The zombies are coming! Climate change will destroy us! Bird-flu pandemic! To our horror and delight, reminders are everywhere that the end is near. Some of these projected apocalypses are alarmist, some fanciful…and others all too realistic. What shape will politics take after the apocalypse? What aspects of politics will endure the ravages of fire or pestilence? What new political realities might emerge on ground cleared by disaster? And what does it say about politics today that we are so eager to consume stories of states falling and bands of survivors scraping together a nasty, brutish and short existence? In this class, we reconsider what politics is and should be by contemplating accounts of its destruction and rebirth in television, film, literature, activism, social science, and critical theory. We will approach these sources as analogous to political theory’s classic thought experiment of the “state of nature” and social contract. We will explore family resemblances between apocalyptic narratives and key concepts in political theory: the state of exception, (post)millennialism, and anarchy. And we will consider what it suggests about our time that we are so eager to imagine ourselves at the beginning of the end.
The Class: Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: "Close reading" assignment of 3-5 pages, two 5- to 7-page papers, one short story (12-20 pages and including an explanatory cover letter), and class participation
Prerequisites: first- or second-year students, or permission of instructor
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PSCI Political Theory Courses