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SOSC 2350 Study Guide - Final Guide: Critical Race Theory, United Nations Human Rights Committee, First Nations

Social Science
Course Code
SOSC 2350
Annie Bunting
Study Guide

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Law and Society Final Exam Review
Short Answer
Benedict Anderson described nations as “imagined communities”. Describe Anderson’s three (3)
key elements in the creation of modern nations. Using a critical legal perspective, discuss the limits
of his theory. You can refer to our readings for the Critical Race Theory, Feminisms, Citizenship
and Indigenous Rights sessions to ground your criticisms.
What is an ‘imagined community’?
Benedict Anderson argues it is impossible for an individual to know every single member in a
- Impossible for them to know everyone’s thoughts, morals, beliefs etc.
Instead of people actually knowing for a fact, they have an image in their mind of the thoughts,
morals and beliefs of those residing in their nation based on communion; therefore, imagined
Not based on every day face to face interaction
Anderson believes a nation is a socially constructed group/community, imagined by people who
perceive themselves as part of that group.
Three Key Elements in the creation of modern nations:
- Creation of imagined communities became possible because of print capitalism
- Capitalist entrepreneurs printed their books and media in the native language/dialect of a
specific nation in order to produce maximum circulation
- As a result, people speaking local dialects became able to understand each other creating
common discourse
- Anderson argued European nation-states were formed around “national-print languages”
- According to Anderson’s theory of imagined communities, the main causes of nationalism
1. The declining importance of privileged access to particular script languages because of
mass vernacular (native language of an area) literacy
2. The movement to abolish the ideas of rule by divine right and hereditary monarchy
3. Emergence of printing press capitalism
- All phenomena occurring with the start of the industrial revolution
- Defined nation as ‘an imagined political community’
- A nation is “imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most
of their fellow-members, meet them or even hear from the,, yet in the minds of each lives the
image of their communion”
- Even though members of nation may not meet face-to-face they may have their similar
interest/identify as part of the same nation

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- Members hold in their minds a mental image of their affinity, ex. Nationhood felt with other
members of ‘imagined community’ during Olympic games
What is Critical Race Theory?
CRT developed in the 1970s when a group of lawyers, activists and scholars in the US realised
the advances of the civil rights movement have stalled (in some cases being rolled back)
Racism is endemic (regularly found among particular people or in a certain area) to life
Racism must be understood in a social/historical context as a pattern of instruments and
Storytelling and naming “ones own reality” using narrative to illuminate and explore experiences
of racial oppression
- Feared power of commitment to change (Bell)
“Angela Harris (2000) uses the term ‘race law’ to refer to laws, like those based on the
feeblemindedness theory, that maintain racial categories and shape interactions among racial
groups. […] If we look carefully at these struggles and unstable boundaries, a pattern emerges […]
the boundaries and their shifts are often driven by instrumental interests.” (Calavita at 53)
With this quote in mind, apply the idea of “interest convergence”, discussed by Kitty Calavita in
her chapter on critical race theory to the Yee Clun case explored in Constance Backhouse’s article.
What is “feeblemindedness theory”?
Started by giving IQ tests to immigrants landing at Ellis Island if one did not meet the
requirements they were deemed “feeble-minded” or “morons”
Theory behind this massive testing campaign was that feeblemindedness made people commit
- Supposedly, brain deficit hereditary and genetically based which helped account for who
afro-Americans and immigrants had higher crime rates than native-born Caucasians
Looked into it as a “scientific” theory explaining why crime and poverty were endemic to Afro-
Americans and immigrants
In 1924, congress passed the “Qutoa-Law” that limited immigration from each European country
to 2% of the number present in the 1890 census
At the same time, alarmed policy makers launched eugenic practises to rid the US of
feebleminded already in their midst
The feeblemindedness theory has since been abolished as it is based upod shoddy science who’s
primary virtues were its consistency with racist assumptions of the day and its self interest of the
wealthy individuals who bank rolled it
What is “Interest Convergence”?
Material interests produce the concept of race and determine the content of racial categories,
including their shifts over time
Clearly relevant in the feeblemindedness movement and its funding by those more interested in
promulgating excuses for inequality

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- Theory was defective however it explained the inequality from which these titans of industry
and finance so abundantly benefitted
- Ex. Economic interests that shaped slavery and elaborated its ideological justification in the
form of racism against Africans
Calavita on Critical Race Theory
These studies of racial identity and the role of law in shoring it up underscore some of the key
concepts of CRT
Critical race theorists emphasize that race is a “social construction” and that it is “ordinary
(meaning it is the usual way society does business)
White Womens Labour Law WWLL
Prohibited Chinese business owners from employing white women
- Restricted Asian business community because they could not afford to pay white male wages
and had few other labour resources
Attempt to fix racial identity proved very difficult
- Neither “Chinese” nor “White” was defined in legislation
- As a result the WWLL judges were called upon to decide whether these groups should be
racialized as “white” in distinction to Asian immigrants
Yee Clun Case (1924)
Appeared to be a test to challenge the law
- A leader of the Chinese community and respected 23 year resident of Regina applied for
licence to hire women staff in rooming house and restaurant
Application considered by elected aldermen
Aldermen voted 4-0 to deny licence
Yee Clun Appeal (1925)
Appeal judge reversed decision and ordered city to issue him a licence using “creative argument”
- Argued when legislature removed reference to “Chinese” from the Act it intended to abolish
the discriminatory principle
- Not up to the municipality to re-instate discriminatory principle repudiated by province
Yee Clun Legislative Response (1926)
In the following year legislature amended the act in order to shield municipalities from licensing
decisions from judicial review and allow municipalities to revoke court ordered licences
The stigmatized group (ex. Chinese businessman) lack power to successfully oppose the forces
aligned against it
As early as the 1970s, Canadians appealed to international human rights system for relief. In other
cases, litigants in Canadian courts sought to invoke international human rights norms. Give two
human rights examples of the interaction between national and international law and critically
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