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Public Lecture Series 2022: Daniel Del Gobbo

Lighting a Spark: Feminism, Emotions, and the Legal Imagination of Campus Sexual Violence

Daniel Del Gobbo

Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University Faculty of Law

Fellow – Restorative Research, Innovation, & Education Lab 

Monday May 9th, 2022, at 6:30 pm Atlantic Time via Zoom

This talk will explore how feminist law and policymakers have been inspired by collectively generated experiences of emotion that help to shape what counts as justice and injustice in campus sexual violence cases. Focusing on events surrounding the Faculty of Dentistry at Dalhousie University in 2014-2015, I explain how emotional incitements in the case contributed to a political and discursive infrastructure that supported formal, adversarial, and punitive responses to campus sexual violence. Correspondingly, I explain why alternative modes of legal and political formation that challenged the premises of the formal law, including the restorative justice process employed in the case, were misread by some commentators as being a form of “weak justice” and therefore outside the bounds of feminist action. My claim is not that particular emotional reactions to campus sexual violence are right or wrong – they just are – but that feminist law and policymakers should critically reflect on and assess their political force. Considering the ways that emotions are mobilized reveals the benefits and drawbacks of engaging with the law in ways that feel emotionally gratifying and therefore legally and politically necessary, but which can lead to harmful consequences that contradict feminist goals.