American Studies | Crisis & American Democracy
A201 | 25542 | Higgins


What are the relationships between American democracy and crisis?
How do disasters (such as terrorist attacks) and emergencies
(including natural disasters) threaten democracy, and to what extent
are responses to crises in America truly democratic?  What are the
ethical stakes involved in ‘suspending’ democratic rights in a time
of crisis, especially when these rights are suspended in the name of
democracy itself?  What are the relationships between terror and
excitement, and how do they frame our responses to political
decisions and cultural values?  This course will consider these
questions (and many others) in an attempt to open critical
conversations about American democracy and its shape in our
contemporary world.  Our inquiry will focus on the relationships
between political philosophies, current events, and popular media
representations.  Each week we will examine critical texts (drawn
from history, philosophy, political science, psychology, journalism,
and anthropology) alongside fictional sources (including books,
films, television shows, and graphic novels) in order to question
the interrelations between fictions and contemporary realities.  Our
major goal will be to question the ways in which democracy both
depends on and is threatened by crisis, fear, and emergency.  Course
requirements will consist of a midterm paper (3-4 pages), a final
paper (7-8 pages) and a short weekly informal response to class
discussion.