Law as/and Culture: Reconfiguring Human Rights and Justice
This special issue mainly grew out of an advanced seminar on Cultural Studies that I guest-taught at the National University of Singapore in 2018, where there has been a long-time engagement with interdisciplinary teaching and learning in the field of Cultural Studies through NUS’s Asian Research Institute (and more recently through the university’s Department of Communication and New Media). The essays collected here also represents my own ongoing teaching effort of graduate students in my home department at Hong Kong Baptist University. It represents a collection of sincere efforts to reframe political and ethical crises through a unified framework that can be called juris-cultural studies of law and rights.
The essays below are united by a common critical method of combining critical legal theory with a cultural critique of law. Each essay centers on a particular court case, and performs critical reading of the legal logics and reasoning alongside a broader attention to social and cultural ideologies and power relations that overdetermine the outcome of the court judgment. The insights produced by such a method will hopefully present to readers an innovative approach adequate to the task of bringing the problems of rights, legal subjectivities, and critical justice squarely to the doorsteps of Cultural Studies.
A Collection of Juris-Cultural Studies Works
Toward Juris-cultural Studies of Human Rights
John Nguyet Erni, Hong Kong Baptist University
The Air-conditioned Nation under Global Warming: An Exploratory Study of the Speech and Assembly Freedom and Politics of Space in Singapore
Hei Ting Wong’s essay, precisely, attempts to demystify Singapore’s Public Order Act that puts restrictions of “political assembly.” She argues that to understand this law, and the specific discussion of it in the case of Chee Soon Juan and others v Public Prosecutor ( SGHC 109), requires us to decipher the power struggle between the government and opposition through the politics of space.
Killing with No Punishment: Police Violence and Judicial (In)justice
Many of us are willing to risk our cultural security so as to trade for the possibility of justice and empowerment. What is the consequence of it? In “Killing with No Punishment,” Angus Siu-cheong Li dissects the injustice inhered in police power in his critical reading of the Limbu Case that took place in 2009 in Hong Kong. The Limbu Case was about an ethnic Nepalese named Dil Bahadur Limbu who was shot dead by a police constable on a hillside, which resulted in controversies around issues such as the police's excessive use of force, discretionary policing, and racial profiling in Hong Kong.
The Hadiya Case: Human Rights Violations and State Islamophobic Propaganda in India
In her paper, Adhvaidha Kalidasan examines an incidence of an Islamophobic court interpretation of an Indian woman’s religious conversion and marriage to a Muslim man. In her reading of the “Hadiya case,” which was well known throughout India in 2016-2017, she reveals the fairly blatant mix of Islamophobic and patriarchal ideologies that infuse the current political conditions of India.
Challenging the Constitutionality of Section 377A in Singapore: Towards A More Humanist Treatment of Homosexuality in Singapore Law
Baey Shi Chen focuses on how ideological tensions arose between the law, politics, and public opinion in Singapore via a landmark 2014 ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code. This law, which criminalizes sex between men in Singapore, has long demonstrated a kind of “tyranny of the majority,” which in turn entwines a mix of conservative family and Judeo-Christian ideologies that not only reinforced longstanding prejudices against the LGBT community but also deprived them of their rights.
What Constitutes a “Due” Burden on Women’s Access to Abortion: A Cultural Discourse Analysis of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
Like Baey, Gao Xueying points out the damaging power of public opinion on abortion rights in the U.S. through which, since legalization in 1973, many TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Provisions) have been enacted to impose burdensome restrictions of abortion clinics. Through her reading of the 2016 case Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, Gao found that public opinion over reproductive right in the U.S. is closely related to religious culture and feminist activism, and the divided opinions are themselves reflective of intense ideological manipulation.
A Quest for “Justice” in Capital Punishment: A Socio-Legal Study of the Nirbhaya Gangrape Case
In Samra Irfan’s essay, she faces the problem of the “complicated and deeply compromised” nature of culture and law squarely. Against the global outcry over the horrific case of gang rape in India, the case of Mukesh & Another Vs State of NCT of Delhi and others (also known as the Nirbhaya gang rape case), Irfan asks some very tough questions: what good social impact can capital punishment possibly bring, either to the rapist or to society at large? From a socio-legal and cultural perspective, does capital punishment for the rapist add to the safety measures for women in India?
Dr John Nguyet Erni, Guest Editor
Hong Kong Baptist University