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Amherst College Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought for 2016-17

Law, Jurisp & Social Thought

101 The Social Organization of Law

(Offered as LJST 101 and POSC 218 [IL])  Law in the United State is everywhere, ordering the most minute details of daily life while at the same time making life and death judgments.  Our law is many things at once--majestic and ordinary, monstrous and merciful, concerned with morality yet often righteously indifferent to moral argument.  Powerful and important in social life, the law remains elusive and mysterious.  This power and mystery is reflected in, and made possible by, a complex bureaucratic apparatus which translates words into deeds and rhetorical gestures into social practices. 

This course will examine that apparatus. It will describe how the problems and possibilities of social organization shape law as well as how the social organization of law responds to persons of different classes, races and genders.  We will attend to the peculiar way the American legal system deals with human suffering--with examples ranging from the legal treatment of persons living in poverty to the treatments of victims of sexual assault. How is law organized to cope with their pain?  How are the actions of persons who inflict inquiries on others defined in legal terms? Here we will examine cases on self defense and capital punishment. Throughout, attention will be given to the practices of police, prosecutors, judges, and those who administer law's complex bureaucratic apparatus.

Limited to 100 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Sarat.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012

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. Omitted 2016-17.  Professor Douglas.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016

105 Race, Place, and the Law

(Offered as LJST 105 and BLST 147 [US].) 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 40 students. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2018

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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2018

136 Law Between Plato and the 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 2016-17.  Professor Sitze.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2014

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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2018

165 The Politics of International Law

Is Scotland a sovereign state? After the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, can Scotland decide to remain in Europe and thus leave the U.K. to become an independent state? Similarly, in the Syrian context, who can claim a right to statehood in a future, post-civil war Syria? Assad, pro-Western militias, Kurds in Rojava (Kurdish Syria), or ISIS? And similarly, if Palestinians have a right to self-determination, do Israeli armed forces have a right to use force against Hamas in the Gaza strip?

These questions are certainly questions of international politics. But these questions are in part discussed in the language of international law. Even when pursuing ideological preferences and wielding military and economic power, states frame international policies in legal terms: The United States claims that drones targeting suspected terrorists are lawful. The U.S. also claims that citizens outside the U.S. do not have a right to privacy when spied on by the NSA. Also, Russia invoked international legal arguments to justify the annexation of Crimea, as it cited international law to offer Edward Snowden safe harbor. Today, from the right to self-determination to human rights, states, international institutions, as well as NGOs, terrorists and TNCs frame their interests in the language of international law. This course provides an introduction to international law concepts, principles and institutions, and the international legal discourse that shapes contemporary international politics.

The purpose is to understand how international legal norms emerge, how they shape subjectivities, competences and responsibilities of international actors, and their impact on contemporary problems of global scale. Overall, the aim of this course is to lay the basis for an informed assessment of the contributions and limits of international law as a force in world affairs.

Limited to 50 students. Spring semester.  Visiting Professor Becker-Lorca.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017

171 Between Colonialism and Self-Determination: A History of the International Order

This course explores the encounter between "Europe" and the "non-western" world. More specifically, it examines the ways in which the western international order has conceived and managed the encounter with the non-western, the "peripheries" or "third world." The history of this encounter has been certainly fraught with violence and war. From the Spanish conquest of the "new world" at the end of the fifteenth century, to the scramble for Africa in the nineteenth century, western states have sought to extend their rule overseas by force. But after a long struggle for self-determination, formal colonialism came to an end during the 1960s process of decolonization. Should we understand this historical pattern as a progression from colonialism to self-determination? Alternatively, has the western international order managed the encounter with the non-western world by sustaining the domination of the former over the latter, with formal sovereignty of newly independent states replacing colonial rule but not western imperialism?

This course explores both interpretations. The main objective of the course is to enable students to understand the nature of colonialism and self-determination. By the end of the term students are expected to think critically about the role the international order has had in the unequal distribution of power and resources between states, and to evaluate the history of weaker states and peoples resisting inequality.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Becker-Lorca.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016

172 Global Justice: Problems and Solutions, from the Refugee Crisis to the Zika Virus, to Climate Change

Traditionally, in a world formed by states, political, legal and moral responsibilities of governments, private corporations and individuals are mostly confined within national boundaries. Today, economic and ecological interdependence as well as global migrations of capital, goods, people, ideas and diseases challenge the Westphalian distinction between the domestic and the international. Global problems challenge the traditional inter-state organization of the world.

This seminar examines the international responses to the challenges posed by complex global problems like the refugee crisis, climate change, the Zika virus outbreak, poverty, labor conditions, humanitarian crises and fair trade. We will examine some of the central reasons explaining the international community’s inability to confront global problems effectively. Then, we will study a series of policy initiatives to solve some of these global problems, initiatives that go beyond the traditional division between international and domestic political spheres and that challenge the idea of an international order formed exclusively by states and international institutions.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Becker-Lorca.


2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016

206 Apartheid

(Offered as LJST 206 and BLST 217) 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 20th 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 40 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Sitze.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2015

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

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 40 students. Omitted 2016-17.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017

218 Hegel's Philosophy of Right

In 1820, G.W.F. Hegel completed the last of his major published works: the Philosophy of Right. Almost immediately, Hegel’s text would be criticized as a work of philosophical apology—a rationalization and justification of the repressive Prussian state. Later readers of Hegel would intensify this criticism, interpreting the Philosophy of Right as a terminal limit for Hegelian thought as such—a point in Hegel's intellectual itinerary where his dialectical reason turned into undialectical dogma, his attempt to think actual experience deteriorated into mystical abstraction, and his affirmation of freedom reconciled itself with an affirmation of unfreedom. The goal of this course is to review and rethink these criticisms. By engaging in a close reading of the Philosophy of Right, we shall seek to derive from Hegel's text a relation between thought and law that has been occluded by the traditional assessment of this work. As a part of this reading, we shall pay special attention to the place and function of the criticism of the Philosophy of Right within the genesis of the scholarly field known as “critical theory.” Along the way, we shall pose general questions about what it means to interpret a canonical philosophic text, how to perform a close reading of a translated work, and why “critique” remains essential for education today.

Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Sitze.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014

220 Histories of Judgment 

(Research Seminar)  Although their jobs are distinct, the judge and the historian confront a number of similar questions. How, for instance, can we arrive at sound judgments about events that have occurred? What kinds of evidence should we rely upon as we do so? What should be our standard of proof? In what ways do our social and cultural contexts inform our judgments? Can we ever be certain in these judgments? In this course, we will explore answers to these questions as we consider the similarities and differences between the roles of the judge and the historian. We will do this by studying exceptional histories of several trials—Natalie Zemon Davis’ account of an imposture trial in sixteenth-century France and Jill Lepore’s study of conspiracy trials of slaves in colonial New York—along with primary documents from these cases and essays on historical methodology. Taken together, this material will help us to analyze the logics through which legal judgments were reached in the various trials and to explore questions about legal evidence and standards of proof at different times and in different societies. It will also allow us to consider the kinds of judgments that historians can make about past societies given the primary evidence that is available to them, as well as the significance of their investigations for the present.

Beyond class discussions, students will explore these issues as they conduct their own historical research on a trial of their choice and the society in which it took place. Assignments and workshops will help students to master the stages of the research process, such as developing a manageable and interesting research question, identifying and interpreting primary sources, and assessing secondary literature. We will also discuss and practice the elements of advanced academic writing. The course’s various research and writing exercises will guide students through the process of planning, writing, and revising a 30-page research paper.  

Recommended requisite: LJST 110. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor S. Johnson.


2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015

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 2016-17. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Fall 2012, Spring 2015, Spring 2018

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.  Spring semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.


2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015

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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2015

232 Marx, Revolution, and the Law

To what extent can we change our world by changing our laws? We will explore this question through an intensive study of Karl Marx’s writings. Although Marx is most widely known for his arguments about political economy and revolution, his earliest scholarly energies were devoted to jurisprudence and throughout his life he frequently returned to questions about the law’s nature, possibilities, and limits. He did so not only in his analyses of the modern state and capitalism, but also in his efforts to document the goals, victories, and set-backs of democratic movements, labor unions, and political radicals as they navigated repressive legal systems, fought for legal reforms, and developed alternative visions of how to regulate social life. We will therefore draw on diverse genres of writing from across Marx’s life—including letters, newspaper articles, pamphlets, and speeches—as we explore the relationship between law, social criticism, and social transformation.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor S. Johnson.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016

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. Fall semester. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2014

258 Cicero: Law and Crisis in the Roman Republic

This course examines the legal and moral writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero in their historical context: the Roman Republic’s tumultuous final century. Through his roles as a public official, lawyer, and philosopher, Cicero became one of the most important figures in the history of Roman law. We will explore how he understood the nature of law, obligation, and justice through close readings of his treatises and speeches, and we will pay especially close attention to his claims about how we should navigate conflicts between doing what is right and doing what is expedient. We will also examine how he dealt with these same conflicts in practice, namely as a public official who was intent on defending the Republic from the civil and moral crises that threatened it. Throughout the course we will use the writings of Roman and Greek historians to study the wars, conspiracies, and class conflicts that shaped Cicero’s experiences in, and reflections upon, Roman public life. Readings will include Cicero’s Catilinarian Orations, On the Republic, On the Laws, and On Duties, as well as works by Sallust, Livy, Plutarch, and Appian.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Johnson.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016

259 Law, Liberty, and Slavery: The French and Haitian Revolutions

In 1791 a slave insurrection that soon became one of the world’s most significant and transformative revolutions began in Saint Domingue, France's most valuable colony. Over the next thirteen years it led France to abolish slavery in all of its colonies and to extend French citizenship to former slaves; it decimated the colonial economy in Saint-Domingue and overthrew French rule there; and it produced the independent state of Haiti. Just two years earlier a revolution in France had overthrown monarchical rule, established popular sovereignty, and enshrined natural rights in law. Yet in the words of historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot, the idea of a slave insurrection had been unthinkable to the French people, despite their own struggles for liberty, because it violated widely-held assumptions about who can and should fight for the right to self-determination.

This course explores the interconnected histories of the French and Haitian Revolutions in order to consider how a revolution in one of France’s colonies betrayed the limits of its own revolutionary principles. In particular, we will investigate the ways in which the Haitian Revolution challenged the legal order that triumphed in France in 1789. We will also explore what the French and Haitian Revolutions can teach us about the nature of freedom, rights, and revolution itself.  In addition to primary sources, readings will include classic studies of the French and Haitian Revolutions by Alexis de Tocqueville and C.L.R. James.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Johnson.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016

266 The Laws of Violence: Lawful Killings in Law Enforcement, Punishment, War and the War on Terror

States kill. Law enforcement officers may kill to protect innocent victims. The military kills to protect the nation. And a handful of states still impose the death penalty. These are all lawful killings. Since the rise of modern statehood, sovereignty depends on the ability of a state to hold monopoly over the legitimate use of violence and thus enforce its order. Without law, bare violence is incapable of establishing order. In the absence of order there is no sovereign. Without violence, law has no enforcement power. In the absence of a coercive obligation, there might be custom, morality, but not law. States enforce law through physical coercion, in extreme cases, killing.

This seminar introduces the basic elements of conventional theories of law and state, and explores the centrality that legalized violence plays in both the constitution of law and the state. The goal of the seminar is to identify and examine the constitutive though unstable relation between law and violence.

This course will examine some of the theoretical debates about law and violence and a number of examples involving law’s construction of lawful killings. We will study two examples from the domestic legal order: capital punishment and law enforcement killing. We will also study the transnational use of armed force, that is, killings by military combatants in war, and killings in the "war against terror." Specifically, each theoretical debate that we will explore will be followed by an example in which states kill in accordance to law: The Sovereign/Capital Punishment; The Force of the Law/Police Killing and the Law; Violence as Sovereign Exception/Civil Wars and International Humanitarian Law; Critique of Violence, a Critique of Justice/The Privilege to Kill in Combat; The Plasticity of International Law and the Legality of War/The War on Terror and The New Drone Wars. The goal is to think critically about the possibility of law’s ability to limit violence.

Limited to 30 students.  Spring semester. Visiting Professor Becker-Lorca.



2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017

317 Thinking Law with Shakespeare

(Offered as LJST 317 and ENGL 337)  [Analytical Seminar] It is well known that 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 three Shakespearean texts, we will trace the way these works "put into play" some of the most basic concepts 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 to universalize those texts (treating them as the exemplar for all of humanity). It will be to treat the play of juridical terms and forms within Shakespeare’s texts as an occasion to think law with Shakespeare, and as such to learn to rethink the genesis and basis of modern Anglophone jurisprudence more generally.

Recommended requisite: LJST 110. Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Sitze.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018

348 Law And War

The traditional understanding of war involved the armies of two nation-states confronting each other on a battlefield. And other than general customs of a just war, the law was thought to have little to say about war. But in the last half century even as the traditional form of war has changed rapidly, as conflicts involving non-state actors (such as insurgency and terrorism) have increased, international law has developed an intricate set of rules regarding who can fight and what methods of fighting are legal.

This course explores the connection between different types of conflict and the norms and rules of international law that are used to regulate that conflict. In this course, we will take a historical approach. We will read classic theorists of war such as Clausewitz, Schmitt and Michael Walzer. We will examine the history of The Hague and Geneva Conventions. And we will focus on specific instances of war from nineteenth-century colonial conflicts and guerilla warfare, to the 1999 “humanitarian” intervention in Kosovo, to the various fronts in the contemporary “war on terror.” Throughout we will ask how changes in technology and law change the definition of war. How do legal definitions of war attempt to demarcate it from other forms of violent conflict such as insurgency or terrorism?

 Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Douglas.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2012

349 Law and Love

(Analytic Seminar) 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?

Requisite: LJST 110 or consent of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2016-17.  Professor Umphrey.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2017

350 Twentieth-Century 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. Omitted 2016-17.  Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2016

352 Film, Myth, and the Law

[formerly LJST 225] (Analytic Seminar)  The proliferation of law in film and on television has expanded the sphere of legal life itself. Law lives in images that today saturate our culture and 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 will consider what happens when legal events are re-narrated in film and examine film’s treatment of legal officials, events, and institutions (e.g., police, lawyers, judges, trials, executions, prisons). Does film open up new possibilities of judgment, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into law’s violence? We will discuss ways in which myths about law are reproduced and contested in film. Moreover, attending to the visual dimensions of law’s imagined lives, we ask whether law provides a template for film spectatorship, positioning viewers as detectives and as jurors, and whether film, in turn, sponsors a distinctive visual aesthetics of law. Among the films we may consider are Inherit the Wind, Call Northside 777, Judgment at Nuremberg, Rear Window, Silence of the Lambs, A Question of Silence, The Sweet Hereafter, Dead Man Walking, Basic Instinct, and Unforgiven. Throughout we will draw upon film theory and criticism as well as the scholarly literature on law, myth, and film.

Requisite: LJST 110.  Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Umphrey.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2015

354 The Crisis of Neoliberal Legal Theory

(Research Seminar) The theory of governance known today as "neoliberalism" is most often understood as a mainly economic policy.  Both its opponents and its proponents seem to agree that neoliberalism is best debated as an ensemble of practices (such as free trade, privatization, deregulation, competitiveness, social-spending cutbacks and deficit reduction) that emphasize the primacy of the free market in and for the arrangement of social and political orders.  But, particularly in its initial theorizations, neoliberalism was also, perhaps even primarily, a philosophic doctrine concerning the place and function of law in and for human civilization in general.  At the 1938 Walter Lippman Colloquium in Paris and then again at the inaugural 1947 meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in Switzerland, the leading figures of what would later become known as neoliberalism criticized existing economic theories for neglecting basic questions of legal theory and argued that capitalism could not be saved from the perils of socialism and communism without a renewed understanding of, and insistence on, the rule of law.  In this course, we shall take this, the "legal theoretical" origin of neoliberalism, as a point of departure for understanding neoliberalism as a whole.  In the first half of the course, we shall seek to understand neoliberalism on the basis of the way it posed law as a problem for thought.  In relation to what alternate theories of law did neoliberalism emerge?  On what terms did neoliberals reinterpret the "classical" liberalism of Hobbes and Locke?  How did certain concepts of law figure into the way that neoliberal thinkers arrived at their understandings of the basic meanings of life and labor?  In the second half of the course, we shall explore the ways in which various critics of neoliberalism have sought to expose and to question the legal theories at its origin.  How might renewed attention to legal theoretical problems help us today in our attempt to think and act beyond neoliberalism's constitutive limits?  Our goal in all phases of the course will be to reconstruct neoliberal thought on its own terms in order to grasp better its contemporary incoherence, crisis, and dissolution.   Readings will include Samir Amin, Zygmunt Bauman, Michel Foucault, Milton Friedman, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, David Harvey, Friedrich Hayek, Maynard Keynes, Naomi Klein, Karl Marx, Ludwig von Mises, Alexander Rustow, and Saskia Sassen.

Requisite:  LJST 110 or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2016-17.  Professor Sitze.


2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Fall 2010, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Fall 2014

355 Animals: Law, Ethics, Biopolitics

(Offered as LJST 355 and POSC 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. Fall semester. Professors Sitze and Dumm.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016

356 Representing and Judging the Holocaust.

(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 2016-17.  Professor Douglas.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2011, Spring 2016

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 2016-17. Senior Lecturer Delaney.

2016-17: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2017

374 Rights

(Offered as POSC 474 [SC] and LJST 374.) This seminar explores the role of rights in addressing inequality, discrimination, and violence. This course will trace the evolution of rights focused legal strategies aimed at addressing injustice coupled with race, gender, disability, and citizenship status. We will evaluate how rights-based activism often creates a gap between expectation and realization. This evaluation will consider when and how rights are most efficacious in producing social change and the possibility of unintended consequences. This course fulfills the requirement for an advanced seminar in Political Science.

Requisite: One introductory Political Science course or its equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Bumiller.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2017

490 Special Topics

Independent Reading Courses. Reading in an area selected by the student and approved in advance by a member of the Department.

Fall and spring semesters.

2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2018

499, 498 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.

2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2018

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