The Racial Subject in Legal Theory

Sheila R. Foster and R. A. Lenhardt

in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199208425
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

 The Racial Subject in Legal Theory

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Neither the subject of race, nor its racialized subjects, played a significant role in legal scholarship for most of the last century. It was not until relatively recently that legal scholars began seriously to engage matters of race and the experiences of people of color in the United States. This article examines the ways in which scholars have addressed the problem of race in legal theory. In offering this critical overview, it hopes to provide context for ongoing debates about the persistence of racial inequality in American society, to underscore the limitations of earlier theories about race and racial discrimination, and, ultimately, to highlight the promise of engagement with “traditional” legal theories for understanding the nature of racial subordination. First, the article explores legal discourse on race in the years preceding the groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education. It then charts the emergence of Critical Race Theory (CRT) before concluding with a discussion of fruitful areas of future study regarding the place of race in American law.

Keywords: United States; legal theory; law; race; Critical Race Theory; Supreme Court; racial discrimination; racial subordination; racial inequality

Article.  6318 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Politics and Law ; US Politics

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