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'Dystopias Here and Now: Critical Thought at the Ends of Time' - Birkbeck Law Review Annual Conference

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Venue: Birkbeck Main Building, Various

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The Birkbeck Law Review Annual Conference will be held across two days on 11-12 October 2019.

This year's theme is 'Dystopias Here and Now: Critical Thought at the Ends of Time'.

The conference is free to attend however registration is required here.

Keynote speakers

Friday 11 October (13.30-15.00)

Location: Birkbeck Main Building MAL 421

Sarah Keenan, Senior Lecturer in Law, School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London and Co-Director, Centre for Research on Race and Law

'From Historical Chains to Derivative Futures: Title Registries as Time Machines'

Abstract: For centuries, transferring ownership of land under common law was a slow, complex process requiring the construction of a chain of paper deeds evidencing multiple decades of prior possession. In 1858, colonist Robert Torrens developed a new system for the transfer of land in South Australia, where the land was understood by colonial powers as ‘new’ and without history. With the intention of making land a liquid asset, Torrens’ system of title registration shifted the legal basis of title from a history of prior possession to a singular act of registration. Analysing the structure and effects of title registration, engaging with interdisciplinary work on time, and taking H.G Wells’ iconic time travel novella as a point of departure, I argue that title registries can usefully be understood as time machines. Like the machine H.G Wells imagined, title registries use fiction to facilitate fantastical journeys in which the subject is radically temporally dislocated from the material constraints of history. As with time machines, it tends to be a transcendental white male subject who is most likely to survive this dislocation. With digitisation, registries are becoming faster than ever before, producing new possibilities for title travel. While based on fiction, the impacts of title registries are very much real, facilitating humanity’s arrival at racist, dystopic landscapes in the here and now.

Saturday 12 October (14:00-15:30)

Location: Birkbeck Main Building MAL 421

Patricia Tuitt, legal academic whose research covers the fields of refugee law, critical race and postcolonial legal theory and the European Union

​'Law and Dystopian Non-Violence'

Abstract: A particular challenge to critical legal theory is posed by the close and uncomfortable proximity between utopian and dystopian visions of society. Here I examine this problematic in the context of theories/philosophies which have provided the intellectual justifications for alternative dispute resolution (ADR). For a significant section of the UK population, ADR operates as a form of legal dystopia wherein they are divested of all capacity to challenge state violence and/or to pursue basic social and economic entitlements. Arguing that the criteria which determines which individuals should be effectively deprived of legal capacity are demonstrably, although not exclusively, racial in character, my task is to identify the various shifts in thinking/standpoint which critical legal scholarship would have needed to invent to avoid perversion of the utopian vision of a society in which disputes between individuals are resolved peaceably and cooperatively without recourse to law. I aim to achieve this objective through a close reading of a sample of works which have engaged with Walter Benjamin’s idea of “non-violence”.

Saturday 12 October (17:30-19:00)

Location: Birkbeck Main Building MAL 421

Chiara Bottici, Associate Professor of Philosophy, New School for Social Research, New York

'The Art of Change Opera: An Ongoing Libretto'

Abstract: In this talk I will discuss the libretto that I wrote for Jean-Baptiste Barriere's philosophical opera "The art of change", which will premiere in New York City in Fall 2019. The opera describes the vicissitudes of a society that has decided to apply the principle of accelerated change to all and every aspect of social life. In the course of the main narrative shifts, such a society may or may not turn out to be the one we are currently living in. This is an ongoing libretto, meaning that it will involve a collective and open writing process. In this talk, I will present the libretto project and then discuss the way in which this form of metaphysical humorism can actually work as important philosophical tool to illuminate the paradoxes of the reality we live in.

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Conference streams

Friday 11 October (15.30-17.00) *

Stream 1. Dystopian Space/Time

Location: Birkbeck Main Building MAL 421

Dag Retsö - 'Views of the future in the past'

Bruna Mariz Ferreira - 'Between the tyranny of urgency and the dystopia as a possible description of the present'

Isabel Beydag - 'Exploration into how and why UK higher education become a hotbed for the Hobbean / Lockean Man, squeezed out the last remaining dips of Thymos from academics / academia, and how to claim it back through Fukuyama’s Hegelian Last Man'

Flavia do Amaral Vieira - 'Human rights in dispute: corporations and Latin America'

Stream 2. Perspectives on Law, Discrimination and Policy

Location: 43 Gordon Square GOR 317

Thomas Psimmas - 'Meritocracy and social security: a critical approach'

Sam Holder - 'Criminal justice debt'

Leila Faghfouri Azar - 'Dystopian Laws of Illegality: A closer look into the case of illegal migrant workers in Europe '

Shahd Hammouri - 'The Business as Usual Complex in War: The Absence of the Economic in the Humanitarian'

Saturday 12 October (10:30-12:00)

Stream 3. The Subject of Modernity and its Others

Location: Birkbeck Main Building MAL 402

Puja Priyah Darshini - 'Climate Change Policy Regime and the Attack on ‘Substantive Equality’ provisions for Indigenous People in the Indian Constitution'

Aris Mousoutzanis - 'Dystopia, biopolitics, biopower'

Christos Marneros - 'Deleuze, human rights and dystopia'

Saturday 12 October (16:00-17:30) **

Stream 4. Technology and its New Relationalities

Location: Birkbeck Main Building MAL 402

Jewel Chanda - 'Algorithmic jurisprudence: what ought/not to be'

Gracie Bradley - 'The end of (formal) innocence: surveillance and automated decisions in the control society'

Soumyajit Basu - 'Breeding machines: plants, patents and biotechnology'

Stream 5. Sensing Violence: At the Intersection of Art, Law and Architecture

Location: Birkbeck Main Building MAL 421

Helene Kazan - 'Between secret war and slow violence'

Fadi Mansour - 'Solid Waste Machine and Permeable Bodies'

Mhamed Safa - 'What they heard: Reverb as narratives'

Jessika Khazrik - 'Mount, mound, refuse'


* N.B. Streams 1 and 2 will be held in parallel during the 15.30-17.00 slot on Friday.
** N.B. Streams 4 and 5 will be held in parallel during the 16.00-17.30 slot on Saturday.

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