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Daniel LaChanceWinship Distinguished Research Professor in History, 2020-23, Associate Professor, and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Daniel LaChance is a legal scholar working at the intersection of American legal and cultural history, criminology, and literary studies. He came to Emory as an Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow in Law and the Humanities.

LaChance studies law’s uneasy relationship to violence. Some see the rule of law as the defining mark of civilized society, an antidote to “might makes right” approaches to conflict resolution. Nonetheless, law depends on the state’s capacity to physically coerce, injure, and sometimes kill human beings. LaChance studies how legal actors justify that violence and how the creators of fictional and nonfictional works represent it to wide audiences. 

His first book, Executing Freedom: The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment in the United States (University of Chicago Press, 2016), won a Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award from the American Library Association. The book examines the decline of the American death penalty in the years following World War II, its revival in the 1970s, and its subsequent use over the past forty years. In it, he argues that shifting ideas about the nature of freedom reshaped the dominant meaning of capital punishment in America.

His second book, Crimesploitation, (Stanford University Press) was released in May 2022. Co-authored with Paul Kaplan, the book explores reality television depictions of crime and punishment—from Cops to Dog the Bounty Hunter—and their place in American culture. The book is part of Stanford University Press’s Cultural Lives of the Law series.

Other work has appeared in the journals Law and History Review, Law and Social Inquiry, Punishment and Society, Law, Culture, and the Humanities, and Crime, Media, Culture. LaChance has also contributed to national discussions on the past and present of the American death penalty through opinion pieces and news analyses published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Process (the blog of the Journal of American History), The New Republic, and Newsweek

His current book project is titled Empathy for the Devil: Executions in the American Imagination. With the assistance of Emory undergraduate research assistants, he is writing a history of journalistic and fictional accounts of executions since 1877.

LaChance is the current treasurer of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. He earned his B.A. in English from Carleton College and his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to his appointment to the Emory faculty, he was an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Visiting Associate Research Scholar in the Program in Law and Public Affairs at Princeton University.


  • BA, Carleton College, 2001.
  • PhD, American Studies, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 2011.


  • Law and American Culture
  • Crime and Punishment in the United States
  • Social and Cultural History of the United States since 1945
  • American Legal History
  • Cultural and Critical Criminology

Current Graduate Students