Marriage Matters: The Politics of Marriage in Western Culture, Part 2: Marriage, Citizenship, and Status in American History

AHA Session 156
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Maryland Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Hendrik Hartog, Princeton University
Janet Halley, Harvard Law School
Dylan C. Penningroth, American Bar Foundation and Northwestern University
Amy Dru Stanley, University of Chicago

Session Abstract

In American history, marriage has been mobilized to discipline the recalcitrant or the disruptive, to avoid or to lessen corruption, as a marker of adult capacity, as a way to reveal those entitled to a variety of public goods, or because marriage is or was understood as an inherent human right or a crucial feature of citizenship.  Along the way, the family has sometimes been equated with marriage, turning family law into a weird and exceptional undertaking.  Political and legal debate has fixated on the presence or absence or the terms of a “private” contract between two individuals.  The speakers on this panel will initiate a conversation, less about why marriage matters, than about the consequences for law, for constitutional understandings, and for the public culture generally that marriage has so often framed questions central to American constitutional life and to American culture: including questions about citizenship, about public welfare, about kin relations and obligations, about property and inheritance, and, more globally, about the rights and duties that are owed to others.