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Call for papers: Conference on Law, Culture, Constitutionalism and Governance
Cape Town, 10 - 11 December 2010

 La Trobe University School of Law, Australia will host a two-day conference on December 10 and 11th, 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa.   The conference will be hosted in conjunction with the University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch.  

 Prof. Chanock is one of the leading scholars on African customary law, and in particular, the historical basis of the South African legal system. His scholarship has been widely cited and frequently applauded. There is no doubt that he is the pre-eminent South African legal historian.   During his distinguished career and in his scholarship he has explored the following themes: 

  • the making of customary law in the processes of colonial government  and the economic changes brought by colonialism and their legacy;
  • the development of customary law as a dialogue between colonial government and their African subjects;
  • the making of a South African legal culture by whites without such a dialogue and as an opposite construct, an “othering”  to “civilized western law”;  
  • the lynchpin of South African customary law, namely gender subordination and inequality, that raises crucial issues both for South Africa and the African continent in relation to the vital question as to how law can be Africanized and democratized on a new basis of gender equality;
  • the possible roles for customary law in failing states;
  • the possible roles for customary law within the governance of sustainability and the mistaken uses of the idea of the traditional in ‘traditional knowledge’ debates in intellectual property;
  • what a new legal formalism might look like in a democratic state (without the domination of legal professionals), including a critique of the fetishism of bills of rights and the idea that judges can settle not just political questions but contribute much to the desperate needs of states struggling with capacity to govern;
  • land law and land rights.

Day One of the conference will focus on legal history, constitutionalism, indigenous law, law and culture, and land rights.   On Day two the conference will explore the issues of Legal Theory and Lawyering, to examine the contribution of constitutionalism to progressive lawyering and the wider access to justice project.  

By exploring legal history, contemporary legal and constitutional concerns, and future possibilities, the conference will evaluate the ways that a transformative constitutionalism, despite historical impediments, might create the spaces and possibilities for creative lawyering that engages civic associations and individual citizens in their pursuit of justice and equity.

The Honorable Pius Langa, the former Chief Justice of South Africa, will be the keynote speaker.

Those interested in presenting a paper should send a 500-word abstract by June 1st  to Prof. Penelope Andrews at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   Conference funding is limited, and there is an expectation that many participants will obtain funding from their home institutions.  Please indicate in your submission whether you will be able to secure your own funding to attend.   Formal invitations will be sent once participants have been chosen and the program has been finalized.