Pamela Brandwein’s research and teaching interests include constitutional law and politics; race, politics, and civil rights; and American political development. Her work is united by a focus on discourse and political institutions, and her research has generated new understandings of the politics of race and labor that shaped struggles over slavery and the Reconstruction Amendments. A specialist in the law and politics of Reconstruction, she likewise explores the politics of collective memory as it pertains to race, rights, and the American project.
She is the author of Reconstructing Reconstruction: The Supreme Court and the Production of Historical Truth (Duke University Press, 1999), which examines the mid-twentieth century production and establishment of an error-ridden account of the history of the Fourteenth Amendment and the impact of that account on the politics of Warren Court rights expansions. Her second book, Rethinking the Judicial Settlement of Reconstruction (Cambridge University Press, 2011), revises conventional wisdom about the Supreme Court’s “state action” doctrine, commonly viewed as an abandonment of blacks to Southern home rule. Unveiling a lost jurisprudence of rights that provided protections for black physical safety and black voting, even as it left public accommodation rights undefended, this law-and-politics treatment of the Reconstruction era unites new political history, close legal reading, and the study of governing institutions. Currently, she is working on a book project that reexamines the relationship between antislavery politics and capitalist development in the United States.
Her courses offer students an approach to the study of American politics that is attentive to political systems, power, the construction of meaning, and change over time. Drawing students from across the College, her courses on landmark Supreme Court cases; race and the shaping of American politics; and law and gender provide an array of tools for thinking systematically about the politics of law, inequality, and state-building.
She has won numerous awards for her teaching and is the first two-time winner of the Tronstein Award, for outstanding undergraduate teaching in the Department of Political Science. She has also lectured in a wide variety of university, professional, and community settings, ranging from federal judicial conferences to the Interfaith Roundtable of Washtenaw County. She has twice been honored to deliver Leon Silverman lectures at the U.S. Supreme Court, having the privilege of being introduced by Justice Ginsburg (2015) and Justice Sotomayor (2019).
Field(s) of Study
- Law, Courts, and Politics
- American Political Development
- Race, Ethnicity, and Politics