166 | CCN: 77941

Rhetoric in Law and Politics

On Freedom and Self-Determination

Instructor: Samera Esmeir,

MW 4-530P, 179 DWINELLE

4 Units

This course investigates the deployment of the rhetoric of freedom and self-determination in modern legal and political texts. We track the deployment of the rhetoric of freedom in political struggles (while focusing on revolutionary, anti-colonial and slave struggles) and examine the multiple practices of freedom signified by the word. In the legal field, we investigate the revival of the concept of self-determination in the early part of the twentieth century as one formation that many freedom struggles adopted as their end. We inquire into the colonial and imperial genealogies of self-determination and explore the shifts it has undergone as it became the end of many twentieth century freedom struggles and intersected with them. Through the example of freedom and self-determination, we will explore broader questions about the intersectionality of law and politics, the political constitutive effects of modern law, and the stakes of instituting, or destabilizing, the distinction between law and politics.

We will read primary political and legal sources, as well as secondary texts, including philosophical, theoretical, and historical. In addition to the several assignments of the course, such as essays and collaborative presentations, students will also produce research papers.