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Pedagogy of the Suppressed: A Class on Race and the Death Penalty

22 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2007  

Phyllis Goldfarb

George Washington University Law School


What does it mean to contextualize legal doctrine and how does contextualization matter? This essay explores a general pedagogy of contextualization within the particular context of a class on race and the death penalty. Teaching the Supreme Court's infamous 1987 opinion in the case of McCleskey v. Kemp within its historical, doctrinal, cultural, and human contexts - rather than as a self-explanatory pronouncement - provides a deeper understanding of America's death penalty system, its connection to America's racial caste system, and the Supreme Court's role in each. These multiple contexts provide a foundation for comprehension and critique of values served by conventional legal methods. They also create conditions for progressive insights about what law enables and what it elides.

Keywords: McCleskey v. Kemp, death penalty, racial caste system, contextualization

Suggested Citation

Goldfarb, Phyllis, Pedagogy of the Suppressed: A Class on Race and the Death Penalty. New York University Review of Law and Social Change, 2007; Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 129. Available at SSRN:

Phyllis Goldfarb (Contact Author)

George Washington University Law School ( email )

2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202.994.7463 (Phone)

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