Spring 2023

Active Citizenship

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-221


Molly Mead (Section 01)


This course investigates the practice and ideal of community in America both on a national and a local level, asking students to develop concrete strategies for strengthening the public sphere and fostering community life. We will consider the nature and limits of democracy, the meaning of belonging, the experience of stigma and exclusion, the concepts of civic responsibility and public discourse, and the conflict and compromises inherent in political advocacy. The course will pay particular attention to the struggles of often-marginalized groups to build healthy and just communities. Coursework will include contemporary and historical case studies, literary depictions, and more theoretical readings, as well as a substantial commitment to the observation of civic life at the local level. We will attend: school committee meetings, community organizing strategy sessions, select board meetings, board meetings of local nonprofit organizations and community gatherings. We will bring what we learn from these sessions into our classroom discussions of how to build socially just communities at the local level. Each of you will develop a personal action plan for how you plan to be an active citizen in the near and the long term of your life.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Mead.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to American Studies majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Discussion, reading, written work, and critical analysis. You will be introduced to ideas about race and racism, power and inequities and be expected to engage with ideas, world views and perspectives that initially may make you uncomfortable. In addition students will be expected to attend 4 public meetings. They can be town of Amherst government meetings or school committee meetings, all of which are in walking distance from the campus or other public meetings of the student's choice. Students will be expected to do a public action project inspired by what they learn in the public meetings they attend. Students will learn how to analyze public meetings and understand how power manifests overtly and covertly. Finally, students will develop a plan for how they intend to be an active citizen after they graduate from the college.

AMST 221 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM SCCE A019
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM SCCE A019

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen Dey Street Books Vargas, Jose Antonio Amherst Books TBD
Citizen: An American Lyric Graywolf Rankine, Claudia Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022, Spring 2023