Call For Applications: University of Lucerne, Summer School, Law and Humanities

From Steven Howe, University of Lucerne:

Call for Applications


Critical Times 2024


Summer School in Law and Humanities

University of Lucerne, 3-7 June 2024


In his 2011 book The Right to Look, Nicholas Mirzoeff offers a compelling account of visuality as an “old word for an old practice”, whereby “domination imposes the sensible evidence of its legitimacy” (Mirzoeff 2011). As an exertion of authority over ‘looking’, visuality is not just about images and their meanings, or about the circuits of their production, circulation and consumption. It also refers to the intersection of power with representation, and to the rules and resources that govern the very limits of the visible and the invisible.


In this critical spirit, the 2024 summer school Un/Seen invites postdocs, ECRs and graduate students from a range of disciplines and backgrounds to join together for a week of critical discussion on the interplay between law, politics and visuality. We aim to open a space for exploring the relations between modes of visual authority and what Mirzoeff terms “countervisualities” that endeavour to challenge dominant regimes of the sensible – legal, political or aesthetic. Traversing diverse contexts and theoretical frameworks, our goal is to spark reflection and new thinking on the dynamics of presence and absence, visibility and invisibility, and on the conditions of seeing and not seeing, of being seen and unseen.


Issues to be considered may include:

  • What visual forms and resources are central to the imaginaries that modalise and valorise power?
  • What counter-imaginaries challenge or provide new readings of the institutionalised visual histories of modernity?
  • How do contemporary technologies and visual media facilitate new forms of in/visibility? In what ways do they sustain, extend, or destabilise the workings of state power and governmentality?
  • How are practices of surveillance and control shored up by architectural and spatial frames? How do they perpetuate the divisions between the seen and unseen?
  • How do visual regimes (re)shape our affective relations to concepts such as citizenship and belonging, identity and selfhood, rights and responsibilities?
  • How do countervisual practices interrupt the power of visuality and assert the right to look?
  • In what ways are contemporary forms of activism, protest, resistance and refusal implicated in visuality and the aesthetic?
  • In what ways and in which contexts is the question of visuality and countervisuality urgent in the fast-ramifying crises of the twenty-first century?


Walter Benjamin pronounced that “history decays into images not stories” (Benjamin 1999). Octavio Paz took a different view: “We must oppose … not with another image – all images have the fatal tendency to become petrified – but with criticism, the acid that dissolves images” (Paz 1970). A joint venture of six partner institutions on five continents, the 2024 Critical Times summer school offers the perfect environment for thinking through and responding to these and other provocations.


Programme & Activities


This year’s summer school will follow the model developed for last year’s successful event. In the morning, interdisciplinary seminars will be delivered by expert faculty from our partner institutions and beyond. In the afternoon, research colloquia will allow participants to present and develop their own work in a diverse and supportive environment. The evenings will be given over to a mixture of special events and social activities. The summer school thus offers a memorable opportunity to join a community of scholars and writers from around the world, and to establish lasting contacts, networks, and friendships.


Confirmed speakers include:

  • Mieke Bal (Professor Emeritus in Literary Theory, University of Amsterdam)
  • Desmond Manderson (Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Law, Arts and Humanities, The Australian National University)
  • Greta Olson (Professor of English and American Literary and Cultural Studies, University of Giessen)
  • Julen Etxabe (Canada Research Chair in Jurisprudence and Human Rights, University of British Columbia)
  • Shane Chalmers (Assistant Professor of Law, University of Hong Kong)
  • Steven Howe (Senior Research Fellow in Law and Humanities, University of Lucerne)


Further speakers will be announced shortly. Full programme details will be constantly updated here as information becomes available.




Applications are invited from postdocs, ECRs and graduate students – of all disciplinary backgrounds – with research interests across law, critical theory and the humanities. Full application details here.


Deadline: 29 February 2024




The registration fee for the full week is CHF 400.-. This includes tuition, materials, lunches, coffee breaks and social events.


Please note that the fee does not include accommodation. Participants are required to make their own arrangements. A list of possible accommodation options is available on request.




The Critical Times series is a network-based collaboration led by

  • Institute for Interdisciplinary Legal Studies – lucernaiuris, University of Lucerne
  • Centre for Law, Arts and Humanities, The Australian National University


in association with

  • Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, University of Virginia
  • Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Witwatersrand
  • Faculty of Law, University of Roma Tre
  • Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong