Berkeley Law Symposium: Law As…Minor Jurisprudence in Historical Key

December 2-3, 2016


Update: Symposium papers are now available. Visit the website to register and receive access to the papers.

Conceptually, “minor jurisprudence” was an invention of the 1990s. It had two distinct incarnations. In 1994, Panu Minkkinen, then a research fellow at the University of Helsinki, published an intriguing essay entitled “The Radiance of Justice: On the Minor Jurisprudence of Franz Kafka,” in which he applied the concept of “minor literature” developed by Gilles DeLeuze and Félix Guattari to Kafka’s conception of law. In Minkkinen’s view minor jurisprudence stood for a mode of jurisprudence that (like Kafka’s literature) simply could not be contained within any established canon or genre. It signified something completely new, completely unlike the known “major” canons of orthodoxy. Two years later, Peter Goodrich’s book Law in the Courts of Love gave minor jurisprudence a different inflection as any species of legal knowledge that had escaped “the phantom of a sovereign and unitary law.” The product of “rebels, critics, marginals, aliens, women and outsiders,” in this register “minor jurisprudence” is simultaneously plural, subaltern and subversive. In 1999 Minkkinen responded, briefly, that in his view Goodrich’s formulation was “too much of a ‘critical oeuvre’ of its author,” but otherwise did not take any further the matter of conceptual definition. As a result, this interesting and potentially productive idea has ever since lain largely undeveloped.

The three sets of essays produced since 2010 by the “Law As …” enterprise have followed their own distinct path toward minor jurisprudence. The choice of this theme for the fourth symposium is intended to give the concept the full and complete attention, both theoretical and empirical, that it has thus far lacked. Preliminary and general contacts with a large number of academics across a range of disciplines at UC Berkeley, elsewhere in the University of California, nationally, and internationally have disclosed considerable interest in this initiative.

This is a two-day symposium. For details, see the program schedule.

“Law As …” is the umbrella title for a biennial symposium that, since 2010, has worked to assemble original configurations of historical, social scientific, literary, and legal scholarship in the service of conceptual innovation in the analysis of law and the history of law.  Each symposium is held over a two day period, during which it discusses papers commissioned for the event.  

The symposium is committed to mixing established senior scholars with junior scholars (including pre-doctoral scholars); and scholars trained in history and law with scholars from other disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities. The symposium has become well known and has a considerable following.

Presented by Berkeley Law, the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, the Center for the Study of Law and Society, and the Townsend Center for the Humanities, with support from The Program in Critical Theory.