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How law defines people, places, and things

Material Law

A Jurisprudence of What's Real

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John Brigham

“From one of our most astute observers of the law's many constitutive dimensions, Material Law is part biography, part theory. Brigham takes readers on an engaging tour of law’s domains.”—
Robert L. Tsai, author of Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture

In Material Law, distinguished scholar John Brigham focuses on the places where law and material life intersect, and how law creates and alters our social reality. Brigham looks at an eclectic group of bodies and things—from maps and territories and trends in courthouse architecture to a woman's womb and a judge's body— to make connections between the material and the legal.

Theoretically sophisticated, and consistently fascinating, Material Law integrates law and society, political science, and popular culture in a truly interdisciplinary fashion. Brigham examines how the meaning of law is influenced by politics, reviewing, for example, whether the authority of global law supersedes that of national law in the context of Anglo-American cultural colonialism. What emerges is a well-reasoned look at how the authority of law constitutes what we see as real in our lives.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

“Through essays dealing with the architecture of courthouses and courtrooms, the technology of fetal monitoring, the experience of attending international conferences, and more, John Brigham helps us understand in real-world terms how to resolve the apparent contradiction of saying that we understand ourselves in terms provided by the law that we ourselves make. Material Law is an important theoretical and empirical contribution to legal studies.”
Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

“John Brigham is one of our era’s most imaginative and innovative sociolegal scholars. Both qualities are amply displayed in Material Law. Long after many have abandoned the constitutive theory of law, Brigham has refined and refreshed it, giving it new life and reminding his readers of the way law helps construct the taken-for-granted world. This book is a master work which will quickly become a classic of modern legal scholarship.”
Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College

"Brigham looks at the way the law actually constructs relationships and defines which objects are included, providing a unique perspective on traditional topics often studied by legal scholars.... Overall, Brigham selects ordinary legal subjects and examines them in highly novel ways. Summing Up: Recommended"
CHOICE

"Brigham admirably aims to situate his contribution within a larger critical tradition in law and within the law and society movement in particular.... Readers already well versed in the law and society literature will find in Material Law some provocative observations and piquant theoretical claims."
The Law and Politics Book Review

"[F]ascinating.... Material Law is a profound addition to constitutive scholarship. The alternative approach to socio-legal analysis in jurisprudence is a dynamic exciting framework to utilize when exploring the sociology of law. The concepts in the book serve as the perfect launching pad for students interested in socio-legal conceptual analysis in the materiality of law."
International Journal for the Semiotics of Law

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Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

PART I: Theorizing Material Life
1. The Map and the Territory
2. The Public in the Womb
3. Habeas Corpus at the Temple

PART II: Constituting Legal Spaces
4. Law’s Neighborhoods
5. De Facto Discrimination and the Double Standard
6. Occupied Territories

PART III: Materializing Law
7. Law Buildings
8. Commodity Form as Law
9. Global Legal Constructs
Index

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About the Author(s)

John Brigham is Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the (American) Law and Society Association and a Fellow of the International Institute for the Sociology of Law. He is the author of The Cult of the Court and Property and the Politics of Entitlement (both Temple).

Subject Categories

Law and Criminology
Political Science and Public Policy
Sociology

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