The Place of Law

Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merrill Umphrey, Editors
An important book that urges us to ask about the usefulness of metaphors of place in the design of legal regulation


The association of law and place is as old as law itself. Indeed, it is difficult to think of the law without also conjuring notions of locality, whether a powerful nation-state or a small municipality. We understand easily enough the laws of a given place. But, as the essays in this volume show, the meaning of "the place of law" is another question altogether.

The essays in The Place of Law speak to the role of place in our understanding of law. The contributors treat place as more than geographical fact—calling attention to the ways in which localized cultures are expressed in legal norms, inquiring about new spaces within which legal authority is being deployed, and examining the interactions between law and the process of globalization. This volume sheds new light on the ways in which law defines territory and its boundaries, both literally and conceptually. The contributors highlight law's spatial aspects and the legal regulation of space, revealing that law lives most vividly not within its majestic embodiments, but in the realm of the ordinary.

The Place of Law shows how law creates particular kinds of places, differentiating, for example, private property from public land, and how law invests those distinctions with meaning. From the geopolitical to the sociolegal, the volume employs a wide variety of approaches, crossing disciplinary boundaries to unite a diverse and talented group of scholars in profound inquiries about place as a metaphor by which we organize our world, and about the utility of such metaphors with respect to the organization of law and the design of legal regulation.

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College.

Lawrence Douglas is Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College.

Martha Merrill Umphrey is Associate Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College.

Praise / Awards

  • "The Place of Law is a worthy successor to an outstanding series of edited collections on law and culture. The essays range from the Stalinist Soviet Union to the scientific laboratory, from the Internet to the nation-state and back; they explore why places and metaphors of places seem to matter so much to law, and how new structures of freedom may produce new forms of control."
    —Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School
  • "Recent scholarship has rediscovered the spatial dimension of society. This volume brings together some of the leading lights of that revival with some of the most innovative scholars in sociolegal studies, to reconsider the place of law and law's capacity to put people in their place. At a time when power relentlessly promotes a generic version of the rule of law as a mandatory salvation for all peoples and places, The Place of Law offers a vital rejoinder."
    —Jonathan Simon, University of California, Berkeley
  • Austin Sarat is the recipient of the 2006 James Boyd White Prize from the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities, awarded for distinguished scholarly achievement and outstanding and innovative contributions to the humanistic study of law

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Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

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  • 200 pages.
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  • 2009
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  • 978-0-472-02208-3

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