Programme of the AHRC Research Network Launch: Symposium ‘Articulating Law’s Matters’ 12 January 2018

We are pleased to announce the draft programme of the launch symposium on 12 January at the Warburg Institute in London.

Attendance is free, but registration is required:

We look forward to seeing you there!

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AHRC Legal Materiality Research Network



12 January 2018

Warburg Institute, Lecture Theatre, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB


Network Convenors and Co-organisers:
Hyo Yoon Kang and Sara Kendall (Kent Law School)


This symposium is the first event of the AHRC Legal Materiality Network, offering an overview and mapping some of the positions, approaches and tensions that the notion of ‘legal materiality’ has raised in contemporary legal scholarship. Law presents a particularly strong challenge to such object- and matter-based orientations because it is bound up with systems of meaning and is mediated by texts. Rather than taking physical objects as analogous materials through which law can be studied, participants seek to untangle and question assumptions of legality as inherent and self-evident in matter. Reflecting the aim of the network to bring together scholars across disciplinary divides who are working in and on law as an object of study into conversation, this symposium incorporates diverse viewpoints on law’s various material techniques and artefacts.



10-10:30 Welcome and Introduction 

Hyo Yoon Kang and Sara Kendall (Kent Law School)


10:30-12:00 Opening Shots 

Chair: Matei Candea (University of Cambridge)

Alain Pottage (London School of Economics and Political Science):  Operative Materiality

Marianne Constable (University of California, Berkeley):
Materials of Law, Matters of Language?


12:00-13:00 Lunch


13:00-14:30 Paper Panel: Law’s Techniques

Chair: Philipp Ekardt (Warburg Institute)

Marie-Andree Jacob (University of Keele):  Archiving Distance at the Medical Research Council, 1913-1960
Using a number of document formats and inscriptions kept in ‘controversy’ files held by the Medical Research Council, I’d like to give an account of how a state body displays reservation, doubt and even studied silence about a deviant scientist, whilst at the same time working within the logic of ‘print statism,’ characterised by Oz Frankel as the urge of the state to document profusely and thus to make itself a target for observation.

Markus Krajewski (University of Basel, History and Theory of Media): 
Computer Juridisms
Traditionally, the law has dominated the reality of word and image to a degree unequaled by any other performative system. Now, however, with the advent of the computer legal fictions must compete with digital virtuality. Simply put, virtuality challenges the law’s core concepts: corporeality, finitude, and authentication, concepts that are fundamental to any claim of territorial sovereignty as well as to imputations and rules of evidence. The computer itself has undergone a process of what one could call “juridification”- a peculiar adaptation of the computer to the legal framework. Before the law could even think of superimposing its structure on the computer, the computer, that hedgehog, was already there, fortified within an impregnable burrow. The computer already functioned according to a juridical logic. By incorporating the basic elements of the legal system into its own administrative structure the computer had become as sovereign as the law.


14:30-15:00 Coffee 


15:00-16:30  Paper Panel: Law’s Artefacts 

Chair: Hyo Yoon Kang (Kent Law School)

Tatiana Flessas (London School of Economics and Political Science, Law):
The Ends of the Museum
In recent years, there have been a plethora of cases in which museums have had to release treasured pieces. New legal initiatives and developments increasingly make repatriation claims by source nations and other single or group ‘original owners’ possible, most recently in the area of illicitly-trafficked antiquities. Recent scholarship radically questions the genealogy and functions of the museum, and its relationship with the concepts of space, culture, and identity. In terms of space, there have been analyses that place the museum at the centre of disciplinary projects, ‘civilizing rituals’, architectural expressions of the directions in the genealogies and cultural histories of modernity. In terms of culture and identity, there have been similar deconstructions of the links between nation-building and housing art and artefacts. Museums are now searching for strategies to protect their collections from the loss of authority and status that attend repatriation claims in this climate of criticism. Yet, do museums collude in this loss of authority by joining in the ‘propertisation’ of their collections? Embedded in the notion of modern museology is the primacy of the object. This, arguably, aids the legal and political initiatives that permit deaccessioning of objects, imposing external requirements on the retention or return of certain types of collections, and regulating the relationship between the collector and the museum.

Brenna Bhandar (SOAS, University of London, Law):
Historicising Law’s Materials: Representations and Counter-Representations of Value
This paper reflects on how specific legal material devices and techniques consolidate and represent dominant forms of valorisation. How do registries – of land, cargo, slaves, and convicts – reflect epistemologies that are central to the production of financialised value? How do insurance policy documents function in a similar way? At stake in this question is the juxtaposition of two very different strands of critical legal theory. The first is Marxist interpretations of the legal form as a reflection of the commodity form, and the second are (broadly speaking) Latourian-inspired examinations of how the materiality of legal documents (in this case, the title deed, the slave registries found in the colonial archive, etc.) shape the legal function of the documents or devices themselves. On the one hand, the land title registry can be seen as a representation of a more fully commoditised vision of land, while from other perspectives, the title document itself shapes practices of conveyance and ownership. In this work, I seek to bring these very different trajectories of scholarship into conversation with another. The legal representational techniques that I examine will be juxtaposed with one or more works of visual art, each of which disrupt the epistemological foundations of the legal artefact. They offer counter-stories to those reflected in the legal artefacts and complicate their understanding by bringing in historical material forces which are not apparent in legal materials. I explore the potential of such a historicisation to present a very different understanding of property ownership, labour, legal taxonomies, and the economic and social relations in which they are embedded.


16:30-17:30 Roundtable: Law as a Material

The aim of the roundtable is to delineate and distinguish the conceptual assumptions and questions that are raised by a matter-centred or object-focused approach to legal scholarship by inviting perspectives of a distinguished group of scholars studying law and/or legal force from outside traditional legal scholarship: anthropology, history of sciences, science and technology studies. It will situate other disciplines’ past “material turns” and explore the benefits and fallacies of transferring these into the study of law. The roundtable will address questions such as: what does it mean that something is an object of law, and by what criteria is an object assessed as ‘legal’? Which things matter or do not matter in law? What is the role of interpretation and the perspective of the observer in the constitution of materiality? It will discuss the linkage by which matters become meaningful as legal subjects and objects, but also how matters exert influence on the making and meaning of law.


Mario Biagioli (University of California at Davis, STS, History of Science, Law)

Kamari Clarke (Carleton University, International and Global Studies, Law, Anthropology)

James Leach (CNRS Pacific-Credo, Marseille, Anthropology)

Javier Lezaun (University of Oxford, Anthropology, STS)

Moderation: Hyo Yoon Kang and Sara Kendall


4 thoughts on “Programme of the AHRC Research Network Launch: Symposium ‘Articulating Law’s Matters’ 12 January 2018

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