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Books, music and film for the festive season

The academic team and Visiting Professors in our department are sending all our students their warmest wishes for a restful and enjoyable festive season and a New Year full of health and happiness, along with their suggestions for readings, films and even music which will help them take their mind off core Law learning activities when recharging their batteries. There is still a lot of Law in this Christmas reading list of course, but it’s the kind of Law that intersects with history, society, and culture. There is so much more than Law too. Do engage with these readings and other activities, and let us know what you think of them too (at @GoldsmithsLaw #GoldLawReads).
Dr Fatima Ahdash recommends Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola. This is a very exciting modern retelling of mythical love stories from around the world. Fatima also recommends Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. This Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie | Waterstonesfascinating novel is a modern retelling of the Greek tragedy ‘Antigone’ and recounts the story of the children of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee in London and their struggles with the security state, faith, identity and the ‘War on Terror.’
For those interested in History, the Holocaust, and international criminal law, Dr Virginie Barral recommends East West Street by Philippe Sands. This is “not a legal book, yet highly interesting for lawyers, weaving Philippe Sands’ family personal history, as well as those of great lawyers Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, and how they respectively ‘invented’ the notions of Crimes against humanity and Genocide in the run up to the Nuremberg Trials”.

During the break Virginie will be looking forward to reading The Ratline (the sequel to East West Street), which “follows the fate of the Nazi Governor responsible for Sands’, Lauterpacht’s and Lemkin’s families deaths, Otto Wachter, in the years after WWII”.

Judge Donald Cryan

Our Visiting Professor Judge Donald Cryan suggests the quintessential American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, for its drama, professional ethics, integrity, courage, the anti-racist action and much more. Judge Cryan’s second recommendation is The Lion and the Throne by C. Drinker Bowen, explaining that “it is the biography of Sir Edward Coke who was active around 1600 and was one of the great champions of early parliamentary democracy”.

Rex v Edith Thompson by Laura Thompson | WaterstonesDr Alex Dymock enjoyed the following this year: Rachel Kushner – The Mars Room (a beautifully written and meticulously researched novel about life in a women’s prison in California); Laura Thompson – Rex v Edith Thompson (creative non-fiction account of the trial of Edith Thompson, one of the last women in England & Wales to face the death penalty); Virginie Despentes – King Kong Theory (a manifesto for a new kind of punk feminism). Over the break, Alex is looking forward to reading Katherine Angel’s new book, Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again: Women and Desire in the Age of Consent (out with Verso in 2021) and dipping into Lucas Richert’s Break On Through: Radical Psychiatry and the American Counterculture.

On films and TV, Alex recommends: I Love You, Now Die – HBO docuseries on the prosecution of a teenager in the US which asks the question: when should a party be held criminally liable for another’s suicide?; The Sopranos – which she’s just started watching for the first time and “it’s every bit as brilliant as everyone says”; Little Fires Everywhere – “a drama about gender, race and motherhood with superb performances from Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. A rare example of a screen adaptation far better than the novel!”. She’ll “likely spend much of the break watching more Sopranos!”, she adds.

Dr Plamen Dinev would like to make a single recommendation, namely: ‘A History of Intellectual Property in 50 Objects’, edited by Claudy Op den Kamp & Dan Hunter. It includes contributions by some of the leading IP scholars, yet it is presented in an engaging and accessible way that should be of interest to students of all levels – and regardless of whether they have any prior interest in IP.
Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos recommends a first quick stop at Timothy Garton Ash’s long read, The future of liberalism, recently published in Prospect. Garton Ash suggests a “new liberalism” where the “fear of the human barbarism that can always return will be intertwined with hope for a human civilisation that we partly have”; it’s a useful reminder of what is at stake.
For those interested to learn more about the government’s agenda for constitutional reform (and risks this generates for some of our key democratic institutions and legal processes), Dimitrios points us to Prospect again, their recent report on the rule of law, notably David Lammy’s analysis on Save judicial review, Judge Neuberger’s explanation of how judges change their minds, Harriet Harman’s piece on what she calls the Overseas impunity bill, Alex Dean’s interview with former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, on how our judges are not activist, or the article by the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland, who speaks of our “thriving legal services build on a foundation 800 years in the making” (but fails to acknowledge, in Dimitrios’ view, how the government’s constitutional reform agenda risks to undermine these foundations).
In undertaking research for an article that appeared in the August issue of the European Human Rights Law Review, Dimitrios read Dominic Raab’s The Assault on Liberty, which was published in 2009. The book is “mischievously presented as a defence of individual rights, when, in reality, it is the protection of individual rights — under the HRA and the ECHR — that the book is absolutely intent on assaulting”, wrote Dimitrios in the EHRLR article; it’s “an illuminating read for everyone keen to understand the threats European human rights are currently facing in the UK”, he observes. Raab’s book can be read with – and contrasted to – the brilliant On Fantasy Island, by Prof Conor Gearty.
During the festive period, Dimitrios is looking forward to reading Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (he got his copy from our brilliant independent bookstore at Goldsmiths, The Word, which currently operates an order-and-collect service). Dimitrios points to what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote in the New York Times, that with this book ‘Obama has already illuminated a pivotal moment in American history, and how America changed while also remaining unchanged’. But “above all, this book needs to be read with the last four years of Trump in mind”, he adds; “failures in Obama’s presidency will surely appear insignificant compared to the destruction that Trump’s populist machine has attempted to bring upon the United States’ key democratic institutions”.
Other books in his reading list include Lauren Lavrysen’s and Natasa Mavronicola’s Coercive Human Rights and Jan Wouter’s and Felipe Gomez Isa’s The Faces of Human Rights. On fiction, he has started to read Diane Cook’s, The New Wilderness; “it’s a new kind of dystopia that the book chillingly describes, a time in the near future when the final human project of environmental destruction is complete”, Dimitrios says.
On film, he strongly recommends The Small Axe series, which Goldsmiths alumnus Steve McQueen directed. Dimitrios has so far watched Mangrove, Lovers’ Rock and Red, White and Blue; “all beautifully shot, with Mangrove and Red, White and Blue depicting, with powerful accuracy, well-known episodes, and less well-known personal moments, of victimhood, but also of brave resistance, individual and cultural, to racist behaviour infecting our criminal justice system”.

For a TV series “guaranteed to send shivers down the spine”, Dimitrios recommends the Chernobyl, which he has recently watched. “I was a kid growing up in Greece when we learnt the devastating news of the nuclear disaster in Ukraine; the series eerily transports you back to that time, and place, and gives you unprecedented access to a culture of secrecy, rigid political hierarchies and unbending Party diktat, unmoved even in the face of unspeakable human tragedy”.
Finally, on music, Dimitrios says: “there cannot be Christmas without the Nutcracker, and though national operas around the world are closed due to the pandemic right now, there are some striking performances on YouTube; these from Staatskapelle Dresden  and the Russian State Ballet and Opera House are notable. Our Royal Opera House was planning a live stream this Christmas, but due to London’s move to Tier 4 status, they had to cancel  and are now inviting audiences, as an alternative, to purchase, for a very small fee, streaming access to a recording of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
He also suggests checking out NPR’s “aesthetically beautiful and deeply intimate” Tiny Desk performances as well as Goldsmiths Music featuring work by current and former students from the Department of Music in the College.

Our Visiting Professor, Dominic Grieve QC, is recommending the following “riveting, and topical at present, reads”: Enemies of the People by Joshua Rozenberg; The Invention of Tradition.  Essays edited by Eric Hobsbawm; The Slave Trade by Hugh Thomas; The Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum; A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
On films: The Leopard by Visconti based on the book by Lampedusa, and A passage to India by David Lean based on the novel by EM Forster.
For our Visiting Professor, Alison Levitt QC, It’s a Wonderful Life is “the best ever Christmas film and a reminder to us all about what matters”.
Our Visiting Professor, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, warns that his suggestions “are bound to be gloomy”, in view of the “the appalling [socio-political] circumstances in which we find ourselves”. His first recommendation is the film Billy Budd, starring Terrence Stamp and Peter Ustinov.  “The film needs to be watched slowly, questioning what may be the sub texts”, Sir Geoffrey advises. “The trial scene at the end – and no point in skipping in order to get there – asks absolutely fundamental questions that lawyers and law makers must consider”. Watch Sir Geoffrey’s second suggestion – the Lives of others – and “ask at the end what was its core subject”. Sir Geoffrey also suggests “Never look away”. It is “long and slow and worth every minute”.

On books, Sir Geoffrey recommends The Anarchy, by William Dalyrimple, which “provides a devastating but gripping account of the operations over a couple centuries of the East India Company”.  It says much about “colonialism, slavery, politics and can be ‘read across’ as relevant to today’s difficulties”.
Sir Geoffrey has a music recommendation too – Winterreise by Schubert – and advises that we can do what he has done recently and learn more about a famous work like this from here. You can also explore lectures by Parloff (and others) on other on music and sink into deep appreciation.
On law, Dr Mai Taha recommends the following: Brenna Bhandar, Colonial Lives of Property: Law, Land and Racial Regimes of Property (Duke University Press, 2018). She is planning to read soon, Nadine El-Enany’s, Bordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire (Manchester University Press, 2020).
She also recommends the following non-academic books: Hisham Matar, A Month in Siena (Penguin, 2019); Assata Shakur, Assata: an Autobiography (Lawrence Hill Books, 1988).
For fiction books, she is suggesting Elena Ferrante’s, The Napolitan Novels, and is also planning to read her new book The Lying Life of Adults (2020); Isabella Hammad, The Parisian (2019); Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979).
Aaron Taylor has a few suggestions of excellent books (broadly) related to fraud which he’s read recently: Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, Billion Dollar Whale (The story of Jo Lho and the 1MBD fraud); Bill  Browder, Red Notice (Russian state corruption in the post-Soviet years); John Carreyrou, Bad Blood, (The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos); Sour Grapes (documentary, available on Netflix, about a fascinating huge-scale wine fraud). On his reading list in this area there are Rachel Maddow’s, Blowout (A book abut the oil and gas industry, subtitled “Corruption democracy, rogue state Russia, and the richest, most destructive industry on Earth”).
On other topics, he recommends: Georgina Adam, Dark side of the boom (About the excesses of the high-end market in contemporary art); Sarah Thornton, 7 days in the Art World (A fascinating viewpoint on all aspects of the art world, from artist’s studio to auction room); Bianca Bosker, Cork Dork (A journalist’s hilarious deep-dive into the world of wine); Philippe Sands, East-West Street (An absolute must-read: simultaneously a family history and an investigation into the origins of the concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity); Dan Hicks, The Brutish Museums (Subtitled: ‘The Benin Bronzes, colonial violence, and cultural restitution’)
If you’re looking for just one book, Aaron’s suggestion is East-West Street (he agrees with Dr Barral on this), and Bad Blood is the book he found hardest to put down.
Aaron has also recently watched two excellent biopics about US Supreme Court Justices: Marshall (about Thurgood Marshall), and On the basis of sex (about Ruth Bader Ginsburg). The Aaron Sorkin film The Trial of the Chicago 7 is also superb, according to Aaron, as is Sorkin’s previous film Molly’s Game.
Our Visiting Professor, Leslie Thomas QC, recommends Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, a book which has helped him over the years; “a simple small book that helps you overcome procrastination something we can all be guilty of”.
Leslie’s second recommendation is The Clapback by Lawal; “in a year of BLM and becoming Anti-Racist this book debunks racist stereotypes about black people” and is “well worth a read”.

Q & A with our new Lecturer in Law, Dr Mai Taha

“The shameful history of empire is still haunting the present with continued racial injustice, emboldened further by the rise of right-wing movements around the world.” Dr Mai Taha, on whether we, as a society, are any closer to coning to terms with racial inequality and the impact of colonialism.

Where did you work/study before joining Goldsmiths? Are there particular elements of your experience that you’re seeking to bring to Goldsmiths?

For the past four years, I worked as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Law in the American University in Cairo(AUC). Before that, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Global Law and Policy (IGLP), Harvard Law School (2015-2016), and a Visiting Assistant Professor and Catalyst Fellow at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (2014-2015). I received my doctoral degree from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law in 2015.

I am lucky to have studied and worked in stimulating intellectual environments that were steeped into critical approaches to law. My experiences with colleagues, comrades and mentors, from Cairo to Toronto to Cambridge and back to Cairo, have helped me to think critically about the relationship between law, capital, empire and patriarchy. In Toronto, I learnt to think about the legal politics of settler colonialism in North America and how the lines of solidarity go all the way from Turtle Island to Palestine, complicating (in a good way) my writing and thinking about international law and empire. Teaching in Cairo after the region had witnessed the momentous revolutions of 2011 and as new waves of war and authoritarianism have erupted was difficult, but it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the tactics of resistance, failure, and most importantly, on the limits of law in times of revolution and change.

I hope to bring in these different experiences to Goldsmiths and be in conversation with new challenges facing the UK academy as anti-capitalist and anti-racist teaching is being silenced and scrutinized.

What are you looking forward to the most being at Goldsmiths?

I am really excited about working in the Law Department at Goldsmiths and be part of imagining its futures. I look forward to working in a place where there is such a strong emphasis on progressive and interdisciplinary approaches to research and teaching. In fact, I am starting a new lecture series on critical legal scholarship at the Department. The topics will range from the relationship between capitalism, racism and international law, to immigration, movement and borders, to gender, sexuality and reproduction, as well as human rights, protest and resistance in law and society.

I am also excited to be joining Goldsmiths, a college known for its vibrant and progressive programs in the arts and culture. My research is situated between law and the humanities. Therefore, I am thrilled to be in a such an environment, and I look forward to research collaborations and conversations within the college.

What is your key area of research expertise?

I work in the areas of public international law, international human rights law and labour law. Grounded in critical theory, my research focuses on how the organization of race, class and gender is a fundamental way of forming social hierarchies through law and rights. Using a socio-legal and historical lens, I study law’s distributive outcomes that affect property relations, labour rights, gender relations and social reproduction in the Global South.

My research is interdisciplinary in substance and method. I am influenced by various intellectual currents from the critical tradition, namely, law and society approaches, feminist and anti-racist Marxism, post-colonial thought, Critical Legal Studies (CLS) and Critical Race Theory (CRT). Borrowing from history, sociology, literature and film, my research relies on a fluid hybridity between the disciplines. As such, I approach law and rights through their ‘social life’ beyond the courts and legal institutions. I am looking forward to teaching and researching in the new interdisciplinary LLB program in Criminal Justice and Human Rights, as well as teaching on the relationship between law and art in the LLB curriculum.

Currently, I am interested in the legal politics of refusal and revolt. I’m working on a series of articles that look at the early twentieth century anti-colonial revolutions in the Middle East that took place in response to new international legal arrangements around colonial governance, mandates and protectorates.

I am also working on new research that looks at the conception of international human rights in communist thought and activism in the Global South. I look at how many leftist activists have rooted their engagement with human rights in the struggles against colonialism, patriarchy and capitalism, taking a different route from that of the UN system of human rights.

What is your approach to teaching?

My teaching philosophy is informed by the ideas and the methods of my research. I emphasize the influence of critical approaches to law and rights, interdisciplinarity and historical methods. I incorporate the idea that legal doctrine is simply insufficient to understand how the law works. I also borrow from various disciplines in my teaching. My students have acted in the classroom, went to art exhibitions, spoke with theatre directors and actors, and watched films, all methods to better understand the meaning and role of law in society through interesting and innovative ways. I try to create a learning community that relies on a collective approach to pedagogy, where students are not only recipients of knowledge, but contributing actors within this learning community.

Are we any closer, as a society, to coming to terms with racial inequality and the impact of colonialism?

The short answer would be no. The shameful history of empire is still haunting the present with continued racial injustice, emboldened further by the rise of right-wing movements around the world. Coming to terms with this entails understanding racism and colonialism as also historically connected to and dependent on patriarchy and capitalism. These systems of oppression and exploitation have historically relied on and nurtured each other. Race, gender and class are co-constitutive categories, intersecting and weaving into each other. In other words, we simply cannot address racial injustice on its own. 

How do you see the BLM movement proceeding from here?

I think we take the lead from the movement itself. Our role as allies should be to listen to the movement and stand in solidarity with its people. As educators, we have a responsibility to teach anti-racist scholarship that speak to the movements of the day. We need to teach students about police brutality made visible by the BLM movement, as well as take seriously the movement’s demands to defund the police and imagine abolitionist futures.

What hobbies are you leaning into?

I read a lot of fiction, watch weird films, and do yoga. These days, I’m practicing a handstand without a wall behind me. It is not going very well.

Gresham’s first black Professor of Law, Leslie Thomas QC, appointed Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Professor Leslie Thomas QC as a Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths.

Prof Leslie Thomas QC is the pre-eminent authority in the country in claims against the police (particularly relating to deaths in custody), other public authorities and corporations. He has appeared in leading high-profile death in custody cases representing the families of the deceased (Azelle, Rodney, Mark Duggan, Christopher Alder and Sean Rigg).

Leslie’s high-profile work includes the inquests that followed the Birmingham Pub Bombing, the Hillsborough disaster and Mark Duggan, and he is currently representing 23 clients including survivors, bereaved families and loved ones in the Grenfell Tower inquiry. He was awarded the Legal Aid Barrister of the Year award in 2012, and again in 2016, for his work on the Hillsborough disaster. He is the former joint head of Garden Court Chambers, the second largest set of chambers in the country, “committed to fighting injustice, defending human rights and upholding the rule of law”, and a diversity champion in the profession.

Prof Leslie Thomas QC making submissions before the Grenfell Tower inquiry. “A majority of the Grenfell residents who died were people of colour,” he noted. “The statistics are glaring, a stark and continuous reminder that Grenfell is inextricably linked with race. It is the elephant in the room.”

Leslie has emerged as one of the strongest legal voices in the country on the Black Lives Matter debate, contextualising it around its racialized policing dimensions and lack of diversity in the legal profession.

With the rhetorical statement, “So, you think the UK doesn’t have a policing problem . . .”, Leslie listed on Twitter 29 young black men who have died in police custody; “There are more”, he said, in an interview with The Times, adding that “the criminal justice system remains ‘institutionally racist’ with disparity in the treatment of black men at every stage”.

In an article for Counsel magazine earlier this year, Leslie called upon colleagues in the Bar to “talk about race”. “Forget the guilt and take action”, he urged. “Bias is implicit and often unconscious. It takes great courage to change the system. It benefits us all”.

Prof Thomas wrote in the Counsel magazine in July 2020: “Racism and discriminatory behaviours pervade all levels of society and our legal system is not immune from the same. I have experienced it many times in my career.”

In 2020, Leslie became the first Black Professor of Law at Gresham College. His inaugural lecture series is taking place in the current academic year, examining Death, the State and Human Rights.

We are very honoured that his appointment as a Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths coincides with his appointment and inaugural lecture series at Gresham. In his first Gresham lecture (which you can watch here, by registering with the event), on October 1st, Leslie focussed on human rights and the wrongs of unexpected and/or sudden deaths in which the state is implicated, asking whether “the state really cares when it kills you”. The next lecture takes place on December 3rd, looking into who investigates sudden death.

The Head of the Law department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, said on the appointment: “Prof Leslie Thomas’ activist legal practice and scholarship challenge stereotypes, break new ground, and require us to think, about how we can change, what change we can bring about ourselves, how we can influence those around us, to achieve equality and justice for all. It gives me a great pleasure – I am very honoured – to welcome him at the department of Law at Goldsmiths”.

Leslie’s appointment coincides with the successful launch of a specialist LLB pathway programme at Goldsmiths (the LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights), and demonstrates our desire to actively engage with crucial equality and racial justice issues at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement has taken new urgency.

Human rights experts call upon Conservative party to renew its commitment to human rights

On October 2nd, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Human Rights Act (HRA) coming into effect.  

A number of independent human rights experts, working with our Britain in Europe think tank and Knowing Our Rights research project, from across UK academia as well as legal professionals, NGO experts and politicians, have written to Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, and Conservative Peers in the House of Lords, to highlight this important milestone and request that the Conservative party reflects upon the highly positive and beneficial influence that the Act has had on the lives of UK citizens.

The signatories include  Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Justice and Women & Equalities, and Shadow Leader of the House; former Labour MEP Julie Ward; former Labour MP, Roger Casale; and Baroness Sarah Ludford, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (on Exiting the European Union).

In their letter, our experts request that the government uses the opportunity of this seminal anniversary – in tandem with the forthcoming one, of November 4th, which will mark 70 years from the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in Rome – to renew the UK’s commitment to the ECHR and HRA. 

In 2015, the Conservative party manifesto pledged to repeal the HRA; the 2017 manifesto committed to stay temporarily in the European Convention on Human Rights; and the 2019 manifesto promised to “update” the HRA.

In the most recent development in this area, the Lord Chancellor, HH Robert Buckland QC MP, has stated, in a letter to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights,  that the government plans for “an independent review” into the operation of the Human Rights Act to be launched “in due course”, and that the review will look into “the balance between the rights of individuals and effective government”, in line with the 2019 manifesto.

You can read the full letter here.

A warm welcome to (and Q & A with) our new Lecturer in Law Dr Plamen Dinev!

We are delighted to announce that Dr Plamen Dinev has joined our department of Law. Plamen will be leading on Intellectual Property Law, Law and Disruptive Technologies, whilst also making contributions to core elements of our LLB Law programmes, including in the Criminal Law: Theory and Practice module in Year 1.

We have spoken to Plamen about his research, teaching approach as well as his plans and aspirations in joining Goldsmiths Law.

Where did you work/study before joining Goldsmiths? Are there particular elements of your experience that you’re seeking to bring to Goldsmiths Law? 

Prior to joining Goldsmiths, I completed a PhD at City, University of London and an LLM at Leiden University. My PhD involved an interdisciplinary study on the intellectual property (IP) implications of three-dimensional printing, using a combination of legal and empirical methods.

At City, I taught on a number of Law modules and worked as a Research Assistant, collaborating on various research projects involving law and technology, IP commercialization and knowledge transfer for universities.

Goldsmiths University is a world leader in the creative industries and cutting-edge technology—areas where intellectual property plays a major role. I will be eager to bring my expertise in IP and technology to Goldsmiths Law and contribute to its highly distinctive and forward-looking curriculum. Moreover, I will be excited to carry out socio-legal and cross-departmental research, building on the University’s existing strengths and rich heritage in art and technology.

What is your key area of research expertise? 

My research interests lie in the relationship between IP law and technology. IP is a quickly evolving area which has to be flexible enough to respond to the advent of new technologies and rapidly transforming business environments. Nevertheless, it frequently lags behind technological advances and requires regular examination to ensure that it is not only conducive to innovation and growth, but also fairly represents all competing interests. I believe that this is best achieved through evidence-based policymaking, which often involves collecting empirical data and observing the relevant issue within its real-life context. For instance, in 2019, I carried out fieldwork in New York City and interviewed representatives of some of the world’s leading 3D printing companies as part of a Modern Law Review scholarship award. This research allowed me to gain a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between IP law and the technology, thus filling an important gap in the legal literature and making a timely contribution to the debate.

What are the primary intellectual debates in your research area right now? 

Intellectual property is one of the most dynamic areas of the law. While copyright and patent law are still largely rooted in the analog world, digital technologies such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly raise a range of novel issues which the existing IP framework is not always able to accommodate easily. Could (and should!) copyright subsist in AI-generated output where a machine has generated a creative work with little or no human intervention? Could this have a negative impact on the exceptionality of human creative talent in the long run? Who would be liable for infringement where AI acts with a considerable degree of autonomy? How does copyright law treat 3D scans of classic art and public domain works? Does the existing framework facilitate or hinder the usage of this technology? When answering those questions, lawmakers have the difficult task of balancing competing needs and they must take into account a variety of intricate legal and policy considerations. Above all, it is essential to ensure that IP law incentivises the production of socially valuable intellectual works and inventions while also avoiding excessive monopoly control.

What is your approach to teaching? 

It is imperative to place the law within its wider socio-economic context and highlight its practical relevance. Goldsmiths has a rich heritage of social awareness and modules such as Criminal Law allow us to critically examine the law’s direct impact on society; to question whether it adequately fulfils its core aims in light of our constantly evolving social norms and attitudes. The ability to challenge theory and received wisdom enables students to appreciate the finer nuances and prepares them to make a meaningful contribution to society, regardless of whether they choose academia, legal practice or working for an NGO. Moreover, I strongly believe in research-informed teaching as well as relying on innovative and interactive methods such as experiential learning, flipped classroom and mooting—areas where Goldsmiths Law excels.

How can we make a success of virtual teaching, and academic research, in the socially distanced environment in which much of our activity takes place right now? 

Virtual learning allows us to rethink certain aspects of our traditional approach to teaching and pushes us to be creative and innovative. There are certainly opportunities to explore—virtual tours, interactive presentations, seminars and guest lectures are all effective learning methods. To nurture a positive learning environment, it is also essential that students have reliable access to personal tutoring and support in the form of regular online office hours.

As for academic research, the current circumstances could actually make conference attendance and knowledge exchange considerably more accessible—both in terms of financial and physical constraints—and thus open to a larger pool of participants. Legal research is not as dependent on access to labs and equipment as other fields, which makes it comparatively easier to continue working and collaborating on research projects without physical access to such facilities.

How do we achieve work-life balance in this fluid world where we are confronted with a constant blurring of the borders between a virtual professional environment and home? 

I try to have a space where I just work and I stick to my regular working hours and routine—although it could certainly be challenging. Now that there is little or no commuting, I also try to stay physically active as much as possible. In fact, I completed the most critical stages of my PhD during lockdown and I found exercising indispensable for both mental health and productivity. This is something that I would really like to emphasise as it could make a tangible difference to the wellbeing of both students and academics in those challenging times.

What hobbies are you leaning into?  

Besides reading, I enjoy sports and cooking (mostly watching online cooking shows). I’ve done a range of sports throughout my life, including football, skateboarding, table tennis and running, although I mostly just run nowadays. I am also interested in audio (trying out various high-impedance headphones, amplifiers, etc) and I typically listen to music during most of my day. I haven’t been able to get a personal 3D printer yet, although this is something that I look forward to exploring soon.

What are you looking forward to the most being at Goldsmiths? 

Goldsmiths offers a unique opportunity to innovate with its highly distinctive programme and rich heritage. I am looking forward to working with its outstanding Law team and collaborating with colleagues from the University’s renowned Departments of Art, Cultural Entrepreneurship and Computing. I am especially excited about its innovative LLB curriculum—which emphasises experiential learning as well as integrating theory and practice—and teaching students who are highly motivated to make a real contribution to society.

 

 

 

Q & A with our new lecturer in law, Fatima Ahdash

This week we had the pleasure of announcing the appointment of two new lecturers in law, Fatima Ahdash and Dr Plamen Dinev. In this Q & A interview, Fatima talks to us about her research, her teaching, and aspirations as a new academic member of staff in our department.

Goldsmiths Law: Where did you work/study before joining Goldsmiths? Are there particular elements of your experience that you’re seeking to bring to Goldsmiths Law? 

Fatima Ahdash: Before joining Goldsmiths, I was researching and teaching at the London School of Economics (LSE). I joined the LSE as an undergraduate student in Autumn 2010 and completed my LLB, LLM (in Human Rights Law) and PhD there. In addition to undertaking my doctoral studies and teaching family law, international human rights law and legal research and writing skills, I was also responsible for coordinating aspects of the pro-bono programme.

Prior to and during the course of my doctoral studies, I also worked in a number of domestic and international human rights organisations, either as a researcher and/or a consultant. Although the nature and scope of my work with these human rights organisations varied, it tended to focus on documenting, analysing and seeking accountability for the human rights violations resulting from various counter-terrorism laws and policies, particularly on the rights of women and children, and/or the human rights situation in MENA countries.

Both my research and my teaching have won awards and I am seeking to bring my creative, critical, interdisciplinary and proactive approach to legal scholarship and teaching with me to Goldsmiths Law. I strongly believe in creating opportunities for our students that can both enhance their careers and help them to give back to the community and people around them. Therefore, I am really enthusiastic about contributing to the existing extra-curricular programmes and to creating new ones that can create synergies between Goldsmiths Law and the human rights sector.

What is your key area of research expertise? 

My research expertise lies in the areas of counter-terrorism, family law and human rights and their intersections and interaction with each other in the UK in recent years.  It focuses on an emerging and growing body of family case-law, known as the radicalisation cases, dealing with the impact of terrorism, extremism and radicalisation on children and families. Taking the historic absence of family law from the British state’s response to terrorism as its starting point, my research uses a variety of socio-legal research methods and draws on critical legal, feminist and social theory to interrogate the reasons behind and the implications, particularly for the human rights of the parents and children involved, of the interaction between counter-terrorism and family law in recent years.

I am committed to producing socially engaged legal research. I’ve been keen on disseminating my research findings widely through not just academic articles but also blog-posts, media engagements, public events and seminars and workshops. My research has been cited by the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. I’ve also collaborated with a number of human rights NGOs and lawyers’ organisations, highlighting the negative impact of the recent developments in counter-terrorism law on the human rights of women and children and delivering workshops and training programmes for lawyers and social workers involved in radicalisation cases.

What are the primary intellectual debates in your research area right now?  

My specific area of research, which examines the interaction of counter-terrorism and family law in recent years, raises and grapples with a number of important and cutting-edge questions, debates and themes. These include: how and why is this political problem – terrorism – being dealt with by the family courts? Why is the Law intervening in the private realm of the home and family in the name of preventing and countering the very public problem of terrorism? Why is the Law only now interested in tackling the phenomenon of childhood radicalisation? Why is the Law only now interested in the terrorist and/or extremist as a parent?  What are the implications, for both counter-terrorism law and policy and family law and policy, of the family justice system’s recent involvement in the counter-terrorist endeavour? How has the legal regulation of the family and the construction of the family home as a new frontier in the state’s ever expanding fight against terrorism impacted the (human rights of) the individuals, families and communities involved?

What is your approach to teaching? 

My pedagogical approach emphasises and aims to cultivate active student learning and participation. I have designed courses that are interdisciplinary, practically relevant and global in their perspective. My courses encourage students to place law within its wider political, historical, cultural and socio-economic context and to critically examine and interrogate law’s foundational – and indeed ideological –  assumptions.

I am very keen on devising interactive activities that embed experiential learning, develop the creative and collaborative problem-solving skills of students and prepare them for the practicalities of a career in law. My lectures and seminars are often organized around a diverse range of activities including quizzes, debates, moots, simulated ‘problem’ scenarios and collaborative presentations. I have also devised and delivered a rich programme of extra-curricular and career focused activities such as workshops responding to government consultations regarding legal reform, guest lectures, trips to NGOs, relevant plays and film screenings and formal and informal panel discussions and events with barristers and solicitors. I have found that these activitiesenhance student learning and engagement, allowing students to appreciate the wider political, social and cultural relevance of the area of law they are studying and to develop career interests in the subject area.

How can we make a success of virtual teaching, and academic research, in the socially distanced environment in which much of our activity takes place right now?  

Before we think about the practicalities of making a success of virtual and/or socially distanced teaching and research, I believe that we have to first think about the importance – and value – of empathy. We must remember that we are in the middle of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of many people, including the friends and loved ones of our own students and academics. Keeping that in mind will hopefully inspire us to be kind to, and flexible when dealing with, our students, colleagues and, of course, our selves.

Secondly, although these are really challenging times for academic teaching and research, they also present us with many opportunities. And so creativity and adaptability are key to success here. Blending synchronous and a-synchronous teaching, inviting guest speakers from around the globe to give virtual lectures and seminars, making use of digital technologies to organise virtual tours and developing group projects that encourage students to blog, vlog and podcast can perhaps even enhance student participation. The fact that everything is now virtual has also increased the number of opportunities available for attending conferences and disseminating research to a greater and more global audience. We can also tap into the fact that there also now seems to be more of an appetite for virtual cross-jurisdictional research collaborations that might have otherwise been prohibitively costly.

How do we achieve work-life balance in this fluid world where we are confronted with a constant blurring of the borders between a virtual professional environment and home?  

Balancing work-life commitments has always been a challenge for those involved in and committed to academia, and the fluidity of our working lives seems to have exacerbated the difficulties. Although it might sound counter-intuitive, personally I try to achieve a balance by being strict with myself. I make sure that I have a set time (and, sometimes if I am lucky, space) for work and time for family, friends and myself. Being proactive and at times strict about balance helps me to actually achieve it. There are of course days when that is not possible but I think as a general rule-of-thumb this tends to help.

What hobbies are you leaning into?  

In my spare time I love to read novels, write short stories and go on really long walks. I am also a fan of watching reruns of Friends!

What are you looking forward to the most being at Goldsmiths? 

I am honestly most excited about teaching Goldsmiths’ amazing Law students! I hope that they will enjoy my courses and that we will all have a lot of fun understanding and critiquing the areas of law that I will be teaching.  I am also looking forward to working closely with my colleagues in the Law Department. They are all experts in their respective fields of law and I cannot wait to hear more about their work and to find ways to hopefully collaborate with them too. I am particularly enthusiastic about helping to coordinate and deliver the Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Law and Policy Clinic. Introducing our students to, and allowing them to engage with, the main challenges posed by recent developments in counter-terrorism law and policy is really exciting. It will develop the research skills and knowledge of our students and offer them unique opportunities for career development in this dynamic area of law and policy whilst allowing me to incorporate elements of my research expertise and previous NGO experience.

I love that Goldsmiths encourages interdisciplinary and inter-departmental teaching and research collaborations, so I am also greatly looking forward to working with colleagues across the University of Goldsmiths.

 

We’re very excited that Fatima has joined our department, and are greatly looking forward to her wide-ranging contributions to our LLB Law programme and our LLB pathways, on Criminal Justice and Human Rights and on the relationship between Law with Politics and Human Rights.

Dr Virginie Barral appointed General Rapporteur to the International Academy of Comparative Law general congress

Dr Virginie Barral has recently been appointed as General Rapporteur to the next general congress of the prestigious International Academy of Comparative Law on the topic of Distributive Justice and Sustainable Development. She will share the role with International Law Professor Phoebe Okowa (QMUL). Together they will coordinate the work of the National Rapporteurs on the topic and produce a General Report bringing together and analysing the most up to date data on the Law and Practice relating to distributive justice and sustainable development.

The final report is to be presented at the 2022 Congress in Asunción, Paraguay, and published thereafter, thus providing legal scholars across the globe with a comprehensive comparative survey of the topic.

Former Attorney General speaks to Times Higher Education about his new role at Goldsmiths Law

Dominic Grieve QC, newly-appointed pro bono Visiting Professor in Law at Goldsmiths, and former Attorney General of the United Kingdom, was interviewed in the Times Higher Education about his life and career, commenting he was looking forward to discussions with students and staff at Goldsmiths: “As I know from giving talks and lectures, it’s the questions and the conversations afterwards that are the most important”, he said.

Asked about what he was hoping to bring to Goldsmiths, he referred to his “experience of having to apply legal principles and sustain human rights on a daily basis, taking account of the needs of government decision-making in a political context”. He also pinpointed the gap between the detachment of academic study from the realities of politics and government, on the one hand, and politics being practised without sufficient intellectual rigour, on the other; “I hope I may contribute to bridging that gap”, he added.

The former British politician and barrister, who served as the Conservative MP for Beaconsfield from 1997 to 2019, also expressed his enthusiasm about contributing to our new LLB programme that brings together Law and Politics – our LLB Law with Politics and Human Rights – explaining that “there is great opportunity to help it be innovative”.

Dominic’s Visiting Professorship at Goldsmiths Law means our students will have unrivalled access to one of the brightest legal minds in the country, whose experience in government and the realities of the political world spans a period of over twenty years, when he played a central role in major debates, including, most recently, Brexit.

Among other key official roles he held, Dominic was the chair of the intelligence and security committee from 2015 to 2019, and was in the news this week following the release of the committee’s report into Russia’s threat to UK national security. Writing in The Guardian, he lambasted the Government for delaying the release of the report, explaining that “nine months of that delay [had been] the direct result of the prime minister deliberately preventing the report’s publication”.

Speaking to France 24 about the key findings of the report, Dominic explained it was making clear that “Russia is prepared to murder people in the UK if it considers it is in its state interest to do so”, that the evidence of “cyber activity is very worrying” and that it also clearly reveals “the extent to which Russia seeks to subvert Western democracy”.

 

Catch up with highlights from our “open day”

We were delighted to meet all our prospective students who joined us for our virtual open day last week (10 July 2020). You can watch highlights from the open day here, with contributions from our academics Dr Virginie Barral and Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, and our students Alex Choi and Melyssa Cruse.

Addressing contemporary social challenges, joining forces with leading institutions

The Law department is passionate about engaging our students with the major socio-political, cultural and economic questions that we face in the world today, joining forces with leading academic institutions and legal practice.

The murder of George Floyd in the US is a key moment for the pursuit of social justice, equality and the respect of human rights – cardinal values that serve as a foundation for our programme.

On June 25, we hosted a virtual roundtable discussion (via Zoom) on Race and Policing in the US and the UK, with eminent experts, including Leslie Thomas QC, who is currently representing 23 clients – survivors, bereaved family members and loved ones – in the Grenfell Tower inquiry.

The event was organised in collaboration with Garden Court Chambers and Loyola Law School (Los Angeles).

 

Our academics have similarly tackled, head on, legal issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our annual criminal justice symposium, which we had the privilege to co-host with Berkeley Law earlier this month, allowed us to examine the effect of Covid-19 in prisons, police stations and criminal courts in the US, and to draw comparisons with our legal system in the UK.

Similarly, our Head of Department entered in conversation with some of our distinguished Visiting  Professors and other Goldsmiths partners, on Covid-19, criminal law and human rights. They put forward the right to human dignity, asking difficult questions about why the UK government was so delayed in deciding to implement the lockdown; were utilitarian interests foremost in their mind?

They predicted there will be litigation in the future, and an independent inquiry, as a response to how the UK government has failed to provide frontline workers with the right PPE.

At Goldsmiths Law, we continuously expose our students to inspirational academics, legal professionals and human rights experts that bring to life contemporary socio-legal issues. We continuously push them to come up with theory-driven answers and practical solutions.

In recent months, our students heard the director of Liberty speak to them about how we need to keep the Human Rights Act intact. They met one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers and politicians, Helena Kennedy QC, who powerfully exposed the discrimination women experience in the British ‘justice’ system. They were introduced to the Equality Act, by one of the leading experts in the field in the UK. They engaged with climate justice from the viewpoint of resisting colonial oppression. They went on a journey, from the Nuremberg trials to the creation of the International Criminal Court, with one of our Visiting Professors, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who led on one of the most historic international criminal justice trials of modern times. They also explored the UK Supreme Court’s judgment on Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament, with the lawyers who had helped make reality this judgment!