by John Harrington and Ambreena Manji, Cardiff University

Post re-blogged from the Social & Legal Studies Blog

In autumn 2018, Cardiff Law and Global Justice is organizing a series of writing workshops for socio-legal scholars in the global south. Run in partnership with Socio-Legal Studies: An International Journal (S&LS)and the Journal of Law and Society, this initiative is funded by an award from the British Academy.

Four workshops will be held in Recife (Brazil), Bangalore (India), Nairobi (Kenya) and Accra (Ghana). Each is led by a team of local and UK-based scholars and will provide intensive support to scholars looking to develop papers for submission to socio-legal journals.

The initiative forms part of the commitment of Cardiff Law and Global Justice to building and renewing the community of critical legal scholars in the UK and more widely.

It arises from the publication of our paper on Third World Legal Scholarship for the 25thAnniversary special issue of Social and Legal Studies in 2017 in which we identified a decline in engagement with scholarship on and originating in the global south since the founding of that journal in 1992. We sought to locate the journal in the broader history of socio-legal studies and legal education in the United Kingdom and to consider its engagement with the work of Third World scholars.

We recalled the founding commitment of the journal’s first editorial board to non-western perspectives on law and located this commitment both historically and biographically. In the first issue of S&LS, the editors set out their reasons for founding a new journal. Included among their four main ambitions was ‘the promotion of non-Western perspectives on law, regulation and criminology’. The journal would, they said,

promote a greater knowledge and understanding of work being carried out in developing countries, Eastern Europe, and the less dominant Western countries. We are of the firm belief that exciting and innovating work is being produced yet remains at risk of invisibility on the international scene, leaving dominant western traditions and perspectives unmoved by their potential challenge. (Editorial Board, 1992: 5–6, issue 1)

This was more than a plea for generic diversity, a simple demand to refresh the stock of socio-legal knowledge in European and North American academies. It needs to be read in its time; 1992 roughly marks the halfway point between today and the independence of Ghana in 1957, the first of a wave of decolonization that ended formal imperialism on the African continent. The creation of new law schools had played a part in the contested project of building new nations which took place over that period. But by 1992, the aspiration to sustain independent centres of knowledge production in and about the countries of the Third World had been thwarted by the reassertion of the economic and political supremacy of the Western powers and the international financial institutions (IFIs) which they dominated. An insurgent alliance of states across the global south, seeking to achieve a New International Economic Order, had been defeated and pushed back. As a result of this material transformation, distinctive voices in and about the Third World were marginalized by the new orthodoxy. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, non-aligned states lost the strategic capacity to operate between East and West. The founding of the journal was an act of hope, a defensive, but also a defiant gesture

Our paper demonstrated that the journal had made a number of important interventions relating to socio-legal studies in the Third World, but also that there have been significant gaps and omissions since 1992. We argued for a reassertion of S&LS’s founding commitments to anti-imperial scholarship and the challenges posed by critical, non-western perspectives. In our view, significant jurists in the Third World tradition and their broader intellectual contexts are still little known by their peers in Europe and North America, nor are they read by our students. The juristic canon remains largely unchanged.  But the journal’s current editors offer some hope, recalling recently that S&LS ‘was born out of a commitment to feminist, anti-colonial and socialist economic perspectives to the study of law’.

Following the publication of our paper, we widened the discussion of these ideas to other socio-legal journals. The Journal of Law and Society, with its own roots in Third World legal scholarships through the early career of its founder, Philip Thomas, in law schools in Tanzania and Zambia, joined enthusiastically in the conversation. As a first step, it was agreed that a constructive and important way promote a diversity of scholarship on and from the global south was to take part in, and if needed organise, writing workshops to support early career and other scholars considering publishing in UK socio-legal journals. This idea builds on the longstanding commitment of the African Studies Association UK which has organised writing workshops in a number of countries, including Tanzania, Nigeria, Gambia, Kenya and Liberia.

In April 2018, we were pleased to be awarded funding by the British Academy to organise four Writing Workshops. We have designed our Writing Workshops to build on our existing relationships with colleagues at global south institutions such as universities and research institutes. Their success depends on longstanding equal partnerships fostered by scholars.  The workshops also depend on a significant commitment of time and labour before, during and, crucially, after they are held.  They require long-term engagement and ongoing work by journal editors and our collaborating partners in order for papers from the workshops to go through supportive and constructive peer review and on to publication. The workshops will also inform the work and priorities of the journals themselves, promoting reflection on currently dominant patterns of authorship and citation and consideration of other steps to remedy this. Writing Workshops are one way to confront and begin to change research, publishing and citation patterns that privilege scholars based in institutions in the global north.

Further details of our four workshops, including Calls for Papers, are available here: