Melany Toombs wins Law global category in Undergraduate Awards

Image shows Melany Toombs smiling
Melany Toombs, a final year Bachelor of Laws / International Relations student, is the global winner, Law, in the Undergraduate Awards.

Throughout my law studies I have been fascinated by thinking and writing about the law, so it is incredibly affirming to have this passion recognised by this award.

Melany Toombs, a final-year Bachelor of Laws / International Relations student, is the global winner, Law, in the highly-competitive Undergraduate Awards for her essay that examines how architecture was used to entrench Moorish law in Spain until 1492.

She wrote Architecture and Authority: Legal Spaces in Al-Andulus while a student in Critical Legal Theory, taught by Dr Dorota Gozdecka.

“I’m incredibly proud of Melany’s achievement and happy that the course inspired such excellent work,” Dr Gozdecka says.

“I hope that it can encourage more students to pursue topics that they find fascinating and research-worthy.”

Sarah Lim, a Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Information Technology student, was Highly Commended in the Law category.

Here’s an extract from Melany’s introduction:

Changes in rule are often reflected in architecture, however the intersection of architecture and legal spaces is frequently omitted from historical narratives. This essay argues that the Moorish architecture of the Al-Andalus region in Spain not only reflects but enacts the establishment of a new legal order. This occurs by reshaping societal consciousness, situating a new jurisdiction and regulating religious and social hierarchies. Harnessing primarily Lefebvre’s and Nancy’s approaches, the case studies of Córdoba and Toledo during the tenth century offer persuasive insights into the use of architecture to entrench Moorish rule, while comparison with the fifteenth century Christian rule demonstrates the limitations of this approach.

Q and A with Melany Toombs.

What’s your reaction to winning the award?

I am delighted to have been announced as Global Winner of the Law category in The Undergraduate Awards. Throughout my law studies I have been fascinated by thinking and writing about the law, so it is incredibly affirming to have this passion recognised by this award.

I have always preferred the more theory-oriented law subjects as an opportunity to explore how the law affects particular population groups such as women, migrants and ethnic minorities. I relished law elective subjects such as Feminist and Critical Legal Theory, Law Literature and Human Rights, Law and the Humanities, US Australian Comparative Law and Current Issues in Administrative Law.

Over the course of my law electives, I was able to delve into an amazing range of interdisciplinary studies that helped me to more accurately characterise the law and its intimate relation to areas such as the humanities, visual arts, feminism and social justice.

Critical Legal Theory afforded me a fantastic breadth of freedom with the major research essay. I loved diving into research on a topic of my choosing, crafting the essay and combining my voice with existing literature on legal spaces and how legal institutions harness architecture. Dr Gozdecka helped me to refine my ideas and ensure that I situated my essay well within the rich academic domain of Critical Legal Theory. I hope to do honours in law next year and build on these interdisciplinary and experimental approaches to the law.

What was your process for writing this essay?

My essay explores how architecture was used to entrench Moorish law in Spain during the tenth century. I was intrigued by the strong presence of Islamic architecture in Spain and wanted to explore its relation to the formal Islamic legal order that was simultaneously instituted by the Moorish caliphates. While a historically focused essay, the politics of representation have intense relevance for the way that legal and political institutions entrench their authority today and influence our own lived spaces.

I am currently conducting an exchange semester in Madrid, and am incredibly excited to be visiting some of the architectural wonders that I researched for my essay.

I thank God, family, friends and The Australian National University for encouraging me to combine my interests in such fascinating ways.

The Undergraduate Awards are a fantastic celebration of undergraduate research across a range of disciplines. If you have written an essay that you think is pretty neat, submit it!

What’s next for you?
As a final year Law and International Relations student hoping to pursue a career in law reform, policy and community legal practice, access to justice is the cornerstone of my personal and professional goals and I have loved unpacking the connections between the law and social policy through my law studies and in both public and private sectors.

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team