Osnabrück Summer School on Law, Language & Culture: Methodology Reading List & Keynote Talk 1

The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

Greetings from Osnabrück, Germany, where I am attending the International Summer School on the Cultural Study of the Law, this year themed “Correlations: Law, Language and Culture.” The program is an annual, two-week series of workshops for graduate students and new scholars, taught by faculty from various disciplines. I am grateful to Professors Peter Schneck and Sabine Meyer (and their staff) for organizing the Summer School, as well as to DAAD, Osnabrück University, and the other organizations that fund the program.

The opening workshop took place over two days and concerned methodological problems in interdisciplinary study of law, language, and culture. Workshop convenors Kay Schaffer and Martin Zeilinger compiled this reading list for participants (shared with permission):

  • Brown, Wendy. “‘The Most We Can Hope For’: Human Rights and the Politics of Fatalism.” South Atlantic Quarterly 103.2/3 (2004): 451-63.
  • —. “Neo-Liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy.” Theory and Event 7.1(2003): n. pag.
  • Coombe, Rosemary J. “Contingent Articulations.” Law in the Domains of Culture.” Ed. Austin Sarat, Thomas R. Kearns. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1998. 21-64.
  • Holder, Cindy. “Culture as an Activity and Human Right: An Important Advance for Indigenous Peoples and International Law.” Alternatives 33 (2008): 7-28.
  • Kymlicka, Will. Multicultural Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995. Read Chapter 3: Individual Rights and Collective Rights; p. 34-48 and Chapter 5: Freedom and Culture; 84-101.
  • Mezey, Naomi. “Law as Culture.” Cultural Analysis, Cultural Studies, and the Law: Moving beyond Legal Realism. Ed. Austin Sarat, Jonathan Simon. Durham: Duke UP, 2003. 37-72.
  • Olson, Greta. “De-Americanizing Law and Literature Narratives: Opening Up the Story.” Law and Literature 22.1 (2010): 338-64.
  • Porsdam, Helle. From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read Chapter 8: Transatlantic dialogues on ‘law and literature’: from ‘law and literature’ to ‘law and humanities’; p. 165-81.
  • Schaffer, Kay, and Sidonie Smith. Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004. Read p. 35-53; 123-52.
  • Thomas, Brook. “Reflections on the Law and Literature Revival.” Critical Inquiry 17.3 (1991): 510-39.

Much can be (and was) said about these readings, but I will just note that the Olson and Thomas pieces help establish a tentative genealogy of “law and literature” scholarship in its many forms. Olson, for instance, roughly distinguishes scholarship produced in the U.S., the U.K., and continental Europe, which arise from differing legal systems and intellectual lineages and, therefore, feature different methods and concerns. While any genealogy is inevitably incomplete and to some extent arbitrary (and Olson herself warns against the intellectual traps labels can produce), the lines drawn by Olson are nevertheless useful to those seeking to situate their own “law and culture” studies within the diverse international body of scholarship that exists.

Last night, the Summer School had its “official” opening, as participants and faculty were ceremoniously welcomed by the mayor of Osnabrück in City Hall, in the room where one part of the Peace of Westphalia was signed.

Afterwards, Kay Schaffer gave a keynote talk revisiting her 2004 book Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition (co-authored with Sidonie Smith) in light of new historical and scholarly developments. The book concerns the role of storytelling in human rights, paying particular attention to the global publishing, circulation, and reception of personal narratives of violation. One chapter from her book examines the stories of so-called “comfort women” abducted and held as sex slaves by the Japanese during World War II. While the ascendancy of the global human rights regime in the 1990s helped give these women a framework within which to tell their stories and pursue some measure of justice (however limited), the circuits within which such stories are told is also problematic. Among other things, Schaffer argues, they repress individual stories in favor of a sympathetic “ur-narrative” and they never escape prevailing social hierarchies (the “first” comfort woman the world paid attention to was actually European, not Asian).

The main workshop to which I am assigned will begin Monday and concerns the relationship between law, literature, and national formation. More to come next week on that.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Law, Language & Culture Reading Lists from Osnabrück Summer School « The Literary Table

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