J.W. Marriott Resort
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.