Reincarnating law in the cosmos




Wilson, Vernon Kyle

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What does it mean to be lawful in a secular age? Reincarnating Law in the Cosmos orbits around such a humanistic inquiry, offering a local contribution to a global jurisprudence by theorizing contemporary Indigenous and state laws in Canada in reciprocal relation to secular modernity. In this context, the study marks the first substantive engagement with Val Napoleon’s Ayook: Gitksan Legal Order, Law, and Legal Theory (2009). The study interprets Napoleon’s reification thesis on Gitxsan law and society as part of a historical disembedding process and evaluates it with reference to a 2016 pipeline agreement signed between a segment of Gitxsan hereditary leaders and the province of British Columbia. Translating Charles Taylor’s concept of excarnation for the legal sphere, it then expands upon Napoleon’s thesis by postulating the steady disembodying and disenchanting reduction of Gitxsan lawful life. To address this dilemma, the study supplements the active and reasoned sense of Gitxsan citizenship posited in Ayook by recasting it in phenomenological terms as a distinctly embodied form of legal agency. To clarify this aspect of agency, the study applies critical race feminist Preeti Dhaliwal’s legal research and playwriting method known as jurisprudential theatre. Dhaliwal’s method shapes the study in two significant ways. First, her impetus for developing the method draws from her own witnessing and overcoming of excarnation in the Canadian law school and immigration system, demonstrating it to be a larger problem traversing multi-juridical borders. To address this problem, the method, in turn, enables the innovation of a new Gitxsan concept of legal agency – the ‘wii bil’ust (giant star) – and an original drama that reveals the real-world struggle and heroism of reincarnating the Gitxsan legal order across generations over the past century. To encourage the broader reincarnation of law, and building on Jeremy Webber’s critique of the functionalist account of customary law, the study points towards a shared grammar of incarnational law. That is, a grammar deepened by embodied modes of relationality, reimagined cosmologies attuned to our earthly predicaments, and creative fluency in multiple languages and traditions, among other habitable zones.



Indigenous law, Indigenous studies, Gitxsan, Theatre, Performance-based legal methods, Global jurisprudence, Secularization studies, Philosophy of dialogue, Legal agency, Phenomenology of embodiment, Prison studies, Reincarnation, Excarnation, Customary law, Val Napoleon, Charles Taylor, Preeti Dhaliwal