Family Law Matters

This essay analyzes how new histories of family law help to dismantle developmentalist accounts of legal, economic, and political modernity. Far from being backwaters, they have recently emerged as sites of theoretical and practical innovation. Recombining methodologies from genealogy to social reproduction theory and psychoanalysis, they do more than denaturalize categories, destabilize familiar narratives, and demonstrate ideological contradictions (although they do that too). Motivated by a sense of what is lost theoretically and politically by the family's historical and juridical marginalization, they reinvigorate legal history by locating the problem of the family at the center of broader critical projects.