Category Archives: food for thought

Food for Thought: Law, Society, and Access to Information

Our final class focused on the socio-legal dimensions of secrecy and access to information.

I have three final ‘food for thought’ questions. You may choose to compose a post in response to one of these questions.

Food for thought:

Option 1: Locate and briefly discuss one call for the reform of Canada’s Access to Information Act. This could take the form of a government report, an NGO report, a media article, or an academic article. Drawing on one or more socio-legal theories, explain why the federal government has not reformed the ATIA in response to this call. For example, you could reflect on the functions of ATI/FOI laws, the relationship secrecy and bureaucracy, the ideology of Access, or the relationship between ATI/FOI and sovereign power.

Option 2: ATI/FOI mechanisms recognize and facilitate a legal right to access public records. It is – by definition – lawful to file an ATI/FOI request. However, some students, when first introduced to the topic of ATI/FOI, have expressed a concern that filing a request might ‘put them on the radar’ or identify them as ‘people to watch out for’. They have noted that this is of particular concern to those who plan to seek employment within government (ex. as police officers). Drawing on one or more socio-legal theories, comment on this concern. Explain the ‘theory of law’ (and of the state) that may inform such a concern.

Option 3: Comack (2006) explains the functionalist, liberal-pluralist, and Marxist perspectives on the Official Version of Law. Drawing on her analysis, and on your knowledge of socio-legal theory, provide an overview of how ATI/FOI laws might be explained by functionalists, liberal-pluralists, and Marxists.

Posts prepared in response to one of these questions must be submitted before the end of the day on Saturday Dec. 7.

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Food for Thought: Thinking about Surveillant Assemblages

This week’s class focused on issues related to surveillance, privacy, and the law. We covered a wide range of surveillance practices, from the macro (SIGINT surveillance through the Five Eyes network) to the micro (the implications of signing in to your mykwantlen account). Uniting this conversation were a number of key themes: the rhizomatic nature of surveillant assemblages, the relationship between surveillance and social sorting, the proliferation of fragmentary ‘data doubles’, and the notion of exchanges (privacy for service) as a governing principle of the social relations of surveillance. We also drew on Ericson’s (2007) discussion of counter-law to make sense of some of the forces driving the expansion of surveillant assemblages – in particular, efforts to understand, forestall, and otherwise manage uncertainty. It was a lot of material to cover in one class, but I think we managed it!

Food for Thought:

Today, rather than posing a single question, I want to offer a selection. You may respond to any (one) of the following questions. Regardless of your choice, your response must (1) engage with relevant materials from today’s class, (2) engage with relevant external sources, and (3) adhere to the guidelines set out in your syllabus (in terms of length, citations, etc.). Enjoy!

  1. Draw on a socio-legal theory that we have covered (but not Foucault) to make sense of the expansion of surveillant assemblages outlined by Haggerty and Ericson (2006).
  2. Discuss the merits of the arguments made by the participants in the 2014 Munk Debate on ‘State Surveillance’, and state and support your own position.
  3. Outline the main features of an ideal privacy law (that is, a law governing who may collect and access your personal information, when, under what circumstances, and for what purposes), and explain why these features are appropriate. If you choose to respond to this question, you should spend a few minutes looking into existing privacy laws (in BC and / or Canada).
  4. Respond to the second ‘Critical Thinking Question’ on p. 45 of your syllabus.
  5. Draw on socio-legal theory and the materials we covered today to prepare a response to the following statement: “In terms of surveillance, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”.
  6. Write a brief commentary on a one-week ‘snapshot’ of your data double, and discuss the implications that could arise from the linking of some or all of the fragments of this ‘digital trail’.

Posts prepared in response to one of these questions must be submitted before class on December 2.

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Food for Thought: Law, Necessity, and Exceptions

This week’s class focused on legal scholarship concerned with ‘states of exception’, with a particular emphasis on the work of Giorgio Agamben. A portion of our discussion focused on the application of this body of scholarship to cases involving claims of ‘national security’. I would like to continue this discussion here, on our blog.

You have two options:

Food for thought 1:

Write a post that briefly describes the current situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and draws on the ideas of Agamben and Ericson to explain the socio-legal dimensions of this situation. Your post should draw on relevant sources. Be sure to address the nature and implications of the state of emergency.

Food for thought 2:

In response to an event that has been officially deemed an act of terrorism, a government decides that there is an urgent need to create and implement new security powers. The government initially considers two options: 1. Officially declare that a state of emergency is in effect, per the Emergencies Act, and invoke the powers provided for under that Act, or; 2. Draft and rush through Parliament a security bill that provides for expanded powers for police and security services.

Write a post that:

  • Outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each option, both from the perspective of the government and from the perspective of members of the public.
  • Explains which option you believe our government would adopt given this scenario, and why.
  • Describes and discusses a third option.

Your post should engage with Pavlich (2011) and Ericson (2007). You are encouraged to draw on additional sources (to provide examples, support for your arguments, etc.).

Posts prepared in response to either of these questions must be submitted before class on Nov. 25. This gives you one week (only) to prepare your post.

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Food for Thought: TWU and the Legal Profession

Our October 28 class focused on studies of the legal profession, with an emphasis on Kennedy’s (1998) classic essay on Legal Education as Training for Hierarchy and Christie’s (1977) influential work on Conflicts as Property. These works are part of the tip of a much larger iceberg of sociological and socio-legal scholarship on legal training, the legal profession, and access to justice.

Our class concluded with a lively discussion about the then-pending results of the BC Law Society’s referendum regarding Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. On Oct. 30, the results of the referendum were made public.

Food for Thought:

Write a three-part blog post, with each part being approximately 1/2 page in length.

  • Part 1 should provide a succinct and well-referenced overview of the Trinity Western Law School bid. It should state the facts of the case, identify the key parties involved (in terms of institutions), and introduce the controversy.
  • Part 2 should draw on one or more theories or texts we have encountered this semester to explain the controversy surrounding the TWU case. I think that Comack (2006) is a helpful starting point.
  • Part 3 should explain your position on the TWU case and / or provide your commentary on how the case has unfolded.

Your post should engage with relevant resources. Be sure to provide support for factual statements and assertions. Hyperlinks are encouraged, but a list of references cites should also appear at the end of your post.

Posts prepared in response to this Food for Thought question must be submitted before class on Nov. 18, 2014.

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Food for Thought: Foucault and Law

This week, we examined the ideas of Michel Foucault, with an emphasis on his typology of techniques of power: sovereign power, disciplinary power, and governmentality / biopower. We focused on the theory of disciplinary power that Foucault explored in his influential text Discipline and Punish. Both Pavlich (2011) and Hunt and Wickham (1994) note that Foucault’s account of the emergence of disciplinary power downplayed the importance of law in modern regulation. Contemporary scholarship that is informed by Foucault’s ideas often involves efforts to reconcile the relationship between law and mechanisms of disciplinary power.

Food for Thought:

Select a contemporary example of a mechanism of disciplinary power. Briefly introduce your example – with reference to supporting sources. Then explain how it exemplifies disciplinary power, drawing on Pavlich (2011) and other relevant sources. Finally, explain the relationship between this mechanism of disciplinary power and law. You will find Pavlich (pp. 144-145) and the excerpt from Hunt and Wickham (1994) helpful.

Other resources of interest:

Posts prepared in response to this food for thought question must be submitted before class on Nov. 18, 2014

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Food for Thought: Applying Critical Race Theory

This week, we studied Critical Race Theory, with an emphasis on Michelle Alexander’s (2012) The New Jim Crow as a case study. My lecture notes include the following overview of CRT:

Critical Race Theory shares many of the commitments and ideas of the broader Critical Legal Studies movement – the deconstruction of ideologies (especially legal ideologies) that support social hierarchies, consciousness-raising, and law reform in the pursuit of egalitarian social relations. To this list, we can add a number of key ideas that inform CRT:

  • The recognition that racism is no (simply) a matter of individual prejudices and biases, but a phenomenon embedded in and reproduced by social structures and institutions – including legal institutions.
  • An emphasis on exploring the historical basis of contemporary forms of racism and racialization embedded in law.
  • A commitment to ‘reconstructing’ and reforming law in order to eliminate identifiable forms of racialized hierarchies.
  • A commitment to taking the lived realities and experiences of racialized groups as a starting point for analysis. This implies the use of narrative accounts and interdisciplinary approaches.

For this week’s ‘food for thought’ question, I would like to encourage you to apply CRT to a case study of your choice.

Food for thought:

Select a contemporary or historical example of a legal institution or process involved in the reproduction and perpetuation of racialized social hierarchy. You could focus on a particular statute, a broader legal regime, or an illustrative case study. You need not select a Canadian example. You may not choose ‘racialized mass incarceration in the USA under the New Jim Crow’, as we have covered Alexander’s analysis. You may not choose R. v. Kahpeaysewat, as this was covered by Pavlich (2011).

Write a post that:

  • Introduces and briefly describes the example you have selected, with reference to supporting source materials (this should account for no more than 1/3 of your post).
  • Draws on Critical Race Theory to explain how your selected example is illustrative of the role of law as a mechanism for the reproduction and perpetuation of racialized social hierarchy.
  • Explains how individuals, groups, or movements have responded to this issue by attempting to reform and ‘reconstruct’ law.

Be sure to engage with relevant sources (ex. Pavlich 2011; Comack 2006; Alexander 2012). While you cannot reproduce Alexander’s analysis, you can certainly draw on her observations.

Posts prepared in response to this question must be submitted before class on November 4, 2014.

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Food for Thought: Feminist Legal Theories and the Construction of Categories

One of the threads that runs through the various schools of feminist legal theory is the idea that law and legal processes play a role in the construction of Women as a category (and as a subjectivity). For liberal feminists, this involves treating women as a group (and thereby creating ‘women’ as a generalizing legal category), rather than as individuals before the law. For radical feminists, the law – like the state – is regarded as malecentric and patriarchal, and it is implicated in the normalization of inequalities based on sexuality and gender. For postmodern feminists like Smart, law is gendered – legal discourse employs, reproduces, and constructs particular gender categories.

For this week’s food for thought question, I would like to explore some examples of the construction of gendered categories / identities / subjectivities through law.

Food for thought:

Select a particular approach to feminist legal theory. Then, write a post that:

  • Opens with a brief overview of the main features and ideas of your chosen theory;
  • Introduces a case study (a legal case, process, statute, etc.), and;
  • Explains, drawing on your chosen theory, how the case study demonstrates the role of law in the construction of a particular (gendered) understanding of women.

Further requirements:

  • You may not select R. v. Kahpeaysewat [2006] as a case study
  • You must engage with Pavlich (2011) and Comack (2006), and, where appropriate, Smart (1992)
  • You must engage with additional sources to describe your case study

Posts prepared in response to this question must be submitted before class on October 28

 

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