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Minor in Law, Literature and Society shows inextricable link between law and art

The film Blade Runner as part of the law curriculum? It’s not that weird to Maartje van der Woude, Professor of Law and Society, and Frans-Willem Korsten, Professor of Literature, Culture and Law. ‘The film raises a fundamental question: what’s a human and what’s not?’ From the next academic year onwards, they will work together on the minor in Law, Literature and Society.

A research paper in the form of art

Van der Woude conducts research into ethnic profiling. 'I could go out onto the street and ask people, “In what ways do you come across this in your workplace?” but you’ll soon hit a brick wall. Instead, you can use artistic expression to introduce people to issues relating to power dynamics and inequality and then discuss those issues together. You can make more of an impact by organising research-based performances and exhibitions that encourage you to have open conversations than by writing academic articles that are only read by other academics.' Van der Woude mentions ethnic profiling as an example: 'It’s a highly polarised topic, which is exactly why it needs to be discussed. A shared experience such as an exhibition can get the conversation going without having to set a specific tone or direction.’

Van der Woude adds, ‘My colleagues and I conduct research into injustice, often involving people in vulnerable situations. We want to show the results of our research to the general public in an accessible way so that it has an impact. We often feel a bit frustrated with traditional academic publications. While they do reach an academic audience, achieving real social impact requires a different approach.’

Legal definitions and artistic underpinnings

According to Korsten, the two disciplines really need each other. ‘Something goes wrong when you examine the law only from the perspective of the law itself. You don’t look at the background, while those underpinnings can be found in art. Take the film Blade Runner, for example. The film deals with a fundamental question: what’s a human and what’s not? Art forces you to think about how we can make this fairer.’ 

Korsten says that the film also reflects on slavery, ‘which causes us to divide people into two categories: humans who are free and other humans who are negotiable and are somebody’s property.’

‘Something goes wrong when you examine the law only from the perspective of the law itself.’

The aim of the minor? To produce students who look beyond traditional academic articles and dare to be critical. The minor isn’t just for Law and Humanities students – all students of Leiden University, TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam can take the course. Kosten notes that, ‘we want to have a diverse audience because that’s what makes for exciting education. It’s important that we have a mixed audience as this minor is all about the relationship between people and society.’

More information

Please refer to the prospectus for more information on the minor in Law, Literature and Society.

Wat is Blade Runner?

Blade Runner is een post-apocalyptische film dat zich afpeelt in een wereld waarin robots niet langer te onderscheiden zijn van mensen. De hoofdrolspeler moet een aantal van deze robots opsporen en vernietigen.

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