RSOS2951 – Legal Mobilization and Grassroots Organizing for Social Justice

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Course content

This course addresses legal mobilization and grassroots organizing for social justice through discussions about literature, analytical perspectives and empirical case studies on legal mobilization in context of the legal liberalism of industrial democracies, in contexts of structural poverty and in situations of armed violence and societal conflict.  The course critically reflects on the power relationships between a range of stakeholders (including grassroots activists, “global” human rights advocates, lawyers, judges, paralegals, politicians, armed actors and humanitarian workers).

The courts addresses a range of methodological perspectives on the emancipatory possibilities of law, identity politics in legal mobilization and the analytical framing of how we study the relationship between law and social change.

In particular, in the theoretical part, the course introduces students to the following theoretical concepts:

  • Legal mobilization
  • Cause lawyering
  • Courts and social change
  • Legal consciousness
  • Legal empowerment
  • Rights consciousness
  • Social movements

The course also addresses the following thematic areas:

  • Methodological perspectives on Legal Mobilization
  • Legal liberalism and the rule of law: Classics in U.S Socio-legal studies
  • Legal empowerment and mobilization in authoritarian, poor and violent contexts
  • Human Rights and transnational lawyering
  • The micro-politics of Collective and Individual Uses of International institutions

With respect to the selected thematic areas, the course aims to present the forefront of research within the given theme, but also to provide an overview of the research area and draw historical lines.

Learning outcome


 At the end of the course, you will have obtained knowledge of some of the most central questions and positions in contemporary debates about legal mobilization. Students are expected to:

  • Know the key theoretical debates and analytical concepts such as “framing”, legal consciousness, and rights consciousness.
  • Have a critical understanding of how theories of legal mobilization have been based on Western, industrialized democracies.
  • Know about the emerging legal mobilization scholarship addressing contexts of violence, authoritarianism and structural injustice.
  • Have a critical understanding of the theoretical debates emerging from this literature.


  At the end of the course, students are expected to:

  • Be able to account for central theoretical themes and empirical examples addressed during the course.
  • Be able to discuss how violence, authoritarian rule and poverty shape the conditions for, nature of and effects of legal mobilization.


  At the end of the course, students have

  • Enhanced their respect and understanding for social scientific critical thinking and inquiry
  • Learned what it entails to interpret, analyze and discuss scholarly texts.
  • Developed their capability to critically reflect on potential and limitations of using law as a tool for progressive social change.


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If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.




Students are graded on the basis of a final 5-day take-home exam.

Size: Maximum 2400 words (roughly 10 pages). Front page, contents page (optional) and bibliography are not included. If footnotes are used in the text (at the bottom of each page), they are included in the 2400 word limit. Papers that exceed the 2400 word limit will be disallowed.

Any exam at the University of Oslo is being checked for both correct word count and incidents of cheating.


Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit your assignment.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English.You may submit your response in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

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Special examination arrangements

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Facts about this course






Spring 2017


Spring 2017

Teaching language