Legal Memories and Amnesias in America's Rhetorical Culture

Legal Memories and Amnesias in America's Rhetorical Culture

Legal Memories and Amnesias in America's Rhetorical Culture

Legal Memories and Amnesias in America's Rhetorical Culture

Synopsis

In Legal Memories and Amnesias in America's Rhetorical Culture, Marouf Hasian, Jr. critically examines the rhetoric of law--specifically, the shifting lines between the notions of liberty and license. Hasian, Jr. explores how issues such as immigration, labor, national identity, race, and genetics have caused society to change how it thinks about, and uses, laws. The author builds on critical race theory, feminist studies of the law, and critical legal studies, and he uses a case study framework that covers topics such as Sarah Roberts and the separate but equal doctrine, John Brown's enactment of natural law at Harper's Ferry, Typhoid Mary Mallon, the Holocaust, Susan Smith, the human genome project, and Rosewood. All of the aforementioned are tied together by an introduction that clearly delineates the basic theoretical stance of the book. Without a doubt, the subject of this book is provocative, timely, and timeless.

Excerpt

In each of this book's previous chapters, I have defended the heuristic value of critical legal rhetorics by showing how vernacular discourses have been selectively appropriated by empowered elites in a variety of judicial contexts. Using several different of units of analysis (such as key terms, ideographs, and narratives), I have illustrated the ways that formalistic approaches to the "rule of law" have obfuscated the role that contingency, power, and politics have played in the establishment of American jurisprudential norms. in some cases, the framing of controversial debates on nationalism and patriotic identity has been involved (Major John André, John Brown). At other times, the phalanx of claims that have been marshaled in defense of the status quo depend on racial, gender-specific, and ethnic prefigurations (Sarah Roberts, Mary Mallon).

In this chapter, I take this analysis one step further by showing how the confluence of some of these factors--race, class, and gender, for example--can make it extremely difficult for legal authorities to justify their particular choice of legal narratives. At the same time, I hope to show some of the dangers of uncritically accepting all forms of vernacular argument. I have purposely chosen the Leo Frank trial because of its specific complexities.

On Sunday, April 27, 1913, the body of thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan was found in the basement of an Atlanta pencil factory. Later, authorities would determine that the young worker had been murdered the day before, and they would discover that the factory had been her place of employment. Authorities first suspected an African American, Newt Lee, of the murder (and they also questioned Jim Conley, another African American), but within a few days prosecutors changed their minds and began . . .

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