CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Lopez on Participatory Law Scholarship

Rachel López (Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law) has posted Participatory Law Scholarship (Forthcoming in the Columbia Law Review, Vol. 123, 2023) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Drawing from the experience of co-authoring scholarship with two activists who were sentenced to life without parole over three decades ago, this article outlines the theory and practice of “participatory law scholarship” (PLS). PLS is legal scholarship written in collaboration with authors who have no formal training in the law, but rather expertise in its function and disfunction through lived experience. By foregrounding lived experience in law’s injustice, PLS seeks to unearth and disrupt the prevailing narratives undergirding the law. Through amplifying counter-narratives to the law’s dominant discourse, this methodology creates more space for social and legal change. By design, PLS also reminds us of the humanity behind the law, acting as a moral check and balance to the law. Building from the tradition of Critical Race Studies and an emerging body of movement law scholarship, PLS thus aims to press the boundaries of what legal scholarship traditionally looks like by evoking lived experience as evidence and developing legal meaning alongside social movements. Its methodology raises critical questions about how knowledge is produced and by whom, as well as what role legal academics should play in facilitating social change in the material world. The article also responds to skeptics who believe this approach abdicates a scholar’s “moral obligation” to truth, explaining why PLS is not just legitimate, but urgently needed to address the fissures and fault lines law has created.

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