Seeing Jurisdiction: Some Jurisprudential Issues Arising from Law Being “. . . All Over”


  • This article was prepared for delivery at the Law and Society Meeting, Montreal, May 30, 2008. Earlier versions were given at McGill University, November 3, 2006 and at the Center for Public Policy and Administration, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, November 6, 2006. Thanks for prior readings to Christine B. Harrington, Sarah Marusek, Kim DuMornay, and John N. Roberts. This article is part of a larger project on blindness and blindfoldedness in Anglo-American law.

John Brigham, Political Science Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Amherst, MA 01003. Telephone: (413) 545-0450; E-mail:


This article asks, “If law is all over, why don't we see it?” It takes seriously the fact that we see law in lawyers and buildings and police, but that there is more law out there. In this sense law is like religion, politics, and economics. It is an activity where various senses come into play. With law, we can learn to see more than we do. Jurisdiction is one of the easier areas of law to see. The article develops some of the distinctive ways we see jurisdiction and some of the ways seeing jurisdiction allows for more widespread participation in lawmaking. The article argues against our tendency to trivialize the law that we see.