What are boundaries in human societies? On what grounds are social, legal, medical and scientific boundaries drawn, and who draws them? When do we need to draw boundaries? These are the central questions that will be discussed in this course. We will focus especially on the problem of borderline cases, which arise as an inevitable consequence of drawing boundaries in a world that seems inherently vague and gradual. A boundary, whether it is physical, social, political or intellectual, creates separation. Once such a separation is created, we typically find that there are borderline cases: things that do not quite belong on either side of the boundary. Sometimes these borderline cases will be unproblematic, but frequently they affect human lives. Boundaries define whether you are a citizen or a foreigner, healthy or ill, alive or dead. What happens in cases where we cannot tell on which side of these boundaries a person falls? To address these questions, we will be using a theoretical approach that is well grounded in particular case studies, such as legal and medical determinations of life and death, the setting of measurement standards in the natural sciences, and the establishment of socio-economic boundaries like poverty-lines.
Course Learning Outcomes
On completing the course, students will be able to:
- Explain the problems arising from borderline cases, and identify real-life examples of such cases in a number of different areas.
- Apply thinking about borderline cases to propose methods of how best to resolve real-life disputes that turn on borderline issues.
- Identify and assess different institutions and methodologies involved in drawing boundaries and establishing thresholds in a range of different fields.
- Critically analyze the establishment of boundaries, and develop a sensitivity for the different stakeholders affected by the establishment of a particular boundary or threshold.
Offer Semester and Day of Teaching
First semester (Wed)
|Activities||Number of hours|
|Reading / Self-study||24|
|Assessment: Essay / Report writing||20|
|Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation)||20|
|Assessment: Online presentation||20|
Assessment: 100% coursework
|In-class participation and discussions||20|
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