IGLP: The Colloquium


2018 Colloquium: Reading Law in a Time of Disorder

How do we, as scholars and policy-makers, read and respond when the world around us seems disordered? What do we read in times of disorder? Why do we read those texts (and not others)? How we do we read those texts, and what types of readers do we produce through our own writing? In a ‘darkening dystopian world’, can ‘literature, and those formations that sustain it’ be an enclave, or even a tool ‘to map, to warn and to hope’? The Colloquium will explore the ways in which disorder affects our engagement with texts, both within and beyond our disciplines. It will do so by bringing together writers, historians, and scholars to talk about their work and their reading practices, and put them in conversation with members of the IGLP community.

The 2018 Colloquium will be convened by Madelaine Chiam and Christopher Gevers and organized in collaboration with Adil Hasan Khan, Deval Desai and Vidya Kumar.

Previous Colloquia

As part of our continuing effort to strengthen the network of collaboration among our Workshop alumni and faculty, the IGLP has established a week-long Colloquium at Harvard for IGLP Faculty and Invited Guests. Each year, IGLP: The Colloquium focuses on a new, central theme of significance. The themes for the 2016 Colloquium were: Technologies, Spaces and Borders curated by Sheila Jasanoff; The Economy in Time: Stages, Modes and Rupture curated by Christine Desan; and The Decolonization of Global Law and Policy curated by Sundhya Pahuja.
The 2015 Colloquium developed our concerns by focusing on modes of engagement, both public and scholarly.  How can we think about modes of public engagement, for example, as public intellectuals or activists? How might we enact supervisory relationships which complement our heterodox engagements with global political economy? How may we engage with our research in ways which takes seriously what we know about the production of knowledge? How can we approach the task of writing not only to communicate our concerns, but also as part of the iterative process of thinking?  We asked these questions by engaging in a series of interviews and conversations with a selection of activists, writers, intellectual historians, and scholars from other disciplines, and by putting their work into conversation with heterodox scholarship in international law.
The 2014 Colloquium explored the history and contemporary potential for heterodox and critical approaches to scholarly work in the social sciences.  Our goal was to engage in a cross-disciplinary conversation about the mechanics of stability and change within and across fields.  Some invited participants offered a genealogy of critique as it has evolved over time in their field; others outlined the methodological predilections characteristic of what have come to be critical interventions in their field, by describing game-changing moments.   We also used the opportunity to brainstorm together about a several ongoing research projects being undertaken by IGLP scholars.
The 2013 IGLP Colloquium explored two questions of method. People talk about linking the global and the local, “seeing” them together, appreciating their “interconnections” — but just how can this be done? After all, across the social sciences, linking the general and the particular, or the macro and the micro, or the theoretical and the practical, is no easy matter. What can we learn from the history of trying? How might we develop better accounts of the “whole” by placing our accounts of local and national legal, political and economic arrangements in relationship to accounts of the international or transnational or global? If “global and local” suggests a vertical axis of scale, “comparison” suggests a horizontal axis of differentiation. Our second question focused on this horizontal axis: how can we understand the relationships among local or national arrangements? As a matter of technical similarities and cultural differences – or vice versa? As a pattern of historical influences? As a system of centers and peripheries? As we do each year at the Colloquium, we invited interesting intellectuals from a range of disciplines to join us in Cambridge where these quite general questions were explored in depth as they have arisen in their own work.
In 2012 our inaugural IGLP: The Colloquium focused on the potential to renew “political economy” as a domain of investigation, a framework for comprehending the global order, and as a terrain for investigation of the role of “ideas” or “expertise” in the operations of “power” and “governance.” The 2012 IGLP: The Colloquium focused specifically on the political economy of the modern global order, which we explored along three dimensions: economics as a technical field of explanation, knowledge and expertise as a mode of global governance and politics, and the significance of global structures of inequality, center-periphery dynamics and post-colonial legacy. Our question were whether a political economic approach could help us explore the way these dimensions conventionally operate and interlock to produce norms that separate markets and politics, define boundaries for acceptable governance, and prioritize certain forms of knowledge and knowledge production. Can we locate the role of law and legal vocabulary in entrenching those realities, and could we identify their roles in a contrary project? We will improve our understanding of the tradition through which politics and economics were rent asunder, the technical vernaculars that need to be analyzed today in the study of economic, capital dynamics and law for bringing them back into a relationship with one another, and the traditions for understanding the power/knowledge nexus, ideas as governance, power constituting the known, ideology, consciousness, expertise and more.