School of Law Postgraduate Colloquium

Words by Michele Tedeschini and Birsha Ohdedar

‘You get justice in the next world. In this one you have the law’, begins a 1994-novel written by William Gaddis. Is it true or is it an overstatement that justice and law belong to different planets? What are the limits of law in the pursuit of justice? These fundamental questions will be at the heart of the annual SOAS School of Law Postgraduate Colloquium, which will be held on 6 June at the Khalili Lecture Theatre.

The event will offer attendees a unique platform to examine the relationship between justice and law in a friendly and supportive environment. Ten young scholars, grouped in four thematic panels, will address the Colloquium’s topic from the perspective of their chosen field of research. Each panel will be followed by a discussion chaired by a SOAS academic and open to the public.

Aurelia Guo (City University) will start on a literary note, looking at how criminal prosecution of sexual violence is captured by works such as Elfriede Jelinek’s novel Lust and Vanessa Place’s trilogy of conceptual poetry Tragodia. Giovanna Gilleri (European University Institute) will then explore the conceptual limits of the notion of gender identity under international human rights law, building on the socially-constructed notion of sexuation. Punsara Amarsinghe (Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna) will close the panel with an investigation into the way in which Sri Lankan personal laws foster gender discrimination and create injustice for women.

After a quick break, the second panel will centre on indigenous rights and postcolonialism. Two presenters will take the floor: Jocelyn Nernon (University of Laval) will expound on the relationship between justice and identity, looking at the construction of the Aboriginal subject under international law. Moritz Koening (SOAS) will instead focus on Sumatra, addressing the colonial legacy from a legal-ontological perspective.

After so much food for thought, some food for the stomach! Lunch break until 2pm, then more food on the table in panel 3 on energy, food and justice. Zainab Lokhandwala (SOAS) examines the challenges to Farmers’ rights’ in India, in the context of food security, food sovereignty, and food sustainability. Godswill Agbaitoro (Essex University) will examine the laws required to address human-rights risks in energy-access projects in Africa, calling for a more transparent approach based on the Human Rights Impact Assessment framework (HRIA).

A last break, and the final session will be underway: international law, human rights, conflict and peace. Samaneh Shabani (University of Tehran) will analyse the barriers to access to justice encountered by persons with disabilities, arguing that legal theory alone is not able to tackle the stigma and stereotypes often encountered in the administration of justice. Sara Bertotti (SOAS) will present a research on the relationship between law and peace, stressing the difficulty to fit peace agreements into positive legal categories by examining the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of Nepal. Finally, Riccardo Labianco (SOAS) will explore the laws on arms transfers between states, which could contribute towards a more just international order by requiring a dialogue between supplier and recipient to take place.

Having heard all these fascinating presentations, attendees will be invited to a reception until 6pm and, after that, to a talk given by Dr. Carlos Correa, director of the South Centre – an intergovernmental organisation that helps developing countries to combine their efforts and promote their common interests in the international arena – on international law and the sustainable use of marine biological diversity.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Colloquium!

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