What is law? Why do we follow its dictates and where does it legitimacy come from? How does it impact social, political, and economic relationships? Broadly, this course will consider various ways that law organizes contemporary social life. More specifically, we will consider how law shapes and enables social interaction and disputing; how law constructs differences among people and their actions; and how law mediates and enforces power relationships. Particular attention will be given to three sets of relationships: 1) between legal discourse and legal practice; 2) between legal rights, social identity, and community; and 3) between law and violence. Our inquiries will examine official legal institutions (courts) and actors (judges, police, lawyers, etc.), but the class will emphasize how law works as a complex array of norms, symbols, discourses, and practices that infuse and shape all aspects of social life. In short, we are all legal actors as well as legal subjects. Case materials will focus on the United States but also draw on comparative and global perspectives.