An Introduction: Legal Surrealism

by | 24 Nov 2010

AcephaleWe thought it might be an interesting idea of post a number of texts of a legal surrealism. We will publish a series of texts from and on the juridical writings of surrealism. As a jurisprudence it has, essentially, been written out of the canon. However, if time is taken over the texts we think they reward a careful reading, particularly in the manner in which they open onto a postcolonial critique of law.

The initial two texts come from the first wave of French surrealism. The first is not really legal as such. Breton’s Manifesto of Surrealism is the self-proclaimed leader of surrealism’s attempt to constitute a movement. It was signed by many of the most prominent surrealists. The second is a text by the French surrealist collective and translated by Beckett, entitled Murderous Humanitarianism. We are grateful to Race Traitor for republishing this piece. The text is crucial, and still as incisive today as it was then.

We are reposting it alongside de Andrade’s beautiful but difficult Manifesto Antropófago. For further notes on the Manifesto Antropófago we suggest Sara Castro-Klaren’s article in Neplanta: Views from the South (Vol. 1, No. 2, 2000 p295).

The second series of texts which we will publish tomorrow are more recent, we want to introduce Luis Alberto Warat’s Manifesto of Legal Surrealism. We believe that this is the first translation of this text into English. Many thanks to Pablo Ghetti for this. We will close out this series on Legal Surrealism with a recent piece by Jose Manuel Bareto. This paper, originally presented at the 2010 Critical Legal Conference at the University of Utrecht, examines a number of the texts we have put together.


  1. Where, exactly, does Breton proclaim himself leader of the Surrealist movement?

    • Thanks Gareth,

      To my knowledge (and I am an amateur with Breton), he does not say that he was the leader, so ‘self-proclaimed’ is perhaps incorrect. He does attack a comment suggesting that he was guilty of misappropriating funds in the Second Manifesto of Surrealism (Manifestoes of Surrealism, p134). This statement begins with the assertion that he is the leader of the movement, but he doesn’t take umbrage at that. I suppose you could argue that this shows that he doesn’t dislike the moniker, ‘sub silentio’ in legal reasoning. But that is certainly weak.

      He is often viewed as the leader of the movement in the secondary literature and commentary (Browder, Andre Breton, p43; Mical, Surrealism and Archetecture, p221; Bate calls him the self-appointed leader in Photography and Surrealism p2; Lewis calls him the undisputed leader in Race Culture and Identity p4). However, as you say I cant pinpoint any of his own words that proclaim himself as leader.

      Thanks for your comment and clarification.


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