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Associate Professor Mónica López Lerma
Reed College

Drawing on the works on law and the senses of Desmond Manderson and David Howes, this paper examines the “aesthetic frames” that configure the sense (i.e. the sensory perception and signification) of justice. Justice, as it is understood here, is not an abstract category or general disposition that we would all share as members of the human race; nor is it a set of procedures for reaching decisions, or a set of substantive outcomes naturally felt to be fair, just and legitimate. Our sense(s) of justice, in its different dimensions—procedural, retributive, and distributive—always come mediated by the sensory perceptions and affects (i.e. outrage, fear, guilt, contempt) produced by the narrative and visual frames that give them meaning. Whether and how we make ethical, political and legal judgments, and whether and how we legitimize the institutions charged with administering justice, depends upon these frames. This paper is thus concerned not so much with what the sense of justice is, but with how that sense is produced and experienced. The main goal of this paper is to identify and examine how these various sensory frames help to mediate justice. What senses do these frames privilege or downgrade? What kind of affective and ethical responses do they produce? What kind of gaze and perception do they create? What kind of judgments do they invite? How do they make us feel, see, touch, taste, and smell in certain ways rather than others? By addressing these questions, the paper shows how justice is a multisensory aesthetic experience.

Monica is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Humanities at Reed College. She received a PhD in Comparative Literature and a Graduate Certificate in Film Studies from the University of Michigan. She also holds a Law degree from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a LL.M. in Jurisprudence from the European Academy of Legal Theory (Belgium). At Reed she teaches a variety of interdisciplinary courses in film theory, law and violence, justice and the senses, and cinema and human rights. She has also taught at the School of International Relations of the Kyrgyz State National University and at the Faculty of Law of the University of Helsinki. She is the co-editor of Rancière and Law (Routledge, 2018) and is currently finishing a monograph entitled Sensing Justice through Contemporary Spanish Cinema: Aesthetics, Politics, Law (to be published by Edinburgh University Press).

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