Universiteit Leiden

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Van Vollenhoven Lecture

Rights of the Relational Self: Law, Culture, and Injury in the Global North and South

Thursday 17 May 2018
Kamerlingh Onnes Building
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
A1.44 (Lorentz room)

Although official law generally conceives of personal injury victims as individual rights holders, the actual experience of physical injury and its consequences is relational. Indeed, many researchers in the global North as well as the global South have contended that the very concept of the Self should be reconceptualized in relational terms. A growing body of empirical data leads us to ask who is actually harmed when a physical injury occurs. Is the injured Self singular or plural? This lecture draws on research in Thailand and in the United States to suggest that tension between the relational experience of injury and the individualized remedies offered by official law creates a dilemma for injury victims who are potential claimants in both cultures. Although the dilemma is framed quite differently in Thailand and America, there are some striking similarities arising from the failure of Enlightenment models of individual legal subjects to track with the human experience of injury.

About David M. Engel

David M. Engel’s research explores law, culture, and society in Thailand and in America. In Tort, Custom, and Karma: Globalization and Legal Consciousness in Thailand (Stanford University Press, 2010), he drew on court records and ethnographic interviews with injury victims to trace the impact of global transformations on Thailand’s legal culture. In The Myth of the Litigious Society: Why We Don’t Sue (University of Chicago Press, 2016), he offered an empirically grounded explanation for the predominance of lumping among American injury victims. Engel is SUNY Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the State University of New York, Buffalo, and a visiting professor at the Chiang Mai University Law School. A former President of the Law & Society Association, Engel has received both the LSA Article Prize and the Jacob Book Award, and in 2017 he was awarded the LSA’s Harry J. Kalven Prize. He is currently working on a project concerning injuries and the relational self.

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