Annual Meeting on Law and Society

The Annual Meeting on Law and Society will take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from June 1-4, 2023. The conference will be held at the Caribe Hilton. This meeting will be an entirely in-person meeting.

Previous Annual Meetings have brought more than 2,500 participants from over 60 countries across 6 continents. 

2023 Theme:

Separate and Unequal

Between 1898 and 1901, the United States invented a new tradition of territorial expansionism with a corresponding constitutional doctrine to rule the Spanish ultramarine territories annexed during the War of 1898. Anchored on the prevailing racist ideologies of Anglo-American exceptionalism, the ensuing constitutional interpretation has been described as the “doctrine of territorial incorporation,” the “Third View,” the “Insular Cases doctrine” or the doctrine of “separate and unequal.” Central to this constitutional interpretation is the idea that the United States can selectively rule “unincorporated territories” as foreign territorial possessions that belong to but are not a part of the United States.

For more than a century, the federal government has used this doctrine to develop contradictory laws and policies. Examples abound. Although Congress has enacted legislation extending birthright citizenship to persons born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, other legislation and jurisprudence can treat these territories as foreign possessions in a domestic or constitutional sense. Presently, federal legislation ascribes a non-citizen nationality to persons born in American Samoa. Constitutional rights and federal laws can be withheld or applied differently in unincorporated territories.

The 2023 Law and Society Association’s meeting in Puerto Rico invites participants to experience a conference in a separate and unequal territory within the United States empire. Drawing on multiple disciplinary interpretations of the relationship between law and society, this meeting invites participants to reflect on the ways that the law normalizes discrimination and inequalities in unincorporated territories like Puerto Rico. We invite participants to reflect on how this year’s theme can become a lens to understand other relationships of power and visions of the relationship between law and society.

Additional Resources


The Puerto Rico conference will bring together the sociolegal community in a colonial territory. We invite participants to embrace the intellectual experience our attendees look forward to each year in Puerto Rico, a colony ruled as a separate and unequal U.S. territorial possession.

Charles Venator-Santiago: Program Committee Chair

In-Person Meeting

This will be an entirely in-person meeting with no option for virtual attendance or presentation.

Language Policy

The default language for individual presentations will be English. The Program Committee also welcomes the submission of complete panels of four to six papers (or Roundtables or Author Meets Reader panels) in English or Spanish.

At the 2023 Law and Society Meeting in Puerto Rico, we will place these urgent issues at the forefront of our engagement, drawing upon law, history, art, sociology, psychology, politics and culture to give serious attention to the past, while drawing lessons and hope for the future.

Plenary sessions will examine how the nuances of the doctrine of separate and unequal can help us rethink how social, legal, and political structures perpetuate asymmetric relationships of power and inequalities in societies that invoke an ethos of democracy. By looking at how a democratic polity continues to affirm the separate and unequal rule of territories inhabited by citizens, we hope that the meeting will encourage participants to think about inequalities in new ways.


Future Meeting Sites


Denver, Colorado
June 6-9, 2024
Hyatt Regency


Chicago, Illinois
May 22-25, 2025
Hyatt Regency


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