Comparative Law, Politics & Society

The law is not just the law! We interact with the law everyday while filing tax forms, renting a car, crossing a border, or simply watching The Good Wife or Judge Alex. This course presents a variety of approaches to understanding law as a political and social reality by surveying legal systems around the world. The main objective is to compare and contrast different legal systems in order to highlight differences as well as similarities, and discover the ways in which political and social realities complicate our understanding of law and justice. Together we are going to understand how and why law in action may be quite different from law on the books, in the United States and beyond. The course will address the following questions: What are the major legal traditions? How does a lawa get legislated, amended or revoked in different countries? What is the function of courts in enforcing or implementing the law? In what ways do ordinary citizens follow, question, interpret, avoid or disobey laws? If law is not just law on the books, then what is justice?

Transitional Justice

This course explores the possibility of justice, civic repair and reconciliation in societies transitioning from a period of political violence and massive human rights violations. In the last three decades, many societies have made the hard decision to come to terms with past wrongs. Domestic and international human rights trials, amnesty laws, truth commissions, lustration, victim-centered reparations, and commemorative acts have become central to conflict resolution, peace-building and democratization processes.

Throughout the course we will question what transitional justice means, how it has emerged as a distinctive field of study and policy-making, and whether or not transitional justice measures have lived up to their promise of truth, justice and reconciliation in post-conflict societies. We will look at transitional justice from multiple perspectives: (i) the sociology of memory; (ii) the politics of democratization and democratic consolidation; (iii) policy implications in a post-conflict context; and (iv) the representation of the struggle for justice in art and literature. The challenge we set for ourselves is to rethink our everyday notions of memory, truth, justice, reconciliation, and forgiveness in a critical light.

Comparative Politics

Comparative politics is the study of politics and society using a scientific method of comparison and contrast. This course will introduce you to the comparative method, which presents a rich variety of possibilities to understand real-world phenomena. Throughout the course you will have an overview of comparative politics methodology; explore the political institutions and processes of countries around the world; understand the dynamics of regime stability and change; investigate the relationship between gender and politics; learn about social movements; become familiar with basic debates on political economy; survey different political ideologies; and develop a deeper understanding of conflict, violence, and peace.

Politics of Civil Wars

The majority of today’s wars are civil wars, that is, wars between government forces and rebel armies, or between various rebel armies in the absence of a state. Civil wars in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, and the human tragedies resulting from them, grab international headlines these days. Legacies of the British, American, and Spanish civil wars still shape the political institutions and cultures of these societies. The peaceful resolution of civil wars stands out as a much-desired, yet extremely difficult, area of political practice.

This course is about civil wars and conflict resolution. The course aims to find answers to the following questions: In what ways are civil wars different from conventional inter-state wars? What are the individual and collective motivations for taking up arms? Are some countries more prone to civil wars than others? Does violence actually work for achieving political goals? What are the factors that explain military success in a civil war? What are the challenges and promises of conflict resolution efforts.

Reconciliation after Conflict

This course explores the possibility of civic repair and reconciliation in societies transitioning from a period of political violence and massive human rights violations. Throughout the course we will question what it means to come to terms with the past for victims and victimizers of repression, as well as for greater society. Through academic works on human rights initiatives, victims’ testimonies, and artistic accounts of the encounter between victims and victimizers, we will study the practice and ethics of rebuilding civic bonds in the wake of violence. The challenge is to rethink reconciliation, forgiveness, victim, perpetrator, memory, and truth in a critical light.

Capitalism and Its Discontents

Capitalism remains, without doubt, the predominant system of production and distribution around the world. It has transformed politics, society, culture, and nature in a way that no other system has achieved in the past two centuries. Its capacity to generate wealth has received much praise among pro-capitalist intellectuals. However, critics find in capitalism the root cause of socioeconomic inequality, colonialism, war, and environmental degradation. This course is devoted to understanding capitalism, its defenders, and its critics. Throughout the quarter we are going to read primary and secondary texts that have shaped our understanding of the fundamental political, economic and social transformations of modern times. The founders of the liberal and neoliberal traditions, like John Locke and Adam Smith; Marxist critics of capitalism, like Karl Marx himself and Friedrich Engels; nuanced analysts like Karl Polanyi; anti-colonial critics like Frantz Fanon; contemporary institutionalist, feminist and environmentalist thinkers like Nancy Fraser, Wendy Brown, Joseph Stiglitz, Kate Raworth, and others, will be the subject matter of this course.

Human Rights Law

The term human rights invokes social movements struggling for equality, justice, and recognition. It also brings into mind domestic constitutions and statutes, and international treaties that seek to protect fundamental rights. This course explores human rights as a legal concept – “legal” understood both as the text of the law, and as interpretations of law that guide social and political actors. It is a survey of human rights law, as well as a critical reading of the literature on human rights.
What does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) stipulate as fundamental rights? What are some of the main legal instruments meant to protect human rights domestically and internationally? What is the relationship between the text of the law and the lived reality of populations? Why do so many movements resort to human rights to defend bodily integrity, socioeconomic justice, gender equality, and racial justice? Is human rights law an inherently meaningless conception in the world of power politics? These are the questions explored in this course.

Politics of the Middle East

The Middle East is at the center of international policy debates nowadays, but the region’s significance goes way back: as the birthplace and meeting point of numerous civilizations and religions, the Middle East has always been a site of conflict and cooperation, war and peace, poverty and prosperity. This course surveys the main political, social, cultural and economic issues in the Greater Middle East region, past and present.

Modern Political Theory

This course offers an introduction to the major themes and thinkers of modern political philosophy. The central focus of modern political thought will be presented as the twofold problematic of human freedom/autonomy and the question of political order/authority. What are the conditions and limitations of human freedom? Does state promote or hinder human freedom? What is the foundational principle of “legitimate government”? In a world increasingly dominated by industrialization, the advent of modern science/ technology and the capitalist mode of production, what is the fate of human freedom? The second part of this course will deal with contemporary philosophers who rethink the above-mentioned traditions in the light of late modern developments.

Modern Selves and Global Society

Who are we? This course is an introduction to modern sociological theory, with a focus on the relationship between the self and society. We are going to explore the interplay of self and society, and the paradoxes it generates.

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