Hidden in Plain View: Legal Geography from a Visual Perspective
Journal of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp. 173-186, 2011
22 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2011
Date Written: 2011
Law, with a capital “L” at least, is not particularly fond of hiding itself. In order to be effective, law must be asserted in the world; it must be acknowledged; and, most importantly, it must be visually seen. Why, then, would law hide itself in space? And, perhaps more importantly, how would it do so? And why would such hidden places of law be of importance to us? This paper explores the dual project of seeing and concealing within the context of legal geography. It examines how law sees the physical landscape and how it is seen from a spatial perspective. It also asks who does the legal seeing, who and what are being seen by law, and then who and what are rendered invisible in these geolegal sites. In addition, it considers how law’s particular way of seeing landscape translates into the making of this space. Finally, and interrelated to all the above, it shows how both the visibility and, perhaps more importantly, the invisibility of law in space are strongly aligned with arrangements of power. The article presents two examples of visible invisibles: tree landscapes in Israel/Palestine and the properties of seeing the natural landscape through human and nonhuman inspection, and through aerial photos in particular; and border crossings and the properties of seeing in motion through the physical design of the border, and through sensor machines in particular.
Keywords: Law and geography, legal ethnography, powers of visibility and invisibility, scopic visions, natural landscapes in Israel/Palestine, border inspection
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