The Legal Imagination

Home/ The Legal Imagination
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreNA4

Semester and Year Offered: 2nd (Winter Semester 2019)

Course Coordinator and Team: Lawrence Liang, SLGC

Email of course coordinator:Lawrence[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

Aim: This course is offered as a non major to B.A. stduents. it seeks to provide an interdisciplinary introduction to questions of law and justice. While there is an existing course on legal method at the MA level, this course is particularly targeted at B.A. Students to demonstrate the importance of understanding legal issues and debates beyond a technical disciplinary approach.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

When we think about the law it is not uncommon to think about statutes, courts, lawyers and judges. In other words we often think about the law only within its formal trappings and while all of these are an integral part of the law, the fact remains that the law is also much wider than its formal elements. We encounter law not just in law books or in the courts but equally in works of literature, cinema, in science and technology and in everyday encounters. The formal and informal expressions of law collectively form what we could term as the ‘legal imagination’. This course seeks to introduce students to the relationship between the formal imagination of the law and the cultural lives of the law and the ways they overlap in the postcolonial context.

Thus for example while looking at the history of the Constitution, what are the various ways that we can look at the interaction of constitutional law with the domain of politics and the domain of cultural representation? How in other words does the Constitution exists not just as a legal, but equally as a cultural text?

It is the contention of this course that in addition to paying attention to how the formal process of law works, for instance through legal reasoning, we also need to pay attention to the specific forms, media and technologies through which law unfolds - in language, architecture, image etc. But rather than seeing them as binaries the real challenge will be to pay equal attention to both as equal participants in the making of legal imagination. The course will therefore introduce students to key legal debates in contemporary India (Sec.377, Shabrimala temple entry, regulation of dissent etc), but it will do so through a multi pronged approach that reads the legal debates through a political and cultural lens.

While working through substantive themes this course will also be an opportunity for students to explore an interdisciplinary study of law. For example while looking at the terrain of constitutional law, the focus will be equally on questions of history and historical approaches, while the segment of law and everyday life the focus will be on conversations between law and anthropology. Some of the other intersections this course will look at includes literature, visual and cultural studies and legal studies.

Recognizing that these are students with absolutely no background in law the aim of this course is to begin with everyday examples that they can identify with and then incorporate more complex social legal questions.


The course will equip students with

1. A better understanding of the public life of law and legal institutions

2. An analytical framework to understand the relationship between law, politics and society

3. An understanding of legal and constitutional history

4. An introduction to the philosophical questions particularly about the intersection between law and forms of life

Some of the topics that we will cover in the course include:

  • Introduction to legal debates
  • Understanding what the Constitution is
  • Introduction to the making of the Indian Constitution
  • Examining the role of law everyday life
  • Critical engagement with how law actively shapes our understanding of life
  • Thematic focus on current legal debates including the relationship between citizenship, law, equality and religious beliefs
  • Examining the cutting-edge challenges of law including the question of nonhuman life forms, techno-political subjectivity


Module 1: What is law and where do we find it?

Module 2 : We the people: The Making of the Constitution

Module 3: Everyday life of the law

Module 4: Law, Belief & Contestation

Module 5: Revisiting Recent Indian Debates in light of what we have learnt

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Short Response Papers/Quizzes in Class: 10% x 2 =20%
  • Mid Term Exam: 30 %
  • End Term Exam: 40 %
  • Participation & Presentations: 10 %

Reading List:

Background Texts

  • Ewick, Patricia, and Susan S. Silbey. The Common Place of Law: Stories from Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
  • Khosla, Madhav. The Indian Constitution. First edition. New Delhi: Oxford, 2012.
  • Mody, Zia. 10 Judgements That Changed India. 2013 edition. New Delhi: Penguin India, 2013.

Readings shall be provided for each module