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Drawing an Unwritten Common Law: The Normative Pictograms of Christiania

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If we exclude a few very specific fields, such as the traffic sign system, pictorial normative representation does not seem to play an important role in legal communication. In this paper, I will illustrate an example of pictorial normative representation expressing a set of norms that are fundamental to a community's very existence: this is the case of Christiania Freetown's Common Law. Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood located in the centre of Copenhagen. The norms of Christiania's Common Law are pictorially represented and displayed on a number of posters throughout Christiania's territory. These normative images prima facie appear to share certain features with traffic signs, despite the fact that, as the examples will make it clear, they are different in kind. Indeed, while the physical support of a traffic sign and its location are a necessary condition for the norm to be binding, Christiania's Common Law seems to be in force independently of its iconic representation and its concrete material support. On the other hand, even if the meanings of the different pictograms are not connected with the physical place in which they are located, their deeper meaning can only be fully understood on the basis of Christiania's cultural and institutional background.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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  • Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, edited by authorisation of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR), is an international, peer-reviewed journal, first published in 1907. It features original articles on philosophical research on legal and social questions, covering all aspects of social and legal life.
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