January 2021

Legal Science Fiction

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-132

Moodle site: Course


Michaela J. Brangan (Section 01J)


Science fiction conjures novel social arrangements in which questions of law inevitably emerge. Is a very smart robot just property? How should space be governed? If we can predict future crimes, can we punish future “criminals”? The answers to these questions are rooted in theories of what makes “the good society” and prompt us to think about how our own laws function with, against, or under the influence of scientific inquiry. In this course, we will consider how the speculative imagination approaches topics like civil rights, criminal law, labor, reproduction, corporate regulation, privacy, and property, analyzing science fiction texts and films alongside legal cases and theories of justice. Today, we regularly encounter legal conundrums that once seemed futuristic. Genetic engineering threatens the traditional framework of equality that provides the basis of rights. Algorithms, once thought to be a way to resolve race and gender biases, instead encode these biases into our everyday lives. How we order and improve human life is always a matter of legal concern, but regulation is often seen as anathema to technological progress. Why is this the case? Can this tension be resolved?

Limited to 40 students. January Term. Class will be taught online. Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan

If Overenrolled: Priortiy given to LJST Majors


Attention to Writing, Online Only


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019, January 2021, January 2022, Spring 2022