One of the most central developments over the past three decades is the accelerating juridification and judicialisation of societies and of politics. In all parts of the world and at all levels, from the global to the local, increasingly complex webs of legal norms and institutions regulate our societies and lives. At the same time courts and law have become increasingly important as arenas for political struggles. Constitutional reforms and international treaties aim to transform social dynamics from above, among other though new and stronger protection of citizens’ rights, while individuals and groups engage in legal mobilization from below to seek justice for their cause. In either case dense networks of international activists and experts are ready to engage with and aid local actors, creating a dense global network of actors, legal norms, and adjudicative institutions. In this context, it is urgent to better understand law as a political field.
Does this turn to rights and law have a transformative potential? Does it provide institutional spaces for the voices of marginalized groups to be heard and tools that can provide political leverage? Or does it, rather demobilize and depoliticize struggles in ways that exacerbate unequal power-relations and marginalization dynamics? These are urgent issues on which there are deep disagreements in the literature. The course offers an introduction to the debates on the potential and limits of law as an instrument of social change, and opportunities to engage with some of the foremost scholar in the field, and international research projects currently seeking better answers to these questions.
The course is a mixture of lectures specifically designed for the course, participation in research-project workshops and open round-tables that form part of the Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation. Students will also have an opportunity to present their own work. Students will receive 3 ECTS for participating in the course. Students who submit a publishable journal article (with an additional reading list of 500 pages – which can be from the elective reading list) by 15 October 2015, are awarded an additional 7 ECTS. (MA level students will be accepted if space permits).