Prelinger Library Blog

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

An appropriation-friendly, image-rich, experimental research library. Independent and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Current Reading: Legal Borderlands

Legal Borderlands: Law and the Construction of American Borders (ed. Mary L. Dudziak and Leti Volpp, 2006: Johns Hopkins University Press). [A special issue of American Quarterly.] This book assembles a set of riveting essays that rip deeply into some of the biggest topics in current headlines. Within a context of American legal history, the essays are grouped around explorations of American identity, the borders of American territory, and the borders of the reach of American power. Immigrants, Guantánamo, SUVs, and Abu Ghraib all figure here as major characters in a deeply unsettling play of decades, even centuries, of American imperialist behavior. Appearing with them in supporting roles are some unlikely characters (bird guano, Elia Kazan), along with some of the usual suspects who are bound to be included in any academic work about bodies politic (Foucault, Zizek). Each of the three border zones considered is very fuzzy, with patchwork rules governing who and what is “in” and “out” of America, or Americanness. The stories that make up the histories of these rules range from Byzantine to infuriatingly neo-colonial, with some stops in pop cultural history along the way. This book is a great navigational tool to some of the toughest tales in the world of our day. I'd love to see a popular edition put out with the backing of well-paid publicists that could reach the general public. -- MSP