Prejudicial Appearances

The Logic of American Antidiscrimination Law

Prejudicial Appearances

Book Pages: 184 Illustrations: Published: October 2001

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Law > Legal Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In Prejudicial Appearances noted legal scholar Robert C. Post argues modern American antidiscrimination law should not be conceived as protecting the transcendental dignity of individual persons but instead as transforming social practices that define and sustain potentially oppressive categories like race or gender. Arguing that the prevailing logic of American antidiscrimination law is misleading, Post lobbies for deploying sociological understandings to reevaluate the antidiscrimination project in ways that would render the law more effective and just.
Four distinguished commentators respond to Post’s provocative essay. Each adopts a distinctive perspective. K. Anthony Appiah investigates the philosophical logic of stereotyping and of equality. Questioning whether the law ought to endorse any social practices that define persons, Judith Butler explores the tension between sociological and postmodern approaches to antidiscrimination law. Thomas C. Grey examines whether Post’s proposal can be reconciled with the values of the rule of law. And Reva B. Siegel applies critical race theory to query whether antidiscrimination law’s reshaping of race and gender should best be understood in terms of practices of subordination and stratification.
By illuminating the consequential rhetorical maneuvers at the heart of contemporary U.S. antidiscrimination law, Prejudical Appearances forces readers to reappraise the relationship between courts of law and social behavior. As such, it will enrich scholars interested in the relationships between law, rhetoric, postmodernism, race, and gender.


"[A] timely and vital collection" — Valerie Karno , American Quarterly

"Providing some astute and interesting insights into anti-discrimination law, Prejudicial Appearances is a brief but illuminating invitation to further explore the ways in which individuals are treated because of their appearance, as well as what law can, and possibly should, do to counteract those effects." — M. A. Stein , Cambridge Law Journal

"Robert Post is a brilliant legal theorist whose thinking draws on many disciplines. There is much in his essay to mull over, and one imagines it will be taken very seriously by legal scholars and judges. . . . His multilayered analysis, (with its rich literary allusions) deserves keen scrutiny."
— Cynthia Fuchs Epstein , Contemporary Sociology

“Post is one of the most sophisticated members of the legal academy, and, not surprisingly, he offers here an illuminating contrast between certain conventional, ‘formal’ approaches to analyzing ‘discrimination’ and a far more contextual, sociologically nuanced understanding of social practices.” — Sanford Levinson, author of Processes of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials

“Robert Post has established himself as among the most original thinkers in American constitutional law. Restoring social context to legal formalism, he makes an astute, humane, and compelling case for the central role of the law in shaping the meanings of race and gender.” — Henry Louis Gates Jr.


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Robert C. Post is Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

K. Anthony Appiah is Professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy at Harvard University.

Judith Butler is Professor of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.

Thomas C. Grey is Professor of Law at Stanford University.

Reva B. Siegel is Professor of Law at Yale University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Prejudicial Appearances: The Logic of American Antidiscrimination Law/ Robert C. Post 1

Stereotypes and the Shaping of Identity/ K. Anthony Appiah 55

"Appearances Aside" / Judith Butler 73

Cover Blindness / Thomas C. Grey 85

Discrimination in the Eyes of the Law: How "Color Blindness" Discourse Disrupts and Rationalizes Social Stratification / Reva B. Siegel 99

Response to Commentators / Robert C. Post 153

Contributors 165

Index 167
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2713-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2702-8
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