Call for Papers

Law on a Tightrope

Tightrope Full Artwork Image
Trevor Nickolls, Tightrope Walking, 1980
© Trevor Nickolls/Copyright Agency, 2019

The image of the tightrope walker brings to mind states of tension and stasis – and the potential for rupture, precarity and collapse. Tensions strain and test current conditions. Tension can mean friction, even a slow kind of violence. But tension can be productive, like the stability of tension cables holding up a bridge. Stasis suggests a period of inactivity or equilibrium and at the same time connotes the creative pause, a generative space between forms of engagement. Conversely, rupture denotes breach and discontinuity from what once was—or simply fissuring cracks within law’s image of a coherent self, inviting radical disruptions. We might think of the prefix “post” as the sign of rupture – think postmodern, postcolonial, post-development, post-human – but are these discourses really ruptures or do they maintain a tense connection to what they purportedly move beyond?

This forum aims to bring together scholars to think critically and jurisprudentially about the tensions, stasis, and ruptures that characterise our own time, from unfolding ecological system collapse to the disruption(s) caused by rapid technological advancements to geopolitical upheavals.  Together we will explore the relationship of law to the objects and situations that cause, are brought forth, or are otherwise affected by such tensions and ruptures. The forum will also interrogate tensions and ruptures in other times and between times – between pre-modernity and modernity, between indigenous time(s) and Western time(s).

Yet before we get to questions of how law works to manage, mitigate, produce or amplify tension, stasis, rupture and their effects, we should attend to the figure on the tightrope. What is this law that perches so precariously on the wire? Methodologically, how does it change our substantive inquiries to suspend the law mid-air, to think of law as tense, static and always prone to falling? Jurisprudentially, how do we conceive of law on a tightrope and whose view of the law(s) do we privilege or exclude when we do? The tightrope looks different when contemplated from different angles and different points of view. Where do we, and the critical theories of law we engage with, position ourselves in this dialogue, and to what effect?

We invite and challenge participants to think about law, legal theory, method and critique while holding in mind the image of the tightrope. We invite submissions on themes including but not limited to:

  • Climate change, environment, and ecological discontinuity
  • Empire, (post) colonial realities, indigenous law(s) and geopolitical tensions
  • Artificial intelligence, blockchain and other emerging technologies
  • Economic ordering and financial inequality
  • Disciplinary tensions and transdisciplinary desires
  • Gender (un)ordering: Queer and Feminist perspectives
  • Resistance and struggle.

We envision a series of presentations and panel discussions in a supportive, collegial environment but also warmly encourage participants who wish to present their work in visual, aural, multimedia or other creative formats.

We hope to have a limited number of travel bursaries for interstate and international presenting participants who are unable to claim sufficient funding from their home institution. Please indicate in your application if you would like to be considered for funding support. Alternatively, the forum organisers are happy to provide a letter of support for participants seeking financial assistance from their home institutions.


Melbourne Law School acknowledges the Wurundjeri Peoples of the Kulin Nations as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the law school stands. We pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.