Book cover for 'History, Memory, and the Law'
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History, Memory, and the Law

Austin Sarat and Thomas R. Kearns, Editors
How law uses history and molds memory

Description

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.

Praise / Awards

  • "'The field of pain and death'" within which law operates is visible in a number of the essays in this volume and is one of the key features informing the series of edited volumes produced by Sarat and Kearns and published by the University of Michigan Press over the past decade. This fine series has produced consistently high-quality work featuring some of the most significant essays applying law's rhetorical and social resources to its cultural and political significance. In many ways, History, Memory, and the Law serves as a representative case for the series as a whole, confronting the interaction of law and culture and sensitive to social issues, the power of language, the centrality of narrative, and the powerful interaction between legal 'technique' and its constitutive effects."
    —William Lewis, Drake University, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Volume 5, No. 1 (2002)

Look Inside

Table of Contents:
  • Writing history and registering memory in legal decisions and legal practices : an introduction / Austin Sarat and Thomas R. Kearns
  • Forms of judicial blindness : traumatic narratives and legal repetitions / Shoshana Felman
  • Memory, law, and literature : the cases of Flaubert and Baudelaire / Dominick Lacapra
  • Collective memory and the nineteenth amendment : reasoning about "The women question" in the discourse of sex discrimination / Reva B. Siegel
  • Held in the body of the state : prisons and the law / Joan Dayan
  • Stigmas, badges, and brands : discriminating marks in legal history / Brook Thomas
  • Analogical reasoning and historical change in law : the regulation of film and radio speech / G. Edward White.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 336pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08899-7

Add to Cart
  • $34.95 U.S.

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