Law and Social Change

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
June 15, 2020 - June 26, 20206/15 - 6/26M-F 9A-3POpenKevin Escudero

Course Description

What potential does the law hold to bring about transformative social change in today’s society? Relatedly, what strategies and approaches have social movement activists utilized to engage public interest lawyers and the broader legal system? We will answer these questions through a case study of various 20th and 21st century social movements including Civil Rights, immigrant rights, LGTBQ+ rights, Environment Justice, and Immigrant Rights. Students will examine the messages activists sought to promote as part of their efforts, the reception of their cause by local community members and the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of their campaigns in working to promote and/or achieve social change, often in the form of increased rights for their constituents. Readings will draw from sociological, anthropological, legal and historical texts and legal cases with a focus on exploring multiple aspects of a legal decision. As part of this course, every student will create an Action Plan to apply the concepts from this course to engage in social change in their community.

Materials for the course will be presented through a variety of mediums including Skype/Zoom sessions with activists. While this course draws on legal issues and readings, the approach taken is a sociology and anthropology of law framework rather than that of a traditional law school classroom. Through an analysis of material presented in these different, yet complementary forms students will examine the subjectivities and plight of these social movement organizers to understand the context from which these grievances are being made. Studies of social movements draw upon literature in the fields of sociology, Ethnic Studies, political science, legal studies and others. Students interested in majoring in a social science field in college would be well served by the discussions and analytical approaches utilized in the course.

This course is part of the Leadership Institute, a two-week academic program that helps students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. This unique program consists of three integrated elements: academic content, leadership development, and the Action Plan. Our students are thoughtful and compassionate youth who are interested in social issues and creating positive change. Enrollment in this program requires several hours of online engagement prior to campus arrival. This online participation can be completed at any time where internet access is available. Once on campus, participants can look forward to full days in a community of engaged and curious learners.

Additional programmatic information may be found here.

Prerequisites: It would be highly beneficial for students in this course to have completed an AP or honors English course and thus be prepared to submit short essays reflecting on their grasp of course material.

Instructor Biography

Kevin Escudero (PhD, UC Berkeley; MSL, Yale Law School) is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies and affiliated faculty in the Department of Sociology, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Population Studies Training Center at Brown University. Professor Escudero's research and teaching interests include comparative racial and ethnic studies; immigration and refugee studies; social movements; law and society; and critical human geography. His book, Organizing While Undocumented (NYU Press, forthcoming) examines undocumented Asian, Latinx, queer and formerly undocumented activists' strategic use of an intersectional movement identity. This book draws on more than five years of ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews conducted with immigrant rights activists in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City. As a Public Voices Fellow at the OpEd Project Professor Escudero has published pieces in Latino USA, The Hechinger Report and Truthout applying his academic research to pressing issues facing immigrant community members today. From 2016-2017, he served as Special Advisor to the Provost for Undocumented and DACA Students offering campus-wide workshops and trainings regarding approaches to supporting undocumented students. His research has been supported by the American Sociological Association, AcccessLex Institute, the National Science Foundation, the UC-MEXUS Institute and the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Law and Society.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAC0923
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

Leadership Institute

Two-week non-credit residential program focused on socially responsible leadership and creating positive change. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2020.

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