chapter  4
30 Pages

The feel of justice: law and the regulation of sensation

Law, through its conventional association with reason, has been seen as opposed to, or at least situated outside, the realm of the senses – although very much involved in its regulation. This duality has been particularly noted as regards the fields of law and aesthetics: ‘Art is assigned to imagination, creativity, and playfulness, law to control, discipline, and sobriety’ (Douzinas and Nead 1999: 3; see also Manderson 2000). This opposition of law and aesthetics has been challenged in recent years by

a number of works exploring how the two fields interact: ‘the ways in which political and legal systems have shaped, used, and regulated images and art, and … the representation of law, justice, and other legal themes in art’ (Douzinas and Nead 1999: 11). This chapter takes a broader approach, looking not just at the aesthetic, but at the sensory dimensions of law and how these relate to ways of sensing and making sense within culture. As the quotations at the head of the chapter demonstrate, there can be wide

divergence, as well as similarities, in how different cultures view the role of the senses in law. The following are among the questions to be addressed here: How are notions of justice informed by sensory models? What values do the aesthetics of the courtroom uphold? What kinds of sensory experiences

can be taken into account as evidence? When do sounds or smells constitute public nuisances? Can there be property in sensations such as colours or textures? How do indigenous cultural traditions challenge and suggest alternatives to the sensory assumptions of the Western legal system?