LAW 542

Race, Sexuality, and the Law

Critical Race Studies, Law & Sexuality, Public Interest Law

We will examine how race, gender, and sexuality intertwine and are shaped by and in turn shape the law. Readings and discussions will draw upon Critical Race Theory, Black Feminist Theory, Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), and abolitionist lenses to examine questions of inter- and intra-group discrimination, criminalization, advocacy, and the possibility for critical legal interventions on issues that implicate race and sexuality simultaneously. Importantly, we will underscore that everyone has a relationship to race and sexuality—dominant and non-dominant groups alike—so that we may begin to understand how laws crafted to address specific racial and sexual identity groups likewise define the bounds of dominant groups’ own understandings of their racial and sexual identities.

We will touch on issues such as differential experiences of policing and surveillance; the experiences of non-White LGBTQ+ people and their relationship to the dominant LGBTQ+ community and movements; critiques of heterosexual male dominance in Black civil rights discourse or White cis-gendered women’s dominance in feminist advocacy including reproductive health access; and feminist and homo-nationalist rationales for the ongoing War on Terror. Questions may include: To what extent do interracial couplings reduce or reflect racial stereotyping, and how are these portrayals borne out in the courts? What are the racialized and sexual-identity assumptions made in discussions on the victims of bias crimes, or perpetrators of gender-based and intimate partner violence, and how does this inform who is protected and who is criminalized? We will approach these issues from a comparative perspective, e.g., what stereotypes exist about Black male sexuality and Asian male sexuality? How are these comparisons useful in analyzing and disrupting various legal regimes, and where do they break down?

Although many of these topics and questions implicate numerous legal doctrines and frameworks, such as equal protection and landmark civil rights laws such as Title VII, learning the specifics of the doctrines is not the central focus of the course. Students should instead be prepared for critical engagement with court opinions, law review articles, interdisciplinary academic texts, and news/popular culture texts. Students will be graded 40% for classroom participation, 20% on weekly reflection papers and questions (0.5–1 pages), and 40% on a final reflection paper (approximately 15–20 pages). Students must seek instructor approval before enrolling in the course if they plan to write their SAW paper in this class, as there will be a limited number of available spaces to ensure enough time for deep and substantive feedback and editing.

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