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Murder Stories and the Hegemony of Individualism

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Abstract:

Individualism is thought (by some) to underpin the somewhat puzzling retention of capital punishment in the USA. Ironically, capital trials themselves create an unusual legal space for challenging individualism. The so-called ‘penalty phase’ of a capital trial is one of few legal proceedings in which attorneys have the evidentiary latitude to introduce practically any kind of evidence, including ideologically subversive discourses. When attempting to ‘explain but not excuse’ murder, however, most penalty phase narratives tend to stagger along a tightrope, leaning back-and-forth between (on the one hand) the radical indeterminacy of human free will and (on the other) social determinism. In a sense, these stories of ‘diminished autonomy’ bridge the gap between the overused and simplistic binary of ‘agency’ and ‘structure.’ But even when capital defenders have the best intentions and motivation, they are often straightjacketed into instantiating individualism. Through analyses of legal documents and interviews with capital defenders and prosecutors, I have argued that this situation represents hegemony. In this presentation, I will discuss how individualism ‘comes without saying’ in American law, perhaps hindering the possibility of abolition any time soon (notwithstanding the recent regime change in Washington).
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Association:
Name: ASC Annual Meeting
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http://www.asc41.com


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p372370_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Kaplan, Paul. "Murder Stories and the Hegemony of Individualism" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASC Annual Meeting, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA, Nov 03, 2009 <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p372370_index.html>

APA Citation:

Kaplan, P. , 2009-11-03 "Murder Stories and the Hegemony of Individualism" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASC Annual Meeting, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Philadelphia, PA <Not Available>. 2014-11-28 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p372370_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Individualism is thought (by some) to underpin the somewhat puzzling retention of capital punishment in the USA. Ironically, capital trials themselves create an unusual legal space for challenging individualism. The so-called ‘penalty phase’ of a capital trial is one of few legal proceedings in which attorneys have the evidentiary latitude to introduce practically any kind of evidence, including ideologically subversive discourses. When attempting to ‘explain but not excuse’ murder, however, most penalty phase narratives tend to stagger along a tightrope, leaning back-and-forth between (on the one hand) the radical indeterminacy of human free will and (on the other) social determinism. In a sense, these stories of ‘diminished autonomy’ bridge the gap between the overused and simplistic binary of ‘agency’ and ‘structure.’ But even when capital defenders have the best intentions and motivation, they are often straightjacketed into instantiating individualism. Through analyses of legal documents and interviews with capital defenders and prosecutors, I have argued that this situation represents hegemony. In this presentation, I will discuss how individualism ‘comes without saying’ in American law, perhaps hindering the possibility of abolition any time soon (notwithstanding the recent regime change in Washington).


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