Sensing Law: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sensing Law

1st Edition

Edited by Sheryl Hamilton, Diana Majury, Dawn Moore, Neil Sargent, Christiane Wilke


334 pages

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A rich collection of interdisciplinary essays, this book explores the question: what is to be found at the intersection of the sensorium and law’s empire? Examining the problem of how legal rationalities try to grasp what can only be sensed through the body, these essays problematize the Cartesian framework that has long separated the mind from the body, reason from feeling and the human from the animal. In doing so, they consider how the sensorium can operate, variously, as a tool of power or as a means of countering the exercise of regulatory force. The senses, it is argued, operate as a vector for the implication of subjects in legal webs, but also as a powerful site of resistance to legal definition and determination. From the sensorium of animals to technologically mediated perception, the ways in which the law senses and the ways in which senses are brought before the law invite a questioning of the categories of liberal humanism. And, as this volume demonstrates, this questioning opens up the both interesting and important possibility of imagining other sensual subjectivities.


‘How does a trial lawyer demonstrate an accident victim's ringing in the ears? What keeps a court system from discerning the significance of ceremonial song and dance in an Aboriginal land claim case? What kind of odour legally justifies a tenant's eviction? These sumptuous case studies show why the time has come for law to face its complex entanglement in the life of the senses.’

Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School, USA

Table of Contents

Sensing Law: Introduction, Sheryl N. Hamilton, Diana Majury, Dawn Moore and Neil Sargent Experts and Translation 1. What It’s Like: Demonstrative Evidence of Subjective Experience, Neal Feigenson 2. Law’s Sensorium: On the Media of Law and the Evidence of the Senses in Historical and Cross-Cultural Perspective, David Howes 3. Seeing the Similarities in Songs: Music Plagiarism, Forensic Musicology and the Translation of Sound in the Courtroom, Michael Mopas and Amelia Curran 4. Visual Logics of Deduction: Ocular Presence and Ocular Distance in Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Purloined Letter", Neil Sargent Bodies 5. How to Make Sense? An Aesthesis of Citizenship and Legitimacy, Anne Quéma 6. Legal Sensibilities and the Language of Gesture in Late Eighteenth-Century British Satirical Prints, Miriam Wallace 7. The Smell of Neglect: A Trans-corporeal Feminism for Environmental Justice, Dayna Scott, 8. Law’s Sense of Smell: Odours and Evictions at the Landlord and Tenant Board, Sarah Buhler 9. Sensing Sexual Assault: Evidencing Truth Claims in the Forensic Sensorium, Sameena Mulla Space, Place and Subjectivities 10. Sense of Place and Spirit of Place in the Schubart Park Case, Isolde de Villiers 11. An Empire of Sound: Sentience, Sonar and Sensory Impudence, John Shiga 12. The Optics of War: Seeing Civilians, Enacting Distinctions, and Visual Crises in International Law, Christiane Wilke Invitations and Exhortations: An Epilogue

About the Editors

The editors are all based at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

About the Series

Social Justice

Within a broad geopolitical and intellectual landscape, this new, theoretically engaged, interdisciplinary series explores institutional and grassroots practices of social justice across a range of spatial scales. While the pursuit of social justice is as important as it has ever been, its character, conditions, values, and means of advancement are being radically questioned and rethought in the light of contemporary challenges and choices. Attuned to these varied and evolving contexts, Social Justice explores the complex conditions social justice politics confronts and inhabits – of crisis, shock, and erosion, as well as renewal and social invention, of change as well as continuity.

Foregrounding struggle, imagined alternatives and the embedding of new norms, the Social Justice series welcomes books which critically and normatively address the values underpinning new social politics, everyday forms of embodied practice, new dissident knowledges, and struggles to institutionalise change. In particular, the series seeks to explore state and non-state forms of organisation, analysing the different pathways through which social justice projects are put into practice, and the contests their practice generates. More generally, submissions are welcomed exploring the following themes:

• The changing politics of equality and social justice

• The establishment of alternative, organised sites and networks through which social and political experimentation take place

• The phenomenology of power, inequality and changing social relations

• Techniques of governance through which social change and equality agendas are advanced and institutionalised across different geographic scales

• Institutionalisation of new norms (through official and unofficial forms of institutionalisation) and struggles over them

• Practices of resistance, reversal, counter-hegemony and anti-normativity

• Changing values, practices, and the ways in which relations of inequality and difference are understood

Social Justice is intended as a critical interdisciplinary series, at the interface of law, social theory, politics and cultural studies. The series welcomes proposals that advance theoretical discussion about social justice, power, institutions, grass-roots practice and values/ ethics. Seeking to develop new conversations across different disciplines and fields, and working with wide-ranging methodologies, Social Justice seeks contributions that are open, engaging, and which speak to a wide, diverse academic audience across all areas of the law, social sciences and humanities.

For further information on the series, or to discuss a possible contribution, please contact the Series Editors at:

Davina Cooper, Kings College London, WC2R 2LS, UK
[email protected]

Sarah Lamble, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Tel: +44 (0)207 631 6017
[email protected]

Sarah Keenan, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX
Tel: +44 (0)207 631 6017
[email protected]


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Jurisprudence