Roundup: Law and Humanities 12.21.2017

News from the world of law and humanities.

Some Conferences, Calls for Papers, and Calls for Panelists


The 2018 Annual Meeting of the the Association of American Law Schools takes place in San Diego from January 3 to January 6, 2018. As always, there are  sessions of interest to law and humanities folks. Here are a few.

January 3, 2018

1:30-3:15     Admiralty and Maritime Law, Co-sponsored by the Art Law and International Law sections. “Sunken Treasure: Recovery of Cultural Property from Historic Shipwrecks.”

6:30-9 p.m.     AALS Law and Film Series. The feature film selection this year is “My Cousin Vinny” (1992). This well-known film stars Joe Pesci as the cousin Vinny of the title, called on to defend his young cousin from a murder charge in rural Alabama. Although Vinny has just passed the bar (after 6 tries), and has never represented anyone in court, he takes on the case, with the help of his girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei). Fred Gwynne is the bemused judge (“What was that word? Did you say ‘yutes’?”) The movie is well known among law professors, lawyers, judges, and the public for its depiction of attorneys, trial tactics, legal ethics, and the legal system.

January 4, 2018

12:15-1:30   Constitutional Law and Legal History Joint Luncheon. Ticket price $75 per person.

1:30-3:15   AALS Open Source Program: Visual and Popular Culture Imagery in Legal Education. Six professors discuss the place of law and popular culture courses in the law school curriculum.

January 5, 2018

6:30-9 p.m.     AALS Law and Film Series. The documentary film selection this year is “Gideon’s Army” (2013). This film follows the journeys of 3 young public defenders in the deep South as they attempt to provide representation to the underserved. Anong those spotlighted: Jonathan Rapping, now a professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.

January 6, 2018

8:30-10:15     Jurisprudence:  Philosophy, Criminal Law, and the Present Crisis

8:30-10:15    Law and the Humanities: Blade Runners, Hosts, and Lawyers: Communicating Images of Access to Rights and Justice for Robots and Other Artificial Intelligence

Link to the program at-a-glance here.


Calls for Papers

Journal of the Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (JOxCSLS) has issued a CFP for 2018.  The JOxCSLS is an international online and open access peer reviewed journal established and edited by graduate research students of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford.

Deadline for submissions to next issue: 18 February 2018.

The JOxCSLS welcomes submissions in the following categories:

  1. Academic articles: between 5,000 and 7,500 words (footnotes included);
  2. Law and Society Today: 2,000 words on the socio-legal relevance of a topical issue or event;
  3. Socio-Legal Objects: 2,000 words on socio-legal observations related to or inspired by visual arts, music, architecture, or everyday objects;
  4. Wire from the Field: 2,000 words on experiences of socio-legal fieldwork or methodological issues;
  5. Book Reviews: up to 1,500 words on recent monographs or edited volumes of relevance to Socio-Legal Studies.

All submissions should have clear relevance to the field of Socio-Legal Studies broadly construed. Please refer to the current issue and online archive for examples of the types of papers published by the JOxCSLS.

Please refer to our authors’ guidelines when preparing your submission.  We regret that we are unable to accept submissions that do not meet the guidelines.

Papers should be submitted through this form.

Thinking of submitting an article but not sure if it would be a good fit? Send us an email at: and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.


Jerome Hall Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Center for Law, Society & Culture and the Indiana University Maurer School of Law invite applications from scholars of law, the humanities, or social sciences working in the field of sociolegal studies for the Jerome Hall Postdoctoral Fellowship.

The fellow will devote substantial time to research and writing in furtherance of a major scholarly project and will participate in the activities of the Center, which include an annual symposium, a colloquia series, and regular workshops and lectures. The fellowship provides a salary plus a research allowance, health insurance, other benefits, and workspace at the School of Law. If both sides are amenable, the option of teaching a research seminar is also possible, with a commensurate adjustment to the salary. The term of the appointment will be 24 months, beginning August 1, 2018.

In evaluating applications, the Center will focus on: 1) The originality and significance of the candidate’s proposed research project within the field of sociolegal studies; 2) the candidate’s scholarly promise, achievements, and ability to complete the project; and 3) the potential contribution of the candidate to the intellectual life of the Center, the School of Law, and Indiana University.

Scholars of law, the humanities, or social sciences working in the field of sociolegal studies. Pre-tenure scholars, recently awarded PhDs, and those with equivalent professional degrees are encouraged to apply. Advanced graduate students may also apply, but evidence of completion of the doctoral degree or its equivalent is required before beginning the fellowship.

Questions regarding the position or application process can be directed to Professor Victor Quintanilla, IU Maurer School of Law 211 S. Indiana Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405 or



Some Recent Publications of Interest


Fatal Fictions: Crime and Investigation in Law and Literature (Alison L. LaCroix, Richard H. McAdams, and Martha C. Nussbaum, eds., Oxford University Press, 2017).\ Here is a description of the book’s contents from the publisher’s website.

Writers of fiction have always confronted topics of crime and punishment. This age-old fascination with crime on the part of both authors and readers is not surprising, given that criminal justice touches on so many political and psychological themes essential to literature, and comes equipped with a trial process that contains its own dramatic structure. This volume explores this profound and enduring literary engagement with crime, investigation, and criminal justice. The collected essays explore three themes that connect the world of law with that of fiction. First, defining and punishing crime is one of the fundamental purposes of government, along with the protection of victims by the prevention of crime. And yet criminal punishment remains one of the most abused and terrifying forms of political power. Second, crime is intensely psychological and therefore an important subject by which a writer can develop and explore character. A third connection between criminal justice and fiction involves the inherently dramatic nature of the legal system itself, particularly the trial. Moreover, the ongoing public conversation about crime and punishment suggests that the time is ripe for collaboration between law and literature in this troubled domain. The essays in this collection span a wide array of genres, including tragic drama, science fiction, lyric poetry, autobiography, and mystery novels. The works discussed include works as old as fifth-century BCE Greek tragedy and as recent as contemporary novels, memoirs, and mystery novels. The cumulative result is arresting: there are “killer wives” and crimes against trees; a government bureaucrat who sends political adversaries to their death for treason before falling to the same fate himself; a convicted murderer who doesn’t die when hanged; a psychopathogical collector whose quite sane kidnapping victim nevertheless also collects; Justice Thomas’ reading and misreading of Bigger Thomas; a man who forgives his son’s murderer and one who cannot forgive his wife’s non-existent adultery; fictional detectives who draw on historical analysis to solve murders. These essays begin a conversation, and they illustrate the great depth and power of crime in literature.



Gregory Ablavsky, Stanford Law School, is publishing ‘With the Indian Tribes’: Race, Citizenship, and Original Constitutional Meanings in the Stanford Law Review. Here is the abstract.

Under black-letter law declared in Morton v. Mancari, federal classifications of individuals as “Indian” based on membership in a federally recognized tribe rely on a political, not a racial, distinction, and so are generally subject only to rational-basis review. But the Supreme Court recently questioned this long-standing dichotomy, resulting in renewed challenges arguing that, because tribal membership usually requires Native ancestry, such classifications are race-based. The term “Indian” appears twice in the original U.S. Constitution. A large and important scholarly literature has developed arguing that this specific constitutional inclusion of “Indian tribes” mitigates equal protection concerns. Missing from these discussions, however, is much consideration of these terms’ meaning at the time of the Constitution’s adoption. Most scholars have concluded that there is a lack of evidence on this point—a “gap” in the historical record. This Essay uses legal, intellectual, and cultural history to close that “gap” and reconstruct the historical meanings of “tribe” and “Indian” in the late eighteenth century. Rather than a single “original meaning,” it finds duality: Anglo-Americans of the time also alternated between referring to Native communities as “nations,” which connoted equality, and “tribes,” which conveyed Natives’ purported uncivilized status. They also defined “Indians” both in racial terms, as non-white, and in jurisdictional terms, as non-citizens. These contrasting meanings, I argue, have potentially important doctrinal implications for current debates in Indian law, depending on the interpretive approach applied. Although the term “tribe” had at times derogatory connotations, its use in the Constitution bolsters arguments emphasizing the significance of Native descent and arguably weakens current attacks on Native sovereignty based on invidious legal distinctions among Native communities. Similarly, there is convincing evidence to read “Indian” in the Constitution in political terms, justifying Morton’s dichotomy. But interpreting “Indian” as a “racial” category also provides little solace to Indian law’s critics, since it fundamentally undermines their insistence on a colorblind Constitution.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

Newly published: Anne C. Dailey, Professor of Law, University of Connecticut, has published Law and the Unconscious: A Psychoanalytic Perspective (Yale University Press, 2017). Here from the publisher’s website is a description of the book’s contents.

How can psychoanalysis help us understand irrational actions and bad choices? Our legal system relies on the idea that people act reasonably and of their own free will, yet some still commit crimes with a high likelihood of being caught, sign obviously one-sided contracts, or violate their own moral codes—behavior many would call fundamentally irrational. Anne Dailey shows that a psychoanalytic perspective grounded in solid clinical work can bring the law into line with the reality of psychological experience. Approaching contemporary legal debates with fresh insights, this original and powerful critique sheds new light on issues of overriding social importance, including false confessions, sexual consent, threats of violence, and criminal responsibility. By challenging basic legal assumptions with a nuanced and humane perspective, Dailey shows how psychoanalysis can further our legal system’s highest ideals of individual fairness and systemic justice.

 Christopher Tomlins, University of California, Berkeley, Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, is publishing A Poetics for Spatial Justice: Materialism and Legal Historiography, from Bachelard to Benjamin in the Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities (forthcoming). Here is the abstract.

As the linguistic/cultural turn of the last forty years has begun to ebb, socio-legal and legal-humanist scholarship has seen an accelerating return to materiality. This paper asks what relationship may be forthcoming between the “new materialisms” and “vibrant matter” of recent years, and older materialisms – both historical and literary, both Marxist and non-Marxist – that held sway prior to post-structuralism? What impact might such a relationship have on the forms, notably “spatial justice,” that materiality is assuming in current legal studies? To attempt answers, the paper turns to two figures from more than half a century ago: Gaston Bachelard – once famous, now mostly forgotten; and Walter Benjamin – once largely forgotten, now famous. A prolific and much-admired writer between 1930 and 1960, Bachelard pursued two trajectories of inquiry: a dialectical and materialist and historical (but non-Marxist) philosophy of science; and a poetics of the material imagination based on inquiry into the literary reception and representation of the prime elements – earth, water, fire, and air. Between the late 1920s and 1940, meanwhile, Benjamin developed an idiosyncratic but potent form of historical materialism dedicated to “arousing [the world] from its dream of itself.” The paper argues that by mobilizing Bachelard and Benjamin for scholarship at the intersection of law and the humanities, old and new materialisms can be brought into a satisfying conjunction that simultaneously offers a poetics for spatial justice and lays a foundation for a materialist legal historiography for the twenty-first century.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.

David Armitage, Department of History, Harvard University, has published Civil Wars: A History in Ideas (Yale University Press, 2017). Here from the publisher’s website is a description of the book’s contents.

We think we know civil war when we see it. Yet ideas of what it is, and isn’t, have a long and contested history. Defining the term is acutely political, for ideas about what makes a war “civil” often depend on whether one is ruler or rebel, victor or vanquished, sufferer or outsider; it can also shape a conflict’s outcome, determining whether external powers are involved or stand aside. From the American Revolution to the Iraq war, pivotal decisions have hung on such shifts of perspective. The West’s age of civil war may be over, but elsewhere it has exploded – from the Balkans to Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Sri Lanka and, most recently, Syria. And the language of civil war has burgeoned as democratic politics has become more violently fought. This book’s unique perspective on the roots, dynamics and shaping force of civil war will be essential to our ongoing struggles with this seemingly interminable problem.

Civil Wars: A History in Ideas

Stephen E. Henderson, Unviversity of Oklahoma College of Law, is publishing Daredevil: Legal (and Moral?) Vigilante in volume 15 of the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law (2017). Here is the abstract.

In 1964, the comic world was introduced to its first physically disabled practicing attorney: Matt Murdock. Initially a proud graduate of “State College” and later more impressively pedigreed as a graduate of either Columbia or Harvard Law, Murdock supplemented his day job as attorney with a side of vigilante justice as Daredevil. In 2003, Murdock became the only attorney superhero to appear as the title character in a movie. A truly awful movie, yes, but a movie all the same. And then in 2015, thanks to the talents of Drew Goddard, Murdock became the star of a terrific television series. But while it makes for good comics and television, does it make for good law? Good policy? Is there such a thing as moral vigilantism, and, if so, is Matt Murdock a moral vigilante? What of his foil, the Punisher, or the police officer who comes around to assisting Daredevil’s endeavors? I propose preliminary answers to these questions, including considering vigilantism as theorized by Paul and Sarah Robinson, Les Johnston, and Travis Dumsday. Their metrics are helpful and illuminating, but not, I think, a fully satisfying articulation of what constitutes moral vigilantism. And if we cannot adequately discern moral vigilantism in fictional characters, we will fare no better in the real world. There remains more good work to be done—and more good comics to be written.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

Add To Your Law and Popular Culture Media Collection
DVDs of “Coronet Blue,” the iconic 1967 series which starred Frank Converse and Brian Bedford, are now available from Kino Lorber Home Video (or your favorite retailer).  The series followed the attempts of amnesiac “Michael Alden” to discover who he is and what importance the only phrase he remembers (“Coronet Blue”) has for him.
The last season of “The Paper Chase,” which starred John Housman (who played Professor Kingsfield in the film), and James Stephens, is now available for pre-order from the Shout! Factory. It should be available in early 2018.
ICYMI: “The Young Lawyers “ (Lee J. Cobb, Zalman King) which featured law students providing assistance to the underserved, is now available on DVD, as is the somewhat forgotten series “Sam Benedict” (Edmond O’Brien, Richard Rust). in which O’Brien played an influential lawyer in San Francisco.

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