gardens of justice, critical legal conference 2012, Stockholm, 14-16 September, 2012

The Question:

Gardens without Gardeners? Gardeners without Gardens?

Stream Convenors:

Dr Oren Ben-Dor, Southampton

Professor Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, Westminster, London

We take up the conference theme in earnest, looking at gardens as the place of questioning.  We invite you to walk through, dwell in, or simply look at gardens and to share your path.

Gardens are yearned for and yet, the place in which this yearning emerges remains hidden from those who create and maintain gardens. In holding their secrets, in pointing to their secret which is in the garden, gardens continue to unfold as boundaries between the history(ies) within which they emerged and a more ancient remembrance; between the rhythms, songs, cultivations, memory, spaces of the human world, and that of the earth or nature that gently refuses to be gardened, a refusal that precisely enhances the gardenness of the garden as the mindfulness of its creators.   A form of boundary, gardens are places where the due of justice dwells, pointing at the question: is there something always earlier than the garden, that remains other than mere representation, punctuation, allocation and indeed perception? Or is the here of the garden all there is to it, in its fullness of presence, without history and origin but just as a lush, viscous now?

Do gardens point to the precariousness and mystery of their beginning or do they let go of that by throwing themselves in an orgiastic blooming? Every garden is grounded yet also hanging. In gardens, humans desire to preserve something that can not be disempowered by their making and crafting. Good gardening lets the garden be, bearing witness to sublime custodianship rather than merely steering and design. Gardens, then, sustain the possibility of being on the way to be reclaimed, presencing something that cannot be designed away. So we ask: what is that which is taken refuge from in the garden? What can be unlearnt and what opens up? What is left behind and what is being returned? Is there home in the garden? Gardens demand care, and this latter is located between the crafted sayings of the jurisdictional, institutional adversarial spaces, and the “open”, self-concealing or self-pulsating saying of earth.

We invite you to walk into the garden, to encounter other bodies, organic or inorganic, and explore their connection with the surrounding space and other bodies.  To imagine a just garden as well as an unjust garden.   To succumb to your instincts and close it up behind safe walls or demolish the walls and open it up to whatever outside you might be imagining.  To construct laws that trammel the garden, as well as laws that connect it to other gardens. To think of ethics of “gardening”, of creation and creativity but also that of letting, of wilderness and order, of the normativity of the earth and that of the imagination.

So, this stream proposes a twist: we want you to imagine gardens without gardeners – or should we imagine gardeners without a garden?  We invite you to imagine moving beyond phenomenology, beyond anthropocentrism, beyond the sacrosanct human nature, indeed beyond humanism, and to tell us what you find there, and is it you who find or was there something that called you earlier than ‘you’? is it being? Is it wild law? Might it be a web of connections without centre becoming without being? Can gardens be places where nothing is? Void? Emptiness – a place of genuine beginning without re-turn?  What would it be like to encounter this place?   We invite you to let the garden dwell.   Can a garden – however imagined – be without a gardener? Can the law be without an all-thermalizing humanism? And if so, what does it look like and indeed who is the looker? Is there a place that we can be lost without having already found our innermost owness in it?

We invite you to envisage ways of doing all this: texts of course, but also projects, images, posters, choreographies, performances, experiments.

Gardens to explore could include:

–            earth jurisprudence and wild law

–            the history of gardens, the gardens of history.

–            garden memories and languages

–            Enclosure, openness, boundary.

–            Gardens as architecture.

–            ecology beyond anthropocentrism and ecocentrism

–            critical environmental law

–            animal law

–            bodies, space, laws

–            microgeographies and normative order

–            beginning, thinking, speaking.

–            being in the garden and being of the garden

Please send your abstracts to the stream organisers

Dr Oren Ben-Dor, Southampton University O.Ben-Dor@soton.ac.uk &
Prof Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, University of Westminster andreasphilip@yahoo.com

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