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Dr Kirsty Duncanson
LaTrobe University

The contract at the centre of the film Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) reverberates with the sexual politics Pateman (1988) identified at the heart of the social contract, that mythical foundation of United States’ sovereign authority. In this paper I analyse the jurisprudential resonances of the film’s contract negotiation between the central couple, juxtaposing it with the intersecting sexual and social contracts at work in the contrastingly cynical political television series House of Cards (2013-2018). Despite their many differences, both texts present a theory of legitimate authority discursively informed by heteronormative power relations and understandings of natural and appropriate sexual desire. I argue that this involves a theorising of the rightfulness of the current structure of US government that is naturalised by the erotic aesthetics of each text, even as that government’s leadership presently appears so perverse.

My current and on going research obsessions include theorising the way popular jurisprudence, or the philosophy of law involves the bodies of all of us. To investigate this I spend a lot of time thinking about film, television, and most recently music videos. I also do research with my Best Research Buddy Dr Emma Henderson, investigating all the ways the juries in rape trials might be influenced in their consumption of information, deliberation and decision making. This has included analysing the narrative structure of trial, the discursive power of courtroom design, and this year we have been interviewing barristers to find out how they do what they do. When I teach, it inevitably involves screens (with Dr Maria Elander), but also policy, power and The Criminal Justice System, and work integrated learning.

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