The Youthful Body and Atmospheres of Slow Emergency in Juliana v. United States

Authors: Mark Ortiz*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC
Topics: Legal Geography, Political Geography, Anthropocene
Keywords: Legal geography, atmospheres, youth geographies
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Bennett and Layard (2015: p. 409) suggest that legal geographers are “spatial detectives” engaged in teasing apart the “work law and spatiality are doing at any particular time and place.” Growing interest in aerial and ‘atmospheric things’ across (more-than) human geographies invites ‘spatial detectives’ to extend and expand their investigations into the “atmospheres of law,” querying how law works on, in and through the discursive, material and affective forces of airs and atmospheres (Nieuwenhuis, 2018; Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, 2013). This paper turns to the case of Juliana v. United States – an ongoing lawsuit in which twenty-one youth plaintiffs are suing the U.S. federal government over its role in causing climate change – to explore the co-constitution of the legal and the atmospheric and how bodies are “differentially enveloped” by (legal) atmospheres (McCormack, 2018). Specifically, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and recent discussions of legal ‘spacetimes’ (Valverde, 2015), I analyze how the youthful body is juridically constructed as a prism for giving form to the atmospheric drama of climate change. References: Bennett, L., & Layard, A. (2015). Legal Geography: Becoming Spatial Detectives. Geography Compass, 9(7), 406–422. McCormack, D. (2018). Atmospheric Things: On the Allure of Elemental Envelopment. Durham: Duke University Press. Nieuwenhuis, M. (2018). Atmospheric governance: Gassing as law for the protection and killing of life. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 36(1), 78–95. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263775817729378 Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos, A. (2013). Atmospheres of law: Senses, affects, lawscapes. Emotion, Space and Society, 7(1), 35–44. Valverde, M. (2015). Chronotopes of Law. New York: Routledge.

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