Thursday, March 17, 2016


Law Professor Kaaryn Gustafson to Give Thomas Lecture on March 21

Kaaryn Gustafson, Professor of Law at UC–Irvine School of Law, will give a lecture titled “Bastardy, Debt, and Social Control” on March 21, 2016, at 4:30 p.m. in the Faculty Lounge. This 2015–2016 James A. Thomas Lecture will highlight Gustafson’s historical research on America’s orphan and bastardy laws.

“These laws, particularly in the antebellum South, served as an important legal tool of social control, particularly in the regulation of free black citizens,” says Gustafson. “While many might assume that the laws served to regulate childbearing and parenting, they served much more important roles in policing the color line, policing labor and property, and policing young black men.”

Gustafson’s talk will trace some of the vestiges of these laws in current policies, with an emphasis on child support enforcement.

Professor Gustafson’s research and scholarship is interdisciplinary and explores the role of law in remedying inequality—and in reinforcing inequality. Her research during the last decade focused on the expanding administrative overlap between the welfare and criminal justice systems, as well as the experiences of those individuals and families caught in those systems. Her current research explores the history of law in regulating African American families and in regulating labor among poor people of various ethnic backgrounds.

The James A. Thomas Lecture was established in 1989 in honor of Associate Dean James A. Thomas ’64 and his many years of service to Yale Law School. It brings to the Law School a scholar whose work addresses the concerns of communities or groups currently marginalized within the legal academy or society at large.