08 October 2013

CALL FOR PAPERS: How Law Sorts its World: Classification and Categories in the Making of Jurisdictions

Apologies for the late notice about this very exciting (proposed) session:

Law & Society Association Annual Meeting 2014 -- 
Call for Papers for Proposed Session: 
"How Law Sorts its World: Classification and Categories in the Making of Jurisdictions"

This panel will examine technical forms of differentiation, classification, and sorting that situate people and phenomena in relation to different bodies of law. Its central concern is the ways in which such distinctions shape boundaries of jurisdiction by establishing categories of subjects and objects suitable to - or, alternatively, outside of - law’s reach. As Bradin Cormack (2007) explains, to consider jurisdiction implies “an abstraction upward from a sphere of substantive law” in which “the latter confronts, in practice, the question of its competence over a given case.” Panelists will explore the criteria, actors, and forms of knowledge that their own research finds creating and reinforcing the distinctions that resolve such questions of competence. The panel may also consider how jurisdiction carries embedded categories which validate and further entrench modes of classification and/or make them transferrable across legal and regulatory domains. Of particular interest will be the ways in which not only spatial, but also temporal and conceptual boundaries become factors determining the application or non-applicability of law.

Practices of classification and sorting often go unscrutinized in studies of the law (Bowker and Star 1999). This is usually due to a certain invisibility that accompanies the apparent obviousness of their products: neatly delineated subjects and objects assumed to be already settled prior to any legal intervention. This panel widens the lens on what constitutes “legal classification” by considering technical classificatory work on basis of its legal effects. Mariana Valverde (2009) and others have called for greater attention to how such “technicalities” authorize and determine the paths of law. By calling attention to how categories and classificatory schemes function as legal, this panel seeks to contribute to broader empirical and theoretical efforts to demystify law’s authority.

This panel seeks careful analyses from diverse sites of how law sorts its world: persons and things, contexts and events, concepts and kinds, facts and fabrications. It is concerned less with judgments about what is legal or illegal than modes of determining what is “inside of,” or “belongs to,” which legal or regulatory domain. Papers may explore the following issues, among others:

- the qualities or criteria used to designate particular subjects or objects in relation to systems of legality
- the interplay of spatial, temporal, and conceptual aspects of jurisdictional categories or modes of classification
- disjunctions or transferences of categories across different court systems, national and international legal bodies, or civil and criminal procedures
- implications of the situational or inconsistent application of a category or classificatory scheme
- the limit points and cusps of categories and distinctions
- disagreements about ontological kind in jurisdiction-making
- the knowledges enlisted to define or undo boundaries of jurisdiction, or to settle ambiguities between them
- the role of the scalar definition of a legal phenomenon in effecting categories of subject, object, or relation

Paper proposals with an abstract of no more than 250 words should be sent to Josh Clark (clarkj1@uci.edu) and Sean Mallin (smallin@uci.edu) no later than Tuesday, October 8.

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