PS 74 Fall 2007 Course Syllabus

Norms, Rights, and Social Justice:

Feminists, Disability Rights Activists and the Poor at the Boundaries of the Law

Political Science/LJST 74

Fall 2007

Professor Kristin Bumiller
Office: 308 Cooper House
Office Phone: 542‑5804
Office Hours:
Wednesdays 9:30-11:30


This seminar explores how the civil rights movement began a process of social change and identity-based activism. We evaluate the successes and failures of excluded groups’ efforts to use the law. We primarily focus on the recent scholarship of theorists, legal professionals, and activists to define “post-identity politics” strategies and to counteract the social processes that normalize persons on the basis of gender, sexuality, disability, and class.


Course books are available for purchase at the Amherst Bookstore.

Derrick Bell, Silent Covenants

Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler, Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law

J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals

Martha Fineman, The Autonomy Myth

Readings are available on E-reserves site for the couse or marked (R) on reserve in Frost Library.


The course will be conducted in a seminar format. The first hour of each class period will be devoted to the discussion of the assigned reading. During the second hour a group of two or three students will lead the class. Students will be encouraged to use innovative pedagogy for the second part of the class. Two shorter assignments, designed as “building blocks” for the final paper, will be submitted in early October and November. These papers will be revised and resubmitted as part of the final 20-page seminar paper. All students are required to submit a draft of their seminar paper (i.e., no final papers will be accepted unless a draft has been submitted prior to December 7). If you are unable to attend class, please notify me via email. Frequent nonattendance or academic dishonesty will be cause for failure in the course.


September 4

Introduction to the Course

September 11

Animal Rights

J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals

Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum, Animal Rights, pp. 19-92, 299-320.

Peter Singer, Ethics into Action, pp. 141-162.

Bill Parry, “Getting Serious: Combatting Animal Rights Extremism,” Biologist, Vol. 52, May 2005, pp. 72-73.

Dinner at my house (6:30-8:00 PM)

September 18

The Civil Rights Society

Kristin Bumiller, “Victims in the Shadow of the Law,” Signs, 1988

Patricia Ewick and Susan Silbey, “Narrating Social Structure: Stories of Resistance to Legal Authority,”

American Journal of Sociology, May 2003

Lucie White, "Ordering Voice: Rhetoric and Democracy in Project Head Start," in The Rhetoric of Law, pp. 185‑224

Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights, pp. 216‑236 (R) and The Rooster's Egg, pp. 1‑14, 42‑56, 182‑212

September 25

The Right to an Equal Education

Derrick Bell, Silent Covenants (P)

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, Supreme Court, June 27, 2007

October 2

The Right to Gender Equality

Catherine MacKinnon, Women’s Lives, Men’s Lives, pp. 72-83, 91-102

Drucilla Cornell, The Imaginary Domain, pp. 3‑27, 231-238

Angela Harris, "Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory," 42 Stanford Law Review, February 1990, pp. 581‑616 (R)

Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, US Supreme Court, October 2002

October 16

The Right to Marry

Martha Fineman, The Autonomy Myth (P)

Hilary Goodridge and others v. Department of Public Health, November 18, 2003

Ruthann Robson, “Compulsory Matrimony.”

October 23

Disability and Rights

Harriet McBride Johnson, “Unspeakable Conversations or How I Spent One Day as a Token Cripple at Princeton University, The New York Times Magazine, Feb 16, 2003

Shelly Tremain, “On the Government of Disability,” Social Theory and Practice, 2001, pp. 617-636

Ruth O’Brien, “Bodies in Revolt: Gender, Disability and an Alternative Ethic of Care in the Workplace.”

Anna Kirkland, “Victorious Transsexuals in the Courtroom,” Law and Social Inquiry, 2003

October 30

Freedom from Sexual Harassment

Vicki Schultz, "Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment," Yale Law Journal

Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler, Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark

Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law (P)

Price Waterhouse v. Anna Hopkins

November 6

Rape and the Criminal Justice Monolith

Lisa Frohmann, "Discrediting Victim's Allegations of Sexual Assault," Rape and Society

Kristin Bumiller, "Fallen Angels," in Fineman and Thomadsen, At the Boundaries of the Law (R)

Kimberleé Crenshaw, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color," The Public Nature of Private Violence, Fineman & Mykituik, ed., pp. 93118

Jessica Gonzales v. City of Castle Rock, United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit Oct 15 2002; U.S. Supreme Court, June 27, 2005.

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (

November 13

Prisoner’s Rights

Loic Wacquant, “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration,” The New Left Review, January-February 2002

Patrick Anderson, “To Lie Down to Death for Days: The Turkish Hunger Strike, 2000-2003,” Cultural Studies, Vol. 18, November 2004, pp. 816-846.

Phil Scraton and Linda Moore, The Hurt Inside: The Imprisonment of Women and Girls in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, October 2004.

Phil Scraton, “Streets of Terror: Marginalization, Criminalization, and Authoritarian Renewal”

November 27

Rights and Illegality

Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, Chapters One and Seven (On Reserve)

Susan Bibler Coutin, “Contesting Criminality: Illegal Immigration and the Spatialization of Legality,” Theoretical Criminology, Vol. 9, 2005

Jocelyn Solis, “Rethinking Illegality as a Violence Against, not by Mexican Immigrants, Children, and Youth,” Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 59, 2003

December 6

“Total Information Awareness”

Tony Platt and Cecelia O’Leary, “Patriot Acts,” Social Justice, Vol. 30, no 1, 2003, pp. 5-20.

United States Department of Defense, Total Information Awareness Update (

Electronic Privacy Information Center (TIA) (

Bill of Rights Defense Committee (

December 13

Student Presentations