Law is commonly viewed as a field of texts. Much legal scholarship focuses on rules, decisions, and judgments, emphasising the central role of drafting legislation and interpretive practices. Yet this does not capture the other ways that law works – not only as a text-based profession, but also as a form of power that operates over bodies and across spaces. The practice of law is increasingly mediated through software and statistical analyses, such as in the case of transnational surveillance networks and digital databases. How is the substance of law changing in relation to new technologies and legal forms? How can legal scholarship benefit from thinking about law’s materiality together with developments in other academic disciplines? The UK Arts and Humanities Research Council sponsored Legal Materiality Research Network is an interdisciplinary group of scholars concerned with formulating new approaches to understanding law’s changing materiality, from textuality to diverse matters and media.
Together with our contributors and network members, we have probed working definitions of matter and materiality in many different fora and formats. One result has been a special issue on the theme of ‘legal materiality’ in the journal, Law Text Culture, which is freely available as open-access here.
We are grateful for the open and generous engagements of everyone that we have met in this project. Although the AHRC funding is over, we are certain that the questions, conversations and collaborations that the project has generated will continue in the future.
Image: Kang Sunkoo, Statue of Limitations. 11m x 2. Humboldt Forum & Nachtigalplatz, Berlin. Realisation, May 2020.
Header Images Attribution: These images are used for non-commercial, academic use only.
George Skadding, photographer. Overall view of large file room at FBI headquarters. Retrieved from Life Images, 1940. <http://images.google.com/hosted/life/6dd3161131e7794c.html>
Harris & Ewing, photographer. Patent official, patent record files. Files of patents of which 2,180,00 have been issued. These files extend over 50 miles in total length and are kept in air conditioned portion of the building, washed air keeps paper from iridizing. Ca. 1940. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/hec2009015034/>