2006-2007 University Distinguished Lecture Series

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    The Human Dilemma: Being the Same and Different at the Same Time
    (Ohio State University, 2007-05-17) Brewer, Marilynn B., 1942-
    Human social behavior presents us with a paradox. On the one hand, we assert our individuality, long to stand out from the crowd, and resist being “pigeon-holed” based on roles or stereotypes. On the other hand, we proudly wear our school colors, cringe with embarrassment if we are out of fashion, and seek to belong and “fit in.” If we are categorized as members of large, inclusive social groups, we speak of “losing our identity”; but if others fail to recognize or validate our group memberships, we speak of “losing our identity.” According to a theory of optimal distinctiveness, such apparent contradictions reflect adaptive mechanisms that bind human beings together in social groups. The theory posits that humans are characterized by two opposing social needs. The first is a need for assimilation and inclusion, a desire for belonging that motivates immersion in social groups. The second is a need for differentiation from others that operates in opposition to the need for immersion. Opposing motives hold each other in check, with the result that human beings are not comfortable either in isolation or in huge collectives and instead gravitate to social groups that are both bounded and distinctive. These motives underlie group loyalty, cooperation, and trust, but at the same time lay the groundwork for inter-group distrust and conflict. Research in the laboratory and the real world documents both the constructive and destructive consequences of us-them distinctions and leads us to explore the important question of whether humans can reap the benefits of group belonging without the costs of exclusion.
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    Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: Race, Gender and Tort Law
    (Ohio State University, 2007-03-12) Chamallas, Martha
    Very few persons see a connection between "ordinary" tort claims and claims for violations of civil rights. Historically, the two domains have developed separately, and civil rights attorneys are a separate and distinct group from personal injury litigators. Issues of social justice - particularly the equitable treatment of women and minority social groups - rarely surface in personal injury litigation with its seemingly neutral rules for determining duty, causation, and damages. I argue, however, that this standard account of the law is flawed and that the shape of tort law has been affected by the social identity of the parties and prevailing cultural views on race and gender. We see the influence of race and gender when courts interpret a broad concept, such as the standard for "outrageous" conduct, which determines liability in intentional tort claims for domestic violence and for misconduct in the workplace. Considerations of gender and race have also affected judgments of causation in "wrongful birth" cases and in recent lead paint cases brought on behalf of poor and minority children who suffer cognitive injuries. Most pervasively, race and gender continue to play an important role in setting a value on injuries, through the methods experts and courts use to calculate damages for future loss. I argue that it is time to connect civil rights to tort law and to import civil rights and human rights principles into the basic legal doctrine governing the trial of ordinary civil claims. The important public policies behind civil rights statutes should be permitted to migrate to torts to inform the law's - and our -- understanding of dignity, responsibility, and value. I will attempt to show that this is the kind of tort reform that may proceed incrementally from both courts and legislatures and would thus follow the best tradition of the common law