Introduction to HKU Law Series (VII) Dr Shane Chalmers

In our conversation with Dr. Chalmers about his reasons for joining HKU Law, he highlighted that multiple factors contributed to this decision. HKU’s esteemed reputation for balancing teaching and research, as well as its significant funding and support for research, was particularly appealing. Moreover, the university’s intellectual environment and the opportunity to work with esteemed colleagues were highly attractive. Besides, the exceptional teaching atmosphere, marked by small class sizes and impressive students, also contributed to his choice. Finally, Dr. Chalmers was captivated by Hong Kong’s dynamic city life and strategic location in Asia, which facilitates connections with collaborators from various countries.

Dr. Chalmers has a diverse academic background spanning law, humanities, and social sciences. He earned a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of International Studies from the University of Adelaide and practiced law with the Crown Solicitors Office (South Australia) before pursuing a Master of Comparative Laws at McGill University, which marked a turning point in his academic journey. Driven to pursue a PhD, he studied at the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet), where he undertook a critical study of international development and the implementation of rule of law projects in post-conflict countries, specifically Liberia. Following his PhD, Dr. Chalmers joined Melbourne Law School as a postdoctoral researcher, examining the legal history of British colonization in Australia. He then taught property law and legal theory at Adelaide Law School for two years before joining HKU Law in 2023.

Dr. Chalmers has thoroughly enjoyed his time at HKU Law thus far, having received an exceptionally warm welcome and appreciating the hospitality. His teaching at HKU includes the law of torts, legal theory, and a new elective, law and colonialism. Teaching negligence within the law of torts allowed him to explore relationships and obligations between individuals in society. Engaging with students in tutorials and classroom discussions, Dr. Chalmers found the conversations to be enriching and valuable.

Dr. Chalmers has mostly interacted with undergraduate students at HKU Law and finds them to be exceptional, well-prepared, and serious about their studies. With some facilitation, he engages in insightful conversations with them about legal theory, law, politics, and society. Being new to Hong Kong, he learns a lot from the students about the local legal system. Although teaching comes with a high level of responsibility towards the students, Dr. Chalmers considers it a pleasure to engage with them in the classroom.

Dr. Chalmers believes that pursuing a master’s degree is a crucial point in an academic career. A master’s program offers a valuable opportunity to conduct slow, careful, and deep research, which is usually not possible during undergraduate studies. An LLM allows students to work under the supervision of experts in their field, exposing them to relevant literature. For those considering an academic career, a master’s program provides a chance to explore their interests in a shorter, one or two-year commitment. Even for those pursuing practical professional careers, a master’s degree offers valuable skills in conducting thorough research.

Covering a wide range of subjects across law, humanities, and social sciences, Dr. Chalmers’ interdisciplinary research focuses on areas such as law and colonialism, law and literature/art, and critical legal theory. His work examines the intersection of law, art, and politics, as he explores questions such as what sustained the authority of British colonial law in places like Hong Kong and Singapore. Dr. Chalmers is particularly interested in the role of art, including literary and visual forms, in shaping the authority of law. He highlights the importance of aesthetics, rituals, decorations, clothes, and architecture in establishing the authority of law in courtrooms. By studying the relationship between art and law, Dr. Chalmers investigates how these elements contribute to sustaining and resisting colonial law in various contexts, such as 19th-century colonialism and 21st-century international development. His research aims to understand the ways in which art can both uphold and undermine the authority of law and how it can be used as a means of colonization or decolonization.

In his forthcoming book, Dr. Chalmers presents a legal history of the British colonization of Australia in the 19th century. While focusing on how British understandings of property, dignity, and sovereignty dispossessed and dehumanized Indigenous peoples, the book also incorporates law and literature elements. Drawing on Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of laughter and the carnivalesque, Dr. Chalmers’ book seeks to undermine and critique British colonial understandings and partices of law. For Dr. Chjalmers, laughter serves not only to critique but also to regenerate and open up new possibilities for alternative understandings. The book, therefore, combines conventional legal history with innovative literary concepts to offer a fresh perspective on the colonization of Australia.

Dr. Chalmers acknowledges that research in the field of law is mostly individual, involving isolated reading and writing. However, collaboration also plays a crucial role in the research process, often in unexpected ways. Encounters and conversations with colleagues during lunch, reading groups, seminars, workshops, and conferences can stimulate ideas and provide inspiration for research. For Dr. Chalmers, these interactions are essential and enriching. Dr. Chalmers emphasizes that young scholars should recognize and value the importance of collaboration in their academic careers.

Passing down valuable advice from his mentor on academic publication, Dr. Chalmers recommends viewing publication not as the final word, but as a contribution to an ongoing conversation. This perspective helps to alleviate the pressure of perfectionism and allows for a more liberating and productive approach to writing. Recognizing that ideas can change over time and that publications serve to engage in conversations with readers, young scholars can view their work as part of a continuous process rather than a definitive statement. This mindset fosters a more honest and dynamic approach to academic publication.

To spend weekends and release pressure, Dr. Chalmers enjoys rock climbing and outdoor activities, particularly in the green spaces and mountains of Hong Kong. The city’s proximity to nature and the abundance of rock climbing opportunities make it an ideal location for this pastime. Engaging in such activities not only provides stress relief but also offers unique perspectives of Hong Kong’s iconic views from different angles. Climbing up a peak, for example, reveals spectacular views of Kowloon and Central.

Dr. Chalmers recommends three works related to law and literature. First, he suggests “The Trial” by Franz Kafka, which, despite being a cliché choice, remains a generative study of central questions in jurisprudence, such as the nature of law, its authority, and what it means to be a subject of the law. Second, he recommends the 1950 film “Rashomon” by Akira Kurosawa, a film that deals with issues of testimony and evidence, problematizing the idea of objective truth and highlighting how legal truth is constructed through the legal process. Lastly, he suggests “Carpentaria” by Alexis Wright, a book about life in far north Australia. The book offers an important view of Australia from a range of Indigenous perspectives, making it an essential read for those interested in Australia.

在與Chalmers博士探討其加入香港大學法律學院的緣由時,他強調了許多關鍵因素。 香港大學在教學與研究的平衡上享有盛名,尤其在為研究提供豐富資金和支持方面非常吸引人。 其學術環境和與著名學者共事的機會也頗具魅力。 小班教學以及優秀的學生群體等特色教育氛圍也促成了他的選擇。 此外,Chalmers博士對香港這座充滿活力的城市頗感興趣,其在亞洲的戰略位置也有利於與不同國家的合作夥伴建立聯繫。

Chalmers博士學術背景豐富,涉及法律、人文及社會科學。 在澳洲阿德雷德大學取得法學與國際研究雙學士學位後,曾加入皇家律師辦公室從事法律實務工作。 之後前往加拿大麥基爾大學攻讀比較法碩士。 這段經歷成為了他學術生涯的重要轉捩點。 為攻讀博士學位,他回到澳洲國立大學的監理與全球治理學院,專攻國際發展與衝突後國家(尤其是利比里亞)的法治計劃實施。 畢業後,Chalmers博士加入墨爾本法學院擔任博士後研究員,研究澳洲英國殖民時期的法律歷史。 隨後加入阿德萊德法學院任教,講授財產法和法律理論課程。 2023年,Chalmers博士入職香港大學法律學院。

Chalmers博士在香港大學法律學院的工作經驗至今非常愉快,受到了熱情的歡迎。 目前,他全力投入教學,主講課程包括侵權法、法律理論等。 他認為教學不僅能夠幫助學生,也有助於自己獲得新知識。 例如,在講授侵權法中的過失行為時,他得以深入研究社會中個人之間的關係與責任。 Chalmers博士發現在輔導學生及課堂討論中所展開的對話都非常豐富且有啟發性。

Chalmers博士主要與法律本科生打交道,發現這些學生表現出眾、備課充分且學習態度極為認真。 只要給予適當的引導和鼓勵,他們便能就法律理論、法規、政治和社會等開展富有洞察力的討論。 作為初次來到香港的教授,Chalmers博士從學生那裡獲得了許多關於本地法律制度的獨特見解。 他認為,儘管教導這些高要求的學生需要承擔較大的責任,但與學生在課堂上的互動充滿樂趣。

根據Chalmers博士的經驗,攻讀碩士是學術生涯中的一個非常關鍵的節點。 與本科階段相比,碩士課程能為學生提供更緩慢、精細且深入的研究機會,使學生在領域專家的指導下接觸到具有高價值的文獻和知識。 對於有意投身學術事業的人士而言,碩士學位能在較短的一年或兩年時間內為他們提供探索興趣領域的機會。 對於那些尋求從事實務工作的人來說,碩士學位同樣能夠提供在行業研究中所需的珍貴技能。

Chalmers博士的跨學科研究涵蓋了法律、人文和社會科學等多個領域,主要關注法律與殖民主義、法律與文學/藝術以及批判法律理論等面向。 他的作品聚焦於道德、藝術和政治的交會點,分析這些元素在不同背景下(如19世紀的殖民主義和21世紀的國際發展)如何有助於維持或抵制殖民法律,例如英國殖民法律在香港 和新加坡等地的權威是如何得以維持的。 Chalmers博士對文學與視覺藝術在塑造法律權威方面的作用特別感興趣,認為美學、儀式、裝飾、服飾和建築等因素對於建立法庭權威具有重要意義。 他的研究旨在揭示藝術如何維護和顛覆法律權威,以及藝術在殖民化或非殖民化過程中所扮演的關鍵角色。

在Chalmers博士即將出版的新書中,他詳細闡述了19世紀英國殖民澳洲的法律歷史,特別關注東南部地區。 這本書重點介紹了英國人對財產、尊嚴和主權的理解如何剝削和「非人化」原住民,同時融合了法律和文學元素。 Chalmers博士借鑒俄羅斯文學理論家米哈伊爾·巴赫金(Mikhail Bakhtin)關於笑聲和狂歡節(laugher and the carnivalesque)的框架,運用這種批判性概念來顛覆和批判英國殖民主義的理解。 笑聲不僅是批判的工具,也能為形成不同的理解提供新的可能性。 因此,這本書將傳統的法律史與創新的文學理念結合,為研究澳洲殖民歷史提供了一個全新的視角。

Chalmers博士指出,儘管法學研究高度個人化,涉及大量獨立的閱讀和寫作,但在研究過程中,合作同樣具有至關重要的作用,而這種重要性往往以非直觀的方式體現。 在與同事進行午餐、閱讀小組、研討會、工作坊以及會議期間的交流與對話,都能為個人工作帶來新的想法和靈感。 雖然這些互動方式與傳統的合作計畫或共同組織活動相比並不那麼顯著,但它們卻是不可或缺且極具價值的。 Chalmers博士強調,年輕學者應認識到並重視合作在學術生涯中的重要性。

秉承自己導師的寶貴建議,Chalmers博士提倡將學術出版視為對持續對話的貢獻,而非最終結論。 這種理念有助於減輕完美主義帶來的壓力,形成更自由且有效的寫作方法。 當年輕學者們意識到觀點會隨時間演變,而出版物是與讀者展開對話的媒介時,他們便能將自己的研究視為一個不斷發展的過程,而非一成不變的內容。 如此心態有助於推動學術出版走向更真實、更充滿活力的方向。

Chalmers博士熱衷於攀岩和戶外活動,尤其鍾愛綠意盎然的山區。 香港接近大自然,擁有眾多攀岩場所,成為進行這類消閒活動的理想之地。 這些活動不僅有助於緩解壓力,還能讓人從獨特的視角欣賞香港標誌性風景。 例如,登上半山腰時,便可盡覽九龍和中環的壯美景色。

最後,Chalmers博士向大家推薦了三部涉及法律與文學的作品。 第一,卡夫卡(Franz Kafka)的《審判》(The Trial)。 這本著作深入探討了法理學的核心問題,如法律的本質、法律權威以及法律主體的意義。 第二,黑澤明於1950年執導的電影《羅生門》。 這部影片聚焦在證詞和證據問題,對客觀真理的概念提出質疑,並強調了法律真理如何透過法律程序建構。 第三,亞歷克西斯·賴特(Alexis Wright)的《卡彭塔利亞灣》(Carpentaria)。 這部小說以原住民的視角展現了澳洲北部地區的生活,絕對是不容錯過的佳作。

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