Elizabeth S. Anker, Cornell Law School

Our Constitutional Metaphors: The Architecture of Post-Apartheid South African Constitutionalism

Tue, 09/29/2015
301 Marx Hall
Event Category: 

* PLEASE NOTE DATE - TUESDAY, September 29 *

Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with Elizabeth Anker, Associate Member of the Law Faculty at Cornell Law School, who will present "The Rule of Law and Democracy."  The commentator is Sherally Munshi, 2015-2016 LAPA / Perkins Fellow.

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Abstract:  "Perhaps no legal form carries greater contemporary authority than that of the constitution. Constitutions gain both popular and official support through a number of recurring metaphors—of the body politic, architecture, writing, and the living tree. These metaphors guide judicial reasoning; represent powerful symbols for the nation; and enable literary and cultural texts to imaginatively contemplate the nature of constitutionalism. This paper examines the widespread tendency to represent the post-apartheid South African Constitution as a domicile, site of building, or larger architectural structure, imagery that both informs a number of post-apartheid memorials and other cultural sites and is deployed in a series of recent novels to critique the nation’s transition beyond apartheid. While the architectural metaphor for the Constitution has helped to foster public reconciliation, I argue that it also enacts forms of property redistribution that were absent from South African recovery, thus disingenuously casting that process as a success story." 

Elizabeth S. Anker is Associate Professor of English and Associate Member of the Faculty of Law at Cornell University. Her first book is Fictions of Dignity: Embodying Human Rights in World Literature (2012), and she has published widely on the relationship between literature and art and various legal or political constructs: animal rights, sovereignty, international law, constitutionalism, and democracy. She is currently working on two book projects: Human Rights and the Ends of Critical Theory (under contract with Stanford UP) and Our Constitutional Metaphors: Law, Culture, and the Management of Crisis. She is also co-editing two collections of essays: New Directions in Law and Literature with Bernadette Meyler (under contract with Oxford UP) and Critique and Postcritique with Rita Felski (under advance contract with Duke UP).

Sherally Munshi joins LAPA after teaching at Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a research fellow. She has taught courses in law, literature, and American / ethnic studies at Georgetown and Columbia.  Her current research explores the history of Indian immigration to — and exclusion from — the United States in the early twentieth century. Her writing has appeared in the Yale Journal of Law and Humanities, American Journal of Comparative Law, The Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, and Harper's.  She earned her JD from Harvard Law School and PhD in comparative literature from Columbia University.