Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Law as . . . " at UC Irvine

[We have, via H-Law, the following announcement for the conference, "'Law as ...': Theory and Method in Legal History," to take place at for the University of California-Irvine School of Law on April 16-17, 2010.]

In the last fifty years, legal history has moved from the fringes of history and law to a position of vibrant energy and intellectual influence. For much of this period, legal historians have taken their theoretical and methodological cues from the problematic of "law and..." Grounded on Roscoe Pound's turn-of-the-twentieth-century distinction between "books" and "action," enlivened by legal realism, and popularized by the law and society movement, "law and" explains law through its relations to cognate but distinct domains of action - society, polity, economy - by parsing the relations among them.

The "law and" problematic has been highly productive. The question nevertheless arises whether we have arrived at an intellectual moment in which, a century after its invention, "law and" has run its course. If so, what might be the implications for legal history?

"Law and" relies on empirical context to situate law as a determinate domain of activity. The result is a causally functional and empirical account of law. Beginning in the late 1970s, however, critical theory produced a trenchant critique of that functional and empirical account such that, whatever realm of action in relation to which law was situated, the outcome could be shown to be the same - indeterminacy marked by complexity and contingency. Regrettably, critical theory produced no replacement for the problematic it had undermined. Hence "law and" survives by default.

Suppose we dispense with the conjunctive metaphors of "law and," and instead reach for different metaphors. What might they be? One possibility is optical metaphors - that is, metaphors of appearance, or image, or resemblance. Instead of parsing relations between distinct domains of activity, between law and what lies "outside" it, the objective of legal historical research might be to imagine them as the same domain: what do we get if we imagine law and economy as the same phenomenon - that is, law as economy (or economy as law)? What of law as art, as science, as war, as peace? What new method or theory might be the result?

The optical is but one example of how one might go about gaining new imaginative leverage to enliven the practice of legal history. Other metaphors may be equally, or more productive. To encourage the discussion of possibilities, UC-Irvine's School of Law has organized a conference, "Law As ..." to take place the 16th and 17th of April, 2010. Sixteen of the finest legal and critical scholars in North America and from further afield will present commissioned papers organized into four deliberately general areas of study, complete with structured commentary and an abundance of time for general exchange, discussion and argument. We invite the attendance and participation of all interested scholars and students of history and law in what promises to be an event of significance in the further development of legal history.

Interested in attending? Contact Christopher Tomlins to be placed on the conference advance information list. Full details, including location and directions, will be made available well in advance of the event. Attendees will be asked to register in advance to receive complete conference materials. Registration will be free.


April 16th

Welcome and Introduction: Catherine Fisk (Law, UC Irvine)

Session 1: Interactions - Law, Text, History

Chair Dirk Hartog (History, Princeton)


Steven Wilf (Law, Connecticut), "Law/Text/Past"; Norman Spaulding (Law, Stanford), "On the Interdependence of Law, History and Memory"; Kunal Parker (Law, Miami), "Common Law Thought and the Problem of History"; Marianne Constable (Rhetoric, Berkeley), "'In the Name of the Law': Law as Claim to Justice"; Commentator: Christopher Tomlins (Law, UC Irvine)

Session 2: Intersections - Law, History, Culture

Chair Ariela Gross (Law, USC)


Peter Goodrich (Law, Cardozo), "Specters of Law: Why the History of the Legal Spectacle has not been Written"; Shai Lavi (Law, Tel Aviv), "Law as World: Secular History and Jewish Ritual in Nineteenth Century Germany"; Assaf Likhovski (Law, UCLA and Tel Aviv), "Chasing Ghosts: On Writing Cultural History of Tax Law"; Roger Berkowitz (Political Studies & Human Rights, Bard College), "History and the Noble Art of Lying"; Commentator: John Comaroff (Anthropology, Chicago)

April 17th

Session 3: Interpretations - Law, Polity, Economy

Chair: Risa Goluboff (Law, Virginia)


Ritu Birla (History, Toronto), "Law as Economy: Convention, Corporation, Currency"; Roy Kreitner (Radcliffe Institute and Law, Tel Aviv), "Money in the 1890s: The Circulation of Law, Politics, and Economics"; Christopher Schmidt (Law, Chicago-Kent), "Conceptions of Law in the Civil Rights Movement"; Barbara Welke (History & Law, Minnesota), "Owning Hazard in the Modern American Consumer Marketplace"; Commentator: Morton Horwitz (Law, Harvard)

Session 4: Instantiations - Law, Sovereignty, Justice

Chair Laura Kalman (History, Santa Barbara)


Laura Edwards (History, Duke), "The Peace: The Meaning and Production of Law in the Post-Revolutionary U.S."; John Witt (Law, Yale), "Escape and Engagement: The Laws of War in the Early American Republic"; Paul Frymer (Politics, Princeton), "Building an American Empire: Territorial Expansion and Indian Removal, 1787-1850"; Mariana Valverde (Criminology Centre, Toronto) "'The honour of the Crown is at stake': Aboriginal Land Claims Litigation in Canada and the Epistemology of Sovereignty"; Commentator: Robert W. Gordon (Law, Yale)

Hat tip.