Cornelia Vismann and the cultural techniques of law

Friedrich Kittler.
Friedrich Kittler with computer and library in his apartment in Berlin-Treptow. Photo: M. Lengemann.

This is a presentation that I gave online to my colleagues at a Warwick Law School staff seminar in early March 2022. Most legal theorists will know German legal historian Cornelia Vismann (1961–1980) as an innovative and observant interpreter of continental philosophy, most notably of Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida and Pierre Legendre. Vismann’s numerous contributions to the development of so-called German media theory are, however, hardly known among her Anglophone legal peers. Legal theory’s apparent lack of engagements with German media theory is even more surprising if one considers that Vismann’s breakthrough monograph was translated into English as Files: Law and Media Technology (Stanford UP, 2008). This presentation attempts to outline the beginnings of a materialist and anti-hermeneutic framework that is indebted to Vismann as well as to her media theory collaborators. It discusses judicial artefacts such as courthouse designs as cultural techniques, that is, as chains of operations that link together humans, things and media. Continue reading “Cornelia Vismann and the cultural techniques of law”

The Court of Justice of the European Union as a media actor

This is a transcript of the oral presentation with which I introduced my paper for the conference The EU Court of Justice as a Relational Actor organised by Anna Wallerman Ghavanini at the University of Gothenburg, 16-17 December 2021. I was unable to attend personally, but the organisers kindly made arrangements for online participation. Thanks for having me. I will later develop the paper itself for publication. Thanks also to my discussant Erik Björling and my fellow participants for their encouraging and valuable comments.

CJEU Press Release letterhead (detail).

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The power of a ‘relatively activist’ judiciary

In my inaugural lecture from May 2017 (introduced in Finnish here), I tried to argue for a slightly modified notion of judicial power. Section 99 of the Constitution of Finland (731/1999) seems to understand a ‘separated’ judicial power as not much more than the courts’ exclusive duty and right to ‘administer justice’, that is, to apply the law in individual cases. This deceptively clear-cut definition was recently reduplicated in Article 3 of the Courts Act (673/2016) which, in turn, makes a direct reference to the powers of the judiciary as they are defined in the Constitution. There is little about the courts’ role in the general control of the constitutionality of the activities of the political branches, although Section 106 of the Constitution did specifically create a new duty for the courts to abstain from applying primary legislation that is ‘in evident conflict’ with the constitution. The Finnish tradition of constitutional review has traditionally emphasised the role of parliamentary preview preferring a more restraint understanding of judicial power.

Photo of anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller.
Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller (C) speaks to media as she leaves the Supreme Court after the ruling on the prorogation of parliament, in London, Britain, 24 September 2019. The Supreme Court ruled that the suspension of parliament by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was unlawful. Photo: Neil Hall/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10422422n)

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