The Politics of Displacement

Course Description

Antebellum [“before the war”…Civil War] American political history generally follows a routine script in which the purpose of the American Revolution was to liberate Americans for self-government from an overbearing political authority wielded by the British Crown, and the establishment of individual freedom to pursue private prosperity and social emancipation.   African Slavery in America is viewed as a historic anomaly still needing coherent explanation, and Native American land appropriation and removal as the consequence of natural historical forces of immigration and pre-modern social values.   In my class, the revolution against traditional political authority embodied in Thomas Jefferson's and Thomas Paine's attacks on the British crown, the rise of slavery, and the conflict with Native America are seen as elements of a cultural and social trauma that results from European displacement to North America from the 16th through 19th centuries.   They are tied together in a narrative that results in a unique culture that presumes in the words of a recent commentary a “world shaped by a strong America---strong enough to provide political, economic, and moral leadership….” This cultural and social trauma becomes in this class the origin of America’s cultural identity. That cultural identity may be the basis of our existing political structure, the character of contemporary politics, and our approach to public policy, and will be described in terms of America’s historic cultural

Subfield:   American Politics & Political Theory [See prerequisites for details]


Classes begin with a presentation of between 30-40 minutes, and the remainder of the time is spent in class discussion. Participation is a class requirement.


This course, ordinarily listed as "American Politics", has been cross-listed as "Political Theory" for Spring 2012. Priority will be given to graduating seniors in Political Science who still need to complete their "Theory" distribution and/or specialization requirement.