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

ANU Moot Court art
ANU Law students have tried their hand at videography for a group assignment exploring the intersection between law, art and Indigenous Australians.
Professor Desmond Manderson FAAL, FASSA, FRSC
ANU College of Law Professor Desmond Manderson discusses the "great privilege" of being named a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.
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.’

In the Media

Desmond Manderson writes in The Canberra Times
Desmond Manderson interviewed by ABC Radio National - Big Ideas
Desmond Manderson writes in The Canberra Times

Past events

Surveillance and Humanities Virtual Conference Series
5.00PM to 6.15PM Virtual conference

This webinar series seeks to address the new meaning, scope and representation of surveillance in the time of COVID-19 and initiate a conversation between arts, humanities and the various fields which surveillance is used. 

The Bubble: Metaphors we survive by
11.55PM Seminar Series

Send in your papers for a Zoominar series, hosted by the Institute for Postcolonial Studies, consisting of four monthly panels, each dedicated to exploring the metaphors we survive by. If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract to the convenors, no later than 6 July 2020.

The Idea of the University
6.00PM to 7.30PM 60th Anniversary Celebrations

This event explores the role and responsibilities of universities in these urgent times. It matters not just to scholars, administrators and students – but to everyone concerned about adaptation and change in the 21st century. The event will be broadcast to the public – and will anchor refreshed internal
dialogue at ANU during the year in which its world-leading law school turns 60.

Belonging: Art - Aesthetics - Politics - Law
2.00PM to 4.30PM Workshop

What is the role of art and aesthetics in developing the capacities of the public sphere to engage with the crises of the 21st century? What new resources do they offer to Australia’s endemic political failure to come to terms with our unfinished business, including the failure to offer constitutional recognition of First Peoples, denial of anthropogenic climate change, fears of immigration and growing social alienation? How can aesthetic forms engage with political ideas and public discourse?

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

Currently supervising

  • 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
2020 LAWS4231
Class #9166
Law and Art: Representation and Critique
2020 LAWS4309
Class #4679
Colonialism & the rule of law

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