School of Law and Human Rights Centre Host Workshop on Critical Perspectives on Global Law and the Environment

Photo by Mike Erskine

On 22-23 April 2021, the School of Law and Human Rights Centre (HRC) held a workshop bringing together scholars at an early stage in their careers to support the development of research on critical perspectives on global law and the environment.

The workshop was organised by Emily Jones, Eliana Cusato, Judith Bueno De Mesquita and Birsha Ohdedar (all Lecturers in the School of Law and Human Rights Centre).

The workshop aimed to foster and develop the emerging area of critical scholarship on law and the environment, specifically among early-career researchers. In confronting global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater scarcity and other symptoms of planetary breakdown, it has been noted that traditional approaches of environmental law have only managed to save “some trees” but failed to keep “the forest” (Bosselmann, 2010). The current environmental crises intertwine with poverty, inequality, and gendered and racial hierarchies that stem from colonial origins and replicate in the postcolonial and neoliberal worlds. Therefore, the challenge laid down for critical scholarship is to interrogate (and re-imagine) the role of law in the unending drive for economic expansion, unbridled exploitation of people and nature, rather than merely attempt to mitigate its excesses (Gonzalez, 2015).

Workshop partipants during the second day of the work-shop

In recent years, an emerging body of work broadly re-examines environmental law from a critical lens. These include perspectives that account for: Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and Global South-North relations; critical interrogations of human rights and the environment; innovative research methods; new materialism; and climate and environmental justice. This workshop builds on these critical perspectives with the aim of fostering a new generation of scholars.

The workshop had 18 early-career scholars participating, with a cross-section of representation from early-stage PhD researchers to those up to 5 years into their post-PhD academic careers. The virtual workshop meant participants were based across the globe, including from Europe, Canada, Turkey, Brazil, Australia, Barbados, and India, with representation across genders.

Each participant in the workshop produced a paper in advance of the day. The workshop adopted an innovative format by pairing up participants to present on each other’s paper rather than their own. The format resulted in greater engagement, feedback and the development of presenting work that is not their own, concisely and clearly. Each paper was closely discussed with other participants and invited senior discussants, providing an opportunity to gain a range of feedback on their work.

In between the two days of discussion, Prof. Carmen Gonzalez, Professor of Law at Loyola University of Chicago, delivered a keynote address on the topic of racial capitalism and global environmental law.

Keynote speaker Professor Carmen Gonzalez and the organisers of the workshop

A symposium edition of the Asian Journal on International Law is planned for 2022, as a workshop output, which will showcase some of the presented papers.

The workshop complements the work at the School of Law and HRC in this area, including through a research cluster on Human Rights and Environment and recent symposiums on human rights and climate change, albeit bringing a more focussed critical perspective.

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