Monday, September 15, 2014

Loyola's Civil Justice Program on 'Injury as Cultural Practice'

By Visiting Professor Anne Bloom
Assistant Director, Civil Justice Program

Last week, the Civil Justice Program was excited to host an international symposium on "Injury as Cultural Practice." The conference featured presentations from an interdisciplinary group of scholars including lawyers, social scientists, anthropologists and social theorists. I was thrilled to collaborate with David Engel, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School, in organizing and directing the program.

The purpose of the symposium was to continue a dialogue that began last spring on how the meaning of legal injury is constructed through social and cultural practices. For the symposium, we broke the topic into four parts, with three panels on the first day of the symposium and a fourth on the second day.

The first panel on Day One discussed "What Counts as an Injury?" Mary Anne Franks, Associate Professor of Law at University of Miami, led things off with a presentation on "Injury Inequality." Franks argued that the kinds of injuries that affect more powerful members of society tend to be overstated. David Engel presented next with a paper on “Chairs, Stairs, and Automobiles: The Interpretation of Injury and the Absence of Claims.” (One of the many things I learned from this presentation is that chairs are not particularly good for our spines -- still, no one considers the pain that results an "injury").

I presented next with my co-author, the legendary Marc Galanter, Professor of Law Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Our paper was called “Good Injuries” and examined the line between "injury" and "enhancement" in contexts like tattooing and plastic surgery. The symposium participants then heard from Sagit Mor, Assistant Professor of Law at Haifa University in Israel, who presented on how injuries are understood from a disability perspective. Loyola's own John Nockleby was next with a fascinating historical paper on the different ways that law has responded to the harm caused by natural disasters.