May 31, 2013

Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association Boston 2013

The 36th Annual Meeting of the Law & Society Association (LSA) was a fabulous success. Meeting in Boston this year, sociolegal scholars came from every region of the world and represented research on law, legal institutions, political economy and culture from across academic fields. They presented work on cutting-edge research problems, debated methodological approaches, and discussed competing theoretical explanations over the course of four days (May 30-June 2) at a total of 575 panels.

The 2013 Program Committee Co-Chairs Christine Harrington (NYU) and Gregory Shaffer (University of Minnesota) worked with the Committee* to formulate the conference theme:  Power, Privilege, and the Pursuit of Justice: Legal Challenges in Precarious Times. The theme was chosen for the purposes of inciting scholarly debate on the challenges facing and defining law and society over the next decade.  For example, the financial crisis that struck in early 2008 still rends the economy, politics, law, and society.  How will polarized politics, rapid technological change, and global shifts in economic power affect law and society over the next years, domestically and transnationally?

To explore some of these issues, the committee created eight Mini-Plenaries and a series of Theme Panels, each assembling noted intellectual leaders to comment and lead a discussion on such critical issues as:

  • sources of power in transnational legal ordering;
  • twenty-first century crime, policing and punishment;
  • new governance and governmentality;
  • reconstructing law, gender and sexuality;
  • the post-racial trope;
  • health, technology and the body;
  • critical legal theory and praxis;
  • the transformation of legal education;
  • upheavals in the Arab world;
  • street-level bureaucracy;
  • constitutional globalization processes; and
  • empirical constitutional studies.

Boston 2013 exemplified developments and current trends in Law & Society studies and showed how fascinating, diverse, and encompassing the field has become. Boston 2013 was the second largest LSA conference in the history of the Association, and by far the largest annual meeting held in the United States. The meeting was also among the most international, if not the most international, in terms of participation. The only larger LSA meeting was the 2007 International Meeting in Berlin, which had only 144 more participants.

The Boston 2013 numbers were:

  • 1,800 scheduled paper presentations
  • 575 scheduled panels
  • 2,469 scheduled people
    • 1772 from United States
    • 697 from outside the United States
  • 780 volunteer discussants & chairs

* 2013 LSA Program Committee members were Bernadette Atuahene (Chicago Kent), Eric Feldman (University of Pennsylvania), Ruben Garcia (University of Nevada Las Vegas), Lisa Haijar (UC-Santa Barbara), Susan Hirsch (George Mason University), David Law (Washington University), Maira Rocha Machado (FGV São Paulo), Mikael Madsen (University of Copenhagen), Ajay Mehrotra (University of Indiana Bloomington), George Pavlich (University of Alberta), Shannon Portillo (University of Kansas), Song Richardson (University of Iowa), and Shauhin Talesh (UC-Irvine).