… can be found here incorporating last minute changes and keynote by our advisory board member, James Leach:
The link for registration for the January concluding conference is live.
Please register ideally by 10 December for purpose of planning.
Please note that we have a venue change. The event is now hosted and supported by Dr Bernard Keenan of Birkbeck Law School in observance with the University and College Union support of the boycott of all events held at the University of London Senate House, Warburg Institute and Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in solidarity with outsourced cleaning and security staff. The event was originally scheduled to take place at the Warburg Institute. More info can be found here: https://iwgb.org.uk/boycottsenatehouse We thank Bernard for his help.
The full programme and the abstracts can be found here:
Please see the flyer below for details
Date: 9 – 10 January 2020
Place: Warburg Institute, Woburn Place, London, UK
Call closes: 18 August 2019
Proposal format: 500 words maximum
Over the last two years, the AHRC Legal Materiality Research Network has brought together cross-disciplinary scholars who have examined law’s relation to its constitutive materials. Network members analysed and discussed the meaning of matters, materials and materiality as they specifically relate to law. What is a legal matter, what is material in and to law, and how do certain materials turn an issue into a legal matter? Such inquiries in turn lead to the question of legal ontology: what is ‘legal’ rather than a- or non-legal? These theoretical and methodological considerations are relevant to many subfields of legal scholarship, as well as to scholars in other disciplines who study different manifestations of law.
The research network’s concluding conference brings together scholars whose works examine law’s diverse materials and who engage with legal materiality from aesthetic, ethnographic, historical, rhetorical and philosophical perspectives. We invite contributions in the form of a paper or other innovative formats, particularly ones that:
– trace the making of a legal matter through legal materials: how do certain materials (things, media, image, sound, data, building, room, oral evidence…) become meaningful to law?
– offer theoretical reflections on law as/in ‘objects’: seeing and reading law metaphorically as/in a physical object
-interrogate an a- or non-human legal form, language and legal practice
– examine the specific relations between law’s physical and intangible materials and its language (textual or otherwise).
This is not an exclusive list of possible topics of contributions. We welcome contributions from outside traditional legal scholarship, such as anthropology, art, history, literature, media studies, music, philosophy, political theory, and science studies, that treat law as their site of inquiry.
Please submit your proposal of no more than 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 18 August 2019.
We will try to contribute as much and equitably as possible towards travel and accommodation costs of the selected contributors (approximately 8-10).
The Legal Materiality Research Network is a two-year (January 2018 – January 2020) project funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council and co-convened by Dr Hyo Yoon Kang and Dr Sara Kendall, Kent Law School, University of Kent, UK. The international cross-disciplinary research network has sought to formulate an understanding of materiality that takes into account the specific discursive and practical contexts of different legalities and the making of law. Please see the project webpage for more information and past events: legalmateriality.wordpress.com
We have put together a stream of exciting papers that explores the effects of legal materials, techniques and visibilities at the upcoming annual Law, Culture and the Humanities conference in Ottawa. In the previous years’ meetings, we had explored legal materialist approaches in a paper panel and a roundtable. This March, we look forward to continuing the conversation in different areas of legal scholarship of the LCH community.
Here are the abstracts of the stream:
Panel 1: Legal materiality – part 1
Chair: Genevieve Painter
i) Hyo Yoon Kang and Sara Kendall: “Legal Materiality”
In this presentation we reflect on developing legal materiality as an approach in legal scholarship, which we have explored in the last two years at the ASLCH. Legal materiality recognises law as both a hermeneutic and a material phenomenon: as uniquely engaged with issues of writing, reading, interpretation and judgment, yet also as mediated by and produced through material techniques and practices. It is attuned to the ways in which materials come to be enlisted as ‘matters of concern’ for law: that is, how the interpretive and text-based practices of law are informed and mediated by material conditions. Rather than taking ‘law’ as a premise, it interrogates the contribution of materials and things to the making of legal meaning. We illustrate this approach in case studies drawn from intellectual property and international law.
ii) Zachary Reyna: “Two Models of Contracting and their Implications for Legal Materialists”
Contracting has been a central device in modern political and legal theory since at least Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes. This paper explores the legal concept of contracting through two of its most profound and original thinkers: Thomas Hobbes and the less-known Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The goal is to use these two thinkers to uncover two models for thinking about the meaning of legal materiality—a topic that has generated increased interest in recent years. The paper argues that Hobbes and Sacher-Masoch offer two divergent accounts of the contract that have important consequences for how we think about legal materiality. Hobbes deploys the contract as a corrective to fix—through means of “artifice”—a lack in the world as it is given to us. Legal materialists have drawn on this model both to call us to include and re-vitalize the stuff left outside the space opened by this contact and alternatively to focus on the specifically legal hermeneutic practices that govern and produce legal forms within this space. In contrast, Sacher-Masoch’s contracts are aimed at disclosing “the ontological intimacy between language and matter.” Sacher-Masoch achieves this through various contractual devices of drawing together (con-trahere): drafting a contract, pen strokes, whip strokes, draft animals, contracting flesh, and storytelling. Ultimately, while Sacher-Masoch encourages legal materialists to focus on the matters of law conventionally left out of the Hobbesian model, he is simultaneously critical of any naïve appeal to simply let these matters “speak for themselves.” For Sacher-Masoch, the legal device of contracting is a crucial—and underthought—process whereby matter comes to matter.
iii) James Martel: “’God is Change’: anarchist prophecy, and radical ways of seeing in The Parable of the Sower.”
This paper is about anarchist forms of prophecy. My argument is that archist prophets claim to have special sight and see things that no one else sees; they assert the truth of invisible things like heaven and the law, things which they insist are more tangible and real than reality itself. Anarchist prophets, on the other hand, simply point out what we already know but don’t want to acknowledge; the non existence of the very things that archist prophets claim to be able to see. In this way anarchist prophets don’t have special sight but the same sight as everyone else. What they do is to get others to acknowledge what they are seeing (that is, to stop seeing things that aren’t there). I will make this argument based on a reading of science fiction novel by Octavia Butler called “The Parable of the Sower” where the main character is a prophet named Lauren Olamina. Lauren creates an entirely new religion in a time of the total breakdown of US society (in ways that are terrifyingly plausible these days). She fights all the false hopes of being rescued by the state (which is totally and hopelessly corrupt and violent) or the law (which is effectively nonexistent except for the very rich) and instead embraces change and human agency, two things that archist forms of seeing try to undermine and supersede.
Panel 2: Legal materiality – part 2
Chair: James Martel
i) Jill Stauffer: “You people talk from paper”: Indigeneous law, western legalism, and the cultural variability of law’s materials.
A First Nations elder from the Yukon, criticizing a group of scientists at a joint conference of scientists and indigenous persons involved in environmental issues facing the polar and sub-polar regions of Canada, said this: “You people talk from paper. Me, I want to talk from Grandpa.” When Mrs. Annie Ned says this, she’s not only voicing a criticism of how western knowledge is conveyed but of how those who are embedded in its ways learn to think and listen. They think indigenous stories are based in myth but that western legalisms are not. They look for universal truths, controlled experiments, think data answers every question. They may not see that it is fully possible to have a deep understanding of how the world works that emerges differently. And so they tend to listen to an oral narrative in order to turn it into a text that can then be read like any other text. But that is exactly the right way to never understand. In this talk I’ll use Mrs. Ned’s observation to think about the ways settler colonial courts fail to hear indigenous claims about land and justice. To do this, I’ll consider the materiality of “talking from paper” alongside assertions that a song, a story, a ceremonial robe, or a totem pole, could be law or legal title rather than evidence of those things.
ii) Genevieve Painter: “Law, History, and Things”
The ‘law and …’ field of legal scholarship verges on consensus about the co-constitution between law and nearly everything else. Co-constitution raises questions about how to differentiate law from other things. The contemporary turn from words towards the material brings fresh perspective on these questions by suggesting that law’s differentiation is fabricated through materiality. This project concerns how material techniques differentiate law, how material techniques differentiate history, and how these processes may produce ideas of ‘law’ and ‘history’ as distinct and separate. Inspired by the Legal Objects Workshop, I draw on work in which I examine the material, archival, and museum techniques that fabricate the difference of a thing not commonly understood by Western law as law. My focus is an object created in Haida Gwaii in the late nineteenth century and now displayed in the British Museum. I consider how jurisdictional choices are embedded in the fabrication of this thing’s difference. I juxtapose the analysis of this thing-that-is-not-law with another thing-that-is-not-law, a photograph from the official archives of an international organization. Contemporary historians of law spend their times in archives taking photographs (rather than reading or taking notes), meaning that the raw material of history has become photographs of documents. While the historian’s role as just one more actors in a long chain of archivists constructing an archive has been explored in the archival turn, legal scholars have paid less attention to the action of photography as a material practice. I hope to juxtapose the apparent ‘thing-ness’ of a sculpture in the British Museum with the apparent ‘non-thing-ness’ of a photograph, its apparent status as pure representation, to see if that can tell us anything about what legal historians do when they trace the line between law and history.
iii) Daniela Gandorfer: “Law of Life Writing”
Autobiography is commonly understood as a literary genre that grants an individual the right to narrate a life. As such, the genre – deeply embedded in Eurocentric ideas of subjectivity, self-awareness and the Cartesian body/mind dualism – serves as framing device which legitimately cuts out a life from a continuum, and renders its remainder objects, plot, space, or prey. Critical post-humanist and neo-materialist theories have exposed the shortcomings of the genre and proposed a shift to life writing, which adumbrates a different subject – multiple, materially embedded, embodied and relational.
Life writing, however, does not only pertain to the representational sphere, but becomes inscribed in and on the level of matter – and with it its anthropocentric, liberal and neo-humanist implications. Scientific breakthroughs in biotechnology, genetics, synthetic biology, and computer technology altered our conception of what life is and provide legal tools to invent or efface life forms. This urges us to address the right to life, as well as the right to write and narrate life on a molecular level. Life – actually and legally – seems to come after the cut.
In my talk I aim to look closer at how law performs these ontological surgeries (Jasanoff) as Cartesian cuts (Barad) that sharply separate legal subject from object, commodity, and property. Are there alternative ways of thinking the right to life, apart from the Cartesian cut and its anthropocentric legacy? Can law narrate life symbiotically, rather than autobiographically? And if so, who or what can have a right to life?
Panel 3: Legal materiality – part 3
Art, Law, Materialism: A Discussion on Objects, Aesthetics and the Juridical
Chair: Sara Kendall
Engaging with what has been termed the recent ‘affective turn’ in the social sciences and humanities, this discussion seeks to unravel some of the ways in which objects and materiality, affect, determine and produce laws and aesthetics – and the juridical production of matter and art, in turn. How have artists been engaging with the developing philosophies of speculative realism, object-oriented-ontology (OOO) and new materialisms and how can their works inform understandings of the ethico-juridical? What role does the object play in law? Is materialism the same as aesthetics, following from Harman’s argument that aesthetics is the basis of all philosophy? What role does art play in law’s materiality? What are the affective practices of artists and lawyers? And what potential does a material understanding of art/law hold for the futures of legal theory?
Swastee Ranjan (University of Sussex), Connal Parsley (University of Kent) and Lucy Finchett-Maddock (University of Sussex), will be discussing their own research on affect, aesthetics, non-representational theory, and entropy in relation to the art, law and materiality.
 Patricia Ticineto Clough, Jean Halley (eds.), The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social, Duke University Press, 2007; Paul Hoggett, Simon Thompson (eds.), Politics and the Emotions: The Affective Turn in Contemporary Political Studies, Bloomsbury, 2012.
 Harman, Graham, Object-Oriented-Ontology: A New Theory of Everything, Penguin, 2018.
i) Swastee Ranjan: “Object’s Law – On affective traces that constitute legal meaning”
This paper emerges at the intersection of legal aesthetics and legal materiality wherein it seeks to understand and develop the juridical role of ‘physical’ things in constituting our normative environment. The argument follows that physical objects generate and constitute legal meaning that are not often mapped within the traditional understandings of law, instead they appear as fleeting trails of affective resonances. Inspired by the recent scholarship on new materialism and object-oriented ontologies, this paper seeks to extend the category of legal aesthetics to not only include the physicality of things and argue for their ability to generate normative values but also suggest an expansive understanding of aesthetic that is construed both in representational and non-representational terms. This paper works to expand the nature of legal pluralism by drawing on materiality and affect as significant registers through which legal meaning is constituted. Emerging out of my ongoing doctoral research, in this paper, I will use illustrations from the built environment of Delhi, to substantiate the relationship between affect, aesthetics and materiality and seek to show that law is both constitutive of and constituted through them.
ii) Lucy Finchett-Maddock: “A Theory of Art/Law”
This piece seeks to account for an increased interest in the intersection of art and law within legal thinking, activism, and artistic practice, arguing there to exist the phenomena and movement of ‘Art/Law’. Art/Law is the coming together of theory and practice in legal and political aesthetics, understood as a practice, (im)materially performed. It is seen as a natural consequence of thinking law and resistance in terms of space and time, accounting for a turn towards the visual, practical, and the role of affect, within ways of knowing. Art/law is a symptom of the end of art and end of law, synchronically rendered. Divisions between legal and aesthetic form have been well rehearsed within legal aesthetics scholarship, from law and literature, to critical legal studies’ work with images, text and performativity, and now law’s Anthropocene. Art/Law as a practice, however, is argued as an emergent onto-epistemic-ethics of necessity, a movement of seeing, being and knowing in response to the advancement of spectacle. It is the simultaneous reunion of law, art and resistance as one, breaking down the institutional artifice of art worlds and law worlds, offering a form of ‘resistant (in)formalism’, that accounts for matter and change. It is an inclusion of the uncertain and the disordered, as an opening of justice. This resistant (in)formalism describes the role of form, audience and practice within property, legal and aesthetic establishment, offering a countering of separatism at the end of art and the end of law, through a praxeology of Art/Law in seeing, thinking and action.
iii) Connal Parsley: “Contemporary Art / Towards a Material Praxis of Jurisprudence
This paper will think through some examples of contemporary art that address legal thematics in order to take seriously the knowledge about law that they contain. Despite repeated aesthetic and then materialist moves in critical legal studies away from the positivist understanding law as its normative or conceptual content, little ground has been made in diminishing the aura around law as a privileged textual object. Law remains conceptually presupposed even and especially by many apparently materialist approaches, which insist on locating and nominalising law. This paper will distance itself from this preoccupation with the pluralisation and proliferation of law and normativity, asking instead after the praxis and generation of knowledge about law. Key currents in contemporary art—particularly those drawing on post-aesthetic and post-autonomous practice—move past the social and cultural representation of law, as well as the concern with law’s aesthetic life and method of taking purchase on its subjects. The examples considered will ask what is at stake in taking legal forms, institutions and habits as art’s material; whether such art works can take the double step beyond both the objectification of law, and a mere provocation to see law “critically”; and whether we can understand the post-autonomous impulse in law art as a collapse between the “thought of law “and the “work of law” (for example, in self-consciously instituting relations). What emerges is the figure—perhaps impossible in both the positivist and “critical” legal traditions—of a material jurisprudential praxis that reconciles the subject of thought with its object.
Many of our network members will be active and presenting their works at the upcoming Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities (ASLCH) Annual meeting at Georgetown Law on 16 – 17 March 2018.
The paper panel ‘Legal Materiality: Improvisation, Natura, Specter’ will bring together different notions of materiality as specific legal enactments. This panel will probe a view of legal materiality as an oscillating process of meaning-making between intangible ideas and tangible bodies and things. Materiality may be understood as the different techniques and practices through which law comes to matter. Sara Ramshaw (University of Victoria), in “The Materiality of (Real) Time: Law as Improvisation”, will offer an understanding of legal materiality as a temporal duration which transcends real-time improvisation. Zach Reyna (University of Tyumen, Russia) will consider Aquinas’ concept of Natura which avoids the dichotomous trappings of a materialist or rational reductionism in “Making matter meaningful?: Words, Worlds, and Preambles, or How Law Matters”. Hyo Yoon Kang (Kent Law School) will examine the change of law’s medium from text to image to digital data in the context of patent law and explore how these representational formats affect the very meaning of legal form. Sara Kendall (Kent Law School) will chair this discussion.
In their paper “Délivrer le droit”, network member, Mark Antaki (McGill), with co-author, Alexandra Popovici (University of Sherbrooke), will focus on the transcription of “law” into ‘books” by way of the specific example of legal dictionaries and a broader engagement with the recently published Décrire le droit… et le transformer: Étude sur le phénomène de la “décriture” (by Vincent Forray and Sébastien Pimont).
James Martel (San Franciso State University) will consider how the dead better resist the colonizing acts of the state than the living and how the dead aid the living in their own resistance in “Decolonizing the dead: how corpses help the living resist subjugation”.
Chantal Nadeau (Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) will rethink the relationship between touching and seeing in our approach to legal recognition in her paper, “When law touched us, we died.” On touching, queerness and regulation of queer bodies”.
Genevieve Painter (Concordia University) will offer a fresh reading of the Canadian “Indian Act” drawing on an analysis of newly declassified Cabinet and Indian Affairs documents in “Constitutional Rights, Cost-cutting, and Colonization: A History of Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act”.
Connal Parsley (Kent Law School) will consider the political authority of the artist in the neoliberal conceptualisation of work in “Thinking the Political Authority of the Artist: The neoliberal situation”.
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!
AHRC Legal Materiality Research Network
ARTICULATING LAW’S MATTERS
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?
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):
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.
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
Thanks to Marie-Andree Jacob for the forward:
Law, Materiality and the Archive: Legal Documents, Artefacts and Evidence in South Asia
The production and interpretation of texts and documents play a central role in how states establish and maintain power. What are those practices and how are they experienced and encountered by litigants and other social actors? This panel proposed to explore: what are the material forms in which law is encountered and experienced by social actors and used by legal ones to establish their authority? What are the knowledge practices and what kind of material forms they take? What role does material and linguistic practices play in establishing law and state power and how do actors encounter or emulate them?
We propose to approach bureaucratic and legal documents as ethnographic and historical objects and ask: how are documents and other legal artefacts experienced and understood by social actors? What are historical and ethnographic practices by means of which actors engage with them? What are the practices of interpretation and documentation? How are signs and language used in legal documents and what are the practices of language and signs through which authority is constructed and contested?
Organizer: Salman Hussain, firstname.lastname@example.org