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POL S 334 A: Topics In American Politics

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:00pm - 2:20pm
* *
Becca Thorpe
Rebecca U. Thorpe
"Violence, Exploitation and Exclusion in U.S. Labor Markets"

Syllabus Description:

POL S 334A: Violence, Exploitation & Exclusion in U.S. Labor Markets

Professor Thorpe,

Office hours: Mon. 4-5:30pm & by appt:

Teaching Assistant: Grace Reinke,

Office Hours: Th. 3:30-5:30pm:


Course Description:  

This course examines recurring practices of violence, exploitation and exclusion in U.S. labor markets. The material unfolds in three parts: First, we examine foundational theories of economic and political power, including classical liberal, Marxist and feminist perspectives. Second, we apply and interrogate these theories in the context of racialized labor (spanning from slavery and convict leasing to mass incarceration and prison labor), gendered labor (including domestic/caring labor and sex work) and contingent labor (migrant and undocumented labor). Finally, we shift focus to the development and growth of underground economies, including the drug trade and sex industry. Students are encouraged to question the ways in which racial, ethnic, gendered and geographic hierarchies create and fortify categories of citizenship and belonging as well as subjectivities of contingency and vulnerability, and to conceptualize labor as a site of struggle, resistance and solidarity.


Primary Texts/Course Material 

*Agustin, Laura Marie. 2007. Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry. Zed Books. 

*Holmes, Seth M. 2013. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. University of California Press. 

*Márez, Curtis. 2004. Drug Wars: The Political Economy of Narcotics. University of Minnesota Press. 

*Pachirat, Timothy. 2013. Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight. Yale University Press. 

*Stuesse, Angela. 2016. Scratching Out a Living: Latinos, Race, and Work in the Deep South. University of California Press. 


*Texts are available for book purchase & for (free) download on Canvas

In addition, daily reading of The New York Times is strongly encouraged. See here for digital subscriptions at reduced college rates ($1/week).  


Course Requirements

The grading is based on three (3) short (500-650 word) reading response papers, participation in sections, and three exams. There is also an option for students to write a policy memo on a relevant labor issue and teach the class about your topic during week 10. If students choose to write the policy memo this will replace the lowest exam score. The decision to write the memo must be made by April 30, and this decision is final.  

See the full syllabus for additional details about course requirements & evaluation criteria. 

Course syllabus

Department Requirements: 
American Politics Field
Last updated: 
January 20, 2021 - 10:00am