CFP: The fragmentation of legal theory as an epistemic community: structures, patterns, trends

Submission deadline: April 30, 2022

Conference date(s):
July 4, 2022 - July 8, 2022

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Association of Legal and Social Philosophy (IVR)
Bucharest, Romania

Topic areas


The fragmentation of legal theory as an epistemic community:
structures, patterns, trends

IVR 2022 special workshop 28

Convenor: Peter Cserne (University of Aberdeen)

How is the global epistemic community of legal philosophers structured or patterned? How and why is the epistemic community of legal theorists unified/divided? What are the lines of division that generate exclusion/inclusion, centre/periphery?

If the epistemic community is fragmented, to what extent is this related to 

•          Prestige of various universities and neglect of others?

•          Gender, race and other identity criteria?

•          Master/disciple relationships?

•          Geographical and language issues?

•          Law being local/particular?

•          Different schools and styles of philosophising?

•          Old divisions of naturalism/positivism?

•          Political ideologies such as mainstream (conservative or progressive) vs critical (radical)? 

In other words, are the nodes in the network clustered around: universities, journals, charismatic figures, shared methodological assumptions, political ideology, language, or some other factors?

And how has this changed over time, say in the last 20 or 50 years?

Those who consider themselves members of the community of legal theorists all have intuitions and anecdotes about these issues. Yet the topic also raises legitimate research questions: to assess them systematically requires both conceptual and empirical work as well as interdisciplinary collaboration.

Indeed, some related research has been done, e.g. in Germany (Schulze-Fielitz 2013, 2022, Hamann 2021), the United Kingdom (Cownie 2004, Siems 2021) and the United States (Hayashi 2021).

The insights that such research is expected to produce go beyond the descriptive sociology of a profession. Indeed, it may prove provocative and ferment developments towards more inclusivity in legal theory, something that is difficult to achieve directly or even through a book on “southern voices” (Twining 2009), “a small first step towards de‐parochializing Western Jurisprudence” (Twining and Sugarman 2020: 219).

The number of possible dimensions is huge, and in exploring the various dividing lines in the epistemic community of legal philosophers, research needs to be selective yet systematic. It is suggested that after the special workshop, interested participants work on a collaborative research project to explore these questions about the culture and organisation of legal theory as an epistemic community, both analytically and empirically, through conceptual work as well as qualitative and quantitative methods. This may include drafting and submitting joint applications for external funding. Therefore, at the special workshop itself we will dedicate time to brainstorming on how to design such a research project.

Paper proposals (about 500 words with a short paragraph on affiliation and/or professional background) on any aspect of the topic are welcome and should be sent to the organiser by email to [email protected], by 30 April 2022, with “IVR SW” in the subject line.


Cownie, Fiona: Legal Academics: Culture and Identities. Oxford: Hart 2004

Hamann, Hanjo: Deutsche Zivilrechtslehre. Eine rechtstatsächliche Untersuchung ihrer Demographie,

Institutionalisierung und Lehrstuhldenominationen, Archiv für civilistische Praxis 221 (2021), 287–316

Hayashi, Andrew T, The Evolving Network of Legal Scholars (April 25, 2021). Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No 2021-25, Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No 2021-12.

Schulze-Fielitz, Helmuth: „Staatsrechtslehre als Mikrokosmos“. Bausteine zu einer Soziologie und Theorie des Öffentlichen Rechts. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2013

Schulze-Fielitz, Helmuth: Die Wissenschaftskultur der Staatsrechtslehrer im Spiegel der Geschichte ihrer Vereinigung. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2022

Siems, Mathias: Foreign-trained legal scholars in the UK: ‘irritants’ or ‘change agents’? Legal Studies 41 (2021), 373–389

Twining, William (ed): Human Rights, Southern Voices: Francis Deng, Abdullahi An-Na'im, Yash Ghai and Upendra Baxi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Twining, William and David Sugarman: “Jurist in Context: William Twining in Conversation with David Sugarman” Journal of Law and Society 47 (2020) 195–220

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