WHERE IS YOUR BODY? by Mari J. Matsuda


And Other Essays on Race, Gender, and the Law
Email this review


 A small order of leftist jurisprudence to go, by a self- described ``female Asian-American radical law professor who does theory.'' Matsuda (Law/Georgetown Univ.) collects 16 brief speeches delivered to legal and lay (mostly academic) audiences on her outsider status in the law, in academia, and in Clinton's America. A Japanese-American, Matsuda describes how her ``woman-of-color consciousness'' both alienates her from the law, which often displays a pro-male bias, and binds her to it, its procedures offering the means to attack injustice on behalf of the oppressed. She extols in a general way the contributions of ``critical race theorists,'' academics whose starting point for analysis is racial identity and whose mostly descriptive scholarship is dismissed by some as ``lightweight, the academic equivalent of a Kwanzaa cookbook.'' Matsuda urges race theorists to ``intersect'' their analysis with the work of feminist libertarians, whose understanding of the dynamics of oppression led them, for example, to oppose the 1994 crime bill (its mandated death penalty for crimes against women was racist). The irony of these essays is that even as Matsuda defends outsider analysis against charges that it is too grounded in personal experience rather than in theory, she seems preoccupied with positioning herself among various ivory-tower theoretical camps (e.g., ``neoformalists'' and ``ecofeminists''). When she urges reform, it's standard liberal- issue: quality child care, affirmative action, free health care, etc. Her most impassioned and complex speeches deal with a purely academic subject: campus hate speech, which she would like to outlaw on the grounds that it subordinates women and minorities. A final section on Asian-American identity is compelling but sketchy, overlooking the sometimes tense relations between Asians and other people of color. Correctness for the pre-law set.

Pub Date: Dec. 27th, 1996
ISBN: 0-8070-6780-6
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996