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Law, Lawyers, and Transformation in Democratic South Africa

Past Offerings

Law, Lawyers, and Transformation in Democratic South Africa (5040): South Africa's transition to democracy in 1994 marked the formal end of the comprehensive political, economic, and social system of racial subordination known as apartheid. The country has changed dramatically since then, as the government has built several million new housing units, created social welfare systems, and created an array of government and private sector programs to combat discrimination and redress the effects of subordination. Yet the country remains among the most unequal in the world, with 64% of black South Africans living below the poverty line, compared to 1% of whites. Most non-white South Africans receive poor education, live in substandard housing, and have limited employment opportunities. ..............In recent years, discontent with the pace of economic and social transformation has boiled over. In 2015, university campuses erupted in protests. Students' demands quickly expanded from the removal of statutes of white colonizers to wider "decolonization" of university faculty and curricula and the expansion of access to higher education. "Born-free" student activists are now calling for faster, more radical transformation not just of campuses but of the society as a whole; many denounce what they see as the Mandela generation's overly conciliatory approach to white privilege in the economy, society, and interpersonal relations. Since 2018 there is new dynamism at the top, too: many South Africans believe that their new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, will curtail corruption and expand redistributive economic and social policies...............This course provides an opportunity to engage South Africa at this exciting historical moment, through intensive study during a week at Stanford and meetings with lawyers, activists, community members, and possibly students, journalists, and politicians during a week in Cape Town. We will focus on how lawyers are struggling for social justice and economic and social transformation--sometimes through ambitious arguments using South Africa's highly progressive constitution, but more often by supporting social movements day to day. Our learning will be grounded in specific cases, such as of the shack-dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo; Equal Education, an organization of high school-age students; and pioneering class actions on behalf of injured gold miners. These cases will enable us to explore various ways law and lawyers fit into social change, the challenges and rewards of such work, and how their perspectives overlap with and diverge from those of their clients. At the same time, we will draw connections between this work and the grand debates and historical arc described above. While comparing South Africa with the United States will not be a primary purpose of the course, we may well see interesting parallels and divergences, and will have some space to discuss those, among ourselves and perhaps with our South African interlocutors...............The format of the course will be unusual: We will return to campus before the Fall quarter and spend the week of September 12 preparing intensively at Stanford. We will meet daily for approximately three hours of discussion, collaborative exercises, and some lecturing, as well as read assigned material outside class. We will (a) learn some essential background on apartheid; current legal, political, economic, and social conditions; and our case studies; (b) begin to analyze legal activism methods and the challenges of transformation; and (c) prepare topics and specific questions for our meetings in South Africa, which students will lead. The following weekend we will fly to Cape Town, where we will spend the week of September 19 learning from visits to organizations and communities, and possibly one or two museums or other sites, as well as from discussions with a range of South Africans. We will return the weekend before the Fall quarter begins...............Stanford Law School is committed to equal access to field study courses regardless of financial situation. The School covers nearly all expenses during the trip, but students must pay for their own transportation to and from South Africa. Students who qualify for financial aid can receive a supplemental award to cover those transportation costs...............The course grade will be based on a series of short papers (one or more of which may be due after our return), active in-class engagement with the assigned materials, and preparation for and participation in interviews during the trip, and. The course is open to rising 2Ls and 3Ls. CONSENT APPLICATION: To apply for this course, students must complete and submit a Consent Application Form available on the SLS website (Click Courses at the bottom of the homepage and then click Consent of Instructor Forms). See Consent Application Form for instructions and submission deadline.


Law, Lawyers, and Transformation in Democratic South Africa | LAW 5040 Section 01 Class #1146

  • 3 Units
  • Grading: Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail
  • 2022-2023 Autumn
    Schedule No Longer Available
  • Enrollment Limitations: Consent 12
  • Learning Outcomes Addressed:
    • LO1 - Substantive and Procedural Law
    • LO2 - Legal Analysis and Reasoning
    • LO4 - Ability to Communicate Effectively in Writing
  • Course Category:
    • Comparative Law & International Law
    • Public Law

  • 2022-2023 Autumn
    Schedule No Longer Available
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