january, 2020

202016jan12:30 pm2:00 pmFaculty Workshop: Emilio Dabed—Palestinian Legal Activism: Between Liberation and the 'Desire' of Statehood12:30 pm - 2:00 pm Institute of Islamic Studies, 170 St. George Street, Jackman Humanities Bldg, Suite 530, Seminar Room, Toronto Event Organized By: Canada Research Chair on Religion, Pluralism, and the Rule of Law


Event Details

Contemporary Palestinian politics is marked by paradoxical dynamics: while we observe an entrenchment of the colonial regime, division within the national movement, territorial and institutional fragmentation, and heightened authoritarianism, we also witness a growing reliance on international law, the language of rule of law, good governance, and human rights. This turn to law has prompted a sort of further legalization of Palestinian politics. From the perspective of the Palestinian Authority –a non-sovereign entity but highly legalistic in its actions- this shift is extremely clear, and it is best reflected now by the PA’s almost obsessive use of international law to frame Palestinian political claims. But also ordinary citizens are turning to law and increasingly bring -what they perceive as violations of their rights by Israel but also by the PA -to international legal organs or to the Palestinian constitutional court–albeit with meager results. Similar dynamics occur within Palestinian and pro-Palestinian social movements which persistently frame their political agenda within the language of law, particularly human rights and international law.

It is strange to see that Palestinians, who have witnessed their dispossession and colonization organized, reified, and embodied in law can place so much faith in legality to achieve liberation. This paper intends to engage with the Palestinian movement’s turn to law and its potential consequences for political emancipation by exploring questions such as: Should Palestinians embrace legalism as their only or their main strategy of struggle? By which logic our claim for the liberation of human subjects becomes a discursive strategy for legal recognition? How does legality constrains our political aspirations and makes us want what it promises but cannot deliver? How do law and its productive and legitimizing powers bring us to desire -with such a force- things (rights, institutions, regulations, statuses) that are not only different from our original political claims, but that very often subvert them?

This paper will critically look at legal activism and the limits of international law in emancipatory struggles by drawing parallels between Palestine and other contemporary struggles. The final objective isto continue a necessary debate on the paradoxes, ambiguities, and traps that law offers, so that our “strategies of emancipation” do not become “technologies of domination”.


(Thursday) 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


Institute of Islamic Studies

170 St. George Street, Jackman Humanities Bldg, Suite 530, Seminar Room, Toronto




Canada Research Chair on Religion, Pluralism, and the Rule of Law