Beyond Text in Legal Education
Professor Zenon Bankowski
Higher Education Institute
School of Law, University of Edinburgh
When people view art objects in galleries, too often they rely on textual explanation, looking for the text in the catalogue to explain it and not letting the object explain itself. Some curators try to get people to engage the art object without text, to use their imagination to let the object speak to them and not be subsumed by the text. Lawyers face an analogous situation when they encounter events that need decision; too often they look to the text and do not experience the particularity of the situation by letting it speak for itself.
For law is a text-based discipline.That is both its strength and its weakness. It is its strength in that it enables decisions to be transparent and constrained by the text; it is its weakness in that decisions tend to be dominated by text, and situations are shoehorned into the text with stultifying results. The answer is always sought within the text, viewing the situations law encounters through the optic of the text and thus manipulating them rather than transforming them, and not letting the situation speak to the text and the law.
Our project aims to promote the ethical imagination needed at the moment when law and lawyers encounter these situations, when they reach the limits of the text. The curator wanted visitors to develop the sensitivity to experience the art objects without text but through other means. We aim, in workshops lead by artists, dancers and curators, to develop non-textually the skills that will enable lawyers to experience the vulnerability of the situation and allow it to speak and help them move beyond the law by transforming it but not destroying it.
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