The last 23 October, the Institut de Recerca TransJus, Faculty of Law, University of Barcelona, realised a round table inviting researchers, professors and students to reflect upon transdisciplinary tools and innovative research. Under the supervision of the Director of the TransJus, Dr. Juli Ponce Solé and committed to the efforts made by the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the participants shared a round table with three lectures under the title “Social Sciences, Law and Research methodologies to Innovate: participatory action research/pesquisa-ação”.


The first lecturer explained the importance of narratives, site visits and interviews carried out by the Polos de Cidadania Institute, Faculty of Law, Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG/Brazil) as part of a methodological innovation. The Professor Dr. André Luiz Freitas Dias illustrated how the Polos de Cidadania works with the methodology of “pesquisa-ação”, which is the main tool used by all the work groups of the Programme. Based on reports with a set of articulated interactions, the researchers communicate with the homeless population, social movements and various organs of the Brazilian Justice in the defense and guarantee of people’s rights living on the street in Belo Horizonte. In other words, individuals that have been historically targeted by several violent protocols by the City Council in its executive power exercise. After this presentation, the professor also mentioned some other possibilities for interaction pointing out the concern and commitment of the Programme with the issue of the right to the city, both in urban and rural contexts, specifically addressing housing issues and forced eviction/mobility experienced by communities in socioeconomic vulnerability. Professor Dias is also himself one of the heads in Serra da Canastra Truth and Reconciliation Comission.[i] In that case, civil society represented by the Insituto da Terra and Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (Federal Bar for the Brazilian Lawyers), locals and the federal justice Bruno de Oliveira were the actors involved in a non-conventional complex legal procedure to conduct an investigation into the crimes against humanity during the 1960s and 1970s. Specially with reference to elderly people, historical reparation seems to indicate the need for new experimentalisms devoted to the act of listening what victims have to say.

The second talk used the perspective of images in movement to refer to the construction of narratives. The PhD Candidate Sílvia Beatriz Nogueira Souza, Arts and Humanities School, University of La Laguna, Tenerife (Spain) showed us the importance of avoiding static gazeseither for the construction or de-construction of an object. During the six-month-stay in El Hierro, Canary Islands (Spain), 2015, the researcher applied innovative techniques for a photographic cartography. The idea was to capture the conducting line and speed to support the creation of symptomatic images, but mainly embracing the process not the inertia of the realiain teaching or diagnosing methods. Nature, things and individuals are mutual parts in the making of life experience.

The third speaker called the attention to the unconventional links between law and amity. The PhD Candidate W. Migliari, Faculty of Law, University of Barcelona, and member of the Institut de Recerca TransJus, presented the sources of law in international treaties and study cases led by intergovernmental bodies incorporating the formal figure of the amicus curiaein litigations in which human, social and economic rights are violated or put at risk. He pointed out the importance of the European Commission at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes(ICSID), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the participation of NGOs/academia as “friends of the court”.[ii]Not only did the researcher show the relevance of legal connecting factors, for instance, inmineral exploitation by multinational or international companies and violation of human rights, but also the importance of mechanisms to listen to third parties.

The names of renowned intellectuals such as R. M. Unger, G. Calabresi and D. Kennedy are some of the actors of a movement for innovative legal studies, full course of imagination and an intellectual rebellion known as the “Critical Legal Studies” or “Legal Thought”. With subtle differences from one stream and the other, both are dedicated to the way law will reconnect tendons, nerves and veins of societies. The professor Unger usually says: “Suppose, then, that we treat thequestion ‘How should judges decide cases?’ […]. Suppose, further, that in offering this special answer we take care to avoid theillusions of rationalizing legal analysis, its illusions about analogy, about arbitrariness,and about reform. We should define the method in a way that respects the human reality and the practicalneeds of the people who come into court without harnessing them to a glittering schemefor the improvement of law. We must be sure that our judicial practice leaves open andavailable, practically and imaginatively, the space on which the real work of socialreform can occur. We must eschew dogma and accept compromise in ouraccount of the practice as well as in our understanding of the society to which thepractice contributes. We should try to remain close to what judicial decisions incontemporary democracies are actually like”.[iii] In Spain, the Law Professor Manuel Atienza said once “[…] la sociología jurídica o el análisis económico del derecho están prácticamente ausentes (si bienesas disciplinas no consisten únicamente en un conjunto de investigaciones empíricas, sino que contienenun arsenal conceptual cuyo conocimiento sería igualmente de gran importancia para el jurista […]”.[iv] Therefore, interdisciplinary studies imply more “outsiders” or “outliers” than agents and intellection production fit to reproduce the comfortable road of path dependency. [v]

When Walter Benjamin wrote about the fact that the storyteller was disappearing in our contemporaneous dialectical experience, he highlighted the interdependence between those who tell us stories and the listeners. The detachment of such human sensibility and interaction causes non-healing wounds for a long time.[vi] In Catalonia with the book Els altres catalans, Francesc Candel has been maybe the first flâneur hearing the silence voices of Barcelona just after Francisco Franco’s Regime (1939-1975) to report a systematic attack against human dignity and the violation of rights using the city as an organic scenario. Assumpta Montellà reproduced the same silent movie old generations had to tell us about the concentration camps up north Catalonia, but till the publication ofLa Maternitat d’Elnait is undeniable they had had few opportunities. Other best seller narratives such as The Diary of a young girl by Anne Frank or Let me go: my mother and the SS by Helga Schneider are also examples of how contemporaneous society need individuals to be listened and part of the institutions.

For digesting all that food for thought, we also had some participants asking questions and raising doubts about the social transformation through law. Students from humanities and two Brazilian judges interacted with some opinions, suggestions and research knowledge, however, a set of aspects were posed underneath their judgments. How to listen to third parties or even include them in a formal procedure? Is the violation of human rights immensely dictated by an economic global order? Are the processes diligently narrated by political voices, images and institutions giving an opportunity to the listener to follow the reality? From academia and an interdisciplinary institute, our burden is essentially to tie up the loose ends between human reality and the experience of solving conflicts relying on memory, social participation and third parties involving human conflicts. Why not law as an open system as the pro bono publico motto, which is put forward, for example, by the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)? The idea of good governance, good administration and the public good may nudge in the direction of different branches of knowledge: “Oxford Pro Bono Publico (OPBP) provides pro bono legal research, particularly in the fields of international and comparative law, to individuals and organisations who are themselves working on a pro bono basis. In particular, graduate students and supervisors from the Faculty of Law prepare or assist in the preparation of research beliefs, expert opinions, amicus curia briefs, policy submissions, and reports. Over the past 14 years, OPBP has produced more than 40 projects for around 25 project partners across 12 different jurisdictions”. [vii]

As it was told during the discussions, the interesting programme Dret al dret is working in the same path with interesting and promising results. [viii]

Cronicle realised by W. Migliari, PhD Candidate in Public International Law and International Relations, Faculty of Law, University of Barcelona. Member of the Institut de Recerca TransJus.


[i]Retrieved from http://www.otempo.com.br/hotsites/aparte/comiss%C3%A3o-da-verdade-da-serra-da-canastra-se-re%C3%BAne-1.986623

[ii]See Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Communication No. 2/2014, Views adopted by the Committee at its fifty-fifth session (1-19 June 2015). It is relevant in that case the presence of the amicus curiae represented by the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net). According to the ICSID on experimentalism and innovation: “[…] ICSID has also been a leader in procedural innovation, including through adoption of the first provisions on transparency of the arbitral process, participation of amicus curiae, and expedited preliminary motions”. Retrieved from https://icsid.worldbank.org/en/Documents/about/ICSID_AR16_English_CRA_bl2_spreads.pdf#search=European%20Commission%20amicus%20curiae

[iii]Unger, R. M. (1996). The fourfold root of rationalizing legal analysis: the commanding role of the judge. In What should legal analysis become? (p. 113). New York: Verso.

[iv]Atienza, M. (2007). Prólogo. In Courtis, C. & Atienza, M. (Eds.). Observar la ley: ensayos sobremetodología de la investigación jurídica(pp. 9-12). Madrid: Editorial Trotta.

[v] See Liebowitz, S. J. & Margolis, S. E. (1990). The fable of the keys. Journal of Law and Economics, 33(1), 1-25. Read also Hathaway, O. A. (2003). Path Dependence in the Law: the course and pattern of legal change in aCommon Law system. Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository, 3(1), 101-165.

[vi]Benjamin, W. (2006). The Storyteller. In Hale, D. J. (Ed.). The novel: an anthology of criticism and theory 1900-2000 (pp. 361-378). Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishing.

[vii] Retrieved from https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-and-subject-groups/oxford-pro-bono-publico

[viii] Retrieved from http://www.ub.edu/dretaldret/. There is an important note referring to the “students of Law who took part in the Uniland case, in relation to an environmental authorization from Generalitat de Catalunya regarding the cement factory Uniland, in Santa Margarida i els Monjos (Alt Penedès). In particular, UB students supported the actions presented by environmental collectives, against the resolution issued by the Catalan Government. This case got to the United Nations and two students and two lecturers of the UB attended a public conference in Geneva in presence of the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention of the United Nations. The students took part in this collaboration as part of their curricular practical lessons and end-of-degree projects, and within the activities of the Environmental Law Clinic of the Faculty of Law”. Retrieved from http://www.ub.edu/web/ub/en/menu_eines/noticies/2017/07/014.html.


How to cite: Migliari, W. (2017, November 22). A chronicle of interdisciplinary imagination and innovative research through “pesquisa-ação”. Blog Institut de Recerca TransJus. Retrieved November 22, from https://transjusblog.wordpress.com/



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