Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor, and Senior Advisor to the Dean of the Faculty at Amherst College. Professor Sarat founded both Amherst College's Department of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought and The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, a national scholarly association. He is former President of that association and has also served as President of the Law and Society Association of the Consortium of Undergraduate Law and Justice Programs. He is author or editor of more than sixty books, including The Killing State: Capital Punishment in Law, Politics, and Culture; When the State Kills: Capital Punishment and the American Condition; The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment: Comparative Perspectives; Law, Violence, and the Possibility of Justice; Pain, Death, and the Law; Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution; When Law Fails: Making Sense of Miscarriages of Justice; and Capital Punishment, two volumes. His most recent book is The Road to Abolition? He is currently writing a book entitled Hollywood's Law: What Movies Do for Democracy. He is editor of the journal Law, Culture and the Humanities and of Studies in Law, Politics, and Society. Professor Sarat has received numerous prizes and awards, including the Harry Kalven Award, given by the Law Society Association for 'distinguished research on law and society'; the Reginald Heber Smith Award, given biennially to honor the best scholarship on 'the subject of equal access to justice'; and the James Boyd White Award from the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, given for distinguished scholarly achievement and 'outstanding and innovative' contributions to the humanistic study of law.
Jennifer L. Culbert is an Associate Professor in the Political Science department at Johns Hopkins University where she teaches courses in political theory and jurisprudence. She is the author of Dead Certainty: The Death Penalty and the Problem of Judgment (Stanford University Press, 2008).
Now in paperback, the book includes a new preface outlining the latest twists and turns in the death penalty debate, including the recent galvanization of citizens and leaders alike as recent botched executions have unfolded in the press. Sarat argues that unlike in the past, today's botched executions seem less like inexplicable mishaps and more like the latest symptoms of a death penalty machinery in disarray. Gruesome Spectacles traces the historical evolution of methods of execution, from hanging or firing squad to electrocution to gas and lethal injection. Even though each of these technologies was developed to "perfect" state killing by decreasing the chance of a cruel death, an estimated three percent of all American executions went awry in one way or another. Sarat recounts the gripping and truly gruesome stories of some of these deaths—stories obscured by history and to some extent, the popular press.
At a time when societies are directing an unprecedented level of resources and ingenuity to anticipating and mitigating catastrophic events, Catastrophe: Law, Politics, and the Humanitarian Impulse examines the tests that catastrophe poses to politics and humanitarianism as well as to the law. It explores legal, political, and humanitarian responses during times when the sudden, discontinuous, and disastrous event has become, perhaps paradoxically, a structural component of our political imagination. It asks whether law, politics, and humanitarianism live up to the tests posed by disaster, and the role all of them play in creating a more resilient world.
Taken together the essays in this book ask us to see through and beyond the myths that surround catastrophe and our responses to it. They ask us to rethink our understanding of catastrophe and to imagine new legal, political, and humanitarian responses.
In addition to the editors, contributors include Thomas Birkland, Michele Landis Dauber, Kim Fortun, Edward Rackley, Peter Redfield, Peter H. Schuck, and Susan Sterett.