Course Offerings at Brown

Course Offerings for Brown students

This is a partial list of courses for Brown students in the current academic year related in some way to crime, punishment, prisons, incarceration, or the criminal justice system. A link to courses offered in previous years in at the bottom of the page. Please email [email protected] for additions or corrections.

Fall 2018

ETHN 1650B Asian Americans and the Racial State: Exclusion and Incarceration

The exclusion of Chinese from naturalization and immigration (from 1870 to 1943) and the wholesale incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII remain important touchstones for thinking about the Asian American experience and lenses through which to examine current struggles over immigration, mass incarceration and race in North America.

HIST 0150C Locked Up: A Global History of Prison and Captivity

A long history lies behind the millions of men and women locked up today as prisoners, captives and hostages. Beginning in antiquity and ending in the present, this course draws on materials from a variety of cultures across the world to explore incarceration's centuries-old past. In examining the experience and meaning of imprisonment, whether as judicial punishment, political repression, or the fallout of war, the class will ask fundamental questions about liberty as well. 

INTL 1803A The International Politics of Organized Crime

Organized crime and extra-legal actors have established themselves as political actors in every region of the world. Violence has exploded in countries as criminal organizations compete with each other, the state, as well as a variety of other non-state armed groups for control of illicit markets, local dominance, and political influence. This course offers a broad understanding of these organizations, their origins, and the various illegal and violent activities in which they are engaged. This course is comparative and interdisciplinary in nature, drawing from research in criminology, sociology, anthropology, economics, and political science. 

MES 1235 Policing and Imprisonment in the Modern Middle East

Policing figured prominently in recent events, from the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi to the rise of the Islamic State. Repressive regimes relied heavily on police, prisons, and criminal law to maintain power and authority. This course examines recent uprisings and ongoing conflicts, and questions of state and non-state violence. Major topics are: the role of Islam in law and criminal justice; the imposition of European colonial rule; the rise of police states; the production and maintenance of a gendered social order; non-state and informal mechanisms of maintaining “law and order”; and the role of law and security.

PLCY 1702H Crime and Punishment in the USA

In matters of crime and punishment, the United States is exceptional. It imprisons a larger share of its population than any comparable society, past or present. It is also, the most violent country in the developed world. These are staggering facts, given that the US is also the richest society in world history. In this course, we sample work from a wide number of disciplines in an effort to understand this America “exceptionalism. We examine the arguments that justify (or reject) state-sanctioned punishment and we discuss what criminal justice reform looks like, today and what it might look like tomorrow.

POLS 0820I Crime, Mafias and Prison

Will develop framework for analysis of criminal behavior in a variety of contemporary and historical settings. Examines the rationality behind criminal choices, how governments seek to control crime, alternatives to state-enforcement of criminal law, origins and operation of organized crime and mafia groups, and how crime affects regions characterized by failed or weak states. Study crime in a variety of contexts, including in the Sicilian Mafia, 18th century piracy, contemporary drug and sex markets, and prison gangs. Will develop tools that can be used to understand the observed variation in criminal activity, the organizational structure of criminal activity, and their broader consequences.

POLS 0820U Drug War Politics

This seminar examines the politics, practice, and consequences of government efforts to regulate mind-altering substances since the early 20th century. Although much of the focus is on the contemporary United States and Latin America, the coverage is broadly historical, comparative, and global. The main drugs focused on are cocaine, opium, and cannabis, but will include alcohol, tobacco, and synthetics. The course also evaluates policy alternatives and the obstacles to policy reform. The course draws on readings from fields such as political science, anthropology, criminology, and history. 


Spring 2019

AFRI 0550 African American Health Activism from Emancipation to AIDS

This historical survey course examines African American activism and social movements from Emancipation to the contemporary period through the lens of African American access to health resources. By paying close attention to how social and cultural aspects of medicine impact access and quality of care by race, gender, and sexuality, the course examines how segregation, poverty, incarceration, and policing shaped activism and healthcare. The course develops a sense of how African American activists crafted responses to different historical crises including Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights, and the War on Drugs by the demands they made for specific resources.

COLT 0810G Equity Law Literature Philosophy

Justice, rigorously applied, yields injustice. This paradox haunted Western aspirations toward legal and political justice from antiquity to the Renaissance. It necessitated the formulation of a complementary principle, equity, whose job it was to correct or supplement the law in cases where the strict application of it would lead to unfairness. In England, equity was enforced by a separate system of law, and it was a weighty, ambiguous term of great emotional force, with a particular appeal to Shakespeare. After its decline, Dickens and Kafka wrote two of the greatest literary works set in a world without equity.

ECON 1370 Race and Inequality in the United States

We examine racial inequality in the United States, focusing on economic, political, social and historical aspects. Topics include urban poverty, employment discrimination, crime and the criminal justice system, affirmative action, immigration, and low wage labor markets. Black/white relations in the US are the principle but not exclusive concern. 

ENGL 0200H The Last Eighteen Years: Literature and Conflict in the 21st Century

This course will examine contemporary fiction alongside research being done in political science and economics, hoping to establish productive points of intersection. Topics like the Iraq War, mass incarceration, and the 2008 financial crisis will be discussed alongside Hamid’s Reluctant Fundamentalist, Beatty’s The Sellout, Smith’s Swing Time, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Supplementary reading will likely include writing by Coates, Piketty, and Arendt. 

HIST 0150G History of Law: Great Trials

Through discussion of a variety of precedent-setting trials throughout history, this course will probe the nature of demonstrative justice, the relationship between ideology and law in different societies, the politics of trials, and the relationship of trials to terror(ism) and social marginalization. Cases to be covered include: Socrates, Jesus Christ, the mythical Japanese Okuninushi, witch trials, the French Revolutionary Terror, the Dreyfus Affair, the Scopes (monkey) trial, the Stalinist show trials, the war crimes trials at Nuremberg, the Chinese Gang of Four, and the trials of Nelson Mandela and Saddam Hussein.

MPA 2475 Policy Problems of the 21st Century: Social Justice and Advocacy, Strategies for Change

This course examines efforts that work toward social justice in contemporary political and social life. The class begins by evaluating different perspectives on how to define social justice. We consider the special challenges involved in defining social justice across borders or in diverse communities. We then examine strategies and channels used to promote social change.

PHIL 1600 Philosophy of Law

Philosophical examination of the chief classical and contemporary theories of the nature and function of law. Topics include the definition of law, the nature of legal systems, the logic of legal reasoning, the analysis of basic legal conceptions (e.g., of right and duty), legal rules and principles, law and justice, and law and morality.

PHP 1820 Designing Education for Better Prisoner and Community Health

This course will provide the needed background and context for understanding the multiple issues and challenges facing prisoners and the national justice and health systems that impact their fate. In addition to contextual background, students in this course will attain the knowledge and skills needed to develop a final practical, real world health communication/ intervention project that addresses one or more health literacy challenges facing people who are incarcerated. 

POLS 1824M The Politics of Race and the Criminal Justice System

This course examines the politics of race and the criminal justice system in the U.S. It proceeds in three parts. First, it examines the political origins and consequences of racial disparities in citizens’ interactions with the police, courts and prisons. Next, it considers how the public, the media, and politicians relate and respond to these issues. Finally, the course concludes by examining the prospects for reform and the consequences of inaction.

POLS 2150 Democratic Theory, Justice, and the Law

This course will examine contemporary and historical work in the area of democratic political and legal theory. Topics include the relationship between democracy and individual rights, deliberative vs. aggregative conceptions of democracy, the substance/procedure controversy, and the role of judicial review in a democracy. 


Link to Brown courses offered in previous years.