May 22, 2014
Professor Margaret (Peggy) Kohn has been awarded a SSHRC grant for her project titled, Spaces of Civil Disobedience: From Sanctuary to Occupy.
“Any juridical order needs places where it is possible to explore alternatives. Subaltern counter-publics are particularly important in a democracy where these spaces play a role in formulating and disseminating critical points of view. Liberal-democratic states have recognized the importance of dissent and adopted constitutional provisions to protect free speech. Political speech, however, is not the only form of dissent. When dissent takes the form of withdrawal from mainstream institutions, it poses a distinctive problem for the state. Professor Kohn’s research project focuses on sub-national territorial governance. She uses this term to describe assertions of sovereignty such as church sanctuary that are not controlled by the state. The main objectives of her research are to understand the reasons for practicing this distinctive form of civil disobedience and to evaluate its legitimacy.
Professor Kohn’s research project has both a normative and an analytic component. The analytic dimension examines the ways that counter-hegemonic groups have asserted the right to self-government. Based on her preliminary research, she has found that three main mechanisms have been effective at legitimizing sub-national sovereignty: religion, property rights, and local government. Her research methodology is textual. In order to understand the legal mechanisms and the theoretical justifications for these spaces of exception, she draws on historical monographs and consults primary source materials such as corporate charters.”