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date: 23 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter presents legal materiality as a distinct approach within law and humanities scholarship. Legal materiality is concerned with the conditions of possibility in and through which law arises, rather than taking law’s materiality to be self-evident, as when it is regarded as a form of material culture or when objects are taken as symbols of law. It distinguishes between matters and materials: if matters are problematizations or “matters of concern” to law, materials are the attributes or properties that are enlisted in acts of interpretation. Rather than addressing materials as inert physical elements that are acted upon by law, legal materiality is concerned with how materials come to matter by being engaged in the production of legal meaning through interpretive and representational practices. Section 2.2 situates this approach in relation to a broader inheritance of materialism and materiality in the Western tradition. It considers different understandings of “materialism,” such as “new materialisms” and historical materialism, that inform but also diverge from legal materiality. Section 2.3 engages with different uses of “materiality” in recent legal scholarship, followed by a detailed discussion of its meaning in two works of legal theory that have sought to articulate a conception of legal materiality. The concluding section discusses the potentials of this approach for law and humanities scholarship to understand how materials are directly implicated in the making of legal difference rather than serving solely as law’s objects.

Keywords: materiality, materialism, new materialism, textuality, media studies, Foucault, Latour, Luhmann, Vismann

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