Law and Resistance

Stream Organisers:  Samuli Hurri (University of Helsinki) and Susanna Lindroos-Hovinheimo (University of Helsinki)

This stream invites participants to discuss the different possibilities for resistance towards, with and through law. Framing the law as a field of
resistance can be described as a choice between two critical alternatives. One sees the law as an instrument of subjection that hides the state’s true nature as repression, serves the interests of dominant groups, and excludes dominated groups. This perception has long prevailed as the basis of criticism of law. Yet it leads to another critical question whether this position silently reproduces (or even produces) the law as something inevitably unfair and repressive. However, law can be seen as having another side as well. In addition to being an instrument in the hands of those who wield power, it can also be conceived to provide a means for resistance. Framing the law as a field of resistance is a hypothesis with which we can try to open an alternative window to the life of law in social struggles and contestations.

Examining the law as a field of resistance can for instance mean that one takes the subjects’ point of view to the exercise of power. The subjects’ point of view is indeed a view on systems of power, but it is a view from the other side, so to speak. Power is regarded in this context in a specific way: it is dispersed in society’s different regimes of governing practices, each of which imposes its own form of humanity on concrete individuals. Hence, the juridical human can be seen as the subject of rights under the authority of general laws; the economic human as the subject of interests and calculation; the political human as the one who is required to participate in the collective will and share allegiance to it; the religious human as the subject of fear of and yarning for the divine, and so on. Thus we can study different regimes of power through the particular forms of subjectivity that they impose on individuals.

This stream wants to call attention to the fact that subjection as subject-making includes also an element of empowerment. Regimes of power give individuals efficient ways to think and act in a society, ways that are their means of survival. Through internalising structures of a practice, individuals gain mastery of the respective regimes and ability to function. Regimes equip individuals for social life, which opens possibilities for them to make use of these regimes as instruments. We invite papers that ponder the possibilities of understanding the law as a means of resistance or as an instrument available to individuals in their morally motivated struggles.

Please send paper abstracts of 300 words to either Samuli Hurri ( or Susanna Lindroos-Hovinheimo before the 15 June 2013 deadline.

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