Mark S. Weiner

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Distraction from the Storm

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Border regions, Constitutional law, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Environment, India, Law and film, Law and literature, Pakistan, Psychoanalysis, Supreme Court on October 31, 2012 at 8:59 pm

As hurricane Sandy bore down on the eastern seaboard, my wife and I thought that the best distraction from the howling wind and crack of breaking branches would be to curl up and watch movies. It didn’t take long for us to settle on Alfred Hitchcock.

And so after we made up our inflatable bed in the living room—the safest place, we figured, if one of the tall trees in the backyard crashed through the roof—and brought up our emergency kit from the basement—stove, check; fuel, check; tent, check; food and water, check—we unfurled the projector screen we normally use to display academic PowerPoint slides, made a bowl of buttered popcorn, and poured ourselves a beer.

All things considered, it seemed like the sort of thing that one would want to have been doing in the final moments before disaster.

Here’s a picture of our outpost in the storm:

The film on the screen is “North by Northwest”—there’s Carry Grant furtively walking through Penn Station.

Now that we’ve come through the storm safe and sound (a miracle), in this post I’d like to pull on a small thread in the film we saw last night, “Rear Window.” It’s a legal thread, and one that also happens to be entwined with an environmental theme.

There’s not much we can do for our friends in New York and New Jersey, who faired much worse than we did, but if they are able to read it, perhaps this distraction will be welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

“Disgraced” and the Law

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Islam, Law and literature on October 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Two weeks ago, as the first chill of fall was descending on New England, I caught the train to Manhattan and strolled happily to Lincoln Center. One reason I was happy is that along the way I was able to stuff my briefcase full of truffles at the first chocolate store I could find. But I also knew I was going to watch some excellent theater.

I have been thinking about the experience ever since.

The play was “Disgraced,” by Ayad Akhtar, and this new production was held in the Claire Tow Theater, an experimental stage whose well-appointed intimacy is ideally suited to exhibit the dramatic kinesis and collision of the play’s four characters. The actors seem so close that they might as well reach into your chest directly as they rip out your heart (which, by the end of a taut ninety minutes, believe me they do).

Perhaps I feel so passionately about the play because of the friends with whom I saw it. The group included a religiously devout Muslim military officer from a major nation in the Middle East. He had never before seen a play—this was his first experience of theater, ever. When I looked at him as the lights came up, I had a profound understanding of the meaning of the word “catharsis” and a renewed appreciation of the power of art. Read the rest of this entry »

The Rule of the Clan: “Seeking Common Ground”

In Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Rule of the Clan on October 24, 2012 at 11:32 am

I’m delighted to write that The Rule of the Clan has received a marvelous new jacket endorsement. It comes from Abdullah Saeed, the Sultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities. Prof. Saeed calls the book:

“A must read for anyone interested in understanding the complex relation between tribal identity, law, and custom, in seeking common ground between the Western and Islamic legal and political traditions, and in connecting the past to present in the service of legal reform.”

I deeply admire Prof. Saeed’s writings about Islamic thought, especially those that nurture modes of Qur’anic interpretation that are sensitive to the interplay between text and context. I also greatly respect not only his active engagement as a scholar with contemporary social and political questions but also the profound kindness and thoughtfulness of his manner whenever he does so. He’s a model to which aspire, and I’m so pleased by his kind words.

A New Video: Bedouin Law

In Anthropology, Bedouin, Conversations, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Islam, Middle East, Video on October 22, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Greetings to everyone after a somewhat longer absence than I had planned! The second pass proofs of The Rule of the Clan are now with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and a kind and sympathetic soul in New York is carefully creating the index. It’s good to be back.

I was so pleased with the reception of my first small documentary video that I decided to make another—and here it is. It’s about the law of the Bedouin, the independent Arab nomads of the Middle East and North Africa.

Although I have yet to acquire serious video-editing software and I’m operating entirely without a sound editor, the production values of this video are greatly improved thanks to a new camera, a Lumix DMC-GH2. I really appreciate everyone who gave me such great advice about the purchase, especially my former students and my friends at the Minnesota Historical Society. On the post-production front, I’m also now using a monitor that’s nearly as large as the heart of the good man who gave it to me, Deven Desai, who blogs at Concurring Opinions.

The video is called “A Law of Honor and Contract,” and it’s centered around a conversation I had in Manhattan with my friend Frank, one of the leading Western authorities on Bedouin law. One way to appreciate the depth of Frank’s expertise is to know that his answers to my questions were entirely off the cuff—no preparation, just unscripted brilliance. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Endorsement for The Rule of the Clan

In Rule of the Clan on October 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I’m in the midst of examining the second pass proofs for The Rule of the Clan, but I can’t resist announcing that the book has just received its third jacket endorsement. I’m absolutely delighted to say that the blurb comes from Ian Morris, an eminent archeologist and historian at Stanford University and the author most recently of Why the West Rules—for NowMorris writes:

The Rule of the Clan gives a fascinating glimpse into a world that few Westerners today understand: a world of honor, shame, collective responsibility, and violent feuds. This book tells us what we need to know if we really want to modernize the clan societies of the Middle East and central Asia—and if we want to save our own liberal democracies from descending into clannish chaos.”

I’m thrilled by these kind words, especially because Morris and I have never met or had any professional contact with each other. And the fact that he teaches at my alma mater—that’s serious icing on a lovely cake.

A Brief Pause

In Rule of law on October 9, 2012 at 7:04 am

Thanks so much to everyone who wrote and said such nice things about my first foray into the world of documentary video! I really appreciate your support. The video is now the most-viewed item I’ve posted, which is very encouraging. And the range of countries from which readers have logged into Worlds of Law generally is mind-bending: Australia, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, Canada, Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, France, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Israel, Jordan, Russia … the power of the web for self-publishing is jaw-dropping.

FYI, I’m in the process of purchasing some more serious equipment—the judicial bobbleheads video was made with a Flip camera and an old Mac, relatively primitive stuff—so that future videos (of which I hope there will be many) will have higher production values. I’ll be in Europe beginning in mid-November, and I’m looking forward to creating mini documentaries while on the road in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to be back again at the end of this week: I’m taking a micr0-pause from blogging to review the “second pass” proofs of my forthcoming book The Rule of the Clan. This is basically the final stage in the proofreading process for me as the book heads into production, and it takes a lot of care and attention to get right. (The only thing that will remain for me to check after the second pass is the index, which should be ready in early November, just before my trip to Europe.) So I’m going to be away for just a couple of more days—but with a great deal more to come.

So do check in again at the end of the week—or consider signing up for email announcements about new posts. It’s easy: just enter your email address where prompted in the center column below. You’ll then be alerted to new content through your inbox (and you’ll always have the option to unsubscribe). Convenient, safe, and a great way to ensure that you won’t miss the latest Worlds of Law post!

A Philosophical Reflection on Judicial Bobbleheads

In Aesthetics, narrative, form, Books and libraries, Conversations, Germany, Supreme Court, Video on October 4, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I’ve begun to experiment with videos about comparative law. Here’s my first (click here, or click “read more” below, and then click on the video). Read the rest of this entry »

Between India and France

In Affirmative action, Constitutional law, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, France, India, Race on October 1, 2012 at 10:52 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has begun its new term (it does so the first Monday of each October), and it soon will hear oral arguments in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. The Court’s decision in the case could be a turning-point in its jurisprudence of affirmative action, and perhaps a political turning-point for the nation. At issue is the legality of using race as a basis for preferring one candidate over another in college and university admissions.

A great deal has and will be written about the doctrinal questions at issue Fisher, particularly how the case differs from those the justices have considered in previous disputes about racial preferences. I’d like to offer a global, comparative view.

The issue in Fisher, in essence, is whether from a constitutional perspective the United States ought to resemble India or France. For years, the United States has pursued a middle course between the two nations with regard to race-based preferences. The current Court is now likely to hold that the United States ought to resemble France—which will be something of an irony given the Court’s conservative majority (conservatives in the United States not being known for their Francophilia). Read the rest of this entry »