Challenging the Legal Self through Performance



Publication Details

M. Leiboff, 'Challenging the Legal Self through Performance' in S. Stern, M. Del Mar & B. Meyler(eds), The Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities (2020) 317-334.


This chapter reconsiders and reorients performance as a critical practice in law and the humanities, turning away from the philosophically and sociologically inflected variants of performance and performativity, toward the possibilities of performance and the theatrical as jurisprudence. In its Kantian ideal, law is expected to function in isolation and absent the self. Performance and the theatrical could not think more differently, creating conditions that enable bodily responses to engender responsiveness that affords the possibility of noticing. This ability to notice is lost in abstraction, but it is needed to enliven and point to failures or fractures in law. Lived experience provides the most potent means by which we notice; in its absence, performance offers the possibility to write experiences on our bodies, helping us to notice when law helps or hinders, harms or helps, showing us how easily law can offer or deny justice simply through the ability or inability of lawyers or justices to notice the effects and consequences of law. At least three registers of noticing can be identified through performance and into law. In no particular order, the first happens through the noticing body, triggering recognition of the consequences of a doctrine, principle, or provision because the lawyer has experienced the same or a cognate situation; the second comes from the dramaturgically grounded nodal knots binding together a present and a past and a past with a present; while in the third, bonds of recognition are created through and by association, or through training.

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