August 29, 2011

Call For Papers: Extended Deadline

From Josh Wodak at Australian National University:

Honour Killing Across Culture and Time - EXTENDED Call for Papers

(1 September deadline)

Australian National University

Canberra, Australia

7-9 December 2011

Honour-motivated violence is a trans-historical and cross-cultural phenomenon, yet it has recently become a metonym for Islamic and anti-modern cultures.

How can inter-disciplinary conversations unpack this association to produce innovative ways of thinking about and acting against violence justified through claims of honour?

This conference will explore honour killing across periods, places, political contexts, legal regimes and religions. It will bring together scholars, artists and activists. This event will be the ANU Gender Institute's Signature Event for 2011.

For more information:

August 28, 2011

An Art and Law Blog

Here's an interesting blog devoted to the intersection of art and the law: Art and Artifice. Some recent posts discuss art and politics, blasphemy in Poland, and the notorious Louboutin red heel trade mark infringement case.

August 27, 2011

Legal Writing: Tips From Fiction

Michelle Falkoff, University of Iowa College of Law, has published Lessons from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: Using Fiction Workshop Teaching Techniques in the First-Year Legal Writing Classroom, forthcoming in the Journal of Legal Education. 

The ability to critique one’s own work is invaluable to writers in every field, but teaching students how to critique their work and the work of others is one of the most difficult lessons to impart. The goal of this Article is to talk about ways that legal writing teachers can incorporate fiction workshop techniques as a means of teaching students the art of critiquing their own and others’ writing. In particular, this Article focuses on the workshop techniques employed at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the development of a common language for discussing writing in group settings.
Download the article from SSRN at the link.

August 26, 2011

Don't Tell Me Who Did It! I Paid a Lot For This Book!

A forthcoming study from two University of California, San Diego academics supports what I've thought for a long time: knowing whodunit in a mystery or thriller doesn't necessarily ruin the experience. I think it explains why some people (like me) re-read mysteries (and no, it's not because I can't remember the endings). Nicholas Christenfeld, one of the study's co-authors (I really like the presentation of his publications here), says the research explains why people actually enjoy knowing the ending. I understand that. They can concentrate on the journey along the way rather than obsess over the problem of the perpetrator.

But some people don't agree. They like the mystery, and that's understandable as well. They like puzzles. That's why they read crime novels, and watch thrillers. This research by Dr. Christenfeld and his co-author Dr. Jonathan Leavitt might also explain part of the debate in magic circles over exposure. Some practitioners say it ruins the performance for the audience, and condemn those magicians (like Penn & Teller) who make a practice of explaining at least some illusions to their audiences. But some magicians say knowing how a magician performs an illusion doesn't really matter. A magician can still amaze with a performance.

More here on the study, which is forthcoming in Psychological Science (available to subscribers).

Selected New Books

Some new scholarly books in law and humanities:

Brundage, W. Fitzhugh, Beyond Blackface: African Americans and the Creation of Popular Culture, 1890-1930 (Raleigh: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

Chakkalakal, Tess, Novel Bondage: Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011).

Jones, Paul Christian, Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (Ames: University of Iowa Press, 2011).

A Little Solitaire: John Frankenheimer and American Film (Murray Pomerance and R. Barton Palmer, eds.; Rutgers University Press, 2011). 

Markovitz, Jonathan, Racial Spectacles: Explorations in Media, Race, and Justice (Routledge, 2011).

Montell, William Lynwood, Tales From Kentucky Sheriffs (University Press of Kentucky, 2011).  

Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age (Sheila Janasoff, ed.; Cambridge,  MIT Press, 2011). 

August 25, 2011

France, the United States, and Coming to Terms With Slavery

Ariela J. Gross, University of Southern California Law School, has published All Born to Freedom? Comparing the Law and Politics of Race and the Memory of Slavery in the U.S. and France Today as USC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-18. Here is the abstract.

Both the United States and France have seen a burgeoning of memorialization of slavery and abolition in recent years, and France has even passed a memorial law declaring slavery a crime against humanity. This Essay compares law, racial politics, and the memory of slavery in two nations trying to come to terms with their slave pasts. Despite important differences in their histories and civil rights regimes, I argue that in both France and the U.S., movements that oppose race-conscious law portray slavery as part of the deep past, and a generalized past detached from race, whereas those seeking some form of recognition or reparation emphasize that slavery is “not even past.” In both countries, the originary revolutionary moment – in France, associated with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and in the U.S. with the 1787 Constitution – is invoked to create a sense of the timeless continuity of the principle of colorblindness, with slavery (and race-conscious legal remedies today) temporary deviations.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

The Development of Western Constitutional Ideas

Jean LeClair, Université de Montréal Faculty of Law, has published L'Avènement Du Constitutionnalisme En Occident: Fondements Philosophiques Et Contingence Historique (The Advent of Western Constitutionalism: Philosophical Foundations and Historical Contingency) in volume 41 of the Revue de droit de l'Université de Sherbrooke (2011). Here is the abstract.

Pour le bénéfice des non-initiés aux arcanes du droit constitutionnel occidental, l’auteur, après avoir brièvement décrit les notions de droit constitutionnel et de constitutionnalisme, s’attarde à retracer les idées-force qui, en Occident, ont rendu possible l’avènement de ces notions. Par la suite, il examine la trajectoire historique empruntée plus spécifiquement par les constitutionnalismes anglais, français et américain. L’auteur cherche ainsi à démontrer que, malgré la contingence historique du constitutionnalisme canadien, les principes philosophiques qui en sont à la source tirent leur origine de ce qu’on pourrait appeler un « patrimoine intellectuel occidental.

For the benefit of those unacquainted with the arcane features of Western Constitutional law, the writer, after briefly describing the notions of “constitutional law” and “constitutionalism”, seeks to set out the fundamental ideas which have enabled these notions to develop in the Western World. He then examines the historical trajectory of British, French and American constitutionalism. In so doing, the author seeks to underline that, notwithstanding the historical contingency of Canadian constitutionalism, the philosophical ideas upon which it is grounded may be described as originating from a “Western intellectual patrimony.”
Download the article from SSRN at the link. (NB: Text is in French).

August 22, 2011

King Lear and Leviathan

Alex Schulman, Duke University, has published From Lear to Leviathan: On States of Nature and Social Contracts in Shakespeare's Politics as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

Philosophers have been more ready to incorporate insights from the dramas of William Shakespeare than political theorists, who have focused more of their energies on ancient Greek tragedy. I argue that Shakespeare’s plays are a valuable and necessary resource for a political theory open to imaginative literature, by focusing specifically on King Lear and reading it against Hobbes’s Leviathan. I argue that Shakespeare tragically depicts the same process – the recreation of sovereignty out of a state of nature and emergent social contract – that Hobbes argues for normatively. Shakespeare’s play shows what is required of us psychologically and even emotionally in carrying out the Hobbesian process of disassembling hierarchical feudalism and constructing a modern political rationalism. will be provided by author.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

Freedom, Power, and the Control of Women in "Vertigo"

John (Jay) Steinmetz, University of Oregon, has published 'They Had the Power and the Freedom': A Genealogy of Patriarchal Violence in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

The control of women is at the center of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, a misogyny of domination that is easily apparent. Less apparent in previous literature on Vertigo is the connection to a history of violence against women that threads through key scenes, where the expression "the freedom and the power" is spoken by the wife-murderer Gavin Elster, an authority on San Francisco history, and John "Scottie" Ferguson, who stalks and obsesses over what becomes three women: Madeleine Elster, Carlotta Valdez, and Judy Barton. The freedom and the power is something men once had, but they are slowly losing it, and there emerges the paranoia, the real vertigo. This phrase and its connotation, that of controlling women, connects both freedom and power to the mechanisms of patriarchy. One such mechanism in Vertigo is the deployment, in Foucaultian terms, of a myth: that Carlotta Valdez, thrown away by a rich man nearly 100 years ago, haunts Gavin Elster's wife Madeleine. This myth, the spurned woman, covers up the darker violence underneath, that of uxoricide. Foucault's repressive hypothesis, a deployment in discourse on the freedom and power of sexuality, can be mapped onto the myth of Carlotta Valdez and the killing of women that lies below its surface.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

August 18, 2011

The Myth of Rights

Jeffrey Dudas, University of Connecticut Department of Political Science, has published 'A Madman Full of Paranoid Guile': The Myth of Rights in the Modern American Mind, as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting paper. Here is the abstract.

Stuart Scheingold’s path-breaking The Politics of Rights ignited scholarly interest in the political mobilization of rights. The book was a challenge to the reigning popular and scholarly common sense regarding the supposedly self-executing nature of rights (what Scheingold called the “myth of rights”). Rights, Scheingold argued, could be resources for the pursuit of social change; but their realization in court doctrine and legislative output was not itself tantamount to meaningful social change. Thus embedded in The Politics of Rights is skepticism (or at least ambivalence) about the utility of rights politics for social movements. Scheingold was not ambivalent about the moral or normative value of rights themselves, although he did argue that the realization of rights was not by itself enough to overcome the manifold inequalities that structure modern life. The Politics of Rights, accordingly, is clear-eyed, but not cynical about rights advocacy. It is thus surprising, and keenly revealing, that Scheingold’s final work – The Political Novel, which is ostensibly not about rights at all – points to mass cynicism, alienation, and the collapse of faith in governing institutions and logics as the animating elements of modern liberal democracies, including especially the United States. That rights are a vital part of the civic mythology whose collapse defines modern times suggests that the civil rights context of aspiration and struggle in which Scheingold, and nearly all of his followers (this author included), have conceived rights may be unnecessarily narrow. Rights may also be embedded, that is, in the modern condition of alienation, despair, and felt powerlessness. Inspired by Scheingold’s investigation of how literature points to this modern condition of political estrangement, I offer an alternative backdrop for The Politics of Rights that is rooted in the bleak renderings of the American character found in much 1970’s American popular and intellectual culture. Such a contextualization, I will argue, suggests that we envision The Political Novel as a companion piece to The Politics of Rights; together they keenly illuminate both the mobilizing and de-mobilizing potential of the myth of rights.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

Philosophers and States of Emergency

Tyler Curley, University of Southern California, has published Sounding the Alarm: Machiavelli, Locke and States of Emergency as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

Leaders have long sought to redefine the legal and political order in states of emergency. In this paper, I detail the theoretical formulations of emergency powers provided by Machiavelli and Locke. These theorists offer contrasting accounts about the tolerable use of executive authority to define when emergencies arise and to rule accordingly. Even though they both discuss these powers as inevitable features of political life, I argue there should be a distinction between the authority to delineate what situations constitute emergencies and the permissible executive powers during these times. Extralegal power automatically flows from the determination of an emergency for these theorists, which I find problematic and disquieting. I warn against Machiavelli’s idea that self-interested princes alone should determine when emergencies exist and the extent of powers to eradicate these threats. While I am more sympathetic to Locke’s attempt to limit extralegal executive authority, I find he does not adequately account for abuses of emergency powers. Both theoretical accounts lead to disturbing political communities wherein the same person is given the dual authority to determine when a situation constitutes an emergency and the scope of powers in these times.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

August 16, 2011

Theosophy and Nationalism

Mark Bevir, University of California, Berkeley Department of Political Science, has published Theosophy, Cultural Nationalism, and Home Rule as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

This essay contains three sections. The first shows how western theosophists simplified and appropriated Indian thought, deploying it to resolve dilemmas confronting occult and other religious traditions. The second section explores how theosophical ideas then provided one inspiration for a tradition of cultural nationalism within India itself.

Finally, the third section examines how this cultural nationalism transformed Congress in the years immediately surrounding Gandhi’s return from South Africa.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

August 15, 2011

Voegelin and Metaphor

Glenn Hughes has published Voegelin's Use of Metaphor as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting paper. Here is the abstract.

This paper discusses Eric Voegelin's use of key metaphors at the core of his philosophy of existence. After a look at Voegeli's notion of "symbol," it offers definitions of analogy and metaphor, then goes on to introduce notions of "existential metaphors" and "primal metaphors," the latter defined as those pertaining to transcendence or to human participation in transcendence. Voegelin's choice to rely in his philosophy on primal metaphors such as "the Beyond" and " the In-Between" is examined, and this choice is finally related to his openness to and analyses of myth.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

New International Law and Language Journal

A new online journal, the International Journal of Law, Language, & Discourse, and accompanying website, have launched here.

Here's the mission statement.

The International Journal of Law, Language & Discourse is published quarterly and presents articles related to legal issues, review of cases, comments and opinions on legal cases.

The International Journal of Law, Language & Discourse is a scholarly publication that examines a wide field of international legal issues. The Journal serves as both a practical resource for lawyers, judges, and legislators and those academics who teach the future legal generations. The Journal combines academic areas of law, discourse analysis, English linguistic analysis, combined with psycho-legal-linguistics.

August 11, 2011

A Peruvian Law and Literature Website

Welcome to a new website, Jus Literaria, created by students of law and literature at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Lima, Peru), Facultadad de Derecho. At least, I think it's new, or at least the addition of the counter on the home page is new; it indicated (according to my translation which could very well be wrong) fewer than 30 total hits when I visited today. I've added a link to the site under "Resources" here at the Law and Humanities Blog.

The website has links to figures in art and law (example: Daumier), founding scholars in the field of law and literature in various countries (Benjamin Cardozo and Richard Weisberg for the US), suggestions for secondary reading,  and links to associations. I'm not entirely sure why it's set up the way it is: why the French phrase "droit et littérature" takes you to a bibliography while the Italian equivalent takes you to an association, but maybe the logic will become clear with further use. At any rate, the site provides a lot of information, particularly for those interested in Latin American law and literature. I hope the students continue to keep it updated.

Pretty Little Philosophers?

Timothy Lukes has published The Politics of Beauty: Locke, Shaftesbury, and Burke as an APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Here is the abstract.

I argue that liberalism adulterates beauty, that Shaftesbury cannot resist the survival agenda of Locke, and that Burke's concept of the sublime is the result.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

Notre Ami Montequieu

Kirsten Nussbaumer, Saint Louis University, has published Republican Election Reform and the American Montesquieu. Here is the abstract.

At the time of the American founding, discourse about election regulation was shaped by a venerated -- but now long-forgotten -- “republican” (or “whig”) tradition that taught that important election rules ought to be “fixed” in constitutions, not left to mere ordinary law, in order to protect popular sovereignty and limit electoral manipulation for incumbent, factional or partisan advantage. Men speaking on all sides of the debates about the framing and ratification of the U.S. constitution repeatedly invoked Montesquieu as authority for this tradition, and used (their understanding of) his precepts in order to evaluate each elections provision of the proposed constitution for its conformity to the tradition. While some elections provisions were received as sharp departures from the tradition, others were taken to be faithful accommodations of the republican tradition to a new variant of federalism. Over time, the republican electoral tradition evolved from an emphasis on entrenching election rules against change to mere entrenchment of a requirement that election reform be channeled through constitutional processes.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

August 10, 2011

Grotian Rhetoric

John D. Haskell, University of Helsinki, University of London, and International University College of Turin, has published Hugo Grotius in the Contemporary Memory of International Law: Secularism, Liberalism, and the Politics of Restatement and Denial in volume 25 of the Emory International Law Review (2011). Here is the abstract. 

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) frequently occupies the title, ‘father of international law’. While the origins of professional lineage were a source of professional and personal conflict for jurists in the 19th century, scholars today tend to treat Grotius as either a symbolic marker of changing historical thought, or the symbolic figure of a style or school of global governance. These two contemporary streams of remembrance operate within a dense background of assumptions about the nature and possibilities of the global order, which raise at least three sets of curiosities. First, in light of nuanced scholarship of Grotius’ primary materials in recent decades, what does an emphasis on the actual content of Grotius’ work impart about the character of his times, and through what lens should we organize our understanding (e.g., political, juridical, theological, and so on)? Second, what inspires the almost cyclical (or perhaps more perversely, fetishistic) attraction to Grotius in the fields of international law and politics, and how might this help us better understand both the psychological and structural underpinnings of contemporary practice, or even the nature and trajectory of the profession in a more broad sense? And third, in lieu of any findings, what if any possibility does this attraction to Grotius open up for future strategic, or even imaginative engagement? In sum, what stories does the Grotius rhetoric allow us to tell about the international legal order, and do such stories carry any political, if not personal, impact?

It is these questions that I attempt to grapple with in this paper in the hopes of providing a concise synthesis of the various engagements within the Grotian tradition to better understand the imaginative contours of our contemporary professional vocabularies and reflect on any emancipatory possibilities this might open up. What seems particularly striking is while ever more scholarship exposes a strong empirical dissonance in respect to the memory of Grotius, such representations continue to exercise powerful sway over ongoing discussions about the past, present, and future of global governance. In response, I have organized the paper into three themes, which overlapping in some respects, are nevertheless helpful in parceling out the various approaches and motivations at work in the literature. The first and second sections provide an overview and then a revisionist account of the claims to what might be labeled the turn to ‘the secular’ and ‘liberal tolerance’. In the third section, the paper moves to reflect more broadly upon the implications of this attraction, attempting particularly to deduce some possible motivations for the continuous misreading of Grotius’ actual work. In conclusion, I briefly trace out some initial suggestions about an alternative future towards the legacy of the Grotian tradition, what might be characterized as a shift from a politics of restatement and denial to a politics of truth.
The full text is not available from SSRN.

The Permanence of Legal Fictions

Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia School of Law, has published Legal Fictions Revisited. Here is the abstract. 

There was a time when the topic of legal fictions engaged many of the most important thinkers about law, including Jeremy Bentham, Morris Cohen, John Chipman Gray, Jerome Frank, Lon Fuller, Rudolf von Ihering, Hans Kelsen, Henry Sumner Maine, Alf Ross, and Pierre de Tourtoulon, among many others. But that time has passed, and these days “legal fiction” has become little more than a loosely used all-purpose term of legal criticism. This change is unfortunate, however, because real legal fictions still exist and are still important. Even more significantly, however, understanding legal fictions helps us to understand legal presumptions, and, even more broadly, provides a valuable window into understanding legal truth and legal language. This paper, prepared for the Project on Truth and Law of the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), explores these issues, recapturing some of the historical thinking about legal fictions, distinguishing true legal fictions from the notion of a fiction in Kelsenian legal philosophy, deflating the notion that legal presumptions are legal fictions, and examining the relationship among true legal fictions, legal truth, and legal language.
Download the full text from SSRN at the link.

August 9, 2011

Assault Of the Zombie Verbs and Vampire Nouns

After taking emeritus status at Cooley Law School, Norman Otto Stockmeyer has apparently taken up the cudgels. He's proposing the killing off of those nouns-turned-verbs ("Let's dialogue") and those verbs-turned-nouns ("A wonderful dine") before they attack us all. I'm down with that. More here, in "Zombie Verbs and Vampire Nouns," in the spring issue of The Scrivener. Could invented phrases ("Play a factor") be his next target?

August 8, 2011

Come and Be Kilt

Phil Rickman, of the BBC Blog WalesArts, examines the genre affectionately known as "Tartan Noir."  Says Mr. Rickman in part,

This is the term invented for dark Scottish crime novels about doomed hardmen with noses broken by Glasgow kisses and arteries clogged by fried Mars bars. The street-level, socially-aware antidote to traditional upper class English crime by Agatha Christie and co.

It's all a marketing scam, of course, promoted by people who conveniently forget that, as well as breeding Ian Rankin, Chris Brookmyre and Stuart MacBride, Scotland is also the home of the awfully genteel, endearingly inoffensive Alexander McCall Smith whose characters make Miss Marple look hard-boiled.

But Tartan Noir really works. It's a killer brand that's sold millions of books in places a long way south of Scotland.

It seems to have begun back in the 1970s when William McInvanney, an established literary novelist, turned out a couple of intelligent thrillers featuring a Glasgow cop called Laidlaw. It never became much of a series, but it did inspire the young Ian Rankin to create a similar cop operating in Edinburgh - John Rebus.

Mr. Rickman notes that a few mystery novelists sets their works in Wales, and wants to know if the Welsh are ready for their own genre. (But what would it be called?) Read on here, MacDuffs!

Green Bag Trading Cards: Scalia's Up

The Green Bag has released its latest Supreme Court Sluggers trading card: Antonin Scalia. He's a catcher (earlier releases featured Chief Justice John Roberts, pitcher, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, also a catcher, and Arthur Goldberg). More on the Supreme Court trading cards project here.

Want Green Bag swag, like the cards or the bobbleheads created by Green Bag editor Ross Davies and his cohorts? In brief, you have to subscribe to the journal or otherwise make your case to the masthead mavens.

August 4, 2011

"Tell Me, (Mr. or Ms.) Editor: Am I Stupid?"

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Rachel Toor writes about the anxieties many people feel about their academic work, and that yes, it's normal. A helpful and well-written column.

Words, Words, Words

Dwight Garner writes about the uses of communications in today's New York in "The Words We Live By," a column in the August 3rd New York Times. His tale takes in, among other things, MOMA, the Strand Book Store, a favorite candy emporium, several eateries and a bus; his comments concerning the interactions of words, laws, and deeds are delightful. A sample, from his discussion of a visit to Isaac Bashevis Singer Boulevard.

On that street sign Singer’s name is spelled entirely in capital letters — in all-caps, as word people say. This turned out to be worth noticing. New York City is in the process of eliminating its all-caps street signs; they turn out to be less legible than those in upper- and lower-case. The New York Observer has called this sign-swapping project, due to be completed in 2018, a “$28 million copy edit.”
More here.

Call For Papers: Melbourne Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory

From Laura Peterson, University of Melbourne, a Call for Papers for the Melbourne Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory, which will take place on December 15-16, 2011.

The Melbourne Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory will take place on 15-16 December 2011.

Law and Its Accidents - Melbourne Doctoral Forum on Legal Theory

The fourth annual workshop will again bring together higher research students and early career researchers, who in different disciplines and across diverse fields of scholarship, engage with law and its theoretical and methodological questions.

This year we embark on an investigation of law and its accidents, because to critically engage with legal theory is not only to track the modalities of law, but also to probe its interstices. It is to ex- pose law’s fault-lines and its exceptions, its interruptions and its crises, but also its coincidences and serendipities. This workshop will try not just to prod those fragile points where law buckles and sways, but attempt to build new jurisprudential approaches to understanding the happenstances of law. The accidents of law are neither novel nor exemplary. They often appear subtly in the narrative of a judgment, the methodologies of legal scholarship and the ceremonies of justice. In law the accident never just happens; it is embedded in the forms and materialities of law.

The catalyst for this workshop is the suggestion that with the invention of any technology, we also invent its accident. From natural selection to environmental catastrophes to outcomes of regulation – common to all are the simultaneous inventions of a technological apparatus and its accident.

Yet how do we account for the accidents of law? Is the accident an exception or is it integral to law’s operation? Is law in itself an accident? Is it an accident of justice and/or progress?

In a year already exposed to the superlative accident of nuclear catastrophe, this workshop attempts to construct a museum of legal accidents. It provides a collegial forum and supportive intellectual community for exploring the encounters between law and its accidents. We welcome participants from all disciplines who in their own research projects engage with questions of law, theory and methodology.

Relevant areas of law may include (this list is not exhaustive): law and culture, law and technology, law and the humanities, environmental law, employment law, tort law, international law, military law, migration law, and law and economics.

Possible topics may include:

• narrating and archiving law and its accidents • faulty networks: laws of technology and technologies of law • governance, sovereignty and its exceptions • globalisation, virtuality and the crisis of the nation state • citizenship, refugees and migration: accidental citizens • collateral

damage: legitimatisation of accidental causalities in war • accidents of humanity: bio-ethics, transhumanism and animal law • the unforeseen consequences of regulation and reform • accidental waste: law and economy • the ruins of progress: accidents of time, history and law • memory and trauma: forgetting to remember • the dea(r)th of judgment: destabilising the legal text • the conviviality of ceremony: law’s laughter

A limited number of bursaries will be available for interstate and international presenting participants who are unable to claim funding to cover the full cost of travel from their home institution. The bursaries are intended to contribute towards travel expenses. Please indicate in your application whether you would like to be considered for a bursary.

Send abstracts of 500 words and biographies of 100 words to: by Monday 19 September 2011.

August 3, 2011

Call For Papers

12-14 April 2012 ~ Montréal, QC

An interdisciplinary conference hosted by the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, McGill University, in collaboration with Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (SSHRC-MCRI) and the Département d’études anglaises, Université de Montréal

Call for papers

“The ironist does not have the new within his power . . . he destroys the given actuality by the given actuality itself.” Søren Kierkegaard

Irony makes the world new by putting the world that exists in question. Its strength lies in its destabilizing power—it is the politics of art, the art of politics, and the language of dissent. By enabling critical representations of the world as it is known, but from within and against the familiarity of our own expectations, irony gives art and discourse special kinds of access to the public sphere, especially by mining beneath the given, the actual, and the known.

In politics, philosophy, art and literature, across post-modernism, post-colonialism, and globalization, the question of irony is of expanding relevance to a range of fields of cultural formation and inquiry. Yet it remains insufficiently noticed, understood, or theorized; ironically powerful and silent at once. What is the meaning of irony? What does it accomplish and exactly how and with what effects? Is irony impoverished or indispensable, disenchanted or enchanting, world-breaking or world-making?

Conference organizers invite proposals for papers addressing the public and public-making function of irony across time and through a range of contexts and media. Disciplines may include but are not limited to:

Architecture and Design

Art History



Fine Arts

Gender and Sexuality




Media and Communications

Musicology and Music Performance



Theatre and Performance

Proposals for complete panels as well as for individual papers in English or French are welcome. Researchers are invited to submit paper abstracts of 250 words and brief (2 page) cvs to: Deadline for submissions: 30 September 2011

Blackmail In Libertarian Theory

Walter E. Block, Loyola University of New Orleans, College of Business, has published A Libertarian Theory of Blackmail. Here is the abstract.

This article will attempt to analyze the law prohibiting blackmail from a libertarian perspective. Libertarianism is a political philosophy; as such, it is a theory of the just use of violence. From this viewpoint, the just use of violence is essentially defensive: one may employ force only to repel an invasion; only to protect one’s person or property from external threat, and for no other reason.
Download the text from SSRN at the link.

August 2, 2011

NPR's Crime In the City Series

More from NPR's Crime In the City series here. Today's featured author: George Pelecanos (Washington, DC). Authors discussed on prior shows: Archer Mayor (Brattleboro, Vermont); Marcia Muller (San Francisco); Naomi Hirahara (Los Angeles); Ridley Pearson (Sun Valley, Idaho); Janet Evanovich (Trenton, New Jersey); Diane Wei Liang (Beijing, China); Philip Kerr (Berlin, Germany); Cara Black (Paris, France); and Mark Billingham (London, England). More authors and cities here.

Criminal Law In "Othello"

Richard H. McAdams, University of Chicago Law School, has published Vengance, Complicity and Criminal Law in Othello, in Shakespeare and the Law: A Conversation Among Disciplines and Professions (Martha Nussbaum and Richard Streier eds.; University of Chicago Press, 2012). Here is the abstract.

Criminal law offers an interesting frame for examining Othello, while the play offers an interesting thought experiment for law. First, the play shows the virtue of legal processes by the tragedy its absence produces. In Act V, Othello refuses to accord Desdemona the very procedures that vindicated him of a false charge in Act I. Second, Othello brilliantly illustrates some perpetually vexing problems in the doctrine of complicity. Through Iago, the play vividly shows that an encourager of crime can be more responsible for its occurrence – more monstrous – than the one he encourages. Third, I use English law of the late 16th century to explain certain puzzling choices Iago makes. Iago avoids being present at the scene of Desdemona’s killing and dissuades Othello from using poison in order to preserve his status as an accessory, which allows him to avoid criminal liability for Desdemona’s death under a variety of scenarios. Iago’s brilliant deviousness allows him to manipulate law as well as people.
The full text is not available from SSRN.

August 1, 2011

A French Law and Film Blog

Check out the blog Droit et Cinema, a French site devoted to the subject of law and film. One post discusses
the fascinating film Commis d'office (2009), based on the novel by attorney Hannelore Cayre (she also directed). The poster doesn't seem to have liked the film as much as I did, finding it less realistic than it could have been, but still thinks it worth watching for its picture of an attorney caught in the day-to-day criminal justice system. The film (the title would translate as something like "Legal Aid" or perhaps "Public Defender") does not seem to be available in the U.S. although Amazon has copies of the novel (in French).
The site also gives links to a number of other interesting blogs, all in French.   

Medieval English Juries

Daniel Klerman, University of Southern California Law School, has published The Selection of Thirteenth-Century Disputes for Litigation, as USC Law School Olin Research Paper No. 00-10. Here is the abstract.

Priest and Klein's seminal 1984 article argued that litigated cases differ systematically and predictably from settled cases. This article tests the Priest-Klein selection model using a data set of thirteenth-century English cases. These cases are especially informative because juries rendered verdicts even in settled cases, so one can directly compare verdicts in settled and litigated cases. The results are consistent with the predictions of the Priest-Klein article, as well as with the asymmetric-information selection models developed by Hylton and Shavell.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

The Old Bailey, Trial Practice, and Legal Culture

Bruce Bower discusses the use of old trial records to study both cultural history and trial practice in this article from Science News. Digitizing those records helps also. Visit the Old Bailey's database here.

An Unlikely Place For a Homicide

Race, Poverty, and Disability on "The Wire"

Rabia Belt, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has published 'And then Comes Life': The Intersection of Race, Poverty, and Disability in HBO's, 'The Wire'. Here is the abstract.

Despite its low ratings and lack of Emmys or Golden Globes, HBO’s groundbreaking show, The Wire, has caught and kept the attention of critics, academics, and others interested in urban life. Though the show has disappeared off the airways, it is now becoming part of the academic landscape through conferences, panels, books, and courses. The article will be the first to examine The Wire, from a legal perspective. I focus upon The Wire’s lack of attention to disability. Injury abounds in The Wire. Police officers are shot, suspects are beaten, and drug addicts overdose. Despite the onslaught of injury, disability is an underdeveloped part of the world of The Wire. The Wire is not alone in its failure to adequately examine the intersection of race, poverty, and disability, but it is a helpful lens through which to examine the neglect of poor people with disabilities and disabled people of color with disabilities. The article will open new avenues in a longstanding debate concerning appropriate policy and legal interventions for the urban poor, link together disability studies with critical race studies, and illustrate the use of an artistic medium to convey complex policy and legal ideas. The article will be of substantial utility for the growing number of scholars who teach classes on The Wire, critical race scholars, disability law scholars, and poverty law scholars.
Download the paper from SSRN at the link.