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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.