19th-Century Workshop

Family / Law: Oct. 1-2, 2015, Murray Hall 302, Rutgers University

Keynote address:  Janet Halley, Royall Professor of Law, Harvard University

Recent work in legal history and criticism designates the nineteenth century as a pivotal moment in the consolidation of “family law” as a distinct juridical domain in the West. Ubiquitous as a legal category, family law was also highly particularized because it was assumed to be culturally and nationally distinct. It was cast as different from market law, which was assumed to operate everywhere in the same way. Family law thus presumed cultural/national/religious/racial difference as a contrast and complement to the universality of market logics and laws. And yet the historical and cultural processes that contributed to this bifurcated development—colonial expansion and national consolidation; migration and missionary work; the abolition of slavery and the alienation of labor; advances in transportation and communication technologies—brought family laws into regular conflict with each other and with the presumptive universality of the market. The foundations and meanings of “family” and “law” were hence as much sites of contestation as of political, economic, and cultural legitimation.

Circulation;  Oct. 2-3, 2014, Murray Hall 302, Rutgers University

Keynote address:  Lisa Gitelman, Professor and Chair of Media, Culture and Communication, NYU

The nineteenth century was an age of mass circulation of newspapers and magazines; of forced migration and exodus; of developing expertise in networks of trade and colonial exploitation; of the emergence of standardized time for travel by steamship and by rail; of the transnational circulation of theatrical performances, medicine shows, and fraudulent currency; and of new understandings of the movement of languages, species, and cultures. The end of the slave trade and the abolition of slavery in many empires and nations, new forms of colonialism (of both the extractive and settler varieties) as well as massive labor migrations, all radically altered individuals’ sense of place and belonging, and what constituted the local and the global.
How was the movement of commodities, capital, and human bodies governed, promoted, and understood by different groups and organizations?  How did nineteenth-century cultural works orient themselves to new conditions of circulation?  In an age of increasingly coordinated circulation, where were the blockages? What stayed still?