LawTransform PhD Course – Effects of Lawfare: Courts and law as battleground for social change

Wednesday 15 August – Friday 24 August 2018

Venue: CMI, Just Faaland seminar room, 3rd floor

Jekteviksbakken 31, Bergen, Norway


 Effects of Lawfare: Courts and law as battlegrounds for social change


With the option of taking this as a General Course or with a specialization in Effects of Lawfare concerning: Health Rights –  or – Rights of the Child

We experience an accelerating juridification and judicialisation of societies and politics. In all parts of the world and at all levels, from the global to the local, increasingly complex webs of legal norms and institutions regulate our societies and lives. Courts and law have become increasingly important as arenas for political struggles. Constitutional reforms and international treaties aim to transform social dynamics from above, among others though new and stronger protection of citizens’ rights, while individuals and groups engage in legal mobilization from below to seek justice for their cause. In either case dense networks of international activists and experts are ready to engage with and aid local actors, creating a dense global network of actors, legal norms, and adjudicative institutions. In this context, it is urgent to better understand law as a political field. Does this turn to rights and law have a transformative potential? Does it provide institutional spaces for the voices of marginalized groups to be heard and tools that can provide political leverage? Or does it, rather demobilize and depoliticize struggles in ways that exacerbate unequal power-relations and marginalization dynamics? These are urgent issues on which there are deep disagreements in the literature. The course offers an introduction to the scholarly debates on the potential and limits of law as an instrument of social change, and opportunities to engage with some of the foremost scholar in the field, and international research projects currently seeking more compelling answers to these questions.

PhD course at the Bergen Exchanges 2016

The course combines lectures specifically designed for the course with participation in the lectures & round-tables of the Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation.  This year, the course offers three tracks.

  • Track one takes a broad focus on the strategic use of law across a range of fields (health; child rights; gender and sexuality; migration; natural resources, criminal law, poverty).
  • Track two and three emphasizes the use of law as a tool in contestations over issues concerning the rights of the child or health rights.

The three tracks will meet together for most of the course, but with some separate sessions, including for the presentations and discussion of the students’ own work, and will have some separate readings. For the Health Rights and Right of the Child specializations, more of the readings will have a health/child rights focus, including for some of the joint and public (Bergen Exchanges) sessions where the topic is not health/child rights per se, but where this is nevertheless relevant. Readings will be distributed before the course starts and online discussion forums will allow students to discuss the course readings with their peers and course leaders.

Students will receive 3 ECTS for participating in the course (80% of seminars), submission of paper abstract (150-300 words), and presentation of their own work to the other participants. Students are awarded an additional 7 ECTS if they get approved a paper (at the level of a publishable journal article, 4,000-6,000 words, and with an additional reading list of 500 pages, which can be from the elective reading list). The paper must be submitted by 15 October 2018.  (Postdoctoral researchers and MA level students will be accepted if space permits) The PhD course is free of charge and open to applicant from Norwegian and international institutions on a first-come first serve basis. Participants do, however, have to cover their own travel and accommodation costs.


Course leaders:Siri Gloppen (Comparative Politics, UoB); Bruce Wilson (University of Central Florida/CMI); Camila Gianella (CMI); Marit Skivenes (UoB)

Lecturers (tbc*): Alicia Yamin (Georgetown Univeristy, USA); Paola Bergallo (Di Tella Unversity, Buenos Aires); Malcolm Langford (University of Oslo/CMI); Jeroen van der Slujs (Philosophy of Science, UoB); Daniel Brinks (University of Texas, Austin)

 Course guide can be found here (updated 19.4.18).