Stacy Douglas on “Community Interrupted: Towards a Less Constitutional Constitutionalism”

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Community Interrupted: Towards a Less Constitutional Constitutionalism

Wednesday, November 12, 2014, 12:30pm to 2:00pm
IKB Room 2027

SPEAKER:
Professor Stacy Douglas, Carleton University

This presentation will begin with the premise that constitutions are often considered to be the primary devices with which to construct new political communities in post-revolutionary, post-colonial and post-conflict societies. In these scenarios, new constitutions become the vehicles for achieving grand changes; they are the devices that are deployed to articulate aspirations of renewal. However, the centralisation of the constitution and its presumed deliverance of democracy – or what I call constitutional fetishism – conflates the everyday management of populations with the vast horizons of political possibilities. Indeed, the constitution and those theorists who promote it as the key device with which to negotiate political community, monumentalize the production of sovereignty – both of the nation and the atomized subjects within it. The poverty of this conflation is readily apparent in the South African context. There, centering the document as the key tool in the navigation of political community denies the messy realities of subjectivities and glosses over persistent issues of inequality. In this presentation Prof. Douglas will argue that rather than concretize community, we should look to devices that help us unimagine sovereignty in order to attend to the plurality of the world. She will also argue that museums are one such site that can help us interrupt steady and strong conceptions of community that orient the political imaginations and sovereign desires of western legal regimes.

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Stacy Douglas is Assistant Professor of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. Former Co-Director of the Centre for Law, Gender, and Sexuality at Kent Law School, as well as Editorial Board member of Feminist Legal Studies and  feminists@law, she has published academic and political commentary in Law and Critique; Law, Culture & the Humanities; Theory & Event; Radical Philosophy; Australian Feminist Law Journal; Canadian Dimension; and Truthout, and recently co-edited a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Law and Society on law and decolonization. She is winner of the 2014 Julien Mezey dissertation prize from the Association for Law, Culture, and the Humanities.

All are invited to attend. Lunch will be provided
RSVP Required: www.bit.ly/osresearch                        Event Code: LAC3

Hadley Friedland on “Mikomosis and the Wetiko: Story-Telling Indigenous Laws”

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Richard K. Sherwin on “What is Visual Jurisprudence?”

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What is Visual Jurisprudence?

Friday, September 26, 2014, 12:30pm to 2:00pm
IKB Room 2027

SPEAKER:
Prof. Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School

In contemporary legal practice, lawyers, judges, and lay jurors face a vast array of visual evidence and visual argument both inside the courtroom and in the court of public opinion. From videos documenting crimes and accidents to computer displays of their digital simulation, increasingly, the search for fact-based justice is becoming an offshoot of visual meaning making. But when law migrates to the screen it lives there as other images do, motivating belief and judgment on the basis of visual delight and unconscious fantasies and desires as well as actualities.

This presentation addresses what it means for jurists to develop a workable visual jurisprudence, offering two different epistemological and ontological models for warranting visual belief. In one model, images serve as copies of an original; in the second model, images operate as event (as performative interaction rather than imitative fact). With this framework in place, we may begin to explore diverse criteria for visual credibility ranging from empirical measurements of truth as ‘correctness’ to the aesthetics of ‘delight’ and the experience of visual ‘presence’ (the image made flesh).

Professor Richard Sherwin is an expert in visual communication, particularly in the domain of visual persuasion in litigation and litigation public relations. His scholarship explores the two-way street between law and culture. In recent works, drawing from a variety of sources (including film, literature, performance studies, cognitive psychology and philosophy), he has been investigating how new communication technologies, particularly the proliferation of visual digital images, are changing the practice and theory of law. What happens, for example, when trial witnesses give way to videos and digital animations of accidents and crimes? Does watching turn the viewer into an “eyewitness”? How does one cross-examine an image? Is anything essential lost in the shift from live testimony to teleconferencing? Is there presence in a digital animation? What is real, and what is simulation? Professor Sherwin argues that jurists need to cultivate visual literacy in order to meet the legitimation demands of law in the current “digital baroque” era. Professor Sherwin gained nationwide attention with his well-received book, When Law Goes Pop: The Vanishing Line between Law and Popular Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2000, 2002),which explores the two-way street between law and popular culture.

All are invited to attend. Lunch will be provided
Kindly RSVP: www.bit.ly/osresearch                        Event Code: LAC1

Peter Fitzpatrick on “Kafka and the question: Can there be a rule of law?”

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Kafka and the question: Can there be a rule of law?
Professor Peter Fitzpatrick
School of Law, Birkbeck, University of London
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
12:30 – 2:00 pm
Room 2027, Osgoode Hall Law School

Kafka’s ‘The Problem of Our Laws’: ‘…it is an extremely painful thing to be ruled by laws that one does not know’. We know very little of the law that rules us. Every time we take a ride on a bus or order goods online, for example, we become bound by a complex of laws that we know not of. And do we not have to seek specific legal decision because the law is so often found to be uncertain? And can any law in its application to an ever-changing world ever be certain? Yet we are supposed to live in a society ultimately ordered, endowed with stability and even created though a rule of law. How then can there ‘be’ such a rule of law? And how does Kafka answer the question?


Peter Fitzpatrick
 is currently Anniversary Professor of Law at Birkbeck, University of London and Honorary Professor of Law in the University of Kent. He has taught at universities in Europe, North America and Papua New Guinea and published many books on legal philosophy, law and social theory, law and racism, and imperialism, two of the more recent ones being Law as Resistance (Ashgate, 2008) and with Ben Golder, Foucault’s Law (Routledge, 2009). Outside the academy he has been in an international legal practice and was also in the Prime Minister’s Office in Papua New Guinea for several years.


All are invited to attend. Lunch will be provided. 

Kindly RSVPhttp://lawartsculture.eventbrite.ca

Shannon O’Byrne on “Law and Emotion in Brontë’s Jane Eyre

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Law and Emotion in Brontë’s Jane Eyre

Professor Shannon K. O’Byrne
University of Alberta
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
12:30 – 2:00 pm
Room 2027, Osgoode Hall Law School

All are invited to attend.

Anthony Farley on “The Unreality of Time: Memory, Punishment, & Transcendence in the African American Experience”

AnthonyFarley

The Unreality of Time:
Memory, Punishment, & Transcendence in the African American Experience

Professor Anthony Farley
Albany Law School
Friday, November 22nd, 2013
12:30 – 2:00 pm
Room 2027, Osgoode Hall Law School

All are invited to attend.

Summer Reading: Legal Fiction

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I made a rash promise earlier this week during the Dean’s Welcome Webcast to post a top ten list of legal fiction by way of a bit of suggested summer reading. I’m not exactly going to make good on that promise here as I’m highly resistant to the “top ten” part of the proposition. To truly come up with a top ten, I’d have to have an exhaustive knowledge of the field and, while I read a lot, I certainly haven’t read everything. Plenty of worthy books are bound to be left off my list simply because I haven’t yet read them. Further, I’m mindful that this is an inherently subjective exercise. The books I choose to highlight are those that appeal to my particular literary tastes and legal interests, not necessarily the best books by any objective criteria. So consider this list not a top ten, but simply a preliminary reading list of legal fiction that I found entertaining, insightful, or challenging (in the best cases, all three). Here they are, in order of publication, with (I hope) enough detail to pique your interest without giving too much away:

Bleak House (1853) by Charles Dickens: More than a century and a half after its initial publication, this novel centering on the seemingly interminable case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce is still distressingly relevant on issues related to legal ethics, legal obfuscation, and justice delayed as justice denied. It also contains some of the most memorable and entertaining lawyer characters in literature including the sinister Mr. Tulkinghorn, the odious Mr. Vholes, and (possibly my favourite) young Mr. Guppy who is utterly enamoured with the language of the law. It’s nearly a thousand pages long, but when I reached the end, I wished there was more of it. (Incidentally, if you like to listen rather than read, there’s a wonderful audio version available narrated by Robert Whitfield.)

The Trial (1925) by Franz Kafka: Kafka stands alongside Shakespeare, Dickens, and Orwell as one of the authors most frequently referenced in legal decisions. And when judges or lawyers refer to proceedings or outcomes as Kafkaesque, they are likely thinking of The Trial, a novel in which the main character, Josef K., finds himself caught up in the nightmare of a trial on charges which are never specified via processes that he doesn’t understand.

Strong Poison (1930) by Dorothy Sayers: This is the installment in Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey series in which Harriet Vane, one of my favourite characters in crime fiction, is introduced. Bohemian author Vane is on trial for the murder of her former lover, and Wimsey must solve the mystery of who killed him in order to prove her innocent and save her from the gallows.

Tragedy at Law (1942) by Cyril Hare: Hare wrote a series of mystery novels set in the legal world based on his own experiences as an English barrister and judge. In this one, regarded by many as his best, High Court judge Mr. Justice Barber first receives threatening letters, then is subjected to an attempt on his life while moving from town to town to preside over cases in the southern English circuit. Barrister and amateur detective Francis Pettigrew sets out to discover who wants Barber dead before that person succeeds in the endeavour.

Tales of Manhattan (1967) by Louis Auchincloss: Auchincloss was an extraordinarily prolific writer as well as a practicing lawyer for seven decades, beginning in the 1940s until his death in 2010. In his fiction he depicted the world of New York high society and the Wall Street lawyers and bankers who served its interests. Gore Vidal wrote of him: “Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs.” Tales of Manhattan includes a suite of stories which depicts a fictional New York law firm from multiple perspectives. These stories are very much of their time and place and thereby illuminate a particular historical moment in U.S. society and legal practice. But they also explore, as do many of Auchincloss’s works, tensions between legal ambition and creative aspirations in a way that may resonate for the would-be lawyer-writers among you.

The Legal Fiction of Lowell B. Komie (2005): This book unites Komie’s many law-themed stories that were originally dispersed throughout earlier collections published between 1983 and 1999. Like Auchincloss, Komie is at once an acclaimed fiction writer and a practicing attorney but his territory is Chicago and the legal world that he depicts in these stories is that of the 1970s and 80s. Consequently, the cast of law students, lawyers, and judges that he depicts is much more diverse. Legal practice has changed considerably in the intervening years, but many of the personal and professional conflicts that Komie’s characters face will still seem familiar to today’s lawyers and law students.

Alias Grace (1996) by Margaret Atwood: This Giller prize winner is my favourite of Margaret Atwood’s books. It’s a historical novel that is based on a notorious 19th century Canadian case in which a maid was convicted of the brutal murders of her employer and his housekeeper. Atwood’s rendition of the story takes the reader into the mind of the convicted murderer, now serving out a life sentence and claiming to have no memory of the crime. It also explores the question of her innocence or guilt through the eyes of a fictional doctor who is researching her case.

George & Rue (2005) by George Elliot Clarke: This novel is based on the story of two African Canadian brothers who were convicted of and executed for the murder of a taxi driver in the course of a robbery in New Brunswick in 1949. Clarke became intrigued by the story upon learning that he was related to the brothers and set out to imagine, through innovative use of the historical record, what led up to the commission of this crime.

The Round House (2012) by Louise Erdrich: Erdrich’s National Book Award winning novel tells the story of 13-year-old Joe’s quest for justice in the aftermath of an assault on his mother on their Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. The richness of the novel is nicely summed up in its National Book Award citation: “Erdrich has created an intricately layered novel that not only untangles our nation’s history of moral and judicial failure, but also offers a portrait of a community sustained by its traditions, values, faith, and stories.”

NW (2012) by Zadie Smith: In this novel, Smith paints a portrait of contemporary London through the eyes of a group of characters linked by the shared history of growing up in a housing estate in the city’s northwest. One of the key characters is barrister Natalie Blake who confronts sexism and racism in the legal profession, and struggles with the gulf between the world in which she grew up and the one she inhabits now to which law has, in part, provided a conduit. The picture that emerges of London, of the legal profession, and of Natalie is complex and challenging.

I could very easily add twenty more books to this list, but I said ten so I’ll stop there. But I also said preliminary, so I invite you to add your own favourites in the comments below, and also any reflections you may have on the books I’ve highlighted here. I would be very happy to come away with some new titles to add to my summer reading!

Law, Literature, & Film: Adaptation & Interpretation in Theodore Dreiser’s 1931 Suit Against Paramount Pictures

I’m giving a talk at Osgoode this week on Theodore Dreiser’s 1931 lawsuit against Paramount Pictures (the subject of a chapter in my book about writers’ lawsuits). Details below:

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The Face of the Ghetto: Pictures by Jewish Photographers from the Lodz Ghetto, 1940-1944

On display now in the Osgoode Library:

For more information on the exhibition and related events, click here and here.

Osgoode Alum Chris Hope Speaks About His Documentary Hatsumi