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School of Law

Department of Law Staff Seminars

Please see the nearly complete schedule for this term below.

Justice for More-Than-Human-Worlds? Peoples Tribunals and Plural Ontologies

Alexis Alvarez Nakagawa, IHSS Fellow, Law, Queen Mary

  • Date: 19 October 2022
  • Times: lunch from 12:15 PM. Seminar from 12:45 PM to 2 PM.
  • Venue: in person, room 313
  • Chaired by Hedi Viterbo

While politicians and bureaucrats were gathered at the UN-sponsored COP26 meeting in Glasgow, environmental grassroots activists, indigenous leaders, and civil society lawyers held the fifth meeting of the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature (TRN) to discuss the destruction of the Amazon and the false solutions to climate change. Held at the same time and in the same city, the Tribunal’s unconventional hearings provided an interesting contrast to the state-centred and market-friendly approach of the UN negotiations. My presentation will outline the work of the TRN, placing it within the tradition of Peoples’ Tribunals, and analyse its limitations and the challenge of using a court-setting structure and the language of rights to face ecological damage. Despite these shortcomings, however, I wonder whether the TRN could act as an alternative global forum to explore plural ontologies and rethink justice in “more-than-human” worlds.

Migration, Imprisonment and “Race”: Toward a Comparative Study Between the US and Europe

Dario Melossi, University of Bologna (and QMUL IHSS Distinguished Visiting Fellow from 22 October to 6 November 2022)

  • Date: 2 November 2022
  • Times: lunch from 12:15 PM. Seminar from 12:45 PM to 2 PM.
  • Venue: in person, room 313
  • Chaired by Lizzie Barmes

The number of migrants in prison is very high in most European penal systems today whereas is quite low in the United States, and it has been that way for a long time. Criminological and historical reconstructions in the United States have advanced the thesis that the initial hostility toward migrants, expressed also in processes of criminalization, slowly turned into a process of assimilation and “whitening” of Southern and Eastern European migrants (however, things did not change that much when, more recently, non-European migrants became prevalent). Between the period of Reconstruction and the Great Migration, Americans of African origins became increasingly the target of processes of criminalization. Consequently, the number of migrants in prison became negligible, while the “overrepresentation” of African Americans became commonplace. Is there something to be learned today in Europe from such a story? Is there the danger that also in Europe there may be a possible shift from xenophobia to racism in processes of criminalization and prisonization? In this first, very tentative, analysis, we present data taken from the recent Italian migration context in order to start thinking some of these issues through.

Religion as Liberal Politics

John Adenitire, IHSS Fellow, Law, QMUL

  • Date: 16 November 2022
  • Times: lunch from 12:15 PM. Seminar from 12:45 PM to 2 PM.
  • Venue: in person, room 313
  • Chaired by Hedi Viterbo

US and UK courts define religion as a belief-system which deals with existential concerns, which is separable from politics, and which need not be theistic. Where does this conception of religion come from? To ask this question is to accept that this conception is one among several and that it is historically contingent. Some religious studies scholars trace it to the advent of the Protestant Reformation, when religion became essentially a matter of competing theological propositions. They are half right. My analysis of both John Calvin and Roger Williams shows that those Protestant authors emphasised the view that religion is essentially a belief-system. However, pace these religious studies scholars, Protestantism cannot explain all the four features of the US/UK conception of religion. To explain why religion is separable from politics and need not be theistic we have to factor in liberalism. It is because of the liberal belief in individual rights and in popular sovereignty that early liberals like Roger Williams embraced the separability of religion from politics. Contemporary courts do the same for the same reason. They also reject the view that religion is necessarily theistic given their liberal commitment to ideological pluralism. US and UK courts do not want to treat citizens that subscribe to certain ideologies as second-class citizens simply because those ideologies are not theistic. Consequently, Protestantism is not enough to explain the prevailing legal definition of religion in the US and UK; we also need liberalism.

How Do We Deliver Research-led Teaching?


Panel: Tanzil Chowdhury, Christina Perry, and Isobel Roele

The view is widely held that what sets studying law in a research-led university apart from doing this in other places is that our teaching is research-led. But many questions arise about what this really means:

  • How does this approach alter what is taught (in terms of both substance and skills) and the way that teaching is designed and delivered; and does it affect more nebulous things like the ethos, culture or purpose of our teaching? 
  • How much awareness do our students have of this dimension of their education and are they sufficiently brought into conversations about its implications for their learning?
  • Is there more we should or could be doing to make research-led teaching work across all of our module and law degrees?

In this session we bring together colleagues to talk about and reflect on these questions in relation to their own practice and experience. For this session we have chosen to focus on core UG modules since that may be where the challenges are greatest. But we would be very open to arranging further sessions on this topic if there is an appetite for this.

‘…you bring to your work whatever you are’: The significance of values and participation in the Court of Protection

Camillia Kong, IHSS Fellow, Law, QMUL

  • Date: 7 December 2022
  • Times: lunch from 12:15 PM. Seminar from 12:45 PM to 2 PM.
  • Venue: in person, room 313
  • Chaired by Lizzie Barmes

Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in England and Wales the decision-making capacity of individuals with impairments of the mind is assessed using a functional test; should persons be found to lack capacity, a best interests decision is made on behalf of the subject of proceedings (P). In the recently completed AHRC-funded project, Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law, we interrogated the values that underpin these discretionary judgments within the Court of Protection - specifically how legal professionals interpret the legal framework and orientate their practice as well as how judges approach decision-making about best interests and the participation of P. In this presentation I set out the core theoretical, empirical, and practical findings that resulted from our interdisciplinary methodology which combined qualitative interviews with legal professionals as well as legal and philosophical analyses.

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