May 30, 2009

Re-Examining Star Trek

In his review essay on Star Trek: The Exhibition, Edward Rothstein points out a number of anachronisms and anamolies, most stemming from the original television series and its spin-offs. He notes that mixing reality and pop culture may do neither justice. Points taken. (I saw this exhibition in San Diego). For those of us who grew up on ST: TOS and its offspring and who are fond of the Star Trek mythos, however, this show doesn't represent the reality or history of space flight. But that, as I understand it, isn't really the point of Star Trek: The Exhibition. The point is to examine the effect of the show on the generations who have watched and grown up with the show, and the effect of those viewers on Star Trek. See also the program (available on DVD) How William Shatner Changed the World, based on his book I'm Working On That: A Trek From Science Fiction To Science Fact (2004).

Can one exhibition capture all of that involvement and energy? Probably not. Many people have written books attempting to measure these effects. But this particular exhibition at least allows some of us to examine the evidence.

For more on the interaction of Star Trek and popular culture see also

Andreadis, Athena, To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek (1998).
Barad, Judith, The Ethics of Star Trek (2001).
Barrett, Michele, and Duncan Barrett, Star Trek: The Human Frontier (2000).
Bernardi, Daniel, Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward a White Future (1998).
Hanley, Rick, Is Data Human? The Metaphysics of Star Trek (1998).
Jenkins, Robert, and Susan Jenkins, The Biology of Star Trek (1999).
Joseph, Paul, and Sharon Carton, The Law of the Federation: Images of Law, Lawyers, and the Legal System in Star Trek: The Next Generation, 24 U. Tol. L. Rev. 43 (1992). The ancestor of all law and pop culture law review articles on Star Trek.
Kraemer, Ross, William Cassidy, and Susan L. Schwartz, Religions of Star Trek (2008).
Krauss, Lawrence, The Physics of Star Trek (rev. ed.)(2007).
Marinaccio, Dave, All I Really Needed To Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek (1995).
Paulsen, Michael Stokes, Captain James T. Kirk and the Enterprise of Constitutional Interpretation: Some Modest Proposals From the Twenty-Third Century, 59 Alb. L. Rev. 671 (1995).
Richards, Thomas, The Meaning of Star Trek (1999).
Roberts, Robin, Sexual Generations: Star Trek: The Next Generation and Gender (1999).
Scharf, Michael P. and Lawrence Robert, The Interstellar Relations of the Federation: International Law and Star Trek: The Next Generation, 25 U. Tol. L. Rev. 577 (1994).
Star Trek and Philosophy: The Wrath of Kant (Kevin S. Decker and Jason Eberl, eds. 2008).
Star Trek and Sacred Ground (Jennifer Porter, ed.; 2000).
Star Trek Visions of Law and Justice (Robert H. Chaires and Bradley Chilton eds.; 2002). Reprints previously published but interesting material, including the Paulsen, Joseph & Carton and Scharf & Robert essays, above.

May 29, 2009

John Fitzgerald Kennedy's Birthday

The late John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917. His representation in popular culture is ubiquitous. Think of movies that dramatize events from his presidency such as The Missiles of October (1974)in which William Devane played JFK, A Woman Named Jackie (1991)(Stephen Collins), Thirteen Days (2000)(Bruce Greenwood), and the one that started them all, PT 109 (1963)(Cliff Robertson). After his assassination, a number of documentaries and dramas poured out of Hollywood, including of course JFK(1991), a film which has now created its own mythology.

For fictional works in which Kennedy or events in his life appear, see among others lawyer Mark Lane's Executive Action, which, like JFK, speculates on the motives for the assassination, and which was turned into a 1973 film and Don De Lillo's Libra (1988), which fictionalizes the life of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Visit the John F. Kennedy website here.

Here are some other websites of interest.

American President: John F. Kennedy

The Kennedy Assassination Home Page.

PBS' The American Experience: The Kennedys

Happy Birthday, G. K. Chesterton

Happy birthday to G. K. Chesterton, born May 29, 1874, author of the Father Brown stories, and The Man Who Was Thursday, as well as works of philosophy, literary criticism, history, and social critique, many of which few people read any more. Get re-acquainted with him by visiting these sites:

The American Chesterton Society
G. K. Chesterton's Works on the Web (compiled by Martin Ward)
The Literature Network


Barker, Dudley, G. K. Chesterton: A Biography (NY: Stein and Day, 1973).

Benstock, Bernard, and Thomas F. Staley, British Mystery Writers, 1860-1919 (Detroit: Gale, 1988).

Chesterton, G. K., The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1936).

Dale, Alzina Stone, The Art of G. K. Chesterton (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985).
Ffinch, Michael, G. K. Chesterton (London: Leidenfeld and Nicholson, 1986).

Hollis, Christopher, G. K. Chesterton (London: Longmans, Green, 1950).

The Father Brown stories have been filmed numerous times in English, in German, and in Italian. Some of the more famous versions include the one with Alec Guinness for the big screen (1954), and for television with Kenneth More (1974). The Kenneth More version is available on DVD from Acorn Media. The American actor Barnard Hughes also played Father Brown in a tv movie, Sanctuary of Fear (1979).

Art Vandalism

M. J. Williams has published Framing Art Vandalism: A Proposal to Address Violence Against Art in volume 74 of the Brooklyn Law Review (2009). Here is the abstract.

The first law journal treatment of art vandalism, this Note considers intentional attacks on art works, primarily in museums and public galleries, and how existing laws fail to address much less control the crime. In light of the near absence of legal analysis of the issue, the Note aims to spark more thought and study about an art crime that, while rare, can lead to devastating and, too often, permanent loss. To serve as a resource, the note also includes an appendix of reported instances of art vandalism in public institutions from 1977 to 2007.

May 26, 2009

Call For Papers

From Penelope Andrews, Professor of Law, Valparaiso University School of Law
CALL FOR PAPERS - Law and Literature Association of Australia and Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand joint conference 2 to 5 December 2009, Trans(l)egalité. Abstracts of approximately 300 words detailing which Association’s theme your paper reports to, should be emailed to by Friday 25 September 2009.
For more information go to the Trans(l)egalité website

May 22, 2009

Imperialism, Nationalism, and "Cymbeline"

Eric Heinze, Queen Mary University of London, School of Law, has published Imperialism and Nationalism in Early Modernity: The 'Cosmopolitan' and the 'Provincial' in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, in volume 18 of Journal of Social and Legal Studies (2009). Here is the abstract.
The discourses of conquering empire and vassal nation are varied, often internally contradictory. The empire may represent openness and diversity, or militarist brutality. The underling nation may represent autonomy and self-determination, or narrow provincialism. Those discourses spawn ideologies of liberation (‘the empire liberates the nation’; ‘the nation must be liberated from the empire’) and counter-ideologies of oppression (‘the empire oppresses the nation from without’; ‘the empire prevents oppression by dominant national groups of subordinate national groups’). Such concepts are central to Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Bound to pay tribute to Caesar Augustus, Britain’s King Cymbeline contemplates a national rebellion against pax romana, whilst at the same time exercising its own dominance over Wales and other conquered territory in the Isles. Parallels to the reign of James I are apparent, where England is embarking upon its ascent to empire, its pax britannica, in the face of Welsh, Scottish or Irish resistance. Several discourses emerge as hallmarks of power politics in early modernity: cosmopolitan empire, oppressive empire, cosmopolitan nation, oppressive nation.

Download the article from SSRN here.

Call For Papers

From Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University:


Invitation to Contributors

We are compiling a collection of essays by leading scholars from the world of law and popular culture focusing on the theme of law and justice on television. We wish to invite scholars with an interest to submit abstracts of around 250 words by the end of July 2009 on this broad theme. We hope to structure the Collection on the undernoted themes but intend that contributors should interpret this brief list in an inclusive manner. We will make a provisional selection by the end of July 2009 and then ask contributors to provide a full draft of their text by May 2010. These will then be refereed blind in the usual way and final text should be with the editors by September 2010 for publication in early 2011.

Part I


Law and TV Scholarship in context – the emergence of law and popular culture

The relationship between Law and TV and Law and Film Scholarship – similarities and differences

Issues of methodology including empirical studies on the impact of TV

Issues of production – towards a political economy of law on TV

Part II

An Overview of Distinct Forms of Representation

Fictional law and lawyers – towards a taxonomy [ legal procedurals; lawyer dramas; comedies etc. ]

Reality TV shows

Justice portrayals in news and documentary programming

Court TV - a national/international phenomenon?

Part III

TV Law as a Global Phenomonon

Trends and developments in US TV Fiction

Adversarial justice on TV – Britain, Canada and Australia

Inquisitorial systems - Germany, France and Spain

Crossing the boundaries – the impacts of “foreign” imported shows and formats

Please send abstracts via email attachment to: AND

Peter Robson, University of Strathclyde, The Law School

Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University Law School

Women Attorneys and Their Image

From Concurring Opinions, this post from Deven Desai discussing a article about what some judges think about how women lawyers dress.

May 21, 2009

Call For Papers

8th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities January 13 - 16, 2010 Waikiki Beach Marriot Resort & Spa and Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel Honolulu Hawaii, USA

Submission Deadline:  August 21, 2009
(Submit well in advance of the above deadline and take advantage of our NEW low early bird registration rate. See website for details!)

Sponsored by:
University of Louisville - Center for Sustainable Urban Neighborhoods

Web address: Email address:

The 8th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities will be held from January 13 (Wednesday) to January 16 (Saturday), 2010 at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa and the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.  The conference will provide many opportunities for academicians and professionals from arts and humanities related fields to interact with members inside and outside their own particular disciplines.  Cross-disciplinary submissions with other fields are welcome.

Topic Areas (All Areas of Arts & Humanities are Invited):
*American Studies
*Art History
*Ethnic Studies
*Graphic Design
*Landscape Architecture
*Performing Arts
*Postcolonial Identities
*Product Design
*Second Language Studies
*Visual Arts
*Other Areas of Arts and Humanities
*Cross-disciplinary areas of the above related to each other or other areas..

Submitting a Proposal:

You may now submit your paper/proposal by using our online submission system! To use the system, and for detailed information about submitting see:

To be removed from this list, please click the following link: or copy and paste the link into any web browser.

Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities P.O. Box 75036 Honolulu, HI 96836 USA
Telephone: (808) 542-4385
Fax: (808) 947-2420

New Legal Dramas For the Fall/Mid Season

Greedy Associates, the blog for FindLaw, posts about new legal dramas for fall and midseason. CBS promises us The Good Wife and ABC The Deep End.

May 20, 2009

Of Deism and Douglas Firs

Jessie Hill, Case Western Reserve School of Law, has published Of Christmas Trees and Corpus Christi: Ceremonial Deism and Change in Meaning over Time, in volume 59 of Duke Law Journal (2010). Here is the abstract.
Although the Supreme Court turned away an Establishment Clause challenge to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, the issues raised by that case are not going away anytime soon. Legal controversies over facially religious government speech have become one of the most regular and prominent features of Establishment Clause jurisprudence – and indeed, a second-round challenge to the Pledge of Allegiance is currently percolating, which is likely to result in resolution by the Supreme Court.

That resolution will depend on an understanding of the social meaning of the practice at issue. This Article therefore addresses the constitutional analysis of “ceremonial deism” – brief official religious references such as the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, the national motto “In God We Trust,” and the city names Corpus Christi and St. Louis. Courts have generally stated in holdings and dicta that ceremonial deism is constitutional because such phrases have lost their religious meaning through passage of time or rote repetition. To examine this claim, this Article draws on one particular branch of linguistic theory, known as speech act theory, as it applies to the problem of change in meaning over time. Because speech act theory is particularly useful for analysis of social meaning, I argue that some insights about the problem of ceremonial deism may be found there, lending depth to a problem that has gone almost entirely untheorized by those who have espoused it so far. Finally, I consider the implications of this analysis for the constitutionality of such official religious references. Ultimately, while recognizing that meaning can change over time in some instances, I argue that courts should be skeptical of this claim and should instead adopt a rebuttable presumption of enduring religious meaning when confronted with constitutional challenges to instances of ceremonial deism.

Download the Article from SSRN here.

Imagining Law and Rights

John C. Gooch, University of Texas, Dallas, School of Arts & Humanities, has published Imagining the Law and the Constitution of Societal Order in Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker’s 1965 'Crime and the Great Society' Address. Here is the abstract.
Legal scholar and theorist James Boyd White has challenged both lawyers and rhetoricians to imagine the law as a rhetorical and literary process (“Imagining the Law” from the 1997 anthology, The Rhetoric of Law). White contends that members of the legal profession should see law as an activity of speech and imagination that occurs in a social world (“Imagining the Law,” p. 35). He encourages members of the legal profession to look at law in its social context; in other words, instead of thinking of law as a social machine or technical system of regulations and applying its rules in a mechanical way, lawyers should engage the legal profession as an interaction of authoritative texts and as a process of legal thought and argument (“Imagining the Law,” p. 55). By asking members of the legal professional to see law as rhetoric, White encourages them to recognize the socially constitutive nature of language, which runs contrary to a perspective of law as machine or, rather, the law as only a system of rules and regulations.

My paper will extend White’s notion of imagining law as rhetorical and literary process. White has analyzed specific court cases as instances of lawyers and judges imagining the law in particular ways. In addition, scholars, particularly from communication and rhetoric, have taken inspiration from his ideas and applied them to the rhetoric of the courtroom (e.g., court testimony, judicial opinions, and narrative in legal discourse). However, I intend to take White’s concept of imagining the law and to apply it to a public address concerning constitutionality and the legal system (as opposed to analyzing transcripts from court cases). The specific case for my paper, the “Crime and the Great Society” (1965) speech from former Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker, reflects Parker’s imagining of the law and of constitutional rights – particularly the rights of the accused. (Based on my research, the speech itself represents an artifact no one has seriously studied.) My paper will show how his speech reflects a vision for the City of Los Angeles; Parker, himself, imagines the law by referencing several authoritative texts and literary works to advance his agenda for societal order in Los Angeles. In the end, Parker asks his audience, the city’s leaders and citizens, to share his vision and his imagination, and, moreover, he constitutes a societal order through his use of language. Such imaginings, however, can adversely affect the very society a rhetorician intends to strengthen if the rhetorician’s words result in negative consequences for citizens’ constitutional rights.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

May 19, 2009

Defamation Through History

From The Irish Times, via the blog a musing on the "gist" or "sting" of a defamatory statement.

Angels, Demons, and Physics

Some physicists view the new Tom Hanks/Dan Brown thriller Angels & Demons as great publicity for their profession. Read more here in a Chronicle of Higher Education article.

May 18, 2009

Race, Property, and Gambling in Mark Twain

While I was looking for something else on SSRN, I came across this interesting paper by Naomi Reed.

Naomi Reed, Columbia University, The Wagers of Whiteness, The Wagers of Blackness Gambling and Race in Pudd'nhead Wilson . Here is the abstract.

"The Wagers of Whiteness, The Wagers of Blackness" analyzes the late nineteenth-century erosion of African Americans' newly acquired citizenship rights by turning to the relationship between gambling, property, and slavery in Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894). Tom Driscoll's ever-present gambling debts turn him into a thief, and his thefts not only make him unfit to inherit the Driscoll fortune, but also ultimately unmask him as, in Twain's words, "a negro and a slave." Tom's thefts come to constitute blackness as the theft of whiteness, and the novel thus renders racial difference visible through property relationships. This connection prompts a reinterpretation of Plessy v. Ferguson specifically as a property claim: Homer Plessy argued that segregation deprived him of the property of his reputation of being a white man. Juxtaposing Plessy's denied property claim to the Supreme Court's commitment at the close of the nineteenth century to the protection of property rights, this paper shows how race remained articulated in and through a language of property even as biological discourses about racial difference came to the fore.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

When Agencies Collide

If there's securities malfeasance, or should that be misfeasance--in a tv storyline should the SEC, the FTC, or the FCC be concerned? Or should we just pop some more popcorn, get out the soda pop (I'm not disclosing my favorite brand) and enjoy?

Elena Marty-Nelson, Nova Southeastern University Law Center, writes about Securities Laws in Soap Operas and Telenovelas: Are All My Children Engaged in Securities Fraud?
at 18 Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal 329 (2009). Here is the abstract.

Securities law images are broadcast to millions worldwide through soap operas and telenovelas. Doctors, and professionals in other fields, have recognized the power of dramatic serials. They have generated a rich body of scholarship demonstrating how these mediums of popular culture impart health messages or effect social change. This author describes some of those empirical studies and suggests that legal scholars conduct similar empirical or ethnographic studies, particularly on the impact of portrayals of complex legal issues such as securities fraud in serials. The author explains differences and similarities between telenovelas and soap operas and compares portrayals of legal issues in those types of dramatic serials to portrayals in other type of popular culture mediums, such as films. Using content analysis, the author then examines in depth an insider trading story arc in the soap opera All My Children and a deceptive accounting story line in the telenovela La Fea Mas Bella. The author evaluates the images portrayed and in the process critiques some of those securities laws. The author submits that soap operas and telenovelas are both social educators and social mirrors and that the images depicted in these popular mediums about securities laws influence, for better or worse, society's perceptions.

Download the article from SSRN here.

"There Oughta Be a Law!" A Scholar Re-Examines Fairy Tale History

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Jennifer Howard writes about Ruth B. Bottigheimer, whose works on the origins of fairy tales have other scholars up in arms.

May 14, 2009

Gender, Copyright, and Filk Literature

Melissa L. Tatum, University of Arizona College of Law, Robert E. Spoo, University of Tulsa College of Law, and Benjamin Pope, University of Arizona, have published Does Gender Influence Attitudes toward Copyright in the Filk Community? as Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 09-21. Here is the abstract.

Over the past few decades, the filk community has expanded from a small group of science fiction convention-goers who occupied unused convention rooms during the late night hours to a community large enough to organize several dedicated filk conventions each year, a Hall of Fame, and an annual awards ceremony. While many filk songs are original lyrics set to original music, many more filk songs consist of lyrics written to existing music and/or lyrics based on characters/worlds created by other people. These practices potentially create problems in light of existing intellectual property law. In this paper, we explore those issues and whether a filker's gender influences his or her attitude towards intellectual property law. After setting out a basic explanation of filk and the intellectual property issues, the article details the various statistical results generated from the databases we built (one objective and one subjective) and draws some conclusions about gender and filk.
Download the paper from SSRN here.

May 13, 2009

In the Journals

In the most current issue of Law, Culture, and the Humanities (volume 5, issue 2, 2009):

A number of Commentaries on the subject of "Critical Perspectives on Political Liberalism," including essays by Paul A. Passavant, Nomi Maya Stolzenberg, Jennet Kirkpatrick, Stewart Motha, and Richard A. Shweder; two articles, Jon Kertzer's Time's Desire: Literature and the Temporality of Justice and Melina Constantine Bell's Valuing All Families, and several book reviews, including one of the English translation of Alain Supiot's Homo Juridicus: On the Anthropological Function of Law (Verso, 2007) and Dana Rabin's Identity, Crime, and Legal Responsibility in Eighteenth-Century England (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

Paul Ricoeur and Legal Hermeneutics

George H. Taylor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, has published The Distinctiveness of Legal Hermeneutics, in Ricoeur Across the Disciplines (Scott Davidson ed.; The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009). Here is the abstract.

In the larger field of hermeneutics, legal hermeneutics is characteristically described as exemplary. While I detail ways in which legal hermeneutics is paradigmatic – particularly in its immersion in application to new cases – more generally I argue that its insights are more regional. I contend in particular that Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutics offers much to refine the insights of legal hermeneutics, but the discreteness of the field of legal interpretation requires refinement of Ricoeur’s own theory.

The chapter proceeds in three steps. First, I briefly review the main themes of Ricoeur’s hermeneutics, particularly his emphasis on the semantic autonomy of the text, and draw upon examples from the American legal context that generally support and extend the significance of Ricoeur’s insight. Second, I turn to the limitations of Ricoeur’s general hermeneutics as applied to American legal interpretation. The author of the legal text does retain a significance in legal interpretation that is not required in other fields. Because a legal author – a legislature or court – requires obedience to the terms of a text it promulgates, its expression is limited to the range of its legitimate authority. Third, I show how the law can act as an exemplary form of hermeneutics in its attention to the application of meaning to particular circumstances. As Gadamer anticipated and as Ricoeur more expansively details, legal hermeneutics here does offer insights into a more general hermeneutics in its imaginative correlation between meaning and application.

May 8, 2009

Shakespeare on Today's Financial Crisis

Nate Oman writes about the current financial crisis and the Merchant of Venice over at Concurring Opinions. Professor Oman begins, "Over the weekend, I re-read A Merchant of Venice, and I was struck by the fact that Shakespeare manages to include in the play virtually every element of the current financial crisis." Good reading (in several senses of the phrase).

Building a Race Law Canon

Rachel F. Moran, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; University of California, Irvine, Law School, and Devon W. Carbado, University of California, Los Angeles, Law School, have published Introduction: The Story of Law and American Racial Consciousness--Building a Canon One Case at a Time, in Race Law Stories (2008).

Here is the abstract.

This introduction explains the difficulties of consolidating a race law canon due to our nation’s general ambivalence about the significance of race. There is a tendency to treat racial injustice as an aberration or an accident in an otherwise democratic system. Transgressions are relegated to the past and sharply contrasted with the contemporary practice of rendering race a biological irrelevancy. These ideological commitments make it hard to conceive of race law in anything but an ephemeral way. That is, once upon a time, there was an anti-canon of race comprised of deplorable decisions like Dred Scott v. Sandford and Plessy v. Ferguson, then there were canonical cases like Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia that countered these injustices, but now corrective justice has been done and these concerns are largely the stuff of history.

As the introduction makes clear, Race Law Cases rejects these assumptions and invites a dialogue about how to build a race law canon one case at a time. The process begins by recognizing that the collective narrative of law and American racial consciousness is decidedly multiracial, plays itself out across a number of doctrinal contexts, and reflects moments of both inequality and equality. This narrative is inextricably linked to the nation-building process as well as to the lives of individuals, many of whom were pushing back against racial injustices in particular historical moments. To understand these dynamics in the richly textured way necessary to build a canon, context is critical, the kind of context that comes from telling the stories behind both famous cases and hidden gems. The hope is that these stories will help in rethinking assumptions about the role of race in public and private conversations about equality, liberty, and national identity. At the same time, the accounts will pay homage to the contributions of individuals, whether lionized or little-known, who brought these issues to life by daring to question the conventional wisdom about America’s commitment to its most fundamental democratic values.

Download the chapter from SSRN here.

Choosing Words Carefully

Brian Bix, University of Minnesota Law School, has published Law and Language: How Words Mislead Us. Here is the abstract.

This talk was the Reappointment Lecture for the Frederick W. Thomas Chair in the Interdisciplinary Study of Law and Language at the University of Minnesota. The topic is the way that the words we use in legal doctrinal reasoning can - intentionally and unintentionally - mislead us regarding the proper outcomes of cases and the best development of the law. Connecting to the ideas of the American legal realists Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Felix Cohen, the talk uses examples from Contract Law (assent to terms in electronic contracting cases, waiver of the failure of conditions), Medical Decision-Making (deciding on behalf of incompetent patients), and Family Law (same-sex marriage, child custody, and alimony) to make general points about how we choose words to make our decisions more persuasive or more comfortable, when we should instead be using more transparent (more honest) terminology, in order better to confront the real underlying moral and policy questions.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

The Black Man as Hero in Film

Gretchen Bakke, Center for the Humanities, Wesleyan University, has published How the Black Guys Got to Kill All the White Guys and Still Be Good: An Essay on the Changing Dynamics of Race in American Action Cinema. Here is the abstract.

There was a time, not so long ago, when a black man - a good black man - killing a white man in an action movie was tentatively accomplished. Not the killing itself, which was as bold and as marked by "righteousness" as the killing of bad whites by good whites. The tentativeness was, rather, both formal and narrative meaning that it was most evident in the careful unfolding of story and character within the limited universe of the film itself. Whites were changed a little, at first, becoming evil, faceless, and generic in new ways and blacks, the good blacks charged with dispatching these new bad white were, at least in the beginning, always flanked by more heroic heroes - white men - wilder men willing to kill and killing more effectively than their darker skinned counterparts. But that was only the beginning. What began as tentative within the narrative structure and characterization of action films has since exploded into a new pattern of race relations evident in, if not governing, a good many of the action films of the new millennium. Black men now are not only buddies paying second fiddle to the rampages of their white counterparts (Pfeil 1995); they are not only expendable characters sent off by whites, like a canary in a cage, to test the efficacy of unseen adversaries, nor are they merely scenery, filling up streets or starships - a silent fluid and chromatic backdrop against which the action takes place (Wallace 1995). Black men now are also, and often, heroes in their own right. They are cast as vengeful and lively characters, both likable and utterly fantastic, and they kill, as all action heroes must, with indiscretion. Who they kill is the topic of this essay, and not only who they kill, but how that killing has come to form the very ground - the necessary premise - of both their heroism and their goodness. Or to put it another way, we know them to be heroes not despite the fact that they kill white characters but because of it.

Download the paper from SSRN here.

Law, Language, and Scientific Rhetoric in Judicial Opinions

Colin P. Starger, New York University School of Law, has published The DNA of an Argument: A Case Study in Legal Logos, in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (Winter 2009). Here is the abstract.

This article develops an original rhetorical framework for analyzing the logic of legal arguments and then applies it to unpack a post-conviction DNA testing controversy currently before the Supreme Court. My framework extends Aristotle's concept of logos by specifying different logical types of proof in legal argument. The Osborne case now before the Court concerns how DNA proof intersects with legal process and the procedural barriers to prisoners' accessing DNA evidence after conviction. After parsing the persuasive dynamics in the federal litigation preceding Osborne, I make a prediction on what argument logic will prevail in the Court.

Drawing on the work of Aristotle, neo-Aristotelian argument scholars, and contemporary jurisprudence, I first construct an original taxonomy of logos that distinguishes between modes of proof in legal argument. This taxonomy characterizes prototypical differences in formal, empirical, narrative, and categorical arguments by reference to the logical and rhetorical roles of their constituent premises, inferences, and conclusions.

I then use my new vocabulary to frame an in-depth case study of federal-court litigation over post-conviction access to DNA evidence under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. I describe the history of this discourse, and engage in close readings of two arguments – the concurring opinions of Judge Michael Luttig and Chief Judge Harvie Wilkinson in the Harvey II case – that represent the competing rhetorical poles of the debate. I classify Luttig's argument logos as formal, and Wilkinson's as narrative. After examining all published decisions that have considered the Section 1983 issue since Harvey II, I argue that Luttig's formal logos has successfully persuaded federal courts. I therefore predict that Luttig's logic on the procedural dispute in Osborne will prevail at the Supreme Court. By closely dissecting this argument over DNA, I bring fresh perspective on the rhetorical DNA of a legal argument.

Download the article from SSRN here.

Control, Alt, Delete: J. J. Abrams Reboots the Star Trek Franchise For a New Generation

Manohla Dargis reviews the new Star Trek film for the New York Times here.

Call For Papers

Call For Papers

International Annual Meeting of Israeli Law and Society Association, to be held in Tel Aviv on December 20-21, 2009.

The main theme of the meeting is: Secularism, Nationalism and Human Rights: Law and Politics in the Middle East and Europe

Proposals should be submitted to Michal Locker-Eshed,, by September 1, 2009.

Israeli Law and Society Association
International Conference

Secularism, Nationalism and Human Rights: Law and Politics in the Middle East and Europe

December 20-21, 2009
Tel Aviv Law Faculty, ISRAEL

The Program Committee of the International Annual Conference of the Israeli Law and Society Association (ILSA) invites Law and Society scholars from all disciplines (including law, social sciences and the
humanities) to submit proposals for individual papers and organized panels.

Panels and papers devoted to the theme of the conference – "Secularism, Nationalism and Human Rights: Law and Politics in the Middle East and Europe" – are especially invited, though part of the sessions in the conference will be dedicated to general topics of law and society. We apologize in advance, that due to the limited number of presentations this year we will not be able to accept all submissions.

The Conference’s Theme:

Secularism understood as the separation between religion and State or politics, nationalism as the ethnic premise of the modern state, and human rights, are commonly identified as fundamental attributes of modern law and politics. And yet, these foundational ideals are neither global nor even "Western" in general. They have their origins in specific European traditions, and they continue to play diverse and multiple roles all over the globe. In an attempt to bring law and social inquiry closer to the region and its unique concerns, the conference seeks to examine the influence of these legacies on the formation of law and legal institutions in Europe and the Middle East and in the different contexts in which Europe and the Middle East intersect, including within Israeli and Palestinian societies.

The conference will primarily address the following questions:

• How have secularism, nationalism and human rights shaped law, legal
institutions and legal consciousness in Europe and the Middle East?
What are the different, conflicting and complimentary meanings given to these notions across and within legal jurisdictions? To what extent are these legacies distinctly European and how do they differ from other Western traditions, such as the United States, where secularism, nationalism, and human rights seem to have very different connotations.
• How and under what conditions have these traditions been
implemented, resisted, subverted, and transformed in Israel, Palestine, and more generally in the Middle East? Conversely, how has Europe's recent encounter with the Middle East, primarily through labor immigration, shaped and reshaped the formation of these ideals?
What roles have law and legal institutions played in the dissemination, transformation, and enforcement of these legacies?
• How have these legacies affected diverse groups within European and
non-European societies, including ethnic and religious minorities and other potentially disadvantaged groups? In what ways do these ideas mirror power relations and how do the legal institutions shape images and practices of gender, class and ethnicity?
• To what extent can and should the specifically European version of
these ideals, if indeed one version exists, be accepted outside of Europe? Can international human rights be the legal and moral grounds on which nationalism and secularism are evaluated, or does the category of international human rights itself suffer from euro-centrism? Do better models exist elsewhere and under what conditions do local traditions emerge?
• Finally, are nationalism, secularism and human rights at all
relevant categories for analyzing what has often been described as an increasingly post-nationalist, post-secularist and post-human world?

Proposals should be accompanied by an abstract of 300 words as a Word email attachment (including title of paper, name and email address of author/s and institution affiliation). Organizers of panels should collect the abstracts from panel participants and submit them together with a description of the panel. Graduate students should submit together with the abstract a letter from their thesis supervisor in support of the proposal.

Proposals should be submitted to Michal Locker-Eshed,, by September 1, 2009

Suitable full-length papers based on presentations made at the conference will be solicited for a dedicated issue of the Israel Law Review.

Participation in the conference will include conference fees and a sliding scale will be applied.

Program Committee

Daphna Hacker, Law Faculty and Women and Gender Studies Program, Tel Aviv University (co-chair)

Shai Lavi, Law Faculty, Tel Aviv University (co-chair)

Susanne Baer, Faculty of Law, Humboldt University, Berlin

Gad Barzilai, Jackson School of International Studies; Comparative Law and Society Studies Center, University of Washington

Marinos Diamantides, School of Law, Birkbeck University of London

Michael Karayanni, Law Faculty, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Prof. Menachem Hofnung
Chair, Israeli Law and Society Association Department of Political Science The Hebrew University of Jerusalem Jerusalem 91905, Israel

Tel: Office :972-2-588-3164
Fax :972-2-5880281

May 6, 2009

Call For Papers: Critical Legal Conference 2009

Critical Legal Conference 2009
"Genealogies: Excavating Legal Modernity"
September 11-13, 2009
Leicester, UK

Keynote Speaker: Marcela Iacub (EHESS/CNRS).
Plenary Panellists: Peter Fitzpatrick (Birkbeck), Colin Gordon (Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Trust) and Véronique Voruz (Leicester).

Call for Papers

The Critical Legal Conference 2009 will be held in Leicester, UK. The main theme of the conference, "Genealogies: Excavating Legal Modernity", seeks to assess and review the significance of the work of Michel Foucault for the study of law, especially in light of the ongoing publication of his lectures at the Collège de France.

Proposals for papers addressing the main theme of the conference should be sent by email directly to the conference organisers ( no later than Friday, 26 June 2009. Potential presenters are invited to interpret the main theme in the broadest possible sense.

* Genealogies: Excavating Legal Modernity

Individual paper proposals for streams should be sent directly to stream coordinators no later than Friday, 26 June 2009.

* Revolutions in Natural Law
* Critical Property Theory: The Powers of Property
* Labour, Work and Equality
* Tragic Jurisprudence
* Laws of Empire
* Virtual Worlds, Virtual Law?
* Mapping the Terrain of WTO Law
* Genealogy of Human Rights from a Third-World Perspective

The organisers are also happy to consider further papers that may not address the main theme or the theme of an individual stream but are otherwise significant for the development of critical legal scholarship.

Further information on how to submit proposals, registration fees, research student bursaries, travel and accommodation is available on the conference website

When the Fans Take Over: Star Trek and Fan Fiction

From Newsweek's latest issue, a discussion of Star Trek's fan fiction, referred to as "slash fiction," here.

Marilyn French Dies

Marilyn French, author of the 1977 bestseller The Women's Room has died at the age of 79. Her last novel will be published this fall. Read more here in a BBC article.

Gender and Stereotypes in Literature

Asha S. [sic], MEASS College, has published Reading Lolita in Tehran: Rehashing Orientalist Stereotypes, at 4 The Icfai University Journal of English Studies 47(March 2009). Here is the abstract.

Popular narratives produced from the west, particularly since 9/11, perpetuate negative stereotypes about Middle Eastern Muslim women. Native writers settled in the west also dish out heart-rending tales of women's oppression in fundamentalist Islamic societies, targeting a western audience long fed on tales of Islam's intolerance towards women. These 'New Orientalist' narratives, portraying Muslim women as hapless victims of Islamic fundamentalism, only serve to reinforce the stereotypes entrenched in popular western imagination. With Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran as a case in point, this paper seeks to examine how new orientalist narratives misrepresent the position of women in Islamic societies. The paper concludes that bestsellers, produced by native as well as western writers and touted as authentic representations of life in the Middle East, mostly draw a black and white distinction between western and Middle Eastern societies, depict violence and discrimination against women as characteristic of Islamic culture, and under-represent indigenous struggles for women's rights, thereby covertly suggesting that western mediation is inevitable in order to improve the condition of women in Middle Eastern societies.

May 5, 2009

En Garde! Van Gogh, Gauguin, and That Missing Ear

Did Van Gogh really slice off his ear? More than 120 years later, a new book claims to set the record straight, and inform us that the famous earlessness was really the result of battery inflicted by fellow artist Paul Gauguin, a noted swordsman. Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans set forth their theory in a new tome called In Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence,
Read more here and here.

Publication information: Kaufmann, Hans, and Rita Wildegans, Van Goghs Ohr: Paul Gauguin und der Pakt des Schweigens (Osburg Verlag, 2008).

May 4, 2009

Teaching Law and Literature: Various Approaches Across the Curriculum

Simon Stern, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, has published Literary Evidence and Legal Aesthetics, in Teaching Literature and Law (Austin Sara, Matthew Anderson & Cathrine Frank eds., NY: MLA, 2010)(MLA Approaches To Teaching Series). Here is the abstract.
This short essay considers the different ways in which law professors and English professors teach courses in Law and Literature -- particularly the differences in the course materials and the analytic approaches used in understanding those materials. Courses taught on law faculties generally include fewer readings drawn from case law and legal theory. On the other hand, courses taught in English departments are more likely to emphasize similarities between the legal readings and works of fiction or drama. I discuss some of the disciplinary habits that make it difficult for faculty members in each area to come to terms with materials taken from another discipline, but I end by arguing that these barriers are not insurmountable and can even be addressed, to some extent, by focusing on analytical habits already available in the home discipline.

Download the essay from SSRN here.