Desmond Robert A Manderson

Photo of Desmond Robert A Manderson

Canada Research Chair in Law and Discourse

Chancellor Day Hall, Rm 505 [Map]
3644 rue Peel Montreal Quebec Canada
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 1W9
514.398.2372 [Office]
514-398-3233 [Fax]


External website 



Professor Desmond Manderson teaches, supervises, and publishes on a wide range of subjects involving interdisciplinary work in law and the humanities, including aesthetics, torts, drug policy and history, ethics, and legal education. Prior to coming to McGill, he was foundation Director of the Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence at the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney. He continues to act as the managing editor of Law/Text/Culture, an international interdisciplinary journal that is committed to developing connections between aesthetics, law, and philosophy.

The award of the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Law and Discourse to Professor Manderson sustains a program of research and graduate supervision focusing on the development, understanding, and interpretation of law in relation to cultural forces including literature, art, music, and ethics. For a detailed description of current programs and activities, see

Professor Manderson's major works include “From Mr Sin to Mr Big: A History of Australian Drug Laws” (OUP, 1993); “Courting Death: The Law of Mortality” (Pluto Press, 1999); “Songs Without Music: Aesthetic Dimensions of Law and Justice” (University of California Press, 2000); “Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law” (McGilll-Queen's University Press, 2006); and “Essays on Levinas and Law: A Mosaic” (Macmillan, 2009).

Current activities include research into the relationship of ethics to law in Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida; and The Shakespeare Moot Project, a radical interdisciplinary project on law and interpretation developed in conjunction with the Department of English (

In addition to his research work, Professor Manderson is Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Law, and Director of the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas. IPLAI is an innovative new institutional collaboration between the faculties and schools of law, arts, education, music, management, religious studies and architecture, with a view to sustaining and developing teaching and research which are boldly interdisciplinary and in which the historically pivotal role of the humanities and the arts in intellectual and public life is honoured and advanced.

IPLAI’s focus is on the dynamic life of art and ideas— their relationship to public and private life; their formative passage through the domains of education, business, religion and law; and their ability to remake the world into which they are born.

The Institute brings artists and performers together with scholars to develop our understanding of the public life of art. The Institute’s curiosity ranges across cultures, languages, and periods: how are art and ideas formed by public life and how in turn do they help to shape public life in modern China, 19th century Canada, or Renaissance Italy? How are ideas and art able to travel from one language or culture to another and from the past to the future?

IPLAI embodies the principle that universities are unique because professors never cease being students and because what they teach and learn from their students is knowledge in the making rather than knowledge ready made. The Institute builds upon strong disciplinary foundations but does not replicate them. The aspiration is to provide opportunities for professors and students to embark on interdisciplinary experiment and to engage artists and publics beyond the university in the process of making the familiar strange. For more about IPLAI, see


D.C.L. (McGill) 1996

LL.B. (Hons) (ANU) 1986

B.A. (Hons.) (ANU) 1985

Areas of Interest

Contemporary legal theory, law and literature, legal history, law and music, interpretation, legal ethics, legal education, tort law, international drug history and policy.