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DVST 6901: Civil society and wellbeing

Semester 1, 2024

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 directly 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.

Welcome to the seminar

Coordinator: Ryan Schram

Last updated: January 17, 2024


  • First essay: Human emancipation in “actually existing democracies” (due Apr. 13 at 11:59 p.m., worth 30%, length 1500)
  • Second essay (due May 25 at 11:59 p.m., worth 40%, length 2000)
  • Weekly writing assignments (due weekly, worth 20%, length 150 ea.)
  • Contributions to an online knowledge base (due weekly, worth 10%, length 700)

Weekly plan of topics and readings

Week Date Topic Main reading Other reading
1 February 21 What comes after liberation? Tuck and Yang (2012) Curley et al. (2022); Garba and Sorentino (2020)
2 February 28 What does emancipation mean? Marx ([1843] 1978)
3 March 06 The cultural roots of Western liberal politics Habermas ([1962] 1992); Fraser (1992); Ryan (1992) Peiss (1991); Warner (2002)
4 March 13 Subaltern counterpublics Yeh (2012); Leonardo (2012) Bonilla and Rosa (2015)
5 March 20 Counterpublic discourse and political knowledge See this page or the Canvas wiki agenda page
6 March 27 Colonial subjects and national citizens Ekeh (1975); Mamdani (2001) Cohn (1987)
B April 03 Mandatory school closure in recognition of Judeo-Christian festivals
7 April 10 The others of citizenship Chatterjee (1998); Chatterjee (2004) Chatterjee (2012); Chatterjee (2011)
8 April 17 Getting connected Rooney (2021); Speer (2016) Lemanski (2020); Vidmar et al. (2023)
9 April 24 Getting settled Cattelino (2006); Speer (2017) Goldberg-Hiller (2019)
10 May 01 About them, but not without them Francis et al. (2023); Salinger et al. (2024)
11 May 08 Due for repair Luke and Heynen (2020); Scott (2021) Beyers (2013); Draus et al. (2019); Gilbert and Williams (2020); Small and Minner (2024)
12 May 15 New kinds of sovereignty, alternatives to citizenship Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua and Kuwada (2018); Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua (2017) Davis (2021)
13 May 22 Making a home at the end of the world: Futures for progress Honig (2013); Honig (2015)
14 May 29 Reading week
15 June 05 Final exams period


Beyers, Christiaan. 2013. “Urban Land Restitution and the Struggle for Social Citizenship in South Africa.” Development and Change 44 (4): 965–89. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12041.

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.

Cattelino, Jessica. 2006. “Florida Seminole Housing and the Social Meanings of Sovereignty.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 48 (3): 699–726. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0010417506000272.

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.

Curley, Andrew, Pallavi Gupta, Lara Lookabaugh, Christopher Neubert, and Sara Smith. 2022. “Decolonisation Is a Political Project: Overcoming Impasses Between Indigenous Sovereignty and Abolition.” Antipode 54 (4): 1043–62. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12830.

Davis, Sasha. 2021. “Beyond Obstruction: Blockades as Productive Reorientations.” Antipode 55 (5): 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12722.

Draus, Paul, Dagmar Haase, Jacob Napieralski, Juliette Roddy, and Salman Qureshi. 2019. “Wounds, Ghosts and Gardens: Historical Trauma and Green Reparations in Berlin and Detroit.” Cities 93 (October): 153–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2019.05.002.

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.

Francis, Naomi, Becky Batagol, Allison P. Salinger, Litea Meo-Sewabu, Audra C. Bass, Sudirman Nasir, Daša Moschonas, et al. 2023. “Key Mechanisms of a Gender and Socially Inclusive Community Engagement and Participatory Design Approach in the RISE Program in Makassar, Indonesia and Suva, Fiji.” PLOS Water 2 (11): e0000186. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pwat.0000186.

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.

Garba, Tapji, and Sara-Maria Sorentino. 2020. “Slavery Is a Metaphor: A Critical Commentary on Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang’s ‘Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor’.” Antipode 52 (3): 764–82. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12615.

Gilbert, Jessica L., and Rebekah A. Williams. 2020. “Pathways to Reparations: Land and Healing Through Food Justice.” Human Geography 13 (3): 228–41. https://doi.org/10.1177/1942778620951936.

Goldberg-Hiller, Jonathan. 2019. “Is There a Right to Sleep?” Theory & Event 22 (4): 951–83. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/736569.

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.

Honig, Bonnie. 2013. “The Politics of Public Things: Neoliberalism and the Routine of Privatization.” No Foundations 10: 59–76. http://nofoundations.com/issues/NoFo10HONIG.pdf.

———. 2015. “Public Things: Jonathan Lear’s Radical Hope, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, and the Democratic Need.” Political Research Quarterly 68 (3): 623–36. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912915594464.

Lemanski, Charlotte. 2020. “Infrastructural Citizenship: The Everyday Citizenships of Adapting and/or Destroying Public Infrastructure in Cape Town, South Africa.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 45 (3): 589–605. https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12370.

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.

Luke, Nikki, and Nik Heynen. 2020. “Community Solar as Energy Reparations: Abolishing Petro-Racial Capitalism in New Orleans.” American Quarterly 72 (3): 603–25. https://muse.jhu.edu/pub/1/article/765825.

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.

Rooney, Michelle Nayahamui. 2021. “‘We Want Development’: Land and Water (Dis)connections in Port Moresby, Urban Papua New Guinea.” The Contemporary Pacific 33 (1): 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1353/cp.2021.0001.

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.

Salinger, Allison P., Isabel Charles, Naomi Francis, Becky Batagol, Litea Meo-Sewabu, Sudirman Nasir, Audra Bass, et al. 2024. “‘People Are Now Working Together for a Common Good’: The Effect on Social Capital of Participatory Design for Community-Level Sanitation Infrastructure in Urban Informal Settlements.” World Development 174 (February): 106449. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2023.106449.

Scott, Sydni. 2021. “Community Land Trusts: A Case for an Expansive View of Reparations for Black Americans.” N.Y.U. American Public Policy Review, June. https://doi.org/10.21428/4b58ebd1.0a4497f5.

Small, Zachary, and Jennifer S. Minner. 2024. “Do Land Banks Mean Progress Toward Socially Equitable Urban Development? Observations from New York State.” Urban Affairs Review 60 (1): 272–303. https://doi.org/10.1177/10780874231169923.

Speer, Jessie. 2016. “The Right to Infrastructure: A Struggle for Sanitation in Fresno, California Homeless Encampments.” Urban Geography 37 (7): 1049–69. https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2016.1142150.

———. 2017. “‘It’s Not Like Your Home’: Homeless Encampments, Housing Projects, and the Struggle over Domestic Space.” Antipode 49 (2): 517–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12275.

Tuck, Eve, and K Wayne Yang. 2012. “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor.” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1 (1): 1–40. https://clas.osu.edu/sites/clas.osu.edu/files/Tuck%20and%20Yang%202012%20Decolonization%20is%20not%20a%20metaphor.pdf.

Vidmar, Abby M., E. Christian Wells, Madeleine Zheng, Nora Awad, Sarah Combs, and Diana Diaz. 2023. “‘That’s What We Call “Aesthetics,” Not a Public Health Issue’: The Social Construction of Tap Water Mistrust in an Underbounded Community.” Human Organization 82 (4): 342–53. https://doi.org/10.17730/1938-3525-82.4.342.

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.

6901/2024/start.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/01 01:16 by Ryan Schram (admin)