Carol Weisbrod draws on richly diverse historical and cultural material to explore various structures that have been seen as appropriate for adjusting relations between states and internal groups. She considers the experience of the Mormons, the Amish, and Native Americans in the United States, the Mennonites in Germany, and the Jews in Russia to illustrate arrangements and accommodations in different times and places. The Minorities Treaties of the League of Nations, political federalism, religious exemptions, nonstate schools, and rules about adoption are among the mechanisms discussed that sustain cultural difference and create frameworks for group life, and, finally, individual life. At bottom, Emblems of Pluralism concerns not only relations between the state and groups, public and private, but also issues of identity and relations between the self and others.
Moving seamlessly across genres and disciplines, Dayan considers legal practices and spiritual beliefs from medieval England, the North American colonies, and the Caribbean that have survived in our legal discourse, and she explores the civil deaths of felons and slaves through lawful repression. Tracing the legacy of slavery in the United States in the structures of the contemporary American prison system and in the administrative detention of ghostly supermax facilities, she also demonstrates how contemporary jurisprudence regarding cruel and unusual punishment prepared the way for abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.
Using conventional historical and legal sources to answer unconventional questions, The Law Is a White Dog illuminates stark truths about civil society's ability to marginalize, exclude, and dehumanize.