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Theory in Practice: researching race in the Dutch legal archive

On Thursday 23 November, Professor Betty de Hart delivered the lecture ‘Exploring the Legal Archive on Race: Methodological Challenges’ as part of the lecture series ‘Reconsidering the Socio-Legal Gaze’ organized by the Van Vollenhoven Institute. Over 40 people attended the lecture, held online due to COVID measures.

Prof. Betty de Hart

Finding evidence of racialized thinking and practice in the Dutch legal archive is not easy, Professor Betty de Hart told her audience. By casting a wide net, however, exploring cases related to citizenship, migration and child custody, the writings of prominent judges and legal scholars and even popular media coverage, Professor de Hart has found considerable evidence of Dutch lawyers, judges and academics actively constructing racialized categories.

Betty de Hart is a professor of transnational families and migration law at Free University Amsterdam. She is also the recipient of a 2017 European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant for her research project EUROMIX: Regulating Mixed Intimacies in Europe. The project answers the question of whether, how and why ‘mixed’ relationships are regulated in Europe, how ‘mixed’ couples respond to regulation and the role that law and lawyers play in the way in which thinking about ‘race’ has developed in Europe.

Her lecture, ‘Exploring the Legal Archive on Race: Methodological Challenges,’  was the second in the year-long series, ‘Reconsidering the Socio-Legal Gaze’, sponsored by the Van Vollenhoven Institute. Despite having to be moved online due to increased COVID restrictions, the talk had an audience of nearly 40 people, including undergraduates, faculty and several overseas attendees. A lively discussion followed Professor de Hart’s speech, encouraging further inter-university collaboration on the subject.

Reconsidering the Socio-Legal Gaze aims to spark critical debates about the visions of justice and positions of power that inform Law and Society scholarship at Leiden and beyond. The next lecture, on 9 December, is the last of this semester. Dr Upik Djalins will reflect on the birth of socio-legal scholarship in the context of colonial administration in the Dutch East Indies. In January, the series will shift its focus to the future of socio-legal scholarship, welcoming Dr Moshen Al Attar to speak about decolonizing the legal curriculum on 13 January.  


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