McGill Law & Society Workshop Series (Winter 2017 Line-up)

“Informing on Oneself and Others: New Uses of Confession and Denunciation in Security”

Prof. Anthony Amicelle & Prof. Karine Côté-Boucher, Université de Montréal, École de criminologie

Discussant: Prof. Jason Carmichael, McGill University, Department of Sociology

Monday, March 20th, 12:00 to 1:30, Peterson Hall, 3460 McTavish Street, Room 116

This paper stems an ongoing conversation the two authors have had for the past two years as they discuss their respective research findings in two distinct areas of security governance, and what these findings tell us about the role of denunciation and confession in promoting such governance. Informed by field research undertaken with bank compliance officers and financial intelligence units officials in United Kingdom, Canada and Switzerland, Amicelle’s work concerns policing practices deployed at the interface of finance and security against money laundering and terrorist financing. Informed by field research undertaken with frontline border officials and with the Canada-US cross-border trucking industry, Côté-Boucher’s work examines how the practice of border security in North America transforms social relations in a variety of settings, from workplaces to ports of entry. Interestingly, both our works are interested in regimes of security that involve a multiplicity of private and public actors. Their interactions are predicated upon significant investments in infrastructures (either physical or technological) by these private for-profit actors for training personnel and securing of their facilities as well as, more importantly for the purpose of this paper, to facilitate the transmission of important amounts of data to state authorities. This paper fulfills an exploratory purpose: to start shedding light on how current security arrangements compel revelation, or rather, how they depend on a myriad of decisions taken when actors are required (or invited) to either inform on their clients or reveal details about their activities. We thus ask a simple question: what does informing on oneself and others tell us about contemporary security arrangements and the social relations they foster? In order to begin tacking this question, the paper begins with a short review of the existing literature on the topic, ranging from history and political sciences to criminology, sociology and law. We then propose preliminary thoughts on the uses of these veridiction techniques in the contemporary making of security, interested in what they make visible and what social relations they produce.

“Socio-Legal Aspects of Housing, Land and Property (HLP) Restitution in ISIL Liberated Areas of Northern Iraq”

Prof. Jon Unruh, McGill University, Department of Geography

Discussant: Prof. René Provost, McGill University, Faculty of Law

Monday, April 10th, 12:00 to 1:30, Peterson Hall, 3460 McTavish Street, Room 116

As Iraqi and supporting forces seek to retake areas controlled by ISIL in northern Iraq, the return of approximately three million internally dislocated persons (IDPs) to their lands and properties will constitute a significant socio-legal recovery problem. ISIL transacted properties that were confiscated or abandoned in order to fund its civilian and military engagements. As a result, returning IDPs will find a great deal of HLP to be occupied by others, which together with widespread damage and destruction will necessitate returnees seeking permanent or temporary residence elsewhere, usually on someone else’s property, thereby compounding the difficulty of overall return. Effective return and restitution will be further complicated by a high degree of informal property rights prior to dislocation, the presence of land mines, destruction of property records, continued sales of abandoned and confiscated HLP, the creation of a new land and property rights system under ISIL, and a lack of institutions able to support return. With the default reaction of returnees to finding others in their HLP being to rely on armed kin, the Iraqi government and the UN-International Organization for Migration are working to put together a state sponsored HLP restitution programme tailored to the specific problems of ISIL liberated areas. This presentation reports on the author’s experience assisting this effort, focusing in particular the process of restitution programming, and options for remedies.

“You Can’t Take my Children in the Name of Religion: Sunni and Shi‘i Attempts to Reform Women Custody Right in Lebanon”

Dr. Jean-Michel Landry, Banting Post-Doctoral Fellow, McGill University, Department of Anthropology

Discussant: Prof. Katherine Lemons, McGill University, Department of Anthropology

Monday, April 24th, 12:00 to 1:30, Peterson Hall, 3460 McTavish Street, Room 116

In November 2016, the Lebanese media reported the story of a Shi‘i woman sent to jail for refusing to give up custody of her three-year-old child. The prison sentence was based on a judgment issued by a Shi‘i family court stating that the women’s youngest child shall live under the custody of his father until puberty. The news provoked a tide of moral outrage across the country; protests and sits in were organized. Such waves of protest are hardly new in Lebanon: three years before (in October 2013) Lebanese citizens hit the street demanding that Shi‘i divorced mothers be allowed to keep custody of their children for a longer period. “You can’t take my children in the name of religion,” read the placard of a female protestor. This legal campaign was directly inspired by the success of Sunni Lebanese activists in reforming the custody laws of their co-religionists. In 2012, indeed, the legal period during which divorced women retain custody of their children was extended from five to twelve years. To this day, however, Shi‘i Lebanese have been unable to implement such reform; as a result, women therefore regularly lose the custody of their children after two years. Recent events show that Shi‘i mothers face prison sentences if they refuse to obey these rules. Based on multi-year ethnographic and documentary research, this paper compares the recent campaigns undertaken by Sunnis and Shi‘i Lebanese to extend the duration of maternal custody. The inquiry is based on fieldwork observations (court audiences, NGO debates), interviews (with activists, litigants, shari‘a judges and lawyers) and a study of selected legal cases. Why, I ask, can two parallel campaigns around the same issue, launched in the same years and in the same country produce such contrasting results? But instead of approaching this question through a study of Shi‘i and Sunni legal traditions, I turn my glaze toward the political and legal system in which these traditions are currently embedded: the Lebanese consociational constitution. Investigating the contemporary mechanics of Islamic law, I argue, requires paying attention to a larger set of institutions, offices, and networks, such as ministers, MPs, secular activists, NGOs, civil judges, and members of other religious communities. Only by being attentive to a broader range of legal rules and norms, I suggest, can we come to an understanding of what Islamic law has become in our contemporary societies.


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About the McGill Law & Society Workshop Series

The McGill Law & Society Workshop Series features scholars and graduate students in law, the social sciences, and the humanities presenting works-in-progress that use qualitative, quantitative, or interpretivist methods to explore the complex relationship between legal phenomena and social, political, and economic interactions, institutions, and processes. Each workshop begins with a brief 5-minute introduction by the author(s) of a work-in-progress that is circulated in advance. This is followed by a 10-minute discussion of the work-in-progress by a discussant. Finally, the workshop then proceeds to a general exchange involving the author and the participants.

With gratitude for the support provided by the Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy.