My Beautiful Wickedness

Oh, happy publication day…
May 22, 2007, 11:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ok, so the article will be part of a new working papers series put out by our college.

So what!

I’m taking anything with an ISBN number these days.


4 Comments so far
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What’s the article about?

Comment by Nick Dupree

It’s about the worth of women’s work in the early republican Northwest. My evidence suggests that women’s work often had greater cash value than men’s work and that girls particularly brought in a lot of cash to the early western farming frontier. As a result, I suggest that women have been overlooked players in explaining the process of property acquisition among the yeoman class, especially because land purchases from the federal government had to be paid for in cash rather than in kind. A subargument is that the mere fact of being married gave men decided advantages in making pre-emptive claims — land grants were given only to “heads of households,” which a bachelor could not be.

Anyhow, this is just a little piece of a bigger book-in-progress about sex, race, and the retrenchment of imperial property law in post-revolutionary America. I promise that you’ll never think about inalienable rights in the same way again after I get through with your head…which has a lot of contemporary ramifications as people discuss the issue of privilege and who has it and where is it legally located…

Thanks for asking.

Comment by bridgett

That sounds incredible.
But what do you mean by “imperial property law?”

Comment by Nick Dupree

Briefly, it’s a property law that assigns relative social and economic weight/value to one’s inalienable rights (liberty or self-determination, ability to acquire and defend property, pursuit of happiness being just three) depending on one’s political identity in the empire. The tricky part of this is that Americans have a common-law system which is deeply historical and inherently conservative (meaning in this case designed not to change fast) — a lot of ideas are simply received through tradition and while jurists do rethink periodically, the vast majority of decisions and the social knowledge contained within them are going to ride on through in any historical epoch. Think of common-law as sediment in a river, not visible from the surface but settling down, turning to the bedrock of what appears legal common sense, no longer thought much about, that shapes where the river can run. So we’re still stuck with a surprising number of assumptions that on their face and in fact thwart equality and were, in their original practice, exactly intended to do so.

(Ultimately, I’m trying to demonstrate the roots of structural racism and sexism in early republican property law and its legacies for our own time. No small projects for me.)

Comment by bridgett

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