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Study information

Law, Testimony and Trauma

Module titleLaw, Testimony and Trauma
Module codeLAW3205
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Natalie Ohana (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This research-led module is aimed at developing your knowledge in the field of law, testimony and trauma. The field uses traumatic events as a lens through which to understand the dynamics between law and structures of inequality and oppression (for example, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, xenophobia). The field will be studied through lectures and the your’ individual research projects. The lectures are dedicated to theory, research methods and case studies whereas the seminars are dedicated to working on the individual projects. A main part of the lecturer’s guidance and supervision for the individual projects are given during the seminars. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

You will take part in developing knowledge in the field by conducting your own research project on the legal response to a traumatic event that you will choose to analyse. During lectures and seminars, you will receive guidance and support in developing both socio-legal research skills and research skills relevant to the specific academic field. Socio-legal research skills include: planning a research project; ensuring that the project addresses the research question consistently; analysing a case study from a social perspective and from a legal perspective; building a bibliography according to decolonising principles; and developing critical thinking. Research tools specific to the academic field include: learning how to listen to accounts on trauma, how to choose relevant sources in the field (academic, non-academic and artistic) and techniques of self-care, grounding and concentration using mindfulness and art. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate the ability to critically examine how legal responses to traumatic events influence society.
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of the elements required for a legal response to a traumatic event to be effective and empowering.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate the ability to critically examine the significance of legal narratives, the ways by which they are created and their influence on society.
  • 4. Demonstrate a critical understanding of how different approaches to lawyering shape legal narratives.
  • 5. Exhibit socio-legal research skills.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Exhibit the ability to design an independent research project.
  • 7. Demonstrate the ability to conduct group presentations, provide feedback and critique to your peers, and mature as a consequence of the critique and feedback you yourself receive.
  • 8. Demonstrate an understanding of research conducted according to decolonising principles.

Syllabus plan

Whilst the precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover all or some of the following topics:

• Critical, multidisciplinary perspectives of the concepts of ‘trauma’ and ‘testimony’.
• Theoretical lenses analysing the relationship between law, testimony and trauma.
• Central case studies in the field, which will include some or all the following: the Grenfell Tower fire, domestic violence, the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the Hillsborough disaster.

Lectures will be dedicated to learning the fundamentals of the law, testimony and trauma field, while seminars will be dedicated to understanding these fundamentals through work on individual research projects.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities99 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study9Lecture preparation
Guided independent study46Case study preparation for seminars
Guided independent study66Formative and summative assessments preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research project outline and bibliography500 words + bibliography1-8Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay or website 1002,500 words + bibliography1-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay or websiteEssay or website (same as above) 1-8August/September re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


Michel Foucault and François Ewald, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976 (St Martins Press, 2003).

 Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence--From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (Hachette UK, 2015).


Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History (Routledge, 2013).

Shoshana Felman, The Juridical Unconscious (Harvard University Press, 2002). JMonica Casper and Eric Wertheimer, Critical Trauma Studies: Understanding Violence, Conflict and Memory in Everyday Life (NYU Press, 2016).

 Didier Fassin “The Humanitarian Politics of Testimony: Subjectification through Trauma in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” Cultural Anthropology 23, no. 3 (2008): 531-558

 Natalie Ohana The Politics of the Production of Knowledge on Trauma: The Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Journal of Law and Society, Vol 48(4) 495-729.

Natalie Ohana “The Archaeology of the Courts’ Domestic Violence Discourse: Discourse as a Knowledge-Sustaining System,” Feminists@Law no. 9(2) 2019

 Natalie Ohana  Beyond Words: Breaking the Boundaries of Legal Language TEDx Talks,TedX GoodenoughCollege 2016,

Key words search

Law and trauma; law and testimony; law and politics; co-production of knowledge; research led; project-based learning; interdisciplinary research; socio-legal studies 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date