Melanie Williams Nova Scotia

Vist the CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sceinces and Humanitites) website for further event details. 

Professor Williams speaks at CRASSH event ‘Writing Itself’

At the beginning of July, Professor Melanie Williams was invited to speak at the Cambridge University interdisciplinary CRASSH event ‘Writing Itself’.  

Using the stimulus of an essay by Bruno Latour, an essay inviting the objects – or ‘things’ of science to ‘strike back’,  this interdisciplinary workshop explored the notion of objectivity and the construction of the idea of scientific 'fact' from a philosophical perspective.  This is a question of great interest to all fields of scholarship within the humanities and social sciences, not least in relation to the law and the reliance of the law upon identification of objective fact. 

Professor Williams reflected upon the difficulty created by the need to provide scientific accounts relating to the construction of the person as legal subject.  Drawing upon literary examples from Kafka to Toni Morrison to feminist science fiction, the discussion explored the philosophical as well as forensic difficulties confronting law in the quest for truth and objectivity and offered examples from law and anthropology as well as literature of how this problem might be understood.   She explained that Law as a field needs to promote the idea that it is a quasi-forensic discipline in its reliance upon use of ‘evidential’ fact as well as in the ‘systematic’ use of rules, statutes, doctrine and precedent. 

Given its reliance upon conditions of variable degrees of empirical reliability – the ‘forensic’ reach of law and its constituents is at times arguable.  This has led to instances of injustice for different categories of legal subject and issues of race, gender and political sensitivity present particular challenges. 

 

Date: 23 July 2014

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