Coming Soon: Erman’s Almost Citizens

Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire is coming soon! Publication is expected in November-December 2018. To get up to speed on the project before it is published, you can watch the below video in which Professor Erman summarizes his book and the major arguments it makes. A transcription of the video follows.

The book is titled Almost Citizens and it’s the story of how in the early twentieth century formal empire became constitutional in the United States. It makes three arguments. The first argument is that individuals without formal legal training make a difference at law. Here, I enter into a part of the field that is concerned with individual agency and with claims-making. The second argument of the book is about the idea that law changes outside the courts. I argue that people in congress, federal bureaucrats, the President, even individual litigants and lawyers, change the meaning of the constitution over time. The third argument is that people’s thinking about race and gender could never be separated from their understandings about what the law was and what it should be. The idea is that the law does not just develop because of legal logics, but our own biases; how judges see the world more generally, and how others see the world, profoundly shapes what the law is and what it can become.

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