Friday, October 26, 2007

NU History seminar: Kozuskanich speaks on Constitutional research in the digital age

Our American history expert, Nathan Kozuskanich, is the first speaker in this year's History Department seminar series. He will be talking about digital archives and search engines and how they allow investigation in unprecedented depth into the meaning that the Constitution had in the era it was written. In particular, this kind of research has reshaped the debate on the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms). The seminar takes place Friday, Nov. 2, 2:30 pm in Room A224. All welcome, especially students interested in political science, American history, and modern methods of research.

Here's an abstract:

Originalism in a Digital Age: An Inquiry into the Right to Bear Arms

As lawyers and legal scholars have struggled to recover the often elusive original meaning of the U.S. Constitution, they have consistently relied on a narrow set of sources. But now, the digital age has made a wealth of historical and legal sources widely available. These comprehensive digital archives are now making it possible to recover the meanings of key constitutional phrases and ideas, like the incredibly contentious right to bear arms. Keyword searching makes it possible to effectively penetrate these voluminous archives and apply their contents to perplexing historical and legal problems. The ability to chart the use of certain words and phrases over time harnesses the power of computers in a way still largely unrealized in the humanities. While computer models and data analysis have transformed the natural and social sciences, lawyers and historians alike have yet to realize the full potential of computer research. This seminar presentation, in addition to its refutation of the Standard Model’s misconception of the right to bear arms as an individual right, seeks to offer a new methodology for those seeking to uncover and contextualize original intent.

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