Professor Desmond Manderson

BA (Hons) LlB (Hons) (ANU), DCL (McGill), FRSC
+61 2 6125 5792
Room 6.3.088

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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

ANU Law Professor Desmond Manderson.
ANU Law Professor Desmond Manderson’s new book, "Danse Macabre: Temporalities of Law in the Visual Arts", explores the intersection between time, law and art.
Image shows Prof Manderson smiling
'Exceptional distinction in the discipline of law.’
ANU Law has launched the Unrequired Reading List, a curated list of books, films, texts and artworks intended to complement students’ study of the law.
Hieronymous Bosch, the Garden of Earthly Delights (middle panel)
If we could start afresh, how would we re-imagine the world? Could we?

In the Media

Desmond Manderson writes in The Brisbane Times
Desmond Manderson writes in Canberra Times

Upcoming events

The Politics of Art
5.30PM to 7.00PM Public lecture

Melbourne Law School’s Institute for International Law and the Humanities and ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas are hosting a public discussion on The Politics of Art.

Past events

Reading group
5.00PM to 6.30PM Reading Group

This reading group, convened by author and philosopher of aesthetics Robyn Ferrell, now an Adjunct Professor with the Centre for Law, Arts and the Humanities, will excavate the history of critical theory from Benjamin and Adorno, with a focus on theoretical work by leading figures in recent years and on contemporary issues of the most urgent importance.  

Utopia - Thomas More
7.05PM to 7.30PM Radio Broadcast

ABC Radio National broadcast of Big Ideas program on Utopian Thinking - recorded on 28 March at a joint event presented by the National Library of Australia and ANU Law's Centre for Law, Arts and the Humanities.

Professor Michael Coper
12.00AM Conference

A conference in honour of Professor Michael Coper.

Event image
8.30AM to 6.00PM Workshop
  • Professor Zenon Bankowski
  • Professor Desmond Manderson

This workshop aims to challenge the preponderance of words in legal education and address the growing need of thinking of law in its current setting that is highly influences by changing imageries, visual media and technological progress utilising different means of perception. 

Please note, only a small selection of recent publications and activities are listed below.

Currently supervising

Current courses

Year Course code Course name
2019 LAWS4231
Class #9815
Law and Art: Representation and Critique

Previous courses

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