University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Interdisciplinary Legal Studies
How has constitutional change shaped social movements? And how have social movements, in turn, affected American law? This course focuses on the interactions between the law and movements for social justice in the United States, both in the latter half of the 20th Century and in the present day. We approach these questions from several different angles, including the role of formal legal categories in framing struggles for racial and gender equality and the shifting place of litigation strategies in the mobilizations of the New American Right. 

Law and the Regulatory State
This course introduces students to the administrative rulemaking and adjudication processes through which modern governance operates. At the level of policy implementation, students learn to identify and apply juridical frameworks used for assessing whether administrative action violates substantive individual rights and for assessing the formality of administrative procedures. In addition, at the level of policy formulation, students acquire the tools to critically evaluate – in terms of "rule of law" values such as transparency, participation, and predictability – current proposals for delegating regulatory and administrative functions to private economic actors.

Law In Society
What is the role of law in shaping basic and taken-for-granted social meanings? How do interactions within legal institutions generate social categories of analysis, attribute particular qualities to persons and property, and reproduce relations of hierarchy? In this course, rather than approaching law as a set of rules around which rational individuals can strategize, we focus on the micro-dynamics of legal processes and critically examine how they produce, reproduce, and transform shared ideas about what is "real" and "just." Readings will be drawn from constructivist sociolegal studies of both regulatory and adjudicatory settings. Through a series of graded short essays, you will have the chance to improve your writing skills, while developing your own views about how engaging with the law both legitimates power and offers tools to resist or control it. 

Law and Global Migration
This course explores the ways in which law affects and is affected by cross-border human mobility. We will examine the overlapping legal regimes that historically have governed migrants and migration, comparing how policies have changed over time and across national and international contexts. We will critically examine emergent legal frameworks proposing to expand the set of formal rights available to vulnerable migrants. Finally, drawing upon the framework of social movement theory, we will examine the contributions to migration governance of contemporary grassroots campaigns aiming to defend migrants from deportation and to provide protection against economic exploitation. 

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