Law & Society

Stream Overview

Do you have an interest in law or community work? Are you interested in how certain nations, including Canada, arrived at their current social and political organization? Or how the law is related to social justice, and to movements against poverty, racism, homophobia or sexism?

If so, join us in the Law & Society CAP stream, where we will look at how society and law shape each other, using lenses from historical, literary, political, and anthropological research. You will also have the opportunity to work with a community organization in the legal non-profit sector.

Click here to find out more about Law and Society Minor within the Faculty of Arts.

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. Your courses will address questions such as:

  • 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 different experiences of human rights and their violations do people encounter in different nations, and what can we learn from these different experiences?
  • How do the globalization of economies, the movement of people across borders, and the global environmental movement pose new legal challenges at local, national, and international levels?

If any of these questions interest you, consider joining Law & Society! This stream may be of particular interest to students who plan on majoring in English Literature, History, Political Science, Cultural Anthropology, or Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice (GRSJ). It prepares students for a number of excellent interdisciplinary programs as well, including the Law and Society Minor.

“Having thoroughly enjoyed my Legal Studies classes in high school, I was interested in entering a program that had a legal focus and would prepare me for the possibility of going into law school later on. The Law and Society stream put legal principles into various contexts that were immensely absorbing. CAP has also given me a much clearer understanding of where my interests lie. Before entering the program, I thought I wanted to major in political science; upon leaving the program, I’ve decided to major in anthropology, which is a field I knew nothing about before coming to UBC. I consider this to be beneficial to any student who is wondering what it is that lights a spark in their minds.”

Nick Johnston, intended major Anthropology

Click here for more student testimonials.


Courses

All course descriptions and information are subject to change.

In your first term, you will enroll in Arts Studies, Anthropology, and History. 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


  • ASTU 100 Section L01 - The Scales of Crime

Instructor: Dr. Kirby Manià

 

This two-semester course combines academic writing with literary studies by focusing on a central topic that incorporates perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. This class will explore how a range of texts (the novel, graphic novel, podcast and film) represent crime. In our reading of literary and cultural representations of violent acts, we will begin by examining the ethics of writing crime, the author’s positioning in crime-writing, and scrutinize the reasons behind the perennial popularity of crime genres in popular media – pondering the uncomfortable prospect of readers’ own collective responsibility and complicity in this “culture of suffering” (Seltzer, 4). However, only reading crime as the accumulation of individual transgressive acts can obscure how the state, itself, has often been a brutally transgressive and oppressive force. We will then place considerable focus on how structural violence and systemic injustice (through settler colonialism, institutional racism, and misogyny) have historically framed victim/perpetrator narratives, determining which stories were told and whose voices were heard in the telling of these stories. We will look at a few representational challenges to this historical silencing, considering narratives that centre previously marginalized voices which expose violence at a structural and institutional scale. At its core, this course will attempt to deconstruct how we traditionally conceive of crime in order to understand it at multiple scales – individually, communally, and structurally.

In Term One, this class will be delivered online through both asynchronous (recorded content/online activities) and synchronous formats (real-time classes through UBC’s online teaching platform). The delivery format for Term Two will be communicated in due course.

 

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

 


  • ASTU 100 Sections L02, L03, L04 -  The Law in/as Literature

Instructor: Dr. Evan Mauro
Email address: 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. Our topic will be “Dilemmas of Justice,” and we 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. We will look at how different communities organize against state violence and economic injustice, with specific attention to Indigenous land defense, Black freedom movements for abolition, and movements for migrant rights and border justice. The course also centrally features a community-based learning project in which we partner with non-profit legal firms and community organizations. Students will learn to do advocacy research and writing with these organizations to help create social change.

For term one, this course will take place with a combination of asynchronous (recorded/text/online) materials and synchronous (Zoom) classes in our designated timeslot. Term two TBA.

Anthropology (ANTH) 100A  Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

(3 credits/1 term)
Instructor: Amirpouyan Shiva
Email address: ashiva@mail.ubc.ca

 

** This course will have both synchronous (“live” sessions during the scheduled class time) and asynchronous (peer-reviewed reading responses, pre-recorded lectures, and ethnographic films) components.

 

Cultural anthropologists are famous for their interest in a very broad range of subjects. Language, religion, kinship, sex and gender, health and medicine, economy and exchange, technology, politics and conflict, law, ethnicity, race, identity, and personhood are only a few subjects that cultural anthropologists study. Also, anthropologists conduct research in a wide range of geographic locations across the globe and also in the ‘virtual’ and outer space. These locations are called ‘field sites’. Therefore, anthropologists usually specialize in one or more cultural groups and domains: Papua New Guinea’s economy, Canadian family laws, Inuit art, Israeli motherhood and reproduction, Twitter political advocacy, etc. In spite of enormous variability in subjects and geographic locations, common to these studies is a cultural approach that strives to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar.

This course helps you think like an anthropologist and discover strangeness in our familiar categories and familiarity in strange practices. The final outcome of an anthropological research is called an ethnography. To appreciate the genre of writing that defines anthropology as a discipline, throughout the term, we will be reading ethnographic accounts from around the globe to learn about anthropology’s central concepts, theories, and methods.

 

History (HIST) 104A – Topics in World History

(3 credits/1 term)
Instructor: Dr. Tim Brook
Email address: 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.

In your second term, you will continue your studies in Arts Studies, and be introduced to the studies of Political Science 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 anthropological 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


  • ASTU 100 Section L01 - Writing Crime

Instructor: Dr. Kirby Manià

 

This two-semester course combines academic writing with literary studies by focusing on a central topic that incorporates perspectives from the humanities and social sciences. This class will explore how a range of texts (the novel, graphic novel, podcast and film) represent crime. In our reading of literary and cultural representations of violent acts, we will begin by examining the ethics of writing crime, the author’s positioning in crime-writing, and scrutinize the reasons behind the perennial popularity of crime genres in popular media – pondering the uncomfortable prospect of readers’ own collective responsibility and complicity in this “culture of suffering” (Seltzer, 4). However, only reading crime as the accumulation of individual transgressive acts can obscure how the state, itself, has often been a brutally transgressive and oppressive force. We will then place considerable focus on how structural violence and systemic injustice (through settler colonialism, institutional racism, and misogyny) have historically framed victim/perpetrator narratives, determining which stories were told and whose voices were heard in the telling of these stories. We will look at a few representational challenges to this historical silencing, considering narratives that centre previously marginalized voices which expose violence at a structural and institutional scale. At its core, this course will attempt to deconstruct how we traditionally conceive of crime in order to understand it at multiple scales – individually, communally, and structurally.

In Term One, this class will be delivered online through both asynchronous (recorded content/online activities) and synchronous formats (real-time classes through UBC’s online teaching platform). The delivery format for Term Two will be communicated in due course.

 

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


  • ASTU 100 Sections L02, L03, L04 -  The Law in/as Literature

Instructor: Dr. Evan Mauro
Email address: 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. Our topic will be “Dilemmas of Justice,” and we 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. We will look at how different communities organize against state violence and economic injustice, with specific attention to Indigenous land defense, Black freedom movements for abolition, and movements for migrant rights and border justice. The course also centrally features a community-based learning project in which we partner with non-profit legal firms and community organizations. Students will learn to do advocacy research and writing with these organizations to help create social change.

For term one, this course will take place with a combination of asynchronous (recorded/text/online) materials and synchronous (Zoom) classes in our designated timeslot. Term two TBA.

 

Political Science (POLI) 101  The Government of Canada

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

How do Canadians govern themselves? In this course, we will travel from coast to coast to coast to gather a landscape picture of Canada’s complex democratic system. We will examine the fundamental institutions of Canada’s political regime,  and learn about the social and political processes of democratic decision-making. We will approach these topics by surveying classical contributions to scholarship in Canadian politics, as well as the perspectives of minority thinkers (i.e. women, immigrant minorities, and Indigenous scholars). Class instruction will combine standard lectures with an experiential civic leadership component, in which students will be encouraged to identify an organization, event, or initiative in their local community, and reflect on how they can contribute their newly acquired knowledge of how Canadian government works.

In the first half of the course, we will look at the institutions through which executive, legislative, and judicial power is exerted. We will examine the evolving landscape of Canadian federalism, and consider the new, proactive roles that provinces and municipalities are playing in different policy areas. We will also investigate the trajectory of Canada’s constitutional history.

In the second part of the course, we will look more in depth at Canadian society, and the role that different groups play in government. We will address questions such as, how interest groups influence government; how Canada’s bi-national society shapes our federal structures; to what extent immigrant minorities influence democratic decision-making processes; and what the institutional roots are for Indigenous People’s marginalization.

Textbooks currently under consideration:

Mintz, Tossutti and Dunn 2016. Canada’s Politics: Democracy, Diversity and Good Government Third Edition

Guy 2009. People, Politics and Government: A Canadian Perspective.

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

(3 credits/1 term)
Instructor: Dr. Alifa Bandali
Email address: alifa.bandali@ubc.ca

Sample outline:

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; one HIST 104A discussion section and one ANTH 100A discussion section. This timetable is subject to change.

Please note that students will only register in one ASTU 100 section and one POLI 101 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.