How do moves to recognize ethnic and cultural identity affect the idea of equality before the law?

Look Inside

Table of Contents:

  • Responding to the demands of difference : an introduction / Austin Sarat and Thomas R. Kearns
  • Breaking the mold of citizenship : the "natural" person as citizen in nineteenth-century America (a fragment) / Elizabeth B. Clark
  • The subject of true feeling : pain, privacy, and politics / Lauren Berlant
  • Why culture matters to law : the difference politics makes / Dorothy E. Roberts
  • Civil rights rhetoric and White identity politics / George Lipsitz
  • Does integration have a future? / Kenneth L. Karst.


We are witnessing in the last decade of the twentieth century more frequent demands by racial and ethnic groups for recognition of their distinctive histories and traditions as well as opportunities to develop and maintain the institutional infrastructure necessary to preserve them. Where it once seemed that the ideal of American citizenship was found in the promise of integration and in the hope that none of us would be singled out for, let alone judged by, our race or ethnicity, today integration, often taken to mean a denial of identity and history for subordinated racial, gender, sexual or ethnic groups, is often rejected, and new terms of inclusion are sought. The essays in Cultural Pluralism, Identity Politics, and the Law ask us to examine carefully the relation of cultural struggle and material transformation and law's role in both. Written by scholars from a variety of disciplines and theoretical inclinations, the essays challenge orthodox understandings of the nature of identity politics and contemporary debates about separatism and assimilation. They ask us to think seriously about the ways law has been, and is, implicated in these debates. The essays address questions such as the challenges posed for notions of legal justice and procedural fairness by cultural pluralism and identity politics, the role played by law in structuring the terms on which recognition, accommodation, and inclusion are accorded to groups in the United States, and how much of accepted notions of law are defined by an ideal of integration and assimilation.
The contributors are Elizabeth Clark, Lauren Berlant, Dorothy Roberts, Georg Lipsitz, and Kenneth Karst.

Austin Sarat is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Chair of the Department of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College.

Thomas R. Kearns is William H. Hastie Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, Amherst College.