The Mourning After: Waking Up One Day on the Wrong Side of Law


The Mourning After: Waking Up One Day on the Wrong Side of Law

Melbourne Law School, Room 224, Level 2,
185 Pelham Street, Carlton VIC 3053

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Melbourne Law School

In this Institute for International Law and Humanities (IILAH) seminar, Associate Professor Stacy Douglas will discuss her research on The Mourning After: Waking Up One Day on the Wrong Side of Law.

This seminar explores the temporal narrative of waking up one day on the ‘wrong side of the law’. This narrative trope seems to evince deeply liberal mythologies of the social contract that turn on an underlying fantasy of law’s violence as occasional, measured, and well-deserved. The very experience of waking up one day on the wrong side of the law implies that things only go awry ‘one day’; this is in stark contrast to the experiences of large swaths of individuals and communities born into daily battles with police, child welfare services, educational institutions, and other arms of the state. However, this trope is not simply as a liberally-inclined return to good law but, rather, as a story with meaningful political and ethical force when read as a tragedy. The genre of tragedy allows us to see multiple stories at play, which allows for ambiguity, reflection, and contemplation, all of which might foster more democratic engagement on the topic of law and law’s violence. Further, reading through tragedy renders legible the strength of affective attachments to narratives of a good-working and reliable relationship between law, morality, and justice, even as those same systems tend to thwart, frustrate, and exterminate the subjects before them.

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