Law & Society

The Law & Society stream seeks to answer 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?

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).

Term One Courses

ASTU 100A Arts Studies Seminar

(6 credits/2 terms) – First Year CAP Seminar : Focuses on 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, based on their scheduling needs and academic interests.

  • ASTU 100A Section L01
    Tues & Thurs 9.30 - 11
    Fenn Stewart

What kinds of relationships does law produce -- between groups of people, between people(s) and a nation, between people and the land?

Over the course of eight months, we will engage with literary and scholarly accounts of (some of) the forms of exclusion embedded in Canadian nation-building practices, including the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and the restriction of Canadian citizenship through law. In addition to reading contemporary material, we will also consider earlier literature on law and (in)justice. As we practice reading and writing scholarly prose together, we will work to produce literary and cultural analyses informed by research in a range of disciplines

  • ASTU 100A Sections L02, L03, L04 -  The Law in/as Literature
    Mon, Wed & Fri - 10 - 11/ 12 - 1/ 1 - 2
    Dr. Heather Latimer

ASTU 100 combines literature with academic research and writing through the study of a core research topic, which for this class is “The Law in/as Literature.” In this course, we will analyze novels, shorts stories, and films, as well as scholarly articles, on topics related to the articulation of law, society, and Human Rights. Specifically, we will focus on reading and writing about legal “states of exception,” where the law is suspended for certain groups of people, and on examining forms of legal abandonment in connection to fictional representations of segregation, internment camps, residential schools, and “illegal” migration.In our discussions we will also consider social movements such as civil rights movements, feminist movements, Indigenous rights movements, anti-racism and anti-homophobia movements, and other social justice movements, as we study texts written in response to or in relationship to the law. Overall, we will ask questions such as: When is the law unjust? How is truth or justice constituted in literature? Is fiction sometimes more “true” than fact? How does storytelling connect to history? How does fictional writing help us hear and understand those excluded from and by law? What is our responsibility as readers and listeners once we are told a story? Can writing be an act of social justice?

Political Science (POLI) 101

(3 credits/1 term)
M, W, F 11am - 12pm
Paul Kopas

The course introduces students to the basic principles, structures and practices of Canadian politics and government. The objective is to develop an understanding of the process of (mostly) national politics and of the relationship between the individual and the Canadian state. For students interested in further study of political science, it will provide a solid foundation on which to build. For those interested in a general knowledge of politics, it will reveal a full spectrum of the institutions and processes of politics thus enabling individuals to understand or engage their roles as citizens. Since this is an introductory course, some attention will be given to developing academic skills (such as research and writing) that are relevant across the university.

History (HIST) 104

(3 credits/1 term) – Topics in World History
Tues & Thurs 11 - 12.30
Tim Brook

The theme of this course is state intervention: more particularly, the history of law governing international relations since the fifteenth century, seen in terms not of how it has emerged from ideas about law but how it has been produced from actual historical conflicts. The course content falls into two streams. One stream consists of key concepts, declarations, treaties, and agreements defining how states engage with each other. The other consists of close examinations of some of the conflicts that produced some of these agreements. We will begin with Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas in 1492 and the agreement that came out of those voyages two years later, the Treaty of Tordesillas. We will end with Canada’s doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) issued in 2001, and Canada’s intervention in Afghanistan in the years immediately following.

The incidents and documents we examine fall into three parts: international law as it developed among European states, international law as it developed among Asian states, and international law as it has emerged after the Second World War. If one question runs through our study, it is this: do states have the right to intervene in the affairs of other states, and if so, under what conditions? This is a question with many answers, and so far, none of them is final.

Term Two Courses

ASTU 100A Arts Studies Seminar

(6 credits/2 terms)

Anthropology (ANTH) 100

(3 credits/1 term)
M, W 11 - 12; Friday discussion sections
Sara Shneiderman

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.

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

(3 credits/1 term)  – 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.


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.

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