International Conference: Saturday, September 23, 2017

Buffaronto Sociolegal Conversations

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Time: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Venue: 509 O'Brian Hall

UB North Campus

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Join us on Saturday, September 23, 2017, for Buffaronto Sociolegal Conversations. The event will bring together scholars from Buffalo and Toronto for informal, wide-ranging discussion of pressing issues in sociolegal research. We invite you to participate in this conversation, which we hope will be the first of an ongoing series.

The conference will be organized around themes and issues—in short, problems—that participants suggest. A problem might be a methodological dilemma, a practical difficulty, a research agenda consideration, or some other conundrum that would benefit from broader discussion.

Contact: Anya Bernstein,

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required for planning purposes.

Buffaronto 2017 Program

The schedule is subject to change

Saturday, September 23, 2017

9:30 a.m.     Breakfast

10:00 a.m.    Welcome from Dean Aviva Abramovsky; Introduction by Anya Bernstein.

—Legal scholars can be quite hostile to ethnographic explorations of legal systems. (The outrage among some legal scholars over Alice Goffman’s On the Run is a prime example.) How does (or should) ethnography fit into, or challenge, legal scholarship’s standard image of empirical research, evidence, and its object of study?  Presenter: Margaret Boittin, Osgoode Hall Law School

—Is it time to move beyond the human in sociolegal research? And how might that work? 
Presenter: Irus Braverman, University at Buffalo School of Law

12:00 Noon    Lunch

1:15 p.m.        Conversations
—Legal discourses within particular nations are often influenced, or even shaped, by relations among nations that may not be explicitly acknowledged. Research about other societies’ law, economics, politics, and culture can thus expand the bounds of knowledge, but at the same time create seeming boundaries and reify differences between cultures and countries. Such differences can then be mobilized as justifications for policies. How does sociolegal research participate in this process, and how should sociolegal scholars address the issues it raises?  Presenter: Li Chen, University of Toronto History Department

—Over the past 40 years Law and Society scholarship has shifted from a more mechanical less constitutive model to a less mechanical more constitutive one.  And yet the reigning understanding of such work has not changed from the structure that Roscoe Pound established 100 years ago – Law on the Books and Law in Action, essentially a law reform project.  Might it not be time to give up on the law reform project and instead shift to an attempt to come to understand the persistence of the seemingly endless reproduced space between legal intent and social expression?  Might it be possible that this space represents a social resistance to legal totalitarianism?  Presenter: J. Schlegel, University at Buffalo School of Law

2:45 p.m.        Coffee Break

3:00 p.m.        Conversations

—In the U.S., police officer shootings of Black civilians have garnered a lot of attention over the last few years. Officers are rarely prosecuted. And when they have been prosecuted, juries have proven very reluctant to convict them, even in cases that seem relatively straightforward on the facts. What would be productive methods to identify some of the factors that lead to this reluctance?  Presenter: Jenn Hunt, Buffalo State Psychology Department

—General discussion and looking to the future.

4:30 p.m.        Reception hosted by the Baldy Center.


Buffaronto 2017 Call for Papers: Call for Problems

The Buffalo-Toronto region is home to a large and diverse population of scholars working in fields related to law and society. Buffaronto Sociolegal Conversations will bring area scholars together for a day of informal discussion about their work. We invite you to participate in this meeting, which we hope will be the first of an ongoing series.

To encourage productive, wide-ranging conversation, the conference will be organized around a few themes that will orient general discussion. Rather than ask presenters to present finished research products, we ask them to introduce an issue that seems important and worthy of discussion. To this end, we invite participants to propose problems or issues for discussion. A problem may be a methodological dilemma, a practical difficulty, a research agenda consideration, or some other conundrum that seems worthy of broader discussion. It should, in some way, illuminate aspects of sociolegal research that the presenter considers particularly important to address. We will select a few problems for presentation, and structure the conference around them.

We will ask presenters to spend a few minutes introducing their issue—whether that means using their problem to exemplify a broader difficulty, considering how other aspects of sociolegal work might address it, seeking collaboration with others, or something else. We will arrange for another participant to offer an initial response before opening to the conversation up to the group. The point will be to focus the group’s attention on an issue that may affect multiple members, and let participants discuss it freely from there. We hope to provide an array of issues for participants to discuss without having to rush through the discussion.

So please consider this invitation a Call for Problems. Email your proposal for a discussion issue to Anya Bernstein,

Whether you present a problem or not, we hope to see you in Buffalo on Saturday, September 23, 2017. We will provide lunch and dinner. The conference is free and open to all. But please do let us know whether you will attend, so we can plan accordingly—please email, along with any logistical questions.

We’re looking forward to the conversation!

  • Anya Bernstein (University at Buffalo, School of Law)
  • David Engel (University at Buffalo, School of Law)
  • Annie Bunting (York University, Social Science)
  • Sida Liu (University of Toronto, Sociology)
  • Mariana Valverde (University of Toronto, Criminology)

Buffaronto 2017 Poster

Buffaronto 2017 Poster File Options