Communication and Culture | Power and Violence: Political Systems in Ethnographic Perspective
C417 | 28169 | Goodman, J

CMCL-C 417: Power and Violence:
Political Systems in Ethnographic Perspective
Class Number: 28169
TuTh, 9:30 AM-10:45 AM, C2 203
Fulfills College S&H Requirement

Instructor: Jane Goodman
Office: C2 227
Phone: 855-3232

Different political systems are founded and maintained by varying
combinations of overt violence and more subtle workings of ideas and
ideologies.  Through cross-cultural case studies, we will explore
the diverse ways people learn to be human in relation to broader
political and economic systems. The course will examine how
coercion, persuasion, consensus, and dissent operate in and through
the performances of everyday life. In so doing, we will ask: How
does domination become internalized, such that people willingly
submit to it and actively reproduce it?  What are some of the ways
that opposition and dissent operate in the everyday lives of
ordinary people?  What constitutes resistance, and in what ways is
it connected to power?  In what ways is power bound up with forms of

We approach political systems ethnographically – that is, in terms
of how people themselves experience, interact with, talk about, and
help to shape the wider social orders in which they live.  We will
be interested in how relations of power are performed, be it in
daily interpersonal encounters, in the crafting of collective
stories, or through more encompassing orders of authority and
discipline. For example, we consider arrangements of bodies in
physical space, gender ideologies, economic divisions of labor,
ethnic or religious identifications, and cultural displays as sites
where individuals may experience, incorporate, or resist broader
organizations of power.

We begin the course by looking at how power operates in non-state-
based social orders. We then turn to the modern nation-state as a
particularly powerful form in which power operates. We will explore
state-based logics; colonial organizations of power; the current
neoliberalizing world order; and the limits to and excesses of state-
based forms of power (for instance, as occurs in genocide or

Throughout the semester, we will build a conceptual vocabulary for
thinking about the workings of power. We inquire into both material
and conceptual dimensions of power.  A key goal of the course is to
enable students to think with theoretical concepts applicable to a
wide range of settings, including ideology and hegemony (Marx,
Raymond Williams); symbolic violence (Bourdieu); hidden and public
transcripts (Scott); the “scenario” (Taylor); and disciplinary power