Faculty of Law at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) co-hosted the annual conference of the Law, Literature and the Humanities Association of Australasia (LLHAA) this year with the Faculty of Arts, and the Emerging Strategic Research Theme in Law, Literature and Language on December 8 – 10, 2016. The conference invited researchers working at the intersection of law and humanities to explore the complex relations between law, theory, culture and visuality. Conference participants were invited to re-affirm the enduring capacity of interdisciplinary, creative and critical legal scholarship to allow people to see the law from a different perspective.
The theme “spectacular law” calls for reflection on the performance and dramaturgy of political and legal power, the affective lures of sovereignty and the technologies that reveal – and conceal – legality, dissent, (dis)obedience, and different modalities of regulation. The conference examined the various ways in which one could see, and be seen by, law, politics and power.
The relation between law and humanities is an inextricable one, and together their study is mutually rewarding. At the University of Hong Kong, Law and Humanities scholars and students carry out research, teaching and learning in ways that reflect the centrality of this relation to all our lives.
Three plenary sessions were held on during the three-day conference which also included many parallel sessions exploring different themes including (1) What are the techniques through which law’s operative power are made (in)visible today? (2) How do the various methodologies of ‘law and humanities’ allow us to approach questions of speech, surveillance, censorship, and freedom? (3) How are the spatial, aural, textual and haptic dimensions of law and power refracted through – or obscured by – a focus on the law’s visuality, its spectacles and spectaculars? (4) In what ways might we think about the performance of law in a plurality of settings: on the stage, the screen, in literature or in the courtroom? And (5) Does the development of new technologies necessitate the re-examination of how justice is seen to be done?
Professor Laurent de Sutter, Professor of Legal Theory of Vrije Universiteit Brussels spoke at the first plenary on “The Poetics of Police: Legal Life Lessons from Inspecteur Jacques Clouseau”. Professor De Sutter inquired, with the adventures of Inspecteur Jacques Closeau in the movie, into the role played by law in the concept of order, and how interrogation or legal methodology forced one to discard the certainties which law, order and the seriousness require.
The Law and Film Roundtable served as the second plenary session in which the relationship between law and film were investigated from a variety of perspectives. Several topics such as legal philosophy, legal procedure and social justice were discussed. The award-winning director and producer Ms Ann Hui On Wah shared her experience on producing material for the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the early part of her career, and also reflected on the multiple connections between film and the law from the perspective of a director. Other members at the Roundtable included Professor William MacNeil, Dean of Law, Head of School of Law and Justice, and the Honourable John Dowd Chair in Law at Southern Cross University, Australia, Dr Gina Marchetti, Associate Professor, HKU Comparative Literature and Dr Marco Wan, Associate Professor, HKU Faculty of Law, and Honorary Associate Professor, HKU School of English.
Dr Christine Black, Griffith University, Australia, closed the conference with her wonderful speech in the third plenary session on “Pocket Sized Jurisprudence in Aboriginal Comics and A Mosaic of Writings”. Through an Australian Aboriginal lens, she explored how graphic justice, as argued by Giddens, has broadened “our understanding of law and justice as part of our human world; how a world that is inhabited not simply by legal concepts and institutions alone, but also by narratives, stories, fantasies, images, and other cultural articulations of human meaning”, with reference to how lawful behavior is represented in Aboriginal pocket sized comics for use amongst Aborigines living in remote and deprived areas of central Australia.