American Studies | U.S. Movements & Institutions Topic: Crisis and American Democracy
A201 | 25010 | David Higgins


(3 cr. A & H) 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.