Speeches and Presentations

From the Household to the Family: A Conversation with Janet Halley

February 21, 2012

For watch a video of the lecture, please go here

NYU Gallatin talk:
The Distributive Family: How and Why to Deconstruct the Market/Family Distinction

October 6, 2011

From the newsletter:

Janet Halley, the Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, gave the first Distinguished Faculty Lecture of the year on October 6; the title of her talk was “The Distributive Family: How and Why to Deconstruct the Market/Family Distinction.” In a lecture that criss-crossed historical periods and geographical boundaries, Halley, who is the author of Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism (Princeton University Press, 2008), spoke about how law related to the family came to be considered separate from law that applied to the marketplace — what she termed “family law exceptionalism.” A key element of liberal legalism, she contended, is that the market was associated with will, with laissez faire, and the family became the place of duty. “There was this idea that the family is a haven in a heartless world,” said Halley, who teaches family law, discrimination and legal theory at Harvard. But one of her projects, she said, is to study the “economic family,” and to that end, to examine why the family/market distinction is troubling. The family, she said, is a private welfare system, in that the state says if you’re poor or sick, you go to your family first, and only when the family can no longer help you will the state step in. The result is that there is a class bias to family exceptionalism. Halley, whose dry humor enlivened the talk, proposed renaming the family the “household.” The test, she said, would be simple: if the people you lived with would take you to an emergency room rather than call 911, they are members of your household.

For watch a video of the lecture, please go here

Janet Halley takes the Royall Chair

September 18, 2007

Professor Janet Halley formally took the Royall Professorship of Law in a ceremony in Langdell Library’s Caspersen Room, marking the occasion with a lecture on the legacy of Isaac Royall, Jr. (1719 - 1781), the colonial American slaveholder who played an important role in the creation of Harvard Law School.
Royall, the son of an Antiguan slaveholder who moved his family—and 27 slaves—to Medford, Massachusetts in the early 18th century, took over his father's estate, "Ten Hills Farm," which is now the Isaac Royall House, a national historic landmark and museum including the only preserved slave quarters in the northeast United States. In his will, he left land to Harvard to establish its first professorship in law. His heirs sold the Medford estate and used the proceeds to endow Harvard Law School.

Halley joined the faculty as a Professor of Law in 2000. She is an expert on comparative family law, discrimination, law and literary theory, law and social theory, legal theory, and the regulation of sexuality. She is the author of several books and many academic articles, as well as a contributor to various books and anthologies. Her most recent book, “Split Decisions: How and Why To Take a Break From Feminism,” was published by Princeton University Press in 2006.

In her remarks yesterday, Halley explored ideas about how HLS should confront, acknowledge and judge its historic debt to the slaveholder and the inescapable fact that the school was built, in some measure, with money derived from the fruits of slave labor.
“The fact that the funds that established the Royall Chair derived, directly and/or indirectly, from the sale of human beings and the appropriation of their labor——these are facts,” said Halley. “What does one do about them?  Thinking in binarized terms of condemnation and redemption just doesn’t seem to capture the complexity of this question.”

Halley began her remarks with a roll call of the names of the distinguished professors who have held the Royall chair before her. She ended her talk—in a coda that left audience members visibly moved—with a contrasting recitation of the recorded names—most of them first names without surnames—of the slaves of the Royall household. “It is a solemn roll call, as intrinsic as the first one I read to our Isaac Royall legacy.”

Click here to view a webcast of the ceremony.


Sexuality Speakers Series - Department of English at Rutgers University
Department of English

Celebrating the Publication of a Special Issue
of The South Atlantic Quarterly

After Sex?
A Symposium on Writing Since Queer Theory

Edited by Janet Halley and Andrew Parker
Introduced by Meredith L. McGill
Rutgers University
Monday, October 22, 2007 | 3:30 PM