CfP: The Cultural Techniques of Law (17-19 January 2024)


Ericsson Bakelite telephone, 1931. Design: Jean Heiberg. For more information, see below.

University of Helsinki, Finland

Convenors: Matilda Arvidsson (Gothenburg), Tormod Johansen (Gothenburg), and Panu Minkkinen (Helsinki). Workshop assistant: Rakel Jylhä-Vuorio (Helsinki).

Keynote speaker: Professor Markus Krajewksi (Basel)

Deadline for paper proposals: 16 June 2023 through this e-form

Call for papers

In the Anglophone world, German legal historian and critical legal theorist Cornelia Vismann (1961–2010) is best known as an innovative interpreter of French high theory, especially of Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault. This type of reception is, however, limited in the sense that at the same time as it tries to establish common ground that would enable Vismann to take part in the discursive constellations of Anglo-American legal theory, it also neglects the very specifically German media-theoretical soil from which her scholarship arose. For Vismann the media theorist, the critical study of law addressed law’s operations as media and ‘cultural techniques’.

This workshop is not intended to be about Vismann, but to be inspired by her. Papers proposing to analyse specifically Vismann and her work are, of course, more than welcome, as well. Working towards an edited collection and/or a special issue of a journal, the main aims of this pluridisciplinary event (social sciences, humanities, creative industries, fine arts) are, among other things:

  • to investigate Vismann’s media-theoretical contributions and to assess their relevance for the study of law;
  • to examine the same potential in the work of other prominent media theorists such as Wolfgang Ernst, Friedrich A. Kittler, Markus Krajewski, Sybille Krämer, Jussi Parikka, Bernhard Siegert, Anna Tuschling, Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, and others;
  • to encourage synergy between scholars in the various disciplines; and, finally
  • to assess what these media-theoretical insights might offer the critical study of law more generally.

The workshop does not assume that the disciplines involved could be brought together into a tranquil interdisciplinary melange but, rather, that agonistic encounters between the disciplines have the potential of opening up genuinely new and innovative paradigms.

Themes and topics

We invite proposals for papers from both established and early-career scholars (including doctoral candidates/postgraduate researchers) that address themes and topics such as (but are not limited to):

1, Media theory, cultural techniques, law

  • the theory of cultural techniques
  • media theory (German, Canadian, or other) and law
  • the ‘French connection’ providing the bridge between media theory and the critical study of law
  • law as a cultural technique
  • the media artefacts and cultural techniques relevant to law
  • archival and computational techniques as cultural techniques of/and law
  • media law (writing, codex, diagrams, commentaries, certificates, court rooms, and architecture)
  • digital law, automation, and cultural techniques

2. Material, digital, non-human

  • legal materiality and/or law and new materialisms and cultural techniques 
  • law and the posthuman in cultural techniques
  • law in the Anthropocene and cultural techniques   
  • legal machines and human-non-human legal entanglements

3. Queer, gender, race

  • queer inquiries into/queering media theory and law
  • gender inquiries into/gendering media theory and law
  • race, colonialism, and media theory

4. Disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary

  • law seen from media theory
  • the pedagogy of media theory and law
The workshop procedure

Please submit your paper proposal by Friday, 16 June 2023, through this e-form indicating how your proposal would fit into the suggested themes outlined above (1-4). Your indication is provisional, but your cooperation at this early stage will help the editors of the subsequent publication to craft the presentations into a coherent whole. After reviewing the proposals, the convenors will notify about the decisions on accepted proposals (as well as the early-career stipends; see below) no later than  Monday, 14 August 2023. Kindly note that because the workshop aims towards a publication, a maximum of 25 proposals can be accepted for the event. If your proposal has been accepted for the event, you will be expected to provide a provisional version of your paper before the end of the calendar year 2023. These provisional versions will then be distributed to the participants and will form the starting point of our discussions at the event itself.

After discussing provisional versions of the papers at the event, a second online workshop will be organised later in the spring of 2024 to develop the individual contributions further for publication.


The event is generously supported by the Hilkka and Otto Brusiin Foundation. Attendance at the three-day workshop including its social programme is free of charge, but participants are expected to cover their own travel and accommodation expenses. Work will commence with a light lunch on Wednesday and end Friday afternoon. A workshop dinner will be offered to all participants on Thursday evening.

Limited financial support for accepted early-career presenters (doctoral candidates/postgraduate researchers, postdoctoral researchers, assistant/associate professors, etc.) who are not supported by their home institutions will be made available. Please approach your home institution first as our resources are limited. The value of the individual stipends will depend on the overall demand, but they are expected to only cover part of any one speaker’s expenses. If you require support for expenses, kindly specify your reasons on the proposal e-form. If you are an accepted speaker, a formal letter of invitation can be sent upon request.

Our Keynote speaker
Markus Krajewski (Basel).

A keynote will be presented by Markus Krajewski, Professor of Media History and Media Theory at the University of Basel. His current research interests focus on marginal epistemologies, the history of epistemic accuracy, as well as media and architecture. His recent publications include Bauformen des Gewissens: Über Fassaden deutscher Nachkriegsarchitektur [‘Structures of conscience: on the facades of German post-war architecture’] (Stuttgart, 2016), Lesen Schreiben Denken: Zur wissenschaftlichen Abschlußarbeit in 7 Schritten [‘Reading, writing, thinking: On the academic thesis in 7 steps’] (Wien et al, 2013), Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548–1929 (MIT Press, 2011), and The Server: A Media History from the Present to the Baroque (Yale University Press, 2018). Professor Krajewski also co-autored the 2007 article ‘Computer Juridisms’ together with Vismann (Grey Room, issue no. 29), and he has co-edited two of Vismann’s posthumous publications. For more information about our keynote speaker, kindly visit his personal web page at

Further information

Please address any questions you may have by email to the convenors. If you need more information on practical matters, you may also turn to workshop assistant Rakel Jylhä-Vuorio (they/them).

About the organisers

This workshop is the third event organised by a network of Nordic critical legal scholars who originally came together at the 2012 Critical Legal Conference in Stockholm. The events have all taken place in Helsinki. The first two were co-convened by Matilda Arvidsson (Gothenburg), Leila Brännström (Lund), and Panu Minkkinen (Helsinki). In this upcoming third event, Leila is taking a rest and Tormod Johansen (Gothenburg) has kindly stepped in to help.

In June 2013, our keynote speaker was Martin Loughlin (LSE), and the presentations of the workshop were brought together into the edited collection The Contemporary Relevance of Carl Schmitt: Law, Politics, Theology (Routledge, 2016).

In June 2017, we were joined by Christa Acampora (Emory), Bonnie Honig (Brown), and Hans Lindahl (Tilburg) as keynote speakers. The presentations from the second workshop were published as Constituent Power: Law, Popular Rule and Politics (Edinburgh University Press, 2020).

About our workshop symbol

Although the 1931 Ericsson telephone, officially known as the Ericsson DBH 1001, is widely considered to be a Swedish innovation, its creators were, in fact, Norwegian. It was the fruit of a collaboration between electrical engineer Johan Christian Bjerknes and artist and designer Jean Heiberg. The use of Bakelite, a synthetic plastic, instead of metal in the housing of the telephone enabled the integration of all its parts into a compact and light unit. The use of plastic also allowed for the telephone’s smooth and round design features. The DBH 1001 and its successors like the DBK 1101 were huge commercial successes in both domestic and work environments, and as a ‘cultural technique’, the model and other similar models housed in plastic like the Siemens W 48 and the Model 302 by Western Electric brought the immediacy of real-time communication to office desks in law firms and courthouses everywhere.

Helsinki District Court, 1984. Photo: Panu Minkkinen.

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