Dissertation Defense: Tessa de Zeeuw
Postdramatic Legal Theatres: Space, Body, Media and Genre
Supervisor: F.W.A. Korsten
Leiden University, 2 June 11:15
Scholars in the field of Law and Culture have always conceptualized law as a theatrical affair. Traditionally this characterization has been qualified in terms of the logic of drama, a form that consolidates the stability and legitimacy of the existing legal order. In recent years, scholars, and lawyers and citizens in general, have also been taking note of a crisis of legitimacy that confronts legal institutions in our time: they are worried, for example, about the quality of the administration of justice and possible influences that politics and the media bear on it. This dissertation, ‘Postdramatic Legal Theatres: Space, Body, Media and Genre,’ argues that that legitimacy crisis becomes apparent in a close analysis of the forms law’s theatricality currently takes. It finds that legal institutions are increasingly confronted with, or have increasingly become permeated by, new forms of spatiality, corporeality, media and genre, which are breaking open, undermining and renewing the existing legal order. The thesis analyses these forms in terms of the logic of what theatre scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann called the ‘postdramatic’. It presents four case studies of legal institutions and events – the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a Korean diplomat’s visit to the Second Hague Peace Conference of 1907, the trial of Lucia de Berk, and the trial in the French ‘Contaminated Blood Affair’ – which are close read in relation to artworks that responded to them: an architectural design, a museum exposition, a film and two plays. The dissertation is thus also an exercise in reading law ‘with’ cultural texts, taking the cultural texts not as mere representations of law but as texts that allow one to investigate a dimension of law that would otherwise be overlooked. The thesis finds that the confrontations between established institutions and postdramatic forms are celebrated on the one hand, because of the political possibilities that might arise out of them. On the other hand, however, cultural responses to the ‘new’ also make apparent a desire for the old, established forms of drama, and the potential they typically harbor to come to conclusions and to provide order and therapeutic closure thereby.
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