Law & Society

Stream Overview

Do you have an interest in law or community work? Have you ever wondered how our law both shapes and reflects societal behaviour? Perhaps you have a burning passion for studying law in the future? If so, join us in the Law & Society CAP stream, where we will look at various aspects of society that have shaped its law, and vice-versa, including but not limited to historical, literary, political, and anthropological factors. You will also have the opportunity to work with a community organisation in the legal non-profit sector. This initiative, as well as your coursework, seeks answers to questions such as:

  • How did certain nations, including Canada, arrive at their current social and political organization?
  • How do law and society connect to Canada’s colonial history? In what ways has the rise of nation states paralleled – or caused – the marginalization of Indigenous peoples and other populations around the world?
  • What is the relationship between individuals and states like Canada? What different experiences of human rights (and their violations) do individuals encounter and what can we learn from these different experiences?
  • How is law related to social justice, and to social justice movements against poverty, racism, homophobia or sexism?
  • How does the globalization of economies and the movement of people across borders change how we think about categories like “the individual” and “society” ?

If any of these questions interest you, consider joining the Law & Society stream!

Legal and political forces influence the everyday life of all citizens, whether they choose to abide by these institutionalized guidelines or not. With a focus on the Canadian context, this stream examines modern nation states and the political systems that govern them, and how these systems influence the social development of diverse populations.

Through the disciplinary lenses of Anthropology, History, English, Aboriginal Studies, Gender and Critical Race Studies, and Political Science, students will engage with issues like human rights, nationalism, globalization, discrimination, government, environment, knowledge, and war.

Beyond the Canadian context, this stream will introduce you to historical instances when ideas of legality and humanity come into conflict, such as social justice movements for gender, racial, and sexual equality. Students will be challenged to consider global and local perspectives associated with the breakdown and restoration of law and society in a variety of contexts. Students will also be encouraged to think about their own place within these larger stories and contexts.

This stream may be of particular interest to students who plan on majoring in History, Political Science, Cultural Anthropology, or Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice (GRSJ), or those who wish to complete the Law & Society Minor.


Courses

All course descriptions and information are subject to change.

In your first term, you will enroll in Arts Studies, Political Science, and Anthropology. By looking at the literary, political, and anthropological background surrounding our society-at-large, you will learn how the current relationship between law and society came about.

Arts Studies (ASTU) 100 Seminar

(6 credits/2 terms) – First Year CAP Seminar: Focuses on scholarly writing and reading, including both literature and introduction to academic scholarship. This course provides an interdisciplinary foundation for academic writing and related research communicative practices within an interactive learning environment.

Students will choose one out of four different sections (L01/L02/L03/L04), based on their scheduling needs and academic interests, and stay in the same section for both terms.

Timeslots:
L01: Mon, Wed, Fri 14:00-15:00
L02: Mon, Wed, Fri 10:00-11:00
L03: Mon, Wed, Fri 12:00-13:00
L04: Mon, Wed, Fri 13:00-14:00


Taking as its point of departure the ever-increasing popular fascination with the genre of true crime – and crime fiction, more broadly – this course examines how four different literary texts write crime. Each work represents transgressive acts that rupture social order, which undermine the reciprocal ties that regulate the social contract. We will consider how each text constructs its central crime (or acts of violence), paying particular attention to the various narrative conventions of crime writing. Whilst the restoration of order through ratiocination based on evidence and fact-finding are hallmarks of traditional detective fiction, true crime, and generic crime novels, the course will contemplate how and why some of the prescribed texts present challenges to these conventions, consequently eroding certainty and thus challenging the “comforts of formulaic entertainment” (Titlestad and Polatinsky, 2010: 269). The course will be divided into two main approaches: in Term 1 we will read In Cold Blood and Alias Grace as examples of transgressions against state and society. Conversely, in Term 2 we will explore the ways in which Beloved and Things Fall Apart represent violence exacted by the modern state on various social groups, such as enslaved peoples and colonised nations, revealing how the rule of racist and colonial law operated as a function of transgression itself – orchestrating structural violence and perpetuating systemic brutality in the process.

Course topics will include discussions of:

  • genre (i.e. the nonfiction novel, detective fiction, the anti-detective narrative, historiography);
  • the ethics of writing crime;
  • the relationship between storytelling and the law;
  • ‘truth’ and epistemological certainty in the true crime narrative;
  • writing as a panoptic gaze;
  • violence and the law, and the law as the original violence;
  • the text and the law (the link between writing and rights);
  • the social contract, the law, and slavery; and,
  • the colonial state and structural violence.

  • ASTU 100 Sections L02, L03, L04 -  The Law in/as Literature
    Dr. Evan Mauro
    evan.mauro@ubc.ca

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges,
beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” – Anatole France

This  two-semester  course  combines  the  study  of  literature  with  the  study  of  academic  writing  and  research, focusing on a core topic in the humanities and social sciences. For this class, our topic will be “Dilemmas of Justice,” and will focus on how laws can establish, maintain, or contest injustice. So in the Anatole France quote above, for example, we see a writer question whether apparently neutral vagrancy laws are fair, or whether they maintain injustice by criminalizing poverty. Our course, likewise, will question the law, reconstruct its historical contexts, and pay attention to the social groups it benefits, targets, and abandons. To do this, we will read literary accounts—novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, films—from people marginalized or abandoned by law, focusing on narratives produced within movements for social justice from Indigenous, black freedom, feminist, and anti-poverty positions. We will also read the law itself as a specific literature with very real social effects, capable of establishing important ideas like citizen, border, nation, property, market, and criminal.

This course will include a mandatory community-based learning project where students will have the opportunity to work with a community organization in the legal non-profit sector.

Political Science (POLI) 101

(3 credits/1 term)
Dr. Kenny Ie
kenny.ie@ubc.ca

How does government in Canada work? How democratic is our system? Are Canadians effectively represented? We will explore these fundamental questions in this introduction to the Canadian political system. The course examines the basic ideas on which the system is founded, the institutions that structure politics, and the actors who work within these institutions. We will emphasize the constitutional framework of Canadian government and the role of the judiciary and the Charter in shaping the country. We will also engage issues at the forefront of politics in Canada, such as indigenous rights and gender politics. Students should be equipped to better understand the Canadian political system and engage in our democracy as active citizens and participants.

Anthropology (ANTH) 100

(3 credits/1 term)
Dr. Jennifer Kramer
jennifer.kramer@ubc.ca

Socio-cultural anthropologists strive to understand the human condition and its diverse expressions around the world in contemporary and historically recent social contexts. Exploring both commonality and difference among communities, we participate in the wider endeavor of anthropology: the holistic understanding of the human experience in terms of biological evolution, the historic development of societies (archaeology), and the global reach of linguistic and cultural diversity. The sub-disciplines of legal and political anthropology offer deep insight into how regulatory structures are created, and how they shape human experience in local, national, regional and transnational contexts.

This course will introduce you to core concepts and questions in anthropology, and its methods for understanding human action and expression. How do people understand and forge family relationships? Why are some foods taboo? How do ritual action and religious belief shape lives? Why does gender matter? How are contemporary legal and political frameworks forged? What can local engagement with global forces can teach us about the range of possible responses to the international crises of inequality, poverty and environmental change? As well as reading case studies, participating in ethnographic exercises, and engaging with materials in UBC’s famed Museum of Anthropology, students will create their own online Hot Spots forums addressing current issues from anthropological perspectives.

In your second term, you will continue your studies in Arts Studies, and be introduced to the studies of History and Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice. You will acquire a new perspective of our laws and society by studying it through the lens of historical and feminist frameworks.

Arts Studies (ASTU) 100 Seminar

(6 credits/2 terms) – First Year CAP Seminar: Focuses on scholarly writing and reading, including both literature and introduction to academic scholarship. This course provides an interdisciplinary foundation for academic writing and related research communicative practices within an interactive learning environment.

Students will choose one out of four different sections (L01/L02/L03/L04), based on their scheduling needs and academic interests, and stay in the same section for both terms.

Timeslots:
L01: Mon, Wed, Fri 14:00-15:00
L02: Mon, Wed, Fri 10:00-11:00
L03: Mon, Wed, Fri 12:00-13:00
L04: Mon, Wed, Fri 13:00-14:00


Taking as its point of departure the ever-increasing popular fascination with the genre of true crime – and crime fiction, more broadly – this course examines how four different literary texts write crime. Each work represents transgressive acts that rupture social order, which undermine the reciprocal ties that regulate the social contract. We will consider how each text constructs its central crime (or acts of violence), paying particular attention to the various narrative conventions of crime writing. Whilst the restoration of order through ratiocination based on evidence and fact-finding are hallmarks of traditional detective fiction, true crime, and generic crime novels, the course will contemplate how and why some of the prescribed texts present challenges to these conventions, consequently eroding certainty and thus challenging the “comforts of formulaic entertainment” (Titlestad and Polatinsky, 2010: 269). The course will be divided into two main approaches: in Term 1 we will read In Cold Blood and Alias Grace as examples of transgressions against state and society. Conversely, in Term 2 we will explore the ways in which Beloved and Things Fall Apart represent violence exacted by the modern state on various social groups, such as enslaved peoples and colonised nations, revealing how the rule of racist and colonial law operated as a function of transgression itself – orchestrating structural violence and perpetuating systemic brutality in the process.

Course topics will include discussions of:

  • genre (i.e. the nonfiction novel, detective fiction, the anti-detective narrative, historiography);
  • the ethics of writing crime;
  • the relationship between storytelling and the law;
  • ‘truth’ and epistemological certainty in the true crime narrative;
  • writing as a panoptic gaze;
  • violence and the law, and the law as the original violence;
  • the text and the law (the link between writing and rights);
  • the social contract, the law, and slavery; and,
  • the colonial state and structural violence.

  • ASTU 100 Sections L02, L03, L04 -  The Law in/as Literature
    Dr. Evan Mauro
    evan.mauro@ubc.ca

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges,
beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” – Anatole France

This  two-semester  course  combines  the  study  of  literature  with  the  study  of  academic  writing  and  research, focusing on a core topic in the humanities and social sciences. For this class, our topic will be “Dilemmas of Justice,” and will focus on how laws can establish, maintain, or contest injustice. So in the Anatole France quote above, for example, we see a writer question whether apparently neutral vagrancy laws are fair, or whether they maintain injustice by criminalizing poverty. Our course, likewise, will question the law, reconstruct its historical contexts, and pay attention to the social groups it benefits, targets, and abandons. To do this, we will read literary accounts—novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, films—from people marginalized or abandoned by law, focusing on narratives produced within movements for social justice from Indigenous, black freedom, feminist, and anti-poverty positions. We will also read the law itself as a specific literature with very real social effects, capable of establishing important ideas like citizen, border, nation, property, market, and criminal.

This course will include a mandatory community-based learning project where students will have the opportunity to work with a community organization in the legal non-profit sector.

History 100A

(3 credits/1 term)
Dr. Tim Brook
Tim.Brook@ubc.ca

State Intervention and the Emergence of International Law

The past five centuries have been marked by the rise of the modern state, and with it, the intervention of states in the internal affairs of other states. As the conditions and costs of conflict have changed, states and peoples have responded by formulating a wide range of instruments—treaties, conventions, laws, and court judgments--to moderate and control interstate violence. But as long as states claim absolute sovereign status, it is not obvious where international law resides or how it can be enforced.

To understand the emergence of international law, we take a historical approach by asking when and how it came about. The course begins in 1493 with the Pope’s bid to prevent global war between Portugal and Spain, followed by moves to formulate the law of the sea in the 17th century. In the middle section of the course, we contrast European and Asian management of interstate relations. We then move to the 20th century to consider the adjudication of war crimes after WWII and the emergence of the Canadian doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect.

The course consists of lectures twice a week and discussion sections once a week. The written assignments emphasize writing skills and constructing arguments based on critical analysis of sources to convey conclusions that reflect historical understanding. Evaluation is based on short written assignments, one essay, two examinations, class discussions, and participation in all aspects of the course.

Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice (GRSJ) 101

(3 credits/1 term)
Dr. Lori Macintosh
lbm@mail.ubc.ca

Gender, Race, Sex and Power: Using various feminist frameworks this course will examine representations of gender, race, sexuality in literature and media. In this course we will focus on reading and writing through popular culture, which offers opportunities to construct learning communities where students have a shared and varied experience of knowledge and language. Feminist theories add additional frameworks to the way we read these popular narratives. To that end, through a close examination of character development, plot, literary and social tensions, this course will assist students in understanding the complex nature of gender and sexuality and its racial, ethnic, national, and economic underpinnings. The intellectual operating space of this course promotes the development of writing skills, an understanding of the performance of identity, and an examination of power and its intersections as developed through narrative forms in both text and visual media.


Timetable

Please note that students will only register in one ASTU 100 section and one HIST 104 discussion section. This timetable is subject to change.

Please note that students will only register in one ASTU 100 section and one ANTH 100 discussion section. This timetable is subject to change.


Sample Projects

ASTU 100

Archival research in UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections

Students spend one week examining readers’ responses to Joy Kogawa’s Obasan, a semi-autobiographical novel about the treatment of Japanese-Canadians during and after World War II. Students analyze these readers’ responses in relation to an argument by a literary scholar, and present their research findings in the form of a short paper. This project helps students understand how academics conduct primary research to produce new knowledge.

CBEL Project: From Classroom to Courtroom

As part of your first year experience in the Law & Society stream of the Coordinated Arts Program (CAP), you will be participating in community-based experiential learning (CBEL) in your ASTU 100 class. This means that you have the opportunity to get out of the classroom and apply your newfound disciplinary knowledge to a local community context to enrich your grasp of it while also interacting with a community organization and providing value to their work.