Fall 2024

Law's Monstrosity

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-265


Mark Firmani (Section 01)


In this course, we will explore how genres of horror have shaped international law, paying specific attention to the figure of the monster in the legal and literary imagination. Defining monstrosity against humanity and civilization has provided a solution to what legal theorist Nasser Hussain has called the “deeply cognitive problem” that plagues attempts to justify state violence and the suspension of the rule of law. Guided by the work of critical legal scholars including Antony Anghie, Darryl Li, Ntina Tzouvala, and more, we will explore how international law has incorporated colonial and imperial discourses of civilization and monstrosity. At the same time, we will read texts from the field of cultural studies to track the evolution of the genres of horror, attending to how such texts use narrative technologies to imagine and represent fears of invasion and contagion. These two themes, as we will see, arise in the entwined legal contexts regulating the movement of people, capital, and violence. 

How, we will ask, do EU immigration statutes and caselaw as well as the treaties and protocols comprising the international law of refugees import fears of social contagion and invasion from cultural narratives? And how do films like Atlantics (dir. Mati Diop, 2019) and Girl with All the Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy, 2016) use genre elements of horror to redirect such fears into vectors of critique? In the context of sovereign debt, we will read materials related to IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs alongside films like Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2019) and Train to Busan (dir. Yeon Sang-ho, 2016) that illuminate the horrific consequences of such international debt institutions. Finally, we will consider how international laws governing military force and economic sanctions enable state violence. How, we will ask, do texts like Ahmed Saadawi’s novel Frankenstein in Baghdad (2013), Ana Lily Amirpour’s film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), and Solmaz Sharif’s poetry collection Look (2016) demonstrate the efficacy of cultural production in critiquing the hegemonic narratives of international law, particularly for those excluded from international legal processes? 

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Firmani.

How to handle overenrollment: priority given to LJST majors/I will request a short paragraph describing why each student wants to take the class

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: original research; critical reading; analytic and synthetic writing; collaborative discussion; in-class exam.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Fall 2024