The fifth annual Melbourne Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory will be held at the Melbourne Law School, Melbourne, 6-8 December 2012. It will again bring together higher research students and early career researchers, who in different disciplines and across diverse fields of scholarship, engage with law and its theoretical and methodological questions.

This year the forum will explore how the challenge of ‘grounding’ law could offer a critical and political engagement with and responsibility for law. This is a different task to legitimating or substantiating a new foundation, basis or ground for law. Deconstructive jurisprudence has exposed the constituted violence inherent in every asserted or disavowed ground of law. What are the challenges of a ‘grounded’ jurisprudence? How can law be reflexively constituted by the demands of contingency or its context? Some elaborations of Australian Indigenous jurisprudence, for example, speak of a form of law which needs to contextualised rather than decreed: law is less a force that compels and more something that needs to be actualised, rebalanced and re-patterned into the land.

To ground, as a verb, could mean to connect something to the ground – to the surface of the Earth, the terrain, the humus. It could mean to connect to the immediacy of the present moment through affect and the senses. Grounding law may be a process of finding law in, and making law more responsive to, the question of particularity and immediacy, to the imperatives of being and dwelling.

To ground, as a verb, could also mean to discipline or constrict (law as the insolent child grounded in her room) or to prohibit something (such as an aircraft) from flying. As such, to ground law, may also be a process of constraining its abuses, its terrors, its excesses.

Grounding, both as place-making and disciplining, as the site of the burial of the dead, the method of constriction and the stage for stories and songlines, impels a law of relations. It thus compels obligations of surplus, of giving more than we take, and of
transmission. ‘To ground’ could also then mean to relate to the past and the future, and to compile a legacy, history and genealogy.

This year we come together, on stolen land, at a time of a social and ecological crisis. Law, in both its humanitarian and authoritarian guises, is complicit in global capital’s assault on the ecological processes that sustain life and the practices of communal life. Being attentive to the grounding of law may present possibilities of thinking of resistance beyond questions of the means, tactics or processes of constructing a rebellion to a broader challenge of constructing the places where rebellion articulates and encounters itself, shows itself and begins to know itself.

We welcome participants from all disciplines to explore what a theory of grounding law could offer a critical and political engagement with law.

Possible topics may include (this list is non-exhaustive):

● the force of law: rethinking violence as a ground of law
● the ecological crisis: the relationship between law and the environment
● land, sky, sea: the ethereal and terrestrial in law’s cosmos
● Indigenous jurisprudence
● settling/settler laws in the international
● radical legal pluralism, religious laws and customary laws
● the place and space of law
● the Occupy Movement and/or resistance as a grounding project
● the groundless community of global capitalism: the disciplinarity, (ir)regularity and cooperativity of law
● grounding fiscal reform in economies of possession and dispossession, austerity and surplus, accumulation and expenditure
● methodologies of legal ethnography, history and geography
● transmission, transplantation and legacies of law making
● constituting community: critical constitutionalism and administrative law

A limited number of bursaries will be available for interstate and international presenting participants who are unable to claim funding to cover the full cost of travel from their home institution. The bursaries are intended to contribute towards travel expenses. Please indicate in your application whether you would like to be considered for a bursary.

Conference Organisers:
Julia Dehm and Marc Trabsky and Timothy Neale

Send abstracts of 500 words (max) and biographies of 100 words to:
[email protected] by Monday 6th August 2012.

Confirmation of accepted abstracts will be made on 20th August 2012.

Submission of written papers (maximum of 3000 words) are due on 5 November 2012.