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School of Law


Closed Workshop on the Future of Critical Theory

Friday 2 February 2024

Guest speakers: Les Moran (Birkbeck); Joke Hermes (Amsterdam); David Nelken (Kings); Birgitte Schepelern Johansen (Copenhagen); Muriel Blaive (Graz); Stephen Pogany (Warwick); Mohsin Bhat (QMUL); Philip Spencer (Kingston / Birkbeck); Thomas Brudholm (Copenhagen); Gwénaële Calvès (Cergy-Pontoise); Ed Bracho (Westminster); Lesley Klaff (Sheffield Hallam); Matt Bolton (Technische Universität Berlin)

'The Rights and Wrongs of No Platforming' with Professor Victor Tadros

Thursday 30 November 2023, 4:45 PM – 5:45 PM

This talk is based on Professor Victor Tadros' article on 'The Rights and Wrongs of No Platforming'.

Speaker Bio

Victor Tadros is a Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory at the University of Warwick. He was educated at Oxford University (BA Hons) and at King’s College, London (PhD). Prior to joining Warwick in 2006, he held lectureships at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh, and in the fall of 2015 he was Carter Visiting Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard Law School. From 2010-13 he held an AHRC Research Grant, with Antony Duff, Lindsay Farmer, Sandra Marshall and Massimo Renzo, to work on criminalization. He held a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship from 2014-2018, and was elected as Fellow of the British Academy in 2018. He is an Associate Editor at Ethics.

Tolerance Means Dialogue: What can we learn about bridging divides?

Thursday 23 November 2023, 2 PM - 3:30 PM

This event is hosted by Queen Mary University of London, 1st Amendment Partnership, and Fairness For All Initiative.

At a time of division, many see friction and no solutions. For example, clashes arise between gay individuals and bakers or website makers who refuse services for same-sex marriages. These clashes are testing the limits of the right to be served equally by commercial establishments and vendors' freedom to follow their conscience in commerce. We seek insights from individuals with diverse experiences about living together harmoniously with our differences. 

How can we achieve mutual respect in a plural society?

Learn more about the event and the undergraduate and graduate student prize winners.

Past events

Skeptical Legal Approaches to Lockdowns

Tuesday 28 March 2023, 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM

Proportionality is the test used by courts in the liberal-democratic world to determine the justifiability and legitimacy of repressive state measures. This chapter considers whether the lockdowns imposed in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic were proportionate and thus legally and morally justifiable. It points out three pathologies of the political and public discourse around lockdowns, all of which relate to the final stage of the test, which examines the appropriateness of the balance struck between the severity of the restriction on freedom and the public interest in protecting health and lives. First, by focusing in a one-sided way on the protection of life, the public and political discourse neglected the question of the severity of the restriction on freedom and, relatedly, the costs of lockdowns, in particular their social, medical, psychological, cultural, and economic costs. Second, by de facto placing a taboo on the question of the relevance of the age distribution of the people dying from Covid-19, a proper consideration of this relevant factor was prevented. Third, the considerations that were regarded as determinative in striking the balance between protecting life and guaranteeing freedom, namely the protection of the health services from being overburdened and/or giving preference to human life as the highest value, were normatively unconvincing. Because of the complexity of, in particular, the empirical questions, this chapter cannot reach a confident conclusion as to the proportionality of the recent lockdowns. It does, however, show that the public and political discourse was biased in favour of lockdowns and offers a doctrinal structure as well as normative reflection on how to conduct the proportionality assessment properly.

Lockdowns and Intergenerational Justice

In deciding its response to Covid, the UK government has made a policy decision to sacrifice both the short-term and long-term well-being of young people in the UK – in order to shortly prolong the life of the elderly. The UK’s policy regarding the pandemic has discriminated against younger generations by imposing blanket regional and national lockdowns and strict social distancing rules on the entire population, regardless of whether certain age-groups were likely to be affected by Covid – and while ignoring the completely different impact that the policy had on different age-groups’ current and future well-being.

While blanket lockdowns and strict social distancing rules discriminated against younger generations, isolating only the elderly and vulnerable was both necessary and not discriminatory. Such a policy complies with the moral duties that are imposed by the concept of intergenerational justice and can also be justified behind a Rawlsian ‘veil of ignorance’. Isolating the elderly and the vulnerable should have been, however, advisory rather than compulsory.

Rights and Wrongs: sex-based and trans rights in the context of female prisons

Tuesday 7 February 2023, 1:00 PM - 2:45 PM

It is nearly 200 years since the 1823 Gaols Act segregated prisoners by sex. The original rationale for doing so was a pragmatic solution to the experiences of sexual victimisation that women experienced in mixed sex prisons as well as underpinned by a recognition of the different (to men) needs of women prisoners. Now, two centuries later, profound socio-cultural changes have driven increased recognition (and rights) of gender identity and gender expression and created new challenges for institutions organised by sex segregation. This presentation looks at the case of female prisons. It outlines current policies and practices concerning prison placement policy for transgender prisoners (with and without GRCs). It reviews the arguments for turning female prisons into mixed prisons (for and against) and argues that the current way of balancing rights against risks is problematic.

Liberal versus Democratic Conceptions of Free Speech

Thursday 3 November 2022, 4:30-5:30pm

The Centre for Law, Democracy, and Society (CLDS) is delighted to host a debate on free speech with Professor Matthew Kramer (Cambridge) and Professor Eric Heinze (Queen Mary) moderated by Dr John Adenitire (Queen Mary).

Debates about free speech ordinarily pit critics against advocates, asking whether a particular kind of speech ought to be penalized or permitted. This discussion takes a different approach. While agreeing on the exceptional importance of free speech, the speakers will put forth two very different foundations for it, reflecting contrasting beliefs about more basic political outlooks.

Authoritarian Constitutions series

The Centre for Law, Democracy, and Society is delighted to host a series of talks themed on 'Authoritarian Constitutions'.

Free Speech Crisis in University

21 September 2021

In this episode, Gauri Pillai, Managing Editor of the Oxford Human Rights Hub, speaks to Professor Adrienne Stone, Director of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne Law School and Professor Eric Heinze, Professor of Law and Humanities, Queen Mary University of London on the human rights implications of the alleged free speech crisis in university campuses.

Listen to the full podcast.

Book Launch - A General Right to Conscientious Exemption: Beyond Religious Privilege

Monday 22 February 2021

The Queen Mary Centre for Law, Democracy, and Society and Queen Mary Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IHSS) launched 'A General Right to Conscientious Exemption: Beyond Religious Privilege' by Dr John Adenitire, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London.

The book argues that there is in the US, Canada and UK, a general right to conscientious exemption available to a person who objects to any legal obligation based on a religious or non-religious conscientious belief. The book provides a liberal defence of this right and argues that it should be considered a defining feature of a liberal democracy. The book suggests how the general right should be balanced against important rights, such as non-discrimination based on sexual orientation.


  • Leading scholars from the US, Canada and UK provided critical comments on the book followed by a response by the author. We were joined by:
  • Dr Ilias Trispiotis (chair) is Associate Professor in the School of Law at the University of Leeds. Dr Trispiotis's research interests span the fields of international and European human rights law, equality law and legal theory.
  • Dr John Adenitire is Strategic Lecturer in the School of Law and a Fellow of the Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. Dr Adenitire's research has focused on the legal right to exemption for religious and non-religious conscientious objectors from a wide variety of legal obligations, including anti-discrimination norms.
  • Professor Robin Fretwell Wilson is the Director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs for the University of Illinois System. Prof. Fretwell Wilson specializes in family law and health law, and her research and teaching interests also include biomedical ethics, law and religion, children and violence, and law and science.
  • Dr Myriam Hunter-Henin is Reader in Law and Religion and Comparative Law in the Faculty of Laws at University College London. Dr Hunter-Henin's research addresses the interaction and tensions between law and religion in a comparative perspective.
  • Professor Kent Greenawalt is University Professor in the Columbia Law School at Columbia University. Prof. Greenawalt teaches and writes about legal interpretation, discrimination, church and state, freedom of speech, and criminal responsibility.
  • Professor Richard Moon is Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at the University of Windsor. Prof. Moon's research focuses on freedom of expression and freedom of conscience and religion.
  • Professor Yossi Nehushtan is Professor of Law and Philosophy in the School of Law at Keele University. Prof. Nehushtan’s areas of research are legal theory, political theory, public law, human rights law, and law and religion.

Webinar: Resisting Democratic Law: Circumstances, Methods, and Examples

Thursday 21 May 2020

Resistance to democratic laws, from solitary disobedience to mass protests, is a salient feature of the current political landscape. This workshop aims to investigate some of the most fundamental questions related to a citizen’s choice to disobey democratic law and the legal system’s responses to such lawbreaking.

What are the limits to citizens’ obedience and under which circumstances does disobedience become justified? And which methods of resistance are morally permissible? How should citizens respond to the escalating climate crisis? How can we understand Extinction Rebellion’s activities, and how should courts treat lawbreaking activists? These are some of the questions this workshop will explore by bringing together a group of experts from different disciplines.

Memory Laws in Europe and Beyond: Towards Ethical Governance of Historical Narratives

Friday 24 May 2019

Find out more about Memory Laws in Europe and Beyond: Towards Ethical Governance of Historical Narratives.

Nationality Now: The History, Culture, and Politics of Contemporary Citizenship

2 April 2019

The Centre for Law, Democracy, and Society at Queen Mary, University of London presents Nationality Now: The History, Culture, and Politics of Contemporary Citizenship.

This event was sponsored by the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences and The Global Research Initiation Scheme. 

Download the full programme [PDF 615KB].

What is a war crime? Identifying priorities for prosecution in International Law

The Centre for Law, Democracy and Society is delighted to host a conference on 'What is a war crime? Identifying priorities for prosecution in International Law' at the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London.

This event will discuss priorities for war crimes prosecutions. Questions to be discussed include whether the international community should be responsible for making these decisions as well as what part in the prosecution process local communities and victims should play.

Find out more about What is a war crime? Identifying priorities for prosecution in International Law.

The Role of Free Speech within Democracy

15 February 2019

This seminar gathers scholars from law, geography, philosophy, and politics to consider the origins of free speech in democratic institutions and to discuss and debate its effectiveness in ensuring democratic legitimacy.

Speakers include: Professor Eric Heinze (Law-Queen Mary University of London), Dr Jacob Rowbottom (Law-Oxford University), Professor Simon Reid-Henry (Geography-Queen Mary), Dr Manjeet Ramgotra (Politics and International Relations-SOAS), Dr Emanuela Fronza (Legal Sciences-University of Bologna), Dr Robert Simpson (Philosophy-UCL), Professor Alison Scott-Bauman (History, Religions and Philosophies-SOAS)

Recognition, Denial, and Human Rights: Theoretical Approaches

24 May 2018

This event considers how human rights affect and are affected by recognitions and denials of historical atrocities. Do recognitions of past crimes ensure the protection of human rights among perpetrator states? Do denials of such crimes undermine these rights? What kinds of rights must be in place to promote recognitions of difficult pasts?

Speakers include: Professor Eric Heinze (Queen Mary), Professor Wayne Morrison (Queen Mary), Professor Eva Pils (King’s College), Dr Ioanna Tourkochoriti (NUI Galway), Dr Ceren Özgül (NYU), Dr Félix Krawatzek (Oxford), Dr Elizabeth Nolte (Warwick), Eldad Ben-Aharon (Royal Holloway).

Find out more about Recognition, Denial, and Human Rights: Theoretical Approaches.

Memory Laws in Post-Transitional Democracies: Case Studies from Post-Communist States

5 October 2018

Mirror Room, Staszic Palace, Polish Academy of Sciences 
Sala Lustrzana, Pałac Staszica, Polska Akademia Nauk

'Hobbes, Weber, and Modern Public Law and Administration' by Professor Morten Kinander (BI Norwegian Business School)

11 October 2017

Max Weber’s main contributions to the hall of fame of social and democratic theory lie in his model of bureaucracy.  He insists on the importance of rules and principles of legality, which produce predictability and security for members of the state. Weber also marks a turning point with his focus on the role of institutions for social development and stability, in addition to his thesis of the monopoly of violence and his definitions of the state. The alternatives to his theoretical approach are more expressly normative theories of the intrinsic good of democracy and rights. This talk suggests that what Weber described, Hobbes had prescribed 250 years earlier. Hobbes’ ideas were modern not only in content, but also in method. Many of the ideas that we normally take to stem from the ‘Enlightenment’ or liberal democracy, are already present in Hobbes, especially as to the mode and form of argument, as well as material administrative principles at the very core of modern rule of law states. As I shall argue, there is not much in Weber’s model of bureaucracy that Hobbes did not already take to be crucial to a stable state. We can perhaps say, then, that one of the principal aims of the Leviathan is to present a distinct theory of administrative law, a still neglected field of political theory. The aim of this talk is to look a bit closer at how Hobbes is a deep seated Weberian, and what that can tell us about both the importance and the philosophical pedigree of all the mundane details of administrative law.

Morten Kinander is Professor of Law at the Norwegian Business School, where he currently serves as Director for the Centre of Financial Regulation. In addition to his background as a finance lawyer in a large Norwegian law firm, Kinander holds a doctoral degree in legal philosophy. He has published extensively, and his works in English include The View from Within: An analysis and critique of legal realism and descriptive jurisprudence; The Hermeneutics of Practical Perspectivism; and Comparing Courts: The Accountability Function of the Constitutional Courts of Poland and Hungary.

Law and Memory in Established Democracies

24 March 2017

The four-nation research consortium on Memory Laws in European and Comparative Perspectives (MELA) launched its first annual conference on 24 March 2017 at the University of Bologna, Italy.

Find out more about Law and Memory in Established Democracies

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