Law, Culture & the Humanities 2012: Panel on “Global Citizens: Violence and the Transnational Subject” 1


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

This past weekend in Fort Worth, TX, I was pleased to be part of the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. This year’s theme was “Representing Justice.” Tweets can be found at #ASLCH.

Audrey Golden, Nicolette Bruner, and I formed a law and literature panel called Global Citizens: Violence and the Transnational Subject, graciously chaired by Marc Roark of The Literary Table. Here are the paper abstracts:

Translating the ‘Self’ from Central and Eastern Europe: Putting Theory to Practice thought the Works of Aleksandar Hemon and W.G. Sebald by Audrey Golden

The second half of the twentieth century has borne witness to forced migration and statelessness in numbers previously unimaginable within modernity. Through the works of Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian-American émigré writer, and W.G. Sebald, a second-generation German novelist, this paper looks to the narratives of displaced persons and questions the role literary theory might play in imagining the processes of transnational movement and of internal “self-translation” that emigrants must undertake. This paper conceives a broader and more abstract model of “translation” that looks beyond natural language to include a cultural self-translation, and then asks if such a process is fraught with previously unimagined identity problems, or whether, although stemming from acts of violence, translating oneself might have ameliorative qualities for an individual caught between places, or in “nowhere” spaces.

Corporate Citizenship as U.S. Empire in Richard Harding Davis’s Soldiers of Fortune by Nicolette Bruner

Published in 1897, Richard Harding Davis’s novel, Soldiers of Fortune, describes the travails of a mining company that operates in the fictional Latin American country of Olancho, a thinly-veiled version of Cuba. The hero, filibustering engineer Robert Clay, facilitates the success of the corporation through military and financial interventions in Olancho. Meanwhile, Clay romances and marries Hope, the young daughter of the sole owner of the company’s stock. In this paper, I examine how Davis complicates the boundaries between corporate employer and human employee even as he glorifies the deeply unequal relation between U.S. corporations and the countries they exploited for profit. Corporate imperialism, as represented by the incursion of the U.S. citizen stockholder and his employees upon Latin American territory, becomes more than a matter of domination, but also an illustration of the complex interdependencies between business, storytelling, and violence in the fin de siècle.

Another Vietnam: War, The Archive, and the USS Kirk by Mai-Linh K. Hong

In late 2010, National Public Radio (NPR) aired a special series about the USS Kirk, a U.S. naval ship that was sent during the fall of Saigon to rescue the “remnants” of the South Vietnamese navy. The rescue was accomplished partly by transferring the Vietnamese ships’ sovereignty to the U.S. through a change of flags, a peaceful, quasi-legal transformation that dislodges the conventional Vietnam War narrative of violence and moral failure. Placing this “never before told” redemption story in the context of today’s U.S. war in Afghanistan, my project examines NPR’s historical revisionism and its production of a new visual iconography for the war that has haunted all later U.S. wars. I argue that, with “the archive” a site of suspense in the Wikileaks era, the rewriting of Vietnam must be understood as a response to contemporary anxieties about American imperialism, militarism, and national identity.

Place, No-Place, and the Transnational Stage: “Minor” Works by Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams 1


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna:

In his 1993 classic To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature, Eric J. Sundquist pays careful attention to texts many critics view as “minor,” such as Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition and Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson. As Sundquist reminds us, we miss much when we focus only on “major” works by canonical American writers, including, often, American literature’s insistent cultural heterogeneity and its fundamentally transnational character. It is in this light that I have been thinking about some plays I read recently.

In the 1940s, Tennessee Williams established his gift for rendering the local on stage: the characters and social dynamics he introduced in The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire continue to populate our imaginations when we think of the American South and New Orleans. His spatial metaphors still resonate: the streetcar that rushes us headlong through life; fragile characters trapped in a menagerie of societal constrictions. Written in the shadow of World War II, Williams’ highly successful family dramas might be seen (superficially) as reflecting a turn inward, a privileging of the domestic over the global at a moment of anxiety about America’s role abroad.

But Williams’ sense of place was more expansive than most remember. In Camino Real, first staged in 1953, Williams creates a surrealistic no-place that is alien yet familiar, fitting for this prescient allegory of American imperialism and state repression. In the first of sixteen “blocks,” Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, looking bedraggled, arrive in a Spanish-speaking town “that bears a confusing, but somehow harmonious, resemblance to such widely scattered ports as Tangiers, Havana, Veracruz, Casablanca, Shanghai, New Orleans.” After consulting a map, Sancho notes that the Camino Real (Anglicized) and the Camino Real (Spanish) meet in a dead end. Soon arrives the protagonist, an American named Kilroy who sports a jeweled belt spelling out “CHAMP” and a pair of golden boxing gloves. The audience follows Kilroy as he travels the Camino Real, encountering desperate characters of varying nationalities. In this play, unlike in Williams’ more well known works, tensions and contradictions within American society are projected vaguely outward onto the global stage (so to speak), resulting in a play filled with abstraction and symbols, rather than crystallizing into a concrete narrative of dysfunction in the domestic sphere.

Eugene O’Neill’s expressionist play The Emperor Jones, first staged in 1920, stands out as another allegory of empire and identity that has since been overshadowed by the playwright’s realist family dramas, which include Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Iceman Cometh. Brutus Jones, an African American who speaks entirely in minstrel dialect, has made himself ruler of an unnamed Caribbean island, and now faces an uprising. He escapes into the forest, where he encounters a series of frightening, surreal scenes that reflect the traumatic history of race in America. Like Camino Real, this play also creates an unspecific foreign setting as a way to explore both the moral ambiguities of U.S. actions abroad and the deeply rooted conflicts that characterize American identity at home. Over the years, the play has been criticized for its racist imagery and characterization, but has also been interpreted by anti-racists as a cynical commentary on American race relations. It is a significant work insofar as it highlights the global or transnational aspects of American cultural history, particularly with respect to race.

On Walls and the Spectacle of Sovereignty Reply


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

My oral exams are scheduled for late January, which means the past month has been a frenzy of reading and the next three promise to be equally busy. The bright side is that my program gives us a lot of freedom in formulating reading lists, so one of mine is a rather idiosyncratic theory list focusing on race, global studies, law, and spatial theory—my small effort to chip away at the walls, so to speak, between the disciplines that have informed my studies.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of reading Wendy Brown’s Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (MIT Press, 2010). The book begins with a meditation on the recent spate of global wall-building that paradoxically coincides with supposed weakening of nation-state boundaries. The most well-known examples are the winding Israeli West Bank barrier and the exorbitantly expensive (and ineffective) high-tech “fence” that now separates the U.S. from Mexico. Brown notes astutely that these walls are meant not really to strengthen borders between nations, but rather to keep out certain non-governmental, transnational forces perceived as a threat to sovereignty—yearning would-be immigrant masses, illegal drug trade, terrorism. Moreover, these walls serve a significant symbolic function: they are “iconographic of” and spectacularize the idea of sovereignty for a privileged population anxious about its porous cultural and political borders. Of course, to say that walls are spectacles of sovereignty is not at all to diminish their material, often destructive consequences, which have been many.

Reading Brown’s book reminded me of my visit to Germany this summer. Having only one day to spend in Berlin, I headed for the East Side Gallery, a kilometer-long section of the Berlin Wall that has been transformed by artists into an “International Memorial for Freedom.” I also walked through the bizarre historic site of Checkpoint Charlie, a former crossing point between the Soviet and American sectors, where a man dressed as a Cold War-era U.S. soldier still stands guard for photographic purposes. At both sites, I participated in the usual rituals celebrating the spread of democracy and economic freedom: that is, I took pictures (exercising my right to an individual point of view) and purchased postcards (participating in both transnational communication and the commodification of nostalgia). As Brown points out, something about walls offends the liberal worldview and westerners like to vaunt their demise, even as we deploy new walls for the “protection” of democracy.

Irony aside, the visits were actually quite moving for me, as I thought of the East Berliners who had risked (or lost) their lives trying to escape political oppression and economic stagnation, as well as my own family, which left Vietnam as boat people when I was a baby. I, like the average American, eschew romantic notions of how life would be better under communism (though my reasons might not be ordinary). Nevertheless, I know there are limits to the liberal tearing down of walls: in uncritically celebrating the spread of “freedom,” we risk forgetting the burdens we force on those living outside the walls we continue to build. It is true that freedom isn’t free—but Americans are usually not the ones who pay.

Osnabrück Update: Law, Literature, and the Nation Reply


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

Law, Literature, and the Cultural Presence of the Law,” a workshop convened by Claudia Lieb and Brook Thomas as part of the Summer School, has been examining the many possible relationships between law and literature by focusing on “the nation” as a site of disciplinary convergence.

The workshop’s well-structured reading list began by tracing the history of citizenship and the nation-state, and moved on to literary theory treating law and the nation, including work by Guyora Binder/Robert Weisberg and Homi Bhabha. As a “law and literature” case study, the workshop then examined E.E. Hale’s Civil War-era short story, “The Man Without a Country” (1863) in view of the historical controversy that inspired it: Clement Vallandingham, a Union politician, was arrested and punished for speaking out against the Civil War. The Vallandingham case sparked a “reply” by President Abraham Lincoln arguing that the government may, during times of rebellion, suspend habeas corpus, prohibit anti-war speech, and try protesters in military court. The case raised constitutional issues that have resurfaced several times in U.S. history, most recently, of course, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hale’s patriotic short story should interest those who study nationalism and citizenship. It concerns a young American man who speaks out against his country and is sentenced to spend the rest of his life never seeing or hearing another word about the United States. Over time, the man (named Nolan, a play on “no land”) feels the loss of his country deeply and by the end of his life is a fully reformed, though still exiled, patriot. Although the story is fictitious, Thomas notes, some readers took it to be true and its nationalistic message resonated widely; it was a staple of American high school curricula until the 1970s and has experienced something of a revival since 9/11.

Law, Language & Culture Reading Lists from Osnabrück Summer School Reply


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

Many thanks to Director Peter Schneck and the faculty of the Summer School for giving permission to share these valuable reading lists.

The reading list for Workshop 1, entitled “The Complex Relation between Culture and Law: Methods, Concepts, Approaches,” was posted earlier.

Detailed workshop descriptions can be found here (scroll down for links).

Workshop 2: From Human Rights to Civil Rights to Cultural Rights

Convened by: Helle Porsdam & Cindy Holder

  • Anaya, S. James. Indigenous Peoples in International Law. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Read p. 129-48.
  • Jones, Peter. “Human Rights, Group Rights and Peoples’ Rights.” Human Rights Quarterly 21.1 (1999): 80-107.
  • Porsdam, Helle. “Divergent Transatlantic Views on Human Rights: Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.” From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read p. 92-113.
  • —. “Divergent Transatlantic Views on Human Rights: The Role of International Law.” From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read p. 114-35.
  • —. “Transatlantic dialogues on copyright: cultural rights and access to knowledge From Civil to Human Rights: Dialogues on Law and Humanities in the United States and Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2009. Read p. 136-64.
  • Raz, Joseph. “Rights and Individual Well-being.” Ratio Juris 5.2 (1992): 127-42.
  • Reidel, Laura. “What are Cultural Rights: Protecting Groups with Individual Rights.” Journal of Human Rights 9 (2010): 65-80.
  • Supreme Court of Canada , R v Van der Peet [1996] 2 S.C.R. 507

Workshop 3: Law, Literature and the Cultural Presence of the Law

Convened by: Claudia Lieb, Brook Thomas

Session 1:

  • Pocock, J. G. A. “The Ideal of Citizenship Since Classical Times.” Theorizing Cituizenship. Ed. Ronald Beiner. New York: State U of NY P, 1995. 29-52.
  • Bosniak, Linda. “Citizenship.” The Oxford Handbook of Legal Studies. Ed. Peter Cane, Mark Tushnet. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. 183-201.
  • Habermas, Jürgen. “Citizenship and National Identity: Some Reflections on the Future of Europe.” Theorizing Citizenship. Ed. Ronald Beiner. New York: State University of NY P, 1995. 255-81.
  • Bader, Veit. “Citizenship and Exclusion.” New York: St. Martin’s P, 1997. Selection from “Fairly Open Borders.”
  • Thomas, Brook. “(The) Nation-State Matters: Comparing Multiculturalism(s) in an Age of Globalization.” Globalization and the Humanities. Ed. David Li. Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 2004.135-57.

Session 2: 

  • Bhabha, Homi K., ed. Nation and Narration, London/New York: Routledge, 1990. Ch. 1 (p. 1-7), Ch. 2 (p. 8-22), Ch. 8 (p. 138-53), Ch. 16 (p. 291-322).
  • Binder, Guyana, and Robert Weisberg. Literary Criticism of Law. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000. Read Ch. 3: “Conclusion: Performing the Law and Narrating the Nation,” p. 287-91; Ch. 6 “Introduction” to “6.1 Theoretical Sources,” p. 462-79.
  • Jhering, Rudolph von. Law as a Means to an End. Trans. Isaac Husik. Boston: Boston Book Company, 1913. Read p. 59-68.

Session 3:

  • Hale, E. E.  “The Man without a Country.” Atlantic Monthly 12.74 (1863): 665-79.
  • “Mr. Lincoln’s Reply.” Union Pamphlets of the Civil War, 1861-1865. Ed. Frank Freidel. Cambridge: Belknap P. 1967. 742-51.
  • Thomas, Brook. “The Case of Clement L. Vallandigham.” Associations/Dissociations: The Social Instinct and Its Consequences: Humanities Core Course Reader. Boston: Pearson, 2004. 50-54.

Workshop 4: Legal and Policy Approaches to Culture as Heritage, Property, and Resource

Convened by: Rosemary Coombe, Fiona Macmillan

Session 1: Law as /and Culture

  • Coombe, Rosemary J. “Contingent Articulations.” Law in the Domains of Culture. Eds. A. Sarat and T. Kearns. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998. 21-64. Read 21-45 and 52-64.
  • Mertz, Elizabeth. “Introduction: Legal Loci and Places in the Heart: Community and Identity in Sociolegal Studies.” Law & Society Review 28.5 (1994): 971-992.
  • Porsdam, Helle.  “On European Narratives of Human Rights and their Possible Implications for Copyright.” New Directions in Copyright Law: Volume 6. Ed. F. Macmillan. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2007. 335-358.
  • Robbins, Bruce and Elsa Stamatopolou. “Reflections on Culture and Cultural Rights.” South Atlantic Quarterly 103 (2004): 419-434.

Session 2: Approaching Human Rights Culturally

  • Cowan, Jane and Marie Benedicte Dembour. “Introduction.” Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives. Eds. Jane Cowan, Marie Benedicte Dembour and Richard Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 1-26.
  • Engle Merry, Sally. “Changing Rights, Changing Culture.” Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives. Eds. Jane Cowan, Marie Benedicte Dembour and Richard Wilson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 31-55.
  • Goodale, Mark. “Locating Rights, envisioning Law between the Global and the Local.” The Practice of Human Rights. Eds. Mark Goodale and Sally Engle Merry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 1-38. Read1-27 ONLY.
  • Speed, Shannon. “Introduction: Human Rights and Chiapas in the Neoliberal Era.” Rights in Rebellion: Indigenous Struggle & Human Rights in Chiapas. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. 16-37.

Session 3: Intellectual Property between Property and Personhood

  • Macmillan Fiona. “Human rights, cultural property and intellectual property.” Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions: Legal Protection in a Digital Environment. Eds. C. Graber & M. Burri-Nenova. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2008. 50-63.
  • Carpenter, Kristen A. Sonia K. Katyal, and Angela R. Riley. “In Defense of Property. ” Yale Law Journal (2009): 100-157.
  • Coombe, Rosemary J. “Possessing Culture’: Locating Community Subjects & their Properties.” Ownership and Appropriation. Eds. Mark Busse and Veronica Strang. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2011.

Session 4: Traditional Knowledge as Property and as Culture

  • Coombe, Rosemary J. “Intellectual Property, Human Rights and Sovereignty: New Dilemmas in International Law Posed by the Recognition of Indigenous Knowledge and the Conservation of Biodiversity.” Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 6 (1998): 59-115. Edited. Read pages 1 and 7-18.
  • Teubner, Gunther and Andeas Fischer-Lescano. “Cannibalizing Epistemes: Will Modern Law Protect Traditional Cultural Expressions?” Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions: Legal Protection in a Digital Environment. Eds. C. Graber & M. Burri-Nenova. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2008. 11-30.
  • Zent, Stan Jord and Eglee L. Zent. “On BiocuItural Diversity from a Venezuelan Perspective: Tracing the Interrelationships among Biodiversity, Culture Change and Legal Reforms.” Biodiversity and the Law: Intellectual Property,Biotechnology and Traditional Knowledge. Ed. Charles L. MacManus. London: Earthscan, 2007. 91-114.

Session 5: Cultural Heritage and Cultural Rights

  • Brown, Michael F. “Heritage Trouble: Recent Work on the Protection of Intangible Cultural Property.” International Journal of Cultural Property 12 (2005): 40-61.
  • Coombe, Rosemary J. “The Expanding Purview of Cultural Properties and their Politics.” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 5.18 (2009). 1-18.
  • Silverman, Helaine and D. Fairchild Ruggles. “Cultural Heritage and Human Rights.” Cultural Heritage and Human Rights. Eds. H. Silverman and D. F. Ruggles. Berlin: Springer, 2007.
  • Smith, Laurajane. “Empty Gestures? Heritage and the Politics of Recognition.” Cultural Heritage and Human Rights. Eds. H. Silverman and D. F. Ruggles Berlin: Springer, 2007.

Session 6: Revisiting the Public Domain

  • Boyle, James. “Why Intellectual Property” and ”The Second Enclosure Movement.” The Public Domain: Enclosing the Mind. Ed. James Boyle. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. 1-16, 42-53.
  • Hemungs Wirten, Eva. “Don’t Fence me In: Travels on the Public Domain.” New Directions In Copyright Law/, Volume 6. Ed. Fiona Macmillan. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 2006. 112-121.
  • Hardison, Preston. “Indigenous Peoples and the Commons.” November 2006. Available for online download: approximately 7 pgs.
  • Macmillan, Fiona. “Altering the Contours of the Public Domain.” Intellectual Property: the Many Faces of the Public Domain. Eds. H. MacQueen & C Waelde. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2007. 98-117.
  • Bowrey, Kathy and Anderson, Jane. “The Politics of Global Information Sharing: Whose Cultural Agendas are Being Advanced?” Social and Legal Studies (2010): 480-504.

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.

The ‘Spatial Turn’ in Law: June 2011 Issue of Law, Culture, and the Humanities Reply


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

The latest issue of Law, Culture, and the Humanities contains several articles relating to legal geography, space, and territorialization. Law joins, of course, a variety of other disciplines in taking this “spatial turn.”

Here are the titles and abstracts:

Law’s Spatial Turn: Geography, Justice and a Certain Fear of Space” by Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos

Abstract: This is a critical reading of the current literature on law and geography. The article argues that the literature is characterized by an undertheorization of the concept of space. The focus is either on the specific geography of law in the form of jurisdiction, or as a simple terminological innovation. Instead, the article suggests that law’s spatial turn ought to consider space as a singular parameter to the hitherto legal preoccupation with time, history and waiting. This forces law into dealing with a new, peculiarly spatial kind of uncertainty in terms of simultaneity, disorientation, materiality and exclusionary corporeal emplacement. The main area in which this undertheorization forcefully manifests itself is that of spatial justice. Despite its critical potential, the concept has been reduced by the majority of the relevant literature into another version of social, distributive or regional justice. On the contrary, if the peculiar characteristics of space are to be taken into account, a concept of justice will have to be rethought on a much more fundamental level than that.

Cuts, Flows, and the Geographies of Property” by Nicholas Blomley

Abstract: How is property geographical? The making of liberal property, I argue, relies upon a topographical logic, premised on the production of bounded, coherent spaces, through which the individuated subjects and objects of property can be rendered legible. Such a spatialization helps sustain the territorialization of property, in which the government of space becomes a means for the enactment of property. The production of such spaces requires conscious ‘cuts’ in the processual networks through which social spaces are produced. As such, property should be seen as a conditional achievement, ever threatened by unwanted relationality and boundary crossing. I draw from Kate Grenville’s novel The Secret River to explore property’s spaces, and their ambivalent ethical and practical work.

The Constituent Power of Architecture” by Lior Barshak

Abstract: The claim that law is grounded in representations of authority hardly requires justification. The article outlines one view of the power of representations of authority to subject society to the law, and attempts to shed light on the social significance of architecture as a medium of such representation. I will argue that representation sets apart the realms of the living and the dead while sustaining a complex relationship between the two realms. It houses the dead in a separate realm where they exercise authority over the living. Monumental architecture founds the authority of law, and the entire realm inhabited by the living, by relegating the dead to a separate sphere where they assume the position of ancestral lawgivers. Architecture can separate the living from the dead and anchor the rule of law by virtue of its claims to perpetuity and aesthetic form.

‘Passing through the Mirror': Dead Man, Legal Pluralism and the De-territorialization of the West” by Ruth M. Buchanan

Abstract: The failures of Western law in its encounter with indigenous legal orders have been well documented, but alternative modes of negotiating the encounter remain under-explored in legal scholarship.The present article addresses this lacuna. It proceeds from the premise that the journey towards a different conceptualization of law might be fruitfully re-routed through the affect-laden realm of embodied experience—the experience of watching the subversive anti-western film Dead Man. Section II explains and develops a Deleuzian approach to law and film which involves thinking about film as ‘‘event.’’ Section III considers Dead Man’s relation to the western genre and its implications for how we think about law’s founding on the frontier. Finally, the article explores the concept of ‘‘becoming’’ through a consideration of the relationship between the onscreen journey of the character Bill Blake and the radical worldview of his poetic namesake.

Law and the Foucauldian Wild West in Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gateby Diana Young

Abstract: Classic western films often conceive of the west as existing in a legal void, where the central conflict is a binary one between lawlessness and legalization. The law is a monolith, and the legalization process is linear—a narrative of the west’s inexorable evolution toward a modern state governed by the rule of law. Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate presents a more postmodernist, pluralist conception. There is no grand narrative of legalization; the film envisages a discourse of justice emerging from the interaction of a variety of discourses, and which appears to be a unity only from the vantage point of history.

Law and Society Panel on Legacies of Colonialism in Indigenous Communities Reply


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

My other favorite panel from the Law and Society Association’s Annual Meeting was Narratives of Il(legality) in Liminal Indigenous Locations, held Friday. The panel included four very moving, thought-provoking presentations on the ways colonialism and legal and cultural oppression impact North American indigenous communities today.

The first three presentations dealt with legacies of Canada’s residential schools policy, which forcibly removed aboriginal children from their homes and raised them (if you can call it that) in conditions of abuse, deprivation, and denigration.

Carole Blackburn spoke on Blackwater v. Plint (2005), which arose from widespread sexual abuse at one church-run residential school. The government and church were held liable, but liability was mitigated because the court found school officials had no actual knowledge of abuse—despite the fact that several children reported the abuse to police and nurses. Blackburn examines the cultural conditions that made abuse of aboriginal children invisible to the defendants and the court. Lack of “actual knowledge,” she argues, is really a willed “ignorance that requires active dissociation” from injustices committed against the children.

Justice Melvyn Green of the Ontario Court of Justice spoke on his experiences as a rotating judge in the Gladue Court that handles sentencing of aboriginal criminal offenders, who are overrepresented in prisons by a factor of seven. While the Court carefully considers mitigating factors specific to aboriginals, Justice Green was very forthcoming about the Court’s limitations. Sentencing, after all, is the “tail end” of the process and earlier interventions are needed. Disparities in crime and imprisonment rates are part of “an inheritance of unbridled colonialism”; they result largely from “cultural genocide” propagated by Canada’s residential schools policy.

Jane McMillan’s paper concerned unintended consequences of the Residential Schools Settlement agreement of 2007, which compensates aboriginal Canadians who can prove they went to a residential school. Part of the claims process requires victims of abuse, many of whom are traumatized and have never spoken of their abuse, to detail their experiences in writing and undergo a hearing in order to receive extra compensation. (The seventeen-page form includes an appalling page of checkboxes listing various acts of sexual abuse and how many times they were done.) This culturally and psychologically insensitive process, while cathartic and healing for some, is for others a re-victimization.

Finally, Ann Tweedy traced the racialized notion of “self-defense” in U.S. jurisprudence to illuminate current problems with Indian sovereignty and gun control. Tweedy argues that stereotypes of Indians as “savage ignobles” (which arise, ironically, from Indian’s own efforts at self-defense against white settlers) have led to a long history of curtailing Indian sovereignty. The result has been widespread lawlessness on reservations due to Indians’ inability (and U.S. Attorneys’ refusal) to effectively prosecute crimes, particularly rape of Indian women by non-Indian men. At the same time, the right to bear arms must be understood in the context of white settlers “defending” themselves against what Justice Kennedy, only a few years ago, called “Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears and grizzlies and things like that.”

Law and Society Association Conference Update: Panel on the War on Terror Reply


The following is cross-posted from Legal Lacuna.

First, I am very grateful to the organizers and faculty of the Law and Society Association’s Graduate Student Workshop, which wrapped up on Wednesday. It was a terrific and inspiring program—I highly recommend it to other graduate students who do what I will affectionately call “law-and-blank” research.

Second, I attended several great panels during Days 1 and 2 of the LSA Annual Meeting (see Twitter at #LSA2011), but will detail just one of my favorites for now. Yesterday’s panel Exploring the Discontinuity in the War on Terror at the Margins and Beyond featured exciting papers by Paul E. Amar, Asli Bali, Darryl Li (a.k.a. @abubanda), and Wadie Said, with commentary by Sudha Setty.

Bali presented “Subordination by Law? Discretion and Discrimination against U.S. Muslims beyond September 11th,” which argued that since 9/11, executive branch powers have expanded alarmingly to create a de facto preventive detention system for Muslim Americans, dodging anti-discrimination laws. Bali described, among other things, two supermax-style prisons that hold terror suspects, 95% of whom are Muslim. (The rest are called “balancers,” meaning they are there to prevent—laughably—suggestions of religious or ethnic profiling.) She also points out that counterterrorism laws have effectively added aggravating factors to many minor crimes solely because the offender is Muslim; credit card fraud, for instance, has a tendency to become a terrorism-related felony if committed by a Muslim.

Li’s paper, delivered by Bali in his absence, examined “Global Civil War and American Power.” Li argues that the Global War on Terror (GWOT) operates largely outside the existing law of armed conflict, constituting a sort of “global civil war” in which US power is projected through weaker states and non-state actors. He eloquently refers to this as a “haunting of sovereignty” that does not fit traditional paradigms of either international or non-international armed conflict. Li’s evocative language and creative analysis can also be seen in his recent article, “Hunting the Out-of-Place Muslim,” which demonstrates how Muslims’ physical mobility is constructed as threatening and aberrational.

Amar’s paper, “The Human Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics, and the End of Neoliberalism,” traced the interplay between stereotypes of Arab “timebomb” masculinity and UN-style feminism up through the recent Egyptian revolution. Said’s paper, “The Message and Means of the Modern Terrorism Prosecution,” discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s exceptional treatment of terrorism to contextualize Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (2009), which codified a broad interpretation of the 2007 material support ban.