“Charlottesville” as Legal History

by Risa Goluboff

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I have decided to share with you a very new project—about the white supremacist and anti-Semitic violence that took place in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11 and 12, 2017. Those events have come to be called “Charlottesville.” As I have worked through what it would really mean to treat “Charlottesville” as legal history in any of the ways I would want to given my methodological commitments, I realize that all of these distancing moves necessarily fail. I cannot hide behind the law, and I cannot limit myself to a formal and sterile understanding of law. That is not how I do legal history. I do not want to push the people or the violence from the center to the margins and place some abstract notion of the law at the center. The lived experience of the law and the formal legal process cannot be separated. A legal history devoid of all of those ostensibly “non-law” aspects would probably be one that I do not want to write and one few would find compelling to read.