The conference on ‘the comparative in socio-legal studies’ held at the CSLS in Oxford on 15-16 December 2014, brought together international representatives of the socio-legal community. Over 60 delegates attended the conference; there was a good mix of students, junior and senior academics who provided a fruitful ground for debate.
The conference was opened with two keynote speeches, David Nelken (From pains-taking comparisons to pain-giving comparisons) and Fernanda Pirie (Comparison in the anthropology and history of law). The parallel sessions allowed covering wide grounds of exploring the comparative: theoretical and analytical perspectives, limits to comparison, regional comparisons (Europe, Asia and the UK), actors and interpretations of comparative in socio-legal studies.
The event showcased the variety of comparative approaches in socio-legal studies, its opportunities and challenges as reflected through a variety of methods of comparative research. The conference did not conclude with an answer to the many questions posed around what do we mean by comparative. Rather it reflected on, and contributed to the mapping of the current debate in the socio-legal community. It was very good to listen to scholars’ varying approaches to, and understandings of, comparative which sparked interesting debates and inquiries.
The conference concluded with a joint panel session which gave the audience a chance to reflect on both qualitative and quantitative approaches, their benefits and difficulties.
Naomi Creutzfeldt, Agnieszka Kubal and Fernanda Pirie