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POL S 555 A: American Politics Topics

Meeting Time: 
Th 1:30pm - 4:20pm
SMI 109
Joint Sections: 
POL S 405 A
Becca Thorpe
Rebecca U. Thorpe

Syllabus Description:

This course examines the bounds of citizenship and methods of exclusion in the US as well as other comparative contexts. Our primary focus is on the legal, political and coercive mechanisms employed to expand and restrict rights of citizenship, both historically and in contemporary political life. While we will investigate various mechanisms of incorporating and excluding politically marginalized groups, the readings will emphasize the use of racial, gendered and state violence, including lynching, incarceration, sexual subordination, militarization and aggressive immigration control. Our goal is to identify the ways in which laws interact with private and state violence to maintain the political and economic order, preserve patriarchal values and uphold racial hierarchies. As an overarching question, we will consider when political violence is a means to exploit cheap, surplus labor, acquire new territory or preserve the status of the male breadwinner, and when political violence becomes a process of extermination.


Course Materials

Hannah Arendt. 1951. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Houghton Mifflin.

*Margot Canaday. 2011. The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth Century America. Princeton University Press.

*Colin Gordon. 2019. Citizen Brown: Race, Democracy & Inequality in the St. Louis Suburbs. University of Chicago Press.

Elizabeth Hinton. 2021. America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s. W.W. Norton.

*Ashraf Rushdy. 2012. American Lynching. Yale University Press.

*Austin Sarat. 2002. When the State Kills. Princeton University Press.

Robert Self. 2013. All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s. MacMillon.



*Wendy Brown. 2019. In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Anti-Democratic Politics in the West. Columbia University Press.

*Judith Butler. 2020. The Force of Nonviolence: An Ethico-Political Bind. Verso.

*Michael McCann and George Lovell. 2020. Union by Law: Filipino American Labor Activism, Rights Radicalism & Racial Capitalism. University of Chicago Press.

*Mae Ngai. 2004. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton University Press.

*Stuart Schrader. 2019. Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Politics. University of California Press.


*Ebook available at UW libraries


Course syllabus

Catalog Description: 
Examination of current topics in the theory and practice of American politics. Content varies according to recent developments in the field and research interests of the instructor.
Last updated: 
June 2, 2021 - 7:12am