Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Conference in Honour of Marilyn Strather - Legal Knowledge and Anthropological Engagement (3-4 October 2008; Newnham College, Cambridge, UK)

As some of you may have seen the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and the Cambridge University's Social Anthropology Department are sponsoring a conference in Honour of Marilyn Strathern entitled, Legal Knowledge and Anthropological Engagement (3-4 October 2008) at Newnham College, Cambridge. The deadline for registration is the 26 of September 2008, and the standard fee is £30 and the reduced student fee is £15. Details can be found by clicking on the conference title above.

A summary of the conference and provisional programme are as follows:

'Interpretation', Marilyn Strathern writes in the 2004 preface to Partial Connections, 'must be a matter of refusing many meanings in order to focus on any'. Yet the reaction to excess entails a further insight: there are no discrete units of meaning that would organize the work of interpretation. The scope of Strathern's work is an example of how proliferating meanings (and interests) offer no fixed point of reference. Melanesian senses of the person open up a perspective on new reproductive technologies in the United Kingdom, just as the current regimes of academic auditing recall old questions about property. For the organization of a conference, as for the organization of data, the effect is liberating.

In so far as excess summons up relations, a conference organized in honour of Marilyn Strathern can focus on any one of her interests in order to evoke all of them. The organizers' interest in the interfaces between anthropological and legal knowledge seeks to engage a key question in Strathern's work: how do forms of knowledge come to appear as general or particular in their capacity to contribute to human understanding? Description at the heart of anthropological analysis no longer appears as a source of knowledge that is more particular than, for instance, the contentions of legal theory. Yet the effects of scaling on truth claims remain evident, not least in the persistence of global and local as the conventions by which the proportions of claims are judged. This conference asks, with reference to legal knowledge and practice, how anthropology resists such conventions in its contributions to contemporary debates inside and outside academia.

Modernist legal thinking, as Strathern has observed, at once opens up and closes down the capacity to envisage relations. While law and biotechnology, for example, appear compatible in a way that law and kinship do not, the anthropologist's challenge is often to keep in view the propensity of law to be many things at once. It can be a source of conceptual resources through which people define problems of ownership and rights, it can spur them to intervene in disputes, it gives grounds for advocacy, and so on. The instances of ethnography are accordingly diverse: humanitarianism; international organizations' involvement in 'conflict resolution'; 'law' in Melanesia; and ethics and research governance.

Some contributions to the conference will make their engagement with Strathern's work explicit; in others the intellectual debt may remain unstated. Common to all is the effort, central to Strathern's oeuvre, to accord equal weight to conceptual and interpersonal relations in the descriptions of social life.

Provisional Programme

Friday 3 October

9.30 - 10.00


10.00 - 10.30

Opening Session

Chair: Mary Jacobus (University of Cambridge)

Alison Richard, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

10.30 - 11.00



Keynote Lecture

Annelise Riles (Cornell University):
Title TBA




Transforming Law in Melanesia and Beyond

Chair: Eric Hirsch (Brunel University)

Melissa Demian (University of Kent)
Eliciting the ‘Underlying Law’

Ira Bashkow (University of Virginia)
When Does a Gift Begin?



14.15- 15.30

Sandra Bamford (University of Toronto)
Unitary Subjects, Discrepant Bodies: Domestic Violence and the Law in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea

James Leach (University of Aberdeen)
Mama Lo, Intellectual Property Law, Emergence, Constraint, and Personhood

Eric Hirsch (Brunel University)
Introduction to Discussion






Obligations and Anthropology: Humanitarianism Beyond Human Rights

Chair: Wendy James (University of Oxford)

Harri Englund (University of Cambridge)
Extreme Poverty and Existential Obligations: Beyond Morality in the Anthropology of Africa?

Erica Bornstein (University of Wisconsin)
Accounting for Trust: Obligations in NGO-work in India




Liisa Malkki (Stanford University)
Toys and Other Gifts: On The Cultivation of the Humanitarian Imagination

Maja Petrovic-Steger (University of Cambridge)
'Humanitarian Health’ in Post-conflict Serbia

Wendy James (University of Oxford)
Introduction to Discussion



Saturday 4 October

9.00 - 10.00

‘Conflict Resolution’ and the Auditing of Social Relations under International Law
Chair: Jane Cowan (Sussex University)

Yael Navaro-Yashin (University of Cambridge)
Governing Social Relations Internationally: The Legal Management of Conflict

Sari Wastell (Goldsmiths College, London)
Scales of Justice for the Former Yugoslavia: Social and Legal Calibrations of Culpability for Wartime Atrocity

10.00 - 10.15


10.15 - 11.30

Andrew Barry (University of Oxford)
The Curse of Economics: Oil, Conflict and the Law

James Weiner (RSPAS, Australia National University)
Conflict in the Statutory Elicitation of Aboriginal Culture in Australia

Jane Cowan (Sussex University)
Introduction to Discussion






Rights to Research?: Anthropology, Academia and the New Institutionalism
Chair: Georgina Born (University of Cambridge)

Monica Konrad (University of Cambridge):
Title TBA

Alberto Corsin-Jimenez (University of Manchester):
On Disproportionality




Debbora Battaglia (Mount Holyoke College)
Warming to Interdisciplinary Flows and Friction: An Anthropologist’s First Contact with the Science of ‘Weird Life’

Don Brenneis (University of California, Santa Cruz)
Optimizing Outliers

Georgina Born (University of Cambridge)
Introduction to Discussion






Closing Session

Chair: Alan Macfarlane (University of Cambridge)



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