Previous events

Autumn 2023/2024  Events Programme

Academic Freedom and Solidarity with Palestine 

Date: Monday 23 Oct 2023

Time: 6:30pm (UK time)

Venue: Zoom, register here

Chaired by: Jee Rubin and feature Mai Abu Moghli, Mahvish Ahmad and Hana Morgenstern. 

The Law & Resistance Research Group is co-sponsoring this event with the Race, Empire & Education Collective (a network spanning multiple universities and based at the University of Bristol) as well as Knowledge, Power & Politics (a research cluster at the University of Cambridge).

Week 5

Struggle and Social Movements

Date: Thurs 2 November 2023

Time: 3-4.30pm

Venue: Freeman Building - G22

Crossing the RubiconThe Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 as an Authoritarian Crucible

Ioannis Katsaroumpas (Law)

Struggles for the Human

Lara Montesinos Coleman (IR)

Discussant: Bal Sokhi-Bulley

Week 7


Date: Thurs 16 November 2023

Time: 3-5pm

Venue: Ashdown House - G2 

Conspiracy Theory and Inverted Oppression

Tarik Kochi (Law) 

Antisemitism and International Relations: The International Politics of the Jewish Enemy Within, (with Laura Jung)

Darcy Leigh (Law) 

Week 10

The Biopolitics of (Uncertain) Time(s)

Date: Thurs 7 December 2023

Time: 3-4.30pm

Venue: Freeman Building - G16

The Opaque Political Community: An Affirmative Biopolitics of Uncertainty for Post-Truth Times

Hannah Richter (Politics)

Biopolitics of Time: Marx, Foucault, and the Synthesis of Labour Power

Yari Lanci (Sociology) 

Discussant: Darcy Leigh


Spring 2021/2022 Events Programme

After Rights? Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics

Wednesday 23 Feb 2022

Time: 13.00-17.30 UK Time

00.00 NEXT DAY / 17 Feb Melbourne
23.30 Adelaide
17.00 Delhi
14.00 Kassel/Oslo/Tilburg [Central European Time]
08.00 Dayton/Allendale
07.00 Austin, TX
05.00 Vancouver/San Francisco

WORKSHOP 4: Rights, Justice and Ecology

PANEL A: Revolution, Relation and Abolitionist Praxis

Time: 13.00-15.00 UK Time

Chair: Dr Bal Sokhi-Bulley

Discussant: Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa, LSE

After Rights…Renarration, Reparation, Relation

Prof Louiza Odysseos, University of Sussex


Sylvia Wynter’s thought charges human rights as always already caught up in the discourses of Man, in which claims to humanity comfortably coexist with historical and contemporary practices of extermination and exclusion of colonised, racialised and enslaved others on the grounds of “no humans involved”. Spelling out the ways in which rights limit and circumscribe the universe of application (Helen Fein), her provocation requires a tremendous undertaking of renarration. For Wynter, such a renarration mobilises Aime Cesaire’s ‘new science of the word’ towards a new autopoetic description of the human, which disputes its boundaries from historically constituted animality and inhumanity. Departing from this challenge the paper claims that renarrating the ‘hybridly human’, however, is but a first step striving for a reparative thinking of human rights ‘made to the measure of a world’ marked by legacies of colonialism and enslavement; that renarration and reparation call on us to think a future of after rights, where a future human rights hangs in the balance. After-rights requires not only a decentring of the sovereign subject of rights as Man and a centring of post-sovereign subjectivities; but also probing how rights might be enacted sociopoetically as Relation (Glissant), itself resulting from the material histories and legacies of enslavement and colonisation.

“After” the Haitian Revolution: A recursive analysis of the concept of liberation

Taylor Borowetz, SOAS University of London


This inquiry will explore the political and symbolic potentiality of liberation beyond rights by proposing a recursive-historical analysis of the Haitian revolutionary concept of liberty. This paper points to the foundational inadequacy of juridical liberal humanist freedom by tracing the conceptual displacements of Haitian revolutionary emancipation through contemporary abolitionism, complicating the classical teleological temporality of concept analysis. This perspective challenges accounts that narrate the Haitian Revolution through the lens of liberal Enlightenment progress and universalising discourses of the history of rights. Data will include primary source documents from Toussaint Louverture alongside the Haitian constitutions of 1801 and 1805, focusing on the way that the opposing concepts of slavery and emancipation inform the concept of liberty. It finds that echoes of abolitionism and the drive to move beyond rights can be found throughout the conceptual category of liberation, notably within the Haitian Revolution itself. Despite the legal designation of “freedom” after the revolution, cultivators’ lived realities were similar to conditions of slavery (Lundahl 1984). This paper argues that the same haunting animates Walcott’s (2021) description of our failure to rupture the foundational plantation logics structuring the temporality of the long emancipation. Using a recursive method “[…] marked by the uneven, unsettled, After Rights? 14 of 16 contingent quality of histories that fold back on themselves and, in that refolding, reveal new surfaces, and new planes,” (Stoler 2016 p. 26), Haitian revolutionary history re-emerges in dialogue with our contemporary problem-space (Scott 2004) of colonial racial capitalism. Burdened individuality (Hartman 1997) or the ontological project of our legal systems (Warren 2018), are always already salient. This troubled temporality provides an opportunity to imagine new abolitionist politics beyond juridical frameworks that perpetuate logics of unfreedom (Walcott 2021), contributing to the project of theorising liberation “after” the Haitian Revolution.

Freedom now: Envisioning Palestinian liberation through abolitionist praxis

Shaimaa Abdelkarim, University of Birmingham


The paper moves beyond the failures of international human rights law in answering to the dehumanisation of Palestinians to offer abolitionist praxis as an answer to processual colonial violence. While international human rights law and counter-hegemonic human rights practices can offer recognition of breaches in human rights norms, it does not offer an understanding of freedom beyond such recognition. For that, this paper initiates from the premise that the settler-colonial violence that Palestinians experience surpasses a human rights approach. The paper analyses how abolitionist thought makes us rethink anti-colonial tactics beyond the aim of recognition. As Rinaldo Walcott and Angela Davis assert, persisting anti-blackness shows that we are not past the conditions of coloniality. Such conditions are visible in the forceful eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah. They create an urgency to invest in envisioning postcolonial conditions to actualise Palestinian freedom. The paper examines the effects of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement beyond the prevalent NGO-isation of Palestinian struggles in the West and traces its relationship with anti-colonial mobilisations. Reading the aims of BDS along with abolitionist thought, antinormalisation of relations with Israel carries out the anti-imperialist work that resonated in different social mobilisations, like the 2011 uprisings in African and Asian countries. Through this resonance, the paper reorients the BDS movement to an anti-colonial tactic while arguing that abolitionist thought can help us envision the conditions necessary for Palestinian liberation. Abolition (and its speculative zones and different genres of action) have exceeded the international as a governance project to invigorate solidarity across borders. This reorientation affects not only the function of international human rights that becomes regulative of the Palestinian struggle. But also, it highlights how the annihilation of Palestinian livelihood is not exceptional but an effect of the limited genre of humanity that human rights law offers us. This creates an urgency to shift from critiquing the limitations of liberal humanism to envisioning what the afterlives of colonialism look like, in which Palestinian livelihood is possible.
(30 Minute break)

PANEL B: Grief, Fugitivity and Art Worlds

Time: 15.30-17.30 UK Time

Chair: Prof Louiza Odysseos

Discussant: Swastee Ranjan, University of Exeter

Ecology of Grief: Climatic Events, Rights of River and the Anthropocene in the Himalayas

Rahul Ranjan, Oslo Metropolitan University


Soaked in the thrust for modernity and securing frontiers, the young and rising mountains of the Himalayas are bearing witness to the unprecedented effects of climate change. Much of these effects are evident in the register of climatic events – ceasing to display horrific avalanche, cloud bursts, landslides and glacier ruptures. While increasing focus on the study of climate change in this region, especially Uttarakhand, has brought considerable attention in the popular media and emphasises the role of climate change, there remains considerable focus only on solution-driven approach and development-based projects. However, these valuable approaches render the emotive and affective reading of climatic events as an appendix to the explanation.

This paper is invested in understanding the problem as it were now -and unfolding; it chooses to stay with troubles. In doing so, the author delineates a new perspective on the idea of “environmental grief” to approach two inter-related interest. First, it situates the emergent category of Anthropocene, which is featured through climate change to understand the climatic event in the Himalayas. Second, it explores the possibilities of legal endeavours such as rights of rivers and glaciers as a way of thinking about climate change. The paper uses a case study of climatic events in Uttarakhand, such as cloud burst, to situate the environmental grief within the broader discussion of law, non-human and the Anthropocene.

Beyond Representation – Fugitive Law for More-than-human Worlds

Marie-Catherine Petersmann, Tilburg University


Non-, in- or more-than-human interests are today routinely framed in a register of rights, as epitomized with the turn to ‘rights of nature’, nonhuman ‘animal rights’ or ‘rights of robots’. A reconfiguration of human-nonhuman relations underpins these approaches, which tend to be premised on a recognition of humans’ dependency on and entanglement with nonhumans, thereby calling for a strengthened protection of the latter. This article starts by problematizing the deployment of rights to nonhumans, and unpacks the particular ontology and epistemology it sustains. Any ‘rights’ formulation, I argue, requires the representation of a collective that claims its entitlements as part of a given legal framework, thereby recognizing the latter, its authority and mode of action. When applied to nonhumans, a rights approach therefore presupposes a prior self-recognition and representation of a delimited more-thanhuman collective operating within a given legal framework, in which both human and nonhuman interests are subsumed, and on whose behalf the law speaks. This article focuses on the process of self-recognition and representation of a collective and its expansion to nonhumans. It argues that more-than-human collectives are inherently open-ended, composite collectives in-becoming, which fit uncomfortably with ‘rights’ formulations that re-inscribe and always already pre-define and pre-determine the world-tocome. What novel legal expressions could be imagined to capture modes of humannonhuman sociality that do not enclose a fixed collectivity presumed stable within a given After Rights? 16 of 16 legal framework, but can make sense of more-than-human, emerging and contingent worlds-in-becoming? Against this backdrop, this article inquiries into avenues for legal thought and practice for more-thanhuman worlds-in-the-making, and the possibility for law to think with fugitive and opaque modes of collective action and poiesis.

Before, Beside and Beyond Rights

Lola Frost, King's College London


Our rights are often not realised, remain unequally distributed and have been instrumentalised, even if we do also need them. In addressing the question of what alternative forms of ethical comportment and aesthetic/poetic imaginaries are possible when the efficacy of rights is questioned, this paper will explore the ethical potential of being-in-common-without-identity through art practice. My claim is that such an ethics predates and exceeds an ethics of rights and social justice whose successes and failures presume some form of collective entitlement. Ideally, art practices are the production of collective gift, whose sense-based precariousness cannot be legislated against, but whose performative gifting is also a foundational value that tends to be displaced by our preoccupation with representation and rights.

Judith Butler has made the case for an ethics of recognition lodged in activist projects through which individuals, collectively and in public, contest those norms which sustain injustice to perform an ethics of encounter that elides the fixities of identity, mastery and power. Along these lines I explore the overlaps between political activism and art in the photography of Zanele Muholi which addresses the failure of constitutional rights for LGBTQI+ practitioners in contemporary South Africa. Beyond that pressing equality project, I will explore how Muholi’s practice also invites something of the precariousness of an ethics of being-in-common-without-identity via the pluralities of affective experience.

Drawing on Fiona Jenkins’ insights, I go on to explore the collective and ethical potential of an aesthetics of encounter in art that does not make claims to solidarity or identity. I do so through a consideration of the pluralising and self-disaggregating grammars of my painting practice. In so doing, I will explore how this painting practice invests in both the vulnerability of being human and of the non-human landscape, whilst simultaneously offering a deconstructive critique of the phallogocentric and territorialising legacies of the western tradition of landscape painting - to invite a life-force ethics of being-in-common-withoutidentity that pulses, generatively, before, beside and beyond rights and the law.

Week 8

Thursday 17 March 2022

Time: 2.00pm-3.30pm

Critical Conversations


Chairs: Hannah Blitzer and Christina Miliou Theocharaki (Sussex Law School)

Joint event with SCHRR

This session is concerned with inciting conversations between researchers, and creating awareness and an ethos of openness amongst our critical research community. Led by Hannah Blitzer and Christina Miliou Theocharaki, the session will feature presentations by PhD researchers in LPS on their current work. Planned in a roundtable style, these conversations will be themed around questions that include: How do we do critical work/what does it mean to take a critical approach to our specific research interests/what does it mean to do decolonising work/how can we integrate theory and practice, particularly for those who are conducting fieldwork or have practical experience? We invite researchers who are familiar with critical theory topics, as well as those who are new to the field or want to explore their research through a critical lens.

Week 9

Thursday 24 March 2022

Time: 2.00pm -3.30pm

Critical Legal Geographies


Edward Guntrip, Sussex Law School: The Significance of Space: Contextualising the Intersection of International Investment Law and Human Rights

Abstract: The intersection of international investment law (IIL) and human rights is frequently examined in the abstract. That is, reference is made to the content of substantive laws, and the legal frameworks in which these laws are created and interpreted, without taking into account the variability that arises when laws are transposed into specific investment settings. This paper employs aspects of critical legal geography to understand how law, space and power interrelate in an investment setting that raises human rights issues. With reference to a case study of an investment project in Cambodia, a spatial analysis of the intersection of IIL and human rights reveals that IIL is poorly equipped to deal with space because of its internationalised legal framework. Further, IIL’s international focus masks nuances in the distribution of power across investment projects, which can generate human rights injustices. Thus, it is argued that IIL can only address human rights injustices by recognising the unique power dynamics that exist in each investment project.

Alex Fusco, Department of Geography, 'The production of (camp) space'

Week 11

Thursday 28 April 2022

Time: 2.00pm -3.30pm

Book Panel

Scott Veitch’s Obligations: New Trajectories in Law (Routledge, 2021)

Join us for a book panel discussion on Scott Veitch's fantastic and recent book, Obligations: New Trajectories in Law (Routledge, 2021). Our discussants will draw out key themes from the book, allowing Scott to respond and to address the book's objectives.

The book focuses on the different ways in which our ‘age of rights’ has obscured the important work of obligations in modern societies. Drawing on examples from the workplace, the market, and conditions of indebtedness, the book shows how obligations and hybrids of obligation and obedience play a key role in sustaining inequalities in contemporary society. The book also assesses the potentially positive contribution of discourses of obligations for critical legal analysis.

Discussants: David Karp (IR Sussex) and Bal Sokhi-Bulley (Sussex Law School)

Chair: Louiza Odysseos (IR Sussex)

Scott Veitch is Paul KC Chung Professor in Jurisprudence at the University of Hong Kong.

This is a joint event hosted by the Critical Theory Research Group and the Centre for Rights and Anti-Colonial Justice.

Autumn 2021/22

Week 3

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Time: 4pm to 5.30pm

Intersections in Theory:


In Person Session:

This session will feature a talk by Darrow Schecter (Prof Critical Theory and Modern European History, School of Media, Arts & Humanities, Sussex) on his latest book, Theory and Sociological Theory: On Late Modernity and Social Statehood (MUP, 2019). Tarik Kochi (Senior Lecturer in Law, LPS) will lead the discussion that will follow.

Week 5

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Time: 12.30pm to 2pm

Intersections in Research

COFFEE and CHAT – Joint Session with Sussex Centre for Human Rights Research

In Person Session

Following on from the Week 3 session of the SLS Research Seminar Series on Identifying and Exploring Research Themes within SLS, we invite you to a ‘coffee and chat’ session to discuss the themes of our research in the spirit of collaboration and supportive research environment. We’d also like to hear your ideas on what you see as distinctive about the Centre & the Research Group and what you’d like to see more of in terms of wip sessions, reading groups and (external) events. We welcome all colleagues from across departments also to share their research and ideas!

Week 7

Wednesday 10 November 2021

Time: 09.00-13.30 UK Time

20.00 Melbourne
19.30 Adelaide
13.30 Delhi
10.00 Kassel/Oslo/Tilburg [Central European Time]
04.00 Dayton, Ohio / Allendale, Michigan
03.00 Austin, Texas
01.00 Vancouver/San Francisco

After Rights? Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics

WORKSHOP 1: Rights, Process and Practice

Virtual Session*

The ‘After Rights?’ Project is jointly led by Prof Louiza Odysseos (IR, Sussex) and Dr Bal Sokhi-Bulley (Law, Sussex). More details on the themes and questions of the project can be found in the cfp (now closed!) here

The workshops are jointly hosted by The Centre for Rights and Anti-Colonial Justice and the Critical Theory Research Group. They run for half a day and it is possible to attend either or both panels.

* Please email: Bal or Louiza to book a place as spaces are limited on these workshops

PANEL A: Rights, Process and Political Imaginings

Time: 9.00-11.00 UK Time

Chair: Bal Sokhi-Bulley

Discussan: Ben Golder, University of New South Wales

Organisers' Introduction: Louiza Odysseos & Bal Sokhi-Bulley

Forging new habits: Critical drugs scholarship as an otherwise to rights

Kate Seear & Sean Mulcahy, La Trobe University


The field of global drug policy is currently dominated by great enthusiasm about human rights. A key assumption is that human rights can provide a normative framework to guide law and policy reforms, leading to less punitive approaches to drug use and greatly improving the lives of people who use drugs. But seventy years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights promised rights protections, millions worldwide still endure human rights abuses. If human rights were an effective framework for the prevention of punitive approaches towards people who use drugs, why haven’t they prevented them until now? One possibility is that rights are less reliable for those society considers ‘less than human’. People who use drugs are frequently constituted as such; as compulsive, irrational, duplicitous and chaotic, and less than human within Western liberal contexts that valorise voluntarity, rationality, authenticity and order. Rights processes can disenfranchise by reproducing these logics of abjection. One way this happens is through the repetition of ideas about drugs and proper ways of being, through deliberative rights processes. Against this, a nascent body of critical drug scholarship informed by feminist, posthumanist and new materialist theories seeks to intervene in dominant material-discursive constructions of people who use drugs. This work deliberately mobilises ‘habit’ as an otherwise to ‘addiction’ (Sedgwick 1993) and argues that habit is the foundation of realities (Fraser, Moore and Keane 2014). Habits and thus, realities, 

can be changed. This paper draws on these ‘ontopolitically-oriented’ approaches (Fraser 2020) to speculatively explore whether insights from critical drug scholarship can help us to remake rights. In particular, we ask whether the concept of habit and practices of repetition (Butler 1988) can help us rethink current failings in human rights? Might the forging of new habits open up new pathways (following Latour 2013) with greater promise?

Azaadi and Muslim womens re-imagination of constitutional and human rights

Rishika Sahgal, Oxford University


In 2019, the Indian Parliament amended the Citizenship Act (CAA) to ease the grant of citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants. It was immediately evident to activists that this was a consolidation of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) under a Hindu right-wing government. Activists took to the streets in protest, led by Muslim women. Two practices became a common feature of these protests – shouting slogans of azaadi (liberation), and reading out the preamble to the Indian Constitution. These practices form an ideal starting point for my reflections on struggling with, over and beyond rights.

I reflect on the epistemic contributions of azaadi to a project of re-imagining rights. Azaadi, unlike narrow liberalism, is a call for dismantling intersecting structures of oppression including patriarchy, the caste system, capitalism, and Hindutva. These ideas are reflected in the long-form text of the slogan; in the history of how the slogan came to be used by feminist movements, left student movements, especially in Jawaharlal Nehru University, and the movement against state oppression in Kashmir. During the anti-CAA protests, activists interpreted the Constitution, and rights, through the lens of azaadi. They made a demand of rights – that these enable a dismantling of intersecting structures of oppression. The ‘political imaginings’ of azaadi takes rights out of the narrow ‘liberal fishbowl’, helping us to re-imagine rights.

I also reflect on the praxis of azaadi during the anti-CAA protests, and its contribution to reimagining a praxis of beyond, and after rights. The protest saw hijab-clad women take over the streets through songs and slogans of azaadi, while studying and performing care-work. By bringing the home on to the streets, they broke down all barriers between the public and private, and made us question what an ‘activist’ and ‘activism’ for azaadi might look like.

Human Rights after Information Politics?

Joshua Bowsher, Brunel University London


Over the last decade, a growing body of scholarship has critically examined the political limits of human rights. The contemporary human rights movement, it is increasingly argued, not only emerged in parallel with neoliberal globalization in the 1970s but also shares its individualising models of human subjectivity and community. Intervening in these discussions, this paper first argues that an underexplored but crucial part of this picture is the movement’s emergence as a particular mode of “information politics.” With an ongoing commitment to mobilising ‘thick rivers of fact,’ to name and shame governments, the fight for human rights has primarily become a positivistic informational project that constructs and disseminates empirical ‘facts’ about violations. The cost of this project has been a hostility to, and exclusion of, more transformative and political forms of knowledge-making.

Consequently, the crisis of human rights today is as much an epistemological problem regarding our ‘machineries of knowing,’ as it is a political one. Responding to this difficulty, the second half of this paper argues that a radical reimagining of human rights information, and the epistemological assumptions underpinning it, could productively inform attempts to realize the radical potential of human rights. To do so, I explore what “information politics” could mean through a series of reflections that bring together Donna Haraway’s work on ‘situated knowledges’, Maurizio Lazzarato’s writing on ‘counter-expertise’, and postcolonial After Rights? 3 of 16 conceptions of human rights. Through these reflections, I call for a more speculative and perspectival approach to human rights information, one which brings together theoretical conceptions of exploitation with the experiences of the exploited. In this more radical mode, I conclude, information provides possibilities for engaging with what Adom Getachew calls ‘world-making,’ a process which bridges the gap between a critique of the world as it is and imagining how it might be otherwise.

(30 minute break)

PANEL B: Queering Rights

Time: 11.30-13.30 UK Time

Chair: Louiza Odysseos

Discussant: Elena Loizidou, Birkbeck University

After rights, after LGBTI rights

Anthony J. Langlois, Flinders University


Over the last decade, institutions within the international human rights regime have finally extended their rights coverage to explicitly include people of diverse sexuality and gender, specified through two commonly used acronyms: LGBTI and SOGIESC (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex; and, more capaciously: sexual orientation, gender identity & expression, and sex characteristics). This recognition remains tenuous, with continuing opposition in the halls of the UN, and a right-populist mood swing in the politics of many regions. Nonetheless, the change represents a significant inflection point.
But what exactly is this significance? And what does it mean to be after the arrival of “gay rights”, LGBTI rights – even rights for queers? Indeed, what exactly was it that arrived with “gay rights”? Observing that Q for queer is not included in the UN-recognised sexuality and gender diversity acronym, and that queers (activists and theorists alike) are commonly sceptical about the value of liberal rights discourse for achieving anything approaching liberation or emancipation, my discussion will consider the polysemic meanings of “after rights” for sexuality and gender diverse individuals and communities only just credited with rights bearing status, in a global context.

I will argue that the resources that feed queer scepticism about rights have much to contribute to the broader debate: the “after” being grappled with in contemporary discussions appears familiar under some gazes to the “always-already” experience of queers – for many not noticeably interrupted or alleviated by the arrival of LGBTI rights. In this experience, any promise or hope associated with rights is countered by ongoing social, material and racialized exclusions which prevent access to or refuse action by rights mechanisms. A more fundamental social transformation is required than rights alone can provide.

At the same time, the late-occurring extension of the plenitude of human rights to the sexuality and gender diverse has also foreshortened the gap between the elaboration of these individuals and communities as rights bearing subjects and their instrumentalization within the global politics of rights, viscerally challenging the idea of what rights are for and what they do, hastening the onset of scepticism about or the turn away from rights-based activism within communities, and in so doing providing additional layers of meaning for “after rights”. After Rights? 4 of 16 Drawing on theoretical resources and reflecting on the diverse experiences of those engaged in rights advocacy for sexuality and gender diverse people in different regional contexts, this article will offer a queer provocation about what it means to be “after rights”, “after LGBTI rights”.

Locating spaces of ‘after’: Non-linear temporalities of progress and LGBTI rights

Kay Lalor, Manchester Metropolitan University


This paper explores how ‘after rights’ might be imagined outside linear temporality. It asks whether an ‘after’ of rights presupposes a steady progression from before rights, to a present of rights to after rights, or whether this linear narrative might be usefully complicated. To do this, the paper draws upon Deleuzian temporal multiplicities and queer critiques of linear progress narratives in international human rights law to analyse how ‘after’ could be conceived in a non-linear or multi-linear fashion.

Focusing on the recent and relative success of LGBTI rights in international human rights law, the paper seeks to complicate the lens of the ‘progress’ of LGBTI rights. It does so by exploring how the recognition and institutionalisation of sexual orientation and gender identity within international organisations and processes – from the UN to the World Bank, to bilateral treaty negations – are spatial and ontological rather than just representational. In short, the growth of international LGBTI rights relies not just on the creation of LGBTI subjects but on the rendering visible and intelligible of particular assemblages of bodies, practices and knowledges within dynamic and interactive legal terrains and a corresponding unintelligibility of other bodies and practices. These processes and assemblages operate unevenly across international spaces. The paper suggests that progress narratives of LGBTI rights in international human rights law both rely on, and deny, this uneven spatial dynamic. Through this reading of the spatio-temporalities of LGBTI rights, the paper identifies what elements might be required to think ‘after rights’ in a non-linear fashion, as material, dynamic and multiplicitous. It conceives ‘after’ not as a moment or a condition to be achieved, but as a practice, or an eternal return of difference that resonates in different ways across fractured legal landscapes.

From Rights to Politics: The Politics of the Governed and emergent post-rights subjectivities in South Africa
Eric Otieno Sumba, University of Kasse


This contribution advances a conceptualization of emerging subjectivities in the context of an ongoing transition from rights to politics in South Africa. It builds upon and responds to Steven L. Robins’ analysis in From Revolution to Rights in South Africa (2008), which retraced the early trajectory of ‘rights talk’, a by-product of South Africa’s liberal democratic revolution that is attributable to one of the most progressive constitutions in the world.
Simultaneously, this contribution also affirms Tshepo Madlingozi’s critique of neo-apartheid constitutionalism in ‘post-revolution’ South Africa: a dispensation within which constitutional democracy, a culture of human rights, and a hegemonic discourse of social justice fail to account for the stasis and death that many (primarily poor, black and female) South Africans continue to face —and resist— on a daily basis.

By tracing the transformation from rights to politics over the last two decades, this contribution argues that incipient notions of ‘after rights’ are already being articulated in the form of what Partha Chatterjee has called ‘the Politics of the governed’: that is, the politics After Rights? 5 of 16 of those for whom state-of-the-art rights—such as those constitutionally enshrined in South Africa—have remained a common but abstract refrain at the sole disposal of an elitist, selfproclaimed civil society.

On this view, and drawing from the example of HIV/AIDS activism (among others), ‘after rights’ is parsed as an era-defining (re)turn to (insurgent) politics that rejects governmentality and seeks to bypass the afterlives of settler-colonialism to radically rethink processes of constitution that break with inherent and inherited configurations of the political. This contribution therefore challenges the meagre significance accorded to how politics in most of the World consistently problematizes the remit of Eurocentric liberal rights discourses.

Week 9

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Time: 1.00-2.30pm

Healthy Environments: Degeneracy and Disruption


In-Person Venue: Freeman Building, F-40

Via Zoom: 

Degeneracy: the security politics of a moral panic

Darcy Leigh, Sussex Law School

A British Right to a Healthy Environment: "An Idea Whose Time Has Come" or Neoliberal Fantasy?

Hannah Blitzer, Sussex Law School

Week 11

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Time: 13.00 to 17.30 UK time

00.00 NEXT DAY / 9 Dec Melbourne
23.30 NEXT DAY / 9 Dec Adelaide
17.00 Delhi
14.00 Kassel/Oslo/Tilburg [Central European Time]
08.00 Dayton/Allendale
07.00 Austin, Texas
05.00 Vancouver/San Francisco

After Rights? Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics

WORKSHOP 2: Rights, Abandonment and Protest

Virtual Session*

* Please email Bal or Louiza to book a place as spaces are limited on these workshops

PANEL A: Citizenship, Abandonment and the Politics of Justice

Time: 13.00-15.00 UK Time


Discussant: Scott Veitch, The University of Hong Kong

The Right not to be Deported: The Condition of Citizenship in a Hostile Environment

Andrew Schaap, University of Exeter


In the UK, the rights of citizens have increasingly been defined and enacted in relation to immigration control. This was exemplified in the 1981 Nationality Act and subsequent legislation, which consolidated the so-called ‘hostile’ environment for ‘illegal migrants’ in the UK. As the Windrush scandal and ongoing deportation of Black Britons convicted as ‘foreign criminals’ reveals, immigration controls racially order society by differentiating the population according to citizenship status in ways that make people from former British colonies vulnerable to being made ‘illegal’. At the same time as citizenship for (non-white) ‘immigrants’ is conditional on continuously demonstrating their integration into society, so the condition of citizenship for working and out-of-work citizens is increasingly precarious as social rights are withdrawn. This paper will consider how state racism might be contested ‘after’ the condition of citizenship has been reduced to a ‘right not to be deported’.

The paper will begin by revisiting Hannah Arendt’s germinal characterisation of the rightlessness of the stateless person vis-à-vis the relative ‘respectability’ of the criminal. It will consider how tenable Arendt’s distinction between the situation of the criminal (inside the law) and the stateless person (outside the law) is, given the condition of citizenship in After Rights? 6 of 16 the UK today. On the one hand, the paper will explore how immigration control racially differentiates the population by disproportionately exposing negatively racialized noncitizens and citizens to state violence. Practices such as character assessment reflect and reproduce a racialized understanding of citizenship as conditional on immigrants being able to properly ‘integrate.’ On the other hand, ‘ordinary’ citizens are interpellated as agents of immigration control through deputization. The involvement of landlords, employers, healthcare workers, police, etc. in sustaining a hostile environment mobilises and produces racisms by inciting citizens to participate in the illegalisation of others. The paper will conclude by reflecting on the political significance of recent anti-deportation mobilisations in the UK. It will consider whether what Etienne Balibar calls a politics of civility indicates a form of political agency that contests racialised state violence without reproducing the logic of sovereignty to which discourses of rights are, perhaps, inevitably bound.

‘After Rights’ is Friendship: On Abandonment, Obligation and the Stranger

Bal Sokhi-Bulley, University of Sussex


This paper starts from the premise that rights produce abandonment. It is not simply that abandonment is an ethical problem that (juridical) rights cannot solve but that the state has appropriated rights such that it exercises a supreme ‘right to maim’. As Puar has argued, the right to maim allows for the violent control of populations through the debilitating logics of racial capitalism, extracting value from them yet producing ‘slow death’ (Berlant) through the everyday work of living on. I understand abandonment as debility, and examine the ‘maiming’ of Muslim populations in Britain’s hostile environment through an analysis of the case of Shamima Begum and deprivation of citizenship as ‘slow death’. Can we imagine, I ask, a right not to be abandoned for the maimed subject of the postcolonial state? I propose a radical reimagining of rights as friendship; a way of life that performs political spirituality as a counter-conductive practice of collective care. Friendship, which I come to through Foucault but which I inject with a feminine poetic consciousness inflected with radical Sikhi, has the potential to create an obligation towards the maimed. The essence of obligation can be found in the notion of hukum; taken from Sikhi, this political-spiritual imperative moves us to strive for Oneness (Ek Onkar) via a constant creative mode of existence. It requires a radical conception of the self as spirit, or aatma, that moves away from contained western enlightenment notions of the self, ethics and relationality towards a cosmic consciousness that embraces Begum as a stranger, not despite but because of her estrangement and ‘betrayal’. Begum can exercise, then, a relational right to make a mistake, a right to come home and ultimately a right not to be abandoned. ‘After rights’, therefore, is friendship as decolonial and revolutionary praxis that urges a rethinking of the western philosophical subject (as aatma), of rights language (as relational right) and of liberation from the hostile environment itself (as a political and spiritual project).

Re-making rights and justice ‘after rights’

Sumi Madhok, London School of Economics and Political Science


What if the politics of human rights were, in effect, the politics of justice? What transformational effect would this philosophical alignment have for both philosophical and theoretical thinking on justice and rights but also for squaring the circle on global coloniality, epistemic injustice, structural inequality, and human rights? What political imaginaries, critical conceptual vocabularies, intersectional subjectivities, and political struggles would come into epistemic view as a result of this philosophical coupling? And what different and emancipatory anti-colonial, anti-racist and gender politics of rights would such an alignment call into being? Drawing on longstanding ethnographic tracking of subaltern politics of After Rights? 7 of 16 justice across South Asia, this paper seeks to centre these questions in order to re-imagine political futures ‘after rights’.

(30 minute Break)

PANEL B: Human Rights Experimentalism, Protest and the City

Time: 15.30 to 17.30 UK Time

Discussant: Lucy Finchett-Maddock

Beyond the Right to Protest

Illan rua Wall, University of Warwick


As the call identifies, critical approaches to rights have long identified their operation as an apparatus of capture in which radical, progressive or ruptural politics become transformed by their interaction with judicial and institutional logics. These critical accounts sometimes also gesture to a different sense of rights, where rights open a distinctive site of struggle within and beyond law. This paper uses this bifurcation to explore the right to protest: On one side it identifies the right to ‘peaceful’ protest which is little more than a right to calmly petition parliament; On the other it points to a right to protest that has more in common with the paradoxical right to revolt. This other right to protest includes the destruction of property, fighting with the police and holding territory to the exclusion of the state’s claim to control, but it does so while abandoned to the extraordinary police power of contemporary states. The effect of this debate leads us ultimately to the utility of ‘rights’ as a framework for gleaning some legitimacy for otherwise illegal protest. As a terrane of debate, ‘rights’ distracts us from another scene. It distracts us from the attempt to impact the affective life of the populace such that a growing popular sentiment emerges behind the protestors.

A Human Right to Our City? Derivè, heterotopia, racial banishment in the remaking of global urban space Joseph Hoover, Queen Mary University of London A key dimension of human rights expansion has been the linking of human rights and cities, encompassing discourses of “human rights in the city”, “human rights cities”, and “the right to the city”. These developments variously link human rights responsibilities to local authorities, incorporate international human rights standards into local law, and declare the rights of individuals to “inhabit, use, occupy, produce, govern and enjoy” cities. While the move to localise and urbanise human rights is partly driven by urban justice movements, as well as a recognition of the dangers of a hierarchical international human rights regime, it nonetheless retains the legalistic, individualising, and depoliticising orientation of conventional liberal human rights. This gives rise to the question of whether the linking of human rights and cities provides space for creatively and radically rethinking rights, or merely transposes existing human rights, and their attendant closures and limitations, to a different geographic scale. To explore the possibilities of cities as spaces of creative rights praxis I return to Henri Lefebvre, focusing on his linking of the right to the city to the social production of space. I argue that in our contemporary moment, a meaningfully radical right to the city must confront the social production of globalised urban space under racial neoliberal capitalism. Drawing on Guy Debord’s notion of derivè, Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia, and Ananya Roy’s analysis of racial banishment, I argue a human rights praxis After Rights? 8 of 16 conceptually and ethically adequate to the injustice of contemporary global urbanism must enable a reimagining of the city as pluralistic public space, in which all denizens are able to take an equal part in the creation of the city, as a political, cultural, and economic space.

The Ferguson Uprising, Shadow Reporting, and Human Rights Experimentalism

Joel R. Pruce, University of Dayton


In Fall 2014, a delegation of frontline activists and lawyers from Ferguson, Missouri, including Michael Brown’s parents, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to testify in front of the UN Committee Against Torture while the US government appeared before the treaty monitoring body. But, why? Why would a grassroots movement for racial justice, whose comrades were literally facing down sniper rifles and tanks in the streets of a small American town, go to all the trouble—especially when critical observers have remarked about the futility of international law and limitations or even colonial nature of human rights?

The Ferguson to Geneva delegation, with support from the US Human Rights Network, participated in “shadow reporting,” a term that describes opportunities for impacted people to confront the state in a multilateral forum and to challenge the state’s official account. Shadow reporting transforms international legalism into participatory politics. In these spaces, ordinary people interpret and shape international law based on their experience to suit their interests. Shadow reporting provides a crucial tool for grassroots activists and impacted people to assert themselves as global citizens with international human rights.

In this paper, I will establish shadow reporting as a key platform for a critical form of transnational politics and contribute to an evolving view on the inherently political nature of international law. Shadow reporting processes reveal that bureaucratic measures such as these can become charged venues for making claims and demanding accountability. By considering how these spaces can be utilized and leveraged, human rights activists affect the meaning and purpose of international law, which provides evidence for what Seyla BenHabib terms “jurisgenerativity” or Gráinne de Búrca describes as “human rights experimentalism.” In pursuing this platform, activists seek not formal criminal justice nor even justice associated with public shaming; but, rather, a deeply personal justice connected to notions of recognition and dignity written into the bedrock of the human rights project.

Spring 2021/22

Intersemester Week (SPR)

Wednesday 19 Jan 2022

Time: 17.00-21.30 UK Time

04.00 NEXT DAY / 20 Jan. Melbourne
03.30 NEXT DAY / 20 Jan. Adelaide
21.30 19 Jan. Delhi
16.00 19 Jan. Kassel/Oslo/Tilburg
12.00 19 Jan. Allendale, Michigan / Dayton, Ohio
11.00 19 Jan. Austin, Texas
09.00 19 Jan. Vancouver / San Francisco, California

After Rights? Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics

WORKSHOP 3: Rights, Temporality and Place

Virtual Session*

*Please email: Bal or Louiza to book a place as spaces are limited on these workshops

PANEL A: Subaltern, Indigenous and Women’s challenges

Time: 17.00-19.00 UK Time

Chair: TBC | Discussant: TBC

Rethinking Justice for an ‘After Rights’: Victim Subjecthood and the Impossibility of Dignity in Seeking Rights through Justice Framework

Nayan Prabha, IIT Delhi


The critique of rights as it exists in a liberal democratic framework often takes a Foucauldian approach to evoke its double bind, especially in the context of marginalized groups and identities who in seeking of rights simultaneously submit to state surveillance. However, it is just as crucial to think of rights in their immediate socio-historical and juridical contexts. Justice has been the main framework through which rights have been deployed in the postcolonial India.

This paper argues that a rethinking of rights inevitably necessitates a rethinking of justice in this postcolonial nation. The concept of justice requires injustice as its precedent to allow it to prevail as a positive value. However, justice seeking and deployment of justice are processes entwined with a requirement of a harmed subject. This notion of harm and violation implies a victimhood onto the justice seeking subject. Approaching state and law anthropologically reveals that victimhood is rendered legible only through the fulfillment of particular forms of comportment. For instance, in a recent ruling, a sessions court in India dismissed the authenticity of a sexual assault as the ‘woman/victim’ did not behave like a sexual assault victim. The legislative discussions around the several versions of Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act revealed how the transgender person is constructed as a welfare subject by taking a recourse to the language of pity.

The demand for justice for the marginalized persons and communities is also inevitably tied to demand for dignity. A recent report on the transgender communities, one of the worst hit during Covid-19 lockdown, describes how the communities managed and distributed resources to guarantee their survival and emphasizes the assertion of dignity as a modality of being as they refused attempts of state channels which sought to provide conditional relief with their philanthropic spectacle.

This paper seeks to explore how justice and dignity can prevail outside the frameworks of legality which then also resists the biopolitical tendencies of the state. Simultaneously, it also tries to imagine if the delivery of justice within the legal sites can bypass the concept of After Rights? 10 of 16 harm and the construction of a victim subject and center dignity of the person. Such a rethinking of justice, I argue, is crucial to understand the contemporary limits of the rights paradigm and envisage an ‘after’ to it.

Nông Dân Being Wronged: Agrarian Struggles and Subaltern Dissensus

Quỳnh N. Phạm, University of San Francisco


Agrarian displacement in the Global South is rendered intelligible primarily within the frameworks of dispossession or the denial of rights. While the former highlights the structural violence of dispossession, the latter argues for human rights on behalf of the dispossessed. Since neither framework addresses the constitutive vitality of postcolonial lifeworlds, they miss the ethico-political stakes of subaltern struggles against agrarian displacement. Contrary to prevailing scholarly as well as policy discourses, I argue that agrarian displacement is more than the loss of properties, livelihoods, or rights, as important as these may be. Rather than restricting the violence of displacement in the postcolony to the analytics of capitalist accumulation or inalienable rights, I suggest that it is critical to comprehend it as a relational and ontological violation. This calls for listening carefully to the subaltern’s sense of being wronged and their refusal to give up the land in specific contexts. Analyzing contemporary agrarian protests in Việt Nam, this paper asks: What can we learn from nông dân oan (“wronged peasant-villagers”) who refuse to give up and are determined to “fight to the end” to keep “land” from “dying”? Examining subaltern dissensus in this context, I find that the peasant-villagers’ articulations of violation, dialogue, and revolt are not reducible to demands for rights although they often get framed as such. Rather, Vietnamese villagers speak against the violation of intimate relations, both between peasants and land, and between the governed and those in authority. I delve into the discursive layers of their contestations to translate a subaltern imaginary of relational justice that takes dân (the common people) and nông dân (agri-people) to be the constitutive basis of an intimate collective. My analysis excavates an alternative grammar of political community and just relations that exceeds state governance and rights.

From Rights to Responsibilities: Pathways to Sustainable Self - Determination

Jeff Corntassel, University of Victoria


When addressing contemporary shape-shifting colonialism, the rights discourse can only take struggles for Indigenous resurgence and self-determination so far. Indigenous mobilization strategies that invoke existing human rights norms, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which are premised on state recognition, have distinct shortcomings that can impede pathways to a sustainable self-determination process. By decentering the state and focusing on Indigenous relational responsibilities and Indigenous internationalism, one gains a clearer focus on the ways that sustainability and climate justice are pursued and honored by Indigenous nations as expressions of critical Indigenous relationships that transcend state borders. These expressions of Indigenous relationships are embodied and practiced in several different ways, from honoring complex interrelationships with the natural world to engaging in new treaty arrangements and/or acts of solidarity. Overall, this project examines ways that Indigenous nations, communities and peoples challenge the territoriality of states and other patriarchal institutions in order to generate new understandings of how Indigenous relationships develop and persist beyond boundaries and beyond the rights discourse. By interrogating terms such as nationhood, international and self-determination, this project seeks to advance a deeper understanding of how these terms and relationships are viewed on from diverse Indigenous perspectives. This paper draws on examples from Indigenous nations across Turtle Island and the After Rights? 11 of 16 Americas to gain a deeper understanding of how the rights discourse is utilized as well as extended to include relational responsibilities, which form the basis for Indigenous nationhood and self-determining authority.

Retaking Lands and Reinventing Rights: Self-demarcation of indigenous lands in Brazil and their conceptions of rights

Renan Porto, University of Westminster


In the last two decades in Brazil, indigenous peoples have been struggling for their rights through the practice of what they call “retomada de terras” (reappropriation of lands), which consists of reoccupying lands that once belonged to traditional populations and were invaded by farmers or other explorers. After years of reclaiming the legal demarcation of their lands without a resolution from the state, they decided to do it on their own. Within this process, there is also a production of another space, another ecology, another relationship to the land. If Carl Schmitt is right when he says in the book The Nomos of the Earth that the original movement that makes law arise is the taking of land, which produces an ordering of space and defines borders that establish relations of friendship or enmity with its exteriority, what does happen when lands are retaken and borders are reshaped? A conception of law solely linked to an institutional image would not help us to answer this question. If we conceive of law in a very modern and technical conception, the law is always reduced to the state institutions, and when we do not feel represented on them, we feel completely without alternative because we only learned to think politics and power around the state figure. So, it is important to realise all other experiences where law emerges and new more-than-social arrangements are produced changing the way we live together. The practice of self-demarcation of lands by indigenous peoples in Brazil can be an interesting path to investigate how these practices can produce justice spatially in a given territory and bring conceptions of rights rooted in the entanglements of bodies and their territories.

(30 minute break)

PANEL B: Embodiment, Justice & Feminist Political Desire 

After Choice: Race, Reproductive Justice, and the Uncertain Futures of Feminist Political Desire

Samantha Pinto, University of Texas at Austin


The black womb, site of the reproduction of the system of chattel slavery, is an interior space re-created as a site of horror in the booming sci-fi dystopia industry, from Battlestar Galactica to The Handmaid’s Tale, and in the research on modern day maternal mortality rates for black mothers in the US and across the diaspora. In this paper, I look to these speculative narratives, histories of enslavement, as well as stories about thwarted black reproduction in the contemporary fiction of Brit Bennett’s The Mothers, Zinzi Clemmons’s What We Lose, and Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, to reconsider the difficult ways that race and rational “choice” have been tied together in political and medical discourse around reproductive rights. Feminist choice debates have been intentionally reframed away from “rights” and toward “reproductive justice” by black feminist scholars such as Dorothy Roberts as an attempt to account for the hyper-control of Black reproduction across modern After Rights? 12 of 16 history, including both enslavement, carcerality, and myths of hyper-reproduction. This essay engages contemporary narratives of black maternal ambivalence to unsettle residual romantic attachments to uncomplicated desire and choice even within the frame of justice. The feminist womb is figured in this essay as an embodied space of historical trauma and as a lively terrain for the feminist political imagination. These futures are built from the embodied experiences of blackness without romanticizing or solidifying around motherhood, birth, or choice. Instead, I sit with the deep ambivalences, uncertainties, and desires that append to the Black maternal, asking what is the weight on black feminism to conceive and carry children—symbolic and material-- into and through precarious life chances? How might a feminism politics after choice, and after rights, represent this intersection between sentimentality, biology, sexuality.

Embodying Subjects and Disorienting Rights: Towards a Phenomenology of Human Rights

Karen Zivi, Grand Valley State University


Despite persuasive left critiques that illuminate the ways human rights -- at least in their hegemonic liberal or neoliberal incarnations -- disappoint, frustrate, and even undermine efforts to address the most pressing crises of the day, human rights remain an important element of grassroots efforts to alleviate suffering. In this essay, I argue that greater attention to embodiment, rooted in feminist and queer phenomenology (e.g., Ahmed, Beauvoir, Bergoffen, Young), can help us understand why that is while also disrupting some of the conventional wisdom of these critiques. I explore grassroots activism on menstruation and human rights to show how a phenomenological orientation to human rights can illuminate the disorienting and thus potentially transformative capacity and effects of human rights practice. My point is not to show that human rights practice is or can be a pure politics of emancipation or transformation. Instead, in centering embodiment, I offer a phenomenological orientation towards human rights that embraces ambiguity on ontological, temporal, and political registers.

I explore this ambiguity through engagement with menstrual human rights activism, paying special attention to practices that bring menstrual blood into the public realm. On the ontological register, such practices remind us that while embodied beings are always situated in a matrix of objects that shape and constrain consciousness in profound ways, embodiment is not simply a site of suffering or source of vulnerability. Embodied subjects can disorient in ways that open up a different future without fully displacing the ideological and structural conditions that can also debilitate. Appreciating this potentiality requires, however, a political ethos comfortable with ambiguity of outcomes and of time. Attention to embodiment, that is, complicates that way we think about cause and effect, and about past/present/future such that we must understand that the “emancipation” or “transformation” we seek, whether through human rights or some other means, is an unending practice rather than a finalized state of being.


Welcome to the schedule of events for SPR 2021

Critical Literacies

This term the critical theory research cluster welcomes discussions on the tools we use in our work to respond to our troubled present by asking: ‘What critical literacies are we trying to develop?’

Week 4


Thursday 18 Feb 2021

Gurminder K Bhambra (Prof of Postcolonial & Decolonial Studies, IR, Sussex):

Decolonizing Critical Theory? Epistemological Justice, Progress, Reparations

Theorists working within the Frankfurt school tradition of critical theory have not been immune to calls to “decolonize” that have been circulating in and beyond the academic world. This article asks what it means to seek to decolonize a tradition of thought that has never explicitly acknowledged colonial histories. What is needed, instead, this article suggests, is consideration of the very implications of the “colonial modern”—that is, an acknowledgement of the colonial constitution of modernity—for Frankfurt school critical theory’s idea of historical progress. The issue is more extensive than simply acknowledging the substantive neglect of colonialism within the tradition; rather, this article suggests that its categories of critique and their associated normative claims are also necessarily implicated by this neglect and require transformation. Acknowledgment of colonial histories requires material reparations for the substantive inequalities bequeathed as legacies of the past, but these reparations also require a transformation of understandings and a recognition of “epistemological justice.”

Week 6


Thursday 4 March 2021

Viktoria Huegel (University of Brighton)

On the notion of authority and new authoritarianism

In the first part of this presentation, I introduce the question and the context that is guiding my PhD research: What is the role of authority in democratic thought? We recently have observed a rise of new authoritarianism(s): practices that undermine democratic institutions in the name of “the people”. However, at which turn does authority turn authoritarian? I argue that by confusing all forms of state intervention as equally violent and destructive, we disregard the fact that the withdrawal from authority might be just as harmful as its abuse. I further take this as an opportunity – following the theme of critical literacies as well as authority – to reflect on my appropriation of Carl Schmitt for this project.

Lucy Finchett-Maddock (Senior Lecturer, SLS)

Creativity in/of the Void: Harnessing Law's Dependence and Destruction

This piece discusses the way addiction is formulated by the practices and tactics of law, to say that law itself is addiction, and addiction is law. Combining desire and destruction through the work of Gilles Deleuze, Kathryn Yusoff and Catherine Malabou, both addiction and law are explored as cumulative processes of material and immaterial yearning emanating from and within thermodynamic movements of order/disorder, destruction/creation and the tightrope of equilibrium known better as entropy, within and outside, human and other bodies. The entropic speed of addiction is described in terms of its capacity to resonate, to compel, impel and repel: it is magnetic, and so too is law. Addiction is described as rule-making, through the funnelling of attention to sediment layers of law as habit, routine and custom through repetition, leading to the ultimate expression of law, that of subjectivity and the crystallisation of form - the institutionalisation of property and the overcoming of uncertainty through control. Addiction is argued as the very extremity, the ultimate meaning, the very motor of legal morphology itself; the striving of life against death, a speculative genesis and the baroque pathways carved in the process.

Week 6


Friday 05 March 2021

The event features a conversation between Nadya Ali (International Relations), Naaz Rashid (Media & Film) and Bal Sokhi-Bulley (Law) on the racialised logics of rights, citizenship and borders.

All welcome!

Week 8


Thursday 18 March 2021

Joint session with Centre for Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, and Sussex Rights and Justice Research Centre

Louiza Odysseos (Prof of International Relations, Dpt of IR, Sussex): Critical Literacies of Injured and Injurable Flesh? Phenomenology, Regimes of Semiosis and the ‘Worlds’ of Neoliberal and Colonial Disposability

What insights does injured and injurable flesh disclose? And, what critical literacies does attention to the disclosures of the flesh help us develop regarding the interconnections between contemporary and colonial forms of disposability? In asking these questions, this paper calls for a concerted interrogation of the neglected capacities of the flesh to disclose the terrains or ‘worlds’ of dispossession, disposability and harm in which such flesh is ‘thrown’. It turns to the phenomenology of illness and bodily suffering in order to discuss the radically phenomenological operations of ‘bodies in pain’.

The plural approaches within the phenomenology of illness reveal the discursive circumscription of injured and injurable flesh by pathology and a wider imaginary of damage in the discourses and practices of the medical sciences and in histories of medical practice. More broadly, they reveal the ways in which flesh comes to be endowed with historically specific and evolving meanings — captured as racialised, gendered, de/valued bodies — within economies of signs and systems of signification.

On the basis of this wider insight, the paper turns to the work of Hortense J. Spillers — and her insistence on the distinction between body and flesh — in order to explore the ways in which flesh illuminates the operation of systems of signification through which the assignment of value occurred in the long centuries of the circum-Atlantic slave trade and plantation slavery, enabling the naturalisation of colonial subjugation and racial enslavement. Moreover, the paper discusses the ‘transmissibility’ of these economies of signs, the radical dis/continuity of their grammar in the present.

It ends with a discussion of how the lived capaciousness of the flesh may enable new semiotic production that undercuts ongoing colonial regimes of semiosis.

Darcy Leigh (Lecturer in Law, LPS): Free speech as settler colonialism: An ongoing history of dehumanization, assimilation and stratification

Far right activists, mainstream media and conservative politicians have declared a ‘free speech crisis’ across the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Public and scholarly debates surrounding free speech often assume free speech is a public good and/or should be approached as a problem of ‘drawing the line’ between free and regulated or benign and harmful speech.

In contrast, this article takes an historical approach, arguing that free speech has, since its inception, been integral to white supremacist settler colonialism in the Anglosphere. First, by establishing oppositions between white ‘civilized’ liberal statehood and its Indigenized racially figured ‘others’. Second, by excluding, assimilating and/or stratifying Indigenous and racially othered speech, as part of settler occupation, slavery and assimilation.

The article focusses on two points in the history of free speech: free speech as ‘toleration’ in the early European Enlightenment; and the ‘marketplace of ideas’ in the 1800s.To demonstrate its significance today, the article also examines how this history informs free speech in contemporary universities.

Week 10


Thursday 22 April 2021

Darrow Schecter, Critical Theory and Sociological Theory: On Late Modernity and Social Statehood, (MUP, 2019) (Prof Critical Theory and Modern European History, School of Media, Arts & Humanities, Sussex).

Discussant: Tarik Kochi (Senior Lecturer, SLS)

Democracy in the twenty-first century faces numerous challenges, with populism, neoliberalism, and globalisation being three of the most pressing. Critical theory and sociological theory explores and addresses these challenges by investigating how the conditions of democratic statehood have been altered at key intervals since 1945. At a time when mediations between citizens and statehood are rapidly changing, it argues that a sociological approach is urgently needed to address conceptual deficits and explain how the formal mechanisms of democratic statehood can be complemented and updated.

All welcome!

Zoom links to the sessions will be emailed to Cluster Members and LPS staff.

Email: if you require a link!


Critical Theory Research Cluster AUT 20-21 Events

Critical Theory in Times of Pandemic

This Autumn, the critical theory research cluster will address thinking and writing in times of pandemic. We are holding three (WiP) workshops and one ‘conversation with the author’ event (Week 8) with contributions from a range of disciplines in both Sussex and Brighton. We invite you to interrogate with us: Why is critical theory important? What transformative practices are enabled? And, who is the public for critical theory?

All events will take place via Zoom – details to be emailed out to LPS staff + Cluster members (email: to be placed on the cluster mailing list), apart from Week 8, which will be a blended session.

Please share widely, all welcome

Week 4

Thursday 22 October 2020


Ben Rogaly (Prof of Human Geography, Geography, Sussex),‘Working Class Unity’

Bal Sokhi-Bulley (Senior Lecturer in Law & Critical Theory, LPS) ‘From Exotic to “Dirty”: Pandemic and Recolonisation'

In this session, the speakers will be in conversation on making calls for ‘unity’ in times of pandemic and protest. They will be speaking to ‘friendship’ and ‘place’ as conceptual and practical tools that enable a response to abandonment, looking at the contexts of local lockdowns (Leicester) and the recent politics of a multi-racial leave-voting city (Peterborough).

We welcome Ben Rogaly, Professor of Human Geography and author of Stories from a Migrant City (MUP 2020)

Week 6

Thursday 5 Nov 2020


Sabrina Gilani, 'What Comes First, the Theory or the Question?' Researching Criminal Law and the Posthuman (Lecturer in Canadian Law, Law, LPS) ... This is a reflection more than a presentation on my research in the area of Criminal Law and the Posthuman. Through this reflection I think back to the question of what drives critical legal scholarship, the theory or the problem, and invite others to share their own experiences in publishing critical research.

Paul McGuinness 'Robocop (1987) as technosceance: cyborg hauntologies and The Future of Law Enforcement' (Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology, Sociology, LPS) ...Using an ontology of fiction and a cinematically hauntological methodology I position Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) as a form of ‘technosceance’, by engaging audiences in policing’s technological uncanny, the ghost in an increasingly solutionist machine. By reading Verhoeven’s text with Mark Fisher and Andrew Feenberg, I reclaim Robocop from its reactionary afterlife and rearticulate its subversive dramatization of the dialectical necessities of policing and technology.

Week 8

Thursday 19 Nov 2020


Tarik Kochi, Global Justice and Social Conflict: The Foundations of Liberal Order and International Law (Routledge, 2019) (Senior Lecturer in Law, LPS)

Chair: Bal Sokhi-Bulley (Senior Lecturer in Law & Critical Theory, LPS)

What is Global Justice? How might critical theory today address the problem of a global justice? In this session, Tarik will speak to these questions by introducing his recently published book Global Justice and Social Conflict. We encourage you to respond during the discussion that will follow.

Online Event: Join via Zoom

Week 10

Thursday 3 Dec 2020


Melayna Lamb (Tutor in Criminology, LPS), 'Policing the Pandemic'

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the effects of policing public health emergencies as a matter of public order. During the summer, against the background of a global pandemic, we saw an explosion of Black Lives Matter protests occurring in both the US and UK in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Rather than thinking through these issues separately, this paper will analyse the relation between them. I will explore the intimate relationship between ‘public health’ and ‘public order’, arguing that understanding them together allows us to understand ways in which states may intensify their interventions and expand their power with little regard for democratic accountability. What connects them is the question of ‘the public’. With public order the spectre of the ‘disorderly’ is presented as a problem that must be contained and policed against. In public health, disease, ill-health and contagion are also staged as something that needs to be ‘fought’. The thesis here is that disorder and disease have been historically linked not only in terms of who is considered a threat to the order and health of the state, but also that the state performs its assumed necessity for social life by ‘fighting’ disorder and disease. That black people are more likely to die as a result of Covid-19 and are more likely to be the targets of police harassment and violence necessitates an approach that not only shows the link between the two, but asks in whose name the state acts when it claims the ‘public’ as its own.

Swastee Ranjan (PhD Candidate in Law, LPS), 'Law and Affective Aesthetics of Environment'

ABSTRACT: This paper emerges from my ongoing PhD thesis which discusses the relationship between objects found on the surface of the city such as streetlights, and law. While legal theory has discussed the role of object, rarely has it depended on the excavation of such physical objects to explore dimensions of law. Objects such as the streetlights appear in the regulatory assemblages of the city, but they are represented as inert, passive, recipients of formal laws. In my work, I challenge this representation of objects, to argue that not only are they dynamic and vital elements of the urban environment, but they are also sources of law. Drawing on the new materialist and speculative realist philosophies, I argue that law is affective since it both directs the movements of bodies and is also, shaped by them. In the present paper, I share an account of walking in Delhi at midnight to illustrate how these objects constitute law and alter perceptions of urban environment, which appears as more vibrant, than a mere background, condition for urban existence. I discuss how such an account can help in extending the dimensions of environmental law and contribute to its varied understanding. 

In December 2018, the Cluster hosted Professor Elden for a lecture on 'Foucault before the History of Madness: lectures, translations, Nietzsche' 

 A recording of the talk is available here

This lecture reports on a project tracing the intellectual history of the early Foucault. It focuses on his largely unknown work in the 1950s. In particular it discusses three themes. First, Foucault’s early teaching in Lille at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Three main courses are preserved – on ‘Phenomenology and Binswanger’, ‘Knowledge of Man and Transcendental Reflection’ and ‘Phenomenology and Psychology’. These link in important ways to work Foucault would go on to publish, but also outline paths not pursued. Second his role as a co-translator of two texts – Ludwig Binswanger’s ‘Traum und Existenz’ and Viktor von Weizsäcker’s Der Gestaltkreis. His role is bringing these Swiss and German works into French is underappreciated. The introduction to Binswanger is quite well known, but his role in the translation itself – which was credited to Jacqueline Verdeaux alone – is underexplored. His co-translation of von Weizsâcker, with Daniel Rocher, is sometimes referenced but underexamined. There is an important, and disturbing, political context to this work. Finally the lecture will discuss Foucault’s reading of Friedrich Nietzsche in the 1950s, questioning some of the accepted chronologies and interpretations.

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, UK. He is the author of books on territory, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Henri Lefebvre. His most recent book is Shakespearea Territories (University of Chicago Press, 2018).

 Stuart Elden Lecture Poster

 Stuart Elden’s The Birth of Power (Polity Press, 2017)

 Stuart Elden Book cover

The Birth of Power meticulously traces what Elden calls Foucault's 'political awakening' - as a writer, researcher, lecturer, and activist - in the period between the Archaeology of Knowledge and Discipline and Punish and serves as a prequel to Elden's work, Foucault's Last Decade. In this group we consider what it means to think of Foucault as a political writer, researcher, lecturer and activist; what constitutes this ‘political awakening’; and what Elden’s ‘genealogy’ of Foucault’s thought between AoK and D&P might add to thinking in, on and with Foucault.
 The Cluster hosted Professor Elden for a stimulating discussion on these themes and the process of writing.