Showing posts from 2016

Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies Fellowship

I have begun my term as a Fellow at Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. My primary undertaking here will consist in continuing to work on my book project on Herodotus and political theory. Here is a link to a long description of my project. The first paragraph gives an effective overview: How can social science research support and advance democracy and democratic citizenship? In this project, I turn to Herodotus, perhaps the world’s first social scientist, to reconstruct how his approach to social inquiry contributed to democratic projects in the ancient world and might also offer an alternative to today’s paradigms. Herodotus’s Histories , I argue, model a form of inquiry dedicated to improving the people’s capacity to rule and be ruled in turn and promise a social science that empowers free and democratic regimes to develop self-supporting regimes of truth and forms of inquiry. The example of Herodotus can thus provide us with an approach to research wh

The History of Political Thought: Looking Back at the Year

This year I had the great pleasure of teaching a sequence of courses in the history of political thought: “Ancient and Early Modern Political Philosophy” in the fall and “Modern Political Philosophy” this spring. Even better, nine students took both courses, creating a terrific group of youthful political philosophers dedicated to the “big questions” of political philosophy and conversant with writers from Herodotus to Frantz Fanon. I still have my doubts about the adequacy of the canon, but I had a little faith restored this year. Witnessing how students not only responded to these great books but took them up with vitality and excitement reminded me why such courses exist. Contemporary writers such as Charles Taylor or Shulamith Firestone simply mean more when one has worked through Marx. The student of ancient political philosophy’s politeia can discern the fallaciousness of the liberal-communitarian debate as it’s typically posed. A serious reader of the Stoics sees anarchism

Teaching Research at Bryn Mawr

Seniors have commenced, grades are submitted, and now I’ve begun to reflect on everything that has happened during the past four months. The semester was full but rewarding. Perhaps most notably, I experimented with some new approaches to teaching research skills and supervising theses. While not all my experiments went perfectly, I was pleased to see strong results and I hope to continue to innovate in these areas. Teaching research skills Along with the Social Sciences Librarian Olivia Castello, I developed a new research component in my course The Power of the People. Olivia and I sought to introduce students to the idea of a research conversation , the discussion scholars have with one another through their scholarship, and to equip students with the skills to discover and explicate one of these conversations. We did this through staging research and writing projects alongside explicit instruction about finding library materials, using databases, and creating bibliographie

Updated "Research Description"

I have updated the description of my Research under the heading above to include more about my projects since the publication of What Would Socrates Do? Enjoy!

New from Theory & Event: "The Polis Artist"

I'm very pleased to announce the publication of my article on Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis and the politics of literature in Theory & Event . Here is the abstract: Recent work on literature and political theory has focused on reading literature as a reflection of the damaged conditions of contemporary political life. Examining Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis, this essay develops an alternative approach to the politics of literature that attends to the style and form of the novel. The form and style of Cosmopolis emphasize the novel’s own dissonance with the world it criticizes; they moreover suggest a politics of poetic world-making intent on eliciting collective agency over the commonness of language. As a “polis artist,” DeLillo does not determine a particular politics but shapes the conditions and spaces of political life with an eye toward alternative futures. If you would like a PDF of the final version, send me an email. While the Herodotus project has continued to percol

Spring 2016 Courses

The semester approaches and I have drafted new versions of my "Modern Political Philosophy" course as well as a democratic theory course entitled "The Power of the People." I'm also supervising eight outstanding thesis writers in the Political Science department, so it will be a busy winter and spring! In "Modern Political Philosophy" ( draft syllabus here ) I'm teaching Adam Smith for the first time as well as devoting a few weeks to colonialism, multiculturalism, and the politics of recognition with readings from Frantz Fanon, Nancy Fraser, Axel Honneth, Audra Simpson, and Glen Coulthard. When I taught a course on capitalism at Deep Springs a few years ago I first recognized the proximity of Smith and Marx; teaching them in succession leads students to see how much the latter emerges from the former and thus how communism can really follow from capitalism. My addition of readings around questions of recognition also stems from the last time I t

Further reflections on the fall

Reflecting on the two courses I taught during fall 2015, I've come to realize the importance of another part of my teaching: the book club that I helped to organize and facilitate in a Philadelphia prison. Every Friday I and two of my colleagues along with seven or eight of our students from Bryn Mawr's "Arts of Resistance" 360 Cluster ( website ) traveled to northeast Philadelphia to a women's prison where we read and discussed books together for ninety minutes. We read Claudia Rankine's "Citizen," the Seamus Heaney translation of Antigone ("The Burial at Thebes"), John Edgar Wideman's "Brothers and Keepers," and some other short pieces. The books constituted our curriculum: students took turns preparing "lessons," which usually consisted in questions and activities to stimulate discussion; we left a great deal of space for the conversation to emerge and develop in the most organic way possible. ("Organic"