Jemima Repo, ‘The Commodification of Feminist Protest’ (10 April 2019)

Wednesday, 10 April 2019, from 2pm to 4pm, Porthania P545 (Faculty room).

This talk theorises and examines ‘feminist commodity activism’; a form of activism where capitalist consumption comes to stand in as a feminist act. Taking the popularisation of the feminist T-shirt after the 2018 Women’s March as a point of entry to discuss how feminist dissent has been commodified, the paper compares contemporary and historical objects of feminist protest, focusing on changes in aesthetics, the mode of production, and the construction of the feminist subject. Not only large corporations but also some small, independent, for-profit enterprises are emerging as ‘activist’ actors, transforming participation from collective protest to non-representative and individualistic forms of action. This raises several problems for feminism, not only in the co-optation of the aesthetics and practices of dissent by capitalism, but also the economisation of feminist subjectivity as well as the foreclosing of the feminist critique of capitalism from the political project of feminism.


Jemima Repo is Lecturer in the Politics of Gender at Newcastle University, UK. She received her PhD from the University of Helsinki, where she is also a Docent in Gender Studies. Her book, The Biopolitics of Gender (OUP, 2015), was awarded the 2017 International Studies Association Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Book Prize. She co-edits the journal Contemporary Political Theory.

CfP: IVR 2019 Workshop on Constitutionalism and Disagreement

Between 7 and 13 July 2019, in Lucerne (Switzerland), upon the occasion of the IVR Conference 2019, we are organising a special workshop on ‘Constitutionalism and Disagreement’. The workshop will examine the way in which liberal constitutionalism deals with disagreement as well as addressing normative questions about how contemporary challenges ought to be met. Do we need to modify the traditional virtues of toleration and civility? Are the accounts of public reason-giving found in theories of deliberative democracy adequate to cope with the demands of the current moment? If not, with what do they need to be supplemented? Might some of the current attacks on the liberal order possess the potential to open up possibilities that had been foreclosed by liberal conceptions of constitutionalism? These and related questions will be addressed from perspectives drawn from political, legal and moral theory (for a more detailed description of the workshop, please see here).

This call for papers intends to select one or two papers for the workshop. Submissions are particularly encouraged from early career academics (especially women). We kindly ask interested participants to submit an abstract (around 300-500 words) as well as the provisional title of the presentation to the workshop organisers Felipe Oliveira de Sousa or Alex Latham by 1 March 2019.

Please note that this is not a PolCon event. Further communication should be addressed to the workshop organisers.

Calling panellists for ICON-S 2019

The PolCon network has organised panels focusing on the intersection between constitutional theory and political theory at two consecutive ICON-S conferences in Copenhagen 2017 and in Hong Kong 2018. We will do the same in Santiago 2019. If you share our interests and would like to find a ‘home’ for your paper, please fill in our e-form by the end of February. You will get confirmation about being included in our panel proposal to ICON-S 2019 as soon as possible, but latest by the first week of March before the deadline for paper and panel submissions to the conference (9 March 2019).

Meet the author: Massimo Fichera on “The Foundations of the EU as a Polity” (4 February 2019)

Dr Massimo Fichera, Academy of Finland Fellow and member of the PolCon network, will be presenting his new book The Foundations of the EU as a Polity (Elgar, 2018) on Monday, 4 February 2019, from 4pm to 6pm, in lecture room 14 (University main building).

In his insightful book, Dr Fichera provides an original account of European integration as a process – completed by the creation of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice. The study builds upon a demonstration of how European constitutionalism has been informed by a meta-rationale, which is expressed by security and fundamental rights as discourses of power. The book uses this conceptual framework to analyse the development of the EU as a polity. Chapters cover significant recent crises, including the Eurozone, refugees, the rule of law, Brexit and constitutional identity. These events are not only recognized as being political shocks, but more meaningful and long-lasting occurrences which have had, and will continue to have, a deep impact on the development of the EU as a legal and political system. In light of this, the variety of crises that have recently affected the EU are discussed with thought given to their impact as an interlinking whole.

The event is organised by the Research Seminar in Global, European, and Private International Law (GENIAL).

Raul Sanchez Urribarri, ‘High Courts and Authoritarian Consolidation’ (27 November 2018)

Raul Sanchez Urribarri (La Trobe University), ‘High Courts and Authoritarian Consolidation: The Venezuelan Supreme Court under Maduro’s Rule’
Tuesday, 27 November 2018, 2pm-4pm, Auditorium II (University Main Building, Senate Square entry)

The seminar addresses the role of high courts in the context of a political transition from competitive authoritarianism towards full dictatorship. The use of high courts to entrench authoritarian rule – enhancing regime legitimation, bureaucratic compliance and social-control – depends on a series of non-exclusive conditions related to the court system, regime features and political context. Increasing authoritarianism may involve significant costs for both the regime and the judiciary, including losing powers that the judiciary enjoyed under a previous ‘hybrid regime’ configuration. Yet, the benefits secured might outweigh the costs of other alternatives. A reliable, supportive judiciary is not only a rubber stamp. As other institutions in authoritarian contexts, it can help the government solve internal conflicts, extract valuable information for policy making; and operate as part of a functional repressive apparatus. More importantly, at a time of rising authoritarianism worldwide, pro-government judicial decisions could help a flagging regime bolster their claim that the regime is stable, functional and with enough political clout to deliver credible commitments made with international allies, financial institutions and economic actors. These arguments are discussed in the context of contemporary Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro’s consolidating autocracy (2013 – Current), a country where the Supreme Court functions as a ‘judicial authoritarian enclave’ – blocking opposition threats, disowning fundamental rights, supporting new policy solutions, providing key mechanisms to improve the regime’s repressive capacity and enhancing regime legitimacy vis-à-vis domestic and external allies.

Raul Sanchez Urribarri is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Crime, Justice and Legal Studies at the Department of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia). He holds a PhD in Political Science (University of South Carolina), an LL.M. (Cambridge University), and a Law degree (Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Caracas). His research focuses on democracy, rule of law and comparative judicial studies, with an emphasis on Latin America. His work has been published in journals such as The Journal of Politics, Law and Social Inquiry and the Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences, edited volumes and other outlets. He is currently working in a book project about informality and the rule of law, with an emphasis on the Venezuelan Supreme Court before and after the onset of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. The manuscript discusses the notion of judicial loyalties, and explores how political loyalty commitments influence judicial behaviour in this country, particularly in cases of political importance, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. More information is available here.

Inclusive and exclusive globalisation: A seminar with Professor Hans Lindahl (12 March 2018)

Monday, 12 March 2018, 2pm-6pm, Porthania P545 (Faculty room)

In his new book, Authority and the Globalisation of Inclusion and Exclusion (Cambridge University Press 2018), Professor Hans Lindahl claims that against widespread doctrinal skepticism about the concept of global law, we can properly speak of emergent global legal orders, while also rejecting the strong reading of global law as universal or universalisable law. Indeed, emergent global legal orders cannot include without excluding; humanity is always inside and outside global law. This thesis is developed along conceptual, empirical, normative and institutional lines. Conceptually, the book interprets legal order in general, and emergent global legal orders in particular, as institutionalised and authoritatively mediated collective action. Empirically, this model of legal order illuminates the continuities and discontinuities that go from state law to a range of global legal orders. Normatively, the book suggests that an authoritative politics of boundaries turns on asymmetrical recognition of the individuals and/or groups who contest the boundaries that include in and exclude from legal orders. Institutionally, it shows how global administrative law and constitutionalism, together with a variety of legal techniques for negotiating differences between legal orders, can contribute to, without exhausting, the responsive ethics that governs how authorities ought to deal with demands for recognition by those who have been excluded from—or included in—emergent global legal orders.

The seminar is open to all, but kindly register here in order to receive the background reading.

Hans Lindahl is Professor of Legal Philosophy at Tilburg University, the Netherlands. His numerous publications include the recent monograph Fault Lines of Globalization: Legal Order and the Politics of A-Legality (Oxford University Press, 2013). His current research is primarily oriented to issues germane to globalization processes, such as the concept of legal order in a global setting; the relation of boundaries to freedom, justice, and security; a politics of boundary-setting alternative to both cosmopolitanism and communitarianism; transformations of legal authority and political representation; immigration and global justice; collective identity and difference in the process of European integration.

More information.


First session

  • 2.15pm Opening words by Panu Minkkinen
  • 2.20pm Introductory presentation by Hans Lindahl (Tilburg)
  • 2.50pm First comment by Kaarlo Tuori (Helsinki)
  • 3.20pm Second comment by Hanna Lukkari (Helsinki)

3.50pm Coffee break

Second session

  • 4.15pm Third comment by Emilios Christodoulidis (Glasgow)
  • 4.45pm Hans Lindahl responds to his discussants
  • 5.15pm General discussion
  • 5.45pm End of seminar

‘The Aesthetics of Democracy’: invitation to join panel at ICON-S 2018

At the 2017 annual conference of the International Society of Public Law (ICON-S) in Copenhagen, PolCon members organised a panel called ‘The Judiciary: A View from Political Theory’. In order to maintain continuity and to pinpoint the particularity of the network’s research, we will be holding on to the subtitle at ICON-S 2018 in Hong Kong, especially as political theory cannot be said to be over-represented at the events hosted by the Society. The title of the 2018 conference is ‘Identity, Security, Democracy: Challenges for Public Law’.

Together with Professor Scott Veitch of the University of Hong Kong, PolCon plans to organise a panel (or panels) entitled ‘The Aesthetics of Democracy: A View From Political Theory’. The title may include a reference to Jacques Rancière’s notion of aesthetics and how the social/political sphere organises itself ‘aesthetically’ in ways that allow some claims to assert themselves as politically relevant while disallowing the relevance of others. But papers in the panel need not limit themselves to Rancière. The idea of the panel is broad enough to include papers that deal more broadly with the spatial, the visual arts, architecture, cartography, or, indeed, any aesthetic ‘logic’ that organises and delineates the social or political worlds, that draws demarcation lines into spaces and environments that are supposedly ‘democratic’.

If you are interested in joining the panel(s), please contact us by 15 December 2017 by sending us:

  1. a provisional title for your proposed paper, and
  2. a provisional abstract of no more than 200 words.

We will inform you of our planned panel submission(s) to the Society well before the official deadline of 31 January 2018 allowing you ample time to seek alternative routes if required.

Alexander Somek, ‘The European Model of Transnational Democracy’ (20 September 2017)

Welcome to a research seminar with Professor Alexander Somek on European law on Wednesday 20th September in Porthania P545 at 2-5 pm. Professor Somek will discuss the topic ‘The European Model of Transnational Democracy’. No prior registration required.

Alexander Somek is Professor of Legal Philosophy at the University of Vienna School of Law (formerly Charles E. Floete Chair in Law at the University of Iowa College of Law). He has published extensively on public law and legal philosophy. His recent EU law related monographs are The Cosmopolitan Constitution (OUP 2014)Engineering Equality: An Essay on European Antidiscrimination Law (OUP 2011), and Individualism: An Essay on the Authority of the European Union (OUP 2008).

The seminar is organised by the research project Reconfiguring Privacy – A Study of the Political Foundations of Privacy Regulation.

PolCon at ICON-S 2017 in Copenhagen

After the successful ‘The People’ symposium, PolCon members Massimo Fichera and Panu Minkkinen will be presenting at the ICON·S 2017 Annual Conference in Copenhagen, July 5-7, 2017 on Friday, 7 July 2017, 9am-10.30am, in Room 8B-2-09. The theme of the conference is ‘Courts, Power, Public Law’.

The Judiciary: Views from Political Theory

The reservations that traditional legal perspectives have harboured about politics in the courtroom have also curbed the more general discussions about the functions of the judiciary in democracies. The judiciary’s deferent submission to the elected branches is all too often seen as the only criterion considered. We find such a limited view both objectively untenable and theoretically weak. Not only do courts factually play a more proactive role in democracies than traditional accounts would suggest, but this role can also be theoretically defended. Drawing on these presuppositions, the panel will explore the democratic dimensions of the judiciary with special reference to insights provided by contemporary political theory.

The Legitimizing Role of the Courts
Søren Stig Andersen

In this paper, focus is shifted from the prevalent question of the legitimacy of the judiciary to the no less important, but often ignored question of the courts’ legitimizing role with regard to the law and the state. The basis of the analysis is Levinas’ phenomenologically sustained conceptualization according to which subjectification is the result of an encounter with the entirely other – the Other – and the implied responsibility. It is argued that the subjectification of the law and of the state raison likewise depends on an encounter with non-law without which law would remain for-itself. Then, not only the law but also the state would be at risk of becoming totalitarian. Whereas such encounters between law and non-law are only poorly facilitated within administrative law, the courts offer a much more adequate scene for the law and the state represented by the judge to encounter the Other in the shape of the unique and concrete case and its parties. Without the judicial process, the law therefore would remain for-itself and presumably loose its legitimacy. This realization opens up towards the question of the legitimizing role of international courts and tribunals: Do such courts and tribunals ensure the necessary encounter between law and non-law? And is there in fact a need for international courts and tribunals to have such a legitimizing function?

Courts and the Authority of the Dialogical
Julen Etxabe

The twofold challenges of the countermajoritarian difficulty and the judicialization of politics worldwide make the legitimation of courts ever more necessary, albeit no less complicated. In this presentation I focus on the phenomena of “judicial dialogues” (i.e., cross-fertilization, judicial borrowing, uses of comparative and foreign sources), which has come to the forefront in recent years. Departing from authors who have analyzed this phenomenon in an international context (Slaughter, Jackson, Tushnet, Choudry, Bobek), I rely on a rather specific notion of dialogue borrowed from philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. Whereas Bakhtin famously presented the dialogical against a monological style of discourse—in the arts, sciences, religion, philosophy, and the law—I adopt a narrower definition of dialogism, as the kind of utterance internally constituted by many and opposing voices. Dialogism is thus a form of authority that opens itself up to the other as constitutive of the self. In the talk I will elaborate on examples from the European Court of Human Rights, where the dialogical ushers new forms of authority and legitimacy. Unlike the principle of deference, based on the idea of autonomous and clearly demarcated spheres of action, the dialogical is profoundly inter- (as well as intra-) penetrated. Most importantly, and contrary to the communicative ideal of dialogue, dialogism is characteristically confrontational and polemic, which is to say, political.

Transnational Courts and the Image of Conflict
Massimo Fichera

The relationship between transnational courts is often portrayed as a conflict relationship, either in terms of conflict of laws (private international law), or in terms of cross-border dialogue, or in terms of constitutional tensions between organs claiming ultimate authority, according to the criteria and paradigms belonging to their own legal system. While cross-references and mutual influence are very much a part of transnational law today, endurance and self-assertion are also increasingly detected. Yet, conflict is mostly seen as an integral part of law, entirely manageable through legal rationality. This paper seeks to redefine the image of conflict as not only an essential aspect of transnational law, but also one of the key indications of the “return of the political” within the broader phenomenon of transnational integration. It will focus on the interplay between the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and national constitutional courts as an emblematic example. The aim is not merely to show the pitfalls of the liberal paradigm expressed in the development of transnational law, but also transnational law’s evocative and transformative character – always already intimating the manifold possibilities disclosed by alternative visions of the Real. Courts are thus always called upon to stand as the gatekeepers of parallel worlds, and the choice among these worlds ought not to be necessarily predetermined.

’The Whirlwind of Rights’: Claude Lefort’s Radical Phenomenology of Human Rights and Judicial Politics
Panu Minkkinen

Unlike their Anglophone counterparts, French representatives of the so-called ‘post-Marxist’ or ‘radical democratic’ movement have often entertained a more optimistic view on the revolutionary potential of human rights. Whereas in the English-speaking world human rights are often seen as (yet) another neo-liberal ploy, the French have considered human rights more as a challenge to the very same neo-liberal regime. After decades of Marxist human rights critique, the discussion in France took this decisive turn in 1980 with Claude Lefort’s seminal article ‘Politics and Human Rights’. This paper attempts to, first, clarify the position of human rights in Lefort’s unique blend of phenomenologically and psychoanalytically inspired political theory. Human rights, and by extension rights more generally, are an integral element in the ‘savage democracy’ that Lefort envisioned as the only plausible challenge to neo-liberal totalitarianism. From this starting point, the paper will then continue to discuss the position of the judiciary in contemporary democracies. Standard accounts of the separation of powers reduce the courts’ constitutional functions to the application and interpretation of laws passed by an elected legislator. But as the relationship between the legislative branch and the executive has changed, so, too, has the relative position of the judiciary. A strong executive as the engine of legislative initiatives, supported by a weak ‘rubber-stamp’ legislature, has highlighted the democratic functions of the judiciary that go beyond the ‘deferential’ role of standard accounts. The paper will try to provide a theoretical framework for this more political role through Lefort’s understanding of human rights.

‘The People’: third keynote by Bonnie Honig

Emergency Politics (Princeton UP, 2009)

The final keynote speaker of the symposium ’The People’: Democracy, Populism, and the Constituent Popular Sovereign is Professor Bonnie Honig (Brown University). Her keynote today, on Thursday 22 June 2017, presented in lecture theatre Porthania PIII (Yliopistonkatu 3) beginning at 4pm (note: 16.00 sharp) is entitled ‘The Lost Sabbath: Politics, Equality, and Time (with Agamben, Rosenzweig, Heschel, and Arendt).’

Bonnie Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media (MCM) and Political Science at Brown University in Providence (RI), is a leading scholar of democratic, feminist and legal theory. She is author of Political Theory and the Displacement of Politics (Cornell, 1993)Democracy and the Foreigner (Princeton, 2001)Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy (Princeton, 2009) and Antigone, Interrupted (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Her latest book, ‘Public Things: Democracy in Disrepair’, will be published by Fordham University Press in 2017. Honig is currently at work on a new project called ‘Refusal’, to be published by Harvard University Press.

More information.