Critical Cultural Legal Studies

19 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2014

See all articles by Rosemary J. Coombe

Rosemary J. Coombe

York University - Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies; York University

Date Written: 1998


Symbolic and material symbols of culture are omnipresent in our everyday lives, as exemplified by taking a walk through downtown Toronto. As both law and culture are in a constant state of flux and mutually reconstituting themselves and one another, I suggest that exploring law culturally provides a more focused and politicized emphasis upon meaning in those disciplinary spaces that are preoccupied with questions of power. Similarly, studying culture legally in fields like anthropology and cultural studies will enable disciplines with tendencies toward culturalism to have more specific and material theories of power, as it resonates in a multitude of ways. Widely considered as a field of cultural politics, intellectual property has provided an especially promising point of entry for exploring the prospects for an interdisciplinarity that encompasses perspectives drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, and law and society scholarship. If the life of the law is experience, then the pervasive textuality of experience in the late twentieth century needs to be understood legally. The local animation of the law should be addressed experientially, in terms of the way law manages meaning, shapes relations of cultural authority and contestation, provokes a politics of property, propriety, and appropriation, and provides forms and fora for articulations of identity and difference. Jolted by espresso, awakened by life on the street, and alert to the properties of contemporary cultural life, a critical cultural studies of law comes into view.

Keywords: Law and culture, Cultural studies

Suggested Citation

Coombe, Rosemary J., Critical Cultural Legal Studies (1998). Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Vol. 10, pp. 463-486, 1998, Available at SSRN:

Rosemary J. Coombe (Contact Author)

York University - Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

York University ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3


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