Portrait of Dr Connal Parsley

Dr Connal Parsley

Senior Lecturer
Senior Tutor
Deputy Director, Centre for Critical Thought

About

Qualifications: PhD, BA(Hons), LLB(Hons), PGCHE 

Connal Parsley is a graduate of the University of Melbourne, where he completed undergraduate degrees with honours in linguistics and law. He practised law in the Melbourne offices of the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS), primarily in the fields of commercial property and related constitutional law. This experience informs his teaching of property law, legal practice ethics, and critical approaches to legal theory. 

An interdisciplinary legal scholar, his work is associated with the law and humanities, critical legal studies, and cultural legal studies movements. He has particular interests in law and visual culture, especially concerning the figure of the human in historical perspective. He is also interested in current changes in legal thought that respond to technological change, understanding law as a creative practice using cultural technology. 

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). 

He is Deputy Director of the University’s Centre for Critical Thought, which facilitates cross-disciplinary collaborations within and beyond the University of Kent, and Co-Director of the Kent Summer School in Critical Theory, held annually in Paris. He is currently organising a series of seminars and artist talks on “Art, Law, and Politics”, exploring the political and juridical elements of contemporary art praxis. He has also recently been working in collaboration with the artistic learning space Open School East, in Margate, and is the founder of the art-and-law mailing list.

Research interests

Connal’s research and teaching lie within interdisciplinary humanistic approaches to law, understanding law as a technical and cultural institution that shapes human life and relations. His work critically addresses concrete legal and cultural praxes and evaluates them through philosophical, political and jurisprudential enquiry, often focusing on examples where images and visual media interact with the exercise of lawful force. As a critical legal scholar, he examines how legal and extra-legal elements construct authority, and legitimise legal power.

He is the primary investigator of a new research network, “Law and the Human”, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council for 2019-2021. The network will enable legal studies scholars to collaborate with cultural industries, industry practitioners and policy developers. The aim is to identify core themes, questions and potential approaches to the human and its relationship to law—from social justice to social networks, from reproductive medicine to moral rights in the age of technical reproduction—and discover what image of the human emerges from the contemporary legal field as we stand on the cusp of a new technological and potentially “post-human” age.

Connal's PhD presented an original re-reading of contemporary Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. It situated Agamben’s work as offering both an alternative to the project of critical legal studies, and a resource for reinventing Western legal and theological traditions. Building on this analysis, his recent work addresses the limits and emerging possibilities of the legal tradition in addressing social justice and ethics, in the present era of rapid technological, social and environmental change. 

He is currently working on two major research projects. The first, a monograph drawing on his doctoral thesis, uses the work of Giorgio Agamben to consider the contemporary situation of the thought of law. Agamben is presented as an alternative resource for reorienting the Western legal tradition in the coming phase of human history, which is already marked by technological changes that destabilise the central presuppositions of law’s “anthropological function”. 

The second project is about legal personhood as the normative institution of the human, taking a cultural legal studies approach grounded in the law and humanities tradition. His sole- and co-authored publications in this project to date have addressed personhood as a question of jurisprudential technique, dispositifs, and the construction of “natural” life. More recent work focuses on the cultural technologies through which the conceptual architecture of the legal person is produced; above all the historical correlation between theories of the image and normative political propositions about personhood. The project asks how new post-representational images, made via emerging technologies and practices, interact with our political and juridical norms of personhood, which have until now been understood through a strictly representational paradigm of images, persons, and political communities.

Teaching

Connal teaches Undergraduate law in the fields of Land, Art, Politics and Critical Legal Theory. At Postgraduate level he teaches in areas associated with Law and the Humanities.

Supervision

Connal is happy to supervise research in all areas of law and humanities, critical legal theory and jurisprudence, political theory, political theology, contemporary Italian thought, law, art and visual culture, law ethics and technology, indigenous legal issues, and critical approaches to property. 

Current supervisions 

  • Ed Fairhead (PhD, first supervisor): “The anti-spectacle of drone warfare and the legitimation of lethal state force” 
  • Paulo Bacca (PhD, second supervisor): “Indigenizing International Law From an Inverse Legal Anthropology: Indigenous Genocide in the Age of Jurisdictional Double Binds” 
  • Steve Crawford (PhD, second supervisor): “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” 
  • Naomi Woods (LLM, co-supervisor): “What can be learnt about property law through engagement with a low impact intentional community?” 
  • Sophie Ord (LLM, co-supervisor): “Canada’s Conduct of Lawful Relations: The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group’s Jurisdictional Entanglements in Non-Aboriginal Law” 

Past supervisions

  • Ed Fairhead (LLM): “Schmittian Politics in the Age of Drones: An Analysis of Obama's War on Terror” 
  • Gian Giacomo Fusco (PhD): “The Dark Side of the Law: On the Biopolitical Dimension of Law and Sovereignty” 
  • Laura Weir (LLM): “An Enduring Liberal Institution: How neoliberal victim-centric reforms strengthen the liberal conception of the legitimacy of the criminal trial” 

Professional

  • Editorial Board Member, Journal of Italian Philosophy 
  • Editorial Board Member, Anthem Handbooks of Critical Thought (Anthem Press) 
  • Executive Committee Member, Law, Literature and the Humanities Association of Australia and New Zealand 
  • Collaborating 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) 

Publications

Article

  • Mussawir, E. and Parsley, C. (2017). The Law of Persons Today: At the Margins of Jurisprudence. Law and Humanities [Online] 11:44-63. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17521483.2017.1320041.
    Recent decisions have given legal identity to rivers such as Te Awa Tupua in New Zealand, and the Ganges and Yamuna in India, effectively treating them as having all the rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. Looking at such cases, in which the enduring fiction of the legal person is extended over an increasingly wide range of referents, we are reminded that this fiction is anything but marginal – especially in the law of any jurisdiction influenced, however indirectly, by Roman jurisprudence. This paper begins from the point of view that the anthropological embedding of the juridical person ought not to be anachronistically attributed to the Roman ‘law of persons’ in which its craft originated. Rather, we suggest, the well-known Christian metaphysicalization of the juridical person as a moral entity not only adds to but also transforms and displaces that law as a juristic enterprise. What is marginalized in this sense is in fact Roman law's discrete and self-conscious techniques of shaping the legal person. This chapter aims not just to highlight the familiar fate of the person under the influence of church doctrine, but also to draw a contemporary inspiration – and, more cautiously, a critical potential – from a return to a casuistic, concrete and immanent conception of the jurisprudential art of crafting the person. Rather than argue for the inclusion of excluded identities within law's categories (thus extending such categories but doing nothing to challenge the often heteronormative construction of the identities it encompasses), this chapter asks what would it mean to return to an ‘experimental’ law of persons (or a ‘profaned’ art of fashioning the person, in Giorgio Agamben's sense)? Might this eventually be a path by which to liberate juristic technique to new uses?
  • Coccia, E. (2012). End of Love. Discipline:13-15.
    What is it that is ruined, what is it that is destroyed in us, each time we become an image? It is our ruin that awakens after our death, living no longer as a man; without humanity. In being loved we give up our most human guise: we let it die little by little, until nothing remains but its corpse. More precisely, its image. For this reason, it is only insofar as we are loved--as images--that we are completely individual. Only in love is a life made truly singular, taking leave of its common nature. An individual's most authentic substance exists, in fact, only as an image. This is why no-one will ever be able to love a people, a race, a community. If what is loved is, demonically, this absolute haecceity without species, then love love liberates us from every resemblance. Without love, every life again becomes generic, resuming obvious, universal characteristics, losing its demonic nature and becoming human.
  • Parsley, C. (2011). Christian Thompson and the Art of Indigeneity. Discipline:34-37.
  • Parsley, C. (2010). The Mask and Agamben: The Transitional Juridical Technics of Legal Relation. Law, Text and Culture [Online] 14:12-39. Available at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/ltc/vol14/iss1/3.
    Italian theorist Giorgio Agamben is well known for his complex critique of the institution and praxis of thought in the west, and in particular for taking aim at a constellation of ontologico-political structures denoted by the term ‘juridical’. Within this endeavour, Agamben provides a critique of the metaphysical subject and of the related notion of the person. Specifically, for Agamben the figure of the human is structured and produced by the dignitas: the image or mask which bridges the juridical, moral or ‘natural’ person, and the condition of their appearance within law and political life. As he wrote in a recent collection of essays: ‘Persona originally means “mask” and it is through the mask that the individual acquires a role and a social identity’ (2009c: 71).
  • Esposito, R. (2009). Preface to Categories of the Impolitical. Diacritics [Online] 39:99-115. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/dia.2009.0010.
  • Parsley, C. (2005). Public Art, Public Law. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies [Online] 19:239-253. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10304310500084509.
  • Parsley, C. (2003). Performing the Border: Australia’s Judgment of ‘Unauthorised Arrivals’ at the airport. Australian Feminist Law Journal 18:55-76.
    This paper examines the process of interviewing unauthorised arrivals at Australian
    airports to determine whether they have a prima facie claim for asylum. Through focusing on
    this initial inclusion or exclusion, attention is drawn to the processes of maintaining a border.
    As a judgment is performed on an interviewee, so the border is augured into being. From within
    a postcolonial approach to the national border as a liminal enaction, the paper addresses the
    place of law in securing exclusion, and the place of exclusion in securing national identity.
    These two related tropes are considered through the language of universality which, it is shown,
    is an assimilative technology leaving no room for the ethics of alterity which could enable an
    ethical legal engagement between Australia and those who arrive at its borders in need of
    asylum.

Book section

  • Parsley, C. (2013). The Animal Protagonist: representing ’the animal’ in law and cinema. In: Mussawir, E. and Otomo, Y. eds. Law and the Question of the Animal: A Critical Jurisprudence. Routledge, pp. 10-34.
  • Parsley, C. (2013). ’A Particular Fetishism’: Love, law and the image in Agamben. In: Frost, T. ed. Giorgio Agamben: Legal, Political and Philosophical Potentialities. Routledge, pp. 31-53.
  • Parsley, C. (2012). Para-protest: reading a parody of police gesture as political protest with Giorgio Agamben. In: Douzinas, C., Wall, I. rua and Stone, M. eds. New Critical Legal Thinking. Birkbeck Law Press, pp. 67-88.
  • Parsley, C. (2011). Dictionary entries (Law, Image, St. Paul, Contemporary, the Face, Nudity). In: Murray, A. and Whyte, J. eds. The Agamben Dictionary. Edinburgh University Press.
    In recent years Agamben's work has gained prominence for its incisive critique of the Western political tradition. Yet this has often resulted in a selective reading of his broad body of work, rather than one that addresses it as a complex whole. The Agamben Dictionary has brought together leading and emerging scholars from across the world to provide this essential overview of his work.
  • Parsley, C. (2011). Seasons in the Abyss: Reading the Void in Cubillo. In: Orford, A. ed. International Law and Its Others. Cambridge University Press, pp. 100-128.

Internet publication

  • Negri, A. (2014). Some Reflections on the #ACCELERATE MANIFESTO [Blog]. Available at: http://criticallegalthinking.com/2014/02/26/reflections-accelerate-manifesto/.
    Toni Negri reflects on the recent #ACCELERATE MANIFESTO, insisting upon the re-?appropriation and disruption of capitalist modes of development and thought.

Monograph

  • Esposito, R. (2015). Categories of the Impolitical. Fordham University Press.
    The notion of the “impolitical” developed in this volume draws its meaning from the exhaustion of modernity’s political categories, which have become incapable of giving voice to any genuinely radical perspective. The impolitical is not the opposite of the political but rather its outer limit: the border from which we might glimpse a trajectory away from all forms of political theology and the depoliticizing tendencies of a completed modernity.

    The book’s reconstruction of the impolitical lineage—which is anything but uniform—begins with the extreme conclusions reached by Carl Schmitt and Romano Guardini in their reflections on the political and then moves through a series of encounters between several great twentieth-century texts: from Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution to Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil, to Elias Canetti’s Crowds and Power; from Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots to Georges Bataille’s Sovereignty to Ernst Junger’s An der Zeitmauer.

    The trail forged by this analysis offers a defiant counterpoint to the modern political lexicon, but at the same time a contribution to our understanding of its categories.

Thesis

  • Ord, S. (2019). Canada’s Conduct of Lawful Relations: The Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group’s Jurisdictional Entanglements in Non-Aboriginal Law.
    The Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group are fighting for legal recognition of their property rights with respect to their unceded lands located in British Columbia, Canada. In examining the available literature surrounding the British Columbia Treaty Commission, it is clear that the domestic processes for negotiation have been structured in such a way so that Aboriginal narratives and laws have been foreclosed upon by the legal architecture and language that underwrites the negotiations between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal governments. The Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group's decision to apply to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights rather than continue with domestic remedies through the courts or treaty-making process represents a chance to compare the two legal spaces. The comparison is made through the use of a praxis of jurisdiction, which is a technique that can explore the ways in which person, places, or events make contact with the body of law. The focus of such a jurisdictional endeavour is to use the magnifying lens of jurisdictional thinking to uncover the landscape of legal practice as it is manifest in the two Commissions. Specifically, jurisdictional thinking is about the quality of lawful relations, bringing in to focus the texture of the relationships between the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group and Non-Aboriginal governments. The Inter-American Commission generates very different opportunities for the articulation of legal relationships, and as such the jurisdictional perspective uncovers the need for Canada to take seriously its commitment to an ethic of responsibility in its conduct of lawful relations, and a pressing need to reconfigure the mechanics of domestic law to make room for different legal scaffolding.
  • Fusco, G. (2017). Form of Life: Agamben and the Biopolitical Dimension of Sovereignty and Law.
    Giorgio Agamben's work is a constant presence in the current critical debate over sovereign power, law and politics. With the more than two decades long series Homo sacer, he has traversed the borders of academic disciplines, providing renewed sources of inquiry for the orientation before the contemporary widespread and violent biopolitical-economic administration of life. This research project investigates some of the central themes of the critical account of legal and political thought that Agamben has offered in his works. The eight chapters composing this thesis are conceived as specific theoretical paths through Agamben's oeuvre, which in their autonomy and mutual interaction aim at offering a, hopefully, meaningful contribution to the field of continental legal philosophy.
    In this work, I argue that Agamben's Homo sacer project provides a fundamental theoretical framework for the comprehension of the role and functions of law and sovereign power in biopolitical regimes. The central thesis that this project advances is that Agamben's interrogation of juridical and political thought and of ontology uncover a missing link in the problematic separation of sovereignty and law from governmental practices that the discourse on biopolitics has inadvertently inherited from Foucault's work. Agamben succeeds in doing this in two main ways: first, he redefined the contours of the theory of sovereignty in relation to biopolitics (shading light over the tight bond that ties together sovereign power, life and governmental practices); second, with the idea of "form of life" he has disclosed a biopolitical interpretation of law, providing, also, the ground for an innovative theory of the subject.
    This work, thus, is structured in two parts. The first part has been organised around Agamben's engagement with the question of sovereign power. Rather than focusing on the problems of the state of exception or the camp - given that the critical literature on such topics is more than abundant - I proceed with the analysis of sovereignty, as a "normalising power", in its relation to life and the idea of government. The second part of the thesis, instead, has been devoted to the disentanglement of the
    concept of the "form of life". A form of life is a life that has been put-in-form, actualised in a given (legal or social) institution, and trapped under the yoke of sovereign power. While the tone and the plane of analysis of the two parts could be sometimes divergent, they intersect on a central point: sovereignty as the power to establish the criteria of normality of the political community, to decide on the forms of life that are "inside or outside" the legal and political order. Sovereignty, in this regard, lays down, from time to time, the limits of the social and political life of the state, and in doing so, decide which forms of "life" are a part of it (and thus worthy of protection), and which are excluded.
  • Weir, L. (2017). AN ENDURING LIBERAL INSTITUTION: HOW NEOLIBERAL VICTIM-CENTRIC REFORMS STRENGTHEN THE LIBERAL CONCEPTION OF THE LEGITIMACY OF THE CRIMINAL TRIAL.
    'For too long victims have felt they are treated as an afterthought in the criminal justice system. This must change... I am absolutely determined that victims are given back their voice ...' (Damian Green MP, Minister for Victims).
    This thesis considers the impact on the legitimacy of the trial of a raft of recent, victim-centric reforms to the English criminal trial process. For some time the conception of the English criminal trial has been as a settled, liberal institution, in the tradition of an adversarial conflict between the state and the defendant. The focus of the proceedings has been on the defendant, and other than usually being the trigger for an investigation, the status of the victim in the trial process has been no different to that of any other witness. The legitimation of the process has rested on the liberal justification of the deprivation of the liberty of the accused only following conviction in a fair system of trial.
    Over the past two or more decades there has been a marked, accelerating turn towards the role of the victim in proceedings, both internationally and domestically. It is the contention of this thesis that the host of victim-centric reforms, preoccupied with giving the victim a voice in the English criminal trial, demonstrate "neoliberal" logics of governance according to market-metrics with increased efficiencies and engagement with users of the system, responsibilisation of the victim in the trial process, individualisation and personalisation of the proceedings and enforcing a zero-tolerance to the risks posed by criminals.
    The contention of this thesis is that the neoliberal, victim-centric reforms to the English criminal trial paradoxically serve to strengthen the liberal conception of the criminal trial. Such a liberal conception traditionally champions both the participation of the defendant being called to account and due process to protect the defendant against the oppressive exercise of state power. Enhanced perceptions of procedural fairness to victims in the trial process and the expansion of the audience by opening a dialogue between the victim and those in power at points of the trial process that were previously remote to the victim, in no way diminishes the liberal conception but in fact characterises the legitimation of an enduring liberal trial institution.
  • Fairhead, E. (2016). Schmittian Politics in the Age of Drones: An Analysis of Obama’s War on Terror.
    This thesis evaluates the Obama administration's use of drone strikes in the 'war on terror' in relation to what Carl Schmitt called the 'concept of the political'. After arguing that the Schmittian distinction between friend and enemy underlined Bush's war on terror, as did many scholars, I interrogate whether this is still true for Obama's war on terror. Obama's rhetorical legitimising strategy creates the appearance of difference to Bush, and is also far less overtly Schmittian; focusing instead on the legality and operational qualities of drone strikes. However, my analysis of the material and technological conditions of drone strikes shows that Obama misrepresents the nature of political relations in his war on terror. I uncover an alternative picture that highlights key paradoxes of the relation between user and receiver of force, the US military's treatment of civilian casualties, and the participation of technology and technological thought in producing these relations. I then map these analyses onto Schmitt's theory of the political division between friend and enemy in this 'age of technology'. Obama's 'enemy' is different to Schmitt's understanding and has also evolved in comparison with Bush's due to the approach taken to select the enemy in so-called 'signature strikes', and the role of technology in this process. The drive to annihilate the abstract enemy also extends well beyond Schmitt's understanding of defeat in war, and demonstrates the fine balance between hyperpoliticisation and transformed political relations. Based on the interpretation that the friend is formed in relation to political rhetoric, Obama's 'friend' grouping also evolves in comparison with Bush's. Thus, despite Obama's rhetoric making his war appear less Schmittian than did Bush, and the utilisation of the drone engendering some material and technological evolutions, Obama's war on terror is still tied to a Schmittian concept of the political.

Forthcoming

  • Kang, H. (2020). Cross-disciplinarity as a practice of critical linking: how does a scholar relate different ’bodies’?. In: Herman, D. and Parsley, C. eds. Kent Law School Interdisciplinary Research Methods. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Parsley, C. (2016). The Exceptional Image: Torture Photographs from Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib as Foucault’s Spectacle of Punishment. In: Manderson, D. ed. Law and the Visual: Transitions and Transformations. Toronto University Press.
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