Professor Desmond Manderson FAAL, FASSA, FRSC

BA (Hons) LlB (Hons) (ANU), DCL (McGill), FRSC
+61 2 6125 5792
Room 6.3.9

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Research Theme


  • ARC Future Fellow
  • Professor, ANU College of Law and ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
  • Founding Director (2008-2011), Institute for the Public Life of Arts & Ideas, McGill Univ. Montreal
  • Editorial Boards: Law Text Culture; Macquarie Law Journal; Law & Literature; Law, Culture and Humanities; Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 

Recent news

Twenty Minutes with the Devil
Professor Desmond Manderson and Dr Luis Gómez Romero’s play, 'Twenty Minutes with the Devil', runs 18-25 June at The Street Theatre.
Twenty Minutes with the Devil
After a decades-long hiatus from acting and writing in plays, ANU Law Professor Desmond Manderson returns to his passion with a powerful part-thriller, part-black comedy.
Professor Desmond Manderson and Associate Professor Anna Olsen
A proposal to decriminalise small amounts of illicit drugs in the ACT has been welcomed by ANU experts in law, history, criminology, sociology and medicine.
Five ANU Law scholars have been shortlisted in the ALRAs for their excellence and innovation in the discipline of Law.

In the Media

Desmond Manderson quoted in The Canberra Times
Desmond Manderson writes in The Canberra Times
Desmond Manderson writes in Canberra Times

Past events

Image credit: Unknown artist, cover art for WEB Du Bois, Dark Princess (1928)
6.00PM to 8.00PM Virtual Seminar Series
  • Debolina Dutta
  • Christopher Gevers
  • Luis Gómez Romero
  • Honni van Rijswijk

You are invited to join us for a discussion with four leading thinkers on colonial legal imaginaries and southern literary futures, whose work encompasses the histories and traditions of four continents.

Professor Desmond Manderson FAAL, FASSA, FRSC
7.30PM to 9.00PM Play

Part thriller, part black comedy, this play is inspired by events leading to the capture of El Chapo, Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, in 2016. But Twenty Minutes With The Devil transcends its original context, opening instead onto a world that is everywhere and nowhere, in an idiom at once strange and familiar. It asks vital questions about law, politics, and justice in the modern world. About the lives and decisions out of our control that seem to hold us all hostage. And the patterns that entrap us in other ways parents and children, myths and beliefs, childhood memories and fantasies of escape.

For One Day Only
12.00PM to 2.00PM Webinar

Legal space and legal geography have been important focuses of research in socio-legal scholarship in recent years. In what ways has the experience of public space been transformed under the pressures of neoliberal ideology and contemporary governmentality?

For One Day Only
12.00PM to 10.30AM Webinar

For One Day Only brings together a global community of thinkers, scholars and artists for 24 hours of conversations on the moment we are living through and the future we want. Hosted by an international consortium of research centres spanning four continents, the workshop sessions will roll around the world from Canberra and Johannesburg, through Rome, Helsinki and Lucerne, to Virginia and Melbourne.

Currently supervising

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: Novel citizens: represenations of citizenship in law and literature
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: Performing sovereignty: How to make a refugee disappear with legal magic My PhD dissertation looks at how sovereignty iterates, presents and reifies itself in the Australian refugee context. In Australia, refugees can be detained without reasons for the decision...

Current courses

Year Course code Course name
2023 LAWS4231
Class #7171
Law and Art: Representation and Critique

Previous courses

Year Course code Course name
2021 LAWS4286
Class #4276
Literature, Law and Human Rights
2021 LAWS4005
Class #4755
Beyond Chaos

How my works connects with public policy

There is a crisis in law today.  At best we think of it as a technical power imposed on society that tells us what to do.  At worst we think of it as fundamentally unjust and corrupt.  We can address this crisis by improving our processes of law-making and law-enforcing.  But we can also address this crisis by radically shifting how we think about law – what it is and how it relates to us and to the rest of our lives.  What if law was not just ‘out there’ like a machine; but ‘in here’ like a person or a memory? What if law was not just made by lawyers and politicians – but a product of all of us through how we thought, saw, and spoke about it?

One of the most innovative areas of legal scholarship in recent years has been law and the humanities.  Its goal is to re-connect law to its roots in the humanities: in history, the arts, literature, philosophy. By studying how law is represented culturally in our society, we can gain crucial insights into its origins, its functions, and its problems.  We can give to law a relevance that it often seems to lack – by taking seriously ideas of law and justice in the work of Plato or Shakespeare and equally on the screen, on the box and on the web.  And we can give back to law a sense of its ethical and human dimensions – breaking down that sense of law as a coercive (even amoral) system outside of us and unrelated to us and encouraging instead a more engaged social dialogue about what we mean by responsibility and tolerance in the modern world.

  • Does law have a history and why does that matter?
  • Does justice have a philosophy and if so what is it?
  • Does literature tell us about law and with what effect?
  • Does TV?
  • Does art?
  • Does music?
  • Is justice a fact or an idea or a feeling? Is law? Is authority?
  • Is law more than the sum of its parts—or less?

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team