LIRC Seminar: Subjects and Objects of Property by Professor Margaret Davies

Seminar presented by Professor Margaret Davies

Date: 26 October 2016

Time: 12.30pm

Location:   Building 67, Room 202 (Moot Court) at the University of Wollongong

“The earth is the necessary condition for human and other beings, but it has been almost invisible as an entity in Western thinking. In recent times, the oddness of this situation has been increasingly apparent – the one thing upon which all human life, all human subjectivity, and therefore any rights we may think we hold depends, has only very fragile legal protections. Without the earth, our rights are worthless. And yet it is almost invisible in Western philosophy and jurisprudence.
We don’t need to think at the scale of the earth to wonder about the ontology that underpins law, rights, and property. The differentiation between subjects and objects is paramount in this ontology, but how far is it sustainable and justifiable? Are we not all materially related, and emergent as entities, as a result of these relationships? Aren’t human subjects an effect as much as a cause of social meaning, including the meanings that arise out of relationships with the physical environment and all of its objects?
My starting point in this paper is that there is nothing ‘given’ or natural about the subject-object distinction: rather, it is an effect produced by a distinctive matrix of ideas, physical-environmental facts, and social behaviours or performances. I explore what it might mean for property if we shift the human being from a position of control over the world to a position of being situated fully in the world. I argue that there are a number of intellectual resources within Western thinking which promote an object-oriented approach to property. This prefigures an approach to property which is more attentive than traditional property scholarship to the range of relationships between humans and the world.”

Margaret Davies is Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor in the School of Law, Flinders University. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of Law. Margaret has written several books on legal theory. Her new book, Law Unlimited: Materialism, Pluralism, and Legal Theory, will be published in early 2017.


‘Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Expression’ – LIRC hosts Professor Anshuman Mondal from Brunel University

LIRC is pleased to welcome Professor Anshuman A. Mondal, who is visiting the University of Wollongong as part of the UoW Visiting International Scholar Award (VISA).

Anshuman A. Mondal is Professor of English and Postcolonial Studies at Brunel University London, UK. He is the author of four books, including Islam and Controversy: The Politics of Free Speech after Rushdie (Palgrave, 2014) and many essays, journal articles and book chapters on cultural politics, identity, religion and multiculturalism.

Professor Mondal is enthusiastic about the opportunity to ‘explore the intersections between his work and law’ while visiting at LIRC, and complemented the interdisciplinary approach of LIRC’s publication Law Text Culture, which he says, publishes excellent articles. Professor Mondal ‘is very excited to be at LIRC’ and happy to be in an office space ‘bigger than his one at home’.

Dr Tanja Dreher, ARC Future Fellow and LIRC member, is the host scholar for Professor Mondal’s visit. Prof Mondal and Dr Dreher will collaborate on the VISA project ‘Ethical Responsiveness: listening and reading across difference’, which includes a Colloquium on March 18.

LIRC will be hosting a number of events in conjunction with Professor Mondal’s visit:

LIRC Public Lecture delivered by Prof Anshuman Mondal ‘Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Expression in contemporary multiculture’

  • Thursday 7 April, LHA Research Hub, Building 19, Room 2072.
  • 5pm drinks
  • 5.30pm – Lecture and discussion
  • Further details:‪

Description: Recent freedom of speech controversies involving religious groups have established a widespread public impression that the right to freedom of expression and the right to religious freedom are in tension if not outright opposition. And yet, in every single human rights charter they appear side by side, as successive articles. Is this adjacency coincidental or merely conceptual? This lecture will argue that it is not, that their proximity to one another is historical and, in exploring this history, we can see that the contemporary view that they are in tension is relatively recent. Looking at how the First Amendment of the US Constitution came into being, it is possible to show how, over the course of two centuries, shifts in the understanding of each liberty has profoundly formed and shaped understandings of the other. The lecture will finish with some reflections on the implications of the contemporary view about these liberties and their effects on the inhabitants of multicultural liberal-democracies, especially religious minorities.

The LIRC public lecture is preceded by a Roundtable co-hosted with the Centre for Critical Human Rights Research and the Centre for Texts, Cultures and Creative Industries.

Roundtable ‘Free Speech and Religious Freedom after Charlie Hebdo and Section 18C’

  • Thursday 7 April, LHA Research Hub, Building 19, Room 2072.
  • 2.30 – 4.30pm
  • Panellists: Prof Anshuman Mondal, Prof Luke McNamara, Dr Alana Lentin, Randa Abdul-Fatah and Erin Chew.
  • Chair: Mike Griffiths
  • Further details:‪

We welcome members of the public and community groups to these fascinating events and hope to see as many people as possible.

Which methodology? – LIRC’s Inaugural HDR Workshop Tackles Questions of Methodology Choice for Law Graduates


IMG_7287Learning methodology can be like learning a new discipline for law graduates. We often understand methodology as analysis and interpretation of cases and legislation via the doctrinal method, the ‘legal method’ that holds an interpretive monopoly for lawyers. Yet when we come to do our PhD in intersectional research, when we are confronted with a need to engage in research involving people, we are asked which methodological practice we will be using. It is a question that is commonly met with a blank star, panic and a furtive search through sociology text books.

In LIRC’s inaugural HDR seminar, which was held on Thursday 18 February 2016, LIRC academics shared their knowledge of methodology with HDR students, as well their own experiences of completing a PhD. Associate Professor Marett Leiboff spoke of the need to consider how we choose methodology, which she referred to as giving ‘logic’ and ‘structure’ to the thesis and explained how as a framework it explains and justifies our PhD. Dr Felicity Bell shared her ‘methodology confession story’, recalling how her enthusiasm for empirical research was tempered by her struggle to find a random sample of interviewees and the uncomfortable realisation that her subjects were not always telling her the whole truth. Dr Cassandra Sharp emphasised the importance of understanding empirical methodology as two distinct stages  –  the gathering of the data and the analysis – that required different things. She said she spent a whole summer consuming text books on methodology from other traditions and whilst that was a difficult process, it gave her a strong appreciation of how legal analysis can be enriched by other traditions. Professor Nan Seuffert warned of making assumptions about theory and elaborated on how she developed a feminist empirical methodology that foregrounded the views of women victims of violence over the professional experts. Confronted with the initial fears of analysis of pages of interview data, she cited a reassuring quote to remember, “Give me a four line quote [from interview data] and I can write an article”. In other words, much can come from little. The end of the session involved an enlightening discussion about the reality of methodology, which is that much of it is hybrid, evolves as the PhD does and doesn’t always have a name.

After an engaging session on ethics by Professor Colin Thomson, where the ethically dubious practices of past researchers were described, a Q&A-style panel of LIRC academics shared their own experiences of completing their PhD. Brett Heino, who has just submitted his thesis for examination, spoke of the importance of publishing through his thesis, his disastrous foray into EndNote and how his disciplined approach to writing helped him complete his thesis. Dr Niamh Kinchin spoke of her experience of receiving very different reviews by her examiners and how she dealt with that, both practically and emotionally. Dr Linda Steele recalled her positive experience with a collegiate PhD community and the importance of building an intellectual community through conferences and academic associations. And finally, Professor Elena Marchetti gave a hilarious power point presentation that was titled ‘Living wth Phd’, which re-imagined a PhD as an illness that needed both a diagnosis and a cure.

Finally, HDR students brainstormed events for the year, including a workshop on publishing and a works in progress day.

IMG_7289LIRC’s inaugural HDR seminar was engaging, informative, collegial and a great opportunity for feedback from HDR students. Hopefully it is the first of many.