Law & Culture

Law and CultureIn our Law & Culture column, you will find original works of fiction, reviews of a wide range of publications — not just conventional legal texts — as well as broader cultural forms such as films, TV shows, CDs, DVDs, art exhibitions and so on. The column links in with the Alternative Law Journal’s focus on law for the disadvantaged, human rights law and law reform.

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Cristy Clark

Lactivism-150Courtney Jung; Basic Books (Distributor, Newsouth Books), 2015; 272 pages; $34.99 (hardcover)

Courtney Jung believes that breastfeeding advocates in the United States have unleashed a wave of coercive public breastfeeding initiatives that pressure mothers to feed their babies breastmilk, while providing little support to enable them to do so. She critiques the paucity of medical evidence underpinning the health claims made in favour of breastmilk, and argues that America is ‘using breastfeeding and pumping as a substitute for maternity leave.’

Jung is at her strongest when she is critiquing the neoliberal nature of public policy in America. Her analysis of the Obama administration’s breastfeeding initiatives, which appear to do little more than encourage women to pump breastmilk at their own expense while catering entirely to the demands of employers, is damning. Similarly convincing is her conclusion that these initiatives will do nothing to resolve ‘the deeply rooted social and structural problems American parents face in trying to raise healthy and secure children’, because breastmilk is no substitute for maternity leave, or accessible child- and health care.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 75


Le Temps Des Aveux/The Gate

Melanie O'Brien

Le-Temps-des-Aveux-The-Gate-150Director: Régis Wargnier; France/Belgium/Cambodia, 2014 (film)

Le Temps des Aveux, or The Gate in English, is a 2014 feature film based on the memoir The Gate (Le Portail) by Frenchman François Bizot. The memoir’s first section details Bizot’s capture by the Khmer Rouge in 1971 and his subsequent incarceration in a jungle prison camp. In the second part ‘the gate’ comes into play. ‘The gate’ is the gate of the French embassy in Phnom Penh where, in 1975, with the invasion of the Khmer Rouge, Bizot became the embassy’s translator and intermediary with the Khmer Rouge. It signifies a barrier, a symbol of protection, and a door between worlds — hence the title of the book. The book is beautifully written, moving and gripping through a combination of the language used and the events that take place.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 75


The Law of Poetry

Nigel Stobbs

The-Law-of-Poetry-cover-image-smMTC (‘Margie’) Cronin; Puncher & Wattmann, 2015; 261 pages; $29.95 (paperback)

One lazy Sunday afternoon (according to Chapter 2 of the Book of Mark), Jesus and some of his disciples wandered through a grain field, picking a few heads of grain. The Pharisees asked him why they would do that given that it was unlawful to do so on the Sabbath. Ever the pragmatist, Jesus replied that ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’ Implying, that God’s commandments are uttered for the benefit of his people, not as tools of oppression. A similar theme (albeit one perhaps more grounded in 19th Century English Romanticism rather than theism) seems to motivate the creative work of MTC Cronin in The Law of Poetry, especially given the choice of epigraph: ‘True laws aren’t manmade, they make man’.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 290


Surrogacy, Law and Human Rights

Stephen Page

Gerber-Surrogacy-Law-and-Human-rights-cover-smPaula Gerber and Katie O’Byrne (eds); Ashgate, 2015; 238 pages; $125 (hardback)

When I went to uni to study law back in the ’80s, I never imagined that I would ever run a case arguing when life began. It was one of those joke questions that we law students would say to each other. I did however have such a case in 2012, when I persuaded a judge that the conception of a child occurred not at the time of fertilisation of the embryo, but at the commencement of pregnancy.

A disaster was avoided. The question of when the child was conceived in law was essential. If conception had been when the fertilisation of the embryo had occurred, and not at pregnancy, an order transferring parentage to the intended parents could not have been made. Luck was on our side and the judge agreed with my analysis. The case illustrates the bigger point — that the law is playing catch up with big changes in society.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 291


Everything You Need To Know About The Referendum To Recognise Indigenous Australians

Kate Galloway

Davis-Williams-Everythng-you-need-to-know-about-the-referendum-cover-smMegan Davis & George Williams; New South Books, 2015; 224 pages; $19.99 (paperback)

The momentum for Indigenous constitutional recognition has been building over the last few years, but more recently has shifted tracks as different voices are heard and political realities settle in. For those grappling with the issues (and I am one), there could not have been a better time for the release of this book.

In this very readable edition, two of Australia’s foremost experts in constitutional law provide an account of the history, contemporary context and legal issues associated with Indigenous constitutional recognition. While being comprehensive, the book does not distance itself from the reader’s likely level of understanding. For this reason, it is engaging as well as thought-provoking, reading more like a story but containing all the requisite evidence and legal authority that you would expect from professors of constitutional law.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 292


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