Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Legal History at OAH 2014

[Many thanks to Lael Weinberger, University of Chicago, for culling the following legal history sessions from the program of this week’s annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians.]

Crossing Professional Borders in America, 1890-2000

Friday, April 11, 2014
9:00am - 10:30am

After immigrants to America cross the physical border, they encounter a series of other borders that need to be crossed as they make their way in U.S. society. There are borders in jobs, in education, and in other aspects of American life. Those who make it into the professions will have normally made a big jump into the middle class, but even in the professions, there are borders that need to be understood, sometimes crossed, sometimes defended or attacked. The papers in this session all deal with professional borders: Susan Carle looks at the border between law/non-law from the perspective of gender and race in turn-of-the-century United States. Her lens is provided by women active in reform efforts. Christy Chapin looks at a later period in American history and studies organized physicians during the post-World War II years when borders were changing as individual practice gave way increasingly to practice within relatively large organizations. In many cases, professional boundaries were eroded; in other cases, the physicians themselves sought to experiment with new types of practices and new professional borders. Finally, Jeffrey Sturchio and Louis Galambos sweep over the twentieth century and explore the tensions that existed between businesses and the professions as they defined and re-defined their respective borders. Businesses needed professional expertise, but they initially often found it difficult to recruit and keep the professionals they needed. When corporations began to promote women and minorities to executive positions, professional standing became an important stepping stone for advancement.

Chair: Louis Galambos, Johns Hopkins University
Commentators: Christopher Tomlins, University of California- Irvine, and Melissa Fisher, New York University

"Doctors Without Borders: American Medical Practice in Diverse Organization Settings"
By: Christy Chapin, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

"Looking at the Law/Non-Law Divide Through The Lenses of Gender and Race in Turn-Of-The-Twentieth-Century American Women's Reform Activism"
By: Susan D. Carle of American University

American Business and the Challenge of Professionalism"
By: Jeffrey Sturchio, Rabin Martin

The Scope and Stakes of Reproductive Politics: Contesting Sexual Freedom, Abortion and Unwed Parenthood Since 1965
Friday, April 11, 2014
9:00am - 10:30am
Endorsed by: OAH Committee on the Status of Women in the Historical Profession

Since 1965, social movements have contested the meaning of legitimate sexual and reproductive decision-making. The history of these debates reveals a surprising and complex story about attitudes toward sex, choice, and licit reproduction the aftermath of the sexual revolution. This panel recovers this lost history by examining three settings in which activists, lawmakers, and judges have struggled to define the scope and stakes of reproductive and sexual freedom. Mary Ziegler’s paper uncovers a rich and unexpected dialogue about unwed motherhood among anti-abortion activists in the 1960s and 1970s. Serena Mayeri’s paper uses contemporaneous constitutional challenges to illegitimacy penalties to explore attitudes toward extramarital sexuality among various historical actors, including feminists, unmarried parents, and judges. Sara Dubow canvasses a long sweep of recent American history to trace the evolution of debates over conscience clauses that enabled individual physicians and hospitals with moral and religious objections to refuse to provide abortions and sterilizations.

Apart from their similar subject matter, several themes unite the three papers. The ideological diversity of activism on both sides of debates over reproductive and sexual freedom complicates narratives of longstanding polarization. To the extent that social movements reached internal consensus and defined themselves in contraposition to their adversaries, the process was often partial, messy, and gradual, rather than instantaneous and inevitable. Nor did economic and cultural ideologies automatically align in the ways that are familiar to twenty-first century political observers. For some activists, robust visions of gender and economic equality coexisted with profound misgivings about abortion. Others believed strongly in access to reproductive health services but also accepted arguments for conscience-based exemptions. Still others idealized marriage but opposed efforts to penalize unwed parenthood.

Each of these debates also illuminates the material stakes of “culture war” conflict, and the political costs and benefits of exposing the price of ideals such as liberty and equality. Disagreements among anti-abortion activists over the proper approach to unwed motherhood foregrounded the social and economic conditions that made reproductive “choice” a misnomer for poor unmarried women. Spotlighting discrimination against unmarried mothers in employment and elsewhere exposed the contingency of links between non-marriage and poverty, as well as the racial subtext of campaigns against “illegitimacy.” Anti-abortion lawmakers depicted conscience clauses as integral to religious liberty while masking their devastating impact on women’s access to abortion. The panel exposes the contradictory and ideologically charged history of the values, interests, and strategies that continue to shape debates about sexuality and reproduction.

Chair: Linda Gordon, New York University
Commentator: Regina G. Kunzel, Princeton University

"“A Constitutional right rendered utterly meaningless”: Federal Conscience Clause Laws and the Politics of Abortion, 1973-2013"By: Sara Dubow of Williams College

"Reproducing Inequality: Legal Challenges to Illegitimacy Penalties, 1968-1979"
By: Serena Mayeri of the University of Pennsylvania Law School

"Negotiating the Double Standard: Sex in the Abortion Debate, 1965 - 1980"
By: Mary Ziegler, Saint Louis University School of Law

Boundless War: The Legal, Military, and Psychological Effects of the Vietnam War across Time and Space
Endorsed by: SHAFR
Friday, April 11, 2014
1:50pm - 3:20pm

War is often seen as a bounded institution—fought by a specified class of people in a particular place over a defined period of time. But as the historian Mary Dudziak has recently shown in her discussion of the temporal boundaries of armed conflict, War•Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (Oxford University Press, 2012), this notion of war as bounded is increasingly difficult to sustain. Not only is the distinction between wartime and peacetime less clear than the American public often imagines but war also has consequences for politics, economics, and individual lives well beyond the battlefield. Our panel seeks to build on this insight by exploring some of the broader effects of the Vietnam War across time and space.

At the heart of this panel is one particular conflict—the Vietnam War—but in keeping with the panel’s theme, we seek to show a continuum of conflict in the post-1945 era and to place the Vietnam War in a broader spatial framework. The panel begins with an examination of how U.S. government lawyers developed ideas about the legality of certain types of conflict in Latin America in the 1960s which were then transferred to the Vietnam theater and beyond. This paper details how the efforts of American lawyers to reconsider the status of borders and the commitment not to violate them in international law contributed to the development of a mode of warfare less constrained by geographical boundaries. The panel continues with a discussion of how publicity surrounding war crimes committed by U.S. servicemen in Vietnam, particularly the My Lai Massacre, had a significant subsequent impact on both military policy with regard to war crimes and the American people’s views on the conduct of war. It suggests that the nature of fighting in Vietnam was influenced by a transnational context in which ideas of war circulated between the front line in Vietnam and the home front in the United States. The panel ends with a consideration of how return trips after the war by U.S. veterans to Vietnam for the purposes of promoting healing among civilians have played into similar efforts by veterans of America’s most recent wars. This paper illuminates the influence of war on veterans themselves even after they have left the war zone and the importance of crossing borders to the healing process in the lives of both Vietnam and Iraq veterans. Each of these papers demonstrates how individuals and institutions continued to respond to the war legally, in policy, and personally in new geographic spaces well beyond the height of hostilities.
Together, these papers show the unbounded nature of war. They demonstrate the sprawling effects and influences of the Vietnam War both temporally and geographically. Finally, this scholarship speaks to the early and potential effects of more recent undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Chair and Commentator: Edwin Martini, Western Michigan University

“American War Crimes: The My Lai Massacre in U.S. Military Policy”
by: Christine Lamberson, Angelo State University

“'More and More Americans are Taking Responsibility for What Was Done in Our Name': Vietnam’s Legacy and Transnational Healing After the Iraq War"
By: David Kieran of The George Washington University

"Wars without Borders: The American Challenge to International Law, 1961 - 1965"
by: Brian Cuddy, Cornell University

Legal Histories of Human Rights 
Saturday, April 12, 2014
10:50am - 12:20pm
Endorsed by: SHAFR
Lawyers and political scientists had been working on the subject of “human rights” before professional historians came on the scene. But about 15 years ago, historians discovered human rights. Since then, the historiography of human rights has exploded. With the growth of human rights studies from within the disciplinary field of history, most of the work has moved away from looking at the narrow issues of treaties and tribunals that lawyers and political scientists focused on.

Yet this move away from law has left major issues unexplained. Most fundamentally, we still need an explanation for how and why the field of human rights came to be suffused with law and legality. Historians are now only beginning to look at the legal history of human rights and it promises to be an exciting field.

The papers presented on this panel will explore legal histories of modern human rights across a wide chronological span and from a variety of angles. How did human rights make their way into international law? Why have activists and national actors alike looked to international human rights law to advance their agendas? What role has the legal profession played in shaping the discourse of human rights? How have attorneys reacted to international human rights treaties, statements, and declarations?

By asking—and proposing answers to—these questions, this panel will be joining the ongoing historical discussion of how modern human rights discourse has developed. It will historicize the issue of how the field of human rights has become so widely infused with law and legality. And it will explore the diverse and complex relationships that can exist between national laws and international legal norms.

Chair: Heide Fehrenbach, Northern Illinois University
Commentator: Mark Bradley, University of Chicago
"Manley Hudson and the Quest for International Order: From Peace through Law to Human Rights"
by: Lael Weinberger, University of Chicago

"'Whittling Away' at Domestic Jurisdiction: The NAACP and the Afro-Asian Bloc’s Anti-Colonial Strategy in the United Nations"
By: Carol Anderson of Emory University

"America, the Exceptional: Morris Abram, Cold War Liberalism, and the Politics of Drafting the U.N. Race Convention"
By: H. Timothy Lovelace of Indiana University Mauer School of Law

"To Champion the Cause Through Law: Transnational Legal Efforts in the Fight Against the Apartheid"
by: Robert Smith, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee