In memoriam: Reza Banakar (1959-2020)

Ole Hammerslev

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In memoriam: Reza Banakar (1959-2020) Our beloved friend and colleague, Reza Banakar, passed away 27th August in Lund, Sweden, from a serious illness. Reza was born in Shiraz, Iran. He went to school in England in the 1970s. Despite studying Maths at Aberystwyth University in Wales, Reza enrolled to study sociology of law in Lund in 1986. In 1994, he obtained his doctorate at the Department of Sociology of Law, Lund University with a thesis on the dilemmas and boundaries of the law and official dispute handling in cases concerning ethnic discrimination in a multicultural Sweden (Banakar, 1998a). In 1997 he moved to the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford to take up the Paul Dodyk Research Fellowship. In 2002 he was appointed to a chair at the University of Westminster. In 2013, he went back to Sweden take the chair in Sociology of law at Lund University. Reza was an excellent and incredibly productive scholar. He published five books (one in Swedish), (co-)edited five anthologies (including the high impact collections on law and social theory and socio-legal methodology edited with Max Travers), and at least 21 book chapters, 26 journal articles, eight reviews and three entries to encyclopaedias and a range of papers. Reza was a true academic; sociology of law was a form of vocation and his diligence and deep interest in the sociology of law inspired newcomers to the field. Moreover, he always struggled for better conditions for the topic and for research in general both in his writings and in his engagement in various socio-legal associations. He was very active in the Research Committee on the Sociology of Law and the Socio-Legal Studies Association. He was a devoted teacher and an excellent supervisor. He was a dear and caring friend, who was always there for you sharing his knowledge and network (and subtle form of humour) professionally and personally – no matter your stage of career, your language skills, background, etc. In the Nordic countries, Reza was a driving force in internationalising the sociology of law. His stepchild-articles in Retfærd. Nordic Journal of Law and Justice (Banakar, 1998b, 2001b),which initiated a Nordic debate (see eg Dalberg-Larsen, 2000; Hellum, 2000; Hydén, 1999; Mathiesen, 1998; Petersen, 2000; Sand, 2000) about the stage and character of the sociology of law, have become standard reading for students coming into the Nordic field of sociology of law. Reza’s scholarship was wide ranging; he published on Kafka’s concept of law (Banakar, 2010a), Iranian driving cultures and the legal profession (Banakar, 2015; Banakar & Keyvan, 2020), ethnic discrimination in Sweden (Banakar, 1998a), politics, law and popularism (Banakar, 2019) and socio-legal methodology (see below) just to mention a few areas. However, one may divide the different areas into three streams, see below. Yet, it is important to stress that this snapshot does not do Reza justice. Firstly, Reza published intensively on socio-legal methodology and theory. His readings of classic socio-legal theory led to discussions about how sociology of law should have specific methodologies demarcated from other (sub-)disciplines. As noted, in the Nordic countries, his great concern for sociology of law sparked off – with an 1998-article in Retfærd “The Identity Crisis of a ‘Stepchild’" (developed further in Banakar, 2000) – an intense debate about the status and aim of sociology of law. Reza revised his original theory in the 2001-Retfærd article “A Passage to ‘India’: Toward a Transformative Interdisciplinary Discourse on Law and Society” based on the Retfærd debate. In the meantime he read the founding fathers of sociology of law including Gurvitch (Banakar, 2001a), Ehrlich, Petrazycki, Timasheff, and Podgórecki (Banakar, 2013). His ideas were developed in the books Merging Law and Sociology and Normativity in Legal Sociology and Methodological Reflections on Law and Regulation in Late Modernity (Banakar, 2003, 2014). At the same time he worked closely with Max Travers (Banakar & Travers, 2005, 2013; Banakar & Travers, 2002) on what became the first books on socio-legal theory and methodology, which soon became canonised readings in the sociology of law. In short, Reza’s argument was that in order to develop sociology of law as a specific discipline, it had to be able to speak both to law and sociology despite their very different discourses, sources, methodologies and fields in general. To do that, the discipline needed to reconsider its methods and theories. Secondly, Reza published on Iranian legal cultures (Banakar, 2015, 2018; Banakar & Fard, 2012; Banakar & Keyvan, 2018; Banakar & Keyvan, 2020); a topic he became increasingly interested in over the years. In his chapter on the Iranian legal profession, Reza shows how, since the 1979 Revolution, the clerical regime has been limiting the legal profession’s autonomy by preventing members of the Iranian Bar Association (IBA) from freely electing their Board of Directors and by establishing a new body of lawyers – legal advisors of the judiciary – to contest the IBA’s professional monopoly. As a result, the profession tripled between 2005-2015. The legal advisors entered the legal profession on an easier route of religious studies. They are subject to political and theocratic control (Banakar & Keyvan, 2020). In the book Driving cultures in Iran, Reza examined Iranian legal cultures through a particular case: Iranian driving cultures. Iran has one of the highest rates of road traffic accidents worldwide. Using interviews with a variety of Iranians with different backgrounds, the book argues that Iranians’ driving behaviour signifies how they have historically related to each other and to their society at large, and how they have maintained a form of social order through law, culture and religion. The Iranian studies are clearly linked to Reza’s understanding of law being more than black letter law and to his writings on theory and methodology. Reza based his Iranian studies on empirical work, which in Iran was a delicate issue. Thirdly, Reza continuously examined aspects of discrimination and domination (see eg Banakar, 1998a, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010b). As noted, his doctoral thesis was about anti-discrimination laws and enforcement in Sweden. It examined a number of cases processed by the Swedish Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination, and the possibilities of maximising the efficacy of the Swedish Act against Ethnic Discrimination. In subsequent papers, Reza presented the Swedish Ombudsman as a “toothless tiger”. The edited volume Rights in context: Law and justice in late modern society (Banakar, 2010b) examines how rights are debated and employed in public discourse to reshape legal and political relations. It examines how rights are used to challenge dominating structures by individuals and groups who seek justice, and the strategies developed to challenge existing rights by those who wish to change the social and political order. There is no doubt that Reza’s work will continue to inspire both new-commers to sociology of law and those of us who are already here. Those who have already met him in writing and/or in person, are deeply grateful for the great impact he had – both as a colleague and as a friend. Our thoughts are with his wife, Ann Williams. Ole Hammerslev [email protected] References Banakar, R. (1998a). Doorkeepers of the Law: A Socio-Legal Study of Ethnic Discrimination in Sweden. Aldershot: Dartmouth/Ashgate. Banakar, R. (1998b). The Identity Crisis of a "Stepchild": Reflections on the Paradigmatic Deficiencies of Sociology of Law. Retfærd.Nordic Legal Journal, 21, 3-21. Banakar, R. (2000). Reflections on the Methodological Issues of the Sociology of Law. Journal of Law and Society, 27(2), 273-295. Banakar, R. (2001a). Integrating Reciprocal Perspectives: On Gurvitch's Theory of Immediate Jural Experience. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 16, 67-91. Banakar, R. (2001b). A Passage to "India": Toward a Transformative Interdisciplinary Discourse on Law and Society. Retfærd.Nordic Legal Journal, 24, 3-21. Banakar, R. (2003). Merging Law and Sociology: Beyond the Dichotomies in Socio-Legal Research. Glienicke/Berlin: Galda + Wilch Verlag. Banakar, R. (2005). Race, Law, Resistance. In (Vol. 32, pp. 648-652): Blackwell Publishing. Banakar, R. (2007). Whose Experience is the Measure of Justice? Legal Ethics, 10(2), 209-222. doi:10.1080/1460728X.2007.11423893 Banakar, R. (2008). Poetic Injustice: A Case Study of the UK's Anti-Terrorism Legislation. Retfærd: Nordisk juridisk tidsskrift, 31(3), 69. Banakar, R. (2010a). In Search of Heimat: A Note on Franz Kafka's Concept of Law. Law and Literature, 22(3), 463-490. Banakar, R. (2010b). Rights in context: law and justice in late modern society. Burlington, Vt: Ashgate Pub. Co. Banakar, R. (2013). Klassisk retssociologi - og dets relevans for nutidig forskning. In O. Hammerslev & M. R. Madsen (Eds.), Retssociologi (pp. 55-81). København: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Banakar, R. (2014). Normativity in Legal Sociology: Methodological Reflections on Law and Regulation in Late Modernity. London: Springer. Banakar, R. (2015). Driving Culture in Iran: Law and Society on the Roads of the Islamic Republic. London: I.B. Tauris. Banakar, R. (2018). Double-Thinking and Contradictory Arrangements in Iranian Law and Society. Digest of Middle East Studies, 27(1), 6-33. Banakar, R. (2019). Brexit: A Note on the EU's Interlegality. In K. M. Bettina Lemann Kristiansen, Louise Munkholm, Lauren Neumann, Cécile Pelaudeix (Ed.), Transnationalisation and Legal Actors: Legitimacy in Question. London: Routledge. Banakar, R., & Fard, S. N. (2012). Driving Dangerously: Law, Culture and Driving Habits in Iran. British journal of Middle Eastern studies, 39(2), 241-257. doi:10.1080/13530194.2012.711039 Banakar, R., & Keyvan, Z. (2018). The Life of the Law in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iranian Studies, 51(5), 717-746. Banakar, R., & Keyvan, Z. (2020). Iran: A Clash of Two Cultures? In R. L. Abel, O. Hammerslev, H. Sommerlad, & U. Schultz (Eds.), Lawyers in 21st Century: Vol1: National Reports. Oxford: Hart Publishing. Banakar, R., & Travers, M. (2005). Theory and Method in Socio-Legal Research. Oxford: Hart Publishing. Banakar, R., & Travers, M. (2013). Law and Social Theory. Oxford: Hart. Banakar, R., & Travers, M. e. (2002). An Introduction to Law and Social Theory. Oxford: Hart Publishing. Dalberg-Larsen, J. (2000). Sociology of Law from a Legal Point of View. Retfærd.Nordic Legal Journal, 23, 71-80. Hellum, A. (2000). How to improve the doctrinal analysis of legal pluralism. Retfærd. Nordic Journal of Law and Justice(89), 40-62. Hydén, H. (1999). Even a Stepchild Eventually Grows Up: On the Identity of Sociology of Law. Retfærd.Nordic Legal Journal, 22, 71-80. Mathiesen, T. (1998). Is it all that bad to be a stepchild? Comments on the state of sociology of law. Retfærd.Nordic Legal Journal, 21, 57-68. Petersen, H. (2000). Forging new identities in the global family? Challenges for prescriptive and descriptive normative knowled­ge. Retfærd. Nordic Journal of Law and Justice(90), 46-54. Sand, I.-J. (2000). A future or a demise for the theory of the sociology of law. Retfærd. Nordic Journal of Law and Justice, 90, 55-73.
Original languageDanish
JournalRCLS Newsletter
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)7-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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