South Asia Roundup at the LSA 2015

This past weekend was a good one for South Asian legal studies at the Law and Society Association meeting in Seattle. The South Asia Collaborative Research Network (CRN 22) celebrated its 10th anniversary–we started in 2005. About 35 of us gathered for the joint annual CRN lunch, co-hosted with the British Colonial Legalities CRN (CRN 15) now run by Rohit De and Pooja Parmar. We heard about the upcoming LASSNet conference, to be scheduled for Delhi in fall 2015 or spring 2016. We hope many CRN members will attend. There were book-related sessions on Pratiksha Baxi’s book on rape trials and my book on Parsi legal culture. The panel on postcolonial continuities in South Asian legal systems (Anil Kalhan, Arudra Burra, and Kalyani Ramnath, with Yael Berda as chair) produced a spirited debate over whether all or only some colonial-era law is colored by the perceived imperatives of colonial rule. The “Visual Cultures of Law in India” featured interesting talks by Swastee Ranjan (on law and the regulation of city space) and Rahela Khorakiwala (on judicial iconography in Indian courts, while Srimati Basu shared her latest research on visual representation in the Indian men’s movement. I also heard good things about the methodological discussion in the panel on peripheries as sites of legal revolutions (featuring M. Mohsin Bhat, Nick Robinson and Priya Gupta, with Swethaa Ballakrishnen and Bryant Garth) and the panel on informal law (featuring Jim Jaffe, Marc Galanter and Manuel Gomez, with Jay Krishnan). And there were other great-sounding individual talks on South Asia that were part of larger panels on other themes, including Leilah Vevaina’s talk on charitable trusts in Mumbai, Swethaa Ballakrishnen’s presentation on women in the Indian legal profession, Cynthia Farid’s talk on Bangladeshi legal history, and Julia Stephens’ presentation on personal law in British India. CRN 15-sponsored panels also offered South Asianists food for thought. The panel on the conference theme of the “promise and pathos” of British colonial legalities, for instance, featured Yael Berda on economic emergency and law in India, Israel and Ghana and Rohit De on D. N. Pritt, the radical Left and civil liberties in 1950s Asia and Africa.

Thanks for a great LSA, everyone! Let’s start planning for the next two Law and Society meetings, both in fantastic locations: New Orleans in 2016 and Mexico City in 2017.