Session 2.1.6: PANEL: Simulating Anaesthesia. Exploring the Law in-between Sensing and Un-sensing

PANEL: Simulating Anaesthesia. Exploring the Law in-between Sensing and Un-sensing
9:30, Friday 7 May 2021 (1 hour 30 minutes)
Break    11:00 AM to 11:30 AM (30 minutes)
  Virtual session
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Organizers: Andrea Pavoni (University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal), Danilo Mandic (Westminster University, UK) and Caterina Nirta (University of Roehampton, UK)

While contemporary social and technological advancements have opened new sensorial dimensions and dramatically increased our capacity to sense, the hyper-stimulation of contemporary capitalism has severely agitated the common sensorium with troubling neurological, psychological and socio-political outcomes. The complexity of this circuit - exacerbated by ever-widening fractures between local and global, and projections of uncertain futures - poses questions around the type of affects this will produce, the impact on our senses, our capacity to sense, and the way in which we develop relations with the world’s sensory politics. Current debates tend to concentrate on hyper-sensitised more-than-human bodies and on the socio-cognitive and physical impact fast technological advancement and new ways of understanding the sensorium have on our capacity to engage in politically and ethically meaningful relations. By contrast, proposing a reflection on de-sensitisation and anaesthetisation, this panel focuses on our decreasing capacities to sense, namely the status of estrangement, disconnection and alienation in today's socio-spatial formations. It does so by exposing the dual role of the law in the paradigm: as anaesthetising project and synaesthetic process, simultaneously maintaining an illusion of spontaneous sensoriality while imperceptibly cementing or removing the socio-political scaffolding that holds the sensorium in place.

Danilo Mandic, Law and the senses: Un-sensing time, University of Westminster, UK

Law, understood both in its abstractness and materiality, manifests itself as a timeless category that unceasingly (re)invents subjects and objects, and regulates their relations. In this continuous process of divisions and distinctions, bindings and contracts, law is essentially intertwined with the sensations of its surrounding, ad infinitum. Thus, law can be perceived as a sensorium that actualises itself – both as a regulatory and knowledge system – with and through the senses, which are also subjected to its functioning.

In light of the conference’s topic which attempts to look into the future of the senses, this paper does not take the senses as an immediate object of observation but instead questions their relation to time in order to apprehend a quality that goes beyond their historical or socio-legal framings. More precisely, if for the law to maintain its image as a guarantor of stability it must stop time (Serres 1982), this paper approaches the temporal as an integral element to the ontological and epistemological apprehension of law and the senses – which for various reasons seem to continuously present themselves as pre-given, almost atemporal instances. To this end, it questions whether the future configurations of sensing, and their legal actualisation, inform or simulate temporal numbness?

Merima Bruncevic, Desensitising techno heritage, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

The paper discusses the case of “The Other Nefertiti”, an artwork created after the so called Nefertiti hack, where the contested Nefertiti Bust in the Neues Museum Berlin was clandestinely scanned by two artist without the permission of the Museum. The artists subsequently released the 3D data of the bust under a Creative Commons Licence. They also exhibited a very detailed 3D-Print of the Bust in Cairo, based on their scan which is one of the most precise scans ever made public of the original Nefertiti bust.

This paper highlights the (de)sensitising nature of “techno-heritage”, that is the role of digital replicas and other digital renderings of cultural heritage like The Other Nefertiti. Cultural heritage law is often said to deal with emotionally inflamed conflicts, requests directed to museums for return and repatriation of contested colonial cultural heritage. Some ‘solutions’ usually presented in mitigation are various digital compromises involving more or less sophisticated techno-heritage. Far from being desensitising, anaesthetising and soothing tools that can be used in dispute resolution, this paper argues that overly relying on techno-heritage might masks problematic practices that in actual fact re-colonise the contested physical artefact, the space in which it is exhibited as well as the digital data connected to it.

Zoran Oklopcic, Masks to Filters. Imagined communities, unspeakable mediations and the limits of modern constitutionalism, Carleton University, Canada

Preoccupied with the populist abuses of national constitutional identity, puzzled by the paradoxical character of popular sovereignty, and fascinated with the transformative potential of constituent power, both liberal and radical-democratic constitutionalists continue to uphold a rather conservative picture of constitutional order. Accordingly, referendums such as Brexit appear in two mutually-exclusive guises: either the manifestation of popular sovereignty or as a misguided collective exercise of ‘direct’ democracy. They act as rudimentary audio equalizers, compressing the analog preferences of ordinary people into a digital signal that some associate with their ‘voice’ , but whose only ‘message’ is: Yes or No. Individual ballots don’t just serve as the sensors that register individual preferences, but also the filters of irrelevant ones, and as vehicles that transport the information they contain to the places in which they will be aggregated, certified, and compared. Unable to emancipate itself from the conceptual apparatus it inherited from early-modern contractarianism, contemporary constitutional theory ignores the role such vehicles play in allowing political leaders to project power at a distance and in ways that cannot be captured by the increasingly immaterial ideals of contemporary constitutionalism.

Gothenburg University, Department of Law
associate professor, senior lecturer
University of Westminster
ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon
Carleton University

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