Communities and the(ir) Law

International Online Conference of the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture”

July 1-2, 2021 (via Zoom)

The call for community easily acquires a false tongue: either it points to an imaginary realm of harmonious past or to an invocation of commonalities that obscures actual conflicts. At the same time, this dream is alive in many societies: be it in the form of a “belief in community”, in the deconstruction of “imagined community” or in the search for sources of social cohesion. But is “community” only an ideological formula with assumedly magical qualities, in the wake of which the understanding of law also gets caught up, or does the term still point to a central social and sociological problem in modern societies? Against this background, the international conference “Communities and the(ir) Law” is dedicated to the multi-layered connections between “community” and “law” and asks about their possible relevance for burning questions of our contemporary societies.

The debate begins by reviewing the history of the concept of community in social theory, with a special focus on its connections to law, in order to analyze systematic connections between community formation and normativity in a second step. In an ideal-typical comparison, societal communities and their law will then be examined: from the Islamic world to exemplary analyses of China and Nigeria to the pluralism of community forms and normative orders in Indian society. Finally, new forms of community are addressed, which are linked to the transformation and crisis experiences of the present: What role does law play in the construction of gender and identity categories? How can we step out of the anthropocentric worldview and treat things as bearers of rights, perhaps trying to think a “community of things” that also affects our understanding of law? Can we confront climate change at all if we are not prepared to extend the idea of “community” and “commonality” to include nature? And what new forms of community building go hand in hand with the ongoing process of digitalisation and the possible emergence of a digital legal culture, as well as with the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic that we have to endure as part of a global pandemic community?

The international conference “Communities and the(ir) Law” will explore these and other questions on the relationship between community and law. The conference will take place online (via Zoom). To participate in the event, registration is required by 27 June 2021 at:

Werner Gephart and Daniel Witte

Conference program for download:
The invitation flyer with the complete program can be found here, the poster for the conference here.