Who are we? Persona, office, suspicion, and critique

Peter Goodrich

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


What follows is intended as a subterranean history, an accounting of the most precarious and perplexing of genealogies of the contemporary, that of who “we” are. The fragility of the question lies in the uncertainty of the identity of the jurist, the specific paradox inherent in the office of legal critic, and the shifting pattern of relationships over time and occasion. As Derrida put it, there is an inherent danger in writing the history of friendships, of the real of relationships, the nexus of networks, because it is also a narrative of maligning and cursing, of competition and animosity, hierarchy and collapse. To talk of “we” is to risk sundering the specific bonds that are under scrutiny in the very act of invoking them. We may rapidly become I, the excluded, the solitary, the caricature. Worse, the tenuous relation of I to we, of persona to group or movement, indicates a further tensor, the strain of the imaginary self in its confrontations with and evasions of the real. The sense of we is necessarily mediated through the existential and libidinal investments of the I as they collide with our administrative role, with our antinomic dependency upon the institution, and the exigencies and vicissitudes of living on, pretty much with or without the critical collectivity that lays a partial claim to persona, office and professorial position. It is tempting to drift into a narrative of the song lines of the outsider lawyers, the patterns and networks of critical jurists whose time, in one mot juste, was then (Kennedy 2004: 204). The status diaspora of critical legal studies in the U.S. News and World Report law school world, however, is but a tangent. My concern is not so much poetic as psychoanalytic, and, to use a far-fetched term, the chorography, the map of accession and resistance, conformity and rebellion over time is the trajectory that is to be traced (Dorsett and McVeigh 2007). The contours of the argument, if all goes well, will be as follows. First, critical or conformist, to be a lawyer, you have to walk. It is an institutional investiture, housed in a place and tradition, a longue or in the case of the United States a not so longue durée that requires depiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSearching for Contemporary Legal Thought
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781316584361
ISBN (Print)9781107150676
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Who are we? Persona, office, suspicion, and critique'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this