1132 | Suffering

Course Information

  • 2021-22
  • 1132
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), LL.M.
  • III, IV, V
  • Nov 2021
  • Elective Course

As Robert Cover once said, “Legal interpretation takes place in a field of pain and death.” Lawyers and litigants constantly engage in the act of naming their suffering, relief for it under the law, and blaming the party responsible for their suffering. Despite this central import of suffering to the law, suffering remains elusive. In this elective, we will analyse the treatment of suffering with a multidisciplinary approach that will include studying philosophy, music, fiction, scholarly articles in sociology, history, and anthropology, court judgments, law review articles and other media. The aim is to understand how suffering is defined, the elusiveness of suffering, the ways in which suffering is recognised or erased, the spectacle and the banality of suffering, legal responsibility for suffering, redressing suffering through the law, ways of resisting suffering, and how laws can be designed keeping in mind the suffering endured by those subject to them.

The course will be conducted through seminar style discussions on assigned reading materials. The goal is to bring out different perspectives on discussion questions for each week and to foster active learning. Students will have a choice between either writing a long paper (Word Limit: 5000 words) that substantively addresses the content of the course at the end of the semester and presenting their paper to the instructor or writing short weekly response papers (1 or 2 pages) for at least 8 weeks and discussing the reading materials in a panel for two classes.

Each week will cover one module of the course, we start by laying the foundation of what it means to suffer and how suffering and success are framed in cultural works and social scientific work. We will then move on to uncover how suffering is recognised or ignored based on the victims identity. We will then consider how the ways in which suffering is framed affects the possibility of recognition of suffering within the law, how suffering is treated differently based on whether it is a spectacle or whether it stems from quotidian contexts and how practices of consumption are used to legalise “necessary suffering”. We will then consider how suffering may be redressed by the law and lastly, how resistance movements have sought to achieve redressal for suffering and what if any lessons we can take away to deepen the impact of justice centred design.


Amulya Purushothama

Visiting Faculty | Term II