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About the Critical Legal Conference

The Critical Legal Conference (‘CLC’) is an annual gathering of critical and radical legal scholars from all over the world, which takes place at the beginning of September. In contrast to most annual conferences, the CLC is characterised by its informal spirit - it has no overarching organisational structure, and each year the conference meeting decides where it will be hosted the following year.

Each year the conference chooses where the next CLC will be held and the next hosts choose the general theme of the conference, with recent examples being ‘law and the political’; ‘reconciliation and reconstruction’; ‘the gardens of justice’; and 'turning points'. In September 2017 the CLC returns to the University of Warwick. It last was in Warwick in 1994 when the theme was 'Legal Identities/Global Cultures'.


This year's theme of Catastrophe is not simply a response to our current situation, to trends in politics and law, or indeed simply to theoretical eddies and streams. Warwick is famous for the 'Catastrophe theory' explored initially by French mathematician René Thom in 1972, but developed and disseminated by Christopher Zeeman, the founder of Warwick’s world-leading Mathematics Institute. Zeeman sought to explore the topology of what he termed catastrophe and so identify the structures in which rupture and dramatic change occurred. More than this he attempted to expand the theory from Maths, into many other fields in which revolutionary change occurred, from the psychology of the creative mind to the collapse of stock markets to social upheaval. As such catastrophe theory formed an important stage in the move towards chaos theories in the 1980s and provided, through its linkage with Thom’s continued work, an important point of reference for understanding the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze in The Fold. Christopher Zeeman died in February 2016, his testament being a profound commitment to the creative rupture that inaugurates the best mathematics and philosophy.

It is also important to think about Catastrophe in Warwick, sitting as we do beside Coventry which has suffered two major catastrophes in the last century. The conflagration that engulfed the city during the second world war reduced its medieval lanes and by-ways to ashes. From these ashes, a new gleaming motor city grew, with a fully pedestrianized city center and ‘modern’ road infrastructure. As the ‘Detroit of the Midlands’, Coventry’s fate was sealed with the oil crisis in the 1970s and the attendant collapse. But it is a city! A living space of building and rebuilding, an oeuvre as Lefebvre would insist. As such, the spectacular destruction is matched by the quiet and constant production, work, life, law, space. We hope you will take the opportunity to explore beyond the campus.