Breaking new ground: Annual Pierre Genest Lecture becomes two-part virtual event

Pierre Genest Lecture 2020

“Thank you, all of you, for listening to me – twice.”

With those parting words Catherine Fisk, Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, ended a precedent-setting Pierre Genest Lecture at Osgoode Hall Law School on October 6, 2020.

It was the first time in the history of the annual lecture — named after a 1954 Osgoode graduate and one of Canada’s finest counsel who died in 1989 — that it had been delivered as a two-part virtual event.

Fisk pre-recorded her lecture, which is posted on YouTube and Soundcloud. That was followed on Oct. 6 with a live virtual one-hour panel discussion via Zoom webinar with her and three panelists: Professor Joo-Cheong Tham of Melbourne Law School; Joshua Mandryk, an Associate with Goldblatt Partners LLP; and, McGill University Assistant Professor Barry Eidlin who is a comparative historical sociologist.

“We were delighted to be able to pilot a new way to deliver our Pierre Genest annual lecture,” said Sara Slinn, Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Research and Institutional Relations) at Osgoode. “It meant that we could reach a much wider audience.  There is a large labour law academy in North America and beyond which holds Professor Fisk’s scholarship in high esteem.  It’s great that we could bring them and other interested people around the world together digitally for her lecture.”

Fisk’s talk, entitled “Protection by Law, Repression by Law: Bringing Labour Back Into Law and Social Movement Studies,” is based on a forthcoming article in the Emory Law Journal that she co-authored with Diana Reddy, a lawyer and PhD student at UC Berkeley in jurisprudence and social policy.

The article challenges the notion – held by many scholars of law and social movements, and of labour – that unions are not social movements and that the study of labour organizing and labour activism isn’t part of the study of law and social movements.

“This paper is all about what will happen if we think of labour as a social movement now in the United States, and indeed in earlier decades in the last century,” Fisk said.

Pictured, clockwise from upper right, are Barry Eidlin, Joshua Mandryk, Joo-Cheong Tham, Catherine Fisk and Sara Slinn.