Class name: “Ethics of Temporality: Indigenous Land Claims, Child Soldiers”
Taught by: Associate Professor and Coordinator of Peace, Justice, and Human Rights Jill Stauffer
Here’s what she had to say about her class:
The class poses questions of how law and time intersect, focusing on cases where changing our understanding of time might help law do better, or changing our idea of law might help us understand what is at stake in different stories about time. We’re reading what some philosophers, physicists, and anthropologists have said about time alongside trial transcripts and other documents from legal proceedings, in the hope that juxtaposing these materials will give us new ways of thinking about how time and justice intersect.
We’re splitting the semester between an indigenous land claims case from Canada called Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (where we encounter traditions with very different ideas of what it means for time to pass trying to communicate about what happened in the past and how that should be judged in the present moment) and a case from the International Criminal Court, The Prosecutor v. Dominic Ongwen (which involves a lack of prosecutorial willingness to think about what’s complicated about the relationship between time, aging, and responsibility). My hope is that we’ll all emerge from the course with nuanced ideas about time’s relation to justice—in particular that this relation does not give us a straightforward linear view of time, and that justice might require of us that we change the stories we tell ourselves about what time is.
I created this class for three reasons: many of my students are interested in how law works in theory and practice, I am currently writing a book about time and law, and it is good for all of us to get out of our settled patterns of thinking. It’s easy, in one’s daily life, to think that time is the linear thing we find in clocks and calendars, even though in our daily lives time is lots of other things: seasons, semesters, hormones, generations, election cycles, stories about cultures and selves, conflicts over what actually happened, environmental changes, aging. These things are complex, very often not linear, and they may challenge the idea that time moves smoothly in one direction only from past to future. I thought it would be fun for all involved to throw a bunch of different materials about law, time, and specific cases together—it’s like we in the seminar are conducting an experiment on ourselves—and see what comes of it!
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Photo: A film still showing Art Loring, Eagle Clan, blockading the Canadian National Railway in Gitksan territory, from the film Blockade by Nettie Wild.