As the first semester of the year comes to a close, and things quieten down, we thought now was a good time for you to get to know the LawPod team!
To kick things off, we could think of no one better than our recently appointed Director of LawPod, Dr Lauren Dempster. We had a chat with Lauren to learn a little more about what she gets up to in and out of LawPod, her vision for the podcast, and what she is looking forward to in 2021.
Congratulations on your recent appointment as Director of LawPod – Can you please give me a brief overview of what your role includes?
Thanks India. In my role I work closely with Richard Summerville, LawPod’s Producer. Together we run LawPod, planning and scheduling episodes and thinking about the ways in which we might develop the podcast further. We recruit the student teams and support them as they develop and record their episodes. We also liaise with the staff of the School of Law, inviting them to record episodes on their current research or recent publications, or with guests from beyond QUB.
Outside of LawPod, you are also a lecturer in the School of Law and your research focuses around transitional justice, enforced disappearances, and efforts to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. Can you please tell me a little more about your key interests?
Sure, so my research – as you note – focuses on transitional justice. I am particularly interested in disappearances and how disappearances are responded to in post-conflict contexts. My PhD research examined the disappearances that were perpetrated during the conflict in and about Northern Ireland, and how these have been addressed. This is the focus of my book (Dempster, L Transitional Justice and the Disappeared of Northern Ireland: Silence, Memory, and the Construction of the Past (Routledge: 2019)). Researching disappearances draws together a number of themes of interest to me, including truth recovery, victim mobilisation, memory, and the ways in which non-state armed groups can contribute to transitional justice processes.
In addition, prior to my lectureship, I was Post-doctoral Research Fellow on two projects. One on victimhood in Northern Ireland, led by Dr Cheryl Lawther (QUB) and the other on the role of apologies in addressing past harms, led by Prof Kieran McEvoy (QUB). Both these projects involved me in research on efforts to ‘deal with’ the past in Northern Ireland. Also, I worked with Dr Cheryl Lawther and Dr Rachel Killean on a project examining the role of sites of so-called ‘dark tourism’ in transitional justice, exploring in particular how victims and survivors are represented at such sites, focusing on Cambodia. One area of developing research interest (which I am working on with Dr Rachel Killean) is that of ‘green transitional justice,’ which examines the intersection between transitional justice and environmental harm.
My research is interdisciplinary in nature, and – in addition to Law – I draw on disciplines such as Anthropology, Criminology, Sociology, and Political Science in my work.
Outside of your own research, which other areas/themes do you see exciting progression occurring in?
I would probably have more to say on this if I had time to do more reading than I currently do! But, in recent years there has been a bit of a shift generally in academia towards increasing the interdisciplinarity or multi-disciplinarity of research and this is of real interest to me. I love seeing the ways in which different disciplines can speak to each other, and the alternative perspectives that other disciplines can bring to a problem. In Transitional Justice terms, I have enjoyed seeing research emerge that tests the applicability of the frameworks or lessons of TJ to other forms of harm – for instance historical institutional abuse (e.g. the work of James Gallen at DCU). There are also some really exciting, and important, critical explorations of TJ emerging which interrogate the intersections between Transitional Justice, power, and structural inequality.
Going back to LawPod – What are the goals you most want to accomplish in the next year with the podcast?
My first goal is to work productively with our student teams to produce great content. Our student teams this year have really exciting and innovative ideas for episodes, and we are eager to support them in pursuing these ideas. In addition, given the impact of the pandemic and the move to online for both teaching and our LawPod meetings, I hope that LawPod can provide our student teams with a sense of community – albeit a virtual one!
A second goal is to use LawPod to showcase the breadth and diversity of research that we have going on in the Law School at QUB. So many of my colleagues are involved in fascinating and valuable research, and LawPod provides a great platform for them to deliver an accessible snapshot of their work. With myself and the previous Director (Dr Rachel Killean) both being Transitional Justice scholars, LawPod tends to lean towards research in this area. While I love that the LawPod archive has a lot of TJ, and indeed, we are capturing this even more this year with our Transitional Justice series, I am eager for LawPod to capture the full spectrum of research that is taking place in the Law School.
The third goal is, I guess, where our publicist, India, comes in – in that we want to expand the LawPod listenership by promoting it more effectively than has been the case in the past.
Is there a particular episode / theme that is coming up that you are really looking forward to?
I am really excited about the student episodes that we have coming up. Our student teams have developed some great ideas this year, and I am looking forward to seeing them come to fruition. Our Law and Storytelling team is developing some excellent human rights-focused episodes and have great guests lined up. The Law and Activism team is working on an episode on the BLM protest in Belfast; this is going to make for a really important and timely episode. Our Law and Society team is planning an episode on COVID-19, track and trace, and the implications for data privacy – this is an area I do not know much about, so I’m looking forward to listening to this one. Finally, our Legal Lexicon team will be developing podcasts that explore key legal terms and I am excited to see how these turn out – I think a podcast is a great format for this sort of task, and I hope these episodes will be useful to both law students, and the wider public.
What is the best bit about being involved with LawPod?
I think the best thing about being involved in LawPod is that is does not really feel like work. It is a real treat to be part of the LawPod team – working with great people and producing strong content. My predecessor, Dr Rachel Killean, and Richard created LawPod back in the 2017-2018 academic year, so I feel very lucky to have come in at a time when it is already well established. When they set it up, it was the first podcast at QUB, so they were trailblazers I guess! I am delighted to now be involved with it.
Additionally, I have loved working with our student teams, and seeing their ideas develop. While it is still only first semester of this academic year, I am really proud of the progress they have made.
I have also really valued making the Transitional Justice series. Having a TJ series was the idea of my predecessor, Rachel, and I am so delighted with how it has turned out. Having the series has been an excellent opportunity to capture the expertise of just some of the TJ scholars we have at QUB and to interview experts from elsewhere, and to interrogate key Transitional Justice issues.