AMST 258
Transatlantic Political Theory Fall 2024
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

Political theory tends to look towards Europe for inspiration. This course suggests an alternative. It traces how theory crisscrosses the Atlantic Ocean to and from Europe, Africa, and the Americas. We will begin with Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1840 classic, Democracy in America, which is a snapshot of antebellum America from the perspective of a French aristocrat. Then we will flip things around and view Europe from America. During the Cold War, American political theorists, including European émigrés, were preoccupied by the threat of totalitarianism. We will read the definitive text on this subject, Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, paying special attention to the link she makes between totalitarianism and imperialism. In the final section of this course, we will read Richard Wright’s reports on Europe and Africa during the decolonization era, and conclude with a reading of Cedric Robinson’s classic, Black Marxism. Together, these texts emphasize the importance of an African perspective on modern politics. Assignments in this reading- and writing-intensive course consist of reading quizzes, term papers, and in-class debates.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 1965
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students should expect to read 50-60 pages per class on average. Graded assignments will include daily reading quizzes, three five-page term papers, three in-class debates, and one three-page book report.
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Enrollment preference will go first to AMST majors, then sophomores.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
WS Notes: Assignments include daily writing activities (short-answer reading quizzes), a 2-3-page book report, and three term papers. In preparation for writing each term paper, students will participate in an in-class debate about the prompt. These debates are an opportunity for students to test and refine their arguments before writing their papers.
DPE Notes: This class interrogates the implicit Eurocentrism of political theory by (1) arguing that the development of modern Europe cannot be understood without considering the role of imperialism and (2) showing that modern political and social theory needs to be informed by an African perspective as well.
Attributes: AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives

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