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This module offers students a broad engagement with questions of how race and racism interact with law.
The module begins with an overview of the concept of race, the processes of racialisation, and the societal, institutional and material manifestations of racism. It traces the origins of race-thinking and racism in legal systems from the structures of colonialism and empire to segregation and apartheid, through to 21st century articulations of race and racial discrimination. We look at how law has on the one hand been implicated in continuing forms of racial stratification and material inequality, while on the other hand it is mobilised (from above by the state; from below by social movements) to pursue aims ranging from formal equality and affirmative action to reparations and abolition.
The legal frameworks for this module are domestic, comparative and international. We study how inequality and racial justice claims have played out in legal systems in specific jurisdictions in other parts of the world. We then examine some of the particularities of how race is a factor in the Irish legal context – including in relation to constitutional status and citizenship laws; migration, refuge and direct provision; labour and human rights; criminal justice and policing; and Mincéirí/Traveller rights. We will reflect on the commonalities and differences between Ireland and other jurisdictions. We also look at international law: how it has been complicit historically with white supremacy, what it now says and does about race and racial discrimination, and what legal tools and sites are available to anti-racist movements.
The module adopts a broadly socio-legal approach: studying the law in its social context, using an interdisciplinary lens to analyse the relationship between legal phenomena and wider society, and listening to the realities of how people experience the law ‘in action’ in their everyday lives.
Students will be asked to engage with a range of different materials through the module including social science literature, legal sources and case law, film, music and podcasts, and contributions from guest speakers.