The Central and European Network of Legal Scholars (CEENELS) was established in April 2015 with the aim of creating a counter-balance to the one-sided liason of Central European legal scholars only with Western European and North American academia. In fact, most comparative legal research in our region focus on one selected Central European legal system compared with a number of Western ones (e.g. “Legal institution X in Polish, German and French Law”, or “Legal institution Y in Czech, German and Austrian law”, and so forth). One may legitimately ask – why not “Legal institusion Z in Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian law”?!
The same sadly applies to legal theory, where a large number of Central European scholars limit themselves to importing intellectual transfers from the West and implanting them in our intellectual universe. We all know Dworkin and Hart ad nauseam, but who outside Poland knows Artur Kozak? Or what do Romanian scholars know about Latvian legal theory (and vice versa)? Definitely, there is an immense potential of mutual learning in our region.
The prevailing approaches of one-sided acceptance of intellectual transfers from the West not only do not help Central Europe to exit its peripheral position, but actually amount to a gesture of “self-orientalisation” (as per Said’s notion of Orientalism), accepting and strengthening the position of cultural inferiority inflicted upon us by hegemonic Western discourses.
Agains this background, CEENELS has the ambition of promoting a counter-hegemonic discourse of Central and Eastern European legal identity, underscoring our legal-cultural bonds based on a common past, common juridico-political mentality and common present predicament. To this end, we hope to reinstate Central Europe as a legal family in its own right, distinct both from Western European legal families (Romanic, Germanic, Common Law and Scandinvaian) on the one hand, and the Eurasian legal family (post-Soviet), on the other hand. Believing that legal taxonomy is a matter of social constructivism, we hope to influence the discourses of comparative law with view to reframing the epistemic structures concerning our region. In turn, this can impact both the way we – Central and Eastern European jurists – perceive ourselves, and the way in which we are perceived. Considering the “death and burial” of the Socialist Legal Family as the founding myth of our regional juridical idenity, we posit the succession of the former by two coexistence legal families: the Central European and the Eastern European/Eurasian one.
On a practical level, CEENELS aims at reaching the following strategic objectives:
- strengthening of intellectual and organisational bonds between Central and Eastern European legal scholars and law faculties
- promoting the emergence of joint research projects involving Central and Eastern European researchers, focused on topics concerning our region or important from its perspective
- fostering the elaboration of unique Central and Eastern European research methodologies in legal science, allowing for the development of a distinct school of jurisprudence, in all its facets (dogmatic legal research, legal theory, philosophy of law, sociology of law, legal anthropology, juridico-cultural studies)
- building up a stock of critical legal knowledge concerning the region.
The means towards attaining those goals include, in particular:
- organising Annual Conferences of CEENELS in consecutive Central and Eastern European universities
- disseminating information about other legal conferences in our region
- media patronage over conferences, workshops and seminars (including their promotion on our website and social media accounts)
- exchange of information on research project opportunities with view to creating joint research teams involving scholars from Central and Eastern European countries
- developing a digital library of open-access publications on the legal life of the region.
Until now, we have managed to organise three annual conferences – the 1st one hosted by Masaryk University in Brno, which was devoted to “25 Years After the Transformation” in an attempt to summarise and evaluate the quarter of century dividing us from the destruction of state socialism, and the 2nd one hosted by the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, devoted to “Remnants of Actually Existing Socialism in Legal and Political Thought in CEE”, thereby looking back to the 45 (or 70) years of the Leninist politico-juridical experiment in our region and its survivals in law and politics.
Our 3rd Annual Conference will be held in Riga in January 2018, and will be devoted to “Legal Identities and Legal Traditions in CEE”, in an attempt to consolidate our self-consciousness as a distinct politico-juridical region, both in terms of legal history, legal theory and comparative legal science.