Cynthia Khoo, “‘To Be’ Is A Verb: Rewriting Law Through Embodied Reform

Just like the human body is composed of approximately seventy percent water, the corpus juris that regulates our lives is arguably composed of seventy percent social norms, cultural values, and narratives, grand and banal. We encounter these elements through lived experience, which is also embodied experience. In the same way that personal trainers say, “you are what you eat”, one might suggest that you are what you legislate or obey. The law has a profound impact on our bodies: how we view our own bodies and other people’s bodies; how we relate to our own bodies; and how we move in and use—or do not use—our bodies. By extension, the various forms of oppression inherent in the law become inscribed upon, absorbed into, and perpetuated by our bodies, through the same social norms, cultural values, and narratives that constitute and mediate law in our lives. This process evokes the image of a massive, sprawling, intricate feedback loop, deeply embedded into the fabric of law and society. However, this feedback loop is inherently unstable, and requires continual input. This instability, as performer and LLM graduate Julie Lassonde points out, creates a “few centimetres of leeway” for change. This paper is about those few centimetres.

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