The Legal Materiality Network

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Kent Law School


The material turn has come late to law, though it has shaped works in anthropology, history, philosophy, and science and technology studies. It is concerned with the roles that non-human objects play in human actions and relationships. We employ the term 'legal materiality' to emphasise that legality is not a determined status, but that legal power varies depending on law's specific techniques of representation, media and institutional settings. Such a materialist approach asks how material elements in legal processes, such as images or software, influence the persuasiveness of evidence or classify certain individuals into target populations. Moreover, a new materialist approach towards law explores the multiple ways in which law acts on different matters across society. Law becomes material by exerting tangible and corporeal effects, such as on the bodies of women, the ill, prisoners or refugees.

Such a legal materialist approach entails the view that a full picture of legality is not to be found in legal doctrines and their textual interpretation, but across different objects in society. This calls for supplementing existing approaches to law. For example, a legal materialist approach provides a more insightful analysis of the 2017 executive order issued by the American president that sought to temporarily suspend travel of individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries. Whereas a doctrinal approach addresses the constitutional basis of the order and its interpretation by the judiciary, the lens of legal materiality places this text in the context of its material genesis, mediation and tangible effects: from the placing of words in the order, to the inscription of the president's signature on paper, to its digital dissemination through social media platforms, to biopolitical effects on targeted individual bodies and their ability to move across space. A legal materialist lens would expose the concrete genesis, media shifts, and the differential effects on targeted groups of population of the legal instrument in full. Understanding the meaning and effects of these steps requires critical analysis, drawing upon expertise from the humanities and interpretive social sciences, as well as a sensibility for the specific properties of legal matters: paper, social media platforms, border spaces, and human bodies.

To facilitate such interdisciplinary analysis of law's social and cultural effects, we will create a new network of scholars working on legal materiality. The central aim of the network is to build a novel platform for exploring the relationships between legal processes and human and non-human entities. The network will bring people from different traditions in the arts and humanities (including law, history, literature, anthropology, media and science studies) who are working on aspects of law and new materialisms, together with artists and policy actors, to develop novel research approaches. The network will address a range of questions, such as: how do texts and interpretive practices relate to objects, bodies and spaces?; What are the implications of actor network theory and other new materialist approaches for legal scholarship? What are their limitations?; What resources can be drawn from the humanities, the interpretive social sciences and artistic communities to better understand the effects of new technological developments in law?

Activities comprise four events, beginning with a cross-disciplinary event and culminating with an international conference. We will foster deliberative public engagement and exchange in the second public event that will bring into conversation academics, artists and activists who have worked on law's material forces, particularly digital surveillance and privacy. Through open exchange and dissemination, network participants will shape research agendas on law's effects within and beyond the academy. It will lay the groundwork for a new approach to law.

Planned Impact

The section 'Academic Beneficiaries' details the anticipated academic impact of the proposed work. Beyond shaping how the legal field is researched and taught, the legal materialities network will generate impact by providing a forum and a unique resource for informed theoretical exchange and methodological exploration of why and how law matters for non-academic practitioners in the arts, humanities and law.

Legal practitioners and policy actors, particularly in the field of international legal policy making and intellectual property, will benefit from this interdisciplinary research network by gaining a more nuanced and multi-disciplinary understanding of the ways in which their legal fields operate. Of the committed participants who will be invited as speakers to events, we will benefit from existing policy links and networks with United Nations (Sullivan), advocates for Canadian prison reform (Murray), transitional justice and truth commission proponents (Antaki), indigenous rights activists (Bhandar), U.S. based legal practitioners (Gordon), and environmental advocates (Otomo). Insights from anthropology, literature and media studies will enable different perspectives on the importance of legal material techniques, such as lists, filings and softwares in the construction of legal categories (Krajewski, Johns, M'Charek, Rouvroy). These insights will feed into policy practice by offering alternative tools for reflecting on what legal texts and traditional interpretive practices can and cannot do.

The network will create a lasting and useful impact to members of the creative arts, such as artists, filmmakers and curators, who have been engaging with the often problematic forces of law that become manifested in concrete issues, such as privacy and surveillance, ownership of information, and access to knowledge. These problems require understanding the ways in which intangible information becomes represented by distinct legal language, how it is materialised within and beyond the legal field, and its concrete, tangible effects within society. The network will open a space for artists, journalists, activists and wider publics to interact with a group of interdisciplinary academics investigating the materiality of law. We have successfully secured the participation of the American National Endowment of the Arts Poet Laureat (Hu) in the network, who has worked on the material history of the cloud and will be in dialogue with artists (Norfolk, Paglen, Poitras) and academics (Murray, Weizmann) working on digital surveillance in the second public outreach event. This is planned be held in the Tate Modern, facilitated by our confirmed network member (MacKenzie) who is a Tate Exchange Associate. The proposed network will therefore generate a lively intellectual space for encouraging the open exchange and development of ideas between communities of academics, policy actors, artists and publics who are rarely engaged in dialogue with each other.

In addition to academic outputs, we will produce and disseminate materials that will prolong the network's impact and ensure a lasting legacy. In summary, we will: 1) create a project website for publicity and exchange of the network, including blogs and podcasts of conferences, as well as a resource page for teaching and research; 2) produce a project website, and publicise our network events in our own existing networks, including a social media platform of over 3,000 legal practitioners and scholars; 3) author a final accessible report for further dissemination through the network website, news outlets (Guardian), social media; 4) submit a commentary to a high circulation art journal to engage the artistic community, such as Art Forum, frieze or Kunstforum; and 5) document our public engagement event in video recordings through the project website.

For more details on the research network's impact, please see the attached document 'Pathways to Impact' in this application.


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Title A Change of Heart by Anna Macdonald. 
Description In collaboration with Marie Andree Jacob (Law, University of Leeds), Anna Macdonald, a performance artist based at Manchester Metropolitan University, performed and recorded a video on the 'strike through'. The 'strike through' is a social and textual practice that Jacob had researched in the context of General Medical Council which strikes through medical practitioners off the register after determining malpractice. The video was shown at the concluding conference in January 2020 and is also uplaoded and freely available at . 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The video and A. Macdonald's performance of the video in the concluding conference was perceived to be one of the most effective and fruitful exchange and genuine engagement between legal scholarship and artistic performance the legal theory community had observed. It will inspire novel contacts and projects for the future that have sprung from the network activities, and it has already linked anthropologist concerned with knowledge practice, such as dance (J. Leach) together with A. Macdonald. 
Title Statue of Limitations. Sculptor: Kang Sunkoo 
Description Coverpage of the special edited issue on 'legal materiality': an image of the sculpture "Statue of Limitations" to be erected in the entrance hall of the Humboldt Forum, Berlin, Germany and Nachtigallsplatz, Berlin-Wedding. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The image problematises the ways in which ambivalent legal power and its abuse can be materially represented, especially in the German colonial historical context. 
Description The AHRC Legal Materiality Research Network has fostered the first community of over one-hundred international cross-disciplinary scholars who study law's material making and manifestations. It brought together artists, poet, and academic researchers from twelve disciplines (anthropology, comparative literature, design, English, history, media theory, philosophy, political theory, philosophy, science studies, sociology, and legal scholars from the different legal subfields - intellectual property, international, property, public, legal history) and from ten different countries (UK, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, USA). The Legal Materiality network built an open and inclusive intellectual space across disciplinary, hierarchical and geographical divides in which the meaning and use of 'legal materiality' as a research concept was discussed in a sustained way.
Postgraduate students and early career researchers were part of the conversation from the beginning as we prioritised their participation through travel contribution and policy of no-registration fee. Over the two-years running time of the grant, we organised eight events on the theme of legal materiality: a launch symposium, a concluding open-call conference, two roundtables and a conference stream of nine papers at the leading Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, a legal methodology workshop, an invited colloquium at UC Berkeley Townsend Center for Humanities and two paper workshops. Our social media network (@lawsmatters) has a community of four-hundred and eight-one followers. The project webpage,, documents and disseminates our research network's outputs, as well as acting as a resource for research and teaching.
The network grant has acted as a catalyst for developing a novel concept of materiality specific to law. Although the terms 'matters', 'objects', 'materials' and 'materiality' had gained currency in legal scholarship, they have been used in different and sometimes conflicting ways. In the Legal Materiality Network, we delineated the use of these terms and reconceptualised their meanings for the study of law. Also we analysed and diagnosed the pitfalls and risks of a simplistic inter-disciplinary conceptual transfer. At the end, we presented a concept of legal materiality as a novel heterodox and alternative approach towards legal scholarship. It helps to bring into better vision novel configurations, composition and ingredients of legal infrastructure and practice. The legal materialist approach opens up new ways for a concrete and granular diagnosis of law. It has significant potential for analytical and normative interventions amidst climate change and algorithmic governmentality that are fundamentally destabilising the meaning of law's subjects and objects. It is articularly useful when law itself is in a flux, such as in the context of regulation of algorithms and law's own increasing digitisation.
Two projects follow from this grant: Dr Hyo Yoon Kang, the principal investigator, is developing an AHRC Scoping Proposal for climate humanities with the network members, Marie-Catherine Petersmann (law, Tilburg) and Kris Decker (science studies, Lucerne). Sara Kendall, co-investigator, is participating in the US National Science Foundation project 'Geospatial Technologies, Justice and Evidentiary Procedure' with Kamari Maxine Clarke (anthropology, UCLA) who served in the advisory board of this network.
Exploitation Route The 'Legal Materialities' network was the first of its kind to foreground knowledge exchange across different academic disciplines around the materials and practices of law beyond its traditional medium, the text, and its traditional practice of interpretation. Non-academic shareholders, such as artists, activists and policy actors, have engaged with interdisciplinary academic researchers who study law's material composition and effects in ways beyond textual interpretation, and have diiscussed their works (poem, statue, performance, video recording).

We published two chapters in leading Handbook publications in the field of law and the humanities and legal theory (Routledge Handbook for Law and Theory and Oxford Handbook for Law and the Humanities) in which we mapped the divergent definitions and understandings of materiality in the humanities and legal scholarship. We then articulated and proposed a differentiated understanding of the concepts of 'materiality' and 'matters' that could be used to guide and generate novel approaches for diagnosing law and legal phenomena in an age of digitisation and algorithmic calculations that fundamentally challenge the ways in which law is made and practiced. We probed these working definitions in a special edited issue on the theme of 'legal materiality' in the journal, Law Text Culture that we secured in a competitive process and is available as open access. Fourteen contributors, including artistic contributions in an image, poem and video, probed and discussed our conceptualisation.

Academic researchers, particularly postgraduate and early career researchers, have found that the novel research approach provides hitherto lacking, essential guidance for studying the making of law and law in action. In particular, the conceptual mapping, clarification and delineation of law's different materialities has generated analytical and critical capacity for studying increasing challenges to legal forms arising from technology and digitisaton, in areas such as climate change regulation, algorithmic governmentality, international surveillance, biopolitical practices, the interface of digital media and ownership of tangible and intangible knowledges. .
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Financial Services, and Management Consultancy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

Description The network activities ended end of January 2020 and it is still early days to accurately assess the impact of the grant. The below provides an overview of the narrative impact so far (to date: March 2020). In addition to fostering discussions across academic disciplines, we aimed to generate impact within communities of legal practitioners and the creative arts. We were successful in engaging with 1) policy actors and 2) communities of artistic practice. 1.Policy actors This novel international, interdisciplinary network has started to shape policy making by examining legality - understood as the force of law affecting society - as a complex product of material factors. The Co-I, Sara Kendall, and the advisory member, Kamari Clarke, have built upon their research conducted as part of this grant on the use of geospatial technology as evidence in the International Criminal Court and have been awarded a National Research Foundation grant ' Geospatial Technologies, Justice and Evidentiary Procedure' starting in 2020 for three years. The focus on material and practice- based dimensions of law will benefit legal practitioners and non-governmental organisation. As the legal materiality network has eschewed simplistic material-to-law correspondence, it has created new avenues for translating policy experience into academic debates, and vice versa. AHRC's support for this project has been translated into the importance of humanistic and interpretive insights for policy advocacy, where observations from the humanities are bearing incisively upon policy considerations. 2. Communities of artistic practice A central aim of the Legal Materiality network has been to bring legal concerns into dialogue with the creative arts, supporting parallel efforts in the creative and cultural industries. Individuals and collectives working in film and the fine arts have long critiqued law and its effects, but there has been relatively limited engagement between legal scholars and artistic communities. The network has tried to bridge these knowledge and networking gaps by i.) soliciting and including artists working on the themes of law and legal power in the networking events and publications (S. Kang, A. Macdonald, C. Young) and ii.) with the participation of the American National Endowment of the Arts Poet Laureate, T.-H. Hu, in the network and the special edited volume on Legal Materiality of Law Text Culture.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Geospatial Technologies, Justice and Evidentiary Procedure (Sara Kendall, co-I, with Kamari Clarke and Jennifer Burrell)
Amount $299,999 (USD)
Organisation National Science Foundation (NSF) 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 02/2020 
End 02/2023
Description Humanitarian Complicity in the Global Legal Order
Amount £49,580 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2020 
End 08/2021
Title Legal Materiality Resources fo Research and Teaching 
Description We collated a list of key readings from a broad range of interdisciplinary literature on the theme of legal materiality. We also publicised useful techniques for teachng that have been developed by network members. Both are freely avaialble on the project website, 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The resources represent an authoritative list of relevant literature that underpin legal materiatliy as a research approach. It provides aa short-cut for researchers wishing to conduct any research with a legal materialist approach, saving scoping time. 
Description New evidentiary technologies in international criminal law 
Organisation University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Department Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Hypertension
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr. Sara Kendall joined Professor Kamari Clarke (Carleton University, now University of California, Los Angeles) to attend a scoping meeting in Washington, DC in March 2018 with potential partners at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) regarding their work in support of new evidentiary technologies at the International Criminal Court (ICC). In December 2018, with the support of Professor Clarke's project award through the Wenner Gren foundation, she attended a meeting in Berlin with a documentary filmmaker whose film 'Truth Detectives' explores these new technologies. With in kind support from the University of California at Los Angeles for flights and accommodation, Dr. Kendall will be involved in an event on 15 March 2019, 'Geospatial Technologies: the Future of Human Rights Action?', which will include a screening of the documentary and a discussion of the AAAS report concerning geospatial technologies in evidence. Dr. Kendall and Professor Clarke will use this as an opportunity to gather data for their co-authored article that will form part of the 'Legal Materiality' network's final output.
Collaborator Contribution Professor Kamari Clarke is on the advisory board of the Legal Materiality network. She has provided advice on possible publication formats and outlets as well as conceptual support to the network. Through her Wenner Gren foundation grant and funding from her home institution, the University of California at Los Angeles, she has facilitated co-I Dr. Kendall's travel and participation in the event that will support a Legal Materiality publication.
Impact Co-I's participation as panel commentator in event 'Geospatial Technologies: the Future of Human Rights Action?', 15 March 2019 at UCLA law school, with participation from AAAS members, a documentary filmmaker, and human rights investigators, open to the public 'Matters of veracity: new evidentiary forms in international criminal litigation', forthcoming in journal 'Law Text Culture' (2019/2020) Kamari Clarke (Anthropology, the University of California, Los Angeles) and Sara Kendall (Law, University of Kent)
Start Year 2018
Description Concluding conference of the AHRC Legal Materiality Research Network, London, January 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Over the last two years, the AHRC Legal Materiality Research Network has brought together cross-disciplinary scholars who have examined law's relation to its constitutive materials. Network members analysed and discussed the meaning of matters, materials and materiality as they specifically relate to law. What is a legal matter, what is material in and to law, and how do certain materials turn an issue into a legal matter? Such inquiries in turn lead to the question of legal ontology: what is 'legal' rather than a- or non-legal? These theoretical and methodological considerations are relevant to many subfields of legal scholarship, as well as to scholars in other disciplines who study different manifestations of law.
The research network's concluding conference brought together scholars whose works examine law's diverse materials and who engage with legal materiality from aesthetic, ethnographic, historical, rhetorical and philosophical perspectives.
The two-days conference also reflected on the works that the research network members undertook collectively and individually towards developing, refining and critiquing notions of legal materiality. One such endeavour was an experimental application and discussion of legal materiality in the format of a special edited issue of the journal, Law Text Culture Vol. 23 2019. This was presented and launched at the conference. For programme, please see the attached URL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Launch Symposium 'Articulating Law's Matters' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Legal Materiality Network launch event, Articulating Law's Matters, was held at the University of London's Warburg Institute on 12 January 2018. The event brought together scholars, artists, and students interested in law's matters and their materialities in order to critically explore the meanings and uses of these terms. The event focused on the media of law - its physical manifestations and its means of transmission and interpretation - in addition to considering law as a 'mode' in the Latourian sense, addressing what renders law distinct as a regime of enunciation with its own forms of truth claims. Part of the intention behind bringing together this diverse group was to complicate and problematise the notion of legal materiality. The first event of the AHRC research network sought to engage with a broad range of scholars who had worked on concrete issues of legal materiality in order to shape future research directions.

The opening talks considered law's relationship to language and its textual forms. Marianne Constable (UC Berkeley, Rhetoric) explored how law takes things as its objects through the medium of language, transforming obstinant things into matters for law. System thinking risks transforming both law and language into information, where claims of language become mere materialities of the system. Is there a mode of communication that is immaterial? Is there a materiality of interpretation, and if so, what might that be? Focusing on how authorship arose in copyright law, Alain Pottage (LSE, Law) argued that the specificity of the book, as the matter which gets matched to an 'author', conditioned the meaning of the authorship concept. Differentiating this approach from economic explanations of copyright concepts that refer mainly to the role of printing presses, he developed an argument that the internal composition and format of the book informed the meaning of authorship and the identity of the author.

The following panels addressed law's relationship to its constitutive media, such as the strikethrough in medical professional conduct, the computer code, and property registers. Marie-Andree Jacob (Keele, Law) argued that the strikethrough as a notational practice renders visible the making of law as a process of inscription, writing conventions and formats. Markus Krajewski (Basel, Media Theory) examined computer coding as another site of legal writing. He pointed out that computer codes underlie law-like logic themselves which may not be subject to human law, and observed that '[t]he law laments its vanishing power in cyberspace.' Brenna Bhandar (SOAS, Law) showed how the material practices of registration informed the category of property and built the basis for dispossession in colonial administration. Pointing to the interwoven histories of racialised orderings, dispossession and economy of trading in J.M.W. Turner's painting of the Slave Ship, she traced how multiple layers of legal and economic abstraction are materialised and sublimated in this painting.

The day concluded with a roundtable of invited scholars from different disciplines to discuss their views of what legal materiality might mean to them: Kamari Clarke, (Carleton, International and Global Studies, Law and Legal Studies), Mario Biagioli (UC Davis, Law and Science and Technology Studies), James Leach (CNRS-CREDO) and Javier Lezaun (University of Oxford, Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies). Their various approaches addressed law as relations between people, as regulatory frameworks, as a means of creating value (such as intellectual property), as forms of encapsulation and exclusion, and as imbricated with new technological forms. We had asked some questions to the panelists in advance and discussed some of their answers. Their thoughtful, nuanced, lively, and provocative responses offered productive entries into different understandings of 'legal' matters and objects as distinct from legal 'materiality'. One of the recurring questions of the discussion concerned the peculiarity of 'legal' materiality in relation to other kinds of materialities. Is there something proper (in the sense of unique or distinctive) in the way in which law figures its meaning with respect to its materials? The following Legal Materiality Network events will continue to pursue this line of inquiry, sharpening theorisations of law's matters and material forms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Legal Materiality Encounters: Intellectual Property Meets International Law - WORKSHOP 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact On 15 June 2018, the Legal Materiality Network has hosted an encounter between legal scholars working in the field of intellectual property and scholars from diverse disciplines (anthropology, international relations, philosophy and law) who work on international legal issues. This small intensive workshop was based on the premise that critical scholars of intellectual property (including patent and copyright) have had the opportunity for a more sustained engagement with questions of law's matters and material due to the nature of the objects they engage with. The workshop group included senior scholars, as well as a postdoctoral researcher and two PhD students, fostering early career scholars within our research network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Legal Materiality Website & Blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The AHRC research network website and blog records and disseminates news about the network activities, as well as building up a resources for teaching and research and maintaining a mailing list of ove rhundred members. It contains an archive of past events and their contents. It also features a members' directory which lends visibility to this crossdisciplinary and transnational network concerned with legal materiality. It is the only such network in this field internationally and acts as a forum in which members can also feature their work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020
Description Legal Materiality at the Law, Culture, Humanities Annual Meeting, March 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Many of our network members will be active and presenting their works at the upcoming Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities (ASLCH) Annual meeting at Georgetown Law on 16 - 17 March 2018.

The paper panel 'Legal Materiality: Improvisation, Natura, Specter' will bring together different notions of materiality as specific legal enactments. This panel will probe a view of legal materiality as an oscillating process of meaning-making between intangible ideas and tangible bodies and things. Materiality may be understood as the different techniques and practices through which law comes to matter. Sara Ramshaw (University of Victoria), in "The Materiality of (Real) Time: Law as Improvisation", will offer an understanding of legal materiality as a temporal duration which transcends real-time improvisation. Zach Reyna (University of Tyumen, Russia) will consider Aquinas' concept of Natura which avoids the dichotomous trappings of a materialist or rational reductionism in "Making matter meaningful?: Words, Worlds, and Preambles, or How Law Matters". Hyo Yoon Kang (Kent Law School) will examine the change of law's medium from text to image to digital data in the context of patent law and explore how these representational formats affect the very meaning of legal form. Sara Kendall (Kent Law School) will chair this discussion.

In their paper "Délivrer le droit", network member, Mark Antaki (McGill), with co-author, Alexandra Popovici (University of Sherbrooke), will focus on the transcription of "law" into 'books" by way of the specific example of legal dictionaries and a broader engagement with the recently published Décrire le droit et le transformer: Étude sur le phénomène de la "décriture" (by Vincent Forray and Sébastien Pimont).

James Martel (San Franciso State University) will consider how the dead better resist the colonizing acts of the state than the living and how the dead aid the living in their own resistance in "Decolonizing the dead: how corpses help the living resist subjugation".

Chantal Nadeau (Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) will rethink the relationship between touching and seeing in our approach to legal recognition in her paper, "When law touched us, we died." On touching, queerness and regulation of queer bodies".

Genevieve Painter (Concordia University) will offer a fresh reading of the Canadian "Indian Act" drawing on an analysis of newly declassified Cabinet and Indian Affairs documents in "Constitutional Rights, Cost-cutting, and Colonization: A History of Sex Discrimination in the Indian Act".

Connal Parsley (Kent Law School) will consider the political authority of the artist in the neoliberal conceptualisation of work in "Thinking the Political Authority of the Artist: The neoliberal situation".

The conference will be a fruitful opportunity to probe and discuss some of the thoughts developed at the launch symposium and in the pre-workshops of the research network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Legal Materiality stream at the Twenty-Second Annual Meeting for the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities, Ottawa, March 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We have put a three-panels stream of nine papers that brought together some of the network's research on the meaning and effects of legal materials, techniques and visibilities at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Association of Law, Culture and the Humanities conference in Ottawa. In the previous years' meetings, we had explored legal materialist approaches in a paper panel and a roundtable. Building upon the previous discussions, this conference stream was the larges in the conference and introduced environmental humanities and materialist approaches to the field of law and the humanities. Here are the abstracts of the stream:

Panel 1: Legal materiality - part 1
Chair: Genevieve Painter
i) Hyo Yoon Kang and Sara Kendall: "Legal Materiality"
In this presentation we reflect on developing legal materiality as an approach in legal scholarship, which we have explored in the last two years at the ASLCH. Legal materiality recognises law as both a hermeneutic and a material phenomenon: as uniquely engaged with issues of writing, reading, interpretation and judgment, yet also as mediated by and produced through material techniques and practices. It is attuned to the ways in which materials come to be enlisted as 'matters of concern' for law: that is, how the interpretive and text-based practices of law are informed and mediated by material conditions. Rather than taking 'law' as a premise, it interrogates the contribution of materials and things to the making of legal meaning. We illustrate this approach in case studies drawn from intellectual property and international law.

ii) Zachary Reyna: "Two Models of Contracting and their Implications for Legal Materialists"
Contracting has been a central device in modern political and legal theory since at least Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes. This paper explores the legal concept of contracting through two of its most profound and original thinkers: Thomas Hobbes and the less-known Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The goal is to use these two thinkers to uncover two models for thinking about the meaning of legal materiality-a topic that has generated increased interest in recent years. The paper argues that Hobbes and Sacher-Masoch offer two divergent accounts of the contract that have important consequences for how we think about legal materiality. Hobbes deploys the contract as a corrective to fix-through means of "artifice"-a lack in the world as it is given to us. Legal materialists have drawn on this model both to call us to include and re-vitalize the stuff left outside the space opened by this contact and alternatively to focus on the specifically legal hermeneutic practices that govern and produce legal forms within this space. In contrast, Sacher-Masoch's contracts are aimed at disclosing "the ontological intimacy between language and matter." Sacher-Masoch achieves this through various contractual devices of drawing together (con-trahere): drafting a contract, pen strokes, whip strokes, draft animals, contracting flesh, and storytelling. Ultimately, while Sacher-Masoch encourages legal materialists to focus on the matters of law conventionally left out of the Hobbesian model, he is simultaneously critical of any naïve appeal to simply let these matters "speak for themselves." For Sacher-Masoch, the legal device of contracting is a crucial-and underthought-process whereby matter comes to matter.

iii) James Martel: "'God is Change': anarchist prophecy, and radical ways of seeing in The Parable of the Sower."
This paper is about anarchist forms of prophecy. My argument is that archist prophets claim to have special sight and see things that no one else sees; they assert the truth of invisible things like heaven and the law, things which they insist are more tangible and real than reality itself. Anarchist prophets, on the other hand, simply point out what we already know but don't want to acknowledge; the non existence of the very things that archist prophets claim to be able to see. In this way anarchist prophets don't have special sight but the same sight as everyone else. What they do is to get others to acknowledge what they are seeing (that is, to stop seeing things that aren't there). I will make this argument based on a reading of science fiction novel by Octavia Butler called "The Parable of the Sower" where the main character is a prophet named Lauren Olamina. Lauren creates an entirely new religion in a time of the total breakdown of US society (in ways that are terrifyingly plausible these days). She fights all the false hopes of being rescued by the state (which is totally and hopelessly corrupt and violent) or the law (which is effectively nonexistent except for the very rich) and instead embraces change and human agency, two things that archist forms of seeing try to undermine and supersede.

Panel 2: Legal materiality - part 2
Chair: James Martel

i) Jill Stauffer: "You people talk from paper": Indigeneous law, western legalism, and the cultural variability of law's materials.
A First Nations elder from the Yukon, criticizing a group of scientists at a joint conference of scientists and indigenous persons involved in environmental issues facing the polar and sub-polar regions of Canada, said this: "You people talk from paper. Me, I want to talk from Grandpa." When Mrs. Annie Ned says this, she's not only voicing a criticism of how western knowledge is conveyed but of how those who are embedded in its ways learn to think and listen. They think indigenous stories are based in myth but that western legalisms are not. They look for universal truths, controlled experiments, think data answers every question. They may not see that it is fully possible to have a deep understanding of how the world works that emerges differently. And so they tend to listen to an oral narrative in order to turn it into a text that can then be read like any other text. But that is exactly the right way to never understand. In this talk I'll use Mrs. Ned's observation to think about the ways settler colonial courts fail to hear indigenous claims about land and justice. To do this, I'll consider the materiality of "talking from paper" alongside assertions that a song, a story, a ceremonial robe, or a totem pole, could be law or legal title rather than evidence of those things.

ii) Genevieve Painter: "Law, History, and Things"
The 'law and ' field of legal scholarship verges on consensus about the co-constitution between law and nearly everything else. Co-constitution raises questions about how to differentiate law from other things. The contemporary turn from words towards the material brings fresh perspective on these questions by suggesting that law's differentiation is fabricated through materiality. This project concerns how material techniques differentiate law, how material techniques differentiate history, and how these processes may produce ideas of 'law' and 'history' as distinct and separate. Inspired by the Legal Objects Workshop, I draw on work in which I examine the material, archival, and museum techniques that fabricate the difference of a thing not commonly understood by Western law as law. My focus is an object created in Haida Gwaii in the late nineteenth century and now displayed in the British Museum. I consider how jurisdictional choices are embedded in the fabrication of this thing's difference. I juxtapose the analysis of this thing-that-is-not-law with another thing-that-is-not-law, a photograph from the official archives of an international organization. Contemporary historians of law spend their times in archives taking photographs (rather than reading or taking notes), meaning that the raw material of history has become photographs of documents. While the historian's role as just one more actors in a long chain of archivists constructing an archive has been explored in the archival turn, legal scholars have paid less attention to the action of photography as a material practice. I hope to juxtapose the apparent 'thing-ness' of a sculpture in the British Museum with the apparent 'non-thing-ness' of a photograph, its apparent status as pure representation, to see if that can tell us anything about what legal historians do when they trace the line between law and history.

iii) Daniela Gandorfer: "Law of Life Writing"
Autobiography is commonly understood as a literary genre that grants an individual the right to narrate a life. As such, the genre - deeply embedded in Eurocentric ideas of subjectivity, self-awareness and the Cartesian body/mind dualism - serves as framing device which legitimately cuts out a life from a continuum, and renders its remainder objects, plot, space, or prey. Critical post-humanist and neo-materialist theories have exposed the shortcomings of the genre and proposed a shift to life writing, which adumbrates a different subject - multiple, materially embedded, embodied and relational.
Life writing, however, does not only pertain to the representational sphere, but becomes inscribed in and on the level of matter - and with it its anthropocentric, liberal and neo-humanist implications. Scientific breakthroughs in biotechnology, genetics, synthetic biology, and computer technology altered our conception of what life is and provide legal tools to invent or efface life forms. This urges us to address the right to life, as well as the right to write and narrate life on a molecular level. Life - actually and legally - seems to come after the cut.
In my talk I aim to look closer at how law performs these ontological surgeries (Jasanoff) as Cartesian cuts (Barad) that sharply separate legal subject from object, commodity, and property. Are there alternative ways of thinking the right to life, apart from the Cartesian cut and its anthropocentric legacy? Can law narrate life symbiotically, rather than autobiographically? And if so, who or what can have a right to life?

Panel 3: Legal materiality - part 3
Art, Law, Materialism: A Discussion on Objects, Aesthetics and the Juridical
Chair: Sara Kendall

Engaging with what has been termed the recent 'affective turn' in the social sciences and humanities[1], this discussion seeks to unravel some of the ways in which objects and materiality, affect, determine and produce laws and aesthetics - and the juridical production of matter and art, in turn. How have artists been engaging with the developing philosophies of speculative realism, object-oriented-ontology (OOO) and new materialisms and how can their works inform understandings of the ethico-juridical? What role does the object play in law? Is materialism the same as aesthetics, following from Harman's argument that aesthetics is the basis of all philosophy[2]? What role does art play in law's materiality? What are the affective practices of artists and lawyers? And what potential does a material understanding of art/law hold for the futures of legal theory?
Swastee Ranjan (University of Sussex), Connal Parsley (University of Kent) and Lucy Finchett-Maddock (University of Sussex), will be discussing their own research on affect, aesthetics, non-representational theory, and entropy in relation to the art, law and materiality.
[1] Patricia Ticineto Clough, Jean Halley (eds.), The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social, Duke University Press, 2007; Paul Hoggett, Simon Thompson (eds.), Politics and the Emotions: The Affective Turn in Contemporary Political Studies, Bloomsbury, 2012.
[2] Harman, Graham, Object-Oriented-Ontology: A New Theory of Everything, Penguin, 2018.

i) Swastee Ranjan: "Object's Law - On affective traces that constitute legal meaning"
This paper emerges at the intersection of legal aesthetics and legal materiality wherein it seeks to understand and develop the juridical role of 'physical' things in constituting our normative environment. The argument follows that physical objects generate and constitute legal meaning that are not often mapped within the traditional understandings of law, instead they appear as fleeting trails of affective resonances. Inspired by the recent scholarship on new materialism and object-oriented ontologies, this paper seeks to extend the category of legal aesthetics to not only include the physicality of things and argue for their ability to generate normative values but also suggest an expansive understanding of aesthetic that is construed both in representational and non-representational terms. This paper works to expand the nature of legal pluralism by drawing on materiality and affect as significant registers through which legal meaning is constituted. Emerging out of my ongoing doctoral research, in this paper, I will use illustrations from the built environment of Delhi, to substantiate the relationship between affect, aesthetics and materiality and seek to show that law is both constitutive of and constituted through them.

ii) Lucy Finchett-Maddock: "A Theory of Art/Law"
This piece seeks to account for an increased interest in the intersection of art and law within legal thinking, activism, and artistic practice, arguing there to exist the phenomena and movement of 'Art/Law'. Art/Law is the coming together of theory and practice in legal and political aesthetics, understood as a practice, (im)materially performed. It is seen as a natural consequence of thinking law and resistance in terms of space and time, accounting for a turn towards the visual, practical, and the role of affect, within ways of knowing. Art/law is a symptom of the end of art and end of law, synchronically rendered. Divisions between legal and aesthetic form have been well rehearsed within legal aesthetics scholarship, from law and literature, to critical legal studies' work with images, text and performativity, and now law's Anthropocene. Art/Law as a practice, however, is argued as an emergent onto-epistemic-ethics of necessity, a movement of seeing, being and knowing in response to the advancement of spectacle. It is the simultaneous reunion of law, art and resistance as one, breaking down the institutional artifice of art worlds and law worlds, offering a form of 'resistant (in)formalism', that accounts for matter and change. It is an inclusion of the uncertain and the disordered, as an opening of justice. This resistant (in)formalism describes the role of form, audience and practice within property, legal and aesthetic establishment, offering a countering of separatism at the end of art and the end of law, through a praxeology of Art/Law in seeing, thinking and action.

iii) Connal Parsley: "Contemporary Art / Towards a Material Praxis of Jurisprudence
This paper will think through some examples of contemporary art that address legal thematics in order to take seriously the knowledge about law that they contain. Despite repeated aesthetic and then materialist moves in critical legal studies away from the positivist understanding law as its normative or conceptual content, little ground has been made in diminishing the aura around law as a privileged textual object. Law remains conceptually presupposed even and especially by many apparently materialist approaches, which insist on locating and nominalising law. This paper will distance itself from this preoccupation with the pluralisation and proliferation of law and normativity, asking instead after the praxis and generation of knowledge about law. Key currents in contemporary art-particularly those drawing on post-aesthetic and post-autonomous practice-move past the social and cultural representation of law, as well as the concern with law's aesthetic life and method of taking purchase on its subjects. The examples considered will ask what is at stake in taking legal forms, institutions and habits as art's material; whether such art works can take the double step beyond both the objectification of law, and a mere provocation to see law "critically"; and whether we can understand the post-autonomous impulse in law art as a collapse between the "thought of law "and the "work of law" (for example, in self-consciously instituting relations). What emerges is the figure-perhaps impossible in both the positivist and "critical" legal traditions-of a material jurisprudential praxis that reconciles the subject of thought with its object.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Paper Panel: Legal Materiality: Improvisation, Natura, Specter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The paper panel 'Legal Materiality: Improvisation, Natura, Specter' brought together different notions of materiality as specific legal enactments. It probed a view of legal materiality as an oscillating process of meaning-making between intangible ideas and tangible bodies and things. Materiality may be understood as the different techniques and practices through which law comes to matter.
Sara Ramshaw (University of Victoria), in "The Materiality of (Real) Time: Law as Improvisation", offered an understanding of legal materiality as a temporal duration which transcends real-time improvisation. Zach Reyna (University of Tyumen, Russia) considered Aquinas' concept of Natura which avoids the dichotomous trappings of a materialist or rational reductionism in "Making matter meaningful?: Words, Worlds, and Preambles, or How Law Matters".
Hyo Yoon Kang (PI, Kent Law School) examined the change of law's medium from text to image to digital data in the context of patent law and explore how these representational formats affect the very meaning of legal form.
Sara Kendall, the Co-I, chaired this discussion.
The conference was a fruitful opportunity to probe and discuss some of the thoughts developed at the launch symposium and in the pre-workshops of the research network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Twitter feed Legal Materiality 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The twitter feed has been conceived in Septemnber 2017 and to date (March 2020) it has 481 followers comprising interdisciplinary academic scholars, students and the wider public. It is updated frequently and has a positive impact on the dissemination of research activities of the network itself as well as the individual members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018,2019,2020