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New Zealand Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence

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Seuffert, Nan --- "Editor's Introduction" [1997] NZYbkNZJur 1; (1997) 1 Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence i

Last Updated: 15 April 2015


This is the first volume of the Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence, which will annually publish a collection of papers presented at the Staff Seminar Series of the University of Waikato School of Law. The School was founded in 1991 to provide a professional legal education, develop a bicultural approach to legal education and to teach law in the contexts in which it is made and applied. The presentations at the seminar series are made by both visiting scholars and permanent academic staff. The aims of the Yearbook are to stimulate and contribute to the development of New Zealand jurisprudence by publishing articles, essays and other forms of analysis and comment which directly address or are relevant to New Zealand jurisprudence. The collection for this first issue includes articles from both permanent and visting scholars which focus on both developing a specifically New Zealand Jurisprudence and analysing the law in context, consistent with the Law School's project.

Ruthann Robson's topical article analyses Quilter v Attorney General, the recent High Court decision denying three lesbian couples the right to marry. She places her discussion in the contexts of recent legal developments in New Zealand and internationally, and the debates raging within lesbian and gay communities on the topic of same-sex marriage.

Paul Havemann's article sketches out alternative theoretical frameworks useful for understanding at a conceptual level the neo-liberal economic theory currently so popular with government policy-makers around the world. New Zealand's policymakers may well lead this trend in their whole-hearted devotion and their determination to apply this theory to government activities. Havemann's provision of alternative lenses through which to view, and critique, these government activities is therefore both urgently needed and appropriately contextually based in New Zealand.

The New Zealand government's fervour in applying neo-liberal economic theory to state services has led to calls to require recipients of benefits to be "work-ready", while at the same time minimising protections for workers in the labour force on the assumption that employers and employees have equal bargaining power. Nancy Dowd's analysis of the implications of the interaction of labour and family law for women in variously-constituted families exposes the myths that women and children benefit from assumptions of formal equality such as those applied in these policies.
ii Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence Vol 1.

Analysing the law in the context in which it is made and applied has been integral to feminist analyses of the laws relevant to rape trials, and to reforms necessary to those laws to facilitate rape victims' participation in court processes without revictimisation. Elisabeth McDonald's article provides the results of the most recent New Zealand research on women's experiences of the legal system as rape victims. The women who reported the most problems with participating in the court process were those who were allegedly raped by someone they knew. Thus the crucial distinction in terms of women's experiences is not between those who give evidence in court and those who do not, but rather between those who allege rape by a stranger and those who allege rape by an acquaintance. This distinction carries a chilling resonance with the legal system's response to domestic violence, where it has often been noted that violence perpetrated on a stranger is more likely to be dealt with through appropriate sanctions than violence perpetrated on a family member.

McDonald's interdisciplinary approach to analysing the law in context utilises both social science and legal research to assess the interaction of court processes and women's experiences. Nan Seuffert's article addresses epistemological issues underpinning the production of knowledge in both law and the social sciences which are crucial to developing a bicultural analysis of law in context. Eurocentric epistemologies have been thoroughly critiqued for the production and legitimation of knowledges which, through false claims to universality and objectivity, reinscribe dominant perspectives in the production of knowledge in law and the social sciences. Developing bicultural research methods to facilitate the bicultural redesign of laws and institutions requires deconstructing false claims to objectivity and universality and situating knowledge. Recognition of the locations from which knowledge is produced focusses attention on the limitations and specificities of that knowledge; the contexts in which knowledge is produced are an integral part of the knowledge. Bringing the School of Law's project full circle, this approach shifts attention from analysing the law and the contexts in which it is made and applied as distinct concepts, to analysing law and context as mutually reproductive.


12 November 1997

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