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'Nomos and Narrative': How Law Comes to Know the Science of Brain Injury and Sport

Wed, August 30, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Sheraton Boston, 3, Beacon G


The paper is part of an ongoing socio-legal study of how knowledge about brain injury becomes deployed and understood in different domains of social activity where concussions are a growing concern. Sport offers one such site for inquiry, especially in light of recent litigation involving professional sport leagues in North America. Lawsuits related to professional football and hockey have encouraged greater public scrutiny of potential risks and dangers of brain injury. Although neuroscientific evidence serves as a way to explain the effects of injury and justify demands for compensation, many researchers and sports medicine practitioners characterize scientific findings as emergent. This paper examines how interpretations of neuroscientific knowledge become constitutive elements within the creation of legal narratives and myths, both of which, as Robert Cover argues in his seminal piece, “Nomos and Narrative,” are essential to the normative world of law. Here, I draw on on legal case analysis, archival research, and qualitative interviews with legal and scientific experts to attend to the strategies that different actors evoke to describe and make sense of the nature, scope, and effects of brain injury. I also consider how actors involved in litigation render sport as a field, itself arguably a distinct normative universe. In doing so, this analysis takes a break from common STS approaches that focus on the material conditions of science and technology to instead ask: how do legal narratives, particularly those related to sport, contribute to the materialization of brain injury as a condition in the world?


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