Abused dogs, prisoners tortured in Guantánamo and supermax facilities, or slaves killed by the state--all are deprived of personhood through legal acts. Such deprivations have recurred throughout history, and the law sustains these terrors and banishments even as it upholds the civil order. Examining such troubling cases, The Law Is a White Dog tackles key societal questions: How does the law construct our identities? How do its rules and sanctions make or unmake persons? And how do the supposedly rational claims of the law define marginal entities, both natural and supernatural, including ghosts, dogs, slaves, terrorist suspects, and felons? Reading the language, allusions, and symbols of legal discourse, and bridging distinctions between the human and nonhuman, Colin Dayan looks at how the law disfigures individuals and animals, and how slavery, punishment, and torture create unforeseen effects in our daily lives.Moving seamlessly across genres and disciplines, Dayan considers legal practices and spiritual beliefs from medieval England, the North American colonies, and the Caribbean that have survived in our legal discourse, and she explores the civil deaths of felons and slaves through lawful repression. Tracing the legacy of slavery in the United States in the structures of the contemporary American prison system and in the administrative detention of ghostly supermax facilities, she also demonstrates how contemporary jurisprudence regarding cruel and unusual punishment prepared the way for abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.Using conventional historical and legal sources to answer unconventional questions, The Law Is a White Dog illuminates stark truths about civil society's ability to marginalize, exclude, and dehumanize.
In this original and provocative book, Colin Dayan tackles head-on the inexhaustible world, at once tender and fierce, of dogs and humans. We follow the tracks of dogs in the bayous of Louisiana, the streets of Istanbul, and the humane societies of the United States, and in the memories and myths of the humans who love them. Dayan reorients our ethical and political assumptions through a trans-species engagement that risks as much as it promises. She makes a powerful case for questioning what we think of as our deepest-held beliefs and, with dogs in the lead, unsettles the dubious promises of liberal humanism. Moving seamlessly between memoir, case law, and film, Dayan takes politics and animal studies in a new direction-one that gives us glimpses of how we can think beyond ourselves and with other beings. Her unconventional perspective raises hard questions and renews what it means for any animal or human to live in the twenty-first century. Nothing less than a challenge for us to confront violence and suffering even in the privileged precincts of modernity, this searing and lyrical book calls for another way to think the world. Theoretically sophisticated yet aimed at a broad readership, With Dogs at the Edge of Life illuminates how dogs-and their struggles-take us beyond sentimentality and into a form of thought that can make a difference to our lives.
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