Senior Law Lecturers Dr Hyo Yoon Kang and Dr Sara Kendall have been awarded a grant of more than £35,000 to establish an international Legal Materiality Research Network that will launch with an event in London in January 2018.
The Research Network Grant, from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), will help bring together a community of interdisciplinary scholars with a shared focus on studying and thinking about law’s matters and their materialities.
Dr Kendall said: ‘Law offers a particularly strong challenge to such object- and matter-based orientations because it is bound up with systems of meaning and is mediated by texts. Rather than taking physical objects as analogous materials of law, the Research Network seeks to untangle and question assumptions of legality as inherent and self-evident in objects or physical matter. It will also explore the distinctiveness of specific legal materials and techniques, such as texts, images, sounds, bodies, gestures, rituals, as well as the different sites of legal materiality, such as physical and digital spaces, in a detailed manner, cutting across research areas and disciplines.’
Dr Kang added: ‘Despite the importance of understanding law beyond its textual and interpretive forms, there has been limited legal scholarship addressing its material dimensions in sustained conceptual depth. Much of this work occurs in other disciplines, such as history, media studies, anthropology, literature, and sociology, yet opportunities for these different scholars to converse with one another have been rare. The AHRC Research Network seeks to fill this gap by bringing together scholars, artists and concerned publics to build and maintain conversations leading to enhanced and deeper understandings of how laws shape their matters whilst also being shaped in return.’
The network’s launch event will be a symposium on ‘Articulating Law’s Matters’ at The Warburg Institute on Friday 12 January 2018. The symposium will offer an overview and map some of the positions, approaches and tensions which the notion of ‘legal materiality’ has raised in contemporary legal scholarship. Attendance is free, but attendees are required to register online.
The Legal Materiality Research Network includes a broad range of members: from emerging junior scholars and research students to world-leading scholars who have studied the specificity of legal techniques and objects and have engaged deeply with questions of materiality and interpretation. Their disciplinary homes are in fields as diverse as anthropology, English literature, legal studies, media studies, politics, political theory, rhetoric, science and technology studies and sociology. The network also includes artists who are concerned with the force of law and its physical and virtual manifestations.
It builds on previous workshops and conversations that have explored the relationship between law, materiality, matters, different media and textuality over the past couple of years.