Christopher Fennell : Courses and Seminars
Social Norms and Law
This course will explore the interaction and interdependence of social norms and formal legal rules. Norms provide social rules, distinct from formal laws, of expected behavioral responses to particular situations and back up those expectations with the threat of negative sanction if an individual behaves inappropriately. Social norms also provide cognitive categories for perceiving, making sense of, and ordering one's experiences. We will examine issues such as: To what degree do different legal rules harness, enhance, displace, or subvert the substance of particular social norms and what effects follow? Should we utilize legal rules only when social norms fail to control harmful behavior? How do particular norms develop and then expand or dissipate in their influence over time and in different settings? Are norms typically generated through a widespread consensus of the members of a society, or are they the product of special interests? We will explore these issues using examples from various areas of legal doctrine, such as property, contracts and bargaining, crime, torts, and taxation.
Racism, Law, and Social Sciences
This seminar will provide an in-depth study of theories and methods for analysis of racialization in past and present societies. Analyses of the social construction of racial and ethnic identities have facilitated studies of the ways in which social differences are created, maintained, and masked. Subjects to be addressed in this seminar include the interrelation of racializing ideologies with other cultural and social dimensions, such as class, ethnicity, gender, political and legal structures, and economic influences. We will also consider the related histories of biological and genetic concepts of different races within the human species as part of the context of our study of racism operating within social processes. The seminar includes a major writing project in the form of a seminar paper.