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Instructor Class Description

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Jack Turner Iii
POL S 516
Seattle Campus

Special Topics in American Political Thought

Special topics or themes in the development of American political culture.

Class description


The close interrelationship between slavery and freedom in American political experience is both obvious and under-analyzed. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, slaves largely laid the foundations of the American economy and enabled American commercial prosperity. That prosperity in turn facilitated the freedom of the rest of the population. Slavery's pervasiveness during the colonial era and early republic provided a ubiquitous image of unfreedom against which free individuals defined their identities as citizens. American slavery thus underwrote American freedom not only materially, but also within the political imagination. This seminar scrutinizes both the material and the imaginative interrelationship between slavery and freedom in American political experience. It analyzes the ways in which distinctively American understandings of freedom are historically rooted in the experience of slavery. It also asks how we might emancipate American understandings of freedom from conceptual limitations imposed by this historical trajectory. Readings by Thomas Jefferson, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, Jane Addams, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Edmund Morgan, and Orlando Patterson.

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General method of instruction

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Class assignments and grading

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jack Turner Iii
Date: 09/16/2009