LL4CA      Half Unit
Law and Social Theory

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Umberto-Igor Stramignoni NAB 7.34


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Criminal Justice Policy, MSc in Law, Anthropology and Society, MSc in Regulation and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. 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

Today social theory has rapidly evolved into a key and fascinating field of multiple cross-disciplinary inquiries exploring both philosophical analyses and social science descriptions about, in one important case, the place of law in modern societies.

The focus of such contemporary inquiries in this course is on the interplay of law and space. Often unexamined notions of “space” lie at the heart of some of today’s hottest debates, such as the politics of place, our engagement with nature, globalisation, and the city and its complexities. However, how does the law understand the link between itself and the space in which it is assumed to operate? 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? Might bodily habits, traits of character, idioms, and abiding habits of thought, have a role in shaping our individual and collective sense of space? What might it mean to frame talk about space in terms of “dwelling”, for example, or “embodiment”, or “emplacement”, and so on? Might the very attempt of making sense of law’s place in society, be problematically caught up with a specific cultural heritage no longer necessarily 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 diverse as to call for new ways of going 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 thought: 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, 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 summer exam period.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information