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Course Information

Instructor Info:Jennifer Hamilton
Office Extension x5677
Term: 2014F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 111
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Adele Simmons Hall (ASH) 111

This course is an exploration of the complex and shifting relationships between law and non-human entities. How does law reflect, reinforce or challenge key categorical distinctions such as nature/culture, human/non-human, subject/object, and living/non-living? Through examination of a range of theoretical perspectives and specific case studies, we will focus on the epistemological underpinnings of law, especially in the Anglo-American legal tradition, and the enduring question of law's anthropocentrism. Specific areas of inquiry include legal perspectives on non-human animals, "Mother Nature," corporations, embryos, trans-species hybrids, and artificial intelligence.

Cumulative Skills: Writing and Research, Multiple Cultural Perspectives, Independent Work

Students will also hone their skills in library research, critical reading and writing, and project design.  Students should expect to commit significant time and effort to this course.

Prerequisites: Successful completion of one CSI course (or equivalent) or permission of the instructor. 

The idea for this course emerged in part from my own research investigating the role of science in shaping legal understandings of non-human entities, something I will talk about in greater detail in class.  Some of the questions we’ll explore and readings we’ll undertake relate directly to this research, and I am looking forward to thinking through some of these ideas with you.  Of course, students may shape their own research projects based on topics not related to my research.  However, if these questions appeal to you, there will be an opportunity for a small number of students to continue to this work in an independent research seminar during the Spring 2015 semester.

Course Objectives:
  • To give students a semester-long opportunity to explore relationships between law and non-human entities using interdisciplinary frameworks 
  • To introduce students to the following substantive areas: human-animal studies; legal studies; history and anthropology of science
  • To help students to build and improve skills in critical reading and writing
  • To challenge students to develop new perspectives and to expand their skills of critical thinking
  • To enable students to design and implement independent project-based work
  • Advanced research skills

Students should already know how to do basic library research including how to search relevant databases, how to find relevant sources, how to access materials in both electronic and non-electronic form, how to access materials that are not in the Five College Library system, and how to use bibliographic software (Zotero).  These skills will not be covered in class, so if you have not had sufficient training, please set up an appointment with our CSI librarian, Alana Kumbier.  Our class will focus on the more substantive dimensions of research including learning interdisciplinary methodologies and modes of analysis.

Evaluation Criteria:

Final evaluations will focus on the following areas:

  • Effort, especially willingness to challenge oneself
  • Attendance, preparation, and participation
  • Skills development especially in critical reading and writing
  • Quality of written work and attention to detail
  • Individual improvement throughout the semester
Additional Info:


Students are expected to come to class prepared with questions and comments.  Depending on the complexity of the material, sometimes I will give a brief lecture, but most of our time together will be based in discussion.  Students are required to complete all assigned readings, but I have also made a range of supplementary materials available.  You are free to read these based on your needs and interests and to use these as part of your research paper or for other assignments.

Unless otherwise indicated, all assignments must be uploaded electronically to Moodle. I will not accept hard copies of assignments.


Some of our readings come from texts you are expected to purchase or borrow (T) and some of them are available online (O) for printing.  Required texts are available for purchase in the Hampshire College Bookstore.  Copies of required texts will also be made available on reserve in the Johnson Library and, if you prefer, you may make copies from reserve books.  Some texts may be available electronically through e-brary.  If so, the URLs are noted below and on Moodle.  Please remember that others may also be using the hard copies of texts, so return them to the library promptly.  I will also compile a PDF with all online (O) readings in one document.  You can print this out yourself or take it to the Duplication Center (ground floor of the library) for printing.

Because the course is text-based, and we will often reference the text during the class period, it is imperative that you have either the text itself or a copy of the reading with you.  It is not sufficient to “read” the text online and come to class.  You must have the readings and your notes.  If you prefer, you may purchase the texts for e-readers like Kindle or Nook; I will look for evidence that you have read the text on your e-reader, so you must have it with you for class.  Texts, like tuition, room and board, are a part of the cost of college and are not optional.  If you are having trouble obtaining course texts for any reason, please speak to me as soon as possible in private.  The following texts are required for our course:

Atwood, Margaret

2004    Oryx and Crake: A Novel. New York: Anchor Books.

Braverman, Irus

2012    Zooland: The Institution of Captivity. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.