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ANG 6930 Topographies of Law

Dr. Kernaghan

In this course we examine how the material specificity of physical terrains affects legal phenomena as they come to be expressed, sensed and practiced. We observe and track how the enforcement of particular laws often varies across distinct topographies and topological formations: for instance, between cities, towns, rural areas or roads; seas with their pirates; forts and fortifications; islands or even island prisons. We pay particular attention to the specific ways controls imposed on circulations of human and non-human beings modify territory, and to how commands, frightening images and other sorts of threat-laden signs alter the public feel of a place. We also ask: what social processes come into play when some areas or zones appear as if they were situated beyond legal protections of any kind at all? Holding fast to the deliberate open-endedness of such questions we will work towards building a semester-long dialogue that is rigorous, energetic and creative. Writings of Michael Taussig, Nancy Munn, Michel Serres, Elizabeth Povinelli, and Franz Kafka, among others, will provide some theoretical support and inspiration. We will weigh their contributions to legal anthropology as we bring them into conversation with recent ethnographies of law, infrastructure and affect. Indeed, one of our guiding objectives will be to explore how ethnographic writing can contribute to documenting the force of law as it inhabits particular landscapes and locales.