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Teaching, Guerrilla Style


Amna Akbar (@orangebegum) is the Charles W. Ebersold and Florence Whitcomb Ebersold Professor of Constitutional Law at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Jocelyn Simonson (@j_simonson) is Professor at Brooklyn Law School.

Sameer Ashar (@sameer_ashar) is Clinical Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine. 

A few years ago, we got together to consider how to teach differently in the “movement moment” provoked by the Ferguson and Baltimore rebellions. We felt a particular sense of urgency given that the movements of our day—the Movement for Black Lives, #Not1More, #IdleNoMore, #Fightfor15, Occupy—have at the center of their critique our system of laws; and that those critiques represented long-standing concerns in communities of color and poor communities about law’s violence and inequality.  We aimed to embrace an opportunity to teach the law with an attentiveness to its entanglement with concentrated racialized/gendered violence and, simultaneously, its transformative potential. It felt important to root our work in that of others—in movements and the academy—and to produce practical, creative manuals to provoke new approaches. And that’s why, along with Bill Quigley, we put together The Guerrilla Guides to Law Teaching.

Embedded in the guides is a critique of dominant forms of U.S. legal education. Prevailing norms in legal education limit the range of political discourse within our classrooms and advance the interests of some at the expense of the many. We hope to work with other law teachers to democratize classrooms and reconstruct law school discourse with the assistance of outsider voices, across disciplines and lines of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and dis/ability. Most of all, we hope to break through the isolation of our work lives and build different kinds of collectivities.

There are 8 guides available, authored collectively by a growing group of contributors. The first one lays out our four principles: building solidarities, advancing resistance, broadening and deepening discourse, and pursuing radical interventions. There are six on subject matter areas: criminal law, clinical law, evidence, immigration, administrative law, human rights. And there is  one on a particular teaching method: teaching biographies.

While the guides do not center political economy, per se, in their rootedness in the material realities of people of color and poor people, they all speak to political economy in one way or another. We are heartened by the LPE community’s insistence on bringing issues of power, inequality, and democracy to the forefront of the study of law. We hope you will check them out, and we welcome critique and conversation, as well as interest in new guides, or additions to the existing ones, from the LPE community.