LL4CA      Half Unit
Law and Social Theory

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Umberto-Igor Stramignoni NAB 7.34


This course is available on the MSc in Criminal Justice Policy, MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society, MSc in Regulation, Master of Laws and Master of Laws (extended part-time study). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is capped at 30 students. LLM Specialisms This course will be relevant to the following LLM specialism: Legal Theory

Course content

Social theory is rapidly evolving into a key cross-disciplinary field of inquiry exploring both philosophical analyses and social science descriptions about, in one important case, the place of law in modern societies.

The focus of such an inquiry in this course is on the interplay of law and space. The latter is at the heart of some of today’s hottest debates, such as globalisation, the politics of place, our engagement with nature, and the city and its complexities. However, how does the law understand the link between itself and the space in which it operates? Does it understand it in the same way as do architects, urban planners, geographers, governments, policy makers, advocacy groups, or economists, for example, when speaking of the natural or the built environment, such as mountains, rivers, roads, airports, prisons, courtrooms, or immigration detention centres? Moreover, do we understand space in the same way? What if bodily habits, traits of character, idioms, and abiding habits of thought, have a role in shaping our individual and collective sense of space? What would it mean to frame talk about space in terms of “dwelling”, for example, or “embodiment”, or “emplacement”, and so on? Could it be that the very attempt of making sense of law’s place in society, is problematically caught up with a specific cultural heritage no longer able to unpick the full complexity of the topos of law, its visuality, or even its materiality? Put it simply, is space always and everywhere the same place, as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Bacon and Descartes once thought, or is it something potentially so different as to call for a new thinking about it and, from there, about the "place" of law in society?

In this course, we will survey several perspectives on the elusive spatiality of modernity, debating the extent to which we can continue to treat space as the impassive repository of human affairs portrayed by tradition. Could it be that, if law is everywhere in space, on an altogether different level space is – paradoxical though it might sound at first – everywhere in law?


22 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to produce one 2,000 word formative essay during the course.

Indicative reading


In general literature: E T A Hoffmann, The Devils Elixirs (1815); R M Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910); F Kafka, The Trial (1925). In contemporary political-philosophical writing: M De Certeau, The Practices of Everyday Life (1984); M Foucault, Discipline and Punish (1991); G Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998); A Badiou, St Paul (1998); J Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (2006); W Cronon, Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (1995); S Latouche, The Westernization of the World (1996); D Massey, For Space (2005); Resnik & Curtis, Representing Justice (2011). In sociological writing: S Sassen, Deciphering the Global: Its Scales, Spaces, and Subjects (2007); F Tonkiss, Space, the City and Social Theory (2005); L Mulcahy, Legal Architecture (2011). In anthropological writing: M Augé, Non-Places - Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity (1995); H Moore, Space, Text, and Gender (1996); T Ingold, The Perception of the Environment (2000); D Harvey, Rebel Cities (2012). In legal-geographical writing: Delaney; Delaney, Nomospheric Investigations (2010); Braverman, Blomley, Delaney, Kedar, The Expanding Spaces of the Law (2014).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the main exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2015/16: 11

Average class size 2015/16: 11

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: Half Unit

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