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  • Series: Handbooks of Research Methods in Law series x
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Ben Woodard

The following chapter argues that the term nature cannot easily be replaced by ecology and that numerous forms of contemporary philosophy attempt to abandon epistemology for a more ontological or materially focused approach. This shift away from epistemology leads to a knot of at least three interrelated problems: an overemphasis on a life-bound ethics that ignores biology; a tendency to gift subjectivity or thought upon other entities without adequate understanding; and lastly, an appeal to aesthetics as first philosophy without accounting for perspective. I address each of these problems and propose alternatives that collectively re-establish the need for a new epistemology to conduct ecological thinking.

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Edward Mussawir and Yoriko Otomo

Over the past decade there has been a growing interest internationally in ‘animal law’ as a topic of legal study, sometimes taught as part of an environmental law programme, and sometimes taught as a self-standing course. More than in other fields of legal study however, animal law faces an intellectual terrain that is often polemical and rhetorical, with a reformist agenda. While the concerns that drive this mode of scholarship may be admirable, a focus on advocacy that seeks to draw on ‘good law’ to achieve its political aims or to make law good where it is currently ‘failing’ or ‘out of date’, renders it difficult to attend closely to the question of method in relation to law and the animal. It is difficult to think, in other words, about how the animal may be approached as a subject or object of legal knowledge when there is a presumption that ‘law’ is simply a passive repository for the ideologies of a progressive liberal society. In this chapter, the authors try to preserve a space for thinking differently about the methods and tools that can be brought to the field of animal law. The chapter presents a dialogue between its two authors who draw upon and comment upon their approaches to analysing the work that law does in controlling, constructing, destroying, and perhaps caring, for animal life. The authors explore in this way, some of the necessary but easily neglected facets of research method and conduct. They touch specifically on the ways in which it may be possible to attend to the animal either within the technologies of law themselves or in excess of their capacity to manage the boundaries between public and private, nature and culture, feminine and masculine, and the sacred and profane. (This critical impulse is, of course, indebted to a rich scholarship of critical legal theory and critical legal studies.) They also reflect on the pleasures and difficulties of using various research methods.

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Irus Braverman

Corals have recently emerged as both a sign and a measure of the catastrophic future of life on earth at this particularly volatile time, referred to by some as the Anthropocene. As such, they have been the focus of intensive conservation management. Their symbiotic algae-bacterial-animal relationship and their precarious oceanic, ecological, and chimeric life make corals fascinating windows into biopolitical regimes of conservation. Corals are also ‘good to think with’ about the interface of culture, science, and law and about the particular ways through which law makes life. My chapter draws on a dozen in-depth interviews with scientists and policy makers, mostly in the United States but also in Australia and Israel, as well as on participatory observations of both coral and coral scientists, to explore how laws calculate and govern the project of saving (certain) coral life. I refer to this reflective, ‘breathing-with’ methodology, whereby the ethnographer submerses herself with the subjects or topic of her inquiry, as ‘immersive ethnography’. Utilizing this immersive ethnographic stance, my chapter recognizes the ‘becoming legalities’ of coral conservation, demonstrating that coral life and death are not only biological and cultural, but also legal, phenomena.

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Mirko Nikolić

The text sketches out a methodology of ‘flat ecology’ for rethinking and reworking the present apparatuses of power – political, economic and legal – that engage in performing backgrounding of other-than-human bodies. By diffracting the concepts of assemblage and apparatus through epistemologies of feminist science scholars Karen Barad and Donna Haraway and ontologies of Deleuze and Guattari, and Object-Oriented philosophers, I formulate the concept of ‘minoritarian apparatus’ as a theoretico-practical tool towards seeking posthuman environmental justice. The second part of the text traces the methodology and proceedings of my collaborative performance all that is air melts into city (2014). The site-specific intermedia project creatively re(con)figured the apparatus of European Union Emissions Trading Scheme as a ‘minoritarian apparatus’, a posthuman ecology of difference that affords more just possibilities for meaning-mattering of extra-human bodies.

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Danilo Mandic

This chapter draws on the work of the French philosopher Michel Serres and his exposition of the notions of appropriation, the distinctions of subjects and objects, hard and soft pollution, and local and global perceptions, and discusses them as essential devices for the legal comprehension of the environment. This chapter has a triple intent. First, it aims to deploy Serres’s thinking on nature and its broken relation to humanity in order to recognise how law with its principles, functions and operations plays a significant role in constituting both this break, and this relation. Serres’s excogitation on law reveals that our relation with nature is intrinsically a legal one. Second, by identifying Serres’s understanding of the relationship between law and nature, this chapter offers a way into ‘sounding out’ environmental law, and importantly, to recognise law as antecedently ‘environmental’ (before even being called specifically environmental). At first glance contradictory but still within the aims of this handbook to provide novel methods to approaching and understanding environmental law, the final aim is to employ Serres’s ‘anti-method’ and understanding of knowledge. This important aspect of Serres’s idiosyncratic approach is gradually unfolded in the text that follows.

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Victoria Brooks

In the now official epoch of the ‘Anthropocene’, it is crucial that researchers adopt methodological strategies that are radical enough. This ‘radical enough’ is the demand of an environment which is not just ‘somewhat problematic’, but is falling apart, body-by-body. Only by really stepping into the field that is environmental law can we convincingly tell our story as though we are heading the urgency of the situation, as the more-than-humans we claim to be. Any step into the field is beset by ethical challenges and, occasionally, obstructions. This chapter arises from lessons learned autoethnographically in the field of sexuality and a challenge brought to the ethical basis of thresholds of participation. This personal method, which claims to bridge the chasm between the individual and the collective concern is fraught with ethical challenges, which I claim are not specific to sexuality research. Attractions and transgressions belong to all kinds of more-than-human desiring bodies. This means that a traditional ethical human framework inhibits the possibility of radical methodologies. ‘F#cking’ is not a banal and profane cry of resistance, but a radically orgasmic research ethic underpinning radical methodological strategies for the Anthropocene epoch.

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Edited by Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos and Victoria Brooks

This timely Handbook brings innovative, free-thinking and radical approaches to research methods in environmental law. With a comprehensive approach it brings together key concepts such as sustainability, climate change, activism, education and Actor-Network Theory. It considers how the Anthropocene subjects environmental law to critique, and to the needs of the variety of bodies, human and non-human, that require its protection. This much-needed book provides a theoretically informed analysis of methodological approaches in the discipline, such as constitutional analysis, rights-based approaches, spatial/geographical analysis, immersive methodologies and autoethnography, which will aid in the practical critique and re-imagining of Environmental Law.
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Bård A. Andreassen, Hans-Otto Sano and Siobhán McInerney-Lankford

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Martin Scheinin

This chapter addresses one of the most important questions for the methodology of human rights law, both as a social practice and as a scholarly discipline, namely how to interpret the provisions of human rights treaties, many of which are seemingly vague or open-ended as texts. The author defends the view that there is a proper methodology for legal interpretation, understood as giving specific and concrete meaning to those texts. Even if different scholars or different lawyers may sometimes end up defending differing interpretations, the interpretive activity of each of them can be assessed for the correctness of its methodology and ultimately also for the correctness of the answer arrived at.

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Siobhán McInerney-Lankford

Siobhan McInerney-Lankford examines ‘internal’ and ‘external’ challenges of human rights legal research. The first relates to the depth and critical quality of mainstream human rights legal research and the tendency of human rights lawyers to assume the validity of the norms underpinning human rights law. The second challenge relates to the breadth and orientation of human rights law, which often overlooks the impact and policy uptake of human rights norms. The chapter concludes by exploring the implications of these critiques for human rights legal methodology and the need to recognize and safeguard the distinct contributions of human rights discourse.