Law, Narrative, and Boundaries


Course Code:
LAW 681F
Law Mandatory P/R/F


As citizens and as professionals, lawyers work in a world marked and shaped by salient social boundaries. Some kinds of differences – of politics, religion/religiosity, race, ethnicity, language, wealth, gender, sexuality and other attributes – can be profoundly divisive. Broadly speaking, this class is inspired by the complex cultural and political challenge of managing these differences¿a challenge that lawyers have a unique opportunity to address. The particular lens through which we will investigate this issue involves those who cross, or reflect upon in novel ways, some of these boundaries. As we read and discuss narrative accounts, we will consider what light they shed on how social and legal boundaries are created, evolve, and take on particular meanings. We will ask how law constructs or enforces lines, and how those practices change when the line itself gets blurry. Materials will include fiction and nonfiction, prose and film, on subjects such as: stories of "passing" (involving race and gender); the Thomas Jefferson-Sally Hemings relationship; attempts by Palestinians and Israelis to live peacefully with one another in the cooperative village of Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom; various narratives about life on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border; and stories about the intersection of religion and sexuality. We will supplement the narratives with some theoretical material that looks at how law can shape, define, and enforce boundaries.

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