The course is intended to develop an appreciation of law as a social phenomenon, to introduce influential theoretical perspectives, and to consider the variety of methods by which socio-legal research questions might be addressed. The course does not seek to provide a comprehensive coverage of the whole field of social-legal inquiry, but focuses instead on selected issues as an introduction to and way of illustrating the approaches taken by a variety of scholars. Each of the seminars is a self-contained, stand-alone session.
Attendance is not optional, but is part of the methodological training required of all CSLS students. However, to ensure a sufficient link between the course and your project, you may substitute relevant sessions provided elsewhere at the University for up to two sessions in Michaelmas Term and up to three sessions in Hilary Term. This should be discussed and agreed with your supervisor, and the Centre’s Director of Graduate Studies should be informed.
Sessions in Michaelmas Term are intended to provide an introduction to a selection of key approaches and debates in contemporary socio-legal studies. The discussions will explore the nature of law and the various forms it takes in a variety of social settings and relationships. Understanding the nature of different theoretical and disciplinary approaches to the study of law will equip you with the perspective necessary to pose questions that are relevant to the field, and to appreciate the range of different ways in which you might explore them. The overarching objective of the term is to empower you to ground your project in the socio-legal field, while enabling you to exercise as much choice as possible about how you frame your project intellectually.
In these seminars you will discuss the practical techniques available to carry out socio-legal research and the ways in which they relate to whatever theoretical approach you might take. You will consider which questions you can ask and answer through which methods. At the session in Week 7, CSLS students who have reached an advanced stage of their project or who have already completed their theses will share some of their experiences with you. They will talk informally about the challenges that they faced and the bridges they had to cross. In the concluding sessions held in the Trinity Term you will be invited to make an overall presentation of your chosen project.
In Weeks 2 and 3, students have the opportunity to make a short presentation of their research projects to their peers and to some of the Centre's Research Fellows. All participate in the subsequent discussions to help every student to develop his/her project to its maximum potential.