It is with great pleasure that I write this post to share with the Association’s (BACL) community my own experience as a legal comparatist and philosopher. I hope that the below remarks will inspire young legal comparatists to pursue their objectives wherever they might take them, and despite all the difficulties we are facing in these trying times.
I am, at present, a Senior Lecturer in Law at Dundee Law School. I have joined Dundee in late 2018, coming from Liverpool (Liverpool Hope University) and before that, Melbourne (Deakin University). I hold a PhD in Law and Institutions (Comparative Law) and an LLB (magna cum laude) from the University of Turin, Italy. I am also a non-practising Barrister (in Italy), and have obtained teaching accreditation (PGCHE) while in Australia.
My PhD critically analysed the formation of a European Law of Contract from the perspective of South Africa’s pluralist experience. Studying how South Africa came to forge together different socio-political and juridical cultures within its Private Law required that I spent some time there as a visiting PhD candidate, which I have done in 2012 and 2013 at the Department of Private Law, University of Cape Town (UCT).
I started my PhD in January 2011. One of my first experiences overseas was the 2011 BACL Postgraduate Workshop on Comparative Law, held at the School of Law, University of Nottingham. I have fond memories of that event. It was there that I first appreciated the importance of critical scholarly engagement as a way to meaningfully learn from others and improve one’s research and approach to the subject of study. I remember the warm, community-building feeling that animated the Workshop. Curiously, what came to play a crucial role in my professional development was the feedback that I received from Professor Francois Du Bois on my presentation. It was Professor Du Bois, indeed, who suggested that I consider spending some time at UCT given the nature of my research. I followed his advice, and from the UCT research visit many wonderful experiences there followed.
Ten years later, I can witness to the BACL Postgraduate Workshops being an invaluable opportunity for the constructive sharing and discussion of ideas, projects, and views, as well as for the formation of professional bonds that pass the test of time. It is at such initiatives that tomorrow’s legal comparatists are nourished and made feel part of the fast-developing comparative law community.
In terms of my own research, I specialise in comparative contract law, comparative legal traditions, continental philosophy and political theory (particularly the thought of Ernst Cassirer, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, and Giorgio Agamben), and Japanese socio-legal theory (I use the latter term loosely for the present context). The variety of my research outputs and collaborative projects reflects the multi- and inter-disciplinary nature of my professional development and research interests.
At present, I am working on a new monograph, for Edinburgh University Press (as part of the Encounters in Law & Philosophy series). The book offers a philosophical contextualisation of the origins and development of legal education and practice in the West in light of current developments in both fields. I am also co-editing two volumes on the biopolitics of legal education for Routledge (with Dr Thomas Giddens), as well as a Special Issue on ‘The Philosophies of Comparative Law’ for Critical Analysis of Law: An International and Interdisciplinary Law Review (with Professor Jaakko Husa; to be out in late 2021). Combining theoretically-oriented essays with empirical accounts of socio-cultural, pluralist dynamics of ordering from the Global South (i.e. Latin America) and Asia (i.e. Japan), the Special Issue takes a further step towards the moulding of a fully-fledged interdisciplinary, pluralist, critical, and contextual comparative legal scholarship.
My most recent article appeared in the International Journal of Law and Context. It takes a critical stance towards what I have called Pierre Legrand’s ‘sensitive epistemology’. In a nutshell, I argue for a philosophical distinction between experience and knowledge—a distinction which, I submit, matters a great deal both in comparative law and in legal education and practice more generally. I also argue that Professor Legrand’s call for a personal (self-defining) and culturally-oriented (i.e. other-regarding) act of comparison obfuscates this distinction. As such, and despite Professor Legrand’s aims, the type of epistemology he advocates is wholly in line with the constructivist objectification of life that characterises the study and practice of law, both within and outside the comparative law dimension. My argument ties with that which I have set forth in another essay, appeared last year in The Journal of Comparative Law and titled ‘On the Prometheus Legacy: Glenn’s Pluralist Logic, Melandri’s Analogy, and Legal Plurality “Ontological Register“‘ (JCL 15(2), pp. 94-132).
At Dundee, I am the module leader of and teach various subjects, i.e. English Law of Contract; English Law of Tort; Law, Society and Human Rights; and Roman Law. I am the Co-creator and convenor of InterLaw: Interdisciplinary Legal Studies, a Dundee Law School-based research cluster which encourages the discussion of current research work related to law at the intersection of a range of disciplines, including cultural studies, English, philosophy, geography, and art. I am also the GoAbroad Academic Coordinator for Law. I highly value both roles as I strongly believe in the importance of critical, cross-disciplinary, and cross-cultural engagement in law and legal studies (my own experience is testament to this!). Our next event is the first 2021 InterLaw Guest Lecture by Professor Katharina Pistor, Edwin B. Parker Professor of Comparative Law at Columbia Law School, to be held on Teams on February 24th, at 4-5h30pm London time (free registration here).
In terms of affiliations, in addition to the BACL, I am a member of the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS), the European Network for Japanese Law (ENJeL), the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), and the Italian Association of Comparative Law (IACL).
Finally, a word on comparative law itself. Much has been written (and said) over the past few years on the nature, scope, benefits, and risks of what we usually call ‘comparative law’. Despite the great variety of approaches to, and views on, the topic, it is generally held that legal comparison can further legal knowledge, thereby helping the interpreter getting a better sense of both the given subject and of themselves as intellectuals. For my own part, I view the act of comparison as a precious act of experience, rather than (just) knowledge. As such, I endeavour to emphasise the experiential nature of the comparatist’s encounter with the other–a relational encounter which, I believe, is as other-regarding as self-defining, as it equips the comparatist to also experience herself in a new light.
Dr Luca Siliquini-Cinelli (Senior Lecturer, Dundee Law School)
Picture Credit: The author