Bergen Exchanges 2017

(21 – 25 August)

The Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation is a meeting place for scholars and practitioners who seek to understand how law serves as an instrument of change and how it shapes, and is shaped by power relations. During a week of public discussions, we examine strategic uses of rights and law and how legal institutions function as arenas for political contestation (lawfare).  The multi-disciplinary and international nature of the Bergen Exchanges makes it a unique space for improving research strategies and methods to grasp the effects of law & lawfare. This includes the use of legal instruments by governments to shape societies – whether through constitutional change, international treaties, statutes or regulations – as well as “insurgent lawfare” from below, by social actors who go to court or otherwise engage rights and law to advance their goals. Effects take different forms. How legal strategies alter political dynamics, ideas and discourses may be as important for long term transformation as more immediate changes in laws, policies, or the distribution of resources. We also seek to better understand the functioning of legal and administrative institutions as they adjudicate, interpret and implement legal norms.

Topics in focus at the 2017 Bergen Exchanges included:

  • How does law shape and change gender relations? And what is the currency of law in the political economy of gendered morality? We explore dynamics and effects of abortion and migration laws, equality legislation, sexual and gender identity rights, criminalization of gender based violence and child marriage.
  • What are the effects of transitional justice processes – and how do transitional justice institutions (truth commissions, trials) travel?
  • Child rights. Is Norway fulfilling its international commitments? And how do child welfare services in different countries exercise discretion ‘in the best interest of the child’?
  • Law, democracy & authoritarianism. How should we study effects of law in authoritarian settings? What is the role of law in current processes of democratic backlash? And how does the backlash affect legal institutions? Law is used to defend democracy – and to undermine it, for example through anti-terror, NGO-, libel- and “immorality” laws.
  • Law & inequality. Does the human right to water help the poor? Have land reforms brought social justice? When does court involvement increase inequality – and how can we know?
  • What decides how judges rule – for example in cases concerning speech rights – or rape? Can we reform courts to make judges more independent not only vis-à-vis the political branches and corrupt influences, but also from their own biases?
  • Law & society in Latin America.