The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Interdisciplinary Legal Studies: Law and American Social Movements
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 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. 

Law and the Regulatory State
Most Americans believe that government has a responsibility to address social inequality by setting minimum standards for conditions of labor and by providing a social safety net. How should these social policy considerations co-exist with traditional property rights limitations on public authority? What is the place of legality in administrative processes that are characterized by substantial discretion in their design and implementation? This course investigates the role of legal practices, principles and professionals in the ongoing development of American social policy. It is organized (roughly) chronologically, beginning with historical debates about the constitutionality of social policy at the beginning of the 20th century and finishing with debates about the appropriate aims and values of social policy at the beginning of the 21st century.