Law 266 - Critical Race Theory

Cheryl I. Harris

Cheryl I. Harris

Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
B.A. Wellesley, 1973
J.D. Northwestern, 1978.
UCLA Faculty Since 1998
Course Description:

Throughout American history, race has profoundly affected the lives of individuals, the growth of social institutions, the substance of culture, and the workings of our political economy.  Not surprisingly, this impact has been substantially mediated through the law and legal institutions.  To understand the deep interconnections between race and law, and particularly the ways in which race and law are mutually constitutive, is an extraordinary intellectual challenge. That is precisely the project of Critical Race Theory (CRT). This course will pursue this project by exploring the emerging themes within CRT. Contrary to the traditional notion that racial subordination represents a deviation from the liberal legal ideal, this body of work recasts the role of law as historically central to and complicit in upholding racial hierarchy as well hierarchies of gender, class, and sexual orientation, among others. We will focus on the origins of the critique and the contrasts between CRT and liberal and conservative analytical frameworks on race and American Law and society. We will also examine some of the questions and criticisms raised about CRT, from both inside and outside of the genre, as well as the impact of the work on legal and political discourse.  The point of departure for the course is an exploration of race itself--what exactly is race?--and the role law plays in constructing this identity.

Course Learning Outcomes:

  • Interpret and analyze case law and secondary literature ( review articles, social science, history, critical theory)
  • Identify and apply critical analysis of that those materials to contemporary disputes
  • Identify and distinguish patterns within case law and legal policy
  • Collaborate in working groups to construct presentations and prepare and deliver short oral presentation