2015-16 has been a busy first year for the Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice project! We are publishing a series of blog posts to let you know about the range of activities we have completed, and the events still to come. We have already been treated to Ben Morris’ view of his summer placement with us, and if you missed our Colloquium at Leeuwarden, catch up on the papers in our Storify. In September, just before the major Colloquium, we had a Postgraduate Conference on the theme of Conflict and Resolution, where a team of three MA students from Cardiff University had the chance to put together their first such event, under the guidance of Dr Jenny Benham and Dr Melissa Julian-Jones.
Here is William Buck’s report on the Conflict and Resolution conference, which was a great achievement for the MA students who volunteered for the task, and a great opportunity to enrich their experiences – not only of academic life, but also transferable skills!
At the end of the 2014-2015 academic year a selection of students, including ourselves, were asked by Dr Jenny Benham if we would like to take part in a two week research placement with her on a variety of topics and fields. When the two weeks were up we were all gathered and debriefed our findings to Jenny, where she then asked the opened ended question if any of us would like to take this working relationship further with her and organise a conference within the university. A few of us, Dan Jewson, Jacob Deacon and Will Buck, jumped at this opportunity and the committee for organising the Conflict and Resolution conference was born.
At our initial meeting with Jenny, she set out the parameters of what she desired, which was extremely helpful as none of us had organised a conference before and some of us had not attended one before either. We spent the next few months meeting regularly, and organising the call for papers, the venue, catering [and each other on occasion!] caused us to be in constant contact with one another. None of this would have been able to have been achieved without Jenny’s hand firmly on the tiller, redirecting us when we drifted slightly too far off course and Melissa Julian-Jones who was very kindly always on hand to help with the room booking and catering requests.
When the 14th of September came around it was both a day of excitement and also nerves. There had been a few last moment dropouts, sadly including Dan Jewson, who could not see the fruit of his labours come to fruition due to family commitments; however the majority of people who said they could speak did so. The programme had to be altered to better reflect the make-up of the conference and it was decided to only have three sessions but lengthen them to allow more time for questions. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the quality of the papers was so strong that many questions were raised, asked and answered, and not all by Jenny! A special mention should also be made here to Jon Langston who the night before offered to do a double length paper on the Rex Sacrorum, a topic on which he has spent a significant amount of time and on which he is rapidly becoming the definitive authority.
Jon’s paper was one of a variety of papers we had ranging from the Rex Sacrorum to scorned girlfriends and Confucianism in China. Many of the topics were new to the majority of those who attended, however this did not dampen the spirit of inquiry and all speakers were greeted with enthusiasm and poignant questions once they had finished their paper. For many of the speakers too this was their first conference however that was not clear from the concise manner in which their papers were delivered, and any listeners could be forgiven for thinking that they had spoken at a conference before.
It was with mixed pleasure that we often had to curtail the questions at the end of a session as we were over-running and did not want to allow less time for the speakers in the later sessions as a result of the deep interest in the papers before. Not once was there a lack of questions and we are certain that the discussion which came about from the papers would have continued for twice as long as we allowed, had the time been available. It was pleasingly noted that throughout the day as people got to know each other better that the atmosphere during the discussions and the lavish tea breaks became more relaxed and discussion flowed from where people had come from to what life after university holds. An extremely terrifying topic!
It was with this sense of comradery that the round table discussion began led by Jenny. She questioned the relationship conflict has with resolution and even how we define conflict in the first place. Our understanding of each other’s papers, our own, and the topic in general, grew as we debated the similarities between the papers we had heard and current events and ideas. Human nature was a recurring theme, and it was asked if the conflicts we had identified were typical to only the culture which we had studied, or to all of human kind. Our answers were different in relation to each paper, although we recognised that love, the theme in Katrina Anderson’s paper, appeared to be a universal cause of conflict and therefore was always in need of resolution.
A broad conclusion from the day was that conflict was and is everywhere in human life and resolution follows it, in face at least, which is why we were able to have such a varied collection of papers. This variety led to a fascinating day and informative discussion, and the feedback from everyone who attended was that they would very willingly do so again. What more endorsement does one need?! The experience of organising it was a hopefully not a unique one and an enjoyable challenge which the three of us would do so again if asked.
We would therefore like to thank Jenny and Melissa for all of their guidance and giving us the opportunity for this experience; Cardiff University Catering for the excellent spread they provided at lunch along with copious amounts of tea and coffee, and for everyone who attended for their attendance and fascinating papers we were all treated to. Until next time!
Dan, Jacob and Will