Marianne Constable


Head Graduate Advisor


PhD (Jurisprudence and Social Policy), UC Berkeley
JD, UC Berkeley

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354-A Dwinelle

Thursdays, 5-6:30pm, and by appointment



Research Interests

Legal rhetoric and philosophy
Theories of interpretation
Social and political thought
Anglo-American legal traditions Continental philosophy Contemporary law and society

Marianne Constable has published broadly on a range of topics in legal rhetoric and philosophy. Her most recent book, entitled “Our Word is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts,” (Stanford University Press, 2014) shows how legal utterances, in speech and writing, are forms of law-in-action. She is currently working on the “new unwritten law” that ostensibly exonerated women who killed their husbands in Chicago a century ago, as a way of exploring the rhetoric of law and the rhetoric of history. She is also very interested in the written dialogue form, in the rhetoric of envirornment and administration, and in awareness and movement and their relations to learning. Her books include Just Silences: The Limits and Possibilities of Modern Law (2005) and The Law of the Other: The Mixed Jury and Changes in Conceptions of Citizenship, Law and Knowledge (1994), which won the Law and Society Association’s J. Willard Hurst Prize in Legal History.

Constable is the author of articles on, among other topics, Foucault and immigration law, Nietzsche and jurisprudence, the rhetoric of “community,” the role of law in the liberal arts, Frederick Schauer on rules, Robert Cover on violence, Montesquieu on systems, Vico on legal education, and Arendt on the rhetoric of “sustainability.” For her views on the importance of rhetoric, see  She has co-edited two books on law and society and has served on numerous editorial boards relating to law and humanities and law and society.


Constable was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 2013-14 and a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton during 2005-06; her awards include the NEH, a prize for undergraduate research mentoring at UCB, the Sarlo Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award, and the Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities’ James Boyd White Award. She held the Zaffaroni Family Chair in Undergraduate Education 2009-2014, while also serving as Department Chair. On campus, she is affiliated with the Designated Emphases in Critical Theory and in Women and Gender Studies and affiliated with the Center for the Study of Law and Society.  Since 2005, she has been a certified Feldenkrais Method (R) practitioner.



With Samera Esmeir, “Rhetoric and the Possiblities of Legal History,” in Oxford Companion to Legal History, eds. Markus Dubber & Christopher Tomlines (Oxford Univ. Press, in press)              

“When Actions Speak Louder …” Qui Parle (in press)

“Invention and ‘Process’ in Bilski,” in eds. Constable, Volpp, and Wagner, Looking for Law in All the Wrong Places (Fordham University Press, forthcoming)

“Law and Language as Information Systems: Perish the Thought!” in Searching for Contemporary Legal Thought, eds. Justin Desautels-Stein & Christopher Tomlins (Cambridge Univ. Press, forthcoming), 155-176.

“Speaking Imperfectly: Law, Language, and History,” 5 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. (2015) 349-364.

“‘Be True to What You Said On Paper’: Penny Pether on the Positivism of Law and Language,” 60 Vill. L. Rev.(2015) 549 – 560.              

“Law as Language,” Critical Analysis of Law: An International & Interdisciplinary Law Review, Vol 1, No 1(2014), 63-74.

“Speaking of the Imperfect: Law, Language and Justice,” 12 No Foundations: An International Journal of Law and Justice (2012) 58-67.

“Democratic Citizenship and Civil Political Conversation: What’s Law Got to Do with It?” Mercer Law Review (63:3 Spring 2012) 877-890.

“The Rhetoric of Sustainability: Human, All-too-Human,” HA: The Journal of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College (2012) 155-167.

“Law as Claim to Justice,” UC Irvine Law Review (I: 3, Sept 2012), 631-40.

“Incitement to Justice: Fitzpatrick’s Citations as Counter-Imperialism,” in Reading Modern Law: Critical Methodologies and Sovereign Formations, eds. Buchanan, Motha, and Pahuja (Routledge/Cavendish,  2012). 

“Speaking the Language of Law: A Juris-dictional Primer,” English Language Notes (48:2, Fall/Winter 2010, 9-14. Full text available online here.

“Law as Claim to Justice,” UC Irvine Law Review (in press).

“Our Word is Our Bond”, ed. Austin Sarat, Speech and Silence in American Law, Cambridge University Press (2010), 18-38. Google Books Preview here.

“Law’s Love of Difference: Commentary on James Martel’s States of Indifference,” Quinnipiac Law Journal (2010) 28:3, 659-667. Full text available online here.

“Learning to Dance with Nietzsche,” Feldenkrais Journal (Fall 2009), 3-7.

“This Jurisprudential Moment” (“Commentary”) in On Philosophy in American Law, ed. Frances J. Mootz III, Cambridge University Press (2009), 279-284. Full text available online here (UC Berkeley elibrary).

“Conflicts as a Law of Laws?” (“Afterword” to The Return of the Private: Private International Law Meets Global Governance, eds. Karen Knop, Ralf Michaels, Annelise Riles) 71:3 Law and Contemporary Problems (2008), 343-349. Full text available online here.

“On the (Legal) Study Methods of Our Time: Vico Redux,” 83:3 Chicago-Kent Law Review (2008), 1303-1332. Full text available online here.

“Despotic Observation: Montesquieu and the Sociology of Law,” eds. Simona Goi and Frederick M. Dolan, Between Terror and Freedom: Philosophy, Politics, and Fiction Speak of Modernity (Lexington Books, 2006), 195-219. Google Books Preview here.

“Chicago Husband-Killing and the New ‘Unwritten Law’,” TriQuarterly no. 124 (2006), 85-96. Full text available online here.

“The Shuffle of Things: Law and Knowledge in ‘Modern Society’,” Theoretical Inquiries in Law 8:1 (2006), 185-200. Full text available online here.

“On Not Leaving Law to the Lawyers,” ed. Austin Sarat, Legal Scholarship and the Liberal Arts (Cornell Univ. Press, 2004), 69-83. Google Books Preview here.

“The Silence of the Law: Justice in Robert Cover’s `Field of Pain and Death’,” ed. Austin Sarat, Law, Violence and the Possibilities of Justice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 85-100. Google Books Preview here.

“The Rhetoric of Community: Civil Society and the Legal Order,” eds. Bryant Garth, Robert Kagan and Austin Sarat, Looking Back at Law’s Century: Time, Memory, Change (Cornell University Press, 2001), 213-231. Google Books Preview here.

“The Library at the Turn of the Century,” Chronicles of the University of California, no. 4, Fall 2000, 138-156.

“Laying Aside the Law: The Silences of Presumptive Positivism,” ed. Linda Meyer, Essays in Honor of Frederick Schauer, (Oxford: Hart Publishing Company, 1999), 61-78.

“Reflections on Law as a Profession of Words,” in Bryant Garth and Austin Sarat, eds., Justice and Power in Sociolegal Research (Northwestern University Press, 1998) 19-35. Full text available online here.

“Beyond Legal Positivism: Where the State Ends,” in Marijan Pavcnik & Gianfrancesco Zanetti, eds., Legal Systems and Legal Science (Proceedings of the 17th I.V.R. World Congress of International Association of Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, ARSP-Beiheft 70:4, Franz Steiner Verlag, 1997), 123-126.

“The Regents on Race and Diversity: Reflections and Representations,” Representations 55 (Summer 1996) 92-97. Full text available online here.

“A New Conception of Law?” Law & Society Review 29:4 (1995) 593-597. Full text available online here.

“Introductory Comment” to Symposium on “The Law’s Gaze: Detection, Fiction and the Law,” Studies in Law, Politics and Society, vol. 14 (1994) 3-7.

“Genealogy and Jurisprudence: Nietzsche, Nihilism and the Social Scientification of Law,” Law and Social Inquiry 19:3 (Summer 1994), 551-590. Full text available online here.

“Droit, sociologie et nihilisme,” (a shorter version of “Genealogy and Jurisprudence: Nietzsche, Nihilism and the Social Scientification of Law”), Futur anterieur, no. 19_20 (1993/5_6). Full text available online here.

“Rejoinder: Thinking Nonsociologically about Sociological Law,” Law & Social Inquiry, 19:3 (Summer 1994) 625-638. Full text available online here.

“Sovereignty and Governmentality in Modern American Immigration Law,” Studies in Law, Politics and Society 13 (1993) 249-271.

“The Modern Jury: Fact and Law in Law and Society,” Journal of American Culture, special issue on Law in American Culture, 15:1 (Spring 1992) 37-44. Full text available online here.

“Sociological Justice and Jurisprudential Nihilism,” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 11:1 (Spring 1991) 114-124. Full text available online here.

“Foucault and Walzer: Sovereignty, Strategy, and the State,” Polity XXIV (Winter 1991) 269-293. Full text available online here.

“What Books About Juries Reveal About Social Science and Law,” Law and Social Inquiry 16:2 (Spring 1991) 353-372. Full text available online here.

Book Reviews/Occasional Pieces

Double book review: Robert E. Murphy, The Three Graces of Raymond Street: Murder, Madness, Sex andPolitics in 1870s Brooklyn and Victor M. Uribe-Uban, Fatal Love: Spousal Killers, Law, and Punishment in the Late Colonial Spanish Atlantic, in British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 57: 4 (2017), 1007–1011              

Opinion: “When Words Cease to Matter,” Hannah Arendt Center, Bard College (11/20/16) [reprinted in HA: Journal of Hannah Arendt Center, vol. 5, 2017]

Bk Rev: Ben Golder, Foucault and the Politics of Rights, Canadian Journal of Law and Society, Vol 31:3 (2016) pp. 500-501.

Bookshelf: Writings and Documents of Law, Journal of Law, Culture and the Humanities Vol 12:2 (2016), pp.448-449.

Bk Rev: Maria Aristodemou, Law, Psychoanalysis, Society: Taking the Unconscious Seriously, Law & Society Rev. Vol. 49:4 (2015), pp. 1028-30.

Bk Rev: Cathy Caruth, Literature in the Ashes of History, Law, Culture, and the Humanities, Vol 11:2 (2015) pp.316-319; 

Podcast: New Books in Law. Interview on Our Word is Our Bond. 63 minutes.

“Justice,” World Book Encyclopedia, online (2015)


Review essay: “The Predicament of Modern Law: Parker’s History of a Law without a History that Matters,” (Review of Kunal M. Parker, Common Law, History and Democracy in America, 1790-1900: Legal Thought BeforeModernism). Law and Social Inquiry, vol 40: 1 (2014), pp. 238–244

Carol Jacobs: Skirting the EthicalModern Philology 110 (2012)
“Response” to review of Just Silences by John Conley, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 33:1(2010) 148-151
Interview by Jill Stauffer in The Believer, October 2010. Full text available online here.               

James Oldham: Trial by Jury: The Seventh Amendment and Anglo-American Special Juries, in American Journal of Legal History 49:4 (2007 publication; 2009 printing). Full text available online here.

“Analyzing the Trial: Interdisciplinary Methods,” participant in panel discussion transcribed for 31:2 PoLAR (Political and Legal Anthropology Review) 303-329 (2008). Full text available online here.

“A Global Vision of Social Justice?” (on Sally Merry, Human Rights and Gender Violence) in 110:4 American Anthropologist 514-517 (2008). Full text available online here.

Elizabeth Mertz: The Language of Law School: Learning To “Think Like a Lawyer,” in 43:2 Law and Society Review 433-435 (2008). Full text available online here.

“Jury: U.S. Law,” Encyclopedia of Legal History, ed. Stan Katz, Oxford U. Press (2009) 1320-22.

“Rhetoric,” Encyclopedia of Law and Society, ed. David S. Clark, Sage Publications (2007).

“Comments on the Collected Writings of Takao Tanase: Modernism,” Proceedings from the 2005 Sho Sato Conference in Honor of Takao Tanase; published electronically and available here.

Introduction to Symposium on Lloyd Burton, Worship and Wilderness: Culture, Religion and Law in Public Lands Management, in Law & Society Review 39 (2005), 677-679. Full text available online here.

Introduction to Symposium on Robert P. Burns’ A Theory of the Trial, in 28 Law and Social Inquiry (2003), 523-526. Full text available online here.

Aviam Soifer, Law and the Company We Keep, in Contemporary Sociology 26:3 (May l997) 362-3. Full text available online here.

Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse, in Contemporary Sociology 22:2 (March 1993) 237-38.

Fred Dolan and Thomas Dumm, eds., Rhetorical Republic: Governing Representations in American Politics, in Qui Parle 7:1 (Fall/Winter 1993) 159-168. Full text available online here.

Catharine A. MacKinnon, Towards a Feminist Theory of the State, in Women & Politics 13:1, 1993, 100-102. Full text available online here.