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RIT College of Liberal Arts
Conable Conference in International Studies

April 12-14, 2012


RIT ------ College of Liberal Arts ------ Program in International Studies ------ Conable Endowment in International Studies ------ The Department of Sociology and Anthropology ------ Cornell University Department of History

About the 2012 Conable Conference

The Conable Conference in International Studies is grateful to the following individuals who have offered their time in service to the conference advisory board.

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Richard L. Roberts, Frances & Charles Field Professor in History and Director of the Center for African Studies, Stanford University

Steven Yale-Loehr, Miller Mayer LLP and Adjunct Professor Cornell Law School

Judi Byfield, Associate Professor of History, Cornell University

Conerly Casey, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rochester Institute of Technology

Taryn Clark, Director and Co-Founder, Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights

Iris Berger, Professor of History, University at Albany

Tricia Redeker Hepner, Associate Professor Anthropology, University of Tennessee

Karen Musalo, Clinical Professor of Law, & Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, University of California, Hastings College of the Law

Paul Finkelman, President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Susan Dicklitch, Professor of Government, Associate Dean of the College, Director, The Ware Institute for Civic Engagement, Franklin and Marshall College

Bettina Ng'weno, Associate Professor of African-American and African Studies, University of California, Davis

Penny Andrews, Associate Dean & Professor of Law, City University of New York

Meredith Terretta, Assistant Professor of History, University of Ottowa

Katherine Luongo, Assistant Professor of History, Northeastern University

Catherine Boone, Long Chair Fellow, Department of Government, University of Texas, Austin

Evan Selinger, Department of Philosophy, RIT

Asylum petitions and refugee status determinations are rich documentary archives tethered to discrete legal contexts – variously, immigration tribunals, courts of appeal, panels of experts or citizen-subjects, according to jurisdiction – by knowledge and expertise. Embedded within asylum and refugee narratives, and their successive iterations in rulings, judgments, country of origin (COI) information, appeals and precedents, are analytical categories, constructed identities, and personal narratives of fear, trauma and violence. And a paradoxical relationship is unfolding, insofar as new knowledge is produced, but it emerges in Western courts and rarely in the Global South.

Expert testimony in support of, and occasionally in opposition to, asylum petitions and refugee status determination, features prominently in North American and European courts and elsewhere. It is well known in the legal community that petitions and appeals accompanied by expert reports have a significantly greater likelihood of success. And just as courts are increasingly drawing upon expert testimony in judicial deliberations about asylum seekers and refugees, expertise is emerging as an academic “niche industry” with attendant standards, protocols and guidelines, mirroring those of legal fields with a longer tradition of expertise, such as patent, copyright and intellectual property. Moreover, while experts may often postulate from a disciplinary locus, the venues featuring and authorities drawing upon expertise increasingly expose scholarship to the interdisciplinarity of law, activism and social justice.

We seek empirical, analytical, and theoretical scholarship from any disciplinary, cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspective exploring how experts and legal fora construct or have historically constructed Africa, and expertise pertaining to Africa and the Global South in comparative perspective. Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the construction of ethnic, religious, racial, national, age, (dis)ability, gender, health, sexual and other identities; the emergence of analytical and social categories, such as female genital ‘mutilation’, domestic violence, trafficking and ‘re-trafficking’; forced marriage; the role of precedent; the place of history and memory; the role of customary law; the emergence of and constitutionality of new legal venues for asylum and refugee status; the concept of legal convergence; the legal basis of credibility and/or plausibility; the determination of and granting of standing as an expert; mediation by the non-governmental sector; physiological, medical and psychiatric expertise; substantiation and proof of torture claims; competing modes of governance; historical patterns in the deployment of expertise in history; the emergence of specialized industries and new academic sub-disciplines, including, but not limited to ‘forensic linguistic’ analysis, country of origin research, and nationally-mandated research directorates; the pedagogy and clinical practice of asylum, refugee, and immigration law; and issues pertaining to human subject protocols, including confidentiality, consent, discovery, and disclosure. We welcome any additions to possible topics.

Abstracts of proposed papers of 1-2 pages and a CV for review by the multidisciplinary steering committee are due by September 30, 2011 by email to BNL@RIT.EDU. Papers may not be published or accepted for publication elsewhere. Prospective participants should indicate any and all sources of funding for travel and accommodation. Limited financial assistance is available and will be prioritized for those from the Global South. Decisions will be made in October 2011. Short drafts of 10 pages for consideration and comment by the consulting committee are due by December 1, 2011. Papers of 25-35 pages for pre-circulation among all participants are due by February 1, 2012. Registration is required of all participants.

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