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Goldsmiths Law students go on formidable social welfare placements

Goldsmiths Law students, from Year 1 and 2 of the LLB programme, have been offered some exceptional opportunities to partake in social justice placements across London this academic year, as part of our ongoing collaboration with the Pro Bono Community organisation. Pro Bono Community are seeking to improve access to justice by providing specialist training in legal advice and social welfare law to lawyers, trainees and students and then placing them as volunteers at Law Centres and advice agencies.

Naomi (a Year 1 student) is volunteering at University House Legal Advice Centre. She is volunteering with their employment team and is assisting with their Virtual Lawyer project, helping to reach people who need employment advice via an app.

Dominica (Year 2) is volunteering with the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, (IWGB) assisting their Cleaners and Facilities Branch. Dominica’s fluency in Spanish has been a great advantage to her when providing support with employment law issues.

Meylssa (Year 2) is volunteering with Age UK Lambeth, working with a specific neighbourhood team to support their residents.

Rianna (Year 1) is working with Justice for Tenants, supporting those living in rented accommodation in London whose homes are under threat. Volunteering is invaluable to organisations active in this area, given the increasing challenges that those renting accommodation face in the capital.

Finally, Martyna (Year 1) and Mohammed Junaid (Year 2) are volunteering with Sufra, supporting their Advice Triage and Signposting Services. This is what Martyna had to say on her experience there:

“Sufra NW London Foodbank provides a range of services to their guests. I am a signposting volunteer, volunteering every Wednesday from 10-2 pm.

The role consists of managing cases of the food bank’s guests, checking in and signposting guests to other organisations which can aid them with hardships such as debt or homelessness – the work is mainly done via telephone, and occasionally by email.

A normal volunteering day consists of contacting a few guests. Before the initial calls, the volunteers have to cross-reference various managing systems such as the internal management hub, spreadsheets, and the database where the cases are input and stored by the volunteers and Sufra.

The interaction with the guests in this placement is highly rewarding; a few weeks ago, I was able to help a man who had recently been allocated to a flat after being homeless, by facilitating access to food and employment.

In addition to taking part in Pro Bono Community placements, Goldsmiths students are  also partaking, in the current academic year, in the inaugural cohort of the Refugee Law Clinic at the University of London (along with students from the LSE, King’s, UCL, Queen Mary and other University of London Law Schools) while also supporting the Exclusion Advocacy Clinic, coordinated by Southwark’s Community Harm and Exploitation Hub, where they are given the unique opportunity to offer confidential representation at the point of school/college exclusion.

Goldsmiths students learning criminal law from leading CPS experts

David Malone, Deputy Head of the Specialist Fraud Division at the CPS, with Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, in the criminal practice lecture on “criminal trials”.

David Malone, Deputy Head of the Specialist Fraud Division at the Crown Prosecution Service (and leading barrister at Red Lion Chambers), introduced Goldsmiths students to guiding principles on Prosecuting in criminal trials, as part of criminal practice lectures that run parallel to lectures on the theory of criminal law in Year 1 of the LLB.

David touched upon what verdicts mean for victims, and how important it is for them to have their “day in court”; the  central role of the Full Code Test for prosecutions; rules of evidence in criminal trials; the importance of creating a rapport with the jury in the environment of the criminal trial; and the challenges in prosecuting (or defending) historic sexual offences, among other topics that he discussed.

David also spoke with great enthusiasm about the CPS as an employer, particularly its strong desire for diversity and inclusion, stressing the unique career opportunities available there, strongly encouraging our students to consider a future at the CPS.

Earlier on in the term, Mr Curt Wise, Senior Specialist Prosecutor at the CPS (Specialist Fraud Division), spoke to students in detail about initiating criminal prosecutions, providing analysis of the various factors that prosecutors must take into account, and drawing, on the (virtual) whiteboard, the various steps in the thought process that prosecutors must undertake before making up their mind about whether to proceed with a prosecution.

Our law programme is delighted to inject views from the CPS, and draw on their experience, when teaching criminal law theory and practice to students at the LLB Law and LLB Law with Criminal Justice and Human Rights programmes.

We are very thankful to the CPS for their interest in our programme and are greatly looking forward to seeing this collaboration progress further.

Dr Fatima Ahdash’s work on the “familialization of terrorism” cited by UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights

Our Lecturer in Law, Dr Fatima Ahdash, was recently cited in the Annual Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism and Human Rights, presented to the UN Human Rights Council’s forty-sixth session.

The report, which addresses the impact of counter-terrorism laws and policies on the rights of women, girls and the family, mentions Ahdash’s ground-breaking analysis of family law’s recent interaction with counter-terrorism in the UK, including a term that she has developed: the familialization of terrorism.

New video: Law and Politics in the US after Trump (lessons for the UK and the EU)

You can now watch the video of our rapid response-seminar (January 21st), analysing what the storming of Capitol means for US democracy, and the lessons we can learn in Europe.

This online event brought together very eminent experts from the US and UK, including academics from Stanford Law and Princeton as well as our Head of Department, Prof Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos and Visiting Professor Leslie Thomas QC.

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.