chapter  9
23 Pages

The critical force of irony: reframing photographs in cultural legal studies


Cultural legal studies forms part of the broader cultural turn in legal scholarship, which explores how law is formed and reformed through cultural practices, procedures, sites, interactions and agents. Within this broader turn, however, the methodology of cultural legal studies is distinctive: it takes representations seriously. Unlike what is often called ‘the cultural study of law’, which tends to reach ‘beyond textual analysis’ towards ‘the networks of social practices’1 through which culture and law shape each other, the diverse scholars pursuing cultural legal studies are united by their insistence on reading the text, or on focusing on the affective experience of encountering an image, in order to explore how the formal properties of literature, art, photographs, theatre, cinema and so on invite particular modes of engagement, engender certain perspectives, interpellate certain subjectivities, and encourage specific forms of relation. Against the facticity of the socio-legal tradition, cultural legal scholars frequently embrace and analyse the invention of fiction: imaginary and symbolic, yes, but no less powerful for that. Their intellectual toolkit therefore comes less from anthropology, sociology or cultural studies per se than from those interpretative methods sourced within the humanities tradition – philosophy, critical theory, literary studies, art history etc. – and developed by legal scholars through interdisciplinary inquiries into ‘law and literature’, ‘law and the image’, and ‘law and film’.2