PSCI 440
Senior Seminar: Power, Identity, and Culture Fall 2018
Division II Writing Skills
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Class Details

This is a course about remembering. This is a class about how we learn to forget. Above all, it is about power–power close to the bone, power made sublime, how power is made and unmade. This course takes as its central thesis the claim that power, external and objective, is also internal and subjective, invisibly working to shape understandings of who we are even as it performs the visible rituals of bureaucratic regulation typically associated with states and governments. To take this claim one step further, we’ll hypothesize that immaterial and invisible forms of domination are power’s most effective form even as they are the most difficult to measure and understand. Alternating between case and theory, looking at power both naked and sublime, we will examine the struggle by state and elite actors to shape subjectivities through culture and identity formation in order to secure quiescence and rule. Close attention will be paid to how socializing agents, including schools and educational systems, media and film, families and local communities, shape and reshape efforts to have ordinary citizens internalize what Stuart Hall describes as “the horizon of the taken-for-granted,” those ruling ideas and beliefs that consist “of things that go without saying because— they come without saying.” The course is set up as a deliberate conversation between the works of Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Stuart Hall, as well as their interlocutors and critics, most notably James C. Scott. The trajectory of this literature carries us from domination “thinly” centered in class and mediated by culture, to power completely de-centered from material forms of rule. Though each author is distinct, if heterodox, in his approach to the question of power, Gramsci, Foucault, Nietzsche, and Hall are bound together by the shared belief that power is relationship, between class and culture, culture and identity, state and society.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 1925
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: essays and participation
Prerequisites: PSCI 204 Introduction to Comparative Politics
Enrollment Preferences: upper-class students, especially seniors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Notes: WI: All students will be required to produce an original 20-page article, worthy of publication, by the end of the term. Session leaders are expected to distribute a single 4-page paper to the class by 8 pm on Wednesday. Their classmates will produce a 2-page written response to the week's presentations, readings, as well as class discussion, due on Friday

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