Washington Center

Law and Politics of Memory

Term or Semester: 
Day and Time: 
Thursdays, 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Quarter Dates: 
September 21 - November 30, 2023
Course Number: 
Sponsored by UC Santa Cruz Politics / Legal Studies 158
Quarter Elective

This class will invite students to consider the law and politics of memory with a special focus on Washington, D.C.  In this class we will consider why we choose to memorialize some aspects of our history, but not others, and what impact those choices have on our contemporary politics and society. We will compare D.C. with other cities, considering how memorials and monuments might be used to create a stronger democracy.  Although the majority of the class will be focused on public memorials, we will also consider how memory operates in our political and legal life more broadly.

A key part of understanding how memorialization may or may not work to impact those who come into contact with those memorials, will be your own ethnography of how people interact with a particular memorial that you will select. For this reason, in addition to a number of readings about the law and politics of memory, you will also learn and deploy ethnographic research methods in this class. Ethnography asks the researcher to place themselves in a space and to observe as a participant/observer how others use, define, and/or transform a space.  Effective ethnography requires the ethnographer to recognize their own projections onto the space, and asks the ethnographer to interrogate how their cultural background informs their observations.  Students will observe how people interact with or ignore memorials, what meaning the memorials may or may not have in the collective life and imagination.

Learning Outcomes

To deploy a social science framework to explain political and legal contestation over memorialization.

To understand the role of memory in nation-building and democratic governance.

To develop ethnographic skills.

To recognize and express interesting ideas of intellectual value.

To develop an engaging voice as a speaker and writer.

To organize ideas effectively to communicate in specific contexts.

To use language clearly, powerfully, and with appropriate detail.


About the Professor: Jackie Gehring is an associate teaching professor of Politics and Legal Studies at UCSC. Jackie arrived at UCSC in the Winter of 2017 after serving as Department Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science at Allegheny College. She earned her Ph.D. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and has also been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society at UC Berkeley, as well as at universities in Europe.


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