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Symposium Archives

Knowing the Suffering of Others

Matters of Faith

Dissenting Voices

Merciful Judgements

The purpose of this symposium is to ask what merciful judgments “look like”? How do we recognize and make sense of judgments that are merciful? Does mercy transform judgment or can it be easily accommodated to it? How does mercy get translated into institutional practices? Can literary or religious representations of mercy thicken our understanding of their legal role?


Moments of political transition pose great challenges for law, whether they are regime changes or the orderly transition from one government to the next. During these periods, law may appear to be absent or in suspension. Yet law is often involved, providing a broad framework for moving from one status to another. Locating law in times of transition has been a staple in legal theory and jurisprudence as well as private and administrative law.

Imagining Legality: Where Law Meets Popular Culture

This symposium explores law’s representation and consumption in film, television, and literature. We use historical, sociological, and cultural analysis as well as legal theory to help understand law within the framework of popular culture. The focus is not on the accuracy of the presentation in popular culture but on the impact that popular culture has on law and law on popular culture.

Speech and Silence in American Law

This symposium studies the relationship between speech and silence in American law. We examine how the law values silence, focusing on the right not to speak, as well as the decision not to select a speaker, in both private and government discourse.

Sovereignty, Emergency, and Legality

The purpose of this symposium is to chart the complex interplay of sovereignty, emergency, and legality and to ask what we can learn about each by examining their juxtaposition. For some scholars, sovereignty is only truly knowable in times of emergency, moments when the law is suspended, put on hold. Others believe that sovereign power is more malleable, less absolute, adaptable to constitutional democracy. For these scholars, sovereign power can and does operate in and through law and law, in turn, can be used to domesticate and direct that power.

Legal Doubt, Scientific Certainty: What Scientific Knowledge Does For and To the Law

This symposium charts the complex ways in which law consumes, uses, and is influenced by scientific information. Both law and science derive their normative and epistemological legitimacy from their publicly known and accessible processes. Yet, despite their purportedly open and available procedures, both are experienced in popular culture as arcane, impenetrable, and often uninterpretable. Finally, the ascendance of both law and science has been achieved in competition against other modes (e.g. religion) of interpreting nature, human relations, and society. This symposium examines the ways in which science is introduced into legal disputes or policy debates.

Imagining a New Constitution for the United States in the 21st Century

Generally when people think about the Constitution and its future they begin from what we have and think within the confines of constitutional doctrine, trying to figure out how this or that provision of the document may be, or should be interpreted.

Law’s History: How Law Understands the Past

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.