Politics

Chair: Jack Jackson

Susanne Beechey

Shampa Biswas (on sabbatical, 2024-2025)

Denise Fernandes

Robert Flahive

Andrea Sempértegui (on sabbatical, Fall 2024)

Aaron Strain (on sabbatical, 2024-2025)

Stan Thayne

Ian Walling

 

About the Department

The departmental aim is to cultivate in students a critical ability to interpret political questions from a variety of perspectives. A student who enters Whitman without any prior college-level preparation in politics will have to complete 36 credits to fulfill the requirements for the Politics major.

The Politics department also participates in various interdepartmental major study programs. For additional information, consult the department’s home page at www.whitman.edu/academics/majors-and-programs/politics.

The Politics department encourages language study as part of a robust liberal arts education.

Learning Goals

Upon graduation, a student will be able to:

  • Major-Specific Areas of Knowledge
    • Demonstrate knowledge of the interconnections of political institutions, movements, concepts, and events from multiple intersecting vantage points.
  • Critical Thinking
    • Identify contested assumptions, ideas, and intellectual debates in politics scholarship. Pose critical questions about power relations as key political questions in a globalizing world are investigated.
  • Research Experience
    • Conduct a focused academic inquiry that demonstrates a critical awareness of competing arguments in response to a key question; formulate a systematic path of analysis; generate creative findings based on original research.

Distribution

For students who started at Whitman College prior to Fall 2024, courses in Politics count toward the social sciences distribution area; selected courses count toward either social sciences or cultural pluralism.

For students who start at Whitman College in Fall 2024 or later, please refer to the General Studies section for a full list of courses that count toward each distribution area.

Programs of Study

Courses

Credits 4

An introductory course designed to familiarize students with basic concepts and problems in the study of politics. When offered, courses will focus on a different topic or area and will generally include lectures and discussion. The class is specifically aimed at first and second year students. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces students to the various institutions, actors, and ideologies of contemporary U.S. politics and policymaking. We will make visible the multiple sites of policy formation in the United States as we move away from speaking of “the government” in the singular. Through a series of contemporary policy case studies, we will explore the many openings to influence policymaking and discover the myriad ways that good ideas can die. Throughout the course we will view U.S. politics and policymaking with a critical eye toward the impacts of gender, race, class, sexuality, and other systems of power and difference.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

The movement of people across national borders has emerged as a central nexus of politics around the world—from the rise of anti-immigrant populist movements in Europe and the United States, to the global spread of hyper-militarized border enforcement regimes; from fierce debates about race, religion, and nationalism in receiving countries, to the ways out-migration transforms the economies and societies of sending countries. This course combines a global overview of migration politics with a focused introduction to the U.S. immigration system. Topics addressed include: colonialism, imperialism, and the historical roots of contemporary migrations; the political economy of migration on a local and global scale; race, nationalism, and nativism; the rise of militarized border enforcement; immigrant rights and anti-immigrant social movements; climate change and migration; and the history and workings of U.S. immigration law and policy.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces students to a variety of scholarly works and arguments about the meaning and nature of African politics. We will not simply learn about how African politics and society are shaped by historical, economic, and legal conditions, but also how to critically evaluate a range of academic theories designed to explain political conditions in contemporary African politics. For these primary reasons, we will look at a variety of political challenges facing African state and how resolutions to these challenges may require a shift in the ways we evaluate the success of politics in general. Additionally, we will dedicate part of the course to looking closely at the nature of political authority, factors that shape political identities, transitions to democracy, various political ideologies, and pressing issues regarding economic development and poverty.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course will provide a broad introductory survey of the emergence and development of the U.S. Constitutional tradition. We will situate that development within a set of enduring power struggles and constitutive political facts: the radical impulses of democracy, the collective yet fragmented nature of sovereignty in constitutional structure and theory, the individualistic logic of “rights,” the racialized order of U.S. law and society, the politics of property and distribution, the culture of fear and empire, and the ideology of “progress.” Readings will include texts by Alexis de Tocqueville, Hannah Arendt, Charles Beard, James Madison, The Anti-Federalists, and Thomas Paine. We will devote time to very close readings of primary texts, including: the Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution (as originally ratified + the Bill of Rights and subsequent Amendments), and decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. By the end of the course, we will have to consider whether the U.S. has had one constitution or several constitutions sequentially (early republic, post-Civil War, post-New Deal, post-Brown) or many constitutions competing all at once, a jurisprudential schizophrenia that perhaps continues to this day.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course uses food as a window through which to examine the study of politics and its connections to our everyday lives. Topics range from the geopolitics of food aid and trade to the gendered politics of export agriculture in the Third World, from the political ecology of obesity in the United States to the causes of famine in Africa. The course is designed to get students out of the classroom and into the larger community. To this end, along with standard seminar readings, discussions, and occasional lectures, the course includes short field trips and small group projects in which students trace connections between food on campus and larger global processes.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

“Mexican food” is a contested, global category cross-cut with Indigenous, Spanish, African, Middle Eastern, French, German, Filipino, and other influences. It is deeply intertwined with histories of nationalism, transnationalism, revolution, Indigeneity, environmental transformation, internal and external migrations, rural-urban transitions, international politics, identity, culture, and industrialization. In this class, students will explore Mexican food as an entry point to engage with these and other historical and political questions, always in relation to food's central role in constructing and reinforcing categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality. We will examine Mexican food at the level of consumption, production, ecology, and representation in Mexico and beyond. This class combines rigorous analysis of academic texts along with community-based learning. In the community-learning portion of the class, cooking, eating, and discussing Mexican food will deepen and expand students' understanding of the history, politics, and significance of Mexican food, while nurturing relationships between Whitman and Mexican-American communities in Walla Walla. May be elected as History 120.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Studying the Past (STP)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

This course introduces students to the history of European political theory through an investigation of classical Greek and premodern Christian writings. Texts to be explored may include Aeschylus’s Oresteia, Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War, Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, St. Augustine’s City of God, and St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica. May be elected as Classics 221.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces students to the history of European political theory from the 16th through the 19th centuries, focusing particularly on the origins and development of liberalism. Themes covered in this class may include: How did political theorists make sense of the developing nation state? How have modern political theorists conceived of the concepts of “justice,” “freedom,” and “equality”? What role did the growing dominance of capitalism play in altering political conceptions of the individual? How have Marxist and anarchist thinkers critiqued the language of liberalism? Authors to be considered may include Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Tocqueville, and Marx. Politics 121 is not a prerequisite for Politics 122.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

An introduction to key concepts in the study of politics using environmental issues as illustrations. Designed for first- and second-year students, this course encourages critical thinking and writing about such political concepts as equality, justice, freedom, liberalism, power, dissent, individualism, and community. Strong emphasis is placed on developing critical writing skills and persuasive oral arguments. A field trip may be required. Three periods a week.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces Indigeneity as a historical, political and relational formation. By historically grounding the term in the colonial imposition of the category of “indian” in the fifteenth century, we will explore Indigeneity’s multiple genealogies and mutations across the Americas. While contemporary Indigenous movements and organizations have critically adopted and adapted Indigeneity as a political category to advance collective projects of territorial sovereignty and self-determination, the course will familiarize students with the intricate relation between indigeneity, race and ethnicity. For this, it will be organized into thematic sections that conceptualize indigeneity alongside race and ethnicity, while also challenging Indigeneity as a state imposed “racial identity” (North America) or “ethnic identity” (Latin America). On the contrary, even though Indigeneity has been structurally formed in relation to race and culture, its contemporary deployment and development by Indigenous scholars and activists point to the political nature of this concept.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course is designed as an introduction to the study of contemporary international politics. The course will explore contending approaches to the study of international politics, including political realism, political idealism and liberalism, feminism, political economy, and constructivism. We will discuss how these different approaches can help us understand major current issues, including war and peace, weapons proliferation, the environment, globalization, and human rights.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Textual Analysis (TA)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 1 Max Credits 4

An introductory course designed to familiarize students with basic concepts and problems in the study of politics. When offered, courses will focus on a different topic or area, and will generally include lectures and discussion. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course surveys the various significations of Islam in contemporary politics, with an emphasis on references to Muslims from the Middle East. We will consider how authors have advanced diverse, and often conflicting, understandings of Islam in response to concrete political problems in the 20th century—and what it means for us, in a post-9/11 world, to study what they said. The course is divided in two parts: ‘Beginnings as Dissidence’ and ‘Political Order Today.’ In the first part (‘Beginnings as Dissidence’), we consider instantiations of political thought that draw on origin stories to resist existing power structures. Our survey will include articulations of Islam in relation to republicanism, Marxism, black internationalism, and the anti-colonial tradition. In the second part (‘Political Order Today’), we consider instantiations of political thought that reference Islam to establish, justify, and/or reform existing power structures (e.g. the modern state). Our survey will include articulations of Islam in relation to liberal democracy, constitutionalism, neo-liberalism, and themes pertaining to the status of minority populations in plural societies (e.g. gender equality and free speech). May taken for credit toward the Middle East/Islamic World area requirement for the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course asks the deceptively simple question: what is political freedom? Is freedom necessarily tied to the idea of “the political”? Or is freedom best understood as being primarily challenged by the formation of the political and the decisions rendered there? Is political freedom concerned primarily with the individual? Or with the polity as a whole? Or with political collectives that cross familiar political boundaries and borders? Who is capable of political freedom? The many? The few? Do we all desire political freedom or is it a burden most would prefer not to carry? Is political freedom a gift or a right? What obstacles to realizing political freedom exist in the present? What powers and practices enable it? What powers and practices enfeeble it? We will explore these questions via an engagement with the thinking of Hannah Arendt, Aristotle, Isaiah Berlin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Milton Friedman, Emma Goldman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Catharine MacKinnon, Karl Marx, J.S. Mill, Plato, J.J. Rousseau, and Alexis de Tocqueville.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

The First Amendment is central to the functioning of U.S. democracy. Moreover, some scholars contend that the First Amendment is at the very heart of the “meaning of America.” In this class, we will focus on the clauses regarding speech, assembly, and the press while concentrating on the intertwined issues of freedom, democracy, and power. Some specific questions to be addressed include: what is the relationship between the First Amendment and the politics of public space; concentrated media power; new political economies of knowledge; the suppression and protection of dissent; and socio-political inequalities (e.g., group libel and hate speech)? We will also interrogate the alleged distinction between speech/act and, more broadly, between reason-persuasion/violence-force. In this course we will study the development of legal doctrine and spend a fair amount of time reading case law.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of “political ecology,” a framework for thinking about environmental politics that combines insights from geography, anthropology, history, political economy, and ecology. Through the lens of case studies from around the world, the course critically examines the origins and key contributions of political ecology, with a focus on three themes:

1) Nature-society relations, or the challenges of weaving history, economy, and power into the study of the environment (and vice versa);

2) The politics of resource access and control in diverse settings from Amazonian forests to biotech laboratories;

3) The (dis)connections between environmental movements and social justice struggles.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces students to some of the major scholarly works and central debates about globalization. The course will critically examine some of the competing perspectives on the historical origins of globalization, the shape and intensity of its many dynamics (economic, political and cultural), its inevitability and desirability, and its impacts on different communities around the world. Some of the central themes covered will include the future of the nation-state, the salience of various transnational actors, changing patterns of capital and labor mobility, rising levels of environmental degradation and new kinds of cultural configurations.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

Mexico and the United States have been inextricably connected for as long as both countries have existed. Currently, Mexico is the United States’ third largest trade partner.  More than 10 percent of the U.S. population is of Mexican descent, and every year millions of U.S. residents visit Mexico as tourists.  And yet—fed on a diet of political polemics, racialized representations, and sensationalist media--most people in the U.S. have little understanding of their southern neighbor. This course surveys the history, political economy, and cultural politics of Mexico.  It begins with a short introduction to Mexican history and a critical exploration of representations of Mexico in U.S. popular culture going back to the 19th century. It then focuses in on several key contemporary themes including:  poverty, development, and economic restructuring; the War on Drugs; social movements and struggles for justice; migration and transnational Mexico; conflicts over land and resources; debates about race, gender, and sexuality within Mexico; and the unique dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico border region. Course materials span a wide range, from the work of Mexican political theorists, historians, anthropologists, and economists to novels, films, and social media. May be taken for credit toward the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor. 

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course offers a survey of contemporary political debates around reproductive policies. We will engage debates between reproductive rights and reproductive justice frameworks, read legislation and court cases pertaining to contraception and abortion, analyze sex education initiatives, and consider emerging policies around reproductive technologies and surrogacy. We will interrogate the surveillance of pregnant bodies, forced sterilization, eugenics, maternal mortality rates, and policies to promote particular birthing practices. The course will center on debates and policies within the United States and draw upon international comparison cases. Gender, race, sexuality, class, and disability will be central categories of analysis in the course. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor. 

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Writing Across Contexts (WAC)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course offers an introductory survey of the ways in which gender and race have been constructed in and through law and policy in the United States. We will uncover the legacy of racism and sexism in U.S. law and policy, and explore the potential as well as the limitations of using law and policy as tools for social and political change. Readings will draw from feminist and critical race theories to critically examine historic and contemporary debates in law and policy surrounding issues such as: employment, education, families, and violence.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: The Individual and Society (TIS)
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Power and Equity (PEQ)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course examines and connects key insights from the fields of feminism, environmental  studies, and critical race studies. While environmental studies explore relationships between living  beings and their environment, feminist and critical race theories focus on hierarchical relationships  and power structures that benefit some people but oppress others. By reading texts that link environmentalism to feminism and anti-racism, the course navigates difficult questions of power,  knowledge, and nature. As a class, we will explore key topics in environmental activism (such as  extractivism, oil spills, pollution, etc.) in relation to race, class, gender and sexuality. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor or the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering Fall 2024 or later: Global Cultures and Languages (GCL)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Cross-Listed

Whitman College was originally founded as a seminary named after two missionaries who were sent to this region to convert the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla peoples to Christianity. Though the college now has no official ties to Christianity, we continue to bear the names of the Whitmans, house artifacts collected by our missionary founders, repent of our mascots, mark and wash our monuments, and have a mission statement outlining our goals and aspirations. Is Whitman haunted? Are all secularisms haunted? In this class we will consider the present politics of Whitman College in light of our archives, collections, and relationships, as well as broader scholarship on religion and secularism. May be elected as Religion 260.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Humanities (HU DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course introduces the student to basic problems in natural resource policymaking in the American West. We will focus on the legal, administrative, and political dimensions of various natural resource management problems, including forests, public rangelands, national parks, biodiversity, energy, water, and recreation. We also will explore the role of environmental ideas and nongovernmental organizations, and we will review a variety of conservation strategies, including land trusts, various incentive-based approaches, and collaborative conservation. A field trip may be required.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

How do entirely new political formations emerge? In this seminar, we will consider the possibility of responding to this question by way of aesthetics. Our inquiry will be bookmarked by two defining and radical modern revolutionary events: the 1789 French Revolution and the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Where the former initiated a period of Enlightenment, the latter, in creating an Islamic Republic, appears to have broken the Enlightenment mold. In light of these events, how might we characterize the relationship between aesthetics and political thought? Recent scholarship in political theory suggests that moments of radical democratic action involve the making seen of that which previously had not and could not be seen. For this proposition to hold, a new perspective must emerge whereby new—or revolutionary—modes of political and social life can be recognized in the first place. On the one hand, the aesthetic promises to foster these new ways of seeing. On the other hand, the aesthetic field of vision always seems to be conditioned by politics. What are we to make of this paradox? When and how might revolutionary change occur in light of it?

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course examines approaches to the study of politics in the modern Middle East. We will consider region-specific iterations of conventional themes, including but not limited to: the state; political economy; nationalism; revolution; war; religion and politics; and authoritarianism and democracy. The course begins with critiques of knowledge production articulated in response to colonization and foreign intervention. How are we to interpret modern Middle East politics in light of these critiques? What would it mean to write against regional exceptionalism¾to understand the “Middle East” as a global phenomenon with ill-defined borders? When analyzing geopolitics, how can we think beyond suffering and resistance to envision a politics of the everyday? What are the limits of area studies? And finally, despite its limits, can area studies nevertheless afford generative possibilities for future inquiry and political action? Case studies appear selectively to illustrate core themes. May taken for credit toward the Middle East area requirement for the South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies major.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Credits 4

This course explores the political landscape of the American West, focusing on natural resource policy and management on public lands. Topics include forest, mineral, range, grassland, water, and energy policy with an emphasis on the local impacts of climate change. Required of, and open only to, students accepted to Semester in the West.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Prerequisites

Acceptance to the Semester in the West program.

Credits 4

Why are some beneficiaries of social policy coded as deserving assistance from the government while others are marked as undeserving? What impacts do these notions of deservingness have on social policies and the politics which surround them? What are the consequences for the material realities of individual lives? How do gender, race, class, and citizenship status work together to construct and maintain distinctions of deservingness? This course engages with these and other questions through historic and contemporary debates in U.S. social policies such as welfare, Social Security, and disability benefits.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

What does it mean to be human? Is it possible to articulate a universal notion of humanity? What are the challenges to doing so? Why should we (or shouldn’t we) attempt to do so? This class responds to these questions in light of a recent political phenomenon: the rise of universal human rights discourse in the aftermath of the Second World War. Articulations of humanism in canonical political theory take European “man” as the center of their analysis. This course considers humanist ideas as they were adopted, engaged, and critiqued by those considered to be—and who considered themselves as—different from European “man.” Our investigation covers three strains of contemporary political thought prevalent among those writing as and/or on behalf of Europe’s “others”: humanism, anti-humanism, and new humanism.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

What do we mean when we say “democracy”: is it an electoral system, a cultural order, or a political theory of sovereignty? Is democracy an inescapable unfolding historical fact or a claimed normative good to guide political action? What relationship is there between democracy and wealth or property? Is democracy the realization of freedom or the greatest danger to freedom? How do the boundaries (both imagined and real) of something called “Europe” contour thinking about democracy and its progress? What are the implications for political life when democracy appears as a revolution without end? In an age of democracy, what aristocratic virtues have we lost? Are they recoverable? These are some of the questions we will explore in this seminar via a close and sustained engagement with the thought of Alexis de Tocqueville. Alexis de Tocqueville has served as a theoretical resource and inspiration for liberal individualism, small-government conservatism, communitarianism, Euro-imperialism, and radical democratic anti-capitalism. We will explore all of these threads in his writings. Although we may engage with secondary sources and the writings of Tocqueville’s contemporaries, the primary focus of this seminar will be Tocqueville’s works. We will read both volumes of Democracy in America, The Old Regime and the Revolution, and other selected writings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

Intermediate seminars designed for students who have had considerable prior work in the study of politics. Each time they are offered, these seminars focus on different topics. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

In the study of international relations, the concept of security is almost always tethered to the nation-state through the central signifier of “national security”.  Even studies of private security, cyber warfare, or drone technology, all of which raise some complex questions about the changing parameters of modern warfare, rarely stray too far from a focus on the state. The purpose of this course is to both understand the motivations for and the effects of this linkage and open up different ways to think of the concept and the referents of security. Using a variety of different approaches through which global security has been studied, the course will ask who is made secure and/or insecure by statist security, what kinds of apparatuses of power are created in the provision of security, what sorts of affective investments are involved in projects of security, and what political possibilities and risks are inherent in imagining a world beyond security. Topics covered may include: practices and technologies of war-making, the military-industrial complex, nuclear proliferation, surveillance and the securitization of everyday life, and military disarmament and peace movements. 

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Prerequisites

Previous coursework in Politics; or consent of instructor.

Credits 4

This course is a discussion seminar on the implications of climate change for human societies, natural communities, and hybrid human/natures in the Anthropocene, the age of man.  Discussions will focus on controversies surrounding the relatively new concept of the Anthropocene itself and how this concept unsettles understandings of nature, wildness, sustainability, democracy, citizenship, global capitalism, environmental justice, and environmental governance.  Our approach will be interdisciplinary, drawing on readings in climate politics, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and critical climate studies.  Although our focus will be on theoretical and conceptual debates, we will also explore proposed climate mitigation and adaptation strategies such as low carbon social and economic systems, geo-engineering, carbon sequestration, and landscape-scale conservation efforts.  A field trip and a longer research paper may be required.  May be elected as Environmental Studies 322, but must be elected as Environmental Studies 322 to satisfy the interdisciplinary course requirement in environmental studies.

Credits 4

In recent years the issue of debt—individual debt, institutional debt, sovereign debt—has burst forth into public life in a manner that increasingly raises pressing questions for political democracy and constitutional order.  Financial crises have produced constitutional crises and vice versa. As example, threats by the U.S. Congress to default on public debts promised to produce a financial meltdown as well as a constitutional one, as constitutional theorists attempted to locate the “least unconstitutional” option for resolving the matter. This course will explore the complex interaction between creditor-debtor relations and theories of constitutionalism. Questions to be explored in the course include: What is the implication of the inequality lurking in debtor-creditor relationships for the constitutional presumption of equal citizenship and the ideal of comity between nations? Is the legal fiction of a sovereign constitutional “people” a challenge to the ascendancy of post-national financial power or a precondition of it? To what extent does the constitutional language of right, contract, and obligation contradict or marginalize concepts of mercy, forgiveness, and friendship?    

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This upper level seminar traces the development and effects of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) politics in the United States from pre-Stonewall through contemporary activism, attending to the importance of race and ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sex, class, and age in LGBTQ organizing. We will explore contemporary policy debates and on-going tensions between assimilation and liberation in U.S. queer politics with an eye toward global connections. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course will begin by exploring various schools of contemporary feminist theory (e.g., Marxist feminism, liberal feminism, ecofeminism, psychoanalytic feminism, etc.). We will then ask how proponents of these schools analyze and criticize specific institutions and practices (e.g., the nuclear family, heterosexuality, the state, reproductive technologies, etc.). Throughout the semester, attention will be paid to the ways gender relations shape the formation and interpretation of specifically political experience.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

Since the rise of the “third wave,” feminists have sought to problematize the centrality of the  “White Western Woman” in classical feminism. Among these approaches are alternative  feminisms developed from the unique experiences and struggles of Indigenous women in the  Americas. These Indigenous activists and scholars have challenged the exclusion of their histories  and voices within hegemonic feminist traditions. This course explores the work of pioneer figures  from Domitila Barrios de Chungara (Bolivia) and Rigoberta Menchú (Guatemala) to the Zapatista  women (Mexico). As we read texts by and about Indigenous women, we will explore the  relationship between Indigenous feminisms and other feminist traditions; the unique concepts of  indigeneity, gender, and class in these movements; and the reasons that Indigenous feminists connect women’s struggles to the broader resistance struggles of Indigenous communities. May be taken for credit toward the Gender Studies major or minor or the Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnicity Studies major or minor.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course examines the ways in which the international social-political system is hierarchical. The course looks at how such relations of hierarchy have been historically produced and continue to be sustained through a variety of mechanisms. The first part of the course focuses on the period of classical colonialism, examining the racial and gendered constructions of imperial power. The second part of the course turns to more contemporary North-South relations, studying the discourses and practices of development and human rights, and critically examining the resuscitation of the project of empire in recent U.S. foreign policy practices.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

Broadly, this is a course on gender, sexuality, and the law. More particularly, this course will 1) explore the relationship between queer theoretical and feminist theoretical projects and will 2) consider how these projects engage legal doctrines and norms. In question form: Where do feminist and queer theories intersect? Where do they diverge? How do these projects conceive of the law in conjunction with their political ends? How have these projects shifted legal meanings and rules? How have the discourses of legality reconfigured these political projects? These explorations will be foregrounded by legal issues such as marriage equality, sexual harassment, workers’ rights, and privacy. Theoretically, the course will engage with issues such as identity, rights, the state, cultural normalization, and capitalist logics. We will read legal decisions and political theory in this course. Broadly, this is a course on gender, sexuality, and the law. More particularly, this course will 1) explore the relationship between queer theoretical and feminist theoretical projects and will 2) consider how these projects engage legal doctrines and norms. In question form: Where do feminist and queer theories intersect? Where do they diverge? How do these projects conceive of the law in conjunction with their political ends? How have these projects shifted legal meanings and rules? How have the discourses of legality reconfigured these political projects? These explorations will be foregrounded by legal issues such as marriage equality, sexual harassment, workers’ rights, and privacy. Theoretically, the course will engage with issues such as identity, rights, the state, cultural normalization, and capitalist logics. We will read legal decisions and political theory in this course.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course examines one of the most politically charged and complex sites in the Western hemisphere: the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The borderlands are a zone of cultural mixings, profound economic contrasts, and powerful political tensions. In recent years, the border has emerged as a key site in debates over U.S. immigration policy, national security, the drug war, Third World development, social justice in Third World export factories, and transnational environmental problems. This course examines these issues as they play out along the sharp line running from east Texas to Imperial Beach, California, as well as in other sites from the coffee plantations of Chiapas to the onion fields of Walla Walla. These concrete cases, in turn, illuminate political theories of the nation-state, citizenship, and transnationalism. Students are encouraged, but not required, to take this course in conjunction with the U.S.-Mexico border trip usually offered at the end of spring semester.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Faculty
Sempértegui

The body-land territory is a political proposal developed by the Maya-Xinka communitarian feminist Lorena Cabnal, which argues the body is a living and historic territory that has a vital relationship to the places we inhabit and that records our situated memories of oppression, resistance and empowerment. Moving away from Western cartography, Cabnal conceptualizes “territory” from an Indigenous cosmogonic standpoint to highlight the vital relationship between bodies and land, and how both are concrete spaces where meaning and life is constructed and recreated. This proposal has had a major influence on Latin American feminist and environmental movements in the last decade. From movements organized against oil and mining projects, to feminist congresses or strikes adopting the label of “body as territory,” activists and academics have adopted and adapted this proposal into their agendas. In this course, we analyze the politics behind the translation of this Indigenous proposal. By following the different adaptations and transformations of this proposal in anti-extractive movements like the Colectivo Miradas Críticas del Territorio desde el Feminismo in Ecuador or feminist platforms like the Feminist Strike in Argentina, we will examine the political effects of Indigenous thinking, theory and practice on these movements and spaces of organizing. At the same time, we will analyze what these varied translations leave out and what underlying asymmetric relations of power they conceal.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

In this seminar we explore changing understandings of nature in American culture, the role of social power in constructing these understandings, and the implications these understandings have for the environmental movement. Topics discussed will include wilderness and wilderness politics, management of national parks, ecosystem management, biodiversity, place, and the political uses of nature in contemporary environmental literature. The seminar will occasionally meet at the Johnston Wilderness Campus (transportation will be provided).

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

“It has been said that being born Indian is being born into politics.” -Gerald Taiaiake Alfred. America is an occupied space, structured by a logic of elimination. Indigeneity is the refusal to be eliminated. Whitman College is a part of that occupation, and yet we have an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, whose ancestors have lived on this land since “time immemorial”--long before the arrival of any American settlers. In this class we will spend a semester considering what that commitment can and should entail. Topics and themes include treaties, nation states, federal Indian law, Indigenous nationhood, boarding schools, education, monuments and memorials, queer Indigenous studies, MMIW, settler colonialism, blood, DNA, First Foods, Truth and Reconciliation, reparations, sovereignties, Indigenous futurities, critical indigenous studies, and more

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

In the Pacific Northwest, salmon are political. The history and current politics of Indigenous peoples, settler colonial infrastructure, law, commerce, hydropower, agriculture, recreation, dam-building and dam removal, treaty rights, environmentalism, science, activism, and sovereignty in the Northwest—and particularly in the Columbia River Basin, or Nch'i-Wana—can be told through the story, and politics, of salmon. For better or worse, the lives of salmon are bound up with the lives of humans, and their future is largely up to our actions. Whitman College, located on the eastern edge of the Columbia River Basin, with the concrete-choked and salmon-bereft Mill Creek flowing through it, is a perfect place to engage the politics of salmon—politics which, whether we realize it or not, we are already a part of. The course will involve regular Friday afternoon excursions and a multi-day field trip in the Columbia River Watershed. May be elected as Environmental Studies 350, but must be elected as Environmental Studies 350 to satisfy the interdisciplinary course requirement in environmental studies.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This seminar will center on the nexus between theorizations of time in political life and the politics of difference. In particular, we will consider how different peoples, histories, and hopes are included and excluded in theoretical and legal orderings of temporality. For example, how might the laws, norms and practices of gendered “publics” and “politics” inform the experience of one’s sense of place in political time? In addition, how might the accumulation of racial privilege and property structure different understandings of the future and the urgency required to get there? Does the law solidify these temporal regimes or offer the means to reconfigure them? The course will interrogate writings about the velocities of modernity, the time of capital, the historical markers of a “now,” the constitutional imperatives for justice, and the conditions prefiguring futures on the horizon. Texts will include works from the Western canon, landmark legal documents, and contemporary writings in political theory. Some thinkers we will engage include Edmund Burke, Karl Marx, Martin Luther King, Jr., Joan Tronto, and Jacques Derrida.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course draws attention to the manner in which international hierarchies and gender relations intersect to have implications for the lives of Third World women. The course examines how the needs and interests of Third World women are addressed in various international discourses and practices, how Third World women are affected by international political practices, and how Third World women sustain, resist, and transform international power structures. We will cover a number of different issue areas that include security and war, development and transnational capitalism, media and representation, cultural practices and human rights, women’s movements and international feminism.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

Eating is a relational act linking people and environments in complex webs of power. Across time and geography, food has united and divided, underpinned political systems, provided the material and symbolic basis for conceptions of society, and played key roles in forging gender, race, class, and status. This interdisciplinary class draws on texts from history, anthropology, political theory, literature, art, religion, and political economy to explore the cultural politics of food, diet, and eating. It focuses primarily on the development and dynamics of capitalist global food systems from the 18th Century to the present. May be elected as Environmental Studies 362, but must be elected as Environmental Studies 362 to satisfy the interdisciplinary course requirement in environmental studies.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4
Faculty
Bobrow-Strain

What is capitalism? Where did it come from? How does it work, and what are the politics of its epochal expansion? This course explores the origins, dynamics, and politics of capitalism as they have been theorized over the past 200 years. It begins with classical political economy, closely reading the works of Ricardo, Smith, and Marx. It then traces the lineages of classical political economy through the works of theorists such as Weber, Lenin, Schumpeter, Gramsci, Keynes, and Polanyi. The course ends with an examination of theorists who critique Eurocentric political economy by approaching the dynamics and experiences of capitalism from Europe’s former colonies. Topics addressed in the course include debates about imperialism, the state, class struggle, development, and globalization.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

Whether labeled work/family balance, the second shift, or the care gap, tensions between care and work present important challenges for individuals, families and states. This seminar interrogates the gendered implications of the political and economic distinction between care and work. How do public policies and employment practices construct a false choice between work and care? What role should the state play in the provision of care for children, the sick, the disabled and the elderly? How does the invisibility of carework contribute to the wage gap in the United States and the feminization of poverty globally? Course readings will draw from the literatures on political economy, feminist economics and social policy.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

This course will explore themes in African politics such as colonialism, nationalism, development, authenticity, gender, violence, and justice, through the ideas of some of Africa’s most notable political thinkers of the past half-century, including Fanon, Nkrumah, Senghor, Nyerere, Mandela, and Tutu. The course also will consider the work of contemporary critics of the postcolonial African state. These may include writers, artists, and activists such as Ngugi wa Thiongo, Chinua Achebe, Wangari Maathai, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Wambui Otieno.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Cultural Pluralism (CP DIST)
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

What is fossil fuel capitalism and how does it operate? In this course we will consider answers to  this question by examining oil as a political, social, and natural resource. We will focus on how the  transnational oil industry operates at the level of infrastructures, territories, finance, and the state.  In other words, the course will explore how the extraction and consumption of oil shapes  processes of democratization, state governance, and individual and collective identity construction.  We will also discuss how oil affects workers, racialized communities, natural environments, and Indigenous peoples who often resist its extraction.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 4

Advanced seminars designed for students who have had considerable prior work in the study of politics. Each time they are offered, these seminars focus on different topics. Students are expected to complete extensive reading assignments, write several papers, and participate regularly in discussions. See course schedule for any current offerings.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Credits 1 Max Credits 4

Directed individual study and research.

Prerequisites

Appropriate prior coursework in Politics; and consent of instructor.

Credits 4

This team-taught seminar will meet one evening a week throughout the semester. Its purpose is to engage senior majors in sustained discussion of contemporary political issues. Requirements include attendance at all seminar meetings; extensive participation in discussion; and the completion of several papers, one being a proposal for a senior thesis or honor thesis. Required of, and open only to, senior politics majors. Fall degree candidates should plan to take this seminar at the latest possible opportunity.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Prerequisites

Senior status; and declared major in Politics.

Credits 3 Max Credits 4

During their final semester at Whitman, majors will satisfactorily complete the senior thesis launched the previous semester. Over the course of the semester, students submit sections of their thesis for discussion and review with their readers on a regular basis and defend the final thesis orally before two faculty members. Detailed information on this process is provided to students well in advance. No thesis will be deemed acceptable unless it receives a grade of C- or better. Politics majors register for four credits of Politics 497. Politics-Environmental Studies majors should register for three credits of Politics 497 and one credit of Environmental Studies 488, for a total of four credits.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Prerequisites

Senior status; and declared Politics major.

Credits 3 Max Credits 4

During their final semester at Whitman, senior honors candidates will satisfactorily complete the senior honors thesis launched the prior semester. Over the course of the semester, students submit sections of their thesis for discussion and review with their readers on a regular basis, and defend the final thesis orally before two faculty members. Required of and limited to senior honors candidates in politics. Politics majors register for four credits of Politics 498. Politics-Environmental Studies majors should register for three credits of Politics 498 and one credit of Environmental Studies 488, for a total of four credits.

Distribution Area
Students entering prior to Fall 2024: Social Sciences (SO DIST)
Prerequisites

Admission to honors candidacy; and consent of department chair.