CALL FOR PAPERS - chdaj - Université Libre de Bruxelles

International conference on legal pluralism and human rights
within family disputes in Europe
Ghent (Belgium), 27 October 2015
The increasingly multicultural and transnational makeup of European societies confronts
European states and their institutions with the challenge of unofficial legal pluralism, i.e. the coexistence, alongside state law and justice, of non-state norms and mechanisms for handling
disputes that are based on various cultural and religious traditions. This is a particularly important
issue in the field of family law concerning groups with a migrant background and religious
minorities. On the one hand, these groups may regulate aspects of their family life according to
non-state and hybrid normative orders and have complex expectations towards state justice
institutions. On the other hand, they may resort to non-state mechanisms for handling disputes,
where state, non-state and hybrid normative orders may be at stake. Unofficial legal pluralism
may require state institutions at different levels to address practices that may conflict with state
law and human rights. It also raises questions regarding the extent to which the state can and
should accommodate legal plurality as a dimension of minority rights in order to facilitate
processes of integration, inclusion and social cohesion. In the European context, discourses
concerning migrant groups are often centred around notions of integration and national identity,
based on European myths of cultural homogeneity and the (unrealistic) expectation that cultural
diversity shall diminish and lead to the homogenization of society. At the same time, religious and
cultural diversity are frequently reduced to the narrow spheres of personal belief and lifestyle. In
this context, the existence of religious and cultural norms and mechanisms for handling family
disputes in the shadow of state law is often regarded as a threat to social cohesion and to the
principle of citizens’ equality. Consequently, such plurality may be a-priori rejected without
understanding how it works in practice.
This international conference wants to enhance our empirical knowledge about the dispute
handling practices of religious minorities and groups with a migrant background in the field of
family law in Europe. The conference will pay particular attention to understanding the dynamics
of unofficial forms of legal pluralism that find expression in the mobilization of non-state
normative orders within state forums, as well as in recourse to non-state mechanisms for
handling disputes. On this basis, it will explore the normative implications of these insights in
terms of access to justice and human rights. The conference objectives are twofold. At the
theoretical level, it aims at expanding our understanding of the relationship between legal
pluralism and human rights in the European context, while considering the relevance of legally
plural approaches to human rights access in settings in which, in principle, state justice
institutions are dominant. In addition, it serves as a bridge between theory and practice by
reflecting on how policy makers at different levels can and should take account of these realities.
We especially welcome papers looking at:
 How family law related legal practices involving reference to non-state normative orders,
including Islamic law, are developing within religious minorities and migrant families in
Europe and how these interact with, are mobilized in and are treated by state justice;
How different pathways to (state and non-state) justice involve constraining and / or
facilitating factors and potentialities for legal empowerment and access to human rights;
and how ‘interim’ and ‘hybrid’ approaches to furthering rights, interests and aspirations
can be developed in the context of multicultural Europe, as opposed to more technical
approaches that seek to make plural legal orders compatible with an ‘ideal’ human rights
What normative implications insights concerning legal pluralism in Europe entail,
especially in terms of children and women’s rights and possibilities to accommodate
certain of these minority practices in the secular context of European countries.
Please e-mail abstracts of maximum 350 words and a short bio before April 30, 2015 to
[email protected]
Presenters shall submit a draft paper 8 weeks ahead of the conference. Final papers should be
between 5000 and 8000 words. Selected submissions will be considered for publication in an
edited volume on the conference theme.
About the Beplulex Research project (2011-2015):
This international conference is organized in the framework of the “Beplulex” research project,
which is funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office and conducted by the Human Rights Centre,
Ghent University in collaboration with the Centre d’histoire du droit et d’anthropologie juridique,
Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). This project aims to generate solid empirical knowledge on
unofficial legal practices in the field of family law amongst relevant migrant communities in
Belgium (Moroccan, Turkish, Pakistani and Congolese). The research goal is to better understand
‘pathways to non-state justice’, to analyse these in the light of human rights and to identify policy
options for Belgian policy makers to deal with unofficial legal pluralism.
Research team and conference conveners:
Prof. Dr. Eva Brems, research coordinator,
Prof. Dr. Barbara Truffin, lecturer and research promotor,
Dr. Giselle Corradi, postdoctoral researcher,
Olivier Struelens, doctoral researcher,
Kim Lecoyer, doctoral researcher,
Ghent University – Human Rights Centre
Université Libre de Bruxelles—Centre d’histoire du droit et
d’anthropologie juridique