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The importance of the door for human civilization cannot be overstated. In various cultures, the door has been a central technology for negotiating the distinction between inside and outside, private and public, and profane and sacred. By tracing the material and symbolic significance of the door in American Fourth Amendment case law, this article illuminates the vitality of matter for law’s everyday practices. In particular, it highlights how various door configurations affect the level of constitutional protections granted to those situated on the inside of the door and the important role of vision for establishing legal expectations of privacy. Eventually, I suggest that we might be witnessing the twilight of the “physical door” era and the beginning of a “virtual door” era in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. As recent physical and technological changes present increasingly sophisticated challenges to the distinctions between inside and outside, private and public, and prohibited and accepted visions, the Supreme Court will need to carefully articulate what is worth protecting on the other side of the door.

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Law, Culture and the Humanities

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