Law, Crisis and the Cultural Imaginary in Weimar Germany (1919-1933)


The image of Weimar Germany as a ‘crisis culture’ has long-since taken root in the popular historical consciousness. Emerging from the crucible of war and revolution, and pockmarked by erratic patterns of cultural experimentation, economic turmoil and political flux, Germany’s first republic is frequently styled as a single prolonged moment of trauma and transformation that enveloped social life. The perception of crisis was widespread among contemporaries and found resonance not only in cultural media but also across the disciplines of economics, history, philosophy and medicine. In law, too, it was similarly pervasive – while socialists and liberals denounced the politically-driven practices of the courts, giving rise to what was publicly referred to as a ‘crisis of confidence in the judiciary’, legal theorists debated the ‘crisis of law’ that attended the radical transition to constitutional-social democracy.

Scholarship on such issues has to date tended to privilege disputes between legal luminaries and high- profile politicians, or to focus on discussions in the journalistic press. Yet the cultural texts of the era – literature, theatre, art, film – are also remarkable for the wealth and variety of their depictions of legal concerns. More than mere representations, these texts invite analysis as a form of popular jurisprudence that fosters new opportunities for productive negotiations of the contemporary crisis of law and justice outside the parameters of legal procedure, politics and academia. The aim here will be to survey the contours of this cultural discourse via analysis of a series of exemplary narratives that not only put the institutions of law and order in Germany on trial, but which also circulate back into the popular imagination as a point of reference for thinking about the stakes of law and crime.

Dr Steven Howe is a Senior Teaching & Research Fellow at the University of Lucerne in Switzerland. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow with the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the LIRC website.

W(h)ither Feminist Legal Theory? A Retrospective – Presented by Susan Boyd

This paper reviews shifts and trends in feminist legal theory since the 1980s and is based on a work in progress. By 1990, the field of feminist legal theory was well established but it also was undergoing numerous challenges. An appreciation of the complexity of women’s inequality and the intersecting nature of oppressions, along with the influence of poststructuralism, prompted the trend away from universalizing theories focused on gender and law or “the state”. Less publication space is now devoted to works exploring more abstract questions about feminist legal theory per se than was true in the 1980s and the 1990s, as grand theories about the sources of, and remedies for, women’s oppression were challenged, fragmented, and sometimes dismantled. That said, the insights of feminist legal theory continue to be relevant, even if less space is devoted to overarching questions such as the roots of inequality. Moreover, feminist legal thought often takes the form of praxis or “applied” theory because it uses theory to critically assess practical areas of activity or law reform. Even as feminists have subjected new fields of law to critical analysis, many topics of long standing interest to feminism continue to sustain interest. This retrospective offers examples from the author’s own work as well as the journal Social & Legal Studies and focuses on themes such as Strategic Engagement, Intersectionality, Women or Gender, and Choice and Constraint. Recent calls for a return to a focus on socialist or materialist feminism and the nature of the state are assessed.

Susan B. Boyd is Professor Emerita at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She is also a Visiting Professorial Fellow with the Legal Intersections Research Centre at the University of Wollongong.

For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the LIRC website

Sterilisation of Women with Disability, International Human Rights Law and (the Failure of) Australian Law Reform


Linda Steele is a lecturer in the School of Law and a member of Legal Intersections Research Centre, University of Wollongong, Australia. She was recently a visiting researcher at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University during September-October 2016.

Feminist disability scholars and women’s disability rights advocates in Australia and elsewhere have argued for the prohibition of sterilisation of women with disability. Yet this practice remains legal when consented to by a substitute decision maker or pursuant to the doctrine of necessity. In these legal circumstances sterilisation does not constitute an offence under criminal law and it is not compensable under civil law – sterilisation is a form of disability-specific lawful violence.

For more information and to register your attendance online

Workshop: Doing Intersectionality – Then, Now and Next

Presented by Feminist Research Network (FRN) and Legal Intersections Research Centre (LIRC)

How has the concept and key arguments of intersectionality moved in the world? What are the opportunities and challenges for ‘doing intersectionality’? In particular, what are the achievements and pitfalls as the term is increasingly used in popular media? What has been gained and what lost?

The event will run as a workshop, and feature panels on:

⎯ Intersectionality Then

⎯ Intersectionality Now

⎯ Intersectionality on Stage, Screen and Online, and

⎯ Intersectionality Next

Featured speakers include Dr Kiran Grewal, Dr Jane Carey, Dr Zora Simic, Evelyn Araluen Corr, Pearl Tan, Dr Rebecca Sheehan and Dr Paula Abood. Further speakers will be announced shortly.

For more information, contact Sukhmani Khorana, or Tanja Dreher


Subjects and Objects of Property – Professor Margaret Davies

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.


Administrative Justice in the Global Context: The Case of UNHCR Refugee Status Determination


When decisions made by public authorities affect a person’s rights and interests there is an expectation, in democratic societies at least, that the administrative processes used to make those decisions are carried out according to law and in a way that society considers ‘just’. In short, we have come to expect administrative justice. But what does administrative justice mean beyond the domestic context? How are procedural rights to be protected and accountability to be ensured in the fluid, evolving and fragmented sphere of global governance? This seminar considers this question in relation to the refugee status determination (RSD) procedures of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the event page.

Visiting HDR Scholar Seminar: Wicked Words & Immoral Imaginings: A Criminological Study of Obscene Literature

Stephanie Piamonte is a doctoral candidate in criminology at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Her thesis explores ways of making sense of obscene literature through history. She is the first of our 2016 HDR International Visiting Scholars.

Fanny Hill (1748) is widely acknowledged to be the first English-language pornographic, or sexually obscene, novel. For over 200 this novel has been subject to numerous varying efforts to regulate and ban it on the grounds of obscenity. Through the lens of this novel, this project explores the contexts of obscenity, the actors and institutions that are involved in the production and regulation of obscenity, as well as how these changed over time.

Please register your attendance online.

Two Steps Forward and Two Steps Back? Contemporary Issues in Access to Justice for Victims of Family and Domestic Violence

This symposium is to consider and discuss access to justice for victims of family and domestic violence. Never has there been so much government and media attention on how to increase the safety of women and children who are exposed to family and domestic violence. This has led to increased commitments from state, territory and Commonwealth governments to improve criminal justice responses for victim reports.
For more information and to register your attendance, please visit the event page

Seagull syndrome: local knowledge, expert knowledge and neocolonialism – Presented by Dr Amanda Porter

This paper explores relationships between public officials and community workers, drawing on empirical data from a study on Indigenous patrols in New South Wales, Australia. Patrol workers interact with public officials from various state entities who are tasked with overseeing funding, carrying out evaluations and, to varying degrees, monitoring the ‘effectiveness’ of local patrol operations. These interactions illuminate several issues regarding the ways in which knowledge about patrols is created, contested and communicated between Indigenous and non-Indigenous domains. The emergent patterns can be described as ‘seagull syndrome’, a sociological phenomenon involving the privileging of some types of knowledge over others in policy and decision-making on Indigenous affairs, often with disastrous consequences for Indigenous communities. The paper considers the implications of seagull syndrome for policy-makers and academics working in the Indigenous justice space.

Dr Amanda Porter is a postdoctoral research fellow at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, the University of Technology Sydney. Her research interests focus on policing and criminal justice, specifically with respect to deaths in custody, police accountability, police reform and alternative policing. Her current research project, Decolonising Policing, focuses on efforts to reform the activities and institutions of policing since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Amanda completed her PhD in Criminology at Sydney Law School (2014), in which she examined the everyday operation and politics of night patrols in New South Wales. Amanda is a descendant of the Bringa Yuin people of South Coast NSW.

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

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.

Drinks at 5pm, lecture begins at 5.30pm.