Alison Young


If we trace the space between an idea and its referent, between the move to judge and the act of judgment, a shadow falls within it. Between the opening mouth, the scratching pen, or the blank stare of the judge and the materialization of decision, a shadow is indelibly if illegibly inscribed. This shadow names and marks the always fading subject.

This Essay is broken in two parts. In the first part, my concern is with the written texts of law; in the second, it is with the visual texts of culture. The theme of both parts is nevertheless the interpretation of HIV and its relation to the process of judgment, its force as a limit or liminal case in revealing the imaginary order of judgment.

In substance, the Essay will concentrate upon the reading of cases concerning the judgment of the gay man and, more specifically, the HIV positive gay man before the law. Although my argument focuses on the appearance of the gay man in judgment, its implications might well extend to the suffering that many groups experience as they oscillate between negation and derogation in the legal imagination. The intent of this Essay is not to advocate any kind of withdrawal from the legal sphere, any opting-out of legal discourse. Rather, my intent is to find hopefulness in paradox: it is only in the disappearance of images that the compassionate envisioning of the other can take place. And then, in response to the pain and passion of the lover/the other, what might ideally be asked of the judge is compassionate judgment: judgment with passion, a connection to law's lost emotional body. And it is in the immaterial judgments of art and cinema that reflections of an ethics of judgment in law might be glimpsed.