By Ali Mashraf
The Law Faculty Open Discussion, an interdisciplinary lecture series that attracts tertiary level students from all disciplines as well as young professionals with its unorthodox choice of topic on various multidisciplinary issues and subjects outside the realm of law and legal studies was initiated in early 2017. On May 14, 2018, the third edition of the Law Faculty Open Discussion, titled ‘উত্তরাধুনিকতা কি? : What is Postmodernism?’ was held at the Faculty of Law, DU. Dr. Syed Manzoorul Islam, renowned educationist and former Professor, Department of English, DU was the designated speaker of the event.
At the onset, Mr. Syed Masud Reza, Assistant Professor, Department of Law, DU welcomed everyone to the event and gave a brief background of the initiation of the discussion series and the reasons behind choosing this particular topic. He then introduced Dr. Syed Manzoorul Islam and hoped that it would be a great learning experience for the students to listen to Dr. Islam talk on postmodernism and get a clear idea on this critical topic.
Dr. Syed Manzoorul Islam began his speech by thanking Professor Dr. Md. Rahmat Ullah, Dean, Faculty of Law, DU and Mr. Syed Masud Reza for inviting him to speak on postmodernism at the Law Faculty. He stated that the popular belief regarding postmodernism being after modernism is wrong. Rather, in this context, the word ‘post’ means parallel to modernism and does not refer to something superseding modernism. His discussion then focused on modernism, its evolution and progression through the centuries, and the positive and negative effects of modernism globally leading to the origination of postmodernism in the 19th century.
Dr. Islam also discussed the different aspects and viewpoints regarding postmodernism and its various meanings. Furthermore, he mentioned various positive and negative impacts of postmodernism that has led to numerous social movements worldwide as well as the effects of those social changes. Speaking of postmodernism and its effects on law and legal system, he remarked that the colonial norms and practices are still entrenched in our legal system which has led to the gap between the ruler and the ruled getting wider each day. Dr. Islam felt that our existing legal system has no space for pluralism and as such, equality in its truest sense is nonexistent here. He cited various examples of differential treatment of offenders based on their class, gender etc. by our judges to substantiate this claim on the supposed sense of equality being practiced in our society. Moreover, he criticized the very notion of our legal system regarding the assumption that judges are above all bias and would adjudicate proceedings being absolutely impartial and devoid of emotion.
Towards the end, Dr. Islam went on to refer to five movements that postmodernism initiated in the field of law, viz. new definition of law and adjudication in relation to economic school, critical legal studies, feminist legal theory, law and literature, and rethinking canon/objective knowledge. His speech was followed by a Q&A session where the participants interacted with him regarding their perspectives and reflections on postmodernism.
Afterward, Dr. Islam was presented with a token of appreciation on behalf of Faculty of Law by Dr. Rumana Islam, Associate Professor, Department of Law, DU. Mr. Syed Masud Reza then thanked everyone for such a lively discussion and brought the proceedings of the event to an end.
Faculty of Law, DU aims to host further editions of the Open Discussion on a diverse range of issues in the upcoming days.
Ali Mashraf is a student of law at University of Dhaka