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DVST 6901: Civil society and wellbeing

Unit info

Semester: Semester 1, 2022

Description: This class is a seminar on the topic of citizenship, and particularly the ways in which groups of people use politics to advance the goal of social change. It differs substantially from its description in the Handbook. It will not address questions of wellbeing, health, or happiness, and will not be limited to examining social movements or nongovernmental organizations. The question of citizenship and civil society has historically been debated in the context of political theories of democracy, that is, normative theories of what kind of politics should a society have in order to be just. Many of the liberal theories of democratic citizenship have become especially influential, especially among institutions engaged in development, empowerment, and social reform. Yet at the same time they seem to be rapidly losing credibility and legitimacy, and many argue that we now are moving into a postdemocratic era. Why did liberalism fail? Is it worth saving? Is there a better way for people to hold the state accountable? In this class we draw upon empirical research into how different groups of people around the world have entered into politics to critique and reexamine these dominant liberal conceptions of the citizen and democracy.

About this seminar

Last updated: January 28, 2022


Ryan Schram (ˈʃræm)
Social Sciences Building 410 (A02)
Pronouns: he/him/his/himself
Office hours: By appointment (set weekly times tba)


  • First essay: Human emancipation in “actually existing democracies” (due 2022-04-11, worth 30%, length 1500)
  • Second essay (due 2022-05-30, worth 30%, length 1500)
  • Weekly writing assignments (due weekly, worth 20%, length 200 ea.)
  • Seminar leadership roles (due weekly, worth 20%, length n/a)

Weekly plan

  • Week 1 (February 21, 2022): What is civil society?
  • Week 2 (February 28, 2022): What does emancipation mean?
    • Main reading: Marx (1843)
  • Week 3 (March 07, 2022): The cultural roots of Western liberal politics
    • Main reading: Habermas ([1962] 1992); Fraser (1992); Ryan (1992)
    • Other reading: Peiss (1991); Warner (2002)
  • Week 4 (March 14, 2022): Are publics open?
    • Main reading: Yeh (2012)
  • Week 5 (March 21, 2022): The dialectic of civility and community
    • Main reading: Elyachar (2010)
  • Week 6 (March 28, 2022): Colonial subjects and national citizens
    • Main reading: Ekeh (1975); Mamdani (2001)
    • Other reading: Cohn (1987)
  • Week 7 (April 04, 2022): The others of citizenship
    • Main reading: Chatterjee (1998); Chatterjee (2004)
    • Other reading: Chatterjee (2012); Chatterjee (2011)
  • Week 8 (April 11, 2022): Alternative citizenship
    • Main reading: Bonilla and Rosa (2015); Leonardo (2012)
  • Week B (April 18, 2022): Mandatory school closure in recognition of Judeo-Christian festivals
  • Week 9 (April 25, 2022): Alternatives to citizenship
    • Main reading: Blackburn (2009); Cattelino (2010)
    • Other reading: Cattelino (2009); Kymlicka (1996)
  • Week 10 (May 02, 2022): Collective autonomy in a multicultural state
    • Main reading: Asher (2017); Asher (2020)
    • Other reading: Asher and Wainwright (2019)
  • Week 11 (May 09, 2022): Multicultural citizens in a US colonial territory
    • Main reading: Jung (2003)
  • Week 12 (May 16, 2022): Civil and uncivil societies
    • Main reading: Johnson (2005); Wallis (2019)
  • Week 13 (May 23, 2022): Is liberalism a good thing?
    • Main reading: Anker (2020); Brown (2018)
  • Week 14 (May 30, 2022): Reading week
  • Week 15 (June 06, 2022): Final exams period

References and further reading

Anker, Elisabeth R. 2020. “‘White and Deadly’: Sugar, Slavery, and The Sweet Taste of Freedom.” Theory & Event 23 (1): 169–206. http://muse.jhu.edu/article/747100.

Asher, Kiran. 2017. “From Afro-Colombians to Afro-Descendants: The Trajectory of Black Social Movements in Colombia, 1990–2010.” In Beyond Civil Society: Activism, Participation, and Protest in Latin America, 199–218. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9780822373353-013.

———. 2020. “Fragmented Forests, Fractured Lives: Ethno-Territorial Struggles and Development in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia.” Antipode 52 (4): 949–70. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12470.

Asher, Kiran, and Joel Wainwright. 2019. “After Post-Development: On Capitalism, Difference, and Representation.” Antipode 51 (1): 25–44. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12430.

Blackburn, Carole. 2009. “Differentiating Indigenous Citizenship: Seeking Multiplicity in Rights, Identity, and Sovereignty in Canada.” American Ethnologist 36 (1): 66–78. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2008.01103.x.

Bonilla, Yarimar, and Jonathan Rosa. 2015. “#Ferguson: Digital Protest, Hashtag Ethnography, and the Racial Politics of Social Media in the United States.” American Ethnologist 42 (1): 4–17. https://doi.org/10.1111/amet.12112.

Brown, Wendy. 2018. “Neoliberalism’s Frankenstein: Authoritarian Freedom in Twenty-First Century ‘Democracies’.” Critical Times 1 (1): 60–79. https://doi.org/10.1215/26410478-1.1.60.

Cattelino, Jessica R. 2009. “Fungibility: Florida Seminole Casino Dividends and the Fiscal Politics of Indigeneity.” American Anthropologist 111 (2): 190–200. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1433.2009.01112.x.

———. 2010. “The Double Bind of American Indian Need-Based Sovereignty.” Cultural Anthropology 25 (2): 235–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1360.2010.01058.x.

Chatterjee, Partha. 1998. “Community in the East.” Economic and Political Weekly 33 (6): 277–82. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4406377.

———. 2004. “Populations and Political Society.” In The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World, 27–51. New York: Columbia University Press.

———. 2011. “Lineages of Political Society.” In Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Postcolonial Democracy, 1–26. Columbia University Press.

———. 2012. “The Debate over Political Society.” In Re-Framing Democracy and Agency in India, edited by Ajay Gudavarthy, 305–22. London: Anthem Press. https://doi.org/10.7135/UPO9780857289469.015.

Cohn, Bernard S. 1987. “The census, social structure, and objectification in South Asia.” In An anthropologist among the historians and other essays, 224–54. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Ekeh, Peter P. 1975. “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 17 (1): 91–112. https://www.jstor.org/stable/178372.

Elyachar, Julia. 2010. “Phatic Labor, Infrastructure, and the Question of Empowerment in Cairo.” American Ethnologist 37 (3): 452–64. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2010.01265.x.

Fraser, Nancy. 1992. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” In Habermas and the Public Sphere, edited by Craig Calhoun, 109–42. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. (1962) 1992. “The Public Sphere in the World of Letters in Relation to the Public Sphere in the Political Realm.” In The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society, edited by Thomas McCarthy, translated by Thomas Burger, 51–57. London: Polity Press.

Johnson, Hume N. 2005. “Incivility: The Politics of ‘People on the Margins’ in Jamaica.” Political Studies 53 (3): 579–97. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2005.00545.x.

Jung, Moon-Kie. 2003. “Interracialism: The Ideological Transformation of Hawaii’s Working Class.” American Sociological Review 68 (3): 373. https://doi.org/10.2307/1519729.

Kymlicka, Will. 1996. “Three Forms of Group-Differentiated Citizenship in Canada.” In Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political, edited by Seyla Benhabib, 153–70. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Leonardo, Micaela Di. 2012. “Grown Folks Radio: U.S. Election Politics and a ‘Hidden’ Black Counterpublic.” American Ethnologist 39 (4): 661–72. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01386.x.

Mamdani, Mahmood. 2001. “Beyond Settler and Native as Political Identities: Overcoming the Political Legacy of Colonialism.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 43 (04): 651–64.

Marx, Karl. 1843. “On The Jewish Question.” Marxists Internet Archive. 1843. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/jewish-question/.

Peiss, Kathy. 1991. “Going Public: Women in Nineteenth-Century Cultural History.” American Literary History 3 (4): 817–28. https://www.jstor.org/stable/489891.

Ryan, Mary. 1992. “Gender and Public Access: Women’s Politics in Nineteenth-Century America.” In Habermas and the Public Sphere, edited by Craig J. Calhoun, 259–88. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Wallis, Joanne. 2019. “The Role of ‘Uncivil’ Society in Transitional Justice: Evidence from Bougainville and Timor-Leste.” Global Change, Peace & Security 31 (2): 159–79. https://doi.org/10.1080/14781158.2019.1585795.

Warner, Michael. 2002. “Publics and Counterpublics.” Public Culture 14 (1): 49–90.

Yeh, Rihan. 2012. “Two Publics in a Mexican Border City.” Cultural Anthropology 27 (4): 713–34. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23360323.

6901/2022/start.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/07 19:18 by Ryan Schram (admin)