Grégoire Mallard - Approaching Law as Fields: Theoretical Developments

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Widgoder (Moot Court) Building, University of Kent

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Dr. Grégoire Mallard (Graduate Institute, Geneva) - Approaching Law as Fields: Theoretical Developments in Socio-Legal Studies

Chaired by Dr. Gavin Sullivan (KLS)

Abstract: New developments in socio-legal studies have elaborated Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory in different ways. Pierre Bourdieu’s conception of fields was, to a great extent, very much nation-focused: it was premised on the notion that the fields' boundaries fell squarely within the scope of national histories and that the “transnational” space didn’t have enough of a sociological coherence or strength to truly drive national field-specific processes. Such a nation-based perspective may be the result of Bourdieu’s selection of cases, as he mostly built his theory by generalising from the study of the French artistic, legal, scientific fields, and his theory has thus rightly fallen under criticism by Anglophone sociologists for reflecting a strong French bias. But rather than throw the baby with the water’s bath, some scholars have called for new generation of socio-legal scholars to use the notion of “weak fields” in order to adapt Bourdieu’s field theory to the more complex and subtle realities of transnational processes of legal ordering, as those illustrated by international commercial law or European Union law. While these developments are interesting per se, this presentation will focus on another development in field theory, which seeks to address the question of the historicity of fields, whether the latter are to be found at the national or transnational levels. By disentangling the imperial and metropolitan processes at work in what Bourdieu wrongly defined as coherent “national” fields emerging in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and by focusing on the historical changes that have driven the relations between such metropolitan and colonial fields from the ages of colonial expansion to the age of imperial retraction, this presentation will highlight some of the theoretical challenges that socio-legal scholars need to address in order to trace the historical genesis of contemporary transnational fields to their imperial roots.

Biography: Grégoire Mallard joins the Graduate Institute in Spring 2013 as Associate Professor in Anthropology and Sociology of Development from Northwestern University where he was Assistant Professor of Sociology. Dr Mallard earned his PhD and Master’s degrees in sociology at Princeton University. His recent research and publications focus on nuclear treaties and governance in Europe and the Middle East as well as postwar financial negotiations. Funded research projects he has currently underway examine nuclear security and governance in the Middle East as well as an examination of sovereign debt management in the interwar and contemporary periods. He is the author of "Fallout: Nuclear Diplomacy in an Age of Global Fracture" (University of Chicago Press 2014), and the co-editor of "Global Science and National Sovereignty: Studies in Historical Sociology of Science" (Routledge 2008). His courses have focused on the sociology of law, globalisation, culture, and political sociology. A French national, Grégoire Mallard speaks fluent French, English and Spanish. His papers and his dissertation have won numerous awards and distinctions.

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