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This course entails one major project: An anthropological analysis of a controversial piece of legislation. Each student will choose a piece of (attempted) legislation – it could be in NYC, the state of New York, the USA; in a different country; or it could be international. The point of the project is to analyze why/how the legislation is controversial. This means that students will analyze how the SOCIAL and INSTITUTIONAL components of law intersect (i.e., what a law does vs. what people perceive it to do; how a law disproportionately impacts different communities; how a given law is problematically/selectively enforced; etc.).
For this assignment, each student is to submit a one-page (typed, double-spaced) proposal that describes the controversial law that they wish to examine. This proposal should contain the following components:
A brief summary/contextualization of the law and controversy (that is, provide some background information)
The primary questions that you will use to frame your research
Your preliminary hypothesis regarding WHY the law is controversial (note: eventually you will convert your hypothesis into your thesis statement)
A brief explanation as to why you are interested in studying this law
I encourage you to think creatively about which law you propose to investigate; it should be something that can keep your interest throughout the semester. And remember: you must select a LAW. For instance, saying that you’re going to do your paper on “gun control” is too broad. If this is a topic that interests you, though, you should find a specific law relating to gun control (i.e., federal ban on assault rifles, individual state’s conceal and carry laws, etc.) to analyze. Indeed, each student should provide the exact name of the law they plan to investigate.