Sameer M. Ashar, Personification and Conflict in the Study of Movement Lawyering U.C. Irvine Sch. L. Res. Paper Series (2017).
While the core pedagogical method of law schools is to immerse students in the factual universes of individual appellate cases, how might biographical narratives, as conveyed by historical writing and the participation of contemporary movement actors in courses and clinics, inform lawyering? My preliminary theses: (1) personification of abstract ideas makes them comprehensible and meaningful, particularly in an era in which tectonic shifts in society are dismissed as unrealistic and fanciful; and (2) understanding political conflict in other eras helps us understand the forces at work in our present period: the battle lines, the stakes, and the contingent and pliable nature of the struggles. In this short paper, I’ll first describe how I use biography in my Law and Social Movements seminar and, to a lesser extent, the Immigrant Rights Clinic and then develop further my initial theses about the uses and significance of biographical narrative in teaching about lawyering, as well as some of the constraints imposed by historical and contemporary movement sources.