This senior honors thesis course looks at current and past legal structures that have marginalized certain groups in the U.S. - including American Indians, immigrants, African Americans, and the poor - while perpetuating inequality. It also looks at how state and federal laws have been used over the centuries to perpetuate inequalities while addressing the potential to legislate equality and social justice. From the time Europeans first arrived on this continent, there was competition for resources and control. First the colonies, then the U.S. government, enacted laws to ensure that resources and control remained in the hands of a select few. Even today, the top 1% of Americans own 40% of the wealth in this country while the bottom 80% owns just 7%. However, marginalization affects more than just wealth. Its effects are also evident in social justice issue such as access to quality health care, access to a healthy space to live and work, and access to clean air and water. While there are state and federal laws in place that address some of these issues, not every aspect of social justice can be addressed simply by legislation. In addition to looking at the legal aspects of social justice, this course considers the potential for other means of leveling the playing field.


This course is the first part of a 2-semester sequence that fulfills Commonwealth Honors College’s Capstone Experience requirement. Students who register for Anthro 499C in the fall must take the continuation course (Anthro 499D) in the spring to complete the Honors College’s Culminating Experience/honors thesis requirement. The professor will not sign honors thesis completion forms for students who fail to complete Anthro 499D.

Instead, you will receive only a grade based on the work you did in the fall.