Power, Injustice, and Change in America (Sutcliffe)
F 11:00AM - 1:00PM
The inequities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and George Floyd’s killing have many of us calling not only for seismic shifts in our society, but for a complete reimagining of the very essence of American culture. Beyond calls for justice, what factors must be in place for lasting change to take root at individual and systemic levels? This course investigates how distributions of social power, often refracted through lenses of race, gender, social class, religion, and ability, can maintain or disrupt the structural imbalances that fortify injustice and create barriers to meaningful change. Further, by positioning power as a locus of inquiry, we will examine how our personal relationships to power shape the ways we exist in the world and make sense of others.
This course provides opportunities to explore how individual positionality to power impacts the ways lawyers engage with the law, their clients, and their roles in perpetuating and/or disrupting systems of oppression. Situated within a social justice framework and informed by cross-disciplinary perspectives on power and social change, this course seeks to advance students’ practical understanding of how a reflective and critical consciousness around power can catalyze effective advocacy and help to foster just policies, pedagogies, and practices.
Class format will include brief lectures to introduce and frame concepts, student-led discussions about assigned readings and visual media, vignette-based exercises, and two process level and interaction level instructional simulations. This course will draw heavily on key contributions from scholar-activists within the fields of critical race studies, applied psychology, socio-cultural anthropology, and transformative justice. Students will be challenged to examine their own proximity to or distance from of social power, consider how this position impacts their ability to envision and enact a more equitable reality, and, using this knowledge, create a plan for positive change.
Prerequisite: This course is open to second and third year JD students, LLMs, and students from other graduate schools at Penn.
Public Interest Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of the varied legal aspects of public interest law; Perform legal analysis in the context of public interest law; Communicate effectively on topics related to public interest law; Demonstrate an understanding of how public interest law is connected to and affected by a wide variety of legal and regulatory structures and doctrines.
Equity and Inclusion Learning outcomes: Demonstrate a core understanding of the varied legal aspects of equity and inclusion; Perform legal analysis in the context of topics related to equity and inclusion; Communicate effectively on the legal aspects of equity and inclusion; Demonstrate an understanding of how equity and inclusion are connected to and affected by a wide variety of legal and regulatory structures and doctrines.