Some Reflections on Methods in Analysing Law and Time

Senior Common Room - Law Building
Arts and Law, Research
Wednesday 1st November 2017 (13:00-14:00)
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BLS Research Seminar 

Professor Emily Grabham, Kent Law School


In this paper, I will reflect on how our methodological choices as socio-legal scholars influence the concepts of time we’re able to see emerging in our work. My aim is to (1) draw on conversations in constructivist social sciences on how methods create worlds and (2) put this into conversation with the dilemmas we face as socio-legal scholars analysing time. Overall, I'd like the session to help us begin to get to grips with the vertiginous challenges of thinking time differently across law and regulation. My sense is that much of our challenge is to understand what we’re doing ourselves as scholars with the methods we use to perceive and, I would argue, construct time.

The paper will unfold through the following sections:

  • Encountering complexity. I begin by outlining conversations in constructivist social science about the tendency of social science methods to create Euclidean worlds that can’t really cope with non-linear dynamics and flows. This section also focuses on a recent turn towards understanding particular temporalities as materially constructed.
  • Encountering time. The following section hones in on the question of what methodological dilemmas arise when social scientists try to perceive and analyse time, noting particularly how difficult it can be to tackle linear presumptions in widespread and quite foundational social science methods. I introduce a couple of examples of ways that feminist sociologists, in particular, are currently trying to experiment with methods to unpick embedded presumptions of linear causal relationships in social life.
  • Encountering law. With this hopefully in hand, or up in the air, the third section asks what this means for the study of law. If scholars in the social sciences more broadly are having particular problems with time, what happens when law is part of the analysis? What distinct issues emerge and to what extent are socio-legal methods dogged by the same problems as our social science colleagues?