Critical Race Theory: Race and Law from the United States to Europe

Course Description: 

Critical Race Theory emerged in American legal academia at the end of the 1980s as a critique of the limitations both of orthodox liberal civil rights scholarship and of the failure to address race by scholars belonging to Critical Legal Studies. Since then, critical race theorists have developed a rich body of scholarship and critique. This course will thus explore what hides behind the ideas and concepts of „interest convergence”, „intersectionality”, „unconscious racism”, „white privilege” and „legal storytelling”. This will allow at the same time to better understand the developments of legal social theories concerning race issues in the United States from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to America’s alleged „post-racial” turn after the election of President Obama, which has – of course- been silenced with the election of President Trump.
Race, racialization, racism and its humiliation and inferiorization historically produced and contemporarily articulated, yet so often in denial in Europe. The prevailing myth of „European colorblindness” masks Europe as a space which never was “racial”. Thus it makes difficult to challenge the narrative within a European theoretical framework that constantly treats race as an external issue that does not need to be theorized. Some scholars name it as a „racial amnesia”, which contributes to the erasure of the history of European racism and the history of Europeans of color that makes unspeakable the processes of internal racialization. Critical Race Theory can challenge the „European colorblindness” by providing theorizations of the racilization of Roma and the extremely violent anti-Gypsyism that only recently receives some theorization in academia. This course examines the geneology and applicability of Critical Race Theory in Europe, particularly in the case of racialized groups, such as Roma.

Learning Outcomes: 

Ability to think and critically analyze American (constitutional) jurisprudence and race relations.
Ability to use and apply a race critical approach to legal analysis.
Ability to use legal reasoning – advanced level.
Ability to understand the perspective(s) of racial minorities with regard to law.
Ability to understand feminist legal analysis.
Ability to think and critically analyze human rights and non-discrimination case law with regard to race/ethnicity.
Ability to understand race/ethnic relations in Europe.
Understanding of European (legal) history.


The final grade is based on class-participation [20%], and a written final seminar paper of max. 5000 words [80%].