Monthly Archives: January 2016

Sara Ross

Law & Social Inquiry Graduate Paper Competition


The journal Law & Social Inquiry has launched its annual graduate paper competition. Winners of the competition receive a prize of $500 and a special commendation from both the journal and the Law and Society Association at their annual general meeting (held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana). Entries will be accepted until March 1, 2016, and must be submitted to

Entries must contain the following 1) your intention of applying to the competition (it sounds obvious, but that’s in the rules); 2) a confirmation of your status as a graduate students, and 3) a confirmation that the paper is only being submitting to the journal and that you will not submit the paper elsewhere until you have heard back about your submission. Further information about the conference reads as follows:

Submissions must include a title page with a complete mailing address, e-mail address, and phone number(s). The second page should include a 100-150 (maximum) word abstract. Beginning on the third page, all pages should be paginated. Text, footnotes, endnotes, and references should be double-spaced, in Times New Roman 12 font, with 1.5″ margins on all sides with no headers or footers. Properly formatted submissions must be no more than 60 manuscript pages.

You can read more about the competition at the official posting here:

Sara Ross

Drawing in the Name of Freedom

mmfa logo

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has launched a new temporary exhibition entitled Drawing in the Name of Freedom, held within the museum’s promenade. The exhibition’s director has written that,

More than ever, we rank education at the heart of our social priorities, enabling us to decode meaning through images when we are brain-washed by slogans that negate peaceful discourse. Drawing is a universal form of expression, a pencil is a creative instrument, humour is a tool for reflection, and a picture is worth a thousand words: museums know this well. For centuries the art of drawers and cartoonists has operated as an effective bulwark against totalitarian thinking. The title of our initiative is taken from a poem written by Paul Éluard in 1942 during World War II, Liberté j’écris ton nom. Let’s pick up our pencils…

The exhibition is also being accompanied by an educational initiative to teach youth about the use of art as a method of political expression. You can read more about the exhibition at the museum’s website here:

Sara Ross

Fighting the Burning Man Tax

Burning Man logo

Burning Man festival logo

The Burning Man festival is appealing a Nevada live entertainment tax, known to some as “the Burning Man tax”, and its $3 million USD 2015 tax bill. The tax is new to the state, as before June 2015 festivals like Burning Man were exempt under Nevada law. According to the Associated Press, the festival has argued that while it provides the space for the festival to occur, the festival itself does not provide any live entertainment. The entertainment is instead developed by the festivals’ attendees themselves, who formulate the infamous “Black Rock City”, an informal community that exists only during the festival itself.

According to the BBC, the tax levied is 9% on the general admission tickets for the festival itself. Burning Man is a non-profit organization that organizes the annual summer festival in the Black Rock portion of Nevada desert, which has now been running for 25 years. In a post by Burning Man’s organizers, they point out that all Nevada based sports teams are exempt from the tax, even though they directly provide live entertainment to crowds over 7500 (the audience threshold for the tax to kick in), and are not non-profit organizations. Tax documents submitted by Burning Man for its 2014 event show that the tax amount would put the festival into the red, causing it to raise prices in order to pay the tax to the Nevada state government.

Sara Ross

Saudi Arabian Laws Against Witchcraft

Durer Witch

Witch Riding Backwards on a Goat, by Albrecht Dürer (c. 1500)

No you didn’t read that wrong, in recent years the nation of Saudi Arabia’s laws against “magic” have become an increasing concern for the international community. The most significant overview of the problem was put forth by Ryan Jacobs in his 2013 Atlantic article, but since this time the problem has continued unabated. The capital punishment for magic in the country is call sihr.

Historically, witchcraft is not a crime that was limited to the Middle East. There are the obvious examples, such as the Salem Witch Trials, which have a large memorial dedicated to them in Salem, Massachusetts, where the trials took place. There are also modern examples of witchcraft that have come up in Western countries, such as the retrial of Maria Bertoletti Toldini about to occur in the hamlet of Brentonico, Italy, who was executed for witchcraft in 1716 by beheading. Or the banning of Harry Potter books in certain US school districts, and the ban of their distribution to children by the local offices of certain Canadian charities.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia continues to execute people for both witchcraft and sorcery, despite that fact that these actions conflict with international human rights law. While Saudi Arabia does not have a Criminal Code, its religious courts continue to try both Saudi citizens and foreign nationals for the crime of performing magic or curses, including 215 in 2012 alone, up from 118 in 2009. In fact, according to The Daily Beast, Saudi Arabia is expanding its efforts to “identify and prosecute witchcraft.”

Yet Saudi Arabia has some very well known magicians within its borders, such as Mumdo, an entertainment icon in the country who himself claims the prosecution of magic is a recent phenomenon–not an age-old practice in the region. In ISIL, a street magician was executed for the same thing in early 2015, but in Saudi Arabia there is evidence of an understanding of the difference between a magician’s craft and what they are prosecuting as witchcraft in some cases. If the nation’s laws can move forward to the point where witchcraft is seen as nothing more than illogical fantasy, remains to be seen.

Sara Ross

Marcel Barbeau Dies


Marcel Barbeau in his Atelier (2001, source: Wikimedia)

Renowned Montreal artist Marcel Barbeau passed away on January 2, 2016 at the age of 90. Barbeau was as well known for his political activism as he was for his art, having famously signed the 1948 Total Refusal manifesto with Jean-Paul Riopelle, a document that denounced the government of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis as authoritarian and helped to start the movement against the Catholic Church’s social hold over Quebec culture. Barbeau was also an Officer of the Order of Canada and a winner of the Governor General’s award. An excerpt from the Total Refusal manifesto read as follows:

We must abandon the ways of society once and for all and free ourselves from its utilitarian spirit. We must not willingly neglect our spiritual side. We must refuse to turn a blind eye to vice, to scams masquerading as knowledge, as services rendered, as payment due. We must refuse to live out our lives in the only plastic village, a fortified place but easy enough to escape from. We must insist on having our say – do what you will with us, but hear us you must – and refuse fame and privilege (except that of being heard), which are the stigma of evil, indifference and servility. We must refuse to serve, or to be used for, such ends. We must refuse all INTENTION, the harmful weapon of REASON. Down with them both! Back they go!

Make way for magic! Make way for objective enigmas! Make way for love! Make way for what is needed!

We accept full responsibility for the consequences of our total refusal.

For a full article on Barbeau’s life and art, you can read the Montreal Gazette article on his death here.

Sara Ross

Rijksmuseum Renames Masterpieces to Remove Racially Charged Terms

Human Zoo photo

1883 photo of the International Colonial and Export Exhibition grounds by JC Grieves Jr.

The Rijksmuseum art museum in Amsterdam has taken an unusual step, by removing any term deemed as racist from the titles of all of its artworks. From this point forward, any painting that previously had such a word in its name, will have the words removed from its plaque or caption, and replaced with a more neutral term. The project, named Adjustment of Colonial Terminology, is employing a team of 12 curators to choose the new words. As an example, The Mirror has reported that “the 1900 painting ‘Young Negro-Girl’ will now be called ‘Young Girl Holding a Fan’.” The Mirror also reported that since the project’s commencement a month ago, 200 paintings have already been renamed. Removed words have included “Mohammedian”, “Indian”, “Hottentot”, and “Eskimo”, which are on a list of around two dozen now banned terms, according to The Telegraph.

It is interesting that the Rijksmuseum is the first institution to make such a bold move, as historically the Rijksmuseum has been an epicentre of colonial culture in the Netherlands. One of the key national demographics that museum management cites as why its decision is so important, are the Dutch Surinamese, descendants of the Dutch colony and slave state in Suriname. Yet between the months of May and October in 1883, the grounds behind the Rijksmuseum hosted the first ever International Colonial and Export Exhibition.

The exhibition featured a “human zoo”, in which people indigenous to Suriname were placed in a mock village. As Marieke Bloembergen and Beverly Jackson explained in their book Colonial Spectacles, “[A] rather awkward looking arrangement of small bamboo and wooden houses from different parts of the Dutch East Indies constituted the ‘East Indies Village’, complete with inhabitants who lived, we assume, correspondingly awkward lives … In a tent [opposite] the colonial palace, various inhabitants of Suriname were displayed.” Another point of potential interest is that the exhibition was run by a cousin of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In order to “preserve history”, the digital online database will still retain the old titles, however they will no longer be visible within the physical institution.

Sara Ross

The Comfort Zone Sues Toronto Police for $23 million


Logo from The Comfort Zone, Toronto

The afterhours club The Comfort Zone is one of Toronto’s most popular sites for late-night electronic dance parties. It also happens to be in a complex that includes The Silver Dollar Room and the Hotel Waverly. Recent decisions by the City of Toronto have led to the Waverly being slated for redevelopment into a private for-profit student housing residence, and The Silver Dollar Room being preserved for its intangible cultural heritage–the first time such a ruling has been used to save this type of cultural space in the history of Ontario.

Attached to The Silver Dollar Room and located beneath it, The Comfort Zone is one of the city’s only true afterhours clubs. After the decision was made to replace the Waverly Hotel, The Comfort Zone was set to close as well. However this was not the first trouble the club has had staying open. In 2008 the Toronto Police Force launched “Operation White Rabbit”, which saw the police raid the club in order to catch users of illegal drugs in the act. 33 charges were initially laid, though none of those charged were employees of the club and all charges were dropped after the raid. Since then, according to club management, the police have entered the space more than 50 times to “harass” patrons.

The suit, led by attorney Barry Swadron, seeks $20 million in damages, $2 million in punitive and aggravated damages, and $1 million in exemplary damages.

You can read more about the suit at the Toronto Sun‘s website here:

Sara Ross

ILGS Seminar – Monuments of Civilisation: Cultural Destruction as a War Crime


Source: Wikimedia

The International Law in the Global South Seminar Series is holding a talk on January 12, 2016 at Osgoode Hall Law School entitled Monuments of Civilisation: Cultural Destruction as a War Crime. The presentation will be given by Carleton University PhD candidate Jerusa Ali. The event will take place between 4:30pm and 6:30pm in Room IKB 2010. According to the event description:

Her research … is motivated by non-Western theoretical approaches to international law; methodologically, she draws inspiration from TWAIL scholarship with its focus on marginal and peripheral voices, exclusions, hidden histories, and its attentiveness to race, gender and power. She is currently undertaking research on international legal responses to insurgent movements at the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Ilorin, Nigeria.

In order to attend, you can RSVP here with the Event Code: EVENT3

Sara Ross

Inuit Art Centre to Undergo Development in 2016


Caribou by Osuitok Ipeelee (Credit: Wikimedia)

A number of high value gifts have been received by the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) over the last month or so, including a $1 million gift from the Bank of Montreal and a $950,000 gift from the Winnipeg Foundation. These donations have been added to the $60 million budget for the creation of the Inuit Art Centre, to be built adjacent to the WAG in a new 40,000 square foot, four story building. A further $15 million has been committed by the Government of Manitoba. According to the CBC, the art gallery already has the largest collection of Inuit art in the world, however a recent agreement between the government’s of Nunavut and Manitoba, which will see the WAG receive a further loan of 7,000 pieces of Inuit art and heritage items. There interprovincial agreement will also include co-sponsorship of other cultural and sporting events, in addition to health and educational efforts.

You can read more about the planned centre at the WAG website here.

Sara Ross

Naming the Team Right

Edmonton_Eskimos_helmetRedskins helmet

Helmets of the football teams in Edmonton and Washington, D.C.

If you’ve been paying attention to the sports news media in recent years, you will certainly have heard about the public pressure on Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins (which clinched its division Sunday, guaranteeing its spot in the 2016 playoffs), to change the name of his team. In fact, several US television shows and newspapers have openly stated they would refuse to say the name of the team on the air, and would only refer to it as the “NFL team from Washington.” In July a US judge ordered the trademark of the Redskins’ name and logo cancelled due to the name being synonymous with a racial slur. But even this move, potentially cutting deep into the team’s revenues (and the NFL’s) by allowing other persons to produce Redskins merchandise without reprisal, has not seen Snyder budge in terms of renaming his team (which is the fourth most valuable sports franchise in the world). In Canada we have our own controversy over the Edmonton Eskimos, my hometown team (and 2015 Grey Cup champs!), which has also been accused of having a name synonymous with improper racial terminology.

As for other sports, in 2014 I attended a Braves baseball game in Atlanta. Here I encountered the rather startling tradition of the “Tomahawk Chop”, where the entire crowd makes a chopping motion while imitating a stereotyped Native American chant. For someone who had not been desensitized to these kinds of sports traditions, I can say I was rather shocked. In hockey there are the Blackhawks in Chicago, in baseball there are the Braves and the Indians of Cleveland, and in basketball we have the Celtics, with its leprechaun logo representing stereotyped Irish heritage. Every major league in North America has a problem team name, used every day in newspapers and on television across the continent. This is not to mention other sports exhibitions like the WWE, which is commonly associated with stereotyped characters like the tag team the Wild Samoans (a team which originated in Calgary while working with Stampede Wrestling). One of the Wild Samoans would go on to father the current wrestling champion Roman Reigns, a former Edmonton Eskimo himself.

While the Wild Samoans (or equally egregiously named “Headshrinkers” tag team) are now 30-year old tropes, more subtle and softer stereotypes are still rampant throughout the North American sporting world. There has been some positive movement away from this direction this year though. In addition to the Redskins case, sportswear-maker Adidas has pledged money to help any US high school change its mascot if it could be seen as racially insensitive.