Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought


Law, Jurisp & Social Thought

101 Legal Questions: An Introduction to Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought

This course provides an introduction to the LJST major. It explores the ways in which law combines moral argument, interpretive practice and force in the regulation of social life. Through the close and sustained study of an exemplary case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, students will attain a nuanced understanding of law as a subject of liberal inquiry. While focused on the history and development of legal orders in the United States, the course also will Each section limited to 20 students with 15 spaces reserved for First-year students. Omitted.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2020

104 Murder

Murder is the most serious offense against the legal order and is subject to its most punitive responses. It gives meaning to law by establishing the limits of law’s authority and its capacity to tame violence.  Murder is, in addition, a persistent theme in literature and popular culture where it is used to organize narratives of heroism and corruption, good and evil, fate and irrational misfortune. This course uses law, literature, and popular culture to develop their skills in reading, critical analysis of texts, and writing

We will examine the legal definition of homicide and compare that crime with other killings which law condemns (assisted suicide) as well as those it tolerates (killing in self-defense) or itself carries out (police use of lethal force and capital punishment). We will explore various types of murders (e.g. school shootings, terrorism, serial killing and genocide) and inquire into the motives of those who commit these acts. In addition, we will consider representations of murder in literature and film.  Can such representations ever adequately capture murder, the murderer, and the fear that both arouse? In addition to numerous court cases course materials will include Truman Capote, In Cold Blood, Toni Morrison, Beloved, and Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem as well as such films as Menace 2 Society, Unforgiven, and Silence of the Lambs. Throughout, we will ask what we can learn about law and culture from the way both imagine, represent, and respond to murder.

This is an intensive writing course. We will focus on the fundamentals of writing style and of helping students develop clear and persuasive writing styles. Along with regular in class writing, frequent short papers will be assigned. Students will be expected to attend regular writing consultations.

Preference to first-year students. Limited to 12 students.Spring semester. Professor Sarat.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

105 Race, Place, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 105 and BLST 147) Understandings of and conflicts about place are of central significance to the experience and history of race and race relations in America. The shaping and reshaping of places is an important ingredient in the constitution and revision of racial identities: think of “the ghetto,” Chinatown, or “Indian Country.” Law, in its various manifestations, has been intimately involved in the processes which have shaped geographies of race from the colonial period to the present day: legally mandated racial segregation was intended to impose and maintain both spatial and social distance between members of different races.

The objective of this course is to explore the complex intersections of race, place, and law. Our aim is to gain some understanding of geographies of race “on-the-ground” in real places, and of the role of legal practices—especially legal argument—in efforts to challenge and reinforce these racial geographies. We will ask, for example, how claims about responsibility, community, rationality, equality, justice, and democracy have been used to justify or resist both racial segregation and integration, access and expulsion. In short, we will ask how moral argument and legal discourse have contributed to the formation of the geographies of race that we all inhabit. Much of our attention will be given to a legal-geographic exploration of African-American experiences. But we will also look at how race, place and the law have shaped the distinctive experiences of Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, January 2021, Fall 2023

110 Introduction to Legal Theory

This course provides an introduction to the primary texts and central problems of modern legal theory. Through close study of the field’s founding and pivotal works, we will weigh and consider various ways to think about questions that every study, practice, and institution of law eventually encounters. These questions concern law’s very nature or essence; its relations to knowledge, morality, religion, and the passions; the status of its language and interpretations; its relation to force and the threat of force; and its place and function in the preservation and transformation of political, social and economic order.

Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Professor Sitze.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

136 Law Between Plato and Poets

Ancient tragedy, ancient comedy, and Platonic political philosophy pose very different questions about the essence and basis of law, and about law’s relation to such matters as conflict, politics, guilt, love, suffering, action, justice, and wisdom. This course is a preliminary study of the relationships between these differing modes of inquiry. We will spend the first half of the course outlining the theories of law that govern select dramatic works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Aristophanes. In the second half of the course, we will trace the intricate way these theories are at once incorporated into and rejected by Platonic political philosophy, as exemplified by Plato’s Republic. Along the way, we shall weigh and consider competing versions of the “return to Plato” in contemporary philosophy. In addition to reading key works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and Plato, we will read contemporary texts by Giorgio Agamben, Danielle Allen, Alain Badiou, Hans-Georg Gadamer, René Girard, Martin Heidegger, Bonnie Honig, Bernard Knox, Nicole Loraux, Ramona Naddaff, Martha Nussbaum, Jacques Rancière, Leo Strauss, Jean-Pierre Vernant, and Simone Weil.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted . Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2019

143 Law's History

This course examines the ways in which historical thinking and imagining operate in the domain of law. History and law are homologous and tightly linked. Law in various guises uses history as its backbone, as a lens through which to view and adjudicate tangled moral problems, and as a means of proof in rendering judgment. Questions of history and precedent are integral to an understanding of the way language and rhetoric operate in the very creation of legal doctrine. Moreover, law’s use of history also has a history of its own, and our present understanding of the relationship between the two is a product of Enlightenment thinking. Conceiving of history as one kind of “narrative of the real,” in this course we will explore the premises that underlie history’s centrality to law as we inquire after the histories that law demands, creates, and excludes, as well as the ways in which law understands and uses history to seek finality, and to legitimize its authority.

Limited to 40 students. Spring Semester. Professor Umphrey.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2024

206 Apartheid

(Offered as LJST 206 and BLST 307) The goal of this course will be to understand some of the problems posed for legal studies in the humanities by the emergence of the system of administrative and constitutional law known as apartheid. This system, which was designed to institute “separate development for separate peoples” in South Africa, is widely and rightly regarded to be among the most inhuman régimes of the twentieth century. Yet even and especially today, more than a decade after its formal end in South Africa, apartheid’s social, economic, and epistemic conditions of possibility, as well as the place and function of lawyers, legal discourse, and legal scholars in the resistance to it, remains at best vaguely understood.

This course is designed to remedy this gap. Our inquiry will be at once specific and general. Under what economic and political conditions did apartheid come into being? What legal traditions and practices authorized its codification? What academic disciplines and intellectual formations rendered it intelligible and enabled its theorization? What specific arrangement of juridical institutions, practices, and theories together comprised the apartheid state? What was the place and function of law in the critique of and resistance to apartheid? What new and specific problems did apartheid pose for legal theory?

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Fall 2019

208 Action, Labor, Law

This course takes the recent resurgence of the American Labor Movement as an occasion for an extended case study in the relation between law, labor, and action.  Our understanding of the relation between law and action is structured by a persistent opposition: if it is action that ushers in the new against the constraints of existing law, then it is law which is called upon to protect what is worth protecting of the existing order and to avoid the sometimes destructive character of action.  And yet this story always risks displacing another crucial set of theoretical and historical questions: how might political actors use the law to give effect to democratic transformation, to bolster rather than constrain such transformation over time?  What role might law play, beyond conservative stabilization, in allowing such changes to endure and become embedded in the shared world? We will consider these conceptual questions in relation to this history of labor jurisprudence and politics in the US. What is the legal history of labor movements, unions, and organizations, and how has pro- and anti-labor sentiment influenced American jurisprudence? How should we evaluate labor rights in relation to other legal rights? What are the relations between established unions, independent or wildcat organizing, and the State? How have economic transformations created new tensions, possibilities, and juridical forms in the relation between law and the labor movement?  Are there limits to labor as a paradigm of action? We will study these questions in their intersection with the jurisprudence of early industrial capitalism and chattel slavery, the reconfiguration of the regulatory state under Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the World Wars, the rise of neoliberal capitalism, the politics of socialism and the Cold War, and recent transformations in the care economy.

Sample reading list: Aristotle, Rosa Luxemburg, Revolutionary Hangover”; W.E.B. Du Bois, Hannah Arendt, Frantz Fanon, Martin Luther King Jr, James A. Gross, Jacques Ranciere,  David Scott; Elisabeth Wood; Saidiya Hartman; Erin Pineda; Eva von Redecker.

Limited to 30 students. Fall Semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Siegel.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2024

209 The Psychic Lives of Power

The French philosopher Michel Foucault has famously argued that mental illness is a juridical question of the first order, not only because the “mad” are on the receiving end of abuses of power, but also because madness constantly makes claims back to law, throwing into question its most basic precepts.  This course will take up this claim in relation to the making of the legal subject, the formation of legal institutions, and the work of social transformation.  We will also consider how taking pathology seriously as a critical form, drawing on feminist and disability studies, might allow us to throw into question that which is often normalized through law, for example the purported solidity and desirability of the patriarchal family, or the productivity of capitalist labor.  In the last third of the course, we will take the project of decolonial psychiatry as an extended case study in the relation between psychic forms and legal and political struggles.

Thinkers include Sigmund Freud, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, François Tosquelles, Frantz Fanon, Peter Goodrich, Judge Schreber, Theodor Adorno, Bonnie Honig, Gilles Deleuze, Camille Robcis, Danielle Carr, and Kathi Weeks.  We will also draw on literary examples and scenes from film.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted.  Visiting Assistant Professor Siegel.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Spring 2024

212 Psychoanalysis and Law

Although psychoanalysis is not usually considered a part of the discipline of jurisprudence, its theories allow for comprehensive answers to the fundamental questions of jurisprudence, and its lexicon permits us to refer with clarity and precision to realities of juridical experience about which disciplinary jurisprudence remains silent. Psychoanalysis interprets law within a field defined by the vicissitudes and impasses of unconscious desire, giving us a way to speak about the pathologies that are constitutive of law’s normal operation, and this amounts, in effect if not in name, to a jurisprudence as compelling as it is unorthodox. At the same time, however, psychoanalysis also has been constrained, at key points in its history, by some of the very juridical forms and forces it seeks to analyze and to question, sometimes even to the point where those forms and forces have reappeared, internalized, within its own most basic theories and practices. If psychoanalysis allows for a comprehensive theory of law, so too then can law serve as an exemplary point of departure for the rethinking of psychoanalysis itself. The purpose of this course will be to pursue this twofold inquiry. After tracing the way that law emerges as a question within the thinking of Sigmund Freud, and considering the ways in which certain juridical problems and events are prior to and generative of Freud’s thought, we then will explore the various ways in which post-Freudian thinkers have not only applied but also rethought Freudian psychoanalysis in their own studies of law.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2017

214 What's So Great About (In)Equality?

(Offered as LJST 214 and EDST 214) In our world, commitment to "equality" in one sense/form or another is nearly uncontested. At the same time, the form that it should take, its normative ground, scope, limits and conditions, the ways in which it may be realized, and much else are deeply contested. It is also the case that the world in which we live is characterized by profound, enduring and intensifying inequalities and numerous exceptions to the principle. These may be justified with reference to various countervailing commitments that are accorded ethical or practical priority (desert, liberty, efficiency, political stability, ecological integrity, pluralism, etc.). This suggests that while for many "equality" may be normatively compelling, its realization may be subordinated to any number of interests and desires; or, to put it bluntly, there may be such a condition as too much equality or not enough inequality, privilege and "disadvantage." This course treats these themes as they have arisen in distinctively legal contexts, projects and arguments. It will engage a range of debates within political philosophy and legal theory as to the appropriate limits of equality. While many forms and expressions of inequality have fallen into relative disfavor, some seem virtually immune to significant amelioration. Among these are those associated with social-economic class. Following general investigations of egalitarianism and anti-egalitarianism in social thought and legal history, we will devote closer attention to the legal dimensions of class inequality in contexts such as labor law, welfare and poverty law, education and criminal justice. We will conclude with an examination of the limits of legal egalitarianism vis-à-vis international class-based inequalities under conditions of globalization and cosmopolitan humanitarianism.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted . Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2023

217, 317 Thinking Law with Shakespeare

LJST 217 

Shakespeare’s texts put into play an intricate set of juridical terms and forms. The premise of this course is that we can retrieve from this “putting into play” a unique way of thinking about modern juridical order at the moment of its inception. Through the close reading of four texts, we will trace the composition of some of the most fundamental problems of modern Anglophone jurisprudence (such as person and impersonation, inheritance and usurpation, contract and oath, tyranny and sovereignty, pardon and mercy, matrimony and patrimony, and civil war and empire, marriage and divorce). The aim of this inquiry will not be to apply jurisprudence to Shakespeare’s texts. Nor will it be to use Shakespeare’s texts to humanize a legal training that otherwise would risk remaining sterile and unfeeling. Nor, finally, will it be either to historicize Shakespeare's texts (limiting them to a particular place and time) or else to universalize those texts (treating them as the exemplar for humanity as such). It will be to treat Shakespeare’s texts as an occasion to rethink the genesis and basis of the modern Anglophone jurisprudence that we inherit today in a specifically globalized form.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Sitze .

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

221 Law and Waste

The term "waste" is used so widely in common parlance that it hardly seems necessary to consider its meaning. Yet, it is not always clear who has the authority to decide what is useful or efficient, and what is waste. This course takes up this problem of authority and examines how different concepts of waste relate to the law. “Waste” historically has been linked to the legal right to own and manage property. But the determination of whether an act, a thing, or a person is "waste" has implications not only for private law, but for public laws regulating labor, health and welfare, education, global trade, and the environment. Descriptions of certain bodies, cultures and lands in terms of waste justify exploitation and violence by states and other powerful actors. How do we reconcile the imperative to avoid waste with the demands of order and justice? We will look closely at this question as we consider the social and legal construction of waste.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

222 Code

In its earliest uses, the word “code” belonged to jurisprudence: the twelve books of the Justinian Code, for example, contained a systematic compilation of the laws, statutes, and regulations governing the citizens and subjects of the Roman Empire. Today, by contrast, the word belongs increasingly to computer science: to speak of “code” is largely to speak of the symbols and rules that structure the ways in which information is stored, transmitted, processed, retrieved, and expressed. This course examines the history of this transformation and asks about its implications for jurisprudence today. How have new information technologies changed the way we think about such basic juridical concepts as person, property, contract, and crime? Conversely, what new and different understandings of these technologies become possible once we understand them not simply as tools, but as juridical forms governing the conduct of individuals and populations alike? By studying controversies in cyberlaw together with works of legal and critical theory, this course will ask how we might rethink the place and function of information technology in contemporary life.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2014

224 Experiments in Legal and Cultural Production

The idea of law as experimental runs counter to the common view of law as well settled and historically rooted. Yet, under the federal system in the United States, states have long been regarded as "laboratories" for law. Moreover, Supreme Court decisions arise as “test cases” that painstakingly mix plaintiffs, procedures, and venues and are timed to move law in a hoped-for direction. What is a test case but a kind of experiment? This course examines legal experiments alongside experimental aesthetic works. Convention may “govern” art and literature, but both are also regulated by real laws, like copyright and obscenity. When artists go beyond the norms of their fields, they may also test the limits of the law. Artistic experimentation can suggest new ways to think about property, identity, sex, work, power, and language. How are different forms of experimentation connected? How do they challenge or extend our visions of what society might be otherwise?

Limited to 30 students. Omitted.  Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2023

226 Critical Legal Geographies

The spatiality of social life is a fundamental element of human existence, not least through its involvement with power of various sorts. Spatiality is also a significant—and problematic—dimension of law (think of sovereignty, jurisdiction, citizenship). At the same time, law is a significant force through which spatiality is produced, reinforced, contested and transformed. Law literally constitutes social spaces through constitutions, treaties, statutes, contracts, modes of surveillance and policing, and so on. As it does so, it constitutes itself as a force in the world. Law may also be an arena in which other social-spatial conflicts are played out and, provisionally, resolved. The course will consider both the changing spatiality of law (its scope, scale, limits; its vectors and circuits) and the changing legal constitution of other social spaces. This will be done through an engagement with contemporary socio-spatial and legal theories and through a survey of exemplary events and situations. Among the more specific topics we will consider are privacy and property; public space of speech and dissent; migration, displacement and sanctuary; colonialism and occupation. The contexts of our study will not be limited to/by American law but will include examples involving international law, forms of legal pluralism, and other legal-cultural contexts. The course will conclude with an investigation of globalization and the emergence of cyberspace and their posited effects on the very possibility of law as we have come to understand and experience it.

 Limited to 30 students.Omitted . Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Spring 2021

227 Sustainability and the Fate of Law: Can Law Save the World?

Most people are aware that "the world" (the sum of planetary environmental systems) is changing in ways that are already generating dramatic and largely negative consequences for "the world" (Earth as the home of Life) and that the trajectories of change presage even greater instability. Since the blossoming of environmentalism a half-century ago, those most concerned and involved in responding to these challenges have recognized that a robust engagement with law is required for reversing or mitigating these changes. This has resulted in a massive body of environmental law from local land use regulations to national environmental regulatory regimes and international conventions. While some of this has been effective, the velocity of global political, economic and cultural change appears to undermine or render ineffective many legal interventions. As scientists revise predictions regarding the severity and rate of environmental degradation, doubts have been raised about the sufficiency or capacity of existing law to respond appropriately. This course undertakes a broad, critical examination of the role of law in promoting and perhaps impeding environmental sustainability and asks what this reveals about the possibilities and limits of law. It begins by posing such questions as: Does "sustainability" entail sacrifice? If so, what role do distinctively legal practices and institutions play in giving effect to such sacrifices? Might something that we feel is fundamental to law itself need to be sacrificed? Following a brief survey of key aspects of existing environmental law, in which we assess what has and has not worked, we will engage a range of recent arguments in environmental legal theory (such as earth justice, wild law, green legal theory) which ask us to rethink what we want—or need—law to be.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2022

228 Police Power

Demands to reform, defund, or abolish the police have a long history, even as contemporary calls to curb law enforcement are hotly debated. Some worry that demands for radical changes to policing spell political doom. Others hope they toll the final bell for racism. And some think even minor cuts to police will trigger a Hobbesian “war of all against all.” What is the relationship between the police and what jurists name “police power”: the state's legal authority over public health and welfare? How did this relationship originate, and how has it changed? What does it look like outside of the US? What other social and economic factors intersect with law in debates over the redistribution and transformation of police power? Can the US continue without police as we know them? We will examine these questions using cases and statutory law, critical race and feminist scholarship, political theory, and literary and visual culture to guide our inquiry.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2024

229 Critical Theory

Critical Theory attempts to put the intellectual project of critique in service of human emancipation.  Narrowly, it is often associated with the tradition of the Frankfurt School, a collective established in Germany during the rise of Nazism and elaborated, often in exile, through several "generations" of students. This course will study this tradition while also broadening the scope of what might count as "critical theory," reading works from the eighteenth century to the present.  Taking up forefathers--Kant, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Jaspers--insiders--Horkeheimer, Adorno, Benjamin, Marcuse, Habermas--and outsiders--Angela Davis, Hannah Arendt, Raya Dunayevskaya, Michel Foucault, Achille Mbembe--we will reconsider the legacy and status of critical theory today.  What can the study of critical theory teach us about the law?  Is liberal law simply a tool of capitalism?  What role might law play in the project of emancipation? By pluralizing the forms and sites of this work called "critique" we will also reconsider the relation between critique, law, and knowledge as they relate to questions of race, gender, and colonialism.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Visiting Professor Siegel.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

230, 330 Law, Speech, and the Politics of Freedom

In the United States, the idea of free speech is held to be both a political and moral ideal. The First Amendment makes freedom of speech a centerpiece of liberal democratic values and processes, and thus of American identity itself. But what, precisely, do we mean when we link the ideas of freedom and speech? What kinds of speech, and what kinds of freedom, are implicated in that linkage? Correlatively, what does it mean to "censor"? Drawing upon political philosophy, literary theory, court cases, imaginative writing, and examples from contemporary culture, this course will explore the multiple meanings of "free speech," their legal regulation, and their deployment in American public culture. Why should we value "free" speech? Who do we imagine to be the speaker whose speech ought to be free: the man on the soapbox? The political protestor? The media conglomerate? The anonymous chat-room inhabitant? What does it mean to say that various kinds of speech may be dangerous, and under what conditions might it be conceivable to shut down or regulate dangerous speech, or conversely to promote "politically correct" speech in either formal or informal ways? How do speech forms (for example, parody, poetry, or reportage) differ, and should some garner more legal protection than others? Can silence be considered a kind of speech?

 Limited to 30 students. Omitted 24-25. Professor Umphrey.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2023

231 Social Movements and Social Change

This course examines social movements (and related phenomena) as integral elements of legal orders and as significant sources of legal transformations. Through interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and historical analyses, the course will explore the ways in which non-state actors engage formal legal institutions to shape or reform law, in order to affect the conditions of social life. Of particular interest are not merely desired changes in laws but resultant changes in the culture of law more broadly. The course will draw on a wide range of movements (historical and contemporary; “progressive” and conservative; broad-based and narrowly focused; American and non-American; local, national and global; North and South; activist and bureaucratic; from “below” and from “within”; etc.) and study two or three in closer detail. The over-arching objective is to achieve a richer understanding of both the inner workings of “the law” and the dynamic life of law outside of formal institutions.

Limited to 30 students. Spring Semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

235 Law's Nature: Humans, the Environment and the Predicament of Law

“Nature” is at once among the most basic of concepts and among the most ambiguous. Law is often called upon to clarify the meaning of nature. In doing so it raises questions about what it means to be human.

This course is organized around three questions. First, what does law as a humanistic discipline say about nature? Second, what can law’s conception of nature tell us about shifting conceptions of humanness? Third, what can we learn by attending to these questions about law’s own situation in the world and its ability to tell us who we are? We will address these questions by starting with the environment (specifically wilderness). We will then expand our view of nature by examining legal engagements with animals (endangered species, animals in scientific experiments, and pets), human bodies (reproductive technologies, involuntary biological alterations, the right to die) and brains (genetic or hormonal bases for criminal defenses). Throughout, we will focus our attention on the themes of knowledge, control and change. We will look, for example, at relationships between legal and scientific forms of knowledge and the problematic role of expert knowledge in adjudicating normative disputes. We will also look at law’s response to radical, technologically induced changes in relations between humans and nature, and to arguments in favor of limiting such transformations.

 Limited to 30 students. Omitted 24-25.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021

238 Contract Cultures

Do contracts always involve a “meeting of minds”? Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called that commonplace a fiction. But, whether it is or not, real contracts continue to proliferate. We might even call some cultures contractual. This course considers this idea by examining different forms of contract: from the reciprocated gift and the social compact to “boilerplate” and “click-to-agree" terms of service. We will discuss how contracts came to be, how they work now, and what could be their future. Contracts are mundane, yet powerful tools. They are said to endow personhood but can also deny agency. They can alter or displace law, making and unmaking whole social frameworks. What happens when common narratives of contract enter the realm of cultural production? Who bears the costs of misalignments between the law of contract and social norms? Are there such things as sexual, racial, or constitutional contracts? Do we make contracts, or do contracts make us?

Limited to 30 students. Omitted. Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019

248 Law And War

This course explores the effort to control the violence and chaos of war with legal rules and processes. With classic theorists of war, such as Vattel, Clausewitz, Schmitt and Michael Walzer as our guides, and drawing our examples from conflict zones such as Vietnam, Kosovo, Israel-Palestine, and Iraq, we will ask whether the law of armed conflict has “civilized” the waging of war or simply serves as another tool in the arsenal of armed conflict.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2024-25. Professor Douglas.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

253 Arendt's Judgments

Fearlessly independent, tenaciously unclassifiable, frequently controversial, and always thought-provoking, Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) is without question one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century. Setting aside the conventional interpretation of Arendt as a political theorist, this course will focus on Arendt’s contributions to the study of law, with special attention to Arendt’s unusual inquiries into human rights, international criminal law, constitutional law, and civil disobedience. By carefully reading select writings by Arendt alongside key events in twentieth century history, we shall trace in Arendt’s texts a relation between thought, crisis, and judgment that is often occluded by the dominant reception of her thought. Along the way, we shall ask how Arendt arrived at her various judgments, what it means for thought to relate to law and to the world, and why judgment might offer a way to respond to, and live through, the crises of one’s present.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professor Sitze.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

255 Community and Immunity: Law, Ethics, and Biopolitics

From state security apparatuses to public health initiatives, modern legal orders are governed by the claim that law’s greatest good is to keep human communities safe and sound—unscathed by harm, secure against threats and contagions, and as immune as possible to everything that threatens life. This claim, however, owes its genesis and basis to a set of unstable philosophical and theological premises that not only precede modern legal orders but also, at times, threaten to undo those orders from within. Taken to its logical conclusion, after all, our growing contemporary demand for protections of health and safety seems to be in tension with longstanding democratic principles of equality, liberty, dignity, tolerance, and due process. Today, under conditions of democratic decline, it’s more important than ever to understand the legal and ethical dilemmas generated by this dialectic of immunity and community. That will be the purpose of this class. In it, we shall consider a range of thinkers who inquire into the way that theories and practices of biopolitical immunity at once regulate and undermine liberal democratic communities. In the process, we shall focus on two of the twenty-first century’s most acute expressions of this dialectic: (1) the relation between the jurisprudence of emergency and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; and (2) the relation between the science of public health and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2024-25. Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

260 Feminist Legal Theory

In the twentieth century, American feminist movements made significant strides in securing suffrage, formal equality under the law, reproductive justice, and the possibility of economic independence through paid labor.  And yet, the entry of (some) women into the public sphere has only intensified the urgency of a series of underlying questions: Is it desirable to demand legal transformations in the name of the identity “woman,” and if so, how should we incorporate considerations of gender and queerness, class, race, ability, and nationality? What is the relation between the formal emancipation of some women and intensified forms of domination of other women, for example, in the sphere of care work? What are the histories, logics, and political economies of these relations?  What is the family, what is its relationship to reproduction, and how should its legal attachments, obligations, and relationships be understood from a feminist perspective? How did individual choice become the privileged legal mechanism for feminist forms of freedom and what is the status of choice today? We will aim to develop our understanding of these distinct but deeply linked questions of feminist thinking and methodology, with an emphasis on American writers and their postcololonial and anti-racist critics, and to appreciate conflicting points of view and longer histories within these debates.

Thinkers include Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Aleksandra Kollontai, Rosa Luxemburg, Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, Betty Friedan, Catherine Mackinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Shulamith Firestone, Adrianne Rich, Angela Davis, Bell Hooks, Eve Sedgewick, Sylvia Federici, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Donna Haraway, Hortense Spillers, Patricia J. Williams, Judith Butler, Kim TallBear, José Muñoz, Melinda Cooper, Sophie Lewis, M.E. O’Brian, and Amia Srinivasan, as well as materials from intersectional movements and jurisprudence that demanded legal and more-than-legal transformation, including the Atlanta Washer Women Strike of 1881, the Jane Collective, Wages for Housework, the Combahee River Collective, ACT-UP, INCITE!, sex worker unions, and the #MeToo movement.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Siegel.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

263 Islam and the Modern State

This course explores the relationship between Islam and the modern state from the nineteenth century to the present. Muslim jurists and intellectuals have long grappled with the role of Islam in the modern state. They have advocated for a great variety of legal arrangements, ranging from the strict separation of religion and state to the adoption of constitutional clauses establishing Islam as an official religion. In this course, students will explore the genealogy of these debates and engage with the questions they brought to the fore: what does it mean for Islam to be the religion of the state? Is there a place for Islamic law in the legal systems of these modern states? How have various actors (Islamist movements, Muslim jurists, state leaders, revolutionary activists, etc.) made sense of –and competed over– the meaning and implications of Islam’s relationship to the state?

Students will read primary sources written by individuals who lived in the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: political essays, legal treatises, theological texts, constitutional articles, parliamentary debates, etc. All readings will be provided in English translation. There will be opportunities to engage with sources in their original language for students with reading skills in Arabic, Persian, or Turkish.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Ben Ismail.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2024

265 Law's Monstrosity

In this course, we will explore how genres of horror have shaped international law, paying specific attention to the figure of the monster in the legal and literary imagination. Defining monstrosity against humanity and civilization has provided a solution to what legal theorist Nasser Hussain has called the “deeply cognitive problem” that plagues attempts to justify state violence and the suspension of the rule of law. Guided by the work of critical legal scholars including Antony Anghie, Darryl Li, Ntina Tzouvala, and more, we will explore how international law has incorporated colonial and imperial discourses of civilization and monstrosity. At the same time, we will read texts from the field of cultural studies to track the evolution of the genres of horror, attending to how such texts use narrative technologies to imagine and represent fears of invasion and contagion. These two themes, as we will see, arise in the entwined legal contexts regulating the movement of people, capital, and violence. 

How, we will ask, do EU immigration statutes and caselaw as well as the treaties and protocols comprising the international law of refugees import fears of social contagion and invasion from cultural narratives? And how do films like Atlantics (dir. Mati Diop, 2019) and Girl with All the Gifts (dir. Colm McCarthy, 2016) use genre elements of horror to redirect such fears into vectors of critique? In the context of sovereign debt, we will read materials related to IMF and World Bank structural adjustment programs alongside films like Parasite (dir. Bong Joon-ho, 2019) and Train to Busan (dir. Yeon Sang-ho, 2016) that illuminate the horrific consequences of such international debt institutions. Finally, we will consider how international laws governing military force and economic sanctions enable state violence. How, we will ask, do texts like Ahmed Saadawi’s novel Frankenstein in Baghdad (2013), Ana Lily Amirpour’s film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), and Solmaz Sharif’s poetry collection Look (2016) demonstrate the efficacy of cultural production in critiquing the hegemonic narratives of international law, particularly for those excluded from international legal processes? 

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Firmani.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2024, Fall 2024

266 Land, Law and Property

This course interrogates the theories of society that emerge alongside the history of the appropriation of land, especially the private property form.  We will take up several classical puzzles in the writings of thinkers such as John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Hannah Arendt: how do we come to understand land as available for possession? How should we distinguish between possession, use, and laying waste? What is the relation between the genesis of capitalist private property relations, imperialism, and the rise of the modern State form?  In all of this, we will think together about how the dispossession of indigenous, racial, and colonial subjects played a central role in the development of modern theories of property and land, engaging thinkers like Rosa Luxemburg, Frantz Fanon, Ruth Hall, and Brenna Bhandar. Finally, we will study the role of landed power in contemporary legal struggles across a number of contexts, working with critical legal geography and indigenous studies, and using materials from litigation, literature, archive, and documentary. 

Limited to 30 students. Omitted.  Visiting Assistant Professor Siegel.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2024

272 Race and American Law

This course provides an opportunity to think critically about the relation between race and American law.  The course will be anchored in a number of historical inflection points in which the relation between race and the law was thrown into question, contested, reconfigured, and, in some cases, retrenched. Moving from the moment of Constitutional founding, through the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery, Jim Crow and the early Civil Rights Movement, encounters in the racial politics of feminism and reproductive justice, the jurisprudence of labor, welfare, and carcerality in the neoliberal era, and the development of antidiscrimination jurisprudence, we will study alongside thinkers in Critical Race Theory, Black Feminist thought, and other twentieth and twenty-first century anti-racisms in order to understand the possibilities and limits of law today. In this way, the course will also move across and offer a chance to reflect on the relation between movement politics, jurisprudence, and theory. 

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Siegel.

2024-25: Not offered

278 The Law of Colonialism

This course examines law, courts, and legal encounters in colonial contexts. We will focus on European empires and their colonies around the world in both the early modern and modern periods. We will study the inner workings of colonialism through a critical examination of the legal practices of colonial empires. Students will learn how colonial legal cultures legitimized, enshrined and sustained colonial violence and how colonized subjects navigated these fraught legal landscapes. How did the law make colonial rule possible and conversely how did it contribute to the dismantling of such rule? We will address these questions through case studies covering a broad variety of colonial sites including early modern Latin America and the colonial Atlantic, French West (and North) Africa, British India, and the modern Middle East during the Mandate period. 

Limited to 30 students. Fall Semester. Professor Ben Ismail.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2024

284 The Death Sentence

The political, economic, and philosophical figure of the “death sentence,” although it has archaic roots, continues to haunt the twenty-first century. Athens killed the philosopher Socrates because he was dangerous to the polis, and philosophy has enshrined this death sentence as both its mythical origin and its most modern moment. Having cut off the head of the king, French revolutionaries and their critics fiercely debated whether mercy or execution would better distance their new social order from repressive forms of monarchical sovereignty. The murder and vulnerability to premature death of Africans in the Atlantic Slave Trade and Native and indigenous peoples in the Americas underwrote and enabled the idea of the New World and its fraught and partial freedoms. Together we will inquire into the logics these stories, and their accompanying, often paradoxical, discourses (punishment, mercy; sovereignty, technique), have in common. Turning to contemporary theory, we will seek to understand the persistence of death sentences today.  Why does the state kill, and what can the persistence of such violence both as fact and idea tell us about the idea of the state? Why did “barbaric” practices not end with enlightenment, the critique of religion, scientific rationalism, legal modernization, capitalism? What is the relation between capital punishment and other death sentences meted out in and through prisons, policing, or pandemics?  In distinction from a course that debates American capital punishment primarily from a policy perspective, we will inquire into capital punishment as a problem for the history and writing of legal thought, inquiring after its persistence in philosophic terms and reconsidering the possible bases for abolitionist critique.

Limited to 30 students. Offered Spring Semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Siegel.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

291 The Legal and Cultural Lives of AI

This course proceeds from the premise that both law and cultural production—literature, film, poetry, etc.—condition how we understand, develop, and interact with artificial intelligence (AI). While the term “AI” only emerged in the United States in the 1950s, human fascination with artificially intelligent entities has surfaced in literature since Homer’s epics and continues to animate contemporary cultural production as AI itself advances at a rapid pace. As the need for our legal system to regulate these developments becomes increasingly evident, official responses and imaginative solutions proliferate, spawning new fields of inquiry and conditioning existing ones. In this course, we will engage with fictional works—both literature and film—in order to trace how imagining AI has evolved historically. We will also explore legal texts—case law, statutes and regulations, and legal scholarship—in order to track how humans have used laws and the legal system to account for the social, political, and economic changes induced, or threatened, by AI. Taking inspiration from the nascent field of Critical AI Studies as well as scholars working in Science and Technology Studies, we will consider AI not solely as technological: instead, we will attend to how cultural work that has imagined AI has conditioned the laws meant to regulate it, and, in turn, how these laws and regulations have conditioned such cultural work. 

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Firmani.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2024

321 Law and Waste 

[Analytic Seminar] “Waste" is so widely used in common parlance that it hardly seems necessary to reconsider its meaning. Yet, it is not always apparent what principles determine what is use and what is waste, why, whom that determination affects, and how. This seminar will examine how different concepts of waste relate to law and authority. “Waste” in the common law is historically linked to land possession. But the law that determines whether an act, a thing, or even a person is “waste” has implications not solely for private property, but for due process, the environment, labor, finance, and the long history of colonization. Descriptions of bodies, cultures, and lands in terms of waste have legally justified exploitation and violence by states and powerful non-state actors, and have thus shaped our world. How do we reconcile the familiar imperative to avoid waste with modern demands for order and justice? We will look closely at this question as we explore the social and legal construction of waste. 

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2024-25.  Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

334 America's Death Penalty

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

341 Interpretation in Law & Literature

(Offered as LJST 341 [Analytic Seminar] and ENGL 310) Interpretation lies at the center of legal and literary activity. Both law and literature are in the business of making sense of texts—statutes, constitutions, poems or stories. Both disciplines confront similar questions regarding the nature of interpretive practice: Should interpretation always be directed to recovering the intent of the author? If we abandon intentionalism as a theory of textual meaning, how do we judge the "excellence" of our interpretations? How can the critic or judge continue to claim to read in an "authoritative" manner in the face of interpretive plurality? In the last few years, a remarkable dialogue has burgeoned between law and literature as both disciplines have grappled with life in a world in which "there are no facts, only interpretations." This seminar will examine contemporary theories of interpretation as they inform both legal and literary understandings. Readings will include works of literature (Hemingway, Kafka, Woolf) and court cases, as well as contributions by theorists of interpretation such as Spinoza, Dilthey, Freud, Geertz, Kermode, Dworkin, and Sontag.

Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors.Omitted 2024-25. Professor Douglas.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2020

342 Carl Schmitt and the Jurisprudence of Illiberalism

(RESEARCH SEMINAR)  Few twentieth-century intellectuals are as controversial and as influential as the German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985). A prominent critic of liberal democracy during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), Schmitt generated novel theories of dictatorship, political theology, sovereignty, constitutional law, and emergency powers that were studied closely by all sides of the Weimar political spectrum. Following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, Schmitt joined the Nazi Party and became one of its most prominent legal thinkers, in which capacity he published numerous antisemitic texts. Following the defeat of Nazism in 1945, American authorities arrested Schmitt and permanently banned him from university teaching. Schmitt’s post-war detention and ban was initiated and led by Amherst College professor Karl Loewenstein (1891-1973), whose 1945 arrest warrant called Schmitt “a man of near-genius rating." From 1945 until his death, Schmitt published and lectured on topics mainly related to international law, the laws of war, and geopolitics. Today he remains widely condemned for his Nazism and antisemitism, while also being widely regarded as an especially incisive critic of modern legal institutions, theories, and practices. In this research seminar, our primary goal will be to study Schmitt’s key texts in relation to their political, legal, and historical context. Our secondary goal will be to develop methods for parsing the extensive secondary literature that has emerged on topics related to Schmitt's thought. Along the way, we shall pay special attention to the question of Schmitt’s complicity with political evil and ask what lessons, if any, Schmitt’s texts might hold for our own time. 

Limited to 15 students. Fall Semester. Professor Sitze.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2024

346 Law's Classifications (Research Seminar)

(Research Seminar)  When courts decide cases, they engage in knowledge production, and so must use logical, enforceable classifications to distinguish among persons, things, and rights. Legal doctrines that enshrine these classifications may conflict with broader commitments to equality or tradition, even as they help remedy past injuries, protect existing rights, or create durable guidelines for the future. Such conflicts come into full view when these doctrines leave the courtroom and collide with other social forces and frameworks, like market rationality, medical science, political movements, or religious beliefs. How does law create its classifications? How do race, gender, class and other social identities intersect with them? What external taxonomies are invoked in their making, and to what ends? By attending to the ways law’s classifications are developed, used, resisted or changed, we will come to see the law’s internal tensions, its civic limits, and its social power.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted. Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

349 Law and Love

[Analytic Seminar] (Offered as LJST 349 and SWAGS 349) At first glance, law and love seem to tend in opposing directions: where law is constituted in rules and regularity, love emerges in contingent, surprising, and ungovernable ways; where law speaks in the language of reason, love’s language is of sentiment and affect; where law regulates society through threats of violence, love binds with a magical magnetism. In this seminar, placing materials in law and legal theory alongside theoretical and imaginative work on the subject of love, we invert that premise of opposition in order to look for love’s place in law and law’s in love. First we will inquire into the ways in which laws regulate love, asking how is love constituted and arranged by those regulations, and on what grounds it escapes them. In that regard we will explore, among other areas, the problematics of passion in criminal law and laws regulating sexuality, marriage, and family. Second we will ask, how does love in its various guises (as philia, eros, or agape) manifest itself in law and legal theory, and indeed partly constitute law itself? Here we will explore, for example, sovereign exercises of mercy, the role of equity in legal adjudication, and the means that bind legal subjects together in social contract theory. Finally, we will explore an analogy drawn by W. H. Auden, asking how law is like love, and by extension love like law. How does attending to love’s role in law, and law’s in love, shift our imaginings of both?

 Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 24-25.  Professor Umphrey.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

350 American Legal Theory

(Analytic Seminar) The discipline of legal theory has the task of making law meaningful to itself. But there is a variety of competing legal theories that can make law meaningful in divergent ways. By what measure are we to assess their adequacy? Is internal coherence the best standard or should legal theory strive to accord with the extra-legal world? Then too, the institutions and practices of law are components of social reality and, therefore, as amenable to sociological or cultural analysis as any other component. Here again, many different kinds of sense can be made of law depending upon how “the social” is itself theorized. This course engages the theme of law and the problems of social reality by way of a three-step approach. The first part of the course presents an overview of the main lines of twentieth-century American legal thought. We begin with a study of legal formalism and the challenges posed to it by legal realism and its various successor theories. One focus of debate between formalism and its rivals is how much social realism should be brought to bear on legal analysis. Another question is: what kind of social realism should be brought to bear on the analysis of law? The second segment of the course provides a survey of some of the candidates. These include the Law and Society Movement, neo-Marxism and Critical Legal Studies. In the final segment we look at how these theoretical issues are given expression in connection with more practical contexts such as poverty law, labor law or criminal law.

 Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2024

352 Film, Myth, and the Law

[Analytic Seminar] The proliferation of law in film, on television, and online has expanded the sphere of legal life itself. Law lives in images which today saturate our culture and which have a power all their own, and the moving image provides a domain in which legal power operates independently of law’s formal institutions. This course takes up law and film to explore law’s image and the imagined life of law. It will consider the ways “myths” about law are reproduced and contested in film and other visual media, and the way film proposes a visual aesthetics of law. We will ask what happens when legal events are re-narrated in film and examine the treatment of legal officials, events, and institutions (e.g. police, lawyers, judges, trials, executions, prisons), discussing how that treatment positions them in relation to processes of judgment, interpretation, and violence. Attending to the visual dimensions and dynamics of law’s imagined lives as well as to the viewer’s relation to law on film we will also explore the ways in which law provides a template for film spectatorship, positioning viewers as detectives and as jurors. Does film open up new possibilities of judgment, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into law’s violence?

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2024-25. Professors Umphrey and Sarat.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2021, Spring 2024

355 Animals: Law, Ethics, Biopolitics (Research Seminar)

(Offered as LJST 355) (Research Seminar)  The treatment and legal status of animals has often provided a rich resource for legal theory. Jeremy Bentham famously yoked the denial of rights to animals with pro-slavery arguments in order to argue that the basis of rights was not the shape of the body or the level of intelligence but the capacity to feel pain. Since then a considerable literature on animal rights and the nascent field of animal studies has emerged. This course covers many of these debates but goes further, asking what are the historically contingent grounds on which humans relate to animals? Such a perspective draws us to consider the contingency of moral arguments and the changing structures of sovereignty and legal personality.  Finally, in a world where at least a billion people have been reduced to what Giorgio Agamben calls "bare life," how do global capitalism and biopolitics shape our contemporary conceptions of human and animal?  Readings include Sunstein and Nussbaum, Animal Rights, Jonathon Safran Foer, Eating Animals, Giorgio Agamben, The Open: man and animal, J. M. Coetzee, Elizabeth Costello.

This writing-attentive seminar operates on twin tracks.  Over the course of the semester, students will identify, research, write and revise a topic resulting in a 30-page paper.  At the same time, weekly assignments will not only probe content but also focus on style.  What constitutes a piece of evidence in a research project?  How do writers make choices in the construction of sentences and paragraphs? 

Limited to 15 students. Omitted . Professor Sitze.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016

356 Judging Genocide

(Research Seminar) This seminar will address some of the foundational questions posed by radical evil to the legal imagination. How have jurists attempted to understand the causes and logic of genocide, and the motives of its perpetrators? Is it possible to “do justice” to such extreme crimes? Is it possible to grasp the complexities of history in the context of criminal trial? What are the special challenges and responsibilities facing those who struggle to submit traumatic history to legal judgment? We will consider these questions by focusing specifically on a range of legal responses to the crimes of the Holocaust. Our examination will be broadly interdisciplinary, as we compare the efforts of jurists to master the problems of representation and judgment posed by extreme crimes with those of historians, social theorists, and artists. Readings will include original material from the Nuremberg, Eichmann, and Irving trials, and works by, among others, Hannah Arendt, Zygmunt Bauman, Christopher Browning, Primo Levi, and Art Spiegelman.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2024-25. Professor Douglas.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

357 Property, Liberty and Law

(Research Seminar) What we call property is enormously important in establishing the nature of a legal regime. Moreover, an exploration of property offers a window on how a culture sees itself. Examining how property notions are used and modified in practice can also provide critical insights into many aspects of social history and contemporary social reality.

We will begin our discussion of property by treating it as an open-ended cluster of commonplace and more specialized notions (e.g., owner, gift, lease, estate) used to understand and shape the world. We will look at how the relation of property to such values as privacy, security, citizenship and justice has been understood in political and legal theory and how different conceptions of these relations have entered into constitutional debates. We will also study the relationship of property and the self (How might one’s relation to property enter into conceptions of self? Do we “own” ourselves? Our bodies or likenesses? Our thoughts?), property and everyday life (How are conceptions of property used to understand home, work and community?) and property and culture, (Do our conceptions of property influence understandings of cultural differences between ourselves and others? Does it make sense to claim ownership over one’s ancestors?). In sum, this course will raise questions about how property shapes our understandings of liberty, personhood, agency and power.

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 24-25. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Spring 2024

368 Testimony and Witnessing

(ANALYTIC SEMINAR) We live in an era of disorienting disinformation and brazen prevarication, intensified by the speed of online communicative environments.  Yet discerning truth from falsity is an old problem, and one with which law has long grappled.  In this course we will examine ways in which law frames and negotiates truth-seeking via an exploration of testimony and witnessing.  Focusing particularly but not exclusively on truth-telling in trials, we will sift through legal rules governing the introduction and cross-examination of evidence (rules concerning relevance, hearsay, authentication, the right to confront witnesses, perjury, etc.).  We will also ask broader questions about the kinds of evidence law privileges (forensic, visual, written, oral, confessional), the kinds of testimony that instills confidence or anxiety (DNA, police, eyewitness, video, child and spousal testimony, re-enactment), and the testimonial problematics of memory and trauma.  More broadly still, we will situate these explorations within contexts of social subordination – Jim Crow and its legacy, genocide, sexual violence – to better understand what voices are suppressed or ignored by decisionmakers, and how law can fail in seeking the truth.  In addition to legal materials, we will draw on filmic, literary, and theoretical texts that explore and question the very capacity to “tell the truth.”

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Umphrey

Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course. Reading in an area selected by the student and approved in advance.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024, Fall 2024

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Independent work under the guidance of a tutor assigned by the Department. Open to senior LJST majors who wish to pursue a self-defined project in reading and writing and to work under the close supervision of a faculty member.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

Departmental Courses

103 Legal Institutions and Democratic Practice

This course will examine the relationship between legal institutions and democratic practice. How do judicial decisions balance the preferences of the majority and the rights of minorities? Is it possible to reconcile the role that partisan dialogue and commitment play in a democracy with an interest in the neutral administration of law? How does the provisional nature of legislative choice square with the finality of judicial mandate? By focusing on the United States Supreme Court, we will consider various attempts to justify that institution’s power to offer final decisions and binding interpretations of the Constitution that upset majoritarian preferences. We will examine the origins and historical development of the practice of judicial review and consider judicial responses to such critical issues as slavery, the New Deal, and abortion. The evolving contours of Supreme Court doctrine will be analyzed in the light of a continuing effort to articulate a compelling justification for the practice of judicial intervention in the normal operation of a constitutional democracy.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Douglas.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

285 Third World Approaches to International Law

This course will introduce students to the field of international law via one of its most influential critical traditions: Third World Approaches to International Law, commonly known as TWAIL, which seeks to build solidarity among the countries of the “Third World” by recognizing their shared political reality in the face of European and North American domination. The work of TWAIL scholars has been largely theoretical and historical, arguing that international law has constructed, entrenched, and furthered political and economic subordination around the globe. TWAIL has been, at its heart, a reconstructive movement aimed at remaking international law on nonhierarchical grounds, empowering communities outside of the West to shape the international legal system to better serve a broader range of interests. 

We will explore how the international institutions, norms, and governance of issues encompassing migration, trade, the environment, and more reflect the continued salience of racial hierarchies in establishing and responding to the conditions of crisis;  trace how the ravages of climate catastrophe travel through and entrench circuits of exploitation; and investigate contemporary international legal approaches to governing armed conflict and state violence such as sanctions programs, probing whether and how they fulfill their purported humanitarian promise. We will focus on whether and how a TWAIL approach to international law-making might offer resources for refashioning the international legal system,  contemplate the limitations of a TWAIL approach, and respond to critiques of this critical movement. 

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 24-25. Professor Firmani.

2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2023

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