vic­tims. At an­other level, the con­flict is about speech — about what speech is, what it does, and our re­spons­ib­ility for its ef­fects. Helen poses the ques­tion, why is rape dif­ferent? But, in the face of “free speech” calls to de­fend aca­demic freedom and the right to ques­tion everything, I want to ask, why is speech dif­ferent? Is it priv­ileged simply be­cause ex­pres­sion and com­mu­nic­a­tion are priv­ileged, or be­cause it rep­res­ents an ex­cep­tional way of ex­pressing opinion or ques­tioning re­ceived norms?

Nov. 15 2013 Sarah Keenan and Yvette Russell “Rape is Different:  Academic Impact Sinks to New Lows” http://criticallegalthinking.com/2013/11/15/rape-different-academic-impact-sinks-new-lows/

The LSE is a pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion of higher learning whose public de­bate series pur­ports ‘to po­s­i­tion LSEat the centre of de­bate in all areas of the so­cial sci­ences… [and] to en­hance the School’s repu­ta­tion for in­tel­lec­tual, chal­len­ging ideas and dis­cus­sion with a broader public audi­ence.’ But far from opening up a cut­ting edge de­bate, the so­cial media pro­mo­tion, public event and media cov­erage sur­rounding Reece’s art­icle in fact closes down and severely limits careful, con­sidered and evidenced-​based dis­cus­sion about rape and rape law, al­most all of which con­tra­dicts Reece’s and Hewson’s claimsThese claimsare not new or in any way path-​breaking.

Helen Reece  http://ifls.osgoode.yorku.ca/2013/06/myths/


'what it says on the tin': Feminism Then and Now

this+is+what+feminism+looks+likeh/t to Sarah Keenan (former IFLS visitor now on Faculty at SOAS) for the text of Camille Kumar’s talk and Sarah’s brief and pointed introduction.  In the digital “pages” of Feminists@Law.  A short read worth your time.

For feminism to be what it says on the tin, it must be continually evolving, shifting and diversifying; where patriarchy seeks to enforce authority, feminism seeks to declare privilege; where patriarchy seeks to create a single ‘rationalised’ truth and repress all else, feminism seeks to simultaneously hold many truths and be the witness bearer to secrets; and where patriarchy seeks to divide, subjugate and conquer, feminism seeks connection, equality and collective struggle.


via Feminism Then and Now | Kumar | feminists@law.

Books/Film/Music recommendations from Sarah Keenan, our visitor (what are academic visits for?)

Just skip the first two paras if you just want to know what you should read/watch/hear. Clips too!

What is the purpose of academic visits? What do we get out of them, as visitors and visitees, and what should we ask for/try to provide?  Perhaps, ideally, short visits should be intense little cultural exchanges, not just hit the library/give a talk.  At this school I worry sometimes about the semi-suburban not-so-beautiful campus, about the empty halls in summer, and about the complications of getting colleagues together in a big city where there are lots of other things to do.  On the other hand, the city kind of sells itself.  Especially to a dedicated Toronto-phile, which SK certainly is.

For the visitees, of course, the benefits are more obvious and easily realized.  There’s one person to meet and learn about.  But what do we learn? Ideally, inevitably, it’s not JUST “the talk” or “the paper” – there are all the connections that are possible. Who we know in common, who we don’t know but should and how to meet them, what we both read, and what we don’t and why we should, where we’ve been and haven’t and whether to go, plans for the next few years and what synergies might evolve, all those things.  The possibilities for creative/scholarly inspiration are really broad.  In that spirit, here are things that Sarah Keenan, our visitor, likes.  You’ll find out more about Sarah, and you’ll have new books/film/music to consider.


Sarah’s Music

Nice, she recommends a band from Toronto. Austra.  I already bought the album from itunes. Minor key, cool voice, great beats, and both me and my 5 year old really like this song. Out of my regular genre preference, but definitely happy about it.

Here’s an interview with Katie Stelmanis of the band. This made me choke on my gum and laugh at my aging self:

“I don’t even remember when gay marriage became legal in Canada because I was so young.”

Sarah’s bookshelf

Anything (link to list of work on googlebooks) by Sara Ahmed

For Space by Doreen Massey (synopsis on Amazon says: “This book is “for space” in that it argues for a reinvigoration of the spatiality of our implicit cosmologies. For Space is essential reading for anyone interested in space and the spatial turn in the social sciences and humanities. Serious, and sometimes irreverent, it is a compelling manifesto: for re-imagining spaces for these times and facing up to their challenge.”)

Ghostly Matters Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Avery Gordon) Sarah says that in addition to the substantive content, the writing style in this book is something worth looking at. 

Ordering them, stat.

Last but not least is Chloe Hooper’s “The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island (link to Chapters.ca for Canadian ordering) which is where we converge, as I think this book is amazing and actually first ran across Sarah’s work googling around about the book.  Having Sarah recommend it makes me feel even more confident recommending it to everyone, since Sarah was actually involved for a time as a junior lawyer on the case.

Sarah’s Movie Recommendation

Samson and Delilah (2009)

An Australian movie. I haven’t yet seen it (blu ray at least avail in Canada). Watched the Australian trailer (below) and the British trailer and already know that I will need time to recover after I see it.


Thanks Sarah!

Learn more about Australia's Northern Territory Intervention (follow up to IFLS visitor Sarah Keenan's talk)

Many thanks are due to IFLS Visitor Sarah Keenan for kicking off the IFLS 2011-12 “season”.  Her talk, “The Secret Life of Property: Time & Belonging under Australia’s Northern Territory Emergency Response Act” (announcement here), was a big draw.  On a hot July day with a serious subway delay to boot, she spoke to a packed room.  Fascinating at both the factual (the legal scope of the Northern Territory Intervention is breathtaking and the full picture was not previously clear to me) and theoretical (can property mean something other than exclusion?) levels, the talk left us all with new ideas, questions, and concerns.  As promised, here are some links to things Sarah mentioned and other things she thought might help us more fully understand the context and concepts.

Find Wurridjal v Commonwealth of Australia here.  Kirby J’s dissent, which Sarah highlighted, starts at para 204 and looks like it runs to about para 316.  Here is an Australian media report on the dissent, covering the controversy over Kirby J’s comments about the racism he saw in the majority decision.  Here’s some of what he said:

  1. History, and not only ancient history, teaches that there are many dangers in enacting special laws that target people of a particular race and disadvantage their rights to liberty, property and other entitlements by reference to that criterion[310]. The history of Australian law, including earlier decisions of this Court[311], stands as a warning about how such matters should be decided. Even great judges of the past were not immune from error in such cases[312]. Wrongs to people of a particular race have also occurred in other courts and legal systems[313]. In his dissenting opinion in Falbo v United States, Murphy J observed, in famous words, that the “law knows no finer hour”[314] than when it protects individuals from selective discrimination and persecution. This Court should be specially hesitant before declining effective access to the courts to those who enlist assistance in the face of legislation that involves an alleged deprivation of their legal rights on the basis of race. All such cases are deserving of the most transparent and painstaking of legal scrutiny.
  2. Vigilance of such a kind ultimately led this Court in Mabo v Queensland [No 2][315] to re-express the legal rights of the indigenous peoples of Australia to enjoy interests in their traditional lands that had been denied by previous understandings of the common law. Such understandings had been “founded on unjust discrimination in the enjoyment of civil and political rights … contrary both to international standards and to the fundamental values of our common law”[316]. Why should this Court be less vigilant today? Why should it reject the Aboriginal claimants’ case unheard at trial if the claims are (or might be rendered) legally arguable by the claimants who wish to tender evidence and argument to sustain those claims?
  3. My purpose in these reasons is to demonstrate that the claims for relief before this Court are far from unarguable. To the contrary, the major constitutional obstacle urged by the Commonwealth is expressly rejected by a majority, with whom on this point I concur. The proper response is to overrule the demurrer. We should commit the proceedings to trial to facilitate the normal curial process and to permit a transparent, public examination of the plaintiffs’ evidence and legal argument. The law would then determine whether intuition was correct and a proper case can be presented that brings the claims within demonstrated legal entitlements that have not been respected in the legislation. The law of Australia owes the Aboriginal claimants nothing less. [Link to source – footnotes omitted]

Here is the other case Sarah mentioned, Shaw v Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs [2009] FCA 1397.

Here is activist/litigant Barbara Shaw talking about the intervention and the case:

this is part 2 of the interview


The 2007 Report of the Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse, entitled “Little Children are Sacred“, used to justify the intervention, is available here.


Some websites which collect information/organize/report and comment against the intervention

Roll back the intervention based in Alice Springs and run by a group mainly made up of Aboriginal women living under the Intervention.

Stop the NT Intervention [Sydney based]