In this course we will explore law from a sociological perspective, in relation to the historical, political, and cultural contexts within which it exists.
- We will tackle the question, what is law?
- We will talk about the relationship between law and justice.
- We will discuss social phenomena as legal constructions. Who is a person? What constitutes a religion? What is gender? What is commerce? What is free speech? These questions find myriad answers in different bodies of thought, are understood and acted upon in a variety of ways by different social groups, and gain different levels of political salience in different societies and at different times. As matters concerning the organization of public life, they are also, and inevitably, framed as "legal problems" and make their way to courts. We will examine how courts construct social phenomena through the lens of several historical cases.
- We will talk about law and American government--the historical evolution of the relationship between the branches of government, and the changing role and politicization of the Supreme Court.
- We will learn about courtroom exchanges, and how race, gender, and class play out in a typical American courthouse.
- We will explore law as a professional field, and discuss the educational and professional formations of its major actors.
This course will involve writing a research paper.