Themes and Sites of the Annual Meetings

2016 New Orleans, Louisianna (New Orleans Marriott) June 2 - 5
2015 Seattle, Washington (Westin Seattle) May 28 - May 31
2014 Minneapolis, Minnesota (Minneapolis Hilton Hotel) May 29 - June 1

Theme: Law and Inequalities: Global and Local

Recent decades have seen the persistence and growth of powerful inequalities within and between groups and within and among nations. The 2014 program theme returns to a question central to the Association’s founding:  the role of law and legal institutions in sustaining, creating, interrogating, and ameliorating inequalities. The 2014 Program invites participants to explore and consider three questions:  

  • How can Law and Society scholarship contribute to unearthing and understanding inequalities?
  • How can Law and Society scholarship contribute to the critical interrogation of discourses of equality and inequality and help to reveal what is at stake in these concepts?
  • What impact can we expect these scholarly contributions to have on the persistence of these inequalities and on public discourse about them?

Contemporary inequalities are linked to profound changes in the organization of major social institutions, as well as to the emergence of new ones.  These changes occur against a backdrop of rapidly evolving technologies that, although they have the potential to democratize knowledge and capability, have also led to deepening divisions. For example, the most recent global financial crisis  revealed failures in national economies, a new centrality of finance in both national function and daily life, globalization of financial activity without globalization of social regulation, and the movement of capital without regard to national needs or local conditions. To take another example, the promise of the internet includes its accessibility as both a means of communication and a space for organizing and protest, but nevertheless it remains an arena in which access, resources and rewards are highly unequal.   Similarly, the development of global supply chains has expanded opportunities for production and for employment, yet these expansions have been attended by great disparities in people’s working lives and in freedom to move and migrate to find work.

Law and Society scholarship has been and continues to be motivated by a wish to reduce inequalities and to further the goals of fairness and justice.  Scholarship in the traditions of access to justice, human rights, and the rule of law, for example, is consistently engaged with these themes.  But what impact should we anticipate this scholarship to have on the inequalities that motivate it?   If the impact is small, is this failure a result of the limitations of law itself, or of our scholarly interrogations of it?

2013 Boston, Massachusetts (Sheraton Boston Hotel) May 30 - June 2

Theme: Power, Privilege, and the Pursuit of Justice: Legal Challenges in Precarious Times

The meeting’s theme aims to incite debate on the challenges that will define law and society over the next decade.  The financial crisis that struck in 2008 still rends the economy, politics, law, and society.  How will polarized politics, rapid technological change, and global shifts in economic power affect law and society over the next years, domestically and transnationally?

To envision the future, we invite participants to extend and rethink law and society’s past insights to engage a new and changing context. The Program Committee has listed a series of sub-themes in featured sessions and other panels with the aim of spurring cross-cutting discussions.

Subthemes

  • The criminalization and decriminalization of social problems
  • Sociolegal understandings of justice: Theory, methods and knowledge
  • Movements mobilizing justice [includes immigration, citizenship; reaction and responses to changing economies]
  • Changing markets of legal education and professions
  • The Post-Racial Trope [what this discursive turn represents, and studies addressing this turn]
  • Reconstructing law, gender and sexuality
  • Rethinking regulation: New Governance and Governmentality
  • Shifting centers and sources of power in transnational context
  • Health, technology and the body
  • Understanding constitutional globalization
2012 Honolulu, Hawaii (Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort) [June 5 - 8]

Theme:  Sociolegal Conversations Across a Sea of Islands

Building on a phrase coined by noted Polynesian scholar Epeli Hau‘ofa, our conference theme alludes both to the location of our meeting in Hawai‘i with its complex cultural and legal terrain and contemporary struggles over sovereignty and indigenous rights; and to the uniqueness of this opportunity for scholars from the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, North America, and other world regions to engage in conversation. So we seek papers, panels, and roundtables aimed at stimulating conversations that will build bridges across the seas of law and society and at the same time redirect their currents; about issues and ideas that are at once locally grounded and globally relevant; that seek to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar; that cross national, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries.   

Our theme is broad, encompassing socio-legal concerns both familiar (such as courts and litigation, legal education, health, legal pluralism) and novel (such as indigenous peoples, finance and economy, war and human security, immigration, counter-terrorism, transnational regulation, globalization, and recolonization)

2011 San Francisco, California (Westin St. Francis) [June 2 - 5]

Theme: Oceans Apart? Narratives of (Il)Legality in Liminal Locations

Citizen/Undocumented...Poor/Privileged...Non-White/White...Regulated/Unregulated.

Law and Society scholars have consistently challenged both the fit and the applicability of these and other binaries, questioning what citizenship status, class, race, or politics really mean in myriad contexts. However, early in a new decade (and new century), many law and society scholars find ourselves in somewhat of a liminal space, facing whole new sets of border crossings, blurring boundaries, empirical challenges, and conceptual conundra. For example, in the U.S., the continued growth of mass incarceration coupled with the extended reach of criminal law and “civil” municipal regulations have destabilized entire communities, where categories of “incarcerated” and “free” are no longer clearly distinguishable. Around the world, political and legal responses to human migration have broken down lines between immigration law, economic regulation, and criminal justice in complex and often troubling ways.

As a result of these kinds of boundary dissolutions, notions about citizenship, sovereignty, illegality, and rights (to name a few) have all been complicated, challenging a number of longstanding assumptions underlying legal scholarship. How does the law in its many forms help or hurt the resulting conversations? The theme of the 2011 LSA Meeting–Oceans Apart? Narratives of (Il)legality in Liminal Locations–invites us to ponder the shifting and dissolving boundaries around us, empirical and conceptual, and also what they may tell us about law’s relevance, and limitations, in shaping our global future. It is fitting that we begin this exploration in San Francisco, one of the great transnational cities in the world. San Francisco, with its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, is located in a state that borders Mexico (and once was part of that nation), and which was once traversed only by native peoples. This locale is subject to tectonic forces, literal as well as environmental and social, which shape the human uses of law and responses to law. San Francisco constitutes an ideal setting for convening scholars who are concentrating their efforts on these issues. 

2010 Chicago, Illinois (Renaissance Hotel) [May 27 - 30]

Theme: After Critique: What is Left of the Law and Society Paradigm?

Born out of disillusionment with the failures of liberal legalism to deliver social justice or equality, law and society scholarship at the time aimed to expose those failures and challenge liberal legalism’s legitimating premises. Twenty years after the founding of LSA, during the decade of the 1980s, the critical impulse of law and society scholarship was itself put under the microscope by some who turned critique inward, calling out law and society scholars for embracing empty empiricism or for their complicity with legal and political elites. In this period, meta-debates raged over theoretical, methodological, and political questions. 

More recently events in the academy and the world seem to have squelched our appetite for critique either of the legal order itself or of the premises and purposes of our own scholarship. In an era when the rule of law has come under sustained attack, can we go beyond celebrating it and allying ourselves with its projects? At a time when there are no dominant theoretical or methodological perspectives in the academy should we turn away from epistemological questions and just get on with our work? 

The theme of the 2010 LSA Meeting–After Critique–invites us to consider the law and society enterprise today and to think about its future direction. We want to reflect on the various ways that law and society scholarship has been and should be engaged with the threat of terrorism and governmental responses to it, national and global attacks on the rule of law, questions of sovereignty and sovereign prerogative, the contemporary situation of identity politics, and the collapse of the global economy and the crisis of neo-liberalism. 

We also want to think about whether there is anything meaningful and coherent in the phrase "law and society scholarship" as well as how we should position ourselves in relationship to other interdisciplinary enterprises, e.g. critical race theory, empirical legal studies, law, culture, and the humanities, etc. Is it time to revive our critical heritage as well as our traditions of theoretical and methodological self-scrutiny? What would this entail?

2009 Denver, Colorado (Grand Hyatt[May 28 - 31]

Theme: Law, Power, and Inequality in the 21st Century

Urbanization, race relations, poverty, and crime were central concerns of sociolegal scholars at the Association's founding in the 1960s.  After 45 years, fundamental structures of inequality remain substantially unaffected by a variety of efforts of legal reform and reconstruction. New forms of inequality and resistance have emerged as globalization links people, economies, and states in new ways. The theme of this year’s Annual Meeting returns to the Law and Society Association’s historic questioning of the relationships between law, power, and inequality.   

The current historical moment presents challenges to achieving equality that pose relevant and probing questions for the Law and Society community to address both globally and locally. New questions about persistent problems of poverty, health care, and opportunities for mobility by oppressed groups must be raised and addressed. Old questions need to be reconsidered, as new forms of inequality demand our attention.  

Has the use of law advanced or inhibited individual and group rights? Have new understandings of the intersection of social statuses changed our understanding of the role of law in producing or reducing inequality? What has been the role of new, non-state forms of governance in the production of inequality? Should law and social science provide the expertise to stimulate and inform the impending social agenda?  Should social scientists and lawyers become allies to address these pressing problems and if so, how should they collaborate? 

2008 Montreal, Quebec (Hilton Bonaventure and Marriott Chateau Champlain) (w/ Canadian Law and Society Association) [May 29 - June 1]

Theme: Les Territoires du Droit: Placing Law

The theme for this meeting signals that law is rooted in places — from families and villages to the global economy — and that law has the power to place and displace people in space, time, and relationships. We invite papers and encourage multi-disciplinary scholarship that reflect on the many dimensions of law, place, and power.

2007 Berlin, Germany (w/ RCSL & other co-sponsors) (Humboldt Universityand Free University of Berlin) [July 25 - 28]

Theme: Law and Society in the 21st Century: Transformations, Resistances, Futures

We invite you to join colleagues from around the world to reflect on the law and society in the 21st century. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is commonly evoked as the symbolic beginning of the 21st century, so it is fitting that we are holding this meeting in Berlin. 

The theme of the meeting, Law and Society in the 21st Century: Transformations, Resistances, Futures, is intended to encourage debate on the transformations that are redefining law and society in the new century. This period of rapid change and transformation has been marked by resistance as well as adaptation. In order to imagine the future, we invite you to consider these transformations and spaces of resistance.

Sub-Themes 

"New Governance" and Its Critics: New forms of governance operate alongside coercive state legal structures.  Many scholars see promise in this “new governance” that relies on non-binding principles and coordination mechanisms, multiple, often competing rule-making and adjudication bodies, and expanded participatory, information sharing, and decisional procedures.  On the other hand, skeptics abound. 

Violence, Human Rights, and Gender:  Gender, violence, and human rights interventions intersect in various ways under conditions of war, trafficking, and domestic violence.  These intersections include recognizing sexual violence as a weapon of war and genocide, analyzing the relationships between war and gender-based violence at home, and examining the responses to these human rights violations through international courts and reconciliation procedures in post-war situations. 

Transitional Justice: Memory and Reconciliation:  Since 1945, transitional justice has followed the fall of National Socialism in Germany, authoritarian right-wing juntas in Southern Europe and Latin America, communist totalitarianism in Central Eastern Europe, and dictatorships in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.  It sought to heal the violence of apartheid in South Africa and ethnic “cleansing” in the Balkans and Rwanda.  Transitional justice faces a tension between recognizing the extent of involvement of the population in the past regime and the need to reestablish social solidarity and, if possible, democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights. Understanding how this can be accomplished is a major challenge for the 21st century.  

Torture and the Security State:  In the 21st century, torture has been openly resurrected as a “legitimate” tactic for “fighting terrorism” and “enhancing security” by the US government.  What makes 21st century torture distinctive from past practices is that the world’s lone superpower, ostensibly a model for the rule of law, has abandoned a universal consensus on the illegality of brutalizing prisoners.  Theorizing the implications of the security state for forms of policing and the use of torture is an issue that now has global significance.

Revisiting the Sacred/Secular Divide: The Legal Story:  In the 21st century, the role of secularism in law has taken on new dimensions.  The history of modern secularization of law, the philosophical delineations of the impossibility or undesirability of separationist legal ideologies, and empirical investigation and creative re-imaginings of the actual regulation of religious persons, places, and ways of life are all relevant to understanding the new relationships between the sacred and the secular in law.   

Transformation in Crime and Punishment—From Local to Global: Globalization processes, such as transplants and “border crossings” of ideas, practices, policies, and economies, are changing the crime control/penological landscape.  At the same time, local criminal justice/penological change takes shape in local settings that limit globalizing influences on local systems. 

Transnational Legal Orders: Transnational organizations, like the UN, World Bank, and OECD, together with national legislatures and international companies, have fostered an expansion and homogenization of legal and normative standards on the global level.  Changes are occurring in both public and private legal orders.  Actors in this process are not only national or supranational law-makers (like the EU), but are also non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations.   

Race in the 21st Century: Laws, state policies, and public discourse on race in democratic societies continue to affect the experience of discrete racial minorities in democratic states.  The manifestations of racism and state responses to it in various settings are a critical problem for contemporary democratic societies.

 Globalization and Law in the Global South: The specific implications of the many varieties of globalization for understanding legal communities and legal consciousness in the Global South are not well understood by socio-legal scholars in the North. In tandem with the globalization of markets and governance, there is a growing need for communication, collaboration, and cross-pollination among scholars from different regions, and especially between scholars from the "North" and "South."

2006 Baltimore, Maryland (Marriott Waterfront) [July 6 - 9]

Theme: Law’s End(s)?

In the spirit of the Law and Society Association’s long tradition of research into unsettled and unsettling issues, the 2006 meeting’s theme poses many profound questions regarding challenges facing the rule of law early in the twenty-first century. We highlight in particular the following observations and puzzles.

First, as social life around the globe becomes ever more complex, multi-layered, and subject to multiple sources of authoritative ordering, the boundaries among and between different legal or extra-legal forms of governance have become more contested, volatile, and fragile. How are different forms of legal authority established, enforced, contested, and renegotiated? Where does the authority of one legal system or form of governance end and another prevail? Do inherited conceptions of “legal pluralism” suffice to make sense of the negotiated boundaries among legal orders?

Second, the global spread of Western legal norms, and especially those associated with the United States, seems to highlight law’s growing significance in contemporary life at the same time that the proliferation of profoundly different legal orders undermines any common view about the core elements of law itself. Have we come to the end of any coherent singular understanding about what the “rule of law” requires? Do new forms of capitalism, governance, etc. demand new models of law that we do not yet imagine?

Third, in many societies we witness political backlashes and retrenchment against the constraints of law’s rule. Overt attacks on courts, lawyers, legal processes, rights, and rules as well as more subtle departures from principles of law are evident around the world. At the same time, other elements or domains of law – especially the punitive and market-based terms of law – have been advanced with new vigor. How can we make sense of the simultaneous undermining of some forms or aspects of law and the strengthening of others? What is the role of neo-liberalism or resurgent authoritarianism in these processes? How do these changes reflect and express unequal power relations?

Fourth, the preceding questions about the conceptual and political constraints of law suggest yet other more general puzzles about the limitations or endpoints of law’s instrumental capacity to govern. What do legal forms, processes, and practices do well, and what to they accomplish poorly or less well than other forms of governance? What types of control or coordination are most and least effectively advanced through law? 

Finally, these previous questions suggest yet another line of inquiry about laws end(s): What are law’s purposes? What normative ends does it serve? Whose ends? To what extent is law merely a means, a set of techniques that serve ends rather than define ends? How are commitments to (or against) law related to organizing logics of capitalism, democracy, authoritarianism, religion, or various versions of justice? By what standards should we assess the workings and impacts of law? Where do or should we stand in scrutinizing how, and for whom, law does or does not matter?

2005 Las Vegas, Nevada (J. W. Marriott Resort) [June 2 - 5]

Theme: Sociolegal Futures: Gambles, Dangers, Dreams, Stakes

In the spirit of the Law and Society Association’s long tradition of research at the edges of unsettled and unsettling questions, the annual meeting in Las Vegas will offer an occasion for colleagues across disciplines to take stock of the new demands these times present to sociolegal scholars’ theoretical imaginations and professional practices.

What are the major challenges and resources for sociolegal research in the twenty-first century? What draws us to do work in sociolegal studies now? What will draw the next generation of scholars from around the world to the sociolegal field? If law and society work has historically come into being in part in reaction to dominant tendencies in social science disciplines and in the law schools, how are the critical and reflexive spaces for sociolegal scholarship changing? What are emerging as new subjects and methodologies, and what world developments have pushed them there? Is there still a line between engagement and advocacy? How do we experience and configure a relationship between politics and scholarship? Are the ethics of research and of pedagogy changing? Does the world situation call on us to retheorize the connections between law and society?

The theme for this meeting encourages us to reflect on our aspirations as scholars and teachers. The immediate future before us is, as we all know, likely to be filled with war, terrorism, corporate globalization, global insecurity, militarized states, varieties of nationalisms, intolerance, and a politics of near despair. For those of us in positions of relative privilege, the immediate future also is likely to include the experience of continuity in our everyday lives as teachers, scholars, and legal actors. We hope that this meeting will offer space to reflect on what motivates us both in our engagement with the world and in the production of our scholarship.

The theme for this meeting also establishes a connection to Las Vegas as a site for this meeting. For some, Las Vegas may stand as a distinctive place of corruption and vice, and as an unreal environment, peculiarly the product of an entertainment industry. For others, it offers an apt place from which to reflect on such questions as the socialization and normalization of risk, the boundaries between corporate conduct and organized crime, the manipulation of desire and fantasy, the legal creation and maintenance of spaces for vice and criminality, the legal construction of global tourism, the global power of American entertainment and media, American appropriations of cultural identities and symbols, the significance of migratory labor markets, and the historical legacies of sexual and moral repression.

At its inception, the Law and Society Association was founded by scholars who focused on questions of inequality, of modernity and modernization, of access to lawquestions that reflected their times and that the mainstream disciplines deemed too marginal for serious attention. Those questions have, of course, left legacies of unfinished business, as well as of considerable achievements. So, too, does the energy for intellectual exchange at those margins remain, and those margins are wide enough to accommodate the hundreds of humanities, social science, and legal scholars, as well as advocates, from North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Near East, who do their work under the rubric of sociolegal studies. This annual meeting is an ideal occasion to gather together to consider theories, methods, and problems that are currently emergent, perhaps not yet even fully discernible. The call for papers is a broad invitation to look ahead, in the spirit of renewing the resources of sociolegal scholarship for the twenty-first century.

2004 Chicago, Illinois (40th Anniversary Meeting) (Renaissance Hotel) [May 27 - 30]

Theme: Law, Power, and Injustice: Confronting the Legacies of Sociolegal Research

The year 2004 marks the 40th anniversary of the Law and Society Association, an anniversary that corresponds to the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, and the 60th anniversary of the publication of Myrdal’s American Dilemma. Those events raised critical issues about the relationship between law, power, and injustice, and about the role that law and society scholarship can and should play in efforts at social change. What can we learn from these experiences and those in other areas of the world? How do global developments—from the collapse and reemergence of colonialism to the Cold War competition between capitalism and socialism; from the rise of new international frameworks on human rights to new conflicts on world trade; from tensions between the “rule of law” and the “war on terrorism” aid our understanding of the relationship between law and power?

The theme of this year’s meeting asks for a critical examination of the legacy of law and society scholarship in the context of new challenges to it. How do we now think of the momentous events whose anniversary we share? Were they liberatory moments that fundamentally altered patterns of social injustice, primarily symbolic achievements, mechanisms for legitimizing new forms of inequality or some combination? How well have the traditional methods and epistemologies of social science served to understand these issues, compared to new approaches such as critical feminist, race, and cultural studies? We invite papers and panels that look to the past and to the future on these or other themes important to law and society scholarship. 

2003 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Omni William Penn Hotel) [June 5 - 8]

Theme: Rivers of Law: The Confluence of Life, Work and Justice

The conference theme—Rivers of Law—draws on Pittsburgh’s topography.  Pittsburgh lies at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, which together form the Ohio River.  The Ohio River has played important historical roles:  as a pathway of American westward migration, as a border between slavery and freedom, and as a great industrial concourse. The river metaphor evokes many attributes of the interplay of law and society—currents and countercurrents, nature and regulation, borders and unions, erosion and change, and dams that direct resources toward some and away from others (to name just a few).

The Program Committee invites participants to consider the confluence of life, work, and justice in the broadest sense. Pittsburgh’s rich history offers some key examples of how life, work, and justice come together. Pittsburgh has been the site of significant industrial development, made possible by the immigration of large numbers of European workers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and some of the most violent labor conflicts in the U.S., such as the Homestead Strike of 1892.  The city is also a rare example of successful environmental cleanup, as smokestack industries have given way to high technology, including biotechnology. Today, medicine and health care account for a great portion of Pittsburgh’s economy.  The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has pioneered many medical techniques including organ transplantation, is the region’s leading employer.  With its active, influential African-American community, Pittsburgh is also an excellent site for discussions of the construction of racial and ethnic identities in relation to themes of life, work, and justice. 

Professor Derrick Bell, of New York University Law School, will deliver the plenary address at the Pittsburgh meeting.  Professor Bell is one of the world’s leading legal scholars; he is also a native of Pittsburgh. Bell’s path-breaking and provocative scholarship on race, law, and justice should provide an excellent venue for conversations about race at the Annual Meeting.

2002 Vancouver, B.C., Canada (Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel) (w/ Canadian Law and Society Association) [May 30 - June 1]

Theme: The Reach of the Law

Law permeates every aspect of our lives—or does it? Sociolegal scholars have long debated and discussed what we call the "reach" of law—the impact of law in a globalized world, the extent to which law regulates social and political life within and across borders, how law defines the experiences and treatment of diverse groups within societies, the promulgation of law and legal systems in developing societies, and the significance of law in everyday life. Law can also include non-state legal orders such as customary law and religion. Our perspectives on the Reach of Law will vary depending on where we are situated—geographically, politically, socially, culturally, and intellectually. We hope the Vancouver meetings will be enriched by exploring and comparing the perspectives associated with these differing vantage points. Reflecting the meeting's location and recent events, the Program Committee invites participants to consider the reach of law in some of the following subject areas:

The Reach of Law in a Globalized World: National boundaries are becoming more fluid and questionable as we move toward a more integrated world. How can law protect the rights of all individuals in such a world? How and when does the law of one country extend to punish leaders of another country for harms inflicted? How do we deal with the clash of laws from different countries? How do different countries use the law—e.g., policing, control over drugs, immigration, and tobacco regulation? How are ideas of legality constituted through different legal cultures? How are they influenced by economics, by state power? How do non-governmental legal orders affect these issues?

The Reach of Law in Pacific Rim-Asian Countries: The movement for constitutionalism, rule of law, judicial reform, and reform of legal education is sweeping east Asian countries. The Pacific Rim is a particularly exciting place to explore these legal developments. What impact does the reach of western law have on other countries? What can western countries learn from these other countries?

The Relationship of Canada and the United States: Co-sponsorship of the meeting by our two associations encourages us to consider the special relationship between Canada and the United States and the role of law in regulating that relationship. How does law define and distinguish our separate identities? When does it reach across and when does it stop at our respective borders? We invite comparative papers and panels on the reach of law in Canada and the United States on such issues as policing and law enforcement, civil liberties, speech, abortion, pornography, constitutional development, and immigration.

The Reach of Law Within Nations: As law reaches into diverse societies, it defines and differentiates people by characteristics such as citizenship, language, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. Sociolegal scholars regularly examine the treatment and experience of individuals and groups on the basis of these characteristics. How does law reach out to First Nations and other indigenous peoples and affect their lives? How does law protect civil liberties against the needs of the state to maintain order and safety in a world threatened by terrorists? How does the law limit state violence (as in the death penalty) in a democratic society where people want it? To what extent do issues of family, adoption, and new technologies of reproduction fall under the reach of law? How can law be used to fight discrimination in the workplace constrained as it is by social and economic structures? How do workplace norms and institutions transform laws of the state? What impact is deregulation having on the reach of law? How do non-governmental legal orders affect these issues?

Terrorism and the Reach of Law: As the Program Committee prepares this Call for Participation in mid-September of 2001, we are reeling from the aftershocks of terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania. How do and can existing legal systems, both national and international, deal with terrorism? Governmental responses to terrorist threats and actions raise new concerns about the precarious balance between security and legal rights, crime control and due process. With terrorism as justification, will law reach into previously private spaces?

2001 Budapest, Hungary (w/ RCSL) (Central European University) [July 4 -7]

Theme: Law in Action

The field of sociolegal studies has long been organized around the idea that "law on the books" is different from "law in action." Usually this means that law as it is experienced in the lives of people is different from law as an abstract field of knowledge. Also, law as it is interpreted and applied often bears little resemblance to the formal statute or written legal code. We therefore take "law in action" as our theme this year because it is one of the enduring and centrally important ideas of our field.

The gap between law in action and law on the books is present everywhere, and is clearly evident in the area we are highlighting with this year's meeting location—in Central and Eastern Europe and states of the former Soviet Union. "Transition" has brought with it very substantial legal changes; social practices have struggled to keep up with (and sometimes to keep out of the way of) law. By highlighting law in action, we hope to focus on the way in which legal changes have (or have not) made a difference in the lives of people who are going through political changes and their accompanying legal transformations. "Law in action" also brings to mind one of the great Central European contributions to the field of sociolegal studies, Eugen Ehrlich's work on "living law."

Our theme has other meanings too. 

"Law in action" calls attention to the responsibility of sociolegal scholars in the public realm. What do we, as sociolegal scholars, have to say about the great issues of our time? From participating in struggles for human rights to examining the legal infrastructure of globalization, from encouraging progressive law reform to promoting legal guarantees of equal citizenship, sociolegal scholars bring something special to discussion in the public sphere—a grounding of legal ideas and rights claims in social and cultural contexts. Considering law in action can be a description of what sociolegal scholars do. 

"Law in action" also highlights the way in which law structures many different settings from the most intimate personal interactions to intermediate-level organizational and regulatory regimes to the largest processes of globalization. At each level, we see how law plays a central role in the articulation of contradictory tendencies:  both new nationalisms and new transnational organizations, personal identity and universalistic practices, personal experience and grand histories are articulated through law. As both the local and the global are simultaneously and increasingly intensified in modern experience, law is implicated in each.  

"Law in action," then, is meant to encourage reflection on the gaps between legal rules and law-related practices, to consider our role as public intellectuals, and to allow us to see the way in which law actively shapes social relations at many levels.

2000 Miami Beach, Florida  (Loews Miami Beach Hotel, South Beach)

1999 Chicago, Illinois (Renaissance Hotel)

1998 Aspen, Colorado (Snowmass Village)

1997 St. Louis, Missouri (Adam's Mark)

1996 Glasgow, Scotland (w/ RCSL) (Strathclyde University)

1995 Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Royal York)

1994 Phoenix, Arizona (Arizona Biltmore)

1993 Chicago, Illinois (Stouffer, now Renaissance Hotel)

1992 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Hershey Hotel)

1991 Amsterdam, Netherlands (w/ RCSL) (University of Amsterdam)

1990 Berkeley, California (Clairmont Resort)

1989 Madison, Wisconsin (25th Anniversary Meeting) (Concourse)

1988 Vail, Colorado (Mark Marriott)

1987 Washington, DC (Capital Hilton)

1986 Chicago, Ill (Hilton)

1985 San Diego, California (Hilton)

1984 Boston, Massachusetts (w/ RCSL) (Marriott)

1983 Denver, Colorado

1982 Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Osgoode Hall)

1981 Amherst, Massachusetts (Amherst College)

1980 Madison, Wisconsin (w/ RCSL) (Concourse)

1979 San Francisco, California

1978 Minneapolis, Minnesota (First Annual Meeting)

1975 Buffalo, New York (First National Meeting) (SUNY-Buffalo)