SMNR: Human Rights and Inequality: Law and the Production of Inequality

Course Information

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Meeting Times

Day Time Location
MON 4:00 - 6:00 pm TNH 3.127

Evaluation Method

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Our public debates are increasingly centered on the question of socio-economic inequality – its increase, its economic and political consequences, its importance to the present and its likely future. Inequality may well be at the root of many of the human rights violations in the world today. In this seminar we will explore the role of law (including, perhaps, human rights law), in the production of inequality, and the role of law (including, of course, human rights law) in responding to inequality. The seminar will bring together an interdisciplinary group of readings and visiting scholars to investigate what we know about the legal and other sources of inequality, and the ways in which various legal regimes create, reinforce, and/or ameliorate patterns of structural inequality, locally and globally. We will explore to what extent law, including international and domestic rights regimes, can respond effectively to inequality. Students should expect a very interdisciplinary set of readings – for example, we will read economics to understand the causes of inequality, and some quantitative empirical analyses of the effects of domestic and international rights litigation – but no prior expertise in these matters is assumed. We will work through the readings in class together to ensure we all understand them.

The seminar will be organized around the visits of leading scholars of inequality and human rights, who will come to the Law School to present their research. Students will spend two weeks considering work by each speaker. In the first week, we will meet in a traditional seminar format to discuss the speaker’s work and related readings. In the second week, the speakers will present their work in a public forum, and will engage in dialogue with seminar students, as well as with others in the university community who choose to attend the talk.

Students are expected to participate actively in class discussions, write short critical responses to papers provided by visiting scholars, and write a longer essay on a topic related to the themes that arise during the semester. The course is open to law students as well as to non-law graduate and professional students with relevant background.

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