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Centre for Law and the Humanities

The Centre for Law and the Humanities builds on the Law School’s research strengths in the area of law and the humanities including law and aesthetics; law and literature; law and psychoanalysis; critical legal theory; legal history; law and film; and law, space and architecture.

The Centre facilitates and promotes research in law and the humanities within the School and College through the organisation of seminars, workshops, conferences and visits by distinguished scholars.

Current Artist in residence: Zuleikha Chaudhari. Previous Artists in Residence are listed here.

About Zuleikha Chaudhari

  • Zuleikha Chaudhari is a theatre director and lighting designer based in Delhi and Mumbai. Her works shift between theatre and installation as investigations into landscapes that are neither real nor imagined and at the centre engages with the role of the viewer in the performative experience. Chaudhari is interested the framework of law as performance, the role of performance in law, and the performativity of legal truth-production. Chaudhari’s works have been shown in performance festivals, galleries and exhibitions in United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Vienna, South Africa, South Korea, China, Japan, The Netherlands, Pakistan and India. She was awarded the Sangeeta Natak Academy’s Yuva Puruskar in 2007 and the Charles Wallace India Trust Award in 2001.

About Zuleikha Chaudhari's current work

  • The project Chaudhari brings to Birkbeck from 8-20 June 2017 is Rehearsing the Witness: The Bhawal Court Case, instigated by an album of about 90 photographs that were used as evidence in the Bhawal court case, currently part of the Alkazi Collection of Photography.
  • The Bhawal case was an extended pre-independence Indian court case about a possible impostor claiming to be the second Kumar of Bhawal, Ramendra Narayan Roy, who was presumed dead a decade earlier. The claim was contested both by the British Court of Wards and by his widow, Bibhabati Devi. The case was on trial from 1930 to 1946. Over the course of sixteen years, the man’s physical attributes, birthmarks, portraits, testimonies and memory were put together as forensic evidence to establish his identity. Hundreds of witnesses, including doctors, photographers, prostitutes, peasants, revenue collectors, tenants, holy men, magistrates, handwriting experts, relatives, soldiers and passersby were deposed. The case went from a lower court in Dhaka to the High Court of Calcutta to the Privy Council in London.
  • The project uses this trial about a possible impostor to re-examine the enormous archive that the case produced through performance as a method of problematising the notions of evidence, archive, identity, and most importantly, the question of law as performance; the role of performance in law and the performativity of legal truth-production.


The programme of events with Zuleikha Chaudhari is listed in Future Events.


  • 8 June 2017 Rehearsing the Witness:Zuleikha Chaudhari in conversation with Nida Ghouse and Başak Ertür. This session will serve as an introduction to the Bhawal Court Case and Chaudhari’s current project on the case. The domains of law and performance frame larger questions of how we interpret events, the role of memory, assumptions of stable, consistent and believable identities and the construction of credible narratives. What is the relationship between re-enactment, reconstruction and retrial?    6-8pm, 43 Gordon Square, Room B13.
  • 15 June 2017 Roundtable with “Expert Witnesses”. Panel members Piyel Haldar, Kanika Sharma, Mayur Suresh and others tba will engage with select materials from the archives of the Bhawal court case to explore the rich array of questions it raises concerning history, memory, evidence, truth, identity, law as archive, and performativity.6-8pm, Malet Street main building, Room 541.
  • 20 June 2017 Workshop on Performance as Methodology. Zuleikha Chaudhari and Kathryn Leader host a workshop to explore the potentials of theatrical performance as methodology for research in and engagement with archives. 6-8pm, 43 Gordon Square, Room B13


  • 11 June 2015 Illicit Images Workshop with Professor Katherine Biber (UTS Sydney and Visiting Fellow at Birkbeck). In collaboration with the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
  • 28 April 2015 The Philosophy of Friendship seminar with Professor Gregg Lambert (Syracuse University)
  • 20 March 2015 Workshop on Law and the Humanities: A Cross-Disciplinary Exchange (jointly organised with the Centre for Humanistic Legal Studies, University of Bergen)
  • 2 July 2014 Deconstruction is/in Law. This event brought together Derridian legal scholars and theorists for renewed reflection on the enduring legacy of deconstruction for the study of law. Co-hosted with The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
  • 22 October 2103 Thinking the Posthuman
  • 22 November 2013 The Murder of Stephen Lawrence Film screening and discussion with Yvette Vanson
  • 28 November 2013 Stitching up the NHS screening and discussion with Yvette Vanson
  • 6 December 2013 Roundtable on Hans Lindal's Faultlines of Globalisation


  • The activities of the Centre for Law and the Humanities are overseen by its directors  Dr Başak Ertür, Professor Patrick Hanafin and Dr Stewart Motha and a small steering committee. The Advisory Board includes members of faculty from other disciplines at Birkbeck as well as internationally renowned scholars in the field of law and the humanities.

Steering Committee

  • Bill Bowring
  • Peter Fitzpatrick
  • Adam Gearey
  • Oscar Guardiola-Rivera
  • Piyel Haldar
  • Elena Loizidou
  • Nathan Moore

International Advisory Board

  • Joseph Brooker (English, Birkbeck)
  • Marianne Constable (Rhetoric, UC Berkeley)
  • Jodi Dean (Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges)
  • William MacNeil (Griffith Law School, Griffith University)
  • Linda Meyer (Quinnipiac Law School)
  • Paul Passavant (Political Science, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Ravit Reichman (English, Brown University)
  • Peter Rush (Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne)
  • Susan Sage Heinzelman (English, University of Texas at Austin)
  • Austin Sarat (Political Science and Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, Amherst College)
  • Alison Young (Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne)
  • Ari Hirvonen (Law, University of Helsinki)

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