This past week, we, Sabrina Tremblay-Huet and Mélissa Beaulieu Lussier, had the pleasure of attending the IntLawGrrls 10th year anniversary conference. While Mélissa was presenting on the expressive function of international criminal law in the context of prosecuting sexual violence against child soldiers and the possible challenges ICL is facing in this regard, Sabrina was presenting on the topic of law and literature as a feminist method to explore scarcities of legalization in international law, using the example of the law on tourism. We were very impressed by the format of the conference, which was clearly thought out with great care. The organizers succeeded in creating an atmosphere that made every participant feel they were being integrated within a community of inspiring women in international law. Of course, the content of the panels and of the plenary were wonderful, but we wish to celebrate here what we felt was a model in terms of conference format, and how we felt this echoed our readings on a feminist methodology in legal studies.
The event started on March 2nd with a viewing at a local theatre of “500 YEARS”, a documentary about civilian resistance to human rights abuses in Guatemala, from the standpoint of Indigenous activists, followed by a discussion with director Pamela Yates and producer Paco de Onis. Linking an academic conference with a community event allows for the de-compartmentalisation of university research, as this space extends in order to become less hermetic. Feminist methodologies contest the possibility of complete neutrality in research; exposing legal academics to touching activist accounts of human rights abuses reminds us of our role in participating in resistance struggles.
As for the conference itself, on March 3rd, the first thing that struck us was the warm welcome we received. Both of us had a bit of a hectic morning, and arrived a few minutes after the start of the first panel, apologizing frantically about our lateness. Britney’s calm words put us at ease immediately, and a fellow presenter and University of Georgia student offered to lead us to the room the panel we wished to attend was being held. These caring gestures were very much appreciated.
The first thing we noticed about the panels was the room dispositions. Every panel was held in rooms in which presenters and attendees were sitting together around a large round table, without a visible separation between both groups as is usually the case in most conferences. This succeeded in creating a feeling that we were having a friendly discussion, rather than a stressful exposing one’s knowledge climate. The panel chairs only introduced the presenters by name, thus not listing their ranks and accomplishments. This allowed for a much less intimidating climate than those in which emerging scholars or young lawyers can potentially feel out of place or that their contributions are less valuable than those of their fellow presenters. In a similar manner, our name cards only featured our names; not our institutions, nor our rank. Another contribution of feminist methodology literature is to advocate for the breaking down of socially constructed hierarchies. The thoughtful organization surrounding the panels surely was a contribution to making everyone feel like we all had our place at the table.
We thus wish to thank the blog’s founders and conference organizers for creating and sustaining such a welcoming community through IntLawGrrls, and wish it the best of continuities.