Monthly Archives: September 2015

Sara Ross

Book News: Power and Legitimacy: Law, Culture, and Literature by Anne Quéma

Law and Legitimacy cover

This past February, Professor Anne Quéma of Acadia University published the book Power and Legitimacy: Law, Culture, and Literature on University of Toronto Press. The abstract is as follows:

An interdisciplinary analysis of the ways in which symbolic acts create social norms, Power and Legitimacy is an important contribution to the growing body of scholarship on law and literature. Drawing on the theoretical insights of Judith Butler and Pierre Bourdieu, Anne Quéma demonstrates the effect of symbolic violence on the creation of social and political legitimacy.

Examining modern jurisprudence theory, statutory law, and the family within the modern Gothic novel, Quéma shows how the forms and effects of political power transform as one shifts from discourse to discourse. An impressive integration of the scholarship in these three fields, Power and Legitimacy is a thought-provoking analysis of the basis of power and the law.

You can read more about Quéma’s work at the U of T Press website here.

Sara Ross

Interview with Nadine Valcin, 2015-16 Osgoode Hall Artist in Residence

Valcin photo

This week we have an interview with Nadine Valcin, one of the two women named as 2015-2016 Osgoode Hall Artists in Residence. Valcin is a documentary filmmaker, whose work has aired by broadcasters including CBC, TVO, W, TFO, and the History Network. We asked her more about her project and the relationship between her work and the law that will be explored during her time at Osgoode:

SR: Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your trajectory to becoming an artist in residence here at Osgoode? What attracted you to the artist in residence program?

NV: I was trained as an architect, have worked as a documentary filmmaker for nearly twenty years and am now also starting to write dramatic film scripts. The residency at Osgoode is a tremendous opportunity to immerse myself in an academic setting and explore a topic that is of great interest to me without having some of the time and financial constraints that often come into play when working on film project.

SR: What interests you about the law? What about your particular artistic medium: Why have you chosen it and how have you found it as a tool for engaging with the law?

NV: I’m interested in issues of social justice and how race, class and gender influences how people are perceived and treated in the world. The law fascinates me because it is meant to uphold the official parameters through which our society should operate.

Some of my work is related directly to the law. Years ago, I directed a documentary entitled Still Waiting for Justice for the National Film Board of Canada about a legal battle around racial harassment in the workplace. In addition to the project I’m doing at Osgoode, I am also writing a feature film script that deals with some of the issues around child soldier refugees.

Film, be it documentary or fiction, can raise awareness about important legal and ethical subjects while humanising them in very concrete terms. It is also about communicating what may be complex situations clearly and concisely.

SR: How do you view the role that art can play in legal education and/or the study of law?

NV: Art can be an important component of a legal education because it encourages creativity and the quest for different ways of tackling a problem. It also promotes seeing issues from a multiplicity of viewpoints and learning to adapt your message to effectively reach the audience you are addressing.

SR: Could you describe the project you will be undertaking at Osgoode?

NV: I am researching the topic of slavery in Canada to inform an interactive documentary project that is still in the very early stages of development.

The enslaved Africans who were on the margins of society weren’t well documented. One of the few ways in which they are visible is, for better or worse, through the legal system. Those who were accused of crimes, who escaped or who, in some cases, contested their status, have part of their stories inscribed in official court records. The artist-in-residence program is the ideal opportunity for me to delve into these legal records and to do broader research into the laws surrounding slavery in this country.

During my residency, I will be producing a video installation entitled Whitewash on a very specific part of that history. It recounts the story of the Shepard family starting with David and Kesiah Shepard, who were enslaved Africans brought by Loyalist Edmund Fanning, the Island’s second Lieutenant Governor in 1786. There are 9th generation descendants of the couple still living on the Island. Some of them retain darker complexions and African features, while others are very light-skinned with red hair. The piece looks at the process of assimilation that parallels the collective amnesia about Canada’s history of slavery.

SR: From what I understand, you’re seeking JD or graduate students who are interested in becoming involved in your project. How can students get involved? And how should they contact you?

NV: I am looking for students to help me scour legal documents for traces of stories about enslaved Africans (and about the Shepard family) that would shed some light about their lives here. I am interested in determining what the laws surrounding slavery were in this country, how they were applied and how those enslaved Africans were treated by the judicial system. I also need help for the production of the video installation and the documentation that will accompany it.

Students interested in the project can contact me at

Sara Ross

September 16, 2015 Artist in Residence showcase

On September 16, 2015 artist-in-residence showcase featured last year’s artist-in-residence Julie Lassonde performing Counterbalance, and the unveiling of Cindy Blažević’s work Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary before an audience of Osgoode students and faculty. Here are some photos from the event.

Lassonde 1 Lassonde 2 Lassonde 3 Lassonde 4

Sara Ross

Book News: Cassandra Sharp and Marett Leiboff (eds) Cultural Legal Studies: Law’s Popular Cultures and the Metamorphosis of Law (Routledge, 2015)

Law's Pop Cultures cover

A new book has been released on popular culture and the law entitled Cultural Legal Studies: Law’s Popular Cultures and the Metamorphosis of Law, edited by Dr. Cassandra Sharp and Dr. Marett Leiboff of the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong. An abstract can be found here:

What can law’s popular cultures do for law, as a constitutive and interrogative critical practice? This collection explores such a question through the lens of the ‘cultural legal studies’ movement, which proffers a new encounter with the ‘cultural turn’ in law and legal theory. Moving beyond the ‘law ands’ (literature, humanities, culture, film, visual and aesthetics) on which it is based, this book demonstrates how the techniques and practices of cultural legal studies can be used to metamorphose law and the legalities that underpin its popular imaginary. By drawing on three different modes of cultural legal studies – storytelling, technology and jurisprudence – the collection showcases the intersectional practices of cultural legal studies, and law in its popular cultural mode.

For more information, you can visit the book’s page at the Taylor & Francis website.

Sara Ross

Call for Papers: Law and Society Association Annual Meeting – June 2-5, 2016

LSANOLA16 logo

The call for papers has come out for this years US Law and Society Association Annual Meeting, to be held between June 2nd and June 5th, 2016 at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana. Be aware that this year the abstract submission format has changed, with the LSA now requiring a 1,000 word paper summary instead of the short abstract required in previous years. Each year hundreds of law and society scholars descend on the meeting to share their latest thoughts, including at dozens of panels on law, arts, and culture. Incidentally, this will be the last LSA meeting held in the US for quite some time, as in 2017 and 2018 the conference is set to take place in Mexico City and Toronto respectively. I myself have gone both of the last two years, and can say that this is one of the premiere venues for law and society thought in North America, and definitely worth the trip, especially to connect with other scholars from all over the world. The deadline for submissions is October 15th, 2015, with this year’s topic described as “At the Delta: Belonging, Place and Visions of Law and Social Change”. The full call for papers can be found here.


Sara Ross

ArtAndFeminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

Art+Feminism logo

Wikipedia is hosting an edit-a-thon for people interested in Art and Feminism, which it has announced on its site here. The event will be taking place on Wednesday September 23, 2015 between 6pm and 9pm at InterAccess, located at 9 Ossington Ave. The event is free of charge, though you must RSVP at the link bolded above. The announcement also states that attendees should bring their own laptops to the event.

If you are not familiar with Wikipedia’s edit-a-thon movement, while Wikipedia is the world’s largest compendium of knowledge, it has a substantial lack of information about women, and an even more significant lack of woman editors. To try and solve this issue, groups like those hosting this event put together events where you can come to learn about the site, and begin to make contributions that will expand Wikipedia’s articles on women artists. New articles will be created, old articles will be expanded, and overall Wikipedia will be substantially improved. While you can edit however you wish, you can find a list of the articles the event intends to improve or add by the end of the three hours.

Articles on women and the law are just as lacking on the site. If interested, be sure to contact the event organizers, so that the gender gap in how the study of law, arts, and culture is recorded on Wikipedia can be solved.

Sara Ross

Upcoming Law.Arts.Culture talk: Paul Passavant

Passavant poster

This upcoming Monday October 5, 2015, Osgoode Hall Law School will play host to the presentation Policing Occupy: Aesthetics, Security, and the Illuminator Project by Professor Paul Passavant. The presentation will occur on Monday, October 5, 2015, 12:30pm to 2:00pm in Ignat Kaneff Building, Room 2027. RSVP Required (and lunch provided) here:

Event Code: PAUL

The abstract for the presentation is as follows:

Policing in the United States has become transformed by the “Broken Windows” theory of policing since its inception in the early 1980s, its institutionalization within the New York Police Department (NYPD) in the 1990s, and its spread to other jurisdictions. The”Broken Windows”; theory calls for policing to go beyond actual crime to target perceptions of “disorder.” By targeting the perception of disorder, “Broken Windows” inspired policing is a form of aesthetic management. It polices signs of value and disqualification. “Broken Windows” inspired policing is the form of policing that coincides with the response of cities in the United States to the urban fiscal crisis of the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, cities reoriented infrastructure away from residents to welcome the FIRE industries (finance, insurance, real estate) and to appeal to shoppers, tourists, and conventions, while managing their brand. As an entertainment destination, the city was re-purposed for post-Fordist symbolic production. The Illuminator project that emerged out of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) calls upon the 99% in branded, communicative urban space, while shining a light on how corporate capital expropriates us. The policing of the Illuminator project shows how the NYPD uses minor violations to prevent or disrupt the Illuminator’s visual protests to display the presence of the 99% in the neoliberal, post-Fordist city. The NYPD’s “use of minor violations, if not the arrest process itself” for aesthetic government of urban space extends the practice of “Broken Windows” inspired policing to those demonstrating how neoliberalism tends to the well-being of corporations located in New York, but not the well-being of the people. In this way, NYPD order maintenance policing preserves the image of the city as a brand, as well as the value of the corporate brands embedded in urban space.

Sara Ross

Upcoming calls for papers: Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities

UConnLawScool - Wikipedia Commons image

University of Connecticut School of Law: location of the upcoming meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities

Each year the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities hosts its annual conference. I spoke at last year’s conference at Georgetown University in Washington DC, and can attest to the wonderful institution the association has built. In Georgetown a handful of Osgoode professors, alongside professors from all over the world met to discuss the underdeveloped field of culture and the law, for several days of excellent presentations, discussions, and all the other experiences that come with an international conference like this. The association encourages graduate student submissions for presentation, not only to its annual Graduate Student Workshop, but also to its annual Austin Sarat Award given to the best paper presented at each year’s conference—named for the legendary sociolegal scholar and founder of the association, Professor Sarat himself. This is among the best opportunities of the year for people interested in law and culture to becoming exposed to the academic community involved in this field, and to receive comment on your burgeoning, mid-career, or pinnacle research.

This year the conference will be held from April 1st to April 2nd at the University of Connecticut Law School in Hartford, CT. The registration link generally comes out around the end of September, so check back at their website at your convenience near the end of September or early October. You can also follow them on Facebook, as an excellent resource of the association’s ongoings. This year’s call for paper is posted below:

We are pleased to announce that the Nineteenth Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities will be held at the University of Connecticut Law School, in Hartford, CT on April 1-2nd, 2016. We invite your participation.  Please note, panel and paper proposals are due Thursday, October 15th, 2015

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities is an organization of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary, humanistically-oriented legal scholarship. The Association brings together a wide range of people engaged in scholarship on legal history, legal theory and jurisprudence, law and cultural studies, law and anthropology, law and literature, law and the performing arts, and legal hermeneutics. We want to encourage dialogue across and among these fields about issues of interpretation, identity, and values, about authority, obligation, and justice, and about law’s role as a constituent part of cultures and communities.

If you have any general questions about the conference, please do not hesitate to ask me at For matters related to the program or its organization, please write to Simon Stern  I want to thank the members of the program committee, chaired by Simon Stern for all their hard work on the Call for Papers.

This year’s conference theme is Reading Race, Writing Race and Living Race

“Within the text of the law there is an afterlife of slavery … as matters of aesthetic and legal representation … as an aesthetics of legal representation”

–Stephen Best, The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession, 14

The question of race is central to historical and contemporary violence, to material conditions, reproduction and global politics. In the US, recent police violence against African Americans has again raised the ongoing question of the significance of lawful violence, of law’s complicity, in upholding the state. Penal law is implicated in the incarceration of African-Americans in the US, Aboriginal communities in Australia, and Indigenous peoples in Canada, demonstrating a settler-colonial preoccupation for using race and racial profiling to mask and further colonial ends. In the context of securitised responses to migration, the onshore refugee applicant speaks as an already criminalised subject, as ‘an illegal immigrant’ or as an ‘undocumented migrant’. Under the conditions of continuing colonization, statutory schemes such as Australia’s Northern Territory Intervention target Aboriginal populations and make such populations subject to state violence. These examples raise the urgent question of law’s relation to, and production of, violence through race. From transitional justice to human rights processes, race is foregrounded at scenes and struggles in which law seeks to respond to and adjudicate violence, and assert its own authority.

This conference seeks research drawn from multiple disciplines and jurisdictions that addresses the following questions: How might we think of the relations among law, culture, history, and the shaping of racial imaginaries? How is law complicit and productive of violence? How should we read the legal and cultural forms that produce the conditions of this violence? What kinds of legal, critical, and cultural practices can intervene in both this violence, and the conditions that are complicit with it? How might legal, critical, and cultural projects provide counter-narratives and counter-archives to the juridical imaginary of responsibility for historical and contemporary violence? How do historical and contemporary readings of race relate? Are anti-racist forms of law and state possible, and what would they look like? How might law be enlisted in the development of new racial formations? How should we re-think critical legal feminisms, and Marxism, through the category of race? How can we devise legal, critical and cultural forms that are attentive to race, and make visible this legal violence? What is the significance of ‘reading’ race—what is the materiality in the metaphor?

This conference seeks to develop conversations regarding the roles of representation, affect and imagination in the ongoing relationship of law to concepts of race, justice, sovereignty, captivity, history. We seek to examine legal and cultural practices of representation for their juridical, as well as cultural, effects. Questions of genre, narrative, and aesthetics are not only sites of critique, but also become potential sites of theoretical intervention, and intervention into projects of social justice.

In addition to sessions that connect to the conference theme, examples of other types of sessions we expect people to organize include:

History, Memory and Law; Law and Literature; Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism; Speech, Silence, and the Language of Law; Judgment, Justice, and Law; Beyond Identity; The Idea of Practice in Legal Thought; Metaphor and Meaning; Representing Legality in Film and Mass Media; Anarchy, Liberty and Law; What is Excellence in Interpretation?; Ethics, Religion, and Law; Moral Obligation and Legal Life; The Post-Colonial in Literary and Legal Study; Processes and Possibilities in Interdisciplinary Law Teaching.

We urge those interested in attending to consider submitting complete panels, and we hope to encourage a variety of formats-roundtables, sessions at which everyone reads the papers in advance, sessions in which commentators respond to a single paper. We invite proposals for session in which the focus is on pedagogy or methodology, for author-meets-readers sessions organized around important books in the field, or for sessions in which participants focus on performance (theatrical, filmic, musical, poetic).


Sara Ross

Update to September 16th Artist in Residence event

Cindy_Blazevic photo

Cindy Blažević, the 2013-14 Osgoode Artist in Residence, is joining Julie Lassonde in order to provide a demonstration of her installation piece Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary (2013-15). This installation will occur at the front entrance of Osgoode Hall between 1pm and 3pm on September 16, 2015. An excerpt from the installation’s media release is as follows:

As Osgoode’s inaugural Artist in Residence, Toronto-based visual artist Cindy Blazevic photographed Kingston Penitentiary after it closed its doors in 2013. “Seeing KP at the end of its life, without prisoners, allows us to see artifacts of lives lived within the building as well as the inherent limitations not only of this particular institution, but of any prison,” she said.

In order to better contextualize the photographs and what they might mean to different viewers, Blazevic then collaborated with upper-year Osgoode students to create a legal and historical narrative for those images, focusing on the challenges facing the Canadian penal system.

The result is the photo-based artwork, Through A Prison System, Darkly: Criminal Justice Through the Lens of Kingston Penitentiary, which will live permanently on, and which is accessible to the visual and hearing impaired. “The website is a choose-your-own adventure,” said Blazevic, who received Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council funding for the project. “I don’t expect anyone to read or listen to the whole thing, but rather to be able to dip in and out. No matter where you land, it’ll be thought-provoking, maybe even perspective-altering.”

You can read more about the event at Osgoode Hall’s official announcement.

Sara Ross

Upcoming Law.Arts.Culture talk: Rosemary Coombe and Ali Malik

On September 14th, 2015, the Law.Arts.Culture Lecture Series will feature a lecture from Professor Rosemary Coombe and PhD student Ali Malik, entitled Hidden Geographies of Race and Labor: Moving Beyond the Social Imaginaries of Place-Based Products in Asia and Africa. The talk will take place between 12:30pm and 2:30pm in Room 2027 of the Ignat Kaneff Building. The abstract of their talk is as follows:

Place-based products protected by geographical indications (GIs) are widely assumed as yielding higher export revenues and generating tourism towards rural development in the Third World. In the Asian and African contexts, however, few scholars have recognized that GIs are modes of governmentality that must function in fields of labour relations forged by entrenched patterns of colonial landholding and racialised identities. This might be attributed in part to the ‘social imaginary’ that tends to accompany arguments in favor of GIs, which portrays communities as cohesive, harmonious entities, “possessing singular traditions and rooted in a particular place characterized by a naturally bounded and distinctive ecosystems” (Coombe, Ives & Huizenga 2015) which tends to obfuscate the political economies of land and labour in regions where relations among potential stakeholders in GI governance are overlaid with issues of caste, class, and desires for postcolonial emancipation. We explore and contrast these social dynamics with respect to South African Rooibos tea, Indian Darjeeling tea, and within the Nepalese handicraft sector. Rather than emphasizing the capacity of GIs to protect against international misappropriations, we suggest that scholars pay greater attention to how GIs might be forged to redress these hidden geographies of race and labor via rights-based forms of governance.

All are invited to attend. Lunch will be provided
RSVP Required:                        Event Code: COOMBE