The Miracle of the Black Leg: Notes on Race, Human Bodies, and the Spirit of the Law

Pre-Order   Ships Jun 25, 2024
Product Details
$29.99  $27.89
New Press
Publish Date
5.4 X 8.6 X 1.0 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

Patricia J. Williams is the James L. Dohr Professor of Law Emerita at Columbia Law School and the longtime former "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" columnist for The Nation. She is a MacArthur fellow and the author of six books, including The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Open House, and The Miracle of the Black Leg (The New Press). She is currently a University Distinguished Professor of Law and Humanities at Northeastern University in Boston, where she lives.

Praise for Miracle of the Black Leg:
"Patricia Williams never fails to deliver incisive critiques of the complex ways that race, gender, law, capitalism, and culture shape our understandings of, and responses to, our world. This book is no exception."
--Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow

"With her always stunning analyses of seemingly ordinary stories and the surprising connections she draws, Patricia Williams urges us to understand deeply and differently how our histories continue to produce us and how we might begin to dismantle ideas and structures so utterly dependent on our intellectual passivity."
--Angela Y. Davis, professor, UC Santa Cruz, and author of Women, Race, and Class

"Ever since The Alchemy of Race and Rights, I have been enchanted by the elegance of Williams's writing and her needlepoint analysis of contemporary life in race. With The Miracle of the Black Leg she opens another treasure chest of breathtaking historical and contemporary detail."
--Anna Deavere Smith, actress, playwright, and professor, NYU

"Erudition, style, and common sense--wisdom, even--ground the fire that drives these remarkable essays, a fire they cannot but kindle in their readers."
--Lewis Hyde, cultural critic and author of The Gift

"Patricia Williams has produced a brilliant explication of an evolving pas de deux between contract law and constitutional law--and how a better understanding of its continually unfolding relationship can illuminate and overturn what you thought you knew about property and ownership--your own body parts (limbs, sperm and eggs, DNA) to your firearms and your privacy. With AI looming over the next decade like an approaching dark cloud, this is a major contribution to the national dialogue."
--Troy Duster, chancellor's professor and senior fellow, UC Berkeley

"With her incisive brilliance and stunning legal imagination, Patricia Williams yet again proves herself to be one of the sharpest thinkers on race and the law in our nation's history. Law is at the center of our contemporary national crises, and Williams takes us on a journey deep into the history of cases and doctrine to understand how we got here and why ideas about what law can and should be matter for all of us who believe in freedom. "
--Imani Perry, New York Times bestselling author of South to America

"From the renowned legal scholar comes a stunning meditation on how we have assembled ourselves in the project of America's racialized democracy. Patricia Williams's powerful new work The Miracle of the Black Leg is a prompt to consider the most vital topics of our day."
--Sarah Lewis, founder, Vision & Justice, and professor of history of art, Harvard University

"The Miracle of the Black Leg is a beautifully written, haunting book. In this 'purportedly color-blind time, ' Patricia Williams shows us a present that preserves the worst of the past, when a militarized citizenry and seemingly insurmountable libertarianism threaten minorities, women, and indigents. Deeply and passionately--with an often-searing wit--she moves us beyond the legacy of slavery to where a miracle of healing might take place: a saving cure for the enormous violence of 'separate but equal, ' civil death, and dispossession. Fusing the historic and the imaginative, The Miracle of the Black Leg reorients how we think about the present and gives us hope for the future."
--Colin Dayan, author of The Law Is a White Dog and In the Belly of Her Ghost

"Patricia Williams's The Miracle of the Black Leg is itself a wondrous miracle--a beautiful and poetic prosthesis, a kind of third leg which can support us as we imagine how to best stand up for rights and justice in a world in which, without her example, we would be even less provided for. Williams remains one of our most precious resources for thinking and acting in different and even magically transformative ways."
--Eduardo Cadava, Philip Mayhew professor, Princeton University

"At a time when Critical Race Theory has become a target of neofascist attacks, Patricia Williams's new book is essential reading for our collective sanity. Ignoring these shrill polemics, her wistful, first-person musings about bodies and body parts, legs, sperm, and DNA, continue her long-term effort to dissect the alchemy of race and rights. Her narrative gift and finely chiseled style will help a wide audience understand the political tension inherent in the law, and in our societies, between reifying and humanizing logics."
--Éric Fassin, professor of sociology, Université Paris 8 Vincennes, Saint-Denis

"No one in the world has captured life under the law quite like Patricia Williams. Her uncanny analyses and graceful maneuvers through the weirdest dregs of history, politics, and culture have a way of reenchanting even these darkest of times. Her prose, haunting and revelatory, ethical and droll, is a heady pleasure. This newest collection of essays is a gift, a testament, a wondrous act of restitution."
--Sherally Munshi, professor of law, Georgetown Law

"With The Miracle of the Black Leg, Patricia Williams once again invites us into her magnificent mind with a dazzling meditation on race, property, contract, bioethics, technology, public health, guns, and more. Readers will be inspired by the singularity of Williams's brilliance. This book is a reminder that Williams is one of the most important legal scholars of our time."
--Khiara Bridges, professor of law, UC Berkeley School of Law

"There is an old juristic wisdom that perspicuous truths still need to be evidenced and made to appear. In The Miracle of the Black Leg, the alchemical Williams forges a unique and coruscating series of such rare insights and painful pneumatograms. Dazzling prose, pellucid reasoning, and the whetstone of wit combine to provide a meticulous history and aesthetic record of the present. In sum, crucible and pestle, a searing record of the affective polarization that scars these evanescent times."
--Peter Goodrich, professor of law, Cardozo School of Law

"There are few writers of whom I will say 'I will read anything she writes.' Williams is one of those few."
--Mari J. Matsuda, professor, University of Hawai'i and author of Words That Wound

"Patricia Williams has masterfully meditated on the horrors emerging from an enduring legacy of sorting, selling, and packaging bodies and identities from slavery to the present, exposing the myriad ways in which the thicket of law, society, science, and medicine contribute to bruise the spirit and flesh of those most vulnerable from the start."
--Michele Goodwin, professor of law, Georgetown Law, host of the podcast On the Issues with Michele Goodwin, and author of Policing the Womb