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DVST 6901: Civil society and wellbeing

Semester 1, 2023

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.

Coordinator: Ryan Schram

Last updated: February 21, 2023


  • First essay: Human emancipation in “actually existing democracies” (due Apr. 16 at 11:59 p.m., worth 30%, length 1500)
  • Second essay (due May. 26 at 11:59 p.m., worth 30%, length 1500)
  • Weekly writing assignments (due weekly before class, worth 20%, length 200 ea.)
  • Seminar leadership roles (due weekly as assigned, worth 20%, length n/a)

Weekly plan of topics and readings

Week Date Topic Main reading Other reading
1 February 22 What makes this democracy? Wolin (2016)
2 March 01 What does emancipation mean? Marx ([1843] 1978)
3 March 08 The cultural roots of Western liberal politics Habermas ([1962] 1992); Fraser (1992); Ryan (1992) Peiss (1991); Warner (2002)
4 March 15 Subaltern counterpublics Yeh (2012); Leonardo (2012) Bonilla and Rosa (2015)
5 March 22 The dialectic of civility and community Elyachar (2010)
6 March 29 Colonial subjects and national citizens Ekeh (1975); Mamdani (2001) Cohn (1987)
7 April 05 The others of citizenship Chatterjee (1998); Chatterjee (2004) Chatterjee (2012); Chatterjee (2011)
B April 12 Mandatory school closure in recognition of Judeo-Christian festivals
8 April 19 The limits of liberation Cohen (1997); Spence (2019)
9 April 26 The paradox of representation in an unequal society Forrest (2013); Forrest (2019)
10 May 03 Abolition deferred Shange (2019)
11 May 10 Collective autonomy in a multicultural state Asher (2017); Asher (2020) Asher and Wainwright (2019)
12 May 17 New kinds of sovereignty, alternatives to citizenship Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua and Kuwada (2018); Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua (2017) Davis (2021)
13 May 24 Is liberalism worth saving? Brown (2019)
14 May 31 Reading week
15 June 07 Final exams period


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.

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. 2019. In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West. New York: Columbia University Press. https://doi.org/10.7312/brow19384.

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.

Cohen, Cathy J. 1997. “Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies 3 (4): 437. https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-3-4-437.

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.

Davis, Sasha. 2021. “Beyond Obstruction: Blockades as Productive Reorientations.” Antipode, March, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12722.

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.

Forrest, M. David. 2013. “Consensus and Crisis: Representing the Poor in the Post-Civil Rights Era.” New Political Science 35 (1): 19–43. https://doi.org/10.1080/07393148.2012.754667.

———. 2019. “Legitimacy Without Mobilization? How Social Justice Organizations Defend Their Democratic Credentials.” Qualitative Sociology 42 (1): 71–92. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-018-9405-z.

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.

Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, Noelani. 2017. “Protectors of the Future, Not Protestors of the Past: Indigenous Pacific Activism and Mauna a Wākea.” South Atlantic Quarterly 116 (1): 184–94. https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-3749603.

Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, Noelani, and Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada. 2018. “Making ’Aha: Independent Hawaiian Pasts, Presents & Futures.” Daedalus 147 (2): 49–59. https://doi.org/10.1162/DAED_a_00489.

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.

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) 1978. “On the Jewish question.” In The Marx-Engels reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 26–52. New York: Norton. http://archive.org/details/marxengelsreader00tuck.

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.

Shange, Savannah. 2019. Progressive dystopia: abolition, anthropology, and race in the new San Francisco. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9781478007401.

Spence, Lester K. 2019. “Live and Let Die: Rethinking Secondary Marginalization in the 21st Century.” Souls 21 (2-3): 192–206. https://doi.org/10.1080/10999949.2019.1697152.

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

Wolin, Sheldon S. 2016. “Fugitive Democracy.” In Fugitive Democracy: And Other Essays, 100–114. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1q1xt0b.9.

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

6901/2023/start.txt · Last modified: 2023/02/20 16:53 by Ryan Schram (admin)