Pol 266: Pol & culture course schedule


Politics, schmolitics.

Why bothering studying such a corrupted topic? All one has to do is to turn on the t.v. or fire up the computer to find ample evidence of the hollowness of the pursuit, and so-called pundits have turned political discourse into exceedingly dull spitting contests. Politics is why nothing good ever gets done.

Whether or not you agree with this dismal evaluation of what was once the highest science, it is arguable that, nonetheless, politics matters. In this course we’ll examine why it matters, how politics works and doesn’t work—and for whom it works and doesn’t work. But this is not just a course about politics, but politics and culture. It is one thing to map out the perfect political structure on paper, and quite another to apply it on the ground. The concept of ‘political culture’ is as old as Aristotle, taking into account such things as the history and traditions of a society, its religion, economic structures, natural resources, military traditions, and ethnic groupings, among other elements.

Yet it is only in the past few decades that scholars have begun to look seriously at the role of women as something which both affects and is affected by political culture. Thus, in this course we will consider how women around the world live amid political culture, to consider those lives on the ground, and how to understand both the lived experience and the concepts which we use to make sense of political life. In particular, we will look at the status of women in light of the universal promises of rights for all to develop into full human beings and consider how well these promises are, and are not, fulfilled for women.

This is not an easy. Some of the issues discussed in this course may cause outrage, bewilderment, or even despair. That one’s reactions to these matters may be complex is only fitting, for politics is complex, and involves the best and worst and nuttiest of human actions. It is therefore helpful to remember that a certain detached, if highly aware, bemusement is often a good starting, and sometimes ending, point for any analysis. Humor, too, is a vital part of political culture.

As for the particulars of this course, it is expected that you attend class, bring your books, and participate in discussions. I prefer lively discussions, so thoughtful questions and comments of all sorts are always encouraged. Since class sessions will be devoted largely to discussions based on the topics raised by the various authors, you should read the material around the same time that it has been assigned..Finally, I may modify the assigned readings, and will announce such modifications in lecture.

Required readings (available at the bookstore or online):
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale, Random House, 1998; 978 038 549 0818
Barbara Ehrenreich & Arlie Russell Hochschild, eds., Global Woman, 2002, 978 080 507 5090
Martha Nussbaum, Women and Development, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001; 978 052 100 3858
Susan Moller Okin, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Princeton Univ. Press, 1999; 978 038 547 5778

Short papers (1000-1250 words each)        30%    (Due February 26, March 26)
Term paper (2500-3000 words)            25%    (Due May 14)
Final exam                    30%
Attendance & participation            15%

All work must be handed in during class on the due date. No electronic copies will be accepted – NO EXCEPTIONS. If you run into any problems with the course or with deadlines, it is imperative that you speak with me immediately.

Class 1 Introduction; What is politics, What is culture
January 29: Intro to class; discussion

Class 2 Capabilities approach
February 5: Discussion, cont.; ontology; Nussbaum, Introduction

*February 12: Lincoln’s Birthday—Campus Closed: NO CLASS*

Class 3: Capabilities approach
February 19: Nussbaum, ch. 1 (skip § III, pp. 59-70)

Class 4 Capabilities, cont.                        *First paper due: February 26

February 26: Nussbaum, ch. 1 (skip § III, pp. 59-70)

Classs 5 Choice?
March 5: Nussbaum, ch. 2 (skip § III-IV, pp.122-148); Okin, pt. 1-Okin

Class 6 Questions and confrontations
March 12:  Okin (Pollitt, Kymlicka, An-Na‘im, Post, Parekh, Sassen, Bhabha, Tamir, Raz, Halley)

Classes 7 The ultimate good?
March 19: Nussbaum, ch. 3 (skim § IV, pp. 198-206);  Atwood, §§ I-III

Class 8: Religion, cont.                            *Second paper due: March 26
March 26: Nussbaum, ch. 3 (skim § IV, pp. 198-206); Okin (Honig, al-Hibri, Sunstein, Nussbaum); Atwood, §§ IV-VIII

*Spring Break March 29-April 5: NO CLASSES*

Class 9 Nightmare or reality?
April 9: Atwood §§ IX-XII

Class 10 Household labor: power and care and, oh yeah, sex, too
April 16: Ehrenreich & Hochschild [E&H] (Introduction; Hochschild; Cheever; Hondagneu-Sotelo; Rivas)

Class 11: Household labor, cont.
April 23: Nussbaum, ch. 4; E&H (Ehrenreich, Anderson, Constable, Zarembka, Gamburd, Lan)

Class 12 Sex and work and politics, again
April 30: Okin (Gilman); E&H (Rivas, Brennan, Bales) Atwood §§ XIII-XIV

Class 13 Home and world, in their own ways
May 7: Atwood §§ XV & Historical Notes

Classes 14 Home and world and everything
May 14: Nussbaum, conclusion; Okin, Reply            *Term paper due: May 14



About proftp

I teach political science and bioethics as an adjunct at a CUNY school.
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