Legal Marginalia – An Interdisciplinary Colloquium organized by the E-SRT in Law, Literature and Language

Legal Marginalia

An Interdisciplinary Colloquium organized by the E-SRT in Law, Literature and Language

Thursday April 2, 2015

Academic Conference Room, 11th Floor, Cheng Yu Tung Tower, University of Hong Kong

This colloquium examines elements which are often considered ‘marginal’ in/to the law. The notion of the margin is a diverse and dynamic one. In some political regimes, scholars embed their criticism of government policies in endnotes and footnotes, such that their ‘core’ arguments can only be discerned by looking at the ‘margins’ of the text. In other instances, communities previously in the margins of the legal framework now receive renewed attention in human rights discourse. Finally, the humanities are at times considered ‘marginal’ to legal studies, but the interdisciplinary turn in legal scholarship has underscored the contribution that humanistic inquiry can make to the study of law. The papers in this colloquium collectively explore the multiple manifestations and meanings of the legal margin, and investigate what is at stake in the very act of designating a text, a concept or a discipline as marginal.



10:00am – 11:15am          Marginalized Figures in the Courtroom

  • Chris Munn (HKU): Margins of Justice in Colonial Hong Kong: Li Hong Mi v. The Attorney General and Others, 1917-1920
  • Janny Leung (HKU): Missing Populations in Language Rights Cases
  • Christopher Hutton (HKU): Law and its Categories: Is There Ever a Right to Classify Oneself?

11:15am-11:30am          Coffee Break

11:30am to 12:45pm          Literary Engagements with Legal Marginality

  • Andrew Counter (KCL): Balzac on the Wrong Side of the Law
  • Frederick Blumberg (HKU): Obscenity and Marginality
  • Yi-Hsin Hsu (Academica Sinica, Taiwan): Poetics of Legal and Political Marginalia: Oaths, Constancy, and the Law of Flux in Dryden’s Post-Revolutionary Plays

12:45pm -2:00pm          Lunch

2:00pm–3:00pm          Philosophical Explorations of Legal Marginality

  • Daniel Matthews (HKU)           Jurisdictions of the Common
  • Emilios Christodoulidis (Glasgow)

3:00pm – 3:15pm          Coffee Break

3:15pm- 4:15pm          Visual Dimensions of Legal Marginality

  • Simon Stern (Toronto) Margins of Authority: Precedent and Citation in Coke’s Institutes
  • Shulamit Almog (Haifa) Marginalized Law in Israeli War Films

4:15pm-4:30pm          Coffee Break

4:30pm – 6:00pm          Plenary Lecture: Melancholegalism: Black Letter Theory and the Temporality of Law

  • Peter Goodrich (Cardozo Law School and Sin Wai-Kin Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities, HKU)

Archiving Sovereignty – Research Seminar with Dr. Stewart Motha, Birkbeck Law School, University of London



Tuesday 2nd December, 2014 Room 920, 9/F Cheng Yu Tung Tower, 3pm-6pm


3pm-4.30pm Session 1: “As if – Archiving Sovereignty”

4.30pm-5pm Break: Tea and coffee will be served in the Alumni Reading Room, 9/F

5pm-6pm Session 2: “The Beast, The Academy, The Sovereign”

Chair:         Professor Scott Veitch, HKU Faculty of Law


Dr. Stewart Motha is Reader in Law, and Deputy Dean, Birkbeck Law School, University of London. He is an internationally recognized authority in the field of sovereignty – with extensive research in UK, Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Canada, and the USA.

Dr. Motha is currently working on a monograph, Archiving Sovereignty (forthcoming with Michigan University Press). This book arises out of research into how law functions as an archive of sovereign violence. The book also offers an elaboration of the ‘as if’ (the consciously false, or fiction) at the heart of modern law. Reworking the notion of the ‘archive’, the book addresses the sovereign event in Australia, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean region as a problem of law’s capacity to retain and disavow sovereign violence at the same time. This memorial function of law is elaborated through juridical case studies, and literary and other artistic works.

This seminar offers an opportunity to engage with themes developed in Dr. Motha’s book project. In the first session Dr. Motha will present an outline of his project which will be followed by discussion; a draft introductory chapter is available to read in advance. In the second session Dr Motha will put the emerging themes into conversation with two other texts: Jacques Derrida’s “11th Seminar” from his posthumously published collection The Beast and the Sovereign and Franz Kafka’s short story, “A Report to an Academy”. The three texts are available for reading ahead of the seminar.

RSVP to Daniel Matthews ( if you planning to attend in order to receive an electronic copy of the three texts.

This seminar is part of the HKU emerging strategic research theme in Law, Literature, Language.