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

22 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2007

See all articles by Phyllis Goldfarb

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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