On Praxis and the Intellectual
The first TWAIL conference in the global South was held in Cairo from 21 to 24 February 2015. In the context of the ongoing revolutionary processes across the Middle East and North Africa, the thematic focus of the conference was that of the intellectual as a political actor: the animation of praxis, broadly conceived as reflection, agitation, and transformative action.
The theme necessitates self-reflection as TWAIL has sought to distinguish itself from other critical legal approaches through its political and transformative commitments. For instance, how do we understand and interrogate our roles as intellectuals in political life? What is the relationship between our scholarly endeavours and societal structures; whether preserving the status quo, shaping reform, or advocating for radical change? What are the various conduits that link our work as intellectuals with politicians, activists, advocates, revolutionaries, civil servants, soldiers, artists, writers, union representatives, civil society leaders, peasant movements, and so on? How does the idea of TWAIL as praxis relate to TWAIL as theory and/or method? How does it differ from other notions of praxis?
As with previous TWAIL conferences, this was an opportunity for us to take stock and look to the future. It provided a forum for the TWAIL community to reconnect – this time in the global South. At the same time, the conference sought to deepen and re-imagine engagement with under-explored alliances such as with indigenous movements, environmental issues, and transnational intellectual and political actors in the Middle East and North Africa. To this end, the conference pursued relationships with potential interdisciplinary allies, whether scholars or practitioners, in cognate fields.
The conference was hosted by the Department of Law at the American University in Cairo, with the support of the National University of Ireland Maynooth, the University of Windsor, and Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.