Law in Crisis: The Ecstatic Subject of Natural Disaster

By Ruth A. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Introduction

Introduction

This book is in part a plea to revive ecstasy as a point of departure in the study of law.1 Ecstatic subjects—shattered, dispossessed, displaced, and beside themselves—have never disappeared completely from legal or political analysis.2 Since the 1970s and 1980s, the subject in ecstasy has been invoked in a number of books and articles, especially in the fields of religion, metaphysics, and literature.3 The idea, however, that ecstasy is, or should be, central to legal structures or legal study is one that has not found proponents for a number of centuries.4 I make the case in this book that legal ecstasy is still very much with us, that it remains an effective framework for politics, and that ecstatic subjects—or their off-center, eccentric counterparts—have been key players in the articulation of modern and contemporary political norms. I do so by focusing on what has increasingly been called disaster law”5—defined broadly here as the legal and political structures that appear in the aftermath of crises such as earthquakes, floods, or fires. What I suggest throughout this book is that the dual purposes of disaster law are, first, to make the disaster intelligible by, second, assigning a politically normative function to the subject in ecstasy.

I admit that the subject in ecstasy is a strange place to start a book that is not being written thirty years ago, when discussions of subjectivity were more widespread.6 What I propose over the following chapters, however, is that at that moment thirty years ago, there was a potential connection, a possible linkage,

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Law in Crisis: The Ecstatic Subject of Natural Disaster
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Cultural Lives of Law ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Writing About Disaster Metaphors in Crisis 33
  • Chapter Three - The Gift of Life Blood, Organs, and Viruses 52
  • Chapter Four - Respect in Death Ghouls and Corpses 85
  • Chapter Five - Seismic Space Camps, Cemeteries, Squares, and Monuments 120
  • Chapter Six - Conclusion 174
  • Reference Matter 183
  • Notes 185
  • Bibliography 221
  • Index 233
  • The Cultural Lives of Law 239
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