CfP: Law and the Senses

by | 25 Sep 2023

In the past years, scholars working in the field of Law and Literature have focused on the role of affect in shaping our sense of law and justice. Although law is supposedly the domain of Reason, that is deprived of any emotions, scholars have brought to the fore both law’s emotional life and the way in which emotions mediate and structure our relation to the law. At the same time, in recent years, there is an increasing body of scholarship that has been exploring law’s sensorial lives: the protocols the law uses (and abuses) to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste; the spaces, instruments and media that it uses (and abuses) to do so; and the strategies and techniques it deploys in order to continue not to see, hear, touch, etc.; as well as the protocols, spaces, instruments and techniques through which the law is seen, heard, touched, and so on and the ways that law itself regulates what is seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. In other words, law’s relationship to the senses is crucial – and largely unexamined.

Following the “sensory turn” in cultural studies, and building on recent research that has highlighted affective legalities, in this seminar, we are interested in sensorial legalities. In other words, attempting to move beyond the question of whether and how law feels or thinks, we are interested in how it senses. That is to say, our aim is to probe into the legal life of the senses and in the sensorial life of law, as well as the ways in which life is sensed in law, and more generally, in the spaces marked both by its normativity and its violence.

In this seminar among the questions and topics we aim to discuss are:

  • How does taking the senses, the aesthēseis, seriously, matter for our understandings of law, legality and justice?
  • Are there sensorial hierarchies in legal aesthetics? 
  • Are there instances of legal synaesthesia and /or legal anaesthetics?
  • What is the role of aesthetics, artworks, and cultural objects, in “re-making” sense and “working through” historical trauma and injustice?
  • How does one make sense of lawscapes through the senses?  What is at stake when law partakes in such sensorial encounters either by sense deprivation or overstimulation?
  • If law determines how bodies sense and experience the world, and subjectivity and personhood come to be lost and regained through the sensorial domain, are there any emancipatory instances, in which subjectivity is maintained or regained, even when law has deprived one of such?
  • Are there any instances in which the senses escape law’s grasp? How does one’s desire of/for law and justice manifest sensorially?
  • This seminar welcomes artists and scholars from comparative literature, critical race theory, critical legal studies, anthropologists, as well as from other backgrounds that conduct interdisciplinary research on law and its sensorial encounters. 

Law and the Senses (Montreal, 14-17 March 2024). You can find the call here: https://www.acla.org/law-and-senses  – the deadline for submitting abstracts is September 30th.

For more information, contact Yiorgos-Evgenios Douliakas g.e.douliakas2@uva.nl or Julia Chryssostalis at J.Chryssostalis@westminster.ac.uk

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