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Law, Power and Inequality: Global Perspectives


Admission requirements

This course is an Honours Class and therefore in principle only available to students of the Honours College. There are a few places available for regular students.


What has law accomplished in different countries and jurisdictions? Its champions have promised much—the spread of human rights and the rule of law, the elimination of discrimination and the protection of the vulnerable, the lure of economic development and the fostering of global trade, endowments of human dignity and restraints on economic rapacity. Its critics observe law as an instrument for repression, hegemonic control and infringements on privacy and intrusive surveillance (in the context of a never-ending and ubiquitous ‘war against terror’), as a weapon against free speech or political opposition, as a tool of economic exploitation and domination, and as a retreat from politics.

We will engage law’s promises and law’s pathos in domestic and transnational contexts, through sessions addressing the roles of law in the war on terror, in climate change, in emancipation and protection of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and in law’s relationships with religions. In discussing these matters, this summer course will go back to the roots of socio-legal scholarship by questioning the relationships between law, power and inequality in countries such as South Africa, The Netherlands, Indonesia, The United States etc.

In doing so, we will also pay specific attention to the question whether law and social sciences provide the expertise to stimulate and inform the impeding social and political agenda. The discussion whether social scientists and lawyers should become allies to address these pressing problems, and if yes, how they should collaborate, will also be explored.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • have a good understanding of what the socio-legal perspective entails;

  • have a basic understanding of some central socio-legal theories around law, power and inequality;

  • are able to assess and evaluate the relationship between law, power and (in)equality;

  • are able to understand and argue why and how this relationship can differ depending on the specific social phenomenon the law aims to address;

  • understand how this relationship can play out differently in different social, political and national contexts;

  • develop and present a plan for social action and social justice.


3 online “global classroom”. During these global classroom sessions students from Leiden will be working together with students from the University of Maryland.
18 April: 17.00hrs - 21.00hrs (exact time to be announced)
25 April: 17.00hrs - 21.00hrs (exact time to be announced)
2 May: 17.00hrs - 21.00hrs (exact time to be announced)

These sessions are the preparation before the summer course that will be held from June 19 to June 28, 9.00-17.00 hrs.


The seminars will be held in the Law School, location Kamerling Onnes Gebouw. The fieldtrips will take place in and around Leiden (for instance: The Hague, Amsterdam, Delft etc.).

Tuesday 18 April: KOG B026.
Tuesday 25 April: KOG B026.
Tuesday 2 May: KOG B026.

Monday 19 June: KOG C014.
Tuesday 20 June: KOG C014.
Wednesday 21 June: KOG C014.
Thursday 22 June: KOG C014.
Friday 23 June: KOG C014.
Monday 26 June: KOG C014.
Tuesday 27 June: KOG C014.
Wednesday 28 June: KOG C014.


3 Global Classroom sessions centered around some of the core concepts of the summer course. By already laying a shared and basic foundation for all the students, we will be able to really go into the depth during the different case studies that will be presented during the summer course

Tuesday 18 April: Global Classroom
Tuesday 25 April: Global Classroom
Tuesday 2 May: Global Classroom

Monday 19 June –Lecture
Tuesday 20 June – Lecture + Field Trip
Wednesday 21 June –Lecture
Thursday 22 June – Lecture + Field Trip
Friday 23 June – Lecture
Monday 26 June –Lecture + Field trip
Tuesday 27 June –Lecture
Wednesday 28 June – Final presentations and expert meeting

Fieldtrips will be scheduled closer to the start of the course.

Course Load

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours.

Please provide an explanation of the course load, e.g.:

  • 3 global classroom sessions

  • Seminars: 7 interactive seminars of 4 hours,

  • Field trips: 3 field trips of 4 hours

  • Final presentations and expert meeting 6 hours

  • Literature reading (3 hours per day of classes) and writing daily prep paper (3 hours per day of classes).

In the weeks leading up to the summer course, students will to participate and prepare for 4 two-hour global classroom sessions. The preparations for these 4 classes including the time spent “in class” will be max. 40 hours. Important to note is that the students will have access to all reading materials at least one month prior to the summer course, allowing them to already do (part) of the reading before the intensive week.

  • Final assignment: Requires 1,5 day (12 hours) of preparation

Assessment method

  • 60% Portfolio which consists of:
  1. Assignments that have to be made during the 4 global classroom sessions
  2. two-page preparatory papers written before each lecture. In these preparatory papers the students will reflect on the mandatory reading materials by “essay style” answering a couple of questions. As part of their prep paper, students also formulate three elaborate questions to be asked in class.
  3. The portfolio will also contain any in class assignments that need to be made.
  • 40% Final Assignment and Presentation:
    Students will have to present a “social justice” project in which they – by using both insights from law & social sciences, popular media and scholarly articles and data – lay out an action plan on how to raise attention for a certain matter of injustice. They will present their plans to a panel of NGOs and government representatives.

Blackboard and uSis

Blackboard will be used in this course. Students can register for the Blackboard site two weeks prior to the start of the course.

Please note: students are not required to register through uSis for the Honours Classes. Your registration will be done centrally.

Reading list

Required reading materials will be made available through Blackboard.


Enrolling in this course is possible from Monday November 7th until Sunday November 20th through the Honours Academy, via this link


Prof. dr. Maartje van der Woude MSc