Aspects of ‘Sovereignty’

Aspects of ‘Sovereignty’

Professor Sanford Levinson
Fall 2017 reading group
W 5:00pm - 7:00pm in WCC Room 5048
1 classroom credit

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Each student will be expected to write one "response paper" to a given week's assigned readings, of approximately 750-1000 words. The purpose of the papers is to help set the agenda for the specific discussions that particular week.

"Sovereignty" is one of the most common and elusive concepts in theology, political theory and law. Although there are those who counsel simply dropping the notion, they have clearly been unsuccessful, whether we refer to the United States Supreme Court, debates about international law, particularly with regard to the limits of "humanitarian intervention," or every-day political debates about some of the implications of transnationalism and globalization.

This course is by no means a comprehensive overview of the complex questions presented by the concept of "sovereignty." Instead, it considers only selected "aspects" that will, I am confident, generate spirited discussion. The first class, for example, will be drawn almost entirely from religious materials, including the command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the book of Job; St. Paul's Letter to the Romans 13:1; and selected passages from the Quran, as well as an the quotation over the pediment of the entrance to the Harvard Law School. Another week will be devoted to looking at control over the body as an "aspect of sovereignty," with materials on torture and capital punishment, as well as Kafka's story "In the Penal Colony." We will go on to consider the implications of "popular sovereignty." Two sessions will be devoted to American constitutionalism, including federalism and the conceptualization of Puerto Rico and American Indian tribes. We will conclude by considering "humanitarian intervention" as a limitation on traditional notions of state sovereignty. Given the nature of the topic, I would especially welcome the participation of students from abroad, especially those enrolled in the LLM and SJD programs. It is not necessary to have more than superficial familiarity, if that, with the specific caselaw interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Any cases that are relevant will be assigned.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 9/13, 9/27, 10/4, 10/18, 11/1, 11/8

Drop Deadline: September 14, 2017 by 11:59pm EST

Subject Areas: Constitutional Law & Civil Rights, Government Structure & Function, International, Comparative & Foreign Law