Plenary Speakers 

Ánde Somby

Ánde Somby, born in Buolbmat, Norway, is a traditional Sami joik artist and an associate professor at the Faculty of Law at the UiT the Arctic University of Norway, specializing in Indigenous Rights Law

Legal Signs and Significances

Do indigenous people have law? If so, how does the manifestations of that law appear? What does it require from us to notice such manifestations? Ánde Somby will have a walk through the possibilities that legal semiotics could entail. Legal semiotics can give room to textbased manifestations such as legislation, court decisions, legal doctrine and so on. Expressions that the legal profession used to operate. Legal semiotics could offer an extended phenomenology of legal signs. Indigeneous practices, stories, "yoiks" are examples of legal manifestations that are not based in texts, but they also invite interpretations. So does new phenomena such as algorithms and smart contracts. When we have met the sign, we need to start to find out what it signifies. Manifestations will often denote obligations or freedoms, for example when we have a litteralist approach to a piece of legislation. But how familiar are we in legal discourse when we meet the significance via a set of connotations, for example when we try to establish inferences based on analogies? Or when the world view carries significance, for example if spirits and the underground beings have a role? Somby will sketch out a path. He will use examples from Sámi traditions such as yoiks and traditional stories.

Mark Neocleous

Mark Neocleous is Professor of the Critique of Political Economy at Brunel University London. He is the author of a number of books, most recently The Politics of Immunity (Verso, 2022), taking his ongoing critique of security and interest in the body politic in a new direction. In 2021, a new edition of A Critical Theory of Police Power was published by Verso, 20 years after first publication. He is currently working on two book projects: one on the logic of pacification, for publication in 2023, and the second on the politics of suicide.

The Most Beautiful Suicide: The Liminality of the Leap

Visit Troms and see the sights. The aurora borealis, the Arctic-alpine botanic garden, the fjords, the Polaria museum, the Arctic Cathedral, the Kuntsmuseum, the Arctic University Museum, the nineteenth century cathedral, the 1789 Skansen House. And of course, the Tromsø bridge. Opened in 1960, the Tromsø bridge is the first cantilever bridge to be built in Norway, spanning over 1000 metres, and is one of the city’s most important landmarks. Tromsø bridge was also once a famous suicide hotspot. People would use the bridge to leap to their death. The bridge in Tromsø was made ‘suicide proof’ in 2005 and there have been no suicides since. Instead, people jump from other bridges.

In the context of a conference on liminalities, the suicide leap is an interesting phenomenon. A person weighing 200 pounds and falling 125 feet (the height of Tromsø bridge at its highest point) would spend around 3 seconds in the air before hitting the water. ‘One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi’, smash. Or, as it appears in the opening of the 1995 film La Haine: ‘So far so good, so far so good, so far so good’, smash. The leap, however long it takes, is perhaps the ultimate liminal space, the space between the no-longer and the not-yet. It behoves us, then, to think about the leap, the jump, the fall. Come to Tromsø and consider the liminality of the leap. Come to Tromsø, to think about the most beautiful suicide.

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos

Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos is an academic/artist/fiction author. His practice includes legal theory / performance / ecological pedagogy / lawscaping / performance lecture / video art / spatial justice / moving-poems / critical autopoiesis / online performance / radical ontologies / installation art / picpoetry / performance machines / fiction writing / sculpture / wavewriting / political geography / clay making / gender and queer studies / painting / continental philosophy / posthumanism / anthropocenes. He is Professor of Law & Theory at the University of Westminster, and Director of The Westminster Law & Theory Lab. His academic books include the monographs Absent Environments (2007), Niklas Luhmann: Law, Justice, Society (2009), and Spatial Justice: Body Lawscape Atmosphere (2014). His fiction The Book of Water is published in Greek and English. His practice has been presented at Palais de Tokyo, the 58th Venice Art Biennale 2019, the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale 2016, the Tate Modern, Inhotim Instituto de Arte Contemporânea Brazil, Arebyte Gallery, Danielle Arnaud Gallery, etc.

Andreas will do a performance titled: "A contract unto Extinction: Water, Titian, Plane - A multimedia performance lecture on planetary and individual death, flooding and Pietà, the last painting ever made by Titian".

Riccardo Baldissone

Riccardo is committed to the reconstruction of European intellectual history on a textual basis as a necessary and prior political task. His specific contributions to legal studies range from the reconsideration of Roman law texts under the rubric of analogy, of medieval juridical theology as a model for European texts at large, and of the modern trajectory of human rights as a language. Riccardo’s last multi-volume genealogical project aims to historicize and pluralize fundamental European notions such as freedom, individual, time, memory, and commodity by tracing their emergence, their trajectories, and their possible overcoming. After publishing Farewell to Freedom: A Western Genealogy of Liberty, and Autós: Individuation in the European text, Riccardo is now exploring the textual production of time and memory from Homer to the present in the third volume of the series, Mnemosyne.

How to do things with laws? On the performative power of the legal constructions of reality

In 1906, Arnold van Gennep used the French adjective liminaire, that is, liminal, to depict the central stage of a rite of passage; later on, in 1964, whilst referring to van Gennep’s work, Victor Turner coined the term ‘liminality.’ Turner probably did not realize that in so doing he repeated the gesture of the Platonic character Diotima, who turned the Greek adjective for ‘beautiful’ into the abstract notion of beauty. On the contrary, Plato was well aware that his nominalizing operation was constructing, or, in his view, revealing another order of reality, that one of immutable forms.

 Platonic forms are no longer popular with contemporary intellectuals: nonetheless, the grammatical operation of substantivization that generated these forms is as pervasive as ever. We still live in a Platonic world, where nouns are label for entities, to which adjectives and verbs then add features and relations, respectively. Our contemporary discourses keep reproducing the priority of entities, albeit with partially different aims: for example, whilst the hegemonic discourse of science claims to describe entities and their behaviour, the discourse of law explicitly subordinates its apparatus of definitions to normative operations.

 Yet we may recall that already in 1955 John Langshaw Austin deployed the adjective ‘performative’ to frame utterances that do something, that is, produce an immediate effect: moreover, Austin himself found difficult to delimit the range of performative utterances within the broader sphere of utterances at large. In this sense, if we consider scientific utterances, we may affirm with Michel Callon that ‘all science is performative’: rather than simply describing the world, the sciences construct it.

 If we extend these considerations to legal discourse, we may also need to extend the normative character of law beyond law’s injunctions towards legal definitions, which literally construct reality in a juridical form: and inasmuch as these juridification practices are an aspect – and a relevant one – of the performative construction of reality by European inscriptions, they are (pace Yan Thomas) both techniques of denaturalization and naturalization. We already do more things with laws than we ever imagined.

Monika Halkort

Monika Halkort currently lectures on questions of sustainability, migration and political ecology at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. From 2013 to 2020 she was Assistant Professor of Digital Media and Social Communication at the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Beirut Lebanon. Her research interrogates the material entanglement of techno-scientific infrastructures, racialization and colonial knowledge, which explores in the context of the Arab world and the Mediterranean South . Her work appeared in peer reviewed academic journals such as the International Journal for Communication, the Canadian Journal of Communication, and Tecnoscienza as well as edited books, including Mapping Crisis: Participation, Datafication and Humanitarianism in the Age of Digital Mapping, edited by Doug Specht (University of London Press, 2020) and Oceans Rising, edited by Daniela Zyman and Markus Reyman (Sternberg Press, 2021).

Liminality and Machine Sense. A case study from the Mediterranean Sea

Remote Sensing Devices, mass spectrometry and other Earth Observation technologies have introduced ever more refined ways of measuring and mapping layers of bio/geological activity that would otherwise be inaccessible to humans, They have opened ways of knowing and observing metabolic lifecycles on the level of the microbial and the subatomic that routinely challenge how life and deaths are imagined and theorized. In this talk I interrogate what this ability to apprehend bio/geochemical processes and relations ,that are inherently imperceptible, offer for the critical task of anticipating deaths shared across species. And conversely, how the extended field of human sensibility afforded by machine vision redistributes racialized hierarchies and distinctions in a more-than-human world.

Death is not a well-defined event with a clear boundary between absence and presence, beginning or end.[1] Death is a paradigmatic state of ‘liminality’[2], oscillating between the animate and the inanimate, the material and the immaterial, human and non-human that depends on historically specific determinations to delineate what counts as life and in the name of who or what are validated, defended or recognized.[3] Historically, as Nikhil Pal Singh notes, these determinations have been used to establish a critical caesura between populations that predisposed some to ‘group-differentiated vulnerabilities of pre-mature death’  and, hence, to forma of racism that Ruth Gilmore Wilson famously described as specific to colonial bio-politics.[4] Drawing examples from environmental research and border policing in the Mediterranean Sea I will show how these racialized determinations articulate to the extended field of sensibility afforded by machine vision that has become central for marine science and border security agencies.

[1] Jenny Edkins, “Missing Migrants and the Politics of Naming: Names Without Bodies, Bodies Without Names,” Social Research: An International Quarterly, 2016, 2, 361.

[2] Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Chicago: Aldine Publishing, 1969).

[3] Didier Fassin, “Another Politics of Life Is Possible,” Theory, Culture & Society 26, no. 5 (2009), doi:10.1177/0263276409106349.

[4] Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkley: University of California Press, 2007), 28.

Renisa Mawani

Renisa Mawani is Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia, located on the unceded territories of the Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) peoplesShe works in the fields of critical theory and colonial legal history and has published on law, colonialism, and legal geography. She is the author of Colonial Proximities (2009) and Across Oceans of Law (2018), which was a finalist for the U.K. Socio-Legal Studies Association Theory and History Book Prize (2020) and winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Prize for Outstanding Contribution to History (2020). With Iza Hussin, she is co-editor of “The Travels of Law: Indian Ocean Itineraries” (2014) and with Antoinette Burton, she is co-editor of Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary for Our Times (2020).

The Timetable as Punishment: A Colonial and Maritime History

Almost fifty years after its publication in French, Foucault’s Discipline and Punish has been read and discussed largely as a treatise on space, architecture and power. The text’s historical and analytic contributions include its emphasis on the spatiality of punishment and on the shifting role of the body, which moves from a target of violence and death to a political force invested with life. In many accounts, the timetable is diminished and even subsumed through concerns with confinement, surveillance, and architectural form. What would it mean to begin with the timetable as punishment? What other histories of confinement and racial violence become perceptible?

In this paper I center the timetable in Foucault’s genealogy of punishment. Drawing guidance from maritime historians and from Black feminists writing critically about slavery, I argue that the (mari)time is vital to the changing economies of penality that Foucault traces. “The time-table,” he reminds us, “is an old inheritance,” one that did not emerge with the birth of the prison. “The strict model was no doubt suggested by the monastic communities” Foucault (1977) writes, and was “soon to be found in schools, workshops, and hospitals” (149). Importantly, what is shared across the institutions that preoccupied Foucault is not only their use of architecture as spatial power but also their growing investments in time and timekeeping as novel forms of discipline. In this paper I extend Foucault’s arguments on the timetable as “an old inheritance” by reading for and elaborating on his maritime references. In the interests of telling a colonial history, I present an alternative history of punishment, one that begins with European maritime worlds of conquest, changing navigational technologies, shipboard labour routines, and regimes of racial violence, particularly aboard slave ships. The significance of time discipline and its simultaneity with racial terror are visible not only in the turn from Europe to the colonies as postcolonial scholars have argued, but also in the turn from land to sea 

Irus Braverman

Irus Braverman is Professor of Law and Adjunct Professor of Geography at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. Her books include Planted Flags: Trees, Land, and Law in Israel/Palestine (2009), Zooland: The Institution of Nature (2012), Coral Whisperers: Scientists on the Brink (2018), and Zoo Veterinarians: Governing Care on a Diseased Planet (2021). Braverman’s book Settling Nature: The Conservation Regime in Palestine-Israel is forthcoming with the University of Minnesota Press.

Conservation and Settler Colonialism in Palestine-Israel

Nature management is much more central to the settler colonial project than commonly realized. My presentation will pay close attention to the power of the conservation regime in the hands of the Zionist settler state. Exploring the story of the griffon vulture, a biblical species and one of the most important Israeli conservation projects to date, will open a window to seeing the ways in which conservation serves as a colonial technology. I will argue, specifically, that the expansive ecological warfare in Palestine-Israel occurs through a two-pronged protection scheme: the first focuses on the protection of enclosed territory and the second on the protection of wild organisms. At the end of the day, the goals of the Zionist conservation regime are the entrenchment of the Zionist state and the corresponding dispossession of Palestinians. I call the coproductive relationship between nature and the settler state “settler ecologies.”