law and time, history, Bergson, memory,
This chapter explores the role of law in determining the contours of contested pasts. It takes as a case study the jurisprudence developed by the Irish Superior Courts regarding applications to halt the trial of offences of historical child sexual abuse. The chapter argues that the concepts of ‘delay’ and ‘dominion’ that characterise this jurisprudence represent law’s attempt to create a linear notion of time. Linear time narrowed the limits of what could be deemed a ‘legitimate’ experience, and thus narrowed the limits of history. The chapter goes on to argue that the temporal ordering imposed in the delay cases may alternatively be understood in terms of the Bergsonian notion of duration (durée). Thinking law’s time through duration opens up the possibility of understanding connections, adaptations and change as being part of law’s ontology. In particular, seeing the tropes of ‘delay’ and ‘dominion’ as in keeping with law’s time as duration exposes the roots of these concepts in the past of law; in myths about sexual violence victims. Therefore, understanding law’s time as duration allows an understanding of the complex nonlinear relationship law has with its own past, as well as the unpredictability of future legal responses to historical violence.