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Research Seminar - Addiction Verification: Mobilising Gender in Legal Accou...

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Moot Court Room (SS 232), Level 2 Social Sciences Building, La Trobe Law School, La Trobe University, Bundoora

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Dr Kate Seear is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Monash University, Australia. She holds an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellowship. Kate is a practising lawyer, the Academic Director of Springvale Monash Legal Service, and an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Social Studies of Addiction Concepts research program in the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Australia.

Lunch will be served outside the Moot Court from 12.45pm, and the presentation will begin at 1pm.

Abstract: In this presentation, I explore the question of whether and in what ways the law and legal processes work to stabilise addiction as a health problem or ‘disease’. I also explore the associated gender implications of these practices and the means through which legal processes that stabilise ‘addiction’ simultaneously constitute gender and agency. Drawing upon qualitative interviews with lawyers in Australia and Canada and the theoretical framework of science and technologies scholar Bruno Latour (in particular his anthropological analysis of scientific and legal ‘modes of existence’) I explore legal processes of what he calls ‘veridiction’. These are the specific processes through which the law distinguishes truth from falsity. I explore how lawyers describe their own role in establishing agreed facts in legal negotiations. I consider how addiction comes up in their work, how lawyers make arguments about the nature and origins of addiction, and how they frame the agency of people said to be experiencing addiction. I argue that although in public discourse judges are ascribed the status of the law’s key decision-making figures, lawyers’ accounts do not necessarily support this view. Instead, their accounts of the judicial process foreground their own and other lawyers’ role in making strategic assertions and decisions about addiction, despite an absence of training or education in the area. Importantly, lawyers’ accounts suggest little independent oversight – even from judges – of the work that they do in stabilising addiction ‘facts’. These accounts feature centrally in family violence cases. Lawyers’ accounts of addicted agency are often contradictory, highly gendered, with a range of material-discursive effects. Based on these observations, I consider the ways such processes of stabilisation impact on women in the legal system whose lives are in some way affected by discourses of addiction as a disease. I argue that legal practices of veridiction are centrally implicated in the making of both gender and health and that elements of these processes, which are not often publicly visible or subjected to scrutiny, require more analysis.

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Moot Court Room (SS 232), Level 2 Social Sciences Building, La Trobe Law School, La Trobe University, Bundoora

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