Whither the Humanities?
Having just returned from the ASLCH conference this past weekend, the role of humanities in the world of the law has been greatly on my mind.
It was a great conference–I presented on a double panel entitled “Reconfiguring the Language of Rights,” with Rose Cuison Villazor, Olati Johnson, Serena Mayeri, Melissa Murray, Frank Ravitch, Patricia Seith and Aric Short–and it was fascinating to be immersed in the world of the humanities again, something I have not much focused on since graduate school.
But the conference did make me wonder: will the role of humanities in the law ever be more than its current “Law and __” ghetto? In other words, will Law and Humanities ever be mainstreamed like Law and Economics? Should it be? I ponder this below….
For a while, of course, it did seem like Law & Humanities would go from margin to mainstream, particularly in the late eighties and early nineties. Everyone seemed to be publishing a book–Fish, Fiss, Delgado, Weisberg, etc–even Posner. And let’s not forget the Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities. It was a heady time.
But fifteen to twenty years later, the whole Law & Humanities movement hasn’t taken over the law in the way that it seemed it might. Certainly the disciplines of sociology and psychiatry have had their influences on legal scholarship, and there definitely are academics who focus on law & hum. But it’s never had the sweeping domination that law & econ had on the academy, or that empiricism seems to be having now.
Why is that? I think that the humanities has much to offer the study of law, and not just in the token “Law and Literature” or “Law and Race” course. So many legal scholars, however, have disdain for the whole endeavor. Is it the jargon? The lingering effects of deconstruction? The resistance of what is still considered a “professional” education?
Naturally, I have a few pet theories, but I’d love to hear from others….