Programmes and Projects

Programmes and Projects

Examples of current collaborations, partnerships and projects involving ALSN participants

Mapping the Pasts and Futures of Law and Society Scholarship in Africa

This project, constituted as an International Research Collaborative (IRC) within the Law and Society Association in July 2020, currently involves the collaboration of African scholars from 10 countries. The project aims to address the absence of Africa in law and society scholarship in, on and from the continent, and has a key objective of closely scrutinizing the historical drivers and influences of past and present research, including subject matter, methodologies, the identity of researchers and their locations, and the outputs that determine the trajectory of African law and society scholarship.

Through this work, the collaborative intends to study the pluralities of historiographies and imaginings of law and society scholarship in and on Africa. By mapping the pasts and futures of African law and society scholarship, the collaboration seeks to establish a programmatic approach through which to locate and grapple with contemporary debates, including on decolonisation, globalization and climate change, in a way that places the contribution and continuing relevance of law and society scholarship under scrutiny. Collaborators are working towards the production of three key outputs:

  • A Research Handbook(s) on Law and Society in Africa – the vision here is of a scholarly volume linking pasts, present and futures centred on African debates and drawn from African scholarship.
  • A Critical Reader(s) on Law and Society in/on/from Africa – this volume is intended as a “course reader” for students and centres on a critical linking together of African scholarship, in which the text of that scholarship dominates.
  • A Repository of African Law and Society Scholarship – the aim here is to establish an accessible, thematically-organised, online repository of African research and teaching materials. This will include historical books and journals that are out of print and/or copyright, grey materials and research reports, and links to contemporary scholarship.

The work of the IRC builds on work done in the University of Cape Town (UCT) Public Law LLM/MPhil course on Law and Society in Africa, and a workshop hosted by the National Research Foundation Chair in Security and Justice and the Centre for Law and Society (UCT) in 2019 on Teaching African Law and Society.

Comparative Perspectives on Autocratic Legalism: Brazil, India, and South Africa

Across the globe, authoritarian regimes are using law to undermine democracy and weaken political and social rights. Yet, there continues to be investments in law to resist authoritarianism and protect liberal democracy. The aim of this project – also established as an International Research Collaborative within LSA – is to study this complex interplay between populist authoritarianism and law in three large developing countries: Brazil, India and South Africa.

In doing so, it will explore the role of law in the rise of, and reaction to, autocratic legalism in government agencies, courts, legislatures and the legal profession. Implementation for this three-year project commenced in 2020 and sees ALSN participants collaborating with researchers and scholars from Brazil, India, the UK and the US.

Book Project: Making Sense of Sorry:  Thinking Through Apology in Contemporary South Africa

This book project, initiated by editors Dee Smythe and Melanie Judge, focuses on the ‘apology’ as a non-punitive and meaningful social encounter, and addresses the following questions: What is the meaning and work of an apology? And, what are the generative and limiting dimensions of apologies in the context of contemporary debates on justice, decolonisation and feminist struggle in post-apartheid South Africa? Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the book offers an intellectual treatment of the topic from a range of disciplinary perspectives and genres.

Broad themes include:

  1. Political apologies and non-apologies: for state-sponsored harm in the past, the present (or the present/past); for personal wrong-doing by political actors; and for individual perpetrators to victims of state-sanctioned harm;
  2. Apologies in law and courts: as a remedy (e.g. in equality courts and vernacular courts), as reducing culpability (and liability) not only in criminal courts, but in customary law, delict, commercial, environmental law and other areas; and in remorse and mitigation of sentence;
  3. The production and instantiation of particular cultural forms and functions of identity through apology and in associated social, political and legal practices;
  4. The psychology of apology: affect; shame and guilt; and the role of memory;
  5. The function of apology in (re)constituting social and economic relations: through reparation and compensation; and tropes of reconciliation and forgiveness.

This project, which commenced in late 2019, comprises 15 chapters, authored by ALSN participants. Entitled: “Unsettling Apologies: Critical Writings from South Africa”, the edited volume was accepted for publishing by Bristol University Press, as well as UKZN Press, and following a rigorous peer-review process, will be published in late 2022.

Digitisation Project

The Digitisation Project is a collaborative project between the National Research Foundation Chair in Security and Justice, UCT Digital Library Services, OpenUCT, the Centre for Law and Society, SOAS, AfricanLii, and Cardiff University’s Centre for Law and Global Justice.

This project (which links to a key output in the IRC Mapping project noted above) aims to produce a thematically organised, open access, online repository of African research and teaching materials under the law and society and security and justice themes.

During the 2019-2021 period the digitisation process has continued and the construction of the demo site, facilitated by UCT’s Digital Library Services, is nearing completion.

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