Death of the Profane & Sarat
• The law appears neutral most of the time.
• The law is a tool of oppression
o The law isn’t always just or fair
• The law is a way to strip things of their context
o Away to silence particular things
• Society isn’t just shaped by the law, society can shape the law as well.
• Silences in the Reena Virk case
• How the law tries to deal with wrongs
o What do you do when you have a wrongfully convicted
• The idea of legal realism (Sarat)
o The law on the books vs. the law on action
o For example: potlatch law: the law by just reading it seems oppressive. However it was
more than just an oppressive tool.
• The law is everywhere. Isn’t always an oppressive thing but rather a part of everyday social
Patricia Williams: The Death of the Profane
• She is shopping
• If you want to get into the store you had to press a buzzer for someone to let you in
• The store clerk did not let her in
• The store owner said they were closed and she wasn’t allowed in
• She tried to tell her story and editors took her story away from her.
o They edited a lot of things out of it.
o Did not let them to state her race
• The buzzer is a neutral everyday device but we see how it gets used in a different way
o Maintains a particular status quo
• See how these neutral things, can hold a lot of other underlying meanings
• The buzzer system put up an elite system
o Class struggle in terms of not letting her in because of her class and race.
• Her story still got distorted by academia
o She suggests scholarship doesn’t need to look in a particular way
• Racism is justified by other means
o “If we put ourselves in their shoes we wouldn’t have let you in either”
• The person who writes the newspaper article about what Patricia said is going to have more
weight than what Patricia said, because the author essentially knows more.
• Newspaper recollections are more important than oral evidence.
• The profane really means “the everyday”
o Patricia is trying to bring us the everyday but the everyday doesn’t matter to scholarship
or is less emphasized
• The deviant one off cases are stripping context.
• If we all police brutality as a product of “bad apples” it is not a represented of culture
• Relate to Loo and Spectacular Justice
• Sarat is trying to figure out what it means to do law and society research
• It is not clear what law and society should be doing
• We can let lawyer define what the law means
• How can the law be rendered scientific (Galanter’s)
• Legal Realism movement: the gap between law in the books and the law in action
o The law then become highly professionalized o As the law becomes professionalized in the 40’s and 50’s
• IN the 60’s there becomes civil rights movements and feminist movements
• How does the law perpetuate injustices.
• The idea of law and society is not pinned down
o Because the law itself is constantly changing therefore we cant really pin down what
research on law and society does
• Law and society constitute each other
o Generally interested in studying the law and how it is loosely related to society
o The law influences identities
o The law is constituted by the norms and values and by social relationships, cultural