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Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context

Seminar: ‘The Politics of Legibility'

25 September 2019

Time: 12:30 - 2:00pm
Venue: Room 313, Third Floor, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, E1 4NS


A major ‘battleground’ for contestation of human rights associated with gender (identity), sexuality and associated violence has emerged at the Human Rights Council, where the feminist achievements of the last two decades are looking frighteningly precarious and queer rights claims struggle for legibility. A conservative coalition of states is promoting a novel interpretation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights arguing that it is based on a set of ‘traditional values’, from which equality is conspicuously absent. At the heart of these battles is a struggle over how families are recognized. The ‘traditional’ heteronormative, patriarchal, racialized family is promoted as providing ‘protection’ for its members from human rights abuses, which effectively denies any human rights abuses that occur within families and rejects the importance of queer forms of kinship and belonging. At the heart of these battles is the identity of the ‘normal’ nation state, the reach of its domestic jurisdiction and control over the familial ordering that forms the basis of militarized national identity and loyalty.


Dianne Otto is Professorial Fellow at Melbourne Law School. Her research interests include addressing gender, sexuality and race inequalities in the context of international human rights law, the UN Security Council’s peacekeeping work, the technologies of global ‘crisis governance’, threats to economic, social and cultural rights, and the transformative potential of people’s tribunals and other NGO initiatives. Dianne’s scholarship explores how international legal discourse reinforces hierarchies of nation, race, gender and sexuality, and aims to understand how the reproduction of such legal knowledge can be resisted. Her work draws upon a range of critical legal theories particularly those influenced by feminism, postcolonialism and queer theory. Amongst her recent publications is Queering International Law: Possibilities, Alliances, Complicities, Risks (editor, Routledge 2018).


For directions to the venue, please refer to the map.


For more information on this event, please email

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