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.
After the first panel, we took a short lunch break outside on the courtyard of Loyola's beautiful Gehry-designed campus. After lunch, we proceeded with the second panel of the day on "The Injured Subject." Samantha Barbas, Associate Professor of Law from SUNY Buffalo Law School started this panel with another historical study -- this time on the changing law of personal image based injuries. Claire Rasmussen, an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Delaware was next with a paper that challenged us to rethink how we conceptualize injuries to animals. Maurice Stevens, Associate Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University closed out the panel with a beautifully delivered presentation on how we conceptualize post-traumatic stress injuries.

After a short break, we returned for the final panel of the day, "Injury, Narrative, Community and the State." Greg Johnson, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder led things off with a paper that examined how some native Hawaiians view federal attempts to remedy past injuries as a form of injury itself. Our next presenter was Yoshitaka Wada, who is a Professor of Law at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Professor Wada presented some very interesting research on how injuries are understood differently by the different parties in medical malpractice disputes in Japan.

The panel's focus then turned to perceptions of injuries from the perspective of crime victims in Iran, with a paper from Arzoo Osanloo, an Associate Professor in the Law, Societies, and Justice Program at The University of Washington. Li Chen, a professor of History and Law at the University of Toronto, presented the last paper of the day on how European colonialists used "injury" discourses as a way to reshape Sino-Western relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Following the panel presentations, the group heard from Michael McCann, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington, who served as the symposium "Rapporteur." Earlier in the day, panel participants also received comments and feedback from discussants Jon Goldberg-Hiller, Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii and Bryant Garth, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UC Irvine.

Day Two of the symposium featured a final panel on "Injuries in Space and Time." The two papers presented during this panel were particularly moving and, among other things, challenged the participants to think about how to use our research to alleviate the suffering of those whose injuries have gone largely unrecognized. Professor Yukiko Koga, from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard and the Anthropology Department of Hunter College, began the day with her research on the largely unsuccessful lawsuits of Chinese and Korean victims against Japanese corporations and the Japanese government for injuries that occurred against them as part of the forced labor, "comfort women" and other practices of Imperial Japan before its defeat in World War II. Professor of Law Lucie White, also from Harvard, presented next with a presentation on the lingering injuries of African American enslavement.

Two more participants by -- Pratkisha Baxi, Associate Professor of Law at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India and Lochlann Jain, Professor of Anthropology at Stanford -- had hoped to join us and present by videoSkype but, unfortunately, technology failed us. Instead, discussant Gowri Ramachandran, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Law, Southwestern Law School, presented Professor Baxi's paper on “Sexual Injuries and the Law" and the group reviewed Professor Jain's slides on "Cancer Injuries" in lieu of their live presentations.

After the final panel, Rapporteur Michael McCann offered some concluding remarks and the symposium adjourned. All in all, it was a phenomenal two days of presentations featuring terrific papers from many of the leading lights of interdisciplinary legal scholarship. Many thanks to Loyola's Civil Justice Program for helping to bring this extraordinary gathering to campus.

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