oven bird.

Just over thirty years ago, David Engel published “The Oven Bird’s Song: Insiders, Outsiders, and Personal Injuries in an American Community” in Law and Society Review. Engel’s research revealed the attitudes that residents in a rural Illinois community brought to contested cultural issues regarding personal injury, dispute resolution, social change, and law. The article quickly became one of the signature contributions to the law and society movement, a kind of instant classic.

On October 23, 2015, the Baldy Center hosted a one-day conference to take a full measure of the article and its impact from the vantage points of the varied disciplines that inform sociolegal studies. The symposium examined the intellectual context within which the article was written, its effect on interdisciplinary studies of institutional actors, the pedagogical opportunities and challenges presented by the work, and the continuing influence of “The Oven Bird’s Song” on law and society scholarship.

Conference Schedule

Friday October 23, 2015

8:30 — Coffee

9:00 — Welcome and Introductions

Errol Meidinger, Director of the Baldy Center

Lynn Mather, University at Buffalo,

9:15 — Panel 1: Development and Contextualization of “The Oven Bird’s Song”
Moderator: Anya Bernstein, University at Buffalo

Marc Galanter, University of Wisconsin, TBD

Barbara Yngvesson, Hampshire College, “Emulating Sherlock Holmes: The Dog That Didn’t Bark, the Victim Who Didn’t Sue, and Other Contradictions of the “Hyper-Litigious” Society”

Stewart Macaulay, University of Wisconsin, “Having a Right, but Using it Too:  Amending the Oven Bird’s Song about Contracts”

Alfred Konefsky, University at Buffalo, “Karl’s Law School, Or The Oven Bird in Buffalo”

10:45 – Coffee break


11:00Panel 2: Institutional Actors and “The Oven Bird”
Moderator: Errol Meidinger, University at Buffalo

Anna-Maria Marshall, University of Illinois, “Keepers, Factory Workers and Newcomers: The Legal Consciousness of Outsiders”

Valerie Hans, Cornell University, “Do Jurors Hear the Oven Bird’s Song?”

Lynn Mather, University at Buffalo, “How Lawyers Reflect and Influence Community Values”

Eve Darian-Smith, University of California, Santa Barbara, “Indigenous Litigiousness: The Ovenbird’s Song and the Miner’s Canary”


12:30 pm — Lunch for Preregistered Participants



1:30Panel 3: Pedagogical Opportunities and Challenges of “The Oven Bird’s Song"
Moderator: Mary Nell Trautner, University at Buffalo

Neil Vidmar, Duke University, “The Changing Face of Legal Dispute Resolution”

Michael McCann, University of Washington, “Oven Bird’s Song as Classroom Text: Exploring the Subjectivities of Insiders and Outsiders”

Renee Cramer, Drake University, “Students’ Understandings of Space and Community, in Dialogue with the Oven Bird’s Song”

Anne Bunting, York University, “Does the Oven Bird Migrate North of the Border?”

3:00 — Break


3:15Panel 4: Future Orientations: What’s the Research Agenda for the Coming Years?
Moderator: Samantha Barbas, University at Buffalo

Yoshitaka Wada, Waseda University, “Voice of Disputants avoiding  Litigation: David Engel’s “Oven Birds Song” in Japanese Culture”

Anne Bloom, Loyola Law School, “Irresponsible Matter: Sublunar Dreams of Injury and Identity”

Jamie G. Longazel, University of Dayton, “A Racialized ‘Ceremony of Regret’: Criminalization, Rightlessness, and the Politics of Immigration”

Scott Barclay, Drexel University, “Situating the Transitions from Outsider to Insider”

4:45 — Wrap Up

Frank Munger, New York Law School

Michael Boucai, University at Buffalo

David Engel, University at Buffalo

5:30 — Conference concludes