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Political Studies

At the heart of this concentration lie questions about the nature and meaning of politics and power; the actions of, and relations among and between, individuals, groups, and institutions; systems, structures, societies, and the conflicts that beset and vitalize them. The concentration also raises questions about the origins and intersections of various systems of power and subjectivity. It explores the philosophies, theories, and enactments of law and governance, and makes central the struggles between ideals and human actions to attain them. The concentration seeks to politicize the very question of epistemology and method, and thus encourages a plurality of approaches to social and political inquiry and action.

In order to moderate into the political studies concentration, students will devise a multidisciplinary program of study that addresses their interests and proclivities with suggested courses and/or desired areas of coverage, and also furnishes multiple and global perspectives. Exposure to at least two subfields of political science from among political theory, law, American politics, and international comparative politics is necessary. In determining particular emphases of their BA program in the political studies concentration, students will opt for one of two streams: Law, Policy, Society; and Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics. General requirements, along with specific areas of inquiry and their suggested aggregations are discussed below. Since the range of courses applicable to the core and elective areas of inquiry is wide and varied, the faculty contact shall advise on which courses fulfill the requirements of the various areas of inquiry.

Concentration Requirements

At least seven courses for a minimum of 24 credits are required; at least three of these courses must be at the 300-level. No more than four courses may be in one discipline.

The core areas of inquiry correspond to the disciplinary sub-divisions of political science. Students are advised that core courses be taken from among our politics offerings.

The elective areas of inquiry pertaining to the two streams delineated below constellate questions that have broad interdisciplinary reach, allowing courses from various disciplines and divisions to count toward the concentration conceived as a whole. Students are required to take courses to satisfy the listed categories and areas of study. As long as students cover the required area(s), they must not limit themselves to the examples of course listed below, or those solely in the politics curriculum. This necessitates that students and faculty collaborate substantially in determining programs of study.

Students contemplating this concentration are expected to take one or two foundational courses in politics and other disciplines within the social sciences in the first two years.

The overall program of study must feature at least one course in history, history of the discipline, or art history (200-level or above).

The program must feature at least one course in research methods or methodology, understood broadly.

Core Areas of Inquiry

One core course each must be taken in two of the following areas:

American Law and Government (e.g., Politics 226 American Idol: Experiments in American Political Thought; Politics 207 Comparative Politics: Focus on the U.S.)

Comparative and International Politics (e.g., Politics 206 Seminar in Comparative Politics; Politics 326 Politics by Other Means II: Citizens, Soldiers, Revolutionaries)

Political Theory (e.g., Politics 100 Introduction to Politics; Politics 225 Modern Political Ideologies)

As noted above, students will opt for one of the two elective streams, Law, Policy, Society and Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics. They will take four courses to fulfill the requirements of their stream. Students may, in consultation with faculty contact(s), elect to integrate the streams.

Law, Policy, Society

Law, Policy, Society raises questions about how various systems of power and control succeed or fail, the mechanisms through which they are manifested, and the standards by which they should be evaluated. It seeks to understand the relationship between the modern state and its institutions; political philosophies and theories of law and justice; and the social and political meaning of these abstractions as they function in particular regimes and communities. It also explores how, in a global world, social movements, economic development, and changing cultural values affect the theory and practice of law and politics. The stream thus engages various empirical, experiential, historical, and conceptual viewpoints, addressing the manifestations of politics in public life, governmental regimes, legal structures, policy reform, and local and global issues of geo-politics and economics. Students take a course each in two of these areas of inquiry:

Institutions and Institutional Change (e.g., Psychology 306 Conflict and Conflict Resolution; Geography 326 Modern China from the Margins: Class, Gender, Ethnicity and the Nation State)

Legal Studies (e.g., Politics 318 Critical Legal Studies; Philosophy 227 Biomedical Ethics)

Policy and Strategy (e.g., Politics 325 Politics by Other Means I: Social Movements and Political Action; Geography 226 Globalization and Community Ecology)

Please consult faculty contact while discerning which courses would apply to these areas.

In addition, two electives are required, from any discipline or division, focusing on geographic areas or specific historical and political events cognate with the student’s course of study.

Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics

Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics deals with the foundations of politics, the history of principles, concepts, and discourses, and the form and content of politics as a realm of human existence and judgment that relates to other realms of existence and judgment, such as ethics and aesthetics. In focusing on the conjunction of these realms as they create and sustain life-worlds, it spans issues of the production of knowledge, values, meaning, action, and human experience itself, thus centering practices and attitudes of ordinary life.Students take one course in each of these two areas of inquiry:

History of Ideas (e.g., Politics 328 The Democratic Imagination; Philosophy 231 Islamic Philosophy)

Perspectives on Political Culture, Experience, and Practice (e.g., Politics 215 Colonial Loves: Cultural Politics, Colonialism and After; Anthropology 317 Subjects and Objects: Experiences with Material Culture)

Please consult faculty contact while discerning which courses would fall within these areas. In addition, two electives are required, from outside of the social sciences, in the following areas: Literary studies; art history; environmental studies; theories and technologies of studio, performance, and media arts; and science and society studies.

Recent Senior Theses

“Labyrinths of the Object: The Strange Case of Nietzsche’s Wagner”
“Lands on the Edge of Land: Imagining Jewish Peoplehood and Attachment to Israel”
“The Legacy and Ideology of American Copyright Law”
“Implications of the Case of the Republic of Korea for Civil-Military Relations Theory”
“La Lucha Sigue: The Movement for a People’s Government in Oaxaca, Mexico”
“Enlightened Partitions: Political Liberalism and the Foreclosing of a United India”
“Woman’s Body, Modern War: Forming the Feminine in the Age of Industry”
“The Town Hall and Democracy: Explorations of American Fantasies, Dreams, and Emotions of a Political Space”
“Health Care Reform in the Welfare State: A Case Study of Contemporary American Liberalism in the Patient”
“Protection and Affordable Care Act”
“Un-Nailin’ Palin: The Making and Unmaking of a Woman in Politics”


Asma Abbas, Nancy Bonvillain, Brian Conolly, Barbara Resnik, Bernard Rodgers, Larry Wallach, Nancy Yanoshak
Faculty Contact: Asma Abbas