Gender and Cultural Studies seminar series 16 August – School of Humanities Gender and Cultural Studies seminar series 16 August – School of Humanities

Gender and Cultural Studies seminar series 16 August

The Campaign for Legal Personhood for the Great Barrier Reef: Finding Political and Pedagogical Value in Spectacular Failures

This paper examines the campaign for legal personhood for the Great Barrier Reef launched by the Environmental Defenders Office of North Queensland in 2014. Although this campaign has been unofficially shelved following funding cuts to the EDO, the paper argues that it still provides a useful chance to think through the practicality and politics of some of the current experiments in environmental law, especially contemporary attempts to expand legal definitions of personhood. The EDO campaign is held up to critical scrutiny by considering its practical efficacy, environmental merits, conceptual foundations and ethico-political import, especially in relation to indigenous justice. It argues that such experiments are to be welcomed, whether as immediate opportunities, thought experiments, or pressure points, and that public and scholarly discussion of the legal personhood mechanism needs to be alert to the dangers of unknowingly and ironically replicating dominant power relations while seeking to overthrow them, but also of shutting down alternatives at precisely the moment we need them most.  

Ruth Barcan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies and is an affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney. Her teaching and research are centred on embodiment, the senses and everyday life, with a particular interest in everyday practices of sustainability. In recent years she has studied the environmental dimensions of the revival of domestic chicken-keeping in Sydney. Her current research centres on everyday life as a space of informal environmental education. Ruth is the author of Academic Life and Labour in the New University: Hope and Other Choices (2013); Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Bodies, Therapies, Senses (2011), Nudity: A Cultural Anatomy (2004), and the co-editor of Imagining Australian Space: Cultural Studies and Spatial Inquiry (1999) and Planet Diana: Cultural Studies and Global Mourning (1997).


The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies hosts a lively departmental research seminar series. Participants include staff, associates and postgraduate students from the department, as well as presenters from other University of Sydney departments and from outside, both nationally and internationally.

Please join us after the seminar for drinks at the Holme Courtyard Bar

Everyone is welcome to attend.

2019 Seminar Series convenors:
Thom van Dooren and Shawna Tang
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Aug 16 2019


2:30 pm - 4:00 pm


This event is free


Old Geology Lecture Theatre


Gender and Cultural Studies
+61 2 9351 2759

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