Dr Connal Parsley
Qualifications: PhD, BA(Hons), LLB(Hons), PGCHE
Connal Parsley is Reader (Associate Professor) in Law and a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow. He graduated from the University of Melbourne with degrees in linguistics and law, before practising commercial property and constitutional and administrative law in the Melbourne offices of the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS). An interdisciplinary legal scholar, his research is grounded in critical legal studies, cultural studies, and the humanities, emphasising the need to reinvent central aspects of the legal tradition through new creative and intellectual resources. He has been visiting fellow at the Scuola Normale Superiore (Pisa, Italy), the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing (Berkeley, USA), and Melbourne Law School (Australia).
In 2022 Connal was awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship for his 7-year research project ‘The Future of Good Decisions: An Evolutionary Approach to Human-AI Administrative Decision-Making’. The project takes a new multi-disciplinary approach to the impasse between automated decision-making tools and the core values of the rule of law. It understands AI as a technosocial evolutionary change requiring updated normative principles to guide human-AI administrative decision-making – without clear distinctions between law and code, humans and machines, normative and technical systems. Bringing together philosophies of evolving technosocial ecologies, critical AI studies, decision and design studies, political and legal theory, legal reform, creative practice, and multi-sited ethnographic and creative ‘prefigurative’ research methods, the project aims to collaboratively re-think and re-design administrative decision-making.
Connal’s research is grounded in a longstanding interest in the legal tradition as the institution of human life, currently undergoing transformation through new digital technologies. His work diagnoses the increasingly unworkable conception of the human that underpins juridical notions of critical-ethical reflection and responsibility, and its tension with systems using so-called artificial intelligence: see ‘Automating Authority: The human and automation in legal discourse on the Meaningful Human Control of Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems’ (2021, Routledge Handbook of International Law and the Humanities). His writing on Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has explored Agamben’s work as a new knowledge of law that can evaluate Western legal and theological conceptions of the human. In 2020, he launched the AHRC-funded ‘Law and the Human’ network with Professor Maria Drakopoulou, bringing together scholars from across disciplines to interrogate ‘law’s human’ and how it is impacted by contemporary technoscience, media culture, political economy, and more.
Connal serves on the international advisory committees of the journals Law and Critique and Journal of Italian Philosophy, the book series TechNomos: Law, Technology, Culture (Routledge), and the Serpentine Galleries R&D Platform ‘Legal Lab’. He co-led Kent’s Centre for Critical Thought, which facilitates cross-disciplinary collaborations within and beyond the University, and co-created and directed the Kent Summer School in Critical Theory, held annually in Paris. He is particularly interested in the connections between law, visual culture, and creative practice in interdisciplinary scholarly method, seen in the recent edited collection Interdisciplinarities: Research Process, Method and the Body of Law (Palgrave, 2022), and article, ‘Contemporary Art in the Aftermath of Legal Positivism’ (2022, Pólemos). He is the English translator of several works of contemporary Italian thought by scholars such as Giorgio Agamben, Roberto Esposito, Antonio Negri and Emanuele Coccia, including Esposito’s major 1988 monograph, Categories of the Impolitical (2015, Fordham University Press). Drawing on a palette of contemporary theory including political theology, biopolitics, technosocial theory, materiality studies and philosophies of technology, he is also co-editing the Routledge Handbook of the Lived Experience of Ideology (forthcoming 2023).
- UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship project ‘The Future of Good Decisions’: a 7-year project with an initial budget of £1.25 million, identifying potential normative principles for decisions in evolving techno-social ecologies. It will integrate collaborations from across philosophy, media studies, legal theory, legal practice, the judiciary, and the creative industries, shaping suggestions for the reform of administrative decision-making. The project emphasises collaborative interdisciplinary enquiry, and exploring potential normative principles through prefigurative modelling methods including ‘Live Action Role Play’.
- Law, technology, and automation
- Conceptions of ‘the human’ in legal and technical systems, particularly in relation to decision-making processes and conceptions of quality and evaluation
- Philosophies of technology and technosocial evolution as new normative sources for legal frameworks
- Designed decision systems and the problem of value and evaluation
- The nature of legal theory and jurisprudence, their role in shaping normative systems, and the potential of creative and interdisciplinary methods
Dr Parsley is not currently engaged in teaching due to the award of a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. At Kent, he has taught undergraduate courses in Public Law, Technologies in Legal Practice, Land Law, Critical Legal Theory, and Art, Law and Politics. At postgraduate level he has taught courses in Law and the Humanities.
Dr Parsley is currently accepting applications for postgraduate supervision only in the area of ‘legal design, new technologies and human values’, especially in relation to administrative decision-making. Exceptional applications will also be considered in legal theory and digital technologies, particularly in relation to the question of ‘the human’, philosophy of technosocial ecologies, media, and evolutionary theory.
- Sophie Rogers (PhD): ‘Human-machine interaction in deciding whether or not to medically treat’ (‘Decision Design Ecology’ doctoral project, funded by the University of Kent’s ‘Future Human’ signature research theme. Collaboratively supervised across Kent Law School, the Centre for Health Services Studies, the School of Computing, and the School of English)
- Ed Fairhead (PhD): ‘The anti-spectacle of drone warfare and the legitimation of lethal state force’
- Gian Giacomo Fusco (PhD): ‘The Dark Side of the Law: On the Biopolitical Dimension of Law and Sovereignty’
- Steve Crawford (PhD): ‘A study of Constitution and Legitimacy: Influences of Protestant thinking on perceptions of the legitimacy of constitutional reform as enacted by the 1688 English Bill of Rights’
- Paulo Bacca (PhD): ‘Indigenizing International Law From an Inverse Legal Anthropology: Indigenous Genocide in the Age of Jurisdictional Double Binds’
- Laura Weir (LLM): ‘An Enduring Liberal Institution: How neoliberal victim-centric reforms strengthen the liberal conception of the legitimacy of the criminal trial’
- Sophie Ord (LLM): ‘Canada’s Conduct of Lawful Relations: The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group’s Jurisdictional Entanglements in Non-Aboriginal Law’
- Ed Fairhead (LLM): ‘Schmittian Politics in the Age of Drones: An Analysis of Obama's War on Terror’
- Visiting Scholar 2023, Melbourne Law School, Australia
- Visiting Scholar 2022, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, UC Berkeley, USA
- International Advisory Panel Member, Serpentine Galleries R&D Platform Legal Lab, UK
- International Advisory Board Member: ‘TechNomos: Law, Technology, Culture’ (book series, Routledge)
- Editorial Committee Member, Law and Critique (journal)
- Editorial Board Member, Journal of Italian Philosophy (journal)
- Editorial Committee Member, Exceptions (journal)
- Member, ‘Legal Materialities’ AHRC-funded research network
- Member, ‘Utopian Legalities, Prefigurative Politics, and Radical Governance’ research network
- Member, Law, Literature and the Humanities Association of Australia and New Zealand
- Member, Art/Law Network
- Society of Legal Scholars (UK)
- Association of Critical Legal Scholars (UK)
- American Association for the study of Law, Culture and the Humanities (USA)
- Italian Association of Law and Literature (Italy)
- Affiliate Lecturer, Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy (Australia)