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Robert G. Moser, Chair BAT 2.116, Mailcode A1800, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-5121

Spring 2005

GOV 357M • Politics of Equal Rights

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
36365 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
UTC 3.112

Course Description

Course number may be repeated for credit when topics vary. In constructing the "nation-states" of Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand, and the United States, state power was historically used, both explicitly and implicitly, to reinforce particular social orders in which citizenship status and rights were contingent upon one's race, gender, and sexuality. Although there were earlier challenges to those social orders, 1945 marked an important break with the past, ushering in a period of important egalitarian legal reforms that have proliferated in recent decades. Specifically, the "right to nondiscrimination," enforceable against both state and society, emerged as a cornerstone of the post-World War II human rights project. Today, nation-states are expected to use their powers to promote egalitarian social orders free of invidious discrimination. We will examine the way in which a "right to nondiscrimination" was institutionalized, or not, in our five countries of study. The following questions will frame our analyses: What is the nature and the scope of that right? How have different states developed their capacity to enforce that right vis-a-vis society as well as vis-a-vis state institutions? What role have courts played in interpreting and enforcing a right to nondiscrimination? How has the development of this right shaped group identities and demands? What are the strengths, as well as the potential political pitfalls, of these developments? How do affirmative action policies coexist with a right to nondiscrimination? Finally, what role have transitional institutions played in diffusing ideas about discrimination and antidiscrimination?

Grading Policy

First exam 35% Second exam 40% Short paper (6-8 pages) 25%


A course packet will be produced and available for purchase at Abel's Copies. Its contents will include constitutional and legislative texts; excerpts from judicial opinions of the high courts in the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain; transnational national human rights instruments; and selected chapters from scholarly analyses, including material from Charles R. Epp, The Rights Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998) and John D. Skrentny, The Minority Rights Revolution (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002).


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