Law's History: How Law Understands the Past
Friday, October 19th, 2007
The University of Alabama School of Law, Tuscaloosa, AL Law in the modern era is one of the most important of our society's technologies for preserving memory. In helping to construct our memory in certain ways law participates in the writing of our collective history. It plays a crucial role in knitting together our past, present, and future. The purpose of this symposium is to examine law as an active participant in the process through which history is written and memory is constructed. Instead of seeing law as a "victim" of history, we want to treat law as an author of history, not just in the instrumental sense in which law can be said to make a difference in society, but in the ways that law constructs and uses history. Law looks to the past as it speaks to present needs. In the production of judicial opinions—supposedly definitive statements of what the law is—judges reconstruct law's past, tracing out lines of legal precedent that arguably "compel" their decisions. Among the things we wish to explore are the varied ways law treats history, how history appears in legal decisions, and how the authority of history is used to authorize legal decisions.
Organized by Professor Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst and Justice Hugo L. Black Visiting Senior Faculty Scholar for the 2007-2008 academic year at the University of Alabama School of Law.
Mary Dudziak, University of Southern California (paper abstract here)
Martin Flaherty, Fordham
Risa Goluboff, University of Virginia
Neal Katyal, Georgetown
William Novak, University of Chicago.
Registration information is here.