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Postgraduate Research Conference on 'Law in Dark Times'

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Location: Oculus Building Room OC1.04 and OC0.01, University of Warwick


The theme for the 2023 Warwick PGR Law Conference is Law in Dark Times, investigating the historical and contemporary role of law in the context of economic, political, social, and environmental crises and disasters. The conference aims to bring together postgraduate research students, exploring different areas of law, to present their work in a supportive environment. This year’s theme is aimed at encouraging conversations on how different methodologies and theoretical perspectives can allow us to understand how the law in implicated in the making of crises, but also to reimagine how the law can serve political transformation and social change. Participants will have the opportunity to receive feedback from fellow PGRs and academics with expertise in their field. We invite submissions which are related to this above theme, including (but not limited to): 1) The role of law in creating and/or perpetuating ‘dark times’, 2) The role of legal imagination in addressing crises and disasters, 3) Different conceptualisations and problematisations of global and domestic legal issues, 4) Law in the context of crises as relating to different areas such as international law, criminal law, constitutional law, tax law, financial regulation, commercial law, intellectual property, energy law, environmental law, labour law, family law, etc., 5) The role of law and its effects on democratic values, human rights, and judicial processes, 6) Doctrinal, historiographical, comparative and socio-legal approaches to societal issues.

SUBMISSION OF ABSTRACT: We invite interested participants to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words via this form PGR Conference 2023 by Monday, 9th January 2023. Apart from the abstracts, the form will collect data including the applicant's name, current degree programme, year/stage of PhD, name of institution and contact details. Successful applicants will be informed by 17th January 2023.

Keynote speaker: Professor Davina Cooper, KCL

Acting as if more radical options were on the law reform table: Prefigurative research and the challenge of abolishing legal sex status

This talk explores prefigurative law reform as a research method. Prefigurative law reform is a new way of doing research, which takes up future-situated radical proposals as if they were viable projects for current-day reform. Through this move, prefigurative law reform provides a critical entry point for exploring dominant prevailing arrangements, movements for change ‘below’ state law’s radar, and transformative possibilities that inhabit hoped-for futures. Prefigurative law reform also gives rise to a prototyping process of making something new that also acts as an intervention within the current socio-political and legal landscape.

To trace these processes, and the challenge they pose, in more detail, the talk focuses on the proposal to abolish legal sex status (decertification). This was a controversial proposal that formed the heart of the Future of Legal Gender Project, funded by the ESRC, which ran from 2018-2022. The talk explores rationales for decertification, concerns raised by critics about its development, policy choices available, and the progress of soft decertification as different agencies (including local councils and trade unions) acted as if gender and sex were already self-identified statuses not limited to categories of female and male.

The public report from the Future of Legal Gender Project, Abolishing legal sex status: The challenge and consequences of gender-related law reform, is available here: 

Davina Cooper is a Research Professor in Law & Political Theory, at King's College London. Davina's research takes an interdisciplinary approach to transformative politics in relation to state governance, everyday utopias, gender and sexual politics, and new conceptual methods. She is the author of six books including Feeling like a State and Everyday Utopias - both published by Duke UP. She has just completed a funded project on the Future of Legal Gender ( and is currently working on a two-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship project on conceptual activism and gender.



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