Question of the Month

Neoliberalism and black politics?

Has neoliberal ideology among black elites narrowed our conceptions of what’s possible in black politics as well as our focus on means to electoral politics & lobbying? If so, is this a good or bad development for blacks’ quest for social justice?

Latest Posts

Live webcast with Michael Dawson
November 2, 2011

Ask UChicago with Professor Michael Dawson at 11am on Wednesday, November 2!

He's Black.
September 8, 2011

Is Obama Black, Bi-racial, or Post-racial? Michael answers in a Zócalo Public Square chat.

Severe Hardship, Dashed Hopes
July 27, 2011

We are entering a period when for blacks there is a dangerous and growing confluence of severe economic hardship and dashed hopes.

Selected Courses

Undergraduate Courses

Political Science 23100, Democracy and the Information Technology Revolution, Winter 2008

There is also an intensive graduate version of this course. The revolution in information technologies has serious implications for democratic societies. We concentrate, though not exclusively, on the United States. We look at which populations have the most access to technology-based information sources (the digital divide), and how individual and group identities are being forged online. We ask how is the responsiveness of government being affected, and how representative is the online community. Severe conflict over the tension between national security and individual privacy rights will be explored as well.

Political Science 25200, Urban Politics, Fall 2007

This course is designed to allow students to place research which tackles some of the basic urban problems that confront American society within the context of theories of urban politics. During the first part of the course we will critically review classic works in urban politics such as those of Dahl, Sassen and Peterson. During the second part of the course we will shift our focus to consider how the theory covered in the first part of the course can help us analyze and understand the implications for American democracy of selected severe urban problems. Problems selected for more detailed review this year include the Katrina disaster, and racial and ethnic urban conflict. This course is designed primarily for undergraduate students.

Political Science 22100, Black Americans and the Political System, Fall 2006

There is also an intensive graduate version of this course. This course will focus on how the continuing struggle for black empowerment has helped to shape both the current American political environment as well as the social and economic conditions of the black community. While this course focuses on African-American politics since WWII, some attention is paid to the period before the war in order to lay a firm foundation for the analysis of modern black politics. The unique nature of African-American politics necessitates a multi-disciplinary approach to the subject. Consequently, materials and lectures will also show how the study of race relations, psychology, economics, and sociology can inform our understanding of the critical importance of black politics to American politics. After considering such topics as the politics of the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, fiscal retrenchment, and blacks and governmental institutions, this course will end by considering whether a “New Black Politics” has emerged and the impact of the nation’s move toward the political right on African-American politics. This course has a significant writing component. Consequently, the primary basis for evaluation of students’ work will be numerous writing assignments, a data analysis project, and a take home final.

Political Science 25600, Hurricane Katrina and American Politics, Spring 2006

With Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Hurricane Katrina was not only one of the worse modern disasters in the U.S., but particularly its aftermath provided a lens in many of the fault lines within American society and politics. This course will use the disaster as a lens with which to analyze a wide range of topics in the study of American politics. Topics to be examined in this course using the disaster as a focal point include: the divides in American public opinion; the role of the media in politics; the responses of local, state and federal institutions; the role of political leadership; and, the strength and weakness of civil society in the U.S.

Graduate Courses

Political Science 35000, Race and Politics in the U.S., Fall 2007

Controversy around the role of race in American society has profoundly shaped American political institutions, public opinion, and individual political behavior since the founding. Racial politics were critical during the constitutional convention, the Mexican-American War, the bitter inter-sectional strife leading up to the Civil War, the (occasionally armed) conflicts of Reconstruction and Redemption, the anti-Asian movements on the West Coast, and more recently during the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement. Racial conflict often seems inseparable from issues of gender, when, for example, black women were raped by slave owners, or when the stereotype of the black male rapist finds a place in American political campaigns. Race has been implicit or explicit in most American elections since the end of World War II. Even during periods of relative racial “calm”, racial politics was never far from surface; they influenced such major historical events as the building of the New Deal by Roosevelt administration. Today, Americans see racial politics coming to the fore, as the responsibilities of the state to its citizens, and of citizens to each other, are fiercely debated in highly charged racial terms. Racial politics are also becoming more complex as rapidly growing Asian-American and Latino/a groups make claims on the political and economic system. Surprisingly, the effects of race have been understudied in political science even when compared to virtually all of the other social science disciplines.

This course is the first of a two quarter sequence on race and American politics. This semester we will concentrate on becoming familiar with key concepts, and critical debates, and with a variety of research approaches to the growing study of how race shapes American politics and society. Several of the main examples that will be used in class are drawn from the study of black politics and black/white conflict. However, students should feel free to investigate race and politics beyond these domains. Students who continue on to the second quarter will apply what they learned in the first quarter to a major research project. Taking the first quarter in no way obliges one to take the second quarter. You cannot, however, take the second quarter without taking the first quarter. The end product of the first quarter should be the production of a research proposal, very detailed outline, or similar project.

Political Science 45500, Black Political Thought, Spring 2006

There is also an undergraduate version of this seminar. This course is a very intensive introduction to black political thought. The majority of texts considered during the first part of the course will be from key authors such as the Combahee River Collective, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ida B. Wells. During the second part of the course we will reconsider the status of the “black public sphere” and its connection to other publics and counterpublics.

Themes to be considered this year include: What are the core concepts and constellations of concepts historically found in African-American political thought? To what degree has the construction of gender in the African-American community and the interaction between gender and racial oppression shaped African-American political thought? To what degree do different classes and sectors within classes embrace different aspects of African-American political thought? To what degree does Habermas’ concept of the “public sphere” help us understand the development of black political ideologies? Are other more modern understandings of publics, public spheres, and counterpublics useful for understanding African American ideological formation and the impact of African American ideologies on politics within the United States?

Political Science 30300, Survey of American Politics, Winter 2006

With Mark Hansen. A survey of leading theoretical and methodological approaches to questions of American politics and government. This course has three intentions: first, to introduce the essential work in the field of American politics, both “classic” and “frontier”; second, to encourage a synthetic overview of the research and research problems in the field of American politics; third, to prepare for the doctoral field examination in American politics. To achieve these goals, the responsibility for the course falls heavily on you, the students. First, for three seminar meetings this quarter, each student will have special responsibility for starting the discussion, focusing attention on important points of theory and methodology, and introducing ideas from work in the recommended readings. Second, for five of the other six seminar meetings, each student must prepare a short research note, of one to three pages, addressing more deeply a specific issue raised in the readings, in the discussions, or in your own interests as they are engaged by the topics under discussion. They must also be distributed to the class by the evening before the seminar meeting. Finally, during finals week, each student will write an examination, the format to mimic the doctoral field examination. The grades in this course will depend upon the quality of your contributions in participation in the seminar and the quality of your written work. The weights are approximately 30 percent for participation in seminar discussion, 30 percent for the research notes, and 40 percent for the final examination.