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Law Library Journal
Interdisciplinary scholar Colin Dayan's most recent book, The Law Is a White Dog: How Legal Rituals Make and Unmake Persons, presents a postmodern blend of anthropology, social critique, and legal history that deconstructs the Enlightenment rationality generally associated with law. Dayan examines some of the ways in which the mechanisms of our legal system perpetuate 'violence and oppression' (p. xvii) alongside progress and modernity. Going beyond traditional histories and examinations of the law, her book explores how larger socio-legal processes, like marginalization, the creation of social outcasts, and the justification of brutal penal practices, shape our present-day society. Dayan, who serves simultaneously as anthropologist, social critic, and poet, depicts the darker side of American society and the often repressive character of our law. . . . Written by an author well known for previous interdisciplinary work in cultural studies and law, this book is a must-have for both general academic libraries and academic law libraries. The writing is crisp, and the way in which Dayan assembles a wide array of topics that are rarely grouped together is thought-provoking and engaging. The book addresses important social questions and reveals the subtle ways that idiosyncratic legal reasoning works to rationalize harsh social processes. Dayan's deconstruction highlights the law as a key mechanism for social control, rather than a narrow area of professional discourse or an administrative or procedural system that touches only a small segment of society. Ultimately, The Law Is a White Dog will prove valuable for anyone who seeks a comprehensive, critical understanding of our society and the role played in it by the law.