This course in designed to review and interrogate the multiple, often competing, ways in which social scientists have theorized the roles of various kinds of collective actors in politics. We will consider a range of such actors, including interest groups, social movements (“old” and “new,” national and transnational), civil society associations, non-governmental organizations, those social actors recently grouped under the label the “Third Sector,” as well as current protest movements across the globe. From the vantage point of diverse theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches, we will ask: Who are the collective actors considered relevant to politics and why? How do shifting concepts and discourses regarding diverse forms of collective action reflect changing theoretical and political agendas? When and how are “social” actors/movements transformed into “political” ones? When and how does collective action shift scales, from local, to national, to global? What is the relationship between culture and politics in social movements/collective action? How and why do various authors/approaches endorse, problematize, or reject the distinction between “the political” and “the social” (and, for that matter, “the cultural,” “the economic,” etc.)? Select case studies, largely from Latin America, Europe, and the US, will help ground our theoretical exploration of these questions (and many more…).
Percentage of Latin American Caribbean and/or Latino content: 50%.
Course Requirements: Student participation, which will count for half of the grade for the course, will be assessed on the basis of: 1) weekly one-page critical responses to required seminar readings; 2) organization and facilitation of seminar discussion at least twice during the semester; and 3) discussion questions and synopses of the required readings for the seminar session s/he facilitates. Students may choose one of the following three ways to fulfill the writing requirement for this seminar: 1) write a research paper of approximately 20-25 pp. on a topic related to a major theme of the course; 2) submit two 7-10 pp. analytical essays on any course topic, based on required readings; or 3) develop a 10-15 pp. research prospectus/grant proposal and 5-10 pp. annotated bibliography related to their intended dissertation research.