Dr Senthorun Raj at the University of Sydney

Human Rights leader returns to Sydney Law School as visiting fellow

1 March 2024
A conversation with Dr Senthorun Raj
Dr Senthorun Raj, a Sydney Law School alum, has returned to the school as part of the visiting fellows program for 2024. Dr Raj’s return to Sydney and beginning of his fellowship will coincide with the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival.
Dr Senthorun Raj

After graduating with a BA, LLB and PhD at the University of Sydney, Dr Raj returns to the Law School as a scholar, published author and expert on issues relating to race, gender, sexuality and culture.

Currently based at Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Raj’s research and teaching interests include LGBTQIA+ rights, emotion, culture, equalities and human rights law, legal education and critical legal theory.

We caught up with Sen about his time at the law school, what he wants to achieve during his fellowship here and what’s next for him in his career.

What are some of your fondest memories from your time at the University of Sydney?

I have many fond memories of my time at the University of Sydney. A couple of highlights for me as an undergraduate include attending Gender Studies research seminars on Friday afternoons and the electives I got to choose in my final year of the LLB.

These experiences were not just about getting good grades; for me, they were about connecting with other people and feeling part of a vibrant learning community. The casual conversations between classes and drinks in the sunshine after seminars remain joy-filled memories.

Can you tell us about some of the research projects you’ve been working on since leaving the Law School?

In Law School, I was passionate about social justice with a particular focus on intersecting issues relating to women, LGBTIQA+ people, racialised minorities, and people who seek asylum.

After graduating, I continued to pursue these interests by looking at how emotion shapes law reform and legal rights for sexual and gender minorities.

My first book, Feeling Queer Jurisprudence: Injury, Intimacy, Identity (Routledge, 2020), was based on my PhD and explores how progressive judgments crystallise emotions when addressing issues of injury, intimacy, and identity relating to LGBT people.

I am working on my second monograph now, Emotions of LGBT Rights and Reforms: Repairing Law (forthcoming with Edinburgh University Press), which explores emotional conflicts over LGBT rights in law reform areas relating to conversion practices, LGBT education in schools, anti-discrimination exemptions, and legal gender recognition.

Dr Senthorun Raj presenting at a conference

Dr Senthorun Raj

What made you want to come back to the Law School as part of the visiting fellows program?

Sydney Law School has been wonderfully supportive of my research since I was an undergraduate student. I have had fabulous mentors like Professor Arlie Loughnan who have continually championed my legal scholarship and career.

I returned to embrace, and contribute to, the enriching research culture within Sydney Law School. I also wanted to showcase some of the exciting critical legal projects I am working on at Manchester Law School, such as the Queer Judgments Project.

What is your research focus and what will you be working on whilst at the Sydney Law School?

I will be working on the Queer Judgments Project and building connections with interested scholars at Sydney Law School who might be interested in research collaboration.

Specifically, I will be looking at re-imagining the notorious case of R v Green, which dealt with the “homosexual advance defence,” through a critical engagement with the emotion of disgust in the case.

I will be presenting this work to the Sydney Institute of Criminology.

How does your academic research inform and intersect with your public advocacy work?

My public advocacy work began at the University of Sydney when I joined the Amnesty International society on campus.

At this time, I began to think critically about the relationship between my academic studies and the activist interests I had in making the world a more just place for those who are policed, punished, and marginalised for who they are or who they love.

My scholarship has continued to emphasise this relationship, and I have devoted my career to foregrounding the political, intellectual, personal, and professional interconnections of doing human rights work. My friends sometimes refer to me as a “Professional Gay.”

What are you most looking forward to as part of the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival?

I am most looking forward to marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade this year. I have marched with Amnesty International for several years in various Pride parades, both here and in the UK.

I relish the joyous feeling of strutting in sparkle, the pride of being covered in rainbows, the pleasure of dancing uninhibited, and the sense of community that comes from being in connection with others who are marching for a world where everyone can thrive unapologetically with safety, freedom, and fabulousness.

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