CSPT core courses and seminars

CSPT students are required to take the Core Course, CSPT 501/601, offered every Fall semester. In addition, they are required to choose between offered seminars, CSPT 500/600, taught by CSPT faculty from across the participating departments. The seminars are offered both in Fall and Spring semesters, and widely vary in terms of their topics, themes, and disciplinary orientation from year to year.

Below are the themes for this year's CSPT 501/601 as well as the range of themes and topics of selected CSPT 500/600 in the present and past years.

Core CSPT course (2021–2022)

CSPT 501: Contemporary Cultural Social and Political Thought: I

Instructor: TBA

An exploration of contemporary themes and issues in cultural, social and political thought, with an emphasis on thought that crosses traditional cultural and disciplinary boundaries.

CSPT 601: Contemporary Social and Political Thought: II

Instructor: TBA

A continuation of CSPT 501, this seminar is designed for students proceeding to a doctoral candidacy examination in Cultural Social and Political Thought. The focus will be on themes and thinkers important to contemporary cultural social and political thought. 

CSPT seminars (2021-2022)

Fall 2021

CSPT 500/600 A01: LGBTQ History

Instructor: Dr. Rachel Cleves (HSTR)

CSPT 500/600 A02: Studies in American Literature 1914 to the Present: Critical Race Narratives

Dr. Corrine Bancroft (English)

Since Aristotle first differentiated narrative (art that requires a teller/ narrator/ speaker) from tragedy (art that relies on action or performance), literary critics have sought to identify and define the elements of narrative (the difference between the telling and the told; the reliability of the narrator; the relationship between the author and the reader; etc.). More recently, Critical Race Theorists have revealed the way narrative not only functions as a type of art but also contributes to the construction of race and the formation of social imaginaries. In this view, narrative can shape the way people understand the world whether we encounter it in a novel or on the news, in a comic book or in the courtroom. As Critical Race Theorists have shown, narratives can cause harm by perpetuating social antagonisms or effect social change by shifting readers’ imaginaries. What happens when we bring narrative theory, which has historically been associated with literature and fiction, into conversation with Critical Race Theory, which developed through legal studies and is often associated with non-fiction? Can the language and tools of literary criticism be useful to the project of Critical Race Theory? How might Critical Race Theory help us revise and enrich our work as literary critics? What does this mean for how we read both novels and the world? While this class will focus on the U.S. context, students will be encouraged to transfer the ideas and concepts to their field of expertise.

CSPT 500/600 A03: Studies in Literary Theory: Intro to Theory

Instructor: Dr. Stephen Ross (English)

This course introduces students to contemporary theoretical paradigms, those currently dominating the critical landscape in literary, cultural, and media studies. The term will be broken into units on Media Theory, Indigenous Theory, Affect Theory, Post-Marxist Theory, Queer/Crip Theory, Posthumanisms, Eco-Theory, and Critical Race Theory. It will feature presentations and background lectures on key figures from Kant, Marx, and Hegel through to Derrida, Foucault, and Butler, but the bulk of the course readings will engage contemporary theorists such as Wendy Chun, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Slavoj Zizek, Lee Edelman, Eugene Thacker, Sianne Ngai, and Anna Tsing. We will focus on the common philosophical and theoretical roots of these widely disparate approaches, and on how they have diverged from those common origins. We will focus in particular on questions of agency, systems, ideology, subjectivity, epistemology, and cultural relevance. Students will be encouraged to do additional background research on their own and for class, and to apply their learning to concrete examples in the world around them. Students will leave the course with a good general orientation toward the contemporary theoretical landscape, including its deep roots in continental philosophical traditions, so that they can go on with confidence to explore and contribute to emergent thinking today.

CSPT 500/600 A04: Themes in Contemporary Politics: The Politics of Colonialism

Instructor: Dr. Rita Dhamoon (Political Science)

Spring 2022

CSPT 500/600 A01: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms

Instructor: Dr. Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Social theory has always been informed by different materialisms, and this course examines how materialist theories have persisted and re-emerged in different forms through the linguistic and cultural turns of the late 20th century, with particular concern for how these shifts inform our understandings of key sociological concepts such as power, order, freedom, and social change. The course is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on key 20th-century theorists whose work has implications for materialist theorizing. The second part takes up recent developments in new materialist social theorizing. The course offers students the opportunity to engage with some of the most important and influential social theories and theorists of recent decades.

CSPT 500/600 A02: Current Issues in Ecology, Global Sociology and Social Movements

Instructor: Dr. Martha McMahon (Sociology)

Course Description:

This course takes up some current issues in ecology, global sociology and social movements by inviting you to engage with alternative ontologies and epistemologies as keys to personal and social transformation in these troubled times.

Course Outcomes/Objectives:

The first part of this course will be organized around the ethical, intellectual, and political projects identified by some contemporary feminist theorists and the challenges to dominant ways of knowing and being raised by Indigenous knowledge, and non hegemonic forms of social organization: the challenges of how to live well with others—including with our multispecies kin—in late modernity or capitalism.

The second part asks what modes of life can guide us in living ethically with diverse humans and more-than-humans so as to find new ways to live and thrive in what seems like social and planetary ruin. We will look always for possibilities, not just problems.

This graduate course challenges students to develop pedagogies of praxis, as well as undertaking an area of independent research building on, but going beyond the material provided. Given the wide range of different substantive issues students are interested in, or working on, the course is designed to give participants resources that can be widely used in very different kinds of work.

CSPT 500/600 A03: Advanced Research Seminar in Visual Anthropology and Materiality

Instructor: Dr. Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier (ANTH)

Past CSPT seminars

Spring 2021

CSPT 500/600 A01: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

CSPT 500/600 A02: Current Issues in the Sociology of Gender, Racialization and Ethnicity
Professor Martha McMahon (Sociology)

CSPT 500/600 A03: Racial Capitalism
Professor Martha Marin (Political Science)

Fall 2020

CSPT 500/600 A01: Introduction to Theory
Professor Stephen Ross (English)

CSPT 500/600 A02: Sound Studies
Professor Jentery Sayers (English)

Spring 2020

CSPT 500/600 A01: Media Aesthetics
Professor Jentery Sayers (English)

CSPT 500/600 A02: The Politics of Colonialism
Professor Simon Glezos (Political Science)

CSPT 500/600 A03: Pluralism and Political Authority
Professor Avigail Eisenberg (Political Science)

CSPT 500/600 A04: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Fall 2019

CSPT 500/600 A02: Research Seminar on Bakhtin
Professor Megan Swift (Germanic and Slavic Studies)

An interdisciplinary seminar focusing on the major works and central concepts of the Russian philosopher and literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, as well as the application of these theories in diverse disciplines of study.

CSPT 500/600 A03: The Politics of Colonialism
Professor Rita Dhamoon (Political Science)

CSPT 500/600 A04: Current Issues in Political Sociology: Violence and Nonviolence
Professor Peyman Vahabzadeh (Sociology)

This course critically and phenomenologically probes one of the deepest assumptions about violence and nonviolence: that they are mutually exclusive and that there are modes of action that are purely one or the other.  Through close reading of key and foundational figures of both revolutionary violence and advocates and theorists of nonviolence, the course will show that these are in fact braided concepts, and the relationship between them, far from being opposites, is concentric.   The instructor’s recent book on the subject is assigned for this course, but the students will be asked to choose a topic from the course and read the supplementary materials pertaining to their topic for class discussion and their papers.  The approach is theoretical.

Spring 2019

CSPT 500/600 A02: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Social theory has always been informed by various forms of materialism. This course focuses on recent developments in social theory, with particular attention to how materialist theories have persisted and re-emerged in different forms through the linguistic and cultural turns of the late 20th century, and with particular concern for how these shifts inform our understandings of power relations and social inequalities. The course offers students the opportunity to engage with some of the most important and influential social theories and theorists.

Click here for the course outline

Fall 2018

CSPT 500/600 A01: Paper Computers (Tabletop Edition)
Professor Jentery Sayers (English)

CSPT 500/600 A02: Adorno, Benjamin and Frankfurt School Critical Theory
Professor Elena Pnevmonidou (Germanic and Slavic Studies)

CSPT 500/600 A03: The Politics of Colonialism
Professor Rita Dhamoon (Political Science)

Spring 2018

CSPT 500/600: Bodies and Power
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

As a way of theorizing bodies, power and resistance in the contemporary era, the seminar will bring three important texts into conversation: Franz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, Hamid Dabashi’s Brown Skin, White Masks, and Glen Coulthard’s Red Skin, White Masks. What’s at stake in the above texts is both an acute understanding of actually happens—what deprivations, violence, and phantasmatic logic—when ‘whiteness’ becomes the universal sign of bodily presence and which forms of resistance might work to undermine the white mask of politics, culture and society. The discussion of Fanon, Dabashi and Coulthard will be deepened by reference to other critical perspectives, including Avery Gordon’s concept of the “hauntological imagination,” Homi Bhabha’s interrogation of postcolonial identity and Edward Said’s persuasive thesis that “Orientialism” is the essence of the current regime; Judith Butler’s theorization of “precarious life” and Wendy Brown’s understanding of “wounded attachments” as the real psychic energy animating the politics of white rage.

CSPT 500/600: Current Issues in Social Theory: Contemporary Materialisms
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

Social theory has always been informed by various forms of materialism. This course focused on recent developments in social theory, with particular attention to how materialist theories have persisted and re-emerged in different forms through the linguistic and cultural turns of the late 20th century, and with particular concern for how these shifts inform our understandings of power relations and social inequalities. The course offers students the opportunity to engage with some of the most important and influential social theories and theorists.

CSPT 500/600: Literary Theory
Professor Steven Ross (English)

This course surveyed the major contributions to literary theory, beginning with a quick review of the history, going back to Plato. We focused on the sudden explosion of theoretical work from the 1960s on, including reading work by the likes of Ferdinand de Saussure, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Gloria Andzaldúa, bell hooks, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Slavoj Zizek, Giorgio Agamben, and Jacques Rancière. We read these works as products of a particular period in the history of the institutionalized study of literature and culture, as well as inheritors of the tradition of continental philosophy (including Immanual Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, and beyond). We situated the predilection for constructivist explanations of such phenomena as identity, sex, sexuality, gender, race, class, and ethnicity against the historical and institutional backgrounds in which it emerged.

Fall 2017

CSPT 500/600: Foundations of Indigenous Nationhood
Professor Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark (Political Science)

This foundational course introduces students to the field of Indigenous Nationhood, offering a survey of the major historical and contemporary themes and issues in Indigenous governance, politics and law.

CSPT 500/600: Migrations in Global History
Professor Neilesh Bose (History)

Spring 2017

CSPT 500/600: Nietzsche for Our Times
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Nietzsche is the premonitory horizon of the 21st century, the remorseless thinker whose writings represent the future, not the past, of contemporary politics, culture and society. To read Nietzsche, particularly On the Genealogy of Morals, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and The Gay Science, is to approach closely, in word and deed, the essence of current politics and society, certainly its palpable anger, nihilism, and fierce ressentiment but also the existential situation of solitary individuals today tensely living between courageous optimism and surges of pessimism.

Fall 2016

CSPT 500/600: Media and Materiality: From Marx to Barad
Professor Jentrey Sayers (English)

Informed by new materialism, this seminar surveys critical theory from Karl Marx to Karen Barad to identify historical stress points in the articulation of media and materiality since the 1850s. Our survey accounted for how these two terms have been situated in various theories of agency, from historical materialism, semiotics, and symptomatic reading to media archaeology and agential realism.

CSPT 500/600: Adorno, Benjamin, and Frankfurt School Critical Theory
Professor Elena Pnevmonidou (Germanic and Slavic Studies)

The aim of this cross-listed undergraduate/graduate course is to introduce students to Frankfurt School Critical Theory through the writings of some of the School’s leading foundational figures as well as through an exploration of facets of cultural modernism and the German social and political context of the Weimar Period, Fascism and the reconfiguration of the public sphere in the 1950s and 1960s.

Spring 2016

CSPT 500/600: Political Theory Graduate Seminar
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

An examination of key issues and debates in the study of political theory. Involves a survey of the major literature in this field of political science.

Fall 2015

CSPT 500/600: Theoria/Poeisis
Professor Stephen Ross (English) and Professor Emile Fromet de Rosnay (French)

This course asserts that there is a fundamental continuity between modernist cultural practice and late-twentieth-century literary and cultural theory. Literary works frequently inaugurate lines of inquiry that philosophy, theory, and cultural studies later take up. We will both begin from and go beyond the observation that that Gilles Deleuze read D. H. Lawrence, that Alain Badiou read Samuel Beckett, or that Jacques Derrida read James Joyce (there are many other such pairings possible). Instead, students will be encourage to consider whether the later theories propounded by Deleuze, Badiou, Derrida derive from their encounters with modernism.

CSPT 500/600: Power and Resistance in the 21st Century
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Power and Resistance in the 21st century is an interdisciplinary CSPT/Political Science graduate seminar focused on postcolonial politics, critical race theory and new social movements.

As a way of theorizing power and resistance in the 21st century, the seminar brought two important theoretical discourses into conversation: the first, postcolonial theory (Franz Fanon, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha,) focused on the genealogy of contemporary patterns of racial, class and sexual domination and, the second, premonitory critical perspectives (Albert Camus, Glen Coulthard, Avery Gordon) that explore the phantasms and hauntologies of power and domination in contemporary times. Here, postcolonial narratives of critical race theory critically engage with ghostly intimations of posthuman violence in a compellingly prophetic vision of theory and events.

Spring 2015

CSPT 500/600: New Materialisms: Affect, Biopolitics, Complexity
Professor Steve Garlick (Sociology)

This seminar concentrated on work that traverses the biological, subjective, and social domains via the concepts of affect, biopolitics, and complexity. We read both foundational and contemporary texts by authors such as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Michel Foucault, Brian Massumi, Patricia Clough, John Protevi, Nikolas Rose, John Urry, Wendy Wheeler, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Students were invited to explore linkages, parallels, and divergences among these different approaches to theorizing the ways in which bodies, materiality, and life have become crucial sites for power, politics, and emergent futures.

Fall 2014

CSPT 500/600: Trajectories of the Post-Human
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Trajectories of the Posthuman” is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar that explored the fate of the body in contemporary politics and society through the writings of critical feminist theory, including Judith Butler, Wendy Brown, Jane Bennett, Donna Haraway and Katherine Hayles.

CSPT 500/600: Boundaries, Borders, Limits
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

This is an advanced graduate course on the politics of boundaries, especially boundaries that take the form of (geographical but also other kinds of) borders and (legal but also other kinds of) limits. It is thus a course about distinctions, discriminations and classifications, not least among literatures seeking to understand the politics of boundaries, borders and limits. Or perhaps it might be better to say that it is a course about beginnings and endings, and the diverse ways in which claims to origin and destination are inscribed in boundaries, borders, limits, distinctions, discriminations and classifications. 

Spring 2014

CSPT 500/600: Hollywood and Global Megacities in Cinema: West by Southeast
Professor Lincoln Shlensky (English)

Fall 2013

CSPT 500/600: Power and Resistance: Kafka, Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Fall 2012

CSPT 500/600: Ethics and Politics in the Twentieth Century
Professor Stephen Ross (English)
CSPT 500/600: Bodies and Power
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Spring 2012

CSPT 500/600: Boundaries, Borders, Limits
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

Spring 2010

CSPT 500/600: Legitimations of Violence
Professor R.B.J. (Rob) Walker (Political Science)

Fall 2009

CSPT 500/600: The Nietzsche Seminar
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Spring 2009

CSPT 500/600: The Culture and Politics of Emotion Theory
Professor Cheryly Suzack (Political Science)

Fall 2008

CSPT 500/600: Bodies and Power
Professor Arthur Kroker (Political Science)

Spring 2008

CSPT 500/600: The Politics of Nature in an Era of Pandemic Capital
Professor Nicole Shukin (English)

Spring 2007

CSPT 500/600: The Faces of Exile
Professor Peyman Vahabzadeh (Sociology)