History, Memory, and the Law

University of Michigan Press
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The essays in this book examine law as an active participant in the process through which history is written and memory is constructed. Instead of seeing law as a "victim" of history, the writers treat law as an author of history, not just in the instrumental sense in which law can be said to make a difference in society, but in the ways that law constructs and uses history. Law looks to the past as it speaks to present needs. In the production of judicial opinions--supposedly definitive statements of what the law is--judges reconstruct law's past, tracing out lines of legal precedent that arguably "compel" their decisions. These essays consider how law treats history, how history appears in legal decisions, and how the authority of history is used to authorize legal decisions. Furthermore, law plays a role in the construction of memory. The writers here ask how law remembers and records the past as well as how it helps us to remember our past. Law in the modern era is one of the most important of our society's technologies for preserving memory. In helping to construct our memory in certain ways law participates in the writing of our collective history. It plays a crucial role in knitting together our past, present, and future. The essays in this volume present grounded examinations of particular problems, places, and practices and address the ways in which memory works in and through law, the sites of remembrance that law provides, the battles against forgetting that are fought in and around those sites, and the resultant role law plays in constructing history. The writers also inquire about the way history is mobilized in legal decision making, the rhetorical techniques for marshalling and for overcoming precedent, and the different histories that are written in and through the legal process. The contributors are Joan Dayan, Soshana Felman, Dominic La Capra, Reva Siegel, Brook Thomas, and G. Edward White. Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College. He is past President of the Law and Society Association and current President of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College.
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About the author

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy & Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, & Social Thought, Amherst College.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Michigan Press
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Published on
Nov 10, 2009
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Pages
328
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ISBN
9780472023646
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
Law / General
Law / Legal History
Literary Criticism / Subjects & Themes / General
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This content is DRM free.
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Harold Rabinowitz
Austin Sarat
In bringing together accomplished and thoughtful scholars of different disciplines, with a command of literature ranging from the legal to the literary, and in relating the works to the central arguments of the late Professor Robert Cover, Sarat and Kearns have created a first-rate up-to-date exposition of this important and complicated issue, namely, how to understand better the violence implicit and explicit in law.--Legal Studies Forum The relationship between law and violence is made familiar to us in vivid pictures of police beating suspects, the large and growing prison population, and the tenacious attachment to capital punishment in the United States. Yet the link between law and violence and the ways that law manages to impose pain and death while remaining aloof and unstained are an unexplored mystery. Each essay in this volume considers the question of how violence done by and in the name of the law differs from illegal or extralegal violence--or, indeed, if they differ at all. Each author draws on a distinctive disciplinary tradition-- literature, history, anthropology, philosophy, political science, or law. Yet each reminds us that law, constituted in response to the metaphorical violence of the state of nature, is itself a doer of literal violence. Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Chair of the Program in Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College. Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy, Amherst College.
Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.
The work at hand for bridging the racial divide in the United States From Baltimore and Ferguson to Flint and Charleston, the dream of a post-racial era in America has run up against the continuing reality of racial antagonism. Current debates about affirmative action, multiculturalism, and racial hate speech reveal persistent uncertainty and ambivalence about the place and meaning of race – and especially the black/white divide – in American culture. They also suggest that the work of racial reconciliation remains incomplete. Racial Reconciliation and the Healing of a Nation seeks to assess where we are in that work, examining sources of continuing racial antagonism among blacks and whites. It also highlights strategies that promise to promote racial reconciliation in the future. Rather than revisit arguments about the importance of integration, assimilation, and reparations, the contributors explore previously unconsidered perspectives on reconciliation between blacks and whites. Chapters connect identity politics, the rhetoric of race and difference, the work of institutions and actors in those institutions, and structural inequities in the lives of blacks and whites to our thinking about tolerance and respect. Going beyond an assessment of the capacity of law to facilitate racial reconciliation, Racial Reconciliation and the Healing of a Nation challenges readers to examine social, political, cultural, and psychological issues that fuel racial antagonism, as well as the factors that might facilitate racial reconciliation.
Austin Sarat
Over 7,000 people have been legally executed in the United States this century, and over 3,000 men and women now sit on death rows across the country awaiting the same fate. Since the Supreme Court temporarily halted capital punishment in 1972, the death penalty has returned with a vengeance. Today there appears to be a widespread public consensus in favor of capital punishment and considerable political momentum to ensure that those sentenced to death are actually executed. Yet the death penalty remains troubling and controversial for many people. The Killing State: Capital Punishment in Law, Politics, and Culture explores what it means when the state kills and what it means for citizens to live in a killing state, helping us understand why America clings tenaciously to a punishment that has been abandoned by every other industrialized democracy. Edited by a leading figure in socio-legal studies, this book brings together the work of ten scholars, including recognized experts on the death penalty and noted scholars writing about it for the first time. Focused more on theory than on advocacy, these bracing essays open up new questions for scholars and citizens: What is the relationship of the death penalty to the maintenance of political sovereignty? In what ways does the death penalty resemble and enable other forms of law's violence? How is capital punishment portrayed in popular culture? How does capital punishment express the new politics of crime, organize positions in the "culture war," and affect the structure of American values? This book is a timely examination of a vitally important topic: the impact of state killing on our law, our politics, and our cultural life.
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