Professor Jessica Silbey, Suffolk University, Boston

Wednesday 9th July 2014   6-7pm

Griffith Film School, South Bank Campus

Since photographs and film were available to everyday people they have been part of the legal system and its factual evaluations with the goal of justice. Not without controversy, photographs and film have been used to prove the existence and nonexistence of liability, guilt or innocence. This lecture canvasses the use of film and photographs as legal tools for proof and then situates that history in the contemporary legal and moral debate over abortion. In particular, this lecture describes the rhetoric concerning the value and purpose of ultrasound technology as a kind of film with a particular focus on the ideology of the image to tell a compelling story on behalf of the “Right to Life” movement.

As the lecture will describe, images obscure as much as they may clarify or persuade. Although anti-abortion activists may rely on ultrasound imaging to support its position that abortions are forms of infanticide, the movement’s reliance on these uncertain and phantasmal photographs is misplaced and may backfire. Comparisons to other uses of filmic technology in legal settings will be made. After a brief history of the epistemology of the photographic image and its place and function in legal disputes and legislative debates, this paper situates within that history the contemporary cultural and legal debate over reproductive choice in terms of medical imaging technology.

Jessica Silbey is a law professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, teaching in the areas of intellectual property and constitutional law. Professor Silbey received her BA from Stanford University and her JD and PhD (Comparative Literature) from the University of Michigan. After clerking for Judge Robert E Keeton on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts and Judge Levin Campbell on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, she practiced law in the disputes department of the Boston office of Foley Hoag LLP focusing on intellectual property, bankruptcy and reproductive rights.

Professor Silbey’s scholarly interests and expertise is in the cultural analysis of law, exploring the law beyond its doctrine to the contexts and processes in which legal relations develop and become significant for everyday actors. Professor Silbey has published widely in the field of law and film, exploring how film is used as a legal tool and how it becomes an object of legal analysis in light of its history as a cultural object and art form. Some of her publications in this field include, Judges as Film Critics: New Approaches to Filmic Evidence (2004), Filmmaking in the Precinct House and the Genre of Documentary Film (2005) and Criminal Performances: Film, Autobiography, and Confession (2007). She recently co-edited a book about law and television entitled Law and Justice on the Small Screen (Hart, 2012). In the field of intellectual property, Professor Silbey’s scholarship focuses on the humanistic and sociological dimension of the legal regulation of creative and innovative work.

Date: Wednesday 9 July 2014
Time: 6.00 to 7.00pm (light refreshments from 5.30pm)
Venue: Griffith Film School, Griffith University, Cnr Dock & Vulture Sts, South Brisbane
RSVP: Please register online by 2 July 2014