Being an Academic Today: Thoughts for Undergraduates

This week I went to Dublin to speak at the opening dinner of the Global Summit for the Undergraduate Awards. The dinner, and my speech, were on Wednesday (9 November), and the 150 students being honoured at the dinner came from all over the world. Wednesday, of course, was when people on this side of the Atlantic discovered that Donald Trump had been elected as the 45th President of the United States of America (subject to ratification by the Electoral College, of course). For many people, the election of Trump was a blow to progressivism, human rights, esteem and many other values that we hold dear; it is also perceived by many as part of the slide towards authoritarianism across ‘the West’. Bearing all of this in mind, it was somewhat difficult to craft a speech that would be uplifting, but the below is the text that I settled on. I decided to focus on being an academic in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and on the social value of that role at times like this. Continue reading “Being an Academic Today: Thoughts for Undergraduates”

‘Abandoning the Vanity of Lawyers’: Some Advice for New Law PhDs

Anglia_Ruskin_LogoI was very pleased yesterday to go to Cambridge and give the first of a new series of lectures to PhD students in Anglia Ruskin University. Over the year, the lecture series will bring a number of┬áscholars to the University to speak to PhD students about particular research topics, ideally tailored for the audience. As the inaugural speaker in the series I had plenty of liberty in how I approached it, and so I thought I would reflect on the ten years of my research career (since I started my PhD in 2005). In doing so, I realised that a key lesson I have learned is that there is value in abandoning the vanity of lawyers: law is not always the answer. What I mean by that is a narrow field of enquiry that focuses only on doctrinal law without taking into account the context in which it operates and perspectives from cognate disciplines that will help us to understand the content, (in)adequacies and operation of law (e.g. political science, international relations, sociology, philosophy/political theory, and psychology) can be limited and limiting. Continue reading “‘Abandoning the Vanity of Lawyers’: Some Advice for New Law PhDs”