Feminist genres of violence and law’s aggressive realism

Authored by: Honni van Rijswijk

Routledge Handbook of Law and Theory

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138956469
eBook ISBN: 9781315665733
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter uses Dogville as a case study for studying legal representation because, for all the film’s problems, it does an exemplary job of thematising (and diagnosing) the aestheticisation of abstraction as legal-cultural practice and the violent effects of this aestheticisation. Dogville demonstrates the ways that women – both as figures and as material beings – are subjected to violence through these representational practices. This reading of Dogville demonstrates, step-by-step, the production of law’s abstractions – of justice, judgment, contract and debt – and the specific violence these abstractions both produce and disguise. Dogville’s law – and our law – is both discursive and material. This revelation challenges what I term law’s aggressive realism: through an insistence on singular doctrine and singular authority, we can think of law’s representational practice, and indeed of its genre, as a form of aggressive realism, one that excludes other genres and representational practices in its adjudications. Law is aggressive in its assertion of an exclusive jurisdiction over violence, making an implied claim that it alone can access the truth and repair harms. Law’s assertion of jurisdiction is also representational, excluding other genres and representational practices in responding to violence.

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