Our contextual approach to the study of law concentrates on three focus areas that function as lenses through which we put law into perspective. The three focus areas are the overarching topics that frame and shape the research projects of the center.
The first focus area concerns Culture, Concepts, and Values that, at any given time, form and shape law and legal thinking. Scholars applying this lens investigate the core concepts and values that govern legal thinking within and across different periods in time, for example privacy. How are concepts translated and transformed, decontextualized and re-contextualized across cultures and languages, and what values can successfully be invoked in legal argumentation across time and place?
In People and Institutions, focus is on the critical study of law as it manifests itself and is developed in the interaction - and at times tension - between citizens and institutions. The premise of this lens is that law and the development of law and legal institutions can be understood properly in context only. Law is developed in the interplay between individuals and institutions. A related area of interest is the interpretation of law and its utilization in different contexts. Interpretational practices are important areas of study because such studies inform us about the societal impact of law, and because different interpretations of law may eventually lead to changes in legal regulation.
Research applying this lens will be concerned with how digitization affects the way we understand law, and how it affects legal education, the legal profession, legal knowledge, and legal language. Another topic of interest will be the role of other kinds of new technology,. e.g. in the fields of policing and crime prevention. Technologies enabling automated face recognition, automated analysis of movement patterns, automated license plate recognition and other kinds of automated surveillance are developed at a very rapid pace, and some such technologies are applied in new contexts without much prior deliberation.
An important part of research activities in CIS are organized around collaborative projects that involve members of the center as well as partners outside the center. Members of CIS are currently involved in a number of large interdisciplinary research projects, most of which are externally funded:
Julie Laursen and Louise Victoria Johansen lead the research project ‘Indeterminate sentencing and imprisonment - an interdisciplinary study of the experiences of court processes and prison practices’, which is funded by the European Research Council and the Carlsberg Foundation. The research project deals with the indefinite detention measure. Foreign research shows that detention is characterized by great uncertainty, frustration and anxiety about the future, but the last comprehensive Nordic study of detention dates from 1965, underscoring the need for new and updated knowledge in this area. The project is divided into two main parts, namely a study of trials where detention is in question, and an ethnographic and interview-based study of remand prisoners' terms of imprisonment and conditions in Herstedvester prison. The aim of the project is to gain knowledge about how defendants and prisoners orient themselves towards, interpret and serve their detention. The project has partners at the University of Cambridge, England and at universities and the Prison and Probation Service in Norway, where similar projects are underway. The project runs from 2021-2024.
Frederik Rom Taxhjelm is a PhD fellow and conducts research about prisoners' rights and their experiences of their own imprisonment. The project is co-financed by the Department of Human Rights and focuses on prisoners' right to a safe, meaningful and proportionate punishment. In international research, Danish prisons are described as particularly humane, but the Danish prison service presently experiences a major crisis with reduced staff, outdated buildings, a rising number of inmates, many disciplinary sentences and a lot of violence. Through qualitative interviews and a six-month fieldwork in a closed prison, the project seeks to investigate what this means for the experience of imprisonment. There is a special focus on exploring which groups of prisoners come under pressure when the prison system is burdened to such an extent. The project runs from 2021-2024.
– an interdisciplinary study of the experiences of court processes and prison practices
Our understanding of the specific pains and possibilities of contemporary experiences of indeterminate confinement in Denmark remains limited. Using ethnographic research methods, IndeSent will provide an in-depth examination of the experience of being indeterminately sentenced by a court and of serving an indeterminate sentence in prison.
Aided by a grant of 4.7 Mil. DKK by the Council of the Danish Victims’ Fund, Lars Holmberg, Lin Adrian, Louise Victoria Johansen and Ida Helene Asmussen investigate victims’ perceptions of the judicial process. In the project, victims’ experiences and the perspective of institutional actors are combined and examined through observations and interviews. The objective is to bridge a gap in international victimology research, to enhance our knowledge regarding victims in the judicial system, and to create an informed basis for improvements in legislation and legal processes. This project particularly addresses the centre’s focus area of People and Institutions.
Helle Porsdam’s Professorship in Law and Humanities is partly funded by the Augustinus Foundation. The idea is to further the study of law as it overlaps with the humanities. Concretely, this means focusing on two topics: 1) cultural (heritage) law - the legal-cultural issues involved in the preservation, conservation, exhibition and digitization of cultural/natural heritage; and 2) cultural rights - that part of human rights which concerns cultural issues.
A new lecture series is currently being set up as part of the UNESCO Chair and will be open to the general public: The KU UNESCO public lecture series on science, society and politics.
Participants in this project are Ingrid Lund-Andersen and Family law professors from all the Nordic countries. Around 1920, new family law rules were introduced in the Nordic countries based on the woman's equality with her husband and the autonomy of the spouses. The new rules were the result of extensive Nordic cooperation. The aim of the project is to highlight the historical development in Family law and to put it in perspective in relation to the social, cultural and political development. This project addresses the center’s focus area of Culture, Concepts, and Values and the focus area of People and Institutions.
Professor em. Ditlev Tamm is the director of a legal historical project with the purpose of establishing new translations, new commentaries and a reassessment of the legal, social and historical background of the old Danish laws from the 13th century; first and foremost the old Danish landscape laws (DA: landskabslove). The project is supported economically by the Augustinus Foundation, and is carried out in collaboration with Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab (The Danish Language and Literature Society). Cand.mag. Stine Sif Mørkeberg is attached to the project as scientific assistant. The project extends over the period from 2019-2022.