Before Easter: Encountering the Impersonal



Last Sunday saw the forcible removal of a passenger aboard a United Airlines flight who had refused the airline’s offer to take his seat for one of its employees. Putatively a lawful exercise of the airline’s rights, the violent extraction culminated in the (now ‘viral’) scene of a security officer dragging the man down the aisle as if he were an unclaimed cadaver. The dragging of the inert body, later confirmed to be that of a doctor of Vietnamese descent, terrorised the remaining passengers and, belatedly, the remote viewers.

In ‘Two Versions of the Imaginary’ (1951), Maurice Blanchot suggests that the uncanny image of the cadaver terrifies us because of a certain self-resemblance: ‘the lamented dead person begins to resemble himself’ (82). The dead body is not the Ideal Imago behind which the ‘I’ conceals its imperfections, discontinuities, and dependencies. Rather, it is the neutral image of the image that recalls the impersonality of the person: the incessant dying which precedes, haunts, and survives the living. Signifying nothing but the absence of signification, the present absence of the cadaver shatters the fascinating mirror image that purports to guarantee the presence of truth in the world: the fantasy of the civilised human with universal rights.

But as troubling as the encounter with the impersonal might be, this rediscovery of the aperture in the imaginary is also that which draws us out of ourselves. The strangeness of the cadaver, in its infinite distance, issues a demand for a response from the living. What does the other want from me?

Of course, the man was not ‘really’ dead. But in a very ‘real’ sense, he was forcibly sunk into his image: the image of his image, the impersonal image, which is the image of death. And he and others are perpetually at risk of death in its manifold forms: a risk that risks being screened by the idealising juridical myths (‘dignity’, ‘equality’, ‘humanity’) into which we escape, in spite of all the exceptional spaces of law. If it is legally possible for each of us today to be the cadaver dragged across the aisle, what does it say about our law and its founding myths? Is the juridical language of human rights adequate to advance its claims? Is there no ‘outside’ in which to locate an alternative language to perform one’s responsibility for the other?

For those who have asked, these are some of the questions the law and humanities pathway has urged me to ask.

Key references:
2. Maurice Blanchot, ‘Two Versions of the Imaginary’ in The Gaze of Orpheus and Other Literary Essays (Station Hill Press 1981).

‘Display at Your Own Risk: Andrea Wallace at Kent’


During our ‘Intellectual Property and Industrial Practices’ seminar on 27th February 2017 we were joined by Andrea Wallace, our guest lecturer from the University of Glasgow. Through her research, Andrea has looked widely into the role of cultural heritage institutions within the public sector and the issues arising from associated IP rights. Specifically, Andrea’s research considers how the increasing need for such institutions to commercialise and keep pace with technology notably through digitisation has impacted on the public domain. Indeed, these issues in turn raises important questions on the cultural, ethical and legal issues at hand.

What is interesting is that at present, when a museum makes a digital surrogate work available to an organisation such as Flickr Commons or the Google Art Project the same permissions and uses are not necessarily then made available on the museums own website. Furthermore, Andrea identified problems in cultural institutions where the information that has been attached to the digital surrogate actually contradicts that information displayed within its online policy.

During our seminar I found Andrea’s ideas on museums creating ‘surrogate’ works, essentially as new works to which rights are attached most persuasive. Moreover, these works would then be better protected and their rights more efficiently recognisable online through their metadata which may then encourage museums to create more surrogate works.

The long-term benefits of such a system would arguably benefit the museum, public and the creator or the work alike. Metadata stores detailed information on the process and edits of a surrogate work created. Where a user downloads and reuses a surrogate work, perhaps in an open source exhibition it in theory becomes detached from the relevant use policy and context of the museum which would be lost forever if not attached to the digital surrogate and preserved through its metadata. This then allows further reuse of the work as well as information on the location of where the original work is held and by who it was created. Furthermore, any restrictions that may then apply to the reuse of the surrogate work is clear to the user, such information might desist unauthorised reuse of the works.

Andrea’s research project ‘Display at your own Risk’:

( is well worth a look at. Andrea may well have identified a greater system of copyright protection for surrogate works in cultural institutions. Particularly as digital cultural heritage continues to develop at an increasing rate, so does the technology of creating different forms of digital surrogates and ways of sharing them online. Copyright law in comparison is lagging behind and often leaves a void between the enjoyment of the public and the preservation of cultural heritage.


Call for Papers: The Role of Law in Meeting Contemporary Global Challenges.


The Kent Law School Graduate Conference Committee is pleased to announce that its fifth LLM Conference will take place on 5th and 6th of June 2017.

In an era of increasing globalisation, there is a need to scrutinise the role of law in addressing the challenges associated with this development. There is an intensifying need to tackle the growing world population; migration and refugee crises arising from war and natural disasters; climate change and environmental degradation; manipulation of communication technologies against states and citizens, and national and transnational crimes.

The conference will focus on exploring law’s role in meeting global challenges in areas including but not limited to: Economic and Environmental issues, Global Policymaking, Technology, Targeted Killings, International and Transnational Crime, the Internet and Communication Technologies, Mass Migration and Shared Security/Global policing. The conference seeks to critically engage the legal and theoretical framework underpinning these issues and suggest possible alternatives.

Therefore, the Committee welcomes papers that discuss the theme of the conference from legal and other various academic perspectives. Abstract submissions should be no longer than 300 words and should be sent to Please note that full paper submissions are requested for consideration for the three prizes which are available for the best internal paper, the best external paper, and the best poster.


Professor Philippe Cullet of SOAS, University of London will deliver the keynote.

The annual Clive Schmitthoff Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Professor Fiona Macmillan from Birkbeck, University of London at 4.00 pm on Monday, 5th June 2017.


Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15th April 2017

Notification of acceptance: 30th April 2017

Final paper submissions to be considered for a prize: 25th May 2017

For any enquiries, please contact  

We look forward to seeing you on 5th and 6th June 2017 at The Role of Law in Meeting Contemporary Global Challenges.

Environmental Law in Practice

This post is by Andrea Schiber and is cross-posted with the KLS Law News Blog.

For the first seminar in the LLM Environmental Law Seminar Series 2016/2017, Kent alumnus Rufus Howard spoke about his journey from gaining an LLM in Environmental Law and Policy at Kent to becoming Director of Sustainable Development at Royal HaskoningDHV and beyond.

During the seminar, delivered on Monday 17 October, Rufus explained how the skills he had gained during his LLM had helped him throughout his career, his first job after graduating being a position at AMEC as an Environmental Consultant. Skills he highlighted, included: an appreciation of written/academic English, attention to detail, critical analysis, and the confidence to go back to the start of an issue and work through the information (or possible solutions) systematically.

Rufus currently specialises in the impact assessment of complex assets and contentious infrastructure projects. Moreover, he provides strategic advice to international businesses, financial institutions and governmental departments on environmental and social risk management. His work takes him all across Europe, Libya, Kazakhstan, South Africa and the USA.

He advocated the benefits of professional development through membership of appropriate institutions, such as the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), the Institute of Directors (IoD), and/or the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA). As well as providing opportunities for networking and participation in projects, Rufus said membership offers benefits such as career development and certification (in addition to employment and education), and support for their members.

Whilst Rufus continues to work part-time, he is undertaking a PhD at Kent to further develop and consolidate his career and knowledge. His working thesis title is: ‘Industry Evidence Programme: A Systematic and Evidence Based Approach to Impact Assessment.’

Rufus was thanked for sharing his divers and interesting experiences of environmental law in practice by the student organising committee (Simon Malih – Chairperson, Grant Williams -Introducer, and Harry Haycraft – Reporter), fellow students and lecturers.

The LLM Environmental Law Seminar Series has been designed specifically for students with an interest in the environmental law modules offered within the School’s one-year Master’s in Law programme, the Kent LLM.

Kent LLM students can graduate with a specialism in either Environmental Law orInternational Environmental Law by (i) opting to study at least three (out of six) modules from those associated with the specialism of their choice and by (ii) focusing the topic of their dissertation on their chosen specialism.

More information about environmental law research, events and academics at Kent can be found on the Environmental Law mini-site. More information about studying the Kent LLM (and choosing your specialism) can be found on our postgraduate pages.

Why an LLM? Why Kent? by Lumi Olteanu, LLM (Intellectual Property) Candidate.

canterburyWell, I guess the answer to the first question, in most situations, would depend on what one’s goals, both on the professional and personal level, are.

For many LLM students, these could mean academic “maturation”, a pathway to specialization into a particular field of law that they found interesting during undergraduate courses, or, why not, while practicing a certain profession, or even a new beginning in a whole new realm, or opening up one’s mind and soul to new opportunities. When I used to read about all the things listed above, before starting the LLM here at Kent and while working as a lawyer (working almost 60 hours of week, because, you know, this is what lawyers do), I have to admit that it all seemed like empty words or even cheap philosophy. The flaw in my reasoning was that I was very superficial in judging such an experience, I was reaching conclusions without actually experimenting the LLM life, just because I was thinking that “good things” or “good outcomes” are not possible and don’t just happen to people.

Fortunately, seven months after the first LLM thought had passed through my mind, life happened, whatever that means, and I have found myself in the Canterbury campus, living a dream which I was initially afraid to even “dream”.

So, why did I a choose Kent? The teaching methods that the KLS proposed for the subjects that I was interested in and the critical and cutting-edge approaches were indeed essential for my decision to come to Kent. However, there was another thing that somehow steered me to Kent. I have to recognize that I had applied for two other LLM programs based in London. However, after I had written the application letters for each of these three schools offering LLM programs (the one for Kent and the other two for the London-based law schools) I noticed that the one which reflected my personality, my true self and professional goals was the one for Kent.

Maybe, at a subconscious level, I was fascinated by the paradisiac location of the campus in Canterbury, and I found it very easy to get informed about the KLS through the friendly web site of the University and thanks to the courtesy and efficiency of the KLS staff. Now, I know for sure that all of the above are accurate and I have discovered additional advantages of being a KLS LLM student.

The most enchanting feature of the LLM program is its flexibility which allows you to choose three modules per semester from a wide variety of law subjects pertaining to different areas of law.

For example, you may choose to study Contemporary Topics in Intellectual Property pertaining to the Intellectual Property pathway – which I think is a one of a kind module which I could not find on the list of other LLM programs, focused on the very latest trends and developments in this area and Labour Rights in a Global Economy which pertains to the International Law pathway. So basically, the sky is the limit in terms of what to study J

Then there are a lot of FREE non-mandatory workshops and lectures available almost on a daily basis which aim at developing and/or improving, including but not limited to ones writing skills and soft skills (such as the Global Skills Award Program or the events organised by the Student Learning Advisory Service)(additional details will be available in a future post). I have registered for most of them to be honest because I know that such sessions are not only effective but are also a good training for a future job. Not to mention that when you have a real job you don’t have the time and the peace of mind necessary to assimilate properly all the information and tips which such training offer.

I am now living on campus (which is a first for me – I never experienced living in a dorm before) with other postgraduate students studying different master programs and I can say that this is truly amazing. Besides the fact that students here have such a diverse cultural background, I constantly learn about new subjects from different disciplines, which, invariably are connected to my desired LLM specialization which is Intellectual Property. Most of my flat mates are studying Computer Sciences, and this eventually led to discussions about the insights of the architecture of applications which we use on our smartphones and, eventually, discussions about how these are protected by copyright.

So, I am pretty sure that other universities offer similar LLM programs, similar campus conditions (of course I don’t think they offer landscapes like the one below, but anyways J) however KLS promises and so far has offered to me a life experience which will hopefully remain embedded in me for a lifetime.



800px-gustav_klimt_046The film screening and discussion of the Woman in Gold* was part of the Welcome Week package organized by the Kent Law School for the Postgraduate Taught Students. Dr. Simone Wong, a Co -Director of Graduate Studies had earlier informed the LLM students that attendance to the film screening was as important as attendance to the compulsory Legal Research and Writing Skills Training Module – LW919 which will appear as pass or fail in our final transcript. Dr. Emily Haslam and Dr. José Bellido were there to moderate the discussion on the film screening. As expected, almost everybody attended the session.

The film centres on the recovery of a 1907 painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer (later renamed Woman in Gold) from the Austrian Government by Maria Altmann. The theme of the movie cuts across various aspects of law which include law and justice; law and cultural heritage, property law, wills law, restitution, the jurisdiction of courts, the lawyer-client relationship, international law, etc. However, of interest in this short discourse is the cost of litigation in various jurisdictions as the other areas were duly discussed in class.

It can be observed in the film that the Restitution Committee set up by the Austrian government denied the claims of Maria Altmann. Upon the denial of the claim of the paintings which included that of Bloch- Bauer (Woman in Gold), Maria and her attorney returned back to the US as the option available to them in Austria was elusive.  Maria and her attorney are informed that they can approach the Austrian Court for redress if they are disgruntled or dissatisfied with the decision of the Committee. However, the bad news is that the sum of $1,800,000 was required to be deposited in order to pursue the case in court based on the estimated worth of the property. Maria’s cause was then abandoned as she cannot afford such huge sums of money. At this juncture, it is worthy to note that litigation is not free in any jurisdiction. However, the amount payable by a prospective litigant or claimant varies from one jurisdiction to another. As the writer of this post is a Nigerian, it is apt that the happenings in that jurisdiction be examined in line with our reflection.

Basically, the hierarchy of courts can be found in section 6(5) of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). In the said provision, we have amongst other courts the Federal High Court and the High Court of the State. These two courts are courts of coordinate jurisdiction but do not exercise the same jurisdiction except in certain matters. In essence, whereas the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court can be found in section 251 of the Constitution, that of the High Court of the States can be found in section 272 of the Constitution.  The cost of filing an action in both courts differs. The amount claimed by a litigant determines the fee payable by that litigant. However, it is relatively cheaper to pursue a claim at the State High Court than to pursue the same claim at the Federal High Court. Some litigants even abandon their claims when the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court due to attendant cost just like our Maria in the Woman of Gold lost hope and went back to the US when she was informed of the cost of pursuing the claim in Austrian Court. Little wonder the US court recognised that the Austrian Court provided inadequate means for the resolution of the dispute due to the prohibitive cost to file the action.

As a matter of fact, in matters where the Federal High Court and State High Court can exercise jurisdiction, litigants avoid the Federal High Court and opt for the State High Court in a bid to avoid payment of heavy fees. For instance, the Federal and the State High Court in Nigeria can entertain fundamental right matters as it affects a person whose right is being, has been or likely to be infringed on. Since both courts can exercise jurisdiction in matters of fundamental rights, the question now is; can a person approach any of the courts in a bid to enforce his or her fundamental rights? The answer appears to be in the negative. Some judicial authorities are of the view that any fundamental right action sought to be enforced by a person at the Federal High Court must relate to actions of a federal agency. In other words, if the wrong complained of was done by a federal agency or body then the State High Court cannot exercise jurisdiction in such matters and vice versa.  Despite this position of various judicial authorities and at the risk of an action being struck out for want of jurisdiction, fundamental right actions against federal bodies or agencies are still being filed at the State High Court due to the cost attendant with filing the action at the Federal High Court. In the alternative, litigants are known to grudgingly reduce the amount claimed in a bid to pay a lesser sum. A person who ordinarily would have claimed over a million dollar would reduce the claim so as to afford the fee payable.

Interestingly, some litigants after the release of National Human Right Commission Standing Order 2015 now approach the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission to claim trillions of Naira as no filing fees or deposit are made at the Commission. This is opposed to what is obtainable in regular courts where fees are paid.  Although it is doubtful whether such claims will succeed in view of so many factors ranging from the powers and jurisdiction of the Commission, the status of the Commission as an inferior tribunal etc. Clearly, the outrageous claims at the Commission reveal that many persons are relinquishing their rights due to the cost of litigation. This post is not a call for drastic measures or actions to be taken in various jurisdictions to review the admissibility of claims in terms of cost. This is because removal of fees payable by prospective litigants will not only promote the filing of frivolous suits but will encourage litigation which amongst other things is time-consuming, filled with procedural hitches and less friendly.

Although the Woman in Gold celebrates arbitration over the traditional litigation, it must be pointed out that sometimes litigation or the possibility of litigation brings the parties to the arbitration table. In essence, potential defendants usually show nonchalant attitude towards alternative dispute resolution except there is an ongoing litigation or one is threatened. This is evident in the Woman in Gold when the Austrian government approached Maria Altmann for settlement after the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of Maria Altmann that she can maintain the action against Austria in a US court.

The Woman in Gold and the stimulating discussion that followed was indeed golden. Most of the LLM students with their diverse backgrounds shared their views about the legal issues that arose from the film screening. The analysis by the students was awesome and we look forward to similar discussions throughout our LLM programme.


*Woman in Gold is a film written by Alexi Kaye Campbell and directed by Simon Curtis. The film was released in 2015. Studio: The Weinstein Company.

Photo credit: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (The Woman in Gold) is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt available at


‘Horticulture, Not Money Culture’ Business and the Environment – Towards A Sustainable Future in Indonesia by Hashim Djojohadikusumo

IMG_20160415_115442860_HDRMy entire time at the Southeast Asian Studies Symposium was intellectually enlightening, and I attended a number of talks by fantastic speakers. However, Hashim’s keynote left the deepest impression on me as it spoke about a sustainable future as an actual possibility. It is unlikely to hear any positivity when discussing climate change, as the general consensus seems to be that whatever actions undertaken are too little, too late, and that the damage is irreparable.

Into this narrative comes Hashim, a ray of hope. In his presentation, he stated that it is now possible to embark upon reforestation, protect wildlife, produce sustainable food, pay a living wage, and make a profit. He ‘put his money where his mouth is’, by divesting his interests in oil, gas and polluting industries and then investing in environmentally friendly initiatives. He spoke of supporting ‘horticulture, not money culture’, but also of an exciting new enterprise of reforesting that can turn a significant profit. By making an environmentally sustainable business-model, other businessmen could be persuaded to act not charitably (or only charitably), but in their own self-interest.

IMG_20160415_180005000Hashim reported that it was possible to take destroyed land and restore it to a thriving rainforest ecosystem in a mere twelve years, a fraction of the time previously believed. In the area he worked on in Indonesia, rains returned due to the rainforest increasing moisture levels, wildlife returned, and what had been a barren desert was now a thriving ecosystem. Studies showed that ground-water levels had increased. We now know it can be done, and that it costs a mere $2005 to reforest a hectare with commercially viable trees and plants which turn a healthy profit as well as providing local residents with employment – thereby incentivising them to protect the forest.

What was previously a barren scrub land, inhabited only by weeds and rats was now a bio-diverse environment. It also provides a profitable alternative to palm oil plantations.

The Palm Sugar Tree (although a plant, not a tree) is a huge part of the commercial viability of rainforest reforestation. It provides a sugary juice that can be used to make low glycemic index sugar as well as ethanol. One hectare produces three times as much sugar as a sugar cane plantation, and the Palm Sugar Tree secretes all year. It’s roots burrow 12 metres into the soil – relocating large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It also stores a great deal of water and restores the area’s water resources.

I was intrigued to hear that the Palm Sugar Tree (PST) grows well only in a bio-diverse environment. Therefore, the best economic plan is to grow PST is as part of a mixed tropical rainforest – promoting a biodiversity that will beneficial for all. I like to think of this as mother nature ‘hitting-back’. Ensuring that if we want to make use of this plant’s special properties, it must be as part of something beneficial to the entire ecosystem, rather than cultivating a PST plantation

IMG_20160415_174522322With a predicted five-fold increase in population in Nigeria by 2100, it is a prime candidate for sustainable development – and this kind of reforestation project is ideal. The profitability of the sustainable rainforest is of great benefit to the environment and the economy. Aside from sugar and ethanol, the rainforest can also replace oil use, produce biodegradable plastic, organic fertiliser as well as provide a habitat for endangered species. This organic fertiliser can then be used to enable forestation of vast swathes of the world’s expanding deserts and degraded land without the use of chemical fertilisers!

‘The world must also be reforested – 1.2 billion hectares to be replanted in the next 40 years for the earth to have a sustainable future’.

Self-interest is the best way to get things done. The level of economic return – 25% as opposed to the 19% return on Palm Oil according to McKinsey – will incentivise business people as it will be in their selfish, self-interest to do the right thing.

With natural forests disappearing at an alarming rate – it is estimated that there will be no forest cover in Indonesia in 25 years – and the implications this has for planetary health as a whole.

Hashim passionately believes that there are exciting future investment opportunities that allow businesses to protect the environment and turnover a healthy profit.

It is inspirational to hear of hope, and to hear from a businessman who terminated his involvement in oil and gas polluting industries for moral reasons, and who is trying to rewrite the narrative on profit and environmental protection, showing that the two are not mutually exclusive.

For more on this topic, listen to this speech, given in Paris, on youtube:

Reviewed by Jodie Satterley


SEA Symposium: José Ramos-Horta and Asia’s lessons to learn

Sunset in Oxford

From 13 to 16 April 2016, I attended the Southeast Asian Studies Symposium 2016 at Oxford along with two other LLM students, Nik and Jodie (look out for their blog posts too!). The symposium was a wonderful opportunity to meet academics, government officials, activists and practitioners all specialised in Southeast Asia. I was part of a roundtable titled ‘The Rohingya: A Question of Citizenship and Identity’ which was well-attended by many people who had experience in Myanmar at different times. I also attended some really wonderful workshops, including one on financial inclusion and empowerment of women and girls, where I had the chance to talk to someone from the Cherie Blair Foundation about the need to change financial laws and banking practices in recognition of the specific challenges women face when it comes to accessing finance.

Jose Ramos HortaThe keynote address at the opening plenary this year was given by former Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta. He began quite humorously, talking about his time at St Antony’s College in the 1980s, which he chiefly remembered for its very bad food. He claimed that he hardly ever ate the food, as it was ‘the worst’ and often passed his share to other students. This system left him with a standing bill owed to St Antony’s, which he was sent notice of with regularity for ten years, as it incrementally increased. It didn’t matter that he had become a head of state in that time.

Dr Ramos-Horta then talked about how important Asia is as a region: home to over half of the world, it has the largest standing armies and some of the longest border disputes. He made a quick reference to the situation in Kashmir, which he described as the ‘most dangerous place in the world’.

An unexpectedly sunny first daySome countries, he said, had still not recovered from colonial occupation, and it remains a part of their national identity. Dr Ramos-Horta flagged the issue of violence against women and discrimination against women and girls, who endure acid throwing, are married off young or even sold off, and in some places face stoning for adultery. He underlined how essential girls’ right to education is to changing some of this.

Dr Ramos-Horta commented on Timor-Leste’s experiences and how other Southeast Asian nations might learn from them. Observing the corrupting effect of money on Timor-Leste’s 2007 elections, he jokingly said it was not clear whether in 2001 and 2002 whether Timor-Leste was more honest or did just not have enough money to influence elections, humorously terming this the ‘Asian style of democracy’.

Selfie with Jose Ramos HortaLooking back on 40 years, Dr Ramos-Horta said there had been gains, although poverty is on the rise, while ‘democracy, good governance, and transparency are deficient’. He warned that it was vital for Asian governments to be more open and to listen to their people. The extreme violence experienced in some countries is often explained in terms of religion, but in reality this is an extremist ideology pervading in places. He commented that Myanmar is at the beginning of a difficult transition, like Indonesia after Suharto, and gave support to Aung San Suu Kyi, who he said needs time and space. Countering criticisms made about her, Dr Ramos-Horta said she was being judged too soon, and that it is hard to build a modern nation state.

In relation to Myanmar, but also to other Southeast Asian nations that have painful histories, such as Borneo, Indonesia, and Cambodia, Dr Ramos-Horta highlighted the importance of truth and reconciliation. He said that there was a need for an institute of memory, recognition of victims, and above all a process of remembering and reconciling with the past. This, he said, required a pedagogy of non-violence and forgiveness, warning that it is tragic to allow hatred. The challenge is how to present truth and reconciliation to the next generation, teaching non-violence not by omission, and without resurrecting anger. He said that the 21st century is Asia’s century, and it will see great challenges and great possibility.

His approach to history, truth and reconciliation was particularly stimulating to me, as I could place some of his positions with what I had studied in international criminal law, regarding war crimes and the role of trials and truth commissions. It reminded me of the role law can play in establishing history, and Martti Koskenniemi’s suggestion that war crimes trials are ‘less about judging a person than about establishing the truth of events’.[1] With over 300 people present, many from various Southeast Asian nations, Dr Ramos-Horta spoke on many relevant subjects for a large member of the audience, and provoked interesting discussions afterwards.

Sanam Amin

Conference photo

[1] Koskenniemi, Martti. ‘Between Impunity and Show Trials’. Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, 6, 1, 1-32(32) 2002.

KLS Graduate Conference 2016

Dear All,

212Please see attached the programme for the KLS Graduate Conference 2016 on Monday and Tuesday (6th and 7th) in Eliot Lecture Theatre 2

This year’s conference features papers from PGRs and LLM students on topics ranging from climate change and the right to water in India, to transgender people’s rights and Cypriot Depositors in the ECJ. The second day of the conference will feature panels of LLM students presenting their plans for their minor dissertations. The focal point of the conference is the annual Clive Schmitthoff lecture by Professor Neil Brooks (Osgoode Hall) at 6pm on Monday evening on “Rising Income and Wealth  Inequality: What’s Commercial  Law Got To Do With It?”.  Prof Brooks’ lecture will be preceded by a networking drinks reception in the foyer of ELT2.

We would really appreciate any time you can spare to attend one or two panels and support our students. For many of them, this is their first experience of presenting their work, so  positive and constructive feedback from peers and from colleagues is key to their learning and development as scholars.

We hope to see you there!

Sinéad Ring

(On behalf of the KLS Graduate Conference Committee)

WHO NEEDS LAW (click here for programme)


Dr Rob Knox’s guest lecture on ‘The Poor’ – International Human Rights Law module.


By Claire Walls (LLM Student, International environmental law)

File:William Powell Frith - Poverty and Wealth (1888).jpg

On Tuesday the 22nd of March, LLM students taking International Human Rights module had the pleasure of being taught by Dr Robert Knox, who gave a lecture and attending the seminars concerning ‘The Poor’. Dr Robert Knox is currently a lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool. His research interests lie in critical and Marxist legal theory, focusing on imperialism and its relationship with International law.

The LLM students were given a draft of Dr Knox’s essay titled ‘Marxist Theories of International Law’ to read in preparation for the lecture. This essay will appear in The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law, edited by Anne Orford and Florian Hoffmann (forthcoming). During his lecture, Dr Knox discussed the reasons and logics underpinning global poverty and argued that rather than being accidental, as it is often perceived, poverty is a systematic outcome of the capitalist political economic model underpinning the current international order.

Dr Knox pointed out that traditional human rights accounts often consider poverty as an anomaly which can be remedied through charity or legislative intervention, despite it being omnipresent. He suggested that poverty can be considered instead as an intractable problem created by capitalism. Following Marxist theory, Dr Knox underlined the ‘inevitability’ of poverty in a society organised around profit and growth.

Capitalism was born in Europe, following the Industrial revolution. This led to the rise to the idea of property, separating those who owned and those who did not. The latter, who had previously relied on common goods were forced to become labourers. According to Marxist thought, this precise economic and social structure born from capitalist relationships can be seen as the origin of a particular type of legal relations that, in themselves, aimed at profit and growth maximization. Law functions, in this sense, as a means of crystallising inequalities and disproportionately affecting ‘the poor’ as illustrated by the following quote by Anatole France:

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

In his lecture, Dr Knox suggested that there are three usual avenues to conceptualized the relationship between poverty and human rights. The first suggests that human rights, and formal legal and institutional structures, are not directly implicated in the production of poverty and therefore they do not have a ‘direct role’ to play in addressing it. The second considers human rights to be a tool to ameliorate poverty, which it is considered as coming from external factors. The third position posits that poverty is a violation of Human Rights, particularly because poverty is produced by State driven decisions or inaction. Dr Knox explained the latter by pointing out how capitalism and globalisation had led to a weakening of the State’s ability to interfere in economic and social matters. This is problematic to human rights lawyers who aim to use the State as a tool to re-distribute resources and to reduce asymmetries of power amongst nationals. For Dr Knox, however, this latter position, although extremely important, it continues to neglect the deeper connection that exist between the production of poverty and the idea of law, that underpins human rights. An evidence of this is the continuous inability of human rights to fundamentally challenge the global structures that, on a daily basis, generate even higher levels of maldistribution of resources.

During the seminars the discussion focused on imperialism and globalisation and their link to poverty and international law. Marxist legal theory considers (liberal) law to be the outcome of a particular arrangement of social relations predicated on exclusion and exploitation and which started in Europe and later expanded across the world through the process of imperial expansion. International law can be seen, from this perspective, as the outcome of imperialism – an argument advanced by many Marxists scholars including Susan Marks, author of ‘Human Rights and the Bottom Billion’, an article published in the European Human Rights Law Review and which was discussed during the seminars.

The discussions during the seminars, led by Dr Knox and Dr Eslava, the module convenor of the International Human Rights Law course, explore the issues associated to conceiving law as being purely a product of the mind and not a product of particular social, as well as material, arraignments. Missing this forecloses the possibility of understanding how law, in trying to solve a problem, often ends up crystallising and reproducing the same problem, as it has arguably been the case with poverty.

It was pointed out by a student that Human rights is at odds with reducing poverty as it focuses on the end result, failing to concentrate on the reasons for poverty, in particular the economic structures that are at the origin of the organisation of today’s society.

Dr Knox’s talk was part of a series of guest lectures that formed the second of three parts of the International Human Rights Law module. Each guest lecture focused on a specific subject (ie. The Citizen, The Refugee, The Worker, The Woman and The Poor) and its relationship with international human rights law. The guest lectures offered from their own research critical insights into the ways in which the field of international human rights law constitutes and tries to negotiate the claims and needs of these subjects.