Professor Desmond Manderson FAAL, FASSA, FRSC

BA (Hons) LlB (Hons) (ANU), DCL (McGill), FRSC
+61 2 6125 5792
Room 6.3.9

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Research Theme


  • ARC Future Fellow
  • Professor, ANU College of Law and ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada
  • Founding Director (2008-2011), Institute for the Public Life of Arts & Ideas, McGill Univ. Montreal
  • Editorial Boards: Law Text Culture; Macquarie Law Journal; Law & Literature; Law, Culture and Humanities; Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 

Recent news

Professor Desmond Manderson FAAL, FASSA, FRSC
After a decades-long hiatus from acting and writing in plays, ANU Law Professor Desmond Manderson returns to his passion with a powerful part-thriller, part-black comedy.
Professor Desmond Manderson and Associate Professor Anna Olsen
A proposal to decriminalise small amounts of illicit drugs in the ACT has been welcomed by ANU experts in law, history, criminology, sociology and medicine.
Five ANU Law scholars have been shortlisted in the ALRAs for their excellence and innovation in the discipline of Law.
ANU Moot Court art
ANU Law students have tried their hand at videography for a group assignment exploring the intersection between law, art and Indigenous Australians.

In the Media

Desmond Manderson writes in The Canberra Times
Desmond Manderson interviewed by ABC Radio National - Big Ideas
Desmond Manderson writes in The Canberra Times

Currently supervising

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: Novel citizens: represenations of citizenship in law and literature
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: Performing sovereignty: How to make a refugee disappear with legal magic My PhD dissertation looks at how sovereignty iterates, presents and reifies itself in the Australian refugee context. In Australia, refugees can be detained without reasons for the decision...

Current courses

Year Course code Course name
2021 LAWS4286
Class #4276
Literature, Law and Human Rights
2021 LAWS4005
Class #4755
Beyond Chaos

How my works connects with public policy

There is a crisis in law today.  At best we think of it as a technical power imposed on society that tells us what to do.  At worst we think of it as fundamentally unjust and corrupt.  We can address this crisis by improving our processes of law-making and law-enforcing.  But we can also address this crisis by radically shifting how we think about law – what it is and how it relates to us and to the rest of our lives.  What if law was not just ‘out there’ like a machine; but ‘in here’ like a person or a memory? What if law was not just made by lawyers and politicians – but a product of all of us through how we thought, saw, and spoke about it?

One of the most innovative areas of legal scholarship in recent years has been law and the humanities.  Its goal is to re-connect law to its roots in the humanities: in history, the arts, literature, philosophy. By studying how law is represented culturally in our society, we can gain crucial insights into its origins, its functions, and its problems.  We can give to law a relevance that it often seems to lack – by taking seriously ideas of law and justice in the work of Plato or Shakespeare and equally on the screen, on the box and on the web.  And we can give back to law a sense of its ethical and human dimensions – breaking down that sense of law as a coercive (even amoral) system outside of us and unrelated to us and encouraging instead a more engaged social dialogue about what we mean by responsibility and tolerance in the modern world.

  • Does law have a history and why does that matter?
  • Does justice have a philosophy and if so what is it?
  • Does literature tell us about law and with what effect?
  • Does TV?
  • Does art?
  • Does music?
  • Is justice a fact or an idea or a feeling? Is law? Is authority?
  • Is law more than the sum of its parts—or less?

Updated:  24 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team