25 Years of Social & Legal Studies

Social & Legal Studies published its first issue in 1992. The 13 academic lawyers, criminologists and sociologists who founded it saw a space at the time in academic publishing for a theoretically oriented journal that would produce critical knowledge and contribute to formulating and shaping intellectual debate across disciplinary and international barriers. Twenty-five years later Social & Legal Studies continues to push the boundaries of this space. We are proud of the Journal’s work to open up new avenues of research and to encourage dialogue and questions among diverse areas of scholarship, while bringing a range of critical theoretical and non-western perspectives to studies of law and regulation.

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, SLS’s final issue of this year (now available online, and available in print in December) aims to reflect upon the development of socio-legal scholarship over the past 25 years, seen through the prism of five areas of scholarship where research published in the journal might claim to have had a significant impact. The result is a special issue containing five articles, each of which highlights the significant works and themes in the development of an area over the last 25 years and considers directions in which the area may develop in the future. Importantly, however, the authors of these articles offer their own valuable theoretical insights on the past and future directions of scholarly travel.

Our contributors are eminent in their fields and each has had an important relationship with the journal, either as an editor, international advisory group member or author. Sol Picciotto, one of SLS’s founding editors, writes on regulation; Ambreena Manji and John Harrington review socio-legal scholarship on the Third World; Alan Norrie and Henrique Carvalho write on criminal justice; Susan Boyd and Debra Parkes review feminist legal studies; and Jon Goldberg-Hiller reviews the field of sexuality and sexual rights.

SLS also marked our 25th anniversary with a gala event in September hosted by City, University of London. The editors welcomed a gathering of many friends of the journal for a seminar followed by drinks and buffet dinner. We were especially pleased that all of the contributors to the forthcoming anniversary issue were able to attend. They spoke about their papers and their work generally in their fields and contributed to lively discussion afterward, both before and during drinks!

We were particularly delighted to welcome also Carol Smart, one of the founding editors of SLS. Carol remembered the early days of the journal, when editorial board meetings were held at people’s homes and the wonders of digitisation were yet come. Yet, as they carried stacks of paper from home to home, the founding editors remained committed to their original intellectual goals and to reviewing and discussing each submission.

We, the current editors, know that there is still work to be done for the journal to fulfill its original mission, yet we are pleased that we are able to keep alive the spirit of the founding editors both in our intellectual commitment and our processes. Double-blind peer review of submissions is still normally done by board members and decisions are often discussed at board meetings.  And, as it says on our publisher’s website: ‘The journal was born out of a commitment to feminist, anti-colonial and socialist economic perspectives to the study of law. It offers intellectual space where diverse traditions and critical approaches within legal study meet.’

We are pleased to celebrate 25 years of this project and look forward to many more.


The introductory paper to the special issue is currently available to download for free at this link.

Professors Alison Diduck (University College London) and Sally Sheldon (University of Kent) are members of the Editorial Board of Social & Legal Studies.


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