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Dr Honni van Rijswijk


Dr Honni van Rijswijk is a graduate of Sydney Law School and received her PhD from the University of Washington, where she was a Fellow in the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for the Humanities. Her research is interdisciplinary, and she writes primarily at the intersections of law, literature and critical theory. She has published on feminist theories of harm, formulations of responsibility in law and literature, the role of history in the common law, and on questions of justice relating to the Stolen Generations.

Honni also has a wider background in the law of obligations, both through her LL.M. work at Trinity College Dublin, and through her work in private practice.

Honni has taught at a number of universities in Australia and the United States and currently teaches Torts, International Commercial Transactions, and Law and Literature.

Image of Honni van Rijswijk
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law
BA, LLB (Hons) (USyd), LLM (TCD), MA (UW), PhD (UW)
+61 2 9514 3727

Research Interests

  • Law and Literature
  • Legal theory
  • Ethics and responsibility
  • Law and culture
  • Torts

Download Honni's research poster - Chaos, Culpability & Suffering in the Great Gatsby

Can supervise: Yes
Available to supervise PhD students and Honours students.

  • Torts
  • International Commercial Transactions
  • Law and Literature


Motha, S. & Rijswijk, H.V. 2016, Law, Memory, Violence Uncovering the Counter-Archive.
It is an indispensable part of the liberal legal response to biopolitical violence. This collection challenges established approaches to transitional justice by opening up new dialogues about the problem of assembling law's archive.


van Rijswijk, H.M. 2017, 'Encountering Aboriginal Legalities through a Literary Jurisprudence of Suffering' in Challenges to Living Together Transculturalism, Migration, Exploitation. for a Semioethics of Human Relations, Mimesis.
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Challenges to human and non-human life in today's world are numerous and appear insurmountable. In reality, these are the challenges of living together, but living together is possible.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2016, 'Interventions into the feeling of popular justice Australia's Stolen Generations, the problem of sentimentality, and re-encountering the testimonial form.' in Cultural Legal Studies Law's Popular Cultures and the Metamorphosis of Law, Routledge, pp. 71-94.
This collection explores such a question through the lens of the cultural legal studies movement, which proffers a new encounter with the cultural turn in law and legal theory.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2016, 'Introduction: developing a counter-archival sense' in Motha, S. & van Rijswijk, H. (eds), Law, memory, violence: uncovering the counter-archive, Routledge, London, pp. 1-15.
The demand for recognition, responsibility, and reparations is regularly invoked in the wake of colonialism, genocide, and mass violence: there can be no victims without recognition, no perpetrators without responsibility, and no justice without reparations. Or so it seems from law's limited repertoire for assembling the archive after 'the disaster'. Archival and memorial practices are central to contexts where transitional justice, addressing historical wrongs, or reparations are at stake. The archive serves as a repository or 'storehouse' of what needs to be gathered and recognised so that it can be left behind in order to inaugurate the future. The archive manifests law's authority and its troubled conscience. It is an indispensable part of the liberal legal response to biopolitical violence. This collection challenges established approaches to transitional justice by opening up new dialogues about the problem of assembling law's archive. The volume presents research drawn from multiple jurisdictions that address the following questions. What resists being archived? What spaces and practices of memory - conscious and unconscious - undo legal and sovereign alibis and confessions? And what narrative forms expose the limits of responsibility, recognition, and reparations? By treating the law as an 'archive', this book traces the failure of universalised categories such as 'perpetrator', 'victim', 'responsibility', and 'innocence,' posited by the liberal legal state. It thereby uncovers law's counter-archive as a challenge to established forms of representing and responding to violence.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2015, 'Law and Violence' in Law and Popular Culture in Australia, LexisNexis Butterworths, Chatswood, NSW, Australia.
van rijswijk, H. & Townsley, L. 2014, 'R v Webster [1990] NSWSC 70012/90: Judgment' in Douglas, H., Bartlett, F., Luker, T. & Hunter, R. (eds), Australian Feminist Judgments: Writing and Rewriting Law, Hart, Oxford & Portland, pp. 316-324.
Anthony, T. & van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, 'Parental 'Consent' to Child Removal in Stolen Generations Cases' in Kirkby, D. (ed), Past Law, Present Histories, ANU E-Press, Canberra, pp. 193-208.
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Our reading of recent Stolen Generations cases argues that courts prior to the Lampard-Trevorrow (2007) treated consent as an individual act, freely and voluntarily given by a liberal subject. Consent was seen as a legitimate factor that duly activated the powers of the legislation to bring about legal removal, according to Justice Maurice O Loughlin in Cubillo. In the previous Stolen Generations case of Williams, formal consent had barred false imprisonment and trespass on the basis that a child cannot be imprisoned if her mother consented to the removal. This chapter goes further than simply suggesting that Aboriginal consent has been misread by the courts which was clearly the situation until the case of Lampard-Trevorrow. It also proposes that consent was, and is still used in an underhanded way by the state to legitimise its actions and protect itself from liability. After all, most statutory creatures governing the Stolen Generations allowed for removal, irrespective of consent. The state, nonetheless, sought to procure consent in order to rationalise the policy, facilitate removals, and shift the responsibility for removal from the state to Aboriginal parents.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2010, 'Mrs Donoghue and The Law's Strange Neighbour: New Narratives of Modernist Trauma' in Sheehan, P. & Groth, H. (eds), Remaking Literary History, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 155-166.
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There is a strange English case, one that is also a quintessentially modernist text, which all students of the common law are taught. In this case, Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562, the House of Lords reformulated the responsibility owed by one person to another in civil society, (despite its legal importance, it is irreverently known as "the-snailin- the-bottle case"). The case has had a hold on the imagination of lawyers ever since it was heard in 1932; but as to why this case matters so much to lawyers, and why it should also matter to modernists, I need to start by telling a story. Like all good stories, this one starts with a journey-Mrs May Donoghue's tram trip from her tenement in the heart of Glasgow to the Welhneadow Cafe in Paisley.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2008, 'Judy Grahn's Violent, Feminist Camp' in Byron, G. & Sneddon, A. (eds), The Body and the Book, Rodopi, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp. 319-330.
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It is often said that feminists, especially radical lesbian feminists, are not funny. Conservatives have levelled lack of humour at feminists as a political weapon, as a sort of baseline attack: the claims of feminists, they have argued, are a bit of a joke, whereas they themselves are not funny. With Judy Grahn, we see this weapon being wielded figuratively in retaliation: not only is her work funny, it is violently funny and both funny and violent. In my reading of two of her poems, 'The Psychoanalysis of Edward the Dyke' and 'I have come to claim', I argue that Grahn's humour plays on elements of camp and violence as a site of political subversion. At the time of writing both poems, during the 1960s, Grahn was very concerned with working-class, feminist, lesbian politics. These concerns arise thematically in her work of the 1960s, where she deals with sexual violence, homosexuality, racism and class politics. My focus here is not so much on thematics but on the aesthetics of Grahn's poetry. How do camp humour and violent imagery articulate her concerns?


van Rijswijk, H.M. & Anthony, T. 2012, 'An Element of Bluff or Deception: Parental Consent and State Control in the Stolen Generations Cases', Program of 2012 International Conference on Law and Society: Sociolegal Conversations Across a Sea of Islands, 2012 International Conference on Law and Society: Sociolegal Conversations Across a Sea of Islands, Law and Society Association and Research Committee on Sociology of Law, Honolulu, Hawai'i, pp. 87-87.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, 'The Aesthetics of the Continuing Past: Responsibility for Historical Suffering in National Law and Literature', Law, Culture and the Humanities, 15th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, Law, Culture and the Humanities Association, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, USA.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, 'The Aesthetics of the Continuing Past, and the Ceremony of Adjudicating Historical Suffering', Ceremonies of Law, Ceremonies of Law Conference, Law, Literature and Humanities Assocation of Australia, Wollongong, Australia.
van Rijswijk, H.M. & Crofts, P. 2012, '"Negotiating the Relationship between Law and Violence: the vampire as a figure of ambivalent justice"', Socio-Legal Studies Association (UK), Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2011, Socio-Legal Studies Association (UK), Brighton, UK.
Publication of abstract for conference
Anthony, T. & van Rijswijk, H.M. 2010, 'Historical and Ahistorical Narratives: drawing boundaries of 'consent' in Stolen Generations Cases', Owning the Past: Whose past? Whose present?, 29th Annual Australian and New Zealand Law and History Conference, Melbourne University.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2010, 'Multiple Narratives of History, Suffering and Responsibility in the Trevorrow Cases', Critical Legal Conference, Critical Legal Conference Utrecht 2010, Critical Legal Assocation, Utrecht, the Netherlands.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2009, 'A Civil Ethics of Injury? Discourses of Justice in Negligence Law', Law and Society Conference of Australia and New Zealand, Griffith Law School.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2009, 'A Civil Ethics of Injury?: Transgressive Moral Language in Negligence Law Reform', Law and Literature Association of Australia and Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand Joint Conference, Griffith Law School.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2009, 'Transformative Spatiality and the Adjudication of the Private/Public Divide in Literary Claims for Justice', joint Law and Literature Association of Australia (LLAA) and Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand Inc. (LSAANZ) Conference, Griffith Law School, Brisbane, Australia.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2009, 'Literary and Legal Judgment in Carpentaria and Mabo', Literature and Politics Conference, University of Sydney.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2009, 'The Poetics and Politics of the Past: Time and Responsibility in Tort, Trauma Theory and Literary Fiction', Law, Culture and Humanities Association Conference, Boston, USA.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2009, 'Transformative Spatiality and the Adjudication of the Private/Public Divide in Literary Claims for Justice', Law and Literature Association of Australia and Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand Joint Conference, Griffith Law School.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2008, 'The Poetics and Politics of Past Injuries', W(h)ither Human Rights : 25th Law and Society Conference 2008, University of Sydney, Sydney.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2008, 'Mrs Donoghue and the Law's Strange Neighbour: An Alternate Genealogy of Modernist Trauma', Intersections Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, University of Queensland.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2008, 'Strange Neighbours: Proximity, Suffering and Responsibility in Modern Law and Literature', Literature and History Conference, Australian Association for Literature, Macquarie University.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2008, 'The Poetics and Politics of Personal Injury: Claiming in the Tort of Slavery and in Toni Morrison's Beloved.', ANZASA Conference, University of Sydney.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2008, 'Representing Pain, Imagining the Subject', PNASA Conference, Washington.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2008, 'The Poetics and Politics of Politics of Past Injuries: Claiming in Reparations Law and in Toni Morrison's novel Beloved', 25th Annual Conference of the Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand, Annual Conference of the Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand, University of Sydney, University of Sydney, pp. 1-12.
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Why is there such a discrepancy between legal time and historical time? Or rather, whose historical time is tacitly represented and silently justified in legal representations? Whose interests are served by the laws particular fictions and whose injuries are privileged? In exploring these questions I will focus on the 2006 case of In re African- American Slave Descendants, a claim made for reparations for slavery in the U.S. Since the 1980s a number of litigants have filed claims for injuries arising out of slavery and none has succeeded, but these very failures are worth examining for what they reveal about the contemporary inability to reconcile the demands of the past on the present.

Journal articles

van Rijswijk, H. 2017, 'The Continuing Problem of the Universal to Questions of Justice: A Feminist Reading of Lars von Trier's Dogville', Liverpool Law Review, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 33-46.
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Gannon, S., Kligyte, G., McLean, J., Perrier, M., Swan, E., Vanni, I. & van Rijswijk, H. 2016, 'Uneven Relationalities, Collective Biography, and Sisterly Affect in Neoliberal Universities', Feminist Formations, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 189-216.
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This article deploys a collective biographical methodology as a political and epistemological intervention in order to explore the emotional and affective politics of academic work for women in neoliberal universities. The managerial practices of contemporary universities tend to elevate disembodied reason over emotion; to repress, commodify, or co-opt emotional and affective labor; to increase individualization and competition among academic workers; and to disregard the relational work that the article suggests is essential for well-being at work. The apparent marginalization of feminist and feminine ways of being, thinking, and feeling in academia is examined through close readings of three narrative vignettes, which are based on memories of the everyday academic spaces of meetings, workshops, and mentoring. These stories explore moments of the breaking of ties among women and between men and women, as well as document how feminist relationalities can bind and exclude. The article suggests that academic ties are both part of the problem and the solution to countering neoliberal policies, and that academic relationships, especially with other women, are often experienced as unrealized spaces of hope. Building on feminist scholarship about race and diversity, the article reflects on how relational practices like collective biography create both inclusions and exclusions. Nevertheless, it suggests that the methodology of collective biography might engender more sustainable and ethical ways of being in academic workplaces because it provides the resources to begin to create a new collective imaginary of academia.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2016, 'introducing complicity into the australian imaginary: the Bethcar Case Study in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse', Australian Humanities Review, vol. 59, pp. 223-246.
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van Rijswijk, H.M. 2015, 'Encountering Law's Harm Through Literary Critique: An anti-elegy of Land and Sovereignty', Law and Literature, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 237-252.
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Manderson, D. & van Rijswijk, H. 2015, 'Introduction to Littoral Readings: Representations of Land and Sea in Law, Literature, and Geography', Law & Literature, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 167-177.
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van Rijswijk, H.M. 2015, 'Towards a Literary Jurisprudence of Harm: Rewriting the Aboriginal Child in Law's Imaginary of Violence', Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 311-335.
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van Rijswijk, H.M. 2014, 'Archiving the Northern Territory Intervention in Law and in the Literary Counter-Imaginary', The Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 117-134.
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van Rijswijk, H.M. 2013, 'Stolen Generations: Online Testimonies as Sources of Social Justice: Towards an Ethics of Encounter', Australia and New Zealand Law and History E-Journal, vol. 2013, no. 10, pp. 1-13.
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In this paper, I am using the provocation of `the source to examine the significance of a recent iteration of Stolen Generations testimonies to questions of contemporary social justice. This testimonial form has had a complicated and fraught history across Australian legal and cultural domains: in the handful of cases that have dealt with injuries arising out of the Stolen Generations, courts have placed oral testimony in contest with state documentary records1 ; oral testimony has also featured in different iterations of extra-legal Stolen Generations projects, which have been produced by state, corporate and Indigenous parties, sometimes leading to the problem of testimonies being co-opted into state and private projects, which do not necessarily benefit Indigenous people
Crofts, P. & van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, '"What Kept You So Long?": Bullying's Gray Zone and The Vampire's Transgressive Justice in Let the Right One In', Law, Culture and the Humanities, vol. -, pp. 1-22.
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School bullying has been recognized only relatively recently by policy-makers, media and the courts as a serious and widespread social problem. But despite this recent notice, there has been no evidence that techniques adopted to stop bullying have led to anything more than modest success, implying that we need to do more work to unpack and theorize the nature of bullying. In this article, we consider a recent vampire narrative as a story about bullying. We offer an interpretation of this story via the theories of Claudia Card and Jacques Derrida, arguing that together this archive provides a more nuanced understanding of the kinds of damage inflicted by bullying than has been provided by realist or sociological accounts. In particular, it illuminates damage to the morality of the victim, to their soul, which is a kind of damage that has previously not been given great attention. It also highlights the ways in which practices of judgment can become very tangled when trying to resolve bullying situations, making these experiences resistant to the achievement of justice.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, 'Neighbourly Injuries: Proximity in Tort Law and Virginia Woolf's Theory of Suffering', Feminist Legal Studies, vol. 20, pp. 39-60.
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2012 marks the 80th anniversary of Donoghue v Stevenson, a case that is frequently cited as the starting-point for a genealogy of negligence. This genealogy starts with the figure of the neighbour, from which, as Jane Stapleton eloquently describes, a "golden thread" of vulnerability runs into the present (Stapleton 2004, 135). This essay examines the harms made visible and invisible through the neighbour figure, and compares the law's framework to Virginia Woolf's subtle re-imagining and theorisation of responsibility in her novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925). I argue that Woolf critiques and supplements the law's representations of suffering. Woolf was interested in interpreting harms using a framework of neighbourly responsibility, but was also critical of the kinds of proximities recognised by society. Woolf made new harms visible within a framework of proximity: in this way, we might think of Woolf's work as theorizing a feminist aesthetic of justice, and as providing an alternate genealogy of responsibility to Donoghue v Stevenson.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, 'Towards a Feminist Aesthetic of Justice: Sarah Kane's Blasted As Theorisation of the Representation of Sexual Violence in International Law', Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 36, pp. 107-124.
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Aesthetic considerations are bound up with thematic questions of justice, and an interdisciplinary engagement between law and culture offers methodologies through which to interrogate and reframe legal understandings of harm. While there is no particular form that can, a priori, be designated feminist, we can talk meaningfully about practices of representation, and methodologies, as being feminist or otherwise. This essay seeks to re-animate questions concerning the relationship between feminisms and representation, asking what it might mean to talk about a legal, feminist aesthetic: what are the terms of evaluation that seem relevant in judging representation as feminist or otherwise? What are the stakes of such an enquiry? These methodological questions will be considered with respect to a specific archive - first, a legal archive comprising recent feminist engagements with international criminal and human rights law dealing with sexual violence in conflict zones; and second, a cultural text, Sarah Kane's play Blasted (1995). This essay engages with and extends feminist commentary regarding the legal interventions, explicating the benefits of a law and culture approach to ongoing questions in feminist theories and practice. It provides an example of the ways in which a cultural text can illuminate problematic practices of representation that have developed in the law and critical commentary, and which seem natural or even unmoveable. The practice of re-seeing made available through engagement with this cultural text is, it is argued, a practice of justice.
van Rijswijk, H.M. & Crawley, K. 2012, 'Justice in the Gutter: Representing Everyday Trauma in the Graphic Novels of Art Spiegelman', Law.Text.Culture, vol. 16, no. Summer, pp. 93-118.
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Trauma studies has had a long relationship with legal studies. Shoshana Felman argues that 'trauma - individual as well as social - is the basic underlying reality of the law' (2002: 172). The law has made available certain forms for the representation and adjudication of traumatic experience. Among others, testimony and the trial are legal forms that offer the potential for justice for traumatic events, at the same time that they delimit the ways in which trauma can be understood (Felman 2002; Sarat et al 2007). The means by which trauma is represented determines which experiences are privileged and recognized - which also means that some harms will become invisible under certain frameworks. Scholars working at the intersection of law and trauma have often turned to literature to supplement the law's version of justice.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, 'Stories of the Nation's Continuing Past: Responsibility for Historical Injuries in Australian Law and Alexis Wright's Carpentaria', The University of New South Wales Law Journal, vol. 35, no. 2, pp. 598-624.
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Anthony, T. & van Rijswijk, H.M. 2012, 'Can the Common Law Adjudicate Historical Suffering?', Melbourne University Law Review, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 618-655.
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The case of South Australia v Lampard-Trevorrow opens up key questions about the capacity and willingness of the common law to adjudicate past acts of the state. This article considers the significance of the appeal decision by examining what distinguishes the case from past, unsuccessful claims and considers its implications for future claimants from the Stolen Generations. In addition, we consider what the case means in terms of the law's acceptance of a practice of historical and evidential interpretation that is different from previous cases, and how this is particularly important regarding the issue of parental consent. We argue that the role and interpretation of consent have broad ramifications for law's potential to adjudicate responsibility for historical harms. We also argue that the findings in relation to false imprisonment and fiduciary duty limit the potential of the Trevorrow cases. In particular, we examine, and lament, the Full Court's more limited reading of false imprisonment in contrast to the trial judgment.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2011, 'Memory, Imagination, Justice: Intersections of Law and Literature', Current Issues in Criminal Justice, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 511-513.
van Rijswijk, H.M. 2010, 'Mabel Hannah's Justice: a contextual re-reading of Donoghue v Stevenson', Public Space: The Journal of Law and Social Justice, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1-26.
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In Donoghue v Stevenson,1 the House of Lords established negligence as an independent tort and reformulated the responsibility owed by one person to another in civil society. The accident of Mabel Hannah finding a snail in her ginger beer became the occasion for the law to disrupt the (then) normal practices of manufacture specifically, and socioeconomic conditions more generally, by introducing attentiveness to vulnerability as a civil ethic. This essay looks back at the case and reads it in its cultural and material contextswith the intention of illuminating Lord Atkins neighbour principle within its specific historical framework, and to look again at the justice Mabel Hannah received through the decision. This reading will examine the gap between law and social justice, and re-contextualise the potential of tort law to operate as a kind of civil ethics or system of moral value. In this reading I consider the inflections of the neighbour figure, reading the cases Biblical `Golden Rule alongside the anti-ethics of Nietzsche and Freud. I also consider the ongoing paradox of the neighbour as a figure for the recognition of suffering.