Legal Studies Courses

Student listening

Recognizing that law, legal processes, and concepts are integrally involved in political, social, environmental, economic, scientific, and other issues, Hampshire College has given legal studies a significant place in its curriculum.

Some students choose to focus primarily on law, while others include legal perspectives as a secondary focus. Advanced students create concentrations in which law interacts with their interests in philosophy, international relations, environmental studies, or community organizing.

Sample First-Year Courses

Law, Identity, and Bioscience

This course introduces students to the ways in which law shapes our lives and how society and culture effect how we interpret and experience law. In addition to reading materials from sociolegal studies; science and technology studies; anthropology; and women and gender studies, we will look at primary case materials that involve issues of law, identity, and bioscience. We will use case narratives as a point of entry to ask how scientific evidence, especially in the realm of genetics, has come to differently intervene in questions of law and identity. Topics include the legal rights of animals; race, genetic identities, social justice; and sexuality, kinship, and property.

Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity

War crimes, torture, and genocide demonstrate all too frequently that "never again" remains an elusive ideal. What role does the international system of human rights and humanitarian law play in deterring abuses of power? We examine the debates over the definition, adjudication, and punishment of such acts, and study several cases to evaluate how effective domestic and international legal institutions can be in preventing such crimes in the future, redressing those that do occur, and shaping collective memory and reconciliation after the fact, often called transitional justice.

The Nuremberg trial legacy, the truth commission in South Africa, the Pinochet case, the Yugoslavia war crimes trials, the genocide in Rwanda, and the new ICC will provide primary material for critical discussion. The course constitutes an introduction to legal modes of analysis and to international human rights discourse. The course will serve as academic preparation for CSI-182 International Human Rights Tribunals, a field course at the juridical institutions based in The Hague and Strasbourg.

Sample Courses at Hampshire

  • African Americans and the Politics of Reparations
  • Critical Bioethics
  • Citizenship, Freedom and the Good Life
  • Border Matters: Mexico and the U.S.
  • Constitutionally Queer: Law and Politics of Sexuality
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Environmental Policy in a Time of Globalization
  • Ethnography of Law, Science and Medicine
  • Feminist Legal Theory
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
  • Human Rights Law and Culture
  • International Human Rights Tribunals
  • Law, Identity, and Bioscience
  • Law and Society
  • Patriot(ic) Acts: Law and the Production of Difference
  • People Out of Place: Bodies, Borders and Documents
  • Politics of the Abortion Rights Movement
  • Science in the Courtroom
  • War on Terror: Exception or Business as Usual?
  • Women, Law and Sex in the Mediterranean, 1300-1800

Through the Consortium

  • Law and Conscience (UMass)
  • Punishment, Politics, and Culture (AC)
  • Race, Place, and the Law (AC)
  • Social Organization of Law (AC)


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893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002