: Law & Culture

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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Beyond The North-South Culture Wars

Kate Galloway

beyond-the-north-south-culture-wars-150Allan Dale; Springer, 2014; 148 pages; $74.30 (paperback)

In mid-2015, the Australian government released the 
long-awaited white paper on Developing Northern Australia. That this policy is considered important is perhaps illustrated by the appointment by the Turnbull government of a Minister for Northern Australia. As a policy area however, it is possible that those south of the Tropic of Capricorn are somewhat mystified by its importance, or even the issues at stake. Allan Dale’s very readable book provides an excellent primer for northerners and southerners alike, seeking to understand the potential of the north in environmental, cultural and economic terms.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 73

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Slick Water

David Turton

Slick-Water-Fracking-150Andrew Nikiforuk; Greystone Books, 2015; 350 pages; $34.99 (hardcover)

The unconventional extraction of fossil fuels continues to be a source of dispute for industry, governments and communities around the world. In what is often a technical literature, personal narratives of unconventional oil and gas development serve to humanise complex subject matter for lay readers — provoking questions about the social, economic and environmental implications of these extractive industries in the process. Legal sagas fall into this literature stream, as the Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk demonstrates in his chronicle of Jessica Ernst’s near decade-long quest for transparency and justice from the Alberta Government and the energy giant Encana — following the construction and drilling of gas wells (including hydraulic fracturing activities) close to her home, near the town of Rosebud, Alberta. Ernst contends that this development has caused water aquifer contamination and these allegations form the basis of claims she has made against government regulators and Encana in the Canadian courts.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 74

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Lactivism

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

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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

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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

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