Spring 2015

Guantanamo:  Law, History, and U.S. Empire (Research Seminar)

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-353


Clara J. Altman (Section 01)


(Research Seminar)  The detention of “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility has become a primary symbol of American hypocrisy after 9/11.  Critics have described Guantanamo as a legal “black hole,” and it is often depicted as a reflection of the rupture in American legal traditions initiated by the unprecedented scope of the Global War on Terror.  In this course we will consider this rupture narrative about American law in historical context. Using Guantanamo Bay as a case study in the history of law and U.S. imperialism, we will evaluate historical continuity and change across the range of legal issues raised by the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo. Topics include territoriality and legal borders, rights to legal process, the treatment of prisoners of war, and the power of military tribunals. Students will undertake independent research projects to gain the tools of legal historical research. They will learn to place doctrinal questions in broader social and cultural contexts, and they will explore the possibilities for using historical research to make informed and transformative contributions to discussions in law, history, and policy.  Students will synthesize their findings in three forms: in a written final essay, in an oral presentation to the class, and in a series of contributions to a group blog. 

Limited to 15 students; preference to LJST majors.  Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Altman.

If Overenrolled: Priority would be given to LJST majors


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2015