Afterlives of the Universal: Rethinking Law’s Human Amherst College 5-6 March 2020

The two-day symposium ‘Afterlives of the Universal’ will consider universalist conceptions of humanity in contemporary juridical and political conditions, and the theoretical critiques they face in legal thought and practice. Special attention will be paid to recent engagement with the notion of a universal humanity in critical race studies, biopolitics, political theology, and postcolonial theory. Other questions the symposium is interested in exploring include:

• In what plural ways do legal thinking and practice work with conceptions of the human today, and to what extent do these draw upon, deploy, modify or conflict with universalist thought?

• Is universalism realizable in law and practice, or does it always conceal and reproduce inequality?

• Can law respond to the challenges of post- and antiuniversal conceptions of human life? Would this compromise its specific claim to legitimacy, or can an alternative juridical or political grounding be found?

• Does contemporary transnational legal globalism entail a de facto universalism?

• How do recent critical revisions of the figure of “the human” interact with the complicated political, ethical and legal “afterlives” of the universal?

• Can or do universalisms still form part of a discourse of critique and resistance?

• Do post- and trans-humanisms lead away from the notion of “universal humanity”, or entrench it?

• Through what practical techniques have universal conceptions of the human been made and managed?


The organizers welcome paper proposals on any topic related to the question of universal conceptions of humanity in connection with law.

• Proposals to the organizers by 15 January 2020

• Some (limited) financial support is available to a

graduate student applicant

• More information:

See CallforPapers-AfterlivesoftheUniversalKentLawSchoolAHRCLawandtheHumanAmherst2020

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