Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

Law and Political Critique: From Foucault to Tupac

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1940
Section 001
Instructor Vasuki Nesiah
Days T
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 2
Level U
Requirement   HUM


Course meets during the first seven weeks only, First Class: Tuesday, January 29th; Last Class: Tuesday, March 12.


This two-unit course examines the relationship between law and political critique by looking at the possibilities and constraints that attach to legal speech as a species of dissent. Michel Foucault describes political critique as “the art of not being governed like that and at that cost”. Legal speech often has both the instrumental and performative role that Foucault’s description of political critique invokes – legal speech can have very particular consequences in demarcating the sanctioned space for critique of governance, while itself performing the art of critique. With a focus on these intertwined dimensions of legal speech, we read a series of cases for legal arguments about the appropriate space of resisting “being governed like  that” , while also trying to understand those arguments as creating “the art of not being governed.” What is the relationship between the pragmatic and performative dimensions of dissent in law? What kind of ‘art of not being governed’ does legal speech enable and what does it close off? What can it privilege and legitimate, and what does it obscure and exclude? The class will engage with legal scholarship, social theory, judicial opinions, short stories and music lyrics addressing the terrain of law, speech and resistance.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)