I just heard that my friend and colleague, Reza Banakar, died from kidney cancer. He was Professor of Sociology of Law at Lund University. Before that we were colleagues at the University of Westminster. I greatly valued his collegiality and friendship. Sometimes I felt he and I were the only ones who knew what we were talking about.
Reza was a great ally of the Research Committee on the Sociology of Law, part of the International Sociological Association. One great aspect of the Research Committee was its connection to the Oñati Institute of Sociology of Law in the Basque Country. Both Reza and I went there many times for conferences and workshops.
These were wonderful occasions when like-minded people got together for a few days in a small college town that was also home to ETA. Besides talking and debating we enjoyed great Basque food and wine. It is truly idyllic.
I recall one workshop Reza and Max Travers organised on socio-legal methodology. The papers were to be published in a book through Hart: Theory and Method in Socio-Legal Research (2005). I was up in the first session talking about socio-legal ethnography with Klaus Ziegert who was discussing systems theory and qualitative research. We could not have been more diametrically opposed. I came at the topic through the lens of Everett Hughes and Howard Becker, a kind of loose and gangly ethnographic approach--hanging around and seeing what happens. Ziegert talked about the rigour of Luhmannian theory and all the fieldwork would derive from that. Define the systems first then some fieldwork may assist.
The arguments became quite heated and fierce. There was no middle or meeting point between us. I could see the others around the table looking concerned--was this how the rest of the workshop would be? Reza gently broke in using a combination of Persian urbanity and Swedish neutrality which brought us back to earth. I could feel the relief around the room.
This was characteristic of Reza, bringing interesting and diverse people together and steering them through the intellectual journey.
We need people like Reza who have a generosity of spirit. I shall miss him. Rest in Peace, Reza.