Submission Title

Seeing Like a Clinic

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The prevailing commitment in clinical law programs like the Intensive Program in Poverty Law at Osgoode Hall Law School is to an engaged-contextualism, which serves to see law in action. It has provided participating students with some insight into the everyday life of ordinary people, approaching—but not necessarily fully perceptive to—certain socio-legal perspectives. But what does clinical legal education vision and envision? How precisely do clinics see? And from what source or place is that visual authority derived? Here, by attending to the prevailing “pedagogy of seeing” in contemporary poverty law clinical practice, I engage with teaching, learning, and praxis in clinical legal knowledge production. I contend that engaged-contextualism troublingly adheres to a pedagogy of seeing that is indebted to the very authority it should strive to dismantle: state power. With a view to the capitalist state as a nationally-inscribed territorial ordering authority, evidenced through settler and imperialist articulations, I undertake a speculative re-envisioning of knowledge production in and about poverty law. The aim is to encourage an alternative pedagogy motivated by an emancipatory praxis. It is a praxis not of saving poverty law but of constant struggle against sovereign state authority rooted in the creative capacities and self-organizing activities—and ultimately the “freedom dreams”—of poor and otherwise oppressed communities; or in a phrase, the reflexive self-authorization of social movement. The perceptible challenge of all legal education, clinical or otherwise, is ultimately not to see like the settler and imperialist, capitalist state but to look through or beyond it—through the persistent and reckless reproduction of poverty and marginalization as a basis of social order.

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