Announcement and Call for Papers

Call for Papers

Praxis of Resistance: Communities of Inclusion and Exclusion

The Fourth Annual Conference of the Toronto Group for the Study of
International, Transnational, and Comparative Law

January 2011


The Toronto Group

The Toronto Group for the Study of International, Transnational, and Comparative Law is pleased to announce its fourth annual graduate student conference. The principal aim of the Toronto Group’s annual conference is to facilitate collaborative discussion among graduate students and junior faculty members engaged in critical and transformative inquiries into law and legal scholarship in international contexts.

Past conferences have focused on testing the boundaries between international, transnational and comparative law, on exploring the relationship between law and international political and economic structures, and on developing critical historicized reflections on international law and legal scholarship.

2011 Keynote Speakers: Nathaniel Berman & Balakrishnan Rajagopal

Conference Dates: January 28-29, 2011

2011 Conference Theme:

This year’s conference will take the concept of global “social movements” as its starting point. We seek papers that examine the relationship between legal scholarship, strategic/pragmatic legal action, social movements, and diverse tactics of resistance/mobilization from multiple perspectives and spaces. Conference papers should conceptualize legal praxis (methods, analytic frameworks, key literatures and conversations in international/transnational and comparative law) as it relates to social movements and their efforts to resist or transform international legal arrangements.

While the conference’s objective is to facilitate engagement with issues arising from these and related areas of international legal scholarship, submissions from graduate students in other disciplines of law or disciplines other than law are encouraged.

Submission Procedure:

We invite proposals for presentations, panels and other interventions. Please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words by Monday, 18 October 2010. You may specify that your submission relates to one or more of the streams below, or add a short paragraph explaining how it relates to the general conference themes. Please include all relevant contact information and indicate current title(s) and academic affiliation(s). Authors of all submissions will be notified by Monday, 8 November 2010. Submissions and general inquiries should be addressed to

This year, presenters can submit their completed papers to the Comparative Research in Law and Political Economy Working Paper Series as part of a special event publication. Additional information will be made available closer to the conference date. Download a copy of the Call for abstracts here.

Presentation Format:

The idea behind this conference is to provide an opportunity for graduate students and new faculty members to do more than simply present their work; it is an opportunity to engage openly with a sympathetic and engaged peer group in the dialogue of ideas. As such, presenters will be strictly limited to 10 minutes to introduce their projects, arguments, or any theoretical or practical problems with which they may wish to engage the audience. We recommend that rather than expecting to provide an overview of your whole paper, you instead come armed with a brief overview of the topic and focus primarily on problem areas or areas of particular concern to your argument or ongoing work. Questions you might have for your peers may facilitate further discussion and commentary after all panel members have presented their ideas. In this way, we hope that the conference might be one that focuses on dialogue, peer interaction, immanent critique, and the engagement with, rather than merely the presentation of, ideas. We hope that this might then provide a constructive forum to discuss and improve your ideas as you explore your paper.

Organizing Committee:

Ruby Dhand – Ph.D. Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Charis Kamphuis – Ph.D. Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Ladan Mehranvar – SJD Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Michael Nesbitt – SJD Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Carolina S. Ruiz Austria – SJD Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Mai Taha – SJD Candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto

Tracey Dowdeswell – Ph.D. Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Sujith Xavier – Ph.D. Candidate, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University


1. Limits and Possibilities of Critique

A turn to alternative approaches to international, transnational and comparative law has created a certain space for contestation, critique and alternative histories. Through the lens of social movements, participants are encouraged to investigate the limits of critique, and consider new streams of scholarship and ideas. The goal of the stream is to move beyond the critical/mainstream dichotomy and into the realm of post-critique theory and strategy. Participants are encouraged to investigate new approaches to law that not only utilize alternative approaches (Third World Approaches to International Law, New Approaches to International Law, Feminist Approaches, Queer Approaches among others), but also transcend and move beyond these critical interrogations into new and undiscovered territories.

2. Reflections on Empire … Reifying Global Governance

The global governance project brings a number of issues to the fore: re-births of new forms of tutelage under International Territorial Administrations (ITAs); transitional justice ‘from above’ through international ad-hoc/hybrid tribunals and international commissions of inquiry; and law and development projects mediated by foreign governments and international institutions, among other issues. The parallel move to institutionalization, humanitarianism and pragmatism with the project of global governance introduces ‘specialization’ as the ‘new’ international legal method of efficiency and practicality. How then does ‘specialization’ affect social actors? Is there a wholesale movement of resistance against the overarching project of global governance? Or does specialization create a diversion from the larger questions related to the move to global governance? Is a fragmented tactical resistance desirable and/or necessary? What role can social movements play in light of the global governance project?

3. Class and the International Legal Left

This stream examines various social movements from the perspective of ‘class struggle’.  Projects in this stream might conceptualize class struggle as a universal framework in dealing with questions of distribution and capitalist relations of production. Alternatively, participants might engage with the critique of such ‘universalist assumptions’ that treat the working class experience as monolithic and common across time and geography.

4. Conceptualizing Theories of Resistance


There are numerous forms of resistance to the structural inequalities embedded in the global legal regime on issues such as class, gender, race and religion. Such forms of resistance, more often than not, are not framed within a larger political project. This stream stresses the urgency of conceptualizing new theories of resistance within legal scholarship that speak to the broader structure of the political system rather than focusing on discrete issues as they arise within the broader system. It might also ask whether legal theory can provide a conceptual basis for resistance practice upon which movements can build.

5. Genealogy and the History of the Subject of International and Transnational Law

The idea of resistance includes subverting the essential foundations of the current international legal order by revisiting history. By looking at the history of social movements as subjects (or objects) of international and transnational law, alternative histories can shed light on current debates.

6. Beyond the Legal Terrain … Struggles in Action

A critical outlook on social movements in the global legal order should engage with life experiences and real grievances. Social movements are both a function of – and a reaction to – international legal categories. Nevertheless, the legal language might not fully capture the fundamental nature of the grievances. What might initially appear to be a legal success story might not actually speak to, resolve, or provide restitution for the essence of the grievance. How then do social movements use the law and its language in different struggles so that its shortcomings might be overcome? Can law be used in this way? Should it? And might law sometimes be part (or all) of the problem? Participants are encouraged to investigate the aptness of the legal language, inquiring into the language of rights and/or the language of duty and responsibility as celebrated and/or repudiated by social movements.

Alternative Paper Topics:

Papers may also wish to explore the above themes in the context of specific contemporary social movements. Some examples include:

  • Corporate accountability/transparency movements (including topics on corporate-social responsibility, corporate-environmental responsibility, or corporate-human rights based responsibility);
  • Movements related to transitional justice, rule of law development, constitutional reform, etc.;
  • Movements for gender and sexual rights;
  • Environmental justice movements;
  • Movements for migrant and refugee rights;
  • Labour movements;
  • Movements for collective rights, including Indigenous peoples’ movements, national liberation movements, self-determination movements, etc.;
  • Anti-racist, anti-oppression movements;
  • Movements related to international economic (in)justice (trade, investment, debt relief, social, economic and cultural rights, international development and its relation to the neoliberal order, etc.);
  • LGTB movements;
  • Disability movements; and
  • Consumer/survivor/mad movements.



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