In this course, we will examine the relationship between resistance movements and the law through several historical and contemporary U.S. and Latin American case studies. We will begin the semester by exploring theoretical representations of resistance movements within social movement theory and critical legal theory. We will look at different conceptualizations of power and consciousness in our analysis of resistance and the role of each in instigating resistance movements. We will then turn to an analysis of the law as a tool of collective struggle by studying and comparing the implicated rights and site-specific needs, objectives, strategies, and outcomes of each case study. We will look at the different ways these resistance movements may use the law to mobilize followers; to frame and address collective grievance; to advance and develop legal protections for marginalized groups; and to connect their localized struggles with global ones by redefining and reimagining concepts of dignity and freedom. Each case study will also provide us with an opportunity to explore the relationship between the law, state-sponsored violence, and repression of resistance movements.

We will also examine the role and influence of legal advocacy organizations in contemporary resistance movements, and evaluate the current limitations of the law in contributing to social change. How do rightsbased claims (e.g. indigenous rights, water rights) obscure the relationship between law and power, injustice, and structures of oppression? Can the law be a useful catalyst for change and/or is it necessarily a supplement to grassroots organizing and mobilizing efforts? To examine these concepts and tensions we will look at legislation and legal practices, landmark court cases, and critical scholarship related to our case studies. Among the resistance movements we will study are Brazil’s Landless Rural Workers Movement; indigenous resistance movements in North and South America, including resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Dam in Honduras; and different phases in the movement for Black civil rights in the U.S.