Mapping a Cultural Studies of Law
The Handbook of Law and Society 39-55 (Austin Sarat & Patricia Ewick eds., Chichester, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell 2015)
18 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 5, 2015
In this chapter I briefly map the terrain of a set of scholarly approaches that could be called a cultural analysis of law. A cultural analysis or a cultural studies of law generally starts with the dual premise that law is a set of meaning-making practices that exists within and is the product of a particular culture and that the culture is a set of meaning-making practices that exists within and is the product of a particular set of laws.
In this chapter I unpack and elaborate this foundational idea by exploring three routes along which a cultural analysis of law has been productively pursued: (1) narration, (2) identity, and (3) visuality. Narration is meant to embody a number of different approaches that apply a literary sensibility and critique to the language, interpretation, and rhetoric of law, legal arguments, and legal representations. It also seeks to capture the ways that law and representations of law (in novels, films, and other cultural artifacts) create certain kinds of enduring social narratives and tropes and perhaps teach normative lessons. Identity is a route paved by a robust scholarship that examines the role of law in developing, negotiating, policing, and enforcing certain kinds of individual and collective identities, including racial, ethnic, sexual, national and subnational identities that have been salient at different times. Lastly, I explore more briefly the smaller path of visuality, a recent effort to critically engage with the prominent portrayals of law and legal institutions in our pervasively visual culture as well as with the increasing use of visual arguments and iconography within law and legal practice.
Keywords: Cultural Analysis of Law, Law and Humanities, Law and Society, Narrative, Identity, Visual Studies
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation