News from the Department of Political Science Fall 2019

Welcome Our Visiting Faculty for 2019/2020

Gustavo Salcedo

Gustavo E. Salcedo Avila

Professor Gustavo Salcedo will be joining Amherst College as a Karl Loewenstein fellow and visiting professor for 2019-2020. He received his Ph.D. in History of International Relations (State University of Milan, 2009), Master Degree in International Strategic Military Studies (State University of Milan, 2004) and Master Degree in International Relations (University of Bologna, 2002). He graduated as a Lawyer from the Central University in Venezuela (1999), and since 2010 has been Assistant Professor at the Simon Bolivar University.

His fields of research are U.S. - Venezuelan relations, History of I.R., History and Geopolitics of the Oil Industry, Venezuelan Political System, and Non Violence.

In 2017 he won the second prize of the national young historian’s award, awarded by the Venezuelan National Academy of History for his work “Venezuela, Cold War Battleground. The United States and the era of Romulo Betancourt (1958-1964)”.

This fall semester he will be teaching

POSC 236 – Introduction to International Relations.

This course will attempt to analyze and illuminate the leading theories of international relations (IR) today, as well as the evolution of IR as a discipline. It is meant to encourage a critical attitude towards all theoretical perspectives discussed, not only to familiarize students with the major paradigms of IR, but also to appreciate what the “international” means and how, if at all, it can be demarcated from “domestic” politics. In addition, the course will examine numerous complex international and global challenges which humankind faces today. Topics will include such issues as the relations of the US to the newly emerging geopolitical and/or geo-economic centers of power, namely China, Iran, India, Russia, and the European Union; regional and ethnic/religious conflicts, nuclear proliferation, transnational terrorism, refugee and migration flows, global environmental degradation and climate change, demographic stress, as well as socioeconomic and cultural globalizations.

This Spring semester Professor Salxedo will be teaching

POSC 352 - History of International Relations

This course seeks to give a comprehensive view of the historical evolution of international relations (IR) from 1919 to the present. Through extensive readings and numerous audio and video documentaries, students will be able to examine and analyze the main events that shaped and influenced world politics since the early twentieth century. Students will be able to appreciate how remarkable polititcal leaders, along with huge contending forces, such as democracy, communism, fascism, poverty, populism and globalization, to name but a few, have forged the world and the international system in which we live in.

Each topic will be accompanied by a selection of some of the most representative texts written by well-known historians and IR scholars. Special emphasis will also be placed in the use of historical primary sources; thus, all analysis of the main historical and political events will be complemented by relevant primary sources, such as public or private documents or memoirs. In this way, students will be provided with direct and unfiltered insight into the event itself,  as well as the culture and idiosyncrasy of the period under scrutiny.

The course seeks to enhance students'  knowledge of history and especially of the behind the scenes dynamics of diplomacy and IR.

  Kasper Villadsen

Kasper Villadsen

Professor Kaspar Villadsen is coming to Amherst College this fall semester as a Karl Loewenstein fellow and visiting professor from Copenhagen, Denmark. He is currently working on a book about Michel Foucault and modern technology, and he will be teaching a course on the subject of technology in social and political theory. Kaspar is looking much forward to discussing these issues -and many more- with students and scholars at Amherst College. 

Kaspar has published the book Statephobia and Civil Society: The Political Legacy of Michel Foucault (2016, Stanford University Press, with Mitchell Dean). He is also the author of Power and Welfare: Understanding Citizens’ Encounters with State Welfare (2013, Routledge, with Nanna Mik-Meyer). Kaspar's work has appeared in journals like Economy and SocietyThe American SociologistTheory, Culture and Society, and Constellations.

This fall semester he will be teaching

POSC 423 - Technologies in Politics and Social Theory.

We live in a world in which we are constantly surrounded by technology. In fact, we increasingly relate to the world, to each other, and to ourselves, by means of modern technologies. How do we understand this technological life from the perspective of political and social theories? This course focuses on this problem by covering theoretical foundations that offer groundbreaking and intriguing perspectives on technology in the modern world: Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Bruno Latour, Slavoj Žižek, and more. These theoretical positions will be explored in studies of fundamental aspects of human life, such as work, health, sexuality, and management. Hence, the course has the double aim of, first, providing a good grasp of what influential theorists can tell us about modern technology, and, second, discussing ways to apply these theories in studies of different aspects of living with technologies. The latter is meant to be of inspiration for the students’ own writing.

  Tess Wise

Tess Wise

Professor Wise, Visiting Professor of Political Science

Tess Wise is excited to be teaching in the Political Science department at Amherst this year. Tess is broadly interested in the politics of everyday people, both in America and internationally. Her research studies the relationship between economic insecurity and political culture, focusing on the stories we tell ourselves that connect our economic and political lives. She recently published a paper exploring the racialized rhetoric surrounding drug use in the United States through time. Currently, Tess is working on a book based on her dissertation research, in which she collected the stories of Americans going through personal bankruptcy. She is also building a database linking bankruptcy and voter files to study how debt affects participation. She looks forward to working with students as research partners on this project. Tess obtained her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University in 2019 and a BS from MIT in French and Political Science in 2011. When she is not working she enjoys hiking, running, yoga, meditation, playing the piano, guitar, and singing.  

This fall semester she will be teaching the followin 2 courses:

POSC 257 - Race and U.S. Politics

This course is one part theoretical, presenting race as a multifaceted concept that is both a social construct and a social fact; one part historical, exploring how race in the United States has been constructed over time through institutions like the Census and in response to different waves of immigration; and one part political, surveying the politics of race in the United States from slavery to civil rights to Donald Trump and interrogating the relationship between race and other lenses through which U.S. politics can be studied, such as class.

POSC 426 - The Politics of Consumer Finance

This course will explore the history of consumer finance from Provident Loan Societies to credit cards and ask whether easy access to credit dampens the potential for class-based social movements. We will study the variety of institutions that regulate consumer finance in the United States from the Federal Trade Commission to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and explore how consumer finance was and is influenced by factors such as gender and race.

This Spring semester she is proposed to teach the following 2 courses:

POSC 357 - Identity Politics

Identity has emerged as a major theme of contemporary politics, although as we will learn, politics and identity have been entangled throughout history.  We will explore the theoretical bases for identity politics in political psychology, political culture, and social movements. We will consider various critiques of identity politics from both the left and the right. In the second half of the semester, we will explore how identity politics have appeared in the United States focusing on the LGBTQ+ movement, Black Lives Matter, and white nationalism.

POSC 358 - Political Ethnography

Ethnography is an immersive, interpretive research methodology that is ideally suited for studying culture and power. This course introduces students to works of political ethnography such as Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Every Twelve Seconds by Timothy Pachirat, and Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild. Students will learn techniques such as participant observation, and ordinary language interviewing. We will also consider the principal of positionally and the ethics of ethnographic research. In the second half to the semester, students will conduct and present their own ethnographic research

Monique Roelofs

Monique Roelofs

Professor Monique Roelofs will be coming to Amherst College this year as a Karl Loewenstein fellow and visiting professor. She is a political theorist and feminist philosopher who specializes in the connections between aesthetics and politics, with special attention paid to the dynamics of race, gender, coloniality, and the global. Her book Arts of Address: Being Alive to Language and the World will be published by Columbia University Press in 2020. She is the author of The Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic (Bloomsbury 2014), which currently is being translated into Portuguese in Brazil. Her articles have appeared in journals such as HypatiaConfluencia,differences, M/m-Print-Plus-Platform, and Texte zur Kunst, and anthologies such as The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Race (2018). Roelofs has recently completed another book manuscript on address titled “Aesthetics, Address, and the Making of Culture.” The guest editor of Aesthetics and Race, a special volume of Contemporary Aesthetics (2009), she is coediting an anthology on Black Aesthetics. She is also coauthoring a book on the aesthetic politics of temporality in Latin America. Building on the short piece “A New Aesthetics of Conviviality” (Flash Art, Sept. 2019), a further project explores the capabilities with which we can propose public alternatives to the reenergized racist, ethno-nationalist, LGBTQI-phobic, and misogynist mobilizations occurring in numerous countries across the world.

The fall she will be teaching the following 2 courses:

POSC 255 - The Politics of Aesthetic Concepts

Day-to-day experiences of the lovely, the playful, the zany, the uncanny, and the mysterious encode an intricate sociality and politics. This course explores their potentialities and powers of these experiences. How do these experiences animate society and mesh with elements of critical reason, performance, and the market? What alternative kinds of pleasure and desire come to light? What other categories are urgent today? Readings in contemporary political and aesthetic theory in multiple traditions. Students will be invited to delve into the politics of their favorite categories in their work for the course.

 POSC 424 - The Politics of Address - From Benjamin to the Present

This course explores a key concept in contemporary political theory that gives rise to intriguing and far-reaching social and philosophical questions. Modes of address, such as a police hailing or following directions from our cellphones, are forms of signification. People, other living beings, objects, and places direct these modes at each other. Address underpins large-scale political structures, such as transnational organizations, national institutions, technology, publicity, and cosmopolitanism, as well as diminutive everyday interactions like seeing, hearing, and feeling. It informs bodily existence, intimacy, materiality, and social difference. New forms of governance and citizenship are at stake. How does address fulfill these roles? This question provides our point of entry into key texts in twentieth- and twenty-first century political theory. Readings by theorists such as Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, Gloria Anzaldúa, Stuart Hall, Judith Butler, and Dina Al-Kassim.

The spring semester she will be teaching the following 2 courses:

POSC 256 - Fast Fiction, Flare Politics, Flash Philosophy

As poetry, photos, memes, tunes, performances, and news go viral on digital platforms like Twitter and YouTube, and on personal blogs, the question arises as to what kind of high-speed (or slow) politics they enact. Fast fiction, in short, enables flare politics and calls for flash philosophy—a kind of philosophical thought that critically reflects on temporality and its links to modern, colonial, gendered constellations of power. Scrutinizing speedy productions in multiple media, investigating aphoristic or fragmentary genres of philosophy in work by Nietzsche, Benjamin, Adorno, Anzaldúa, and Moten, and examining approaches to temporal disjunction, e.g. by Richard and Grosz, this course asks what a philosophical language looks like that reaches across art, the everyday, and political life, and engages our historically and politically fashioned senses and imaginings. Students will submit weekly flash-postings.

POSC 425 - Contemporary Feminist Political Theory

Feminist theories are shifting and are reframing our current political landscape. Starting with historical work on intersectionality (by writers such as Lorde and Lugones), this course will go on to explore new critical trajectories in feminist political theory in engagement with twenty-first century writings by scholars such as Willett & Willett, Weiss, Honig, Ahmed, Cheng, Ngai, and Ortega, and artifacts by feminist artists. Each student will design a research project that will be presented to the group in the final weeks. 

  Lorne Falk

Lorne Falk

Professor Lorne Falk will be a visiting professor at Amherst College this coming year. Lorne Falk is a professor of contemporary art, theory and criticism. He has worked in the arts and education for 40 years and taught courses in the Five Colleges since 2009. His experience is international, interdisciplinary and transcultural. His interests include cultural theory and criticism and contemporary culture. Among the issues that burn brightly for him now are the challenges of interdisciplinary research and creation, ethical imagining, our relationship to the environment, the generation of strong local communities in global culture, the creative application of compassion and generosity, the question of life, and the instrumental role of the liberal arts in all of these domains.

Lorne has written and published more than 60 essays and produced 19 catalogues and books. He has curated more than 150 exhibitions, including 8 major projects. He was Dean of Faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) in Boston from 2001 to 2008. From 1997 to 2000, he was Associate Professor (design theory and criticism) at the School of Design, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. From 1989 to 1994, he was a Program Director at the Banff Centre for the Arts, where he created and directed an international multidisciplinary residency program for artists and scholars with themes such as Rhetoric Utopia and Technology, Nomad, and Living at the End of Nation States. From 1978 to 1985, he was Director and Chief Curator of the Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada. He was Director-Curator of The Photographers Gallery in Saskatoon, Canada from 1973 to 1977.

This fall semester he will be teaching

POSC 235 - Globalization Through the Lens of Border Culture

This course will look at globalization through the lens of border culture, a term that refers to the "deterritorialized" experience of people when they move or are displaced from their context or place of origin. How are people’s experience of belonging and understanding of identity affected by borders within the realms of language, gender, ideology, race, and genres of cultural production as well as geopolitical locations? What does it mean to live between two cultures—an experience that in 2019 might well represent the nature of contemporary life? We will explore these questions by examining the political and aesthetic impact of global processes such as the unprecedented turbulence of migration, the persistent threat of terrorism, and the perplexing influence of communications technologies. Readings will include the voices of artists, critics, historians, cultural theorists, anthropologists, and philosophers, including Gloria Anzaldúa, Arjun Appadurai, Homi Bhabha, Michel Foucault, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Derek Gregory, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Nikos Papastergiadis, Edward Said, Gianni Vattimo, and Eyal Weizman.

This spring semester he will be teaching

POSC 262 - The Affective Interface

The Affective Interface explores a range of issues concerning the technologized body—though none more urgent than the political stakes surrounding life itself. The course considers the relationship of the mind and body to technology in contemporary culture between 1990 and 2020 in relation to the cyborg, the posthuman, bioinformatics, and transgenesis. We will discuss the profound implications of the merging of genetic code and digital code through issues such as the nature of the apparatus, re-embodiment, designing the social (social platforms), natural artifice, bioart, cyborg fictions, subjectivities, perfect bodies, and accelerated speciation. Readings represent four intersecting discursive threads: nomadic subjectivity (Rosi Braidotti et al), vital materialism (Donna Haraway, Jane Bennett, Craig Venture, et al), affect (Brian Massumi, Sarah Ahmed, Patricia Clough), and the bioapparatus (Giorgio Agamben, Sandy Stone, Stelarc et al).

  Constantine Pleshakov

Constantine Pleshakov

Constantine Pleshakov is a former foreign policy analyst at the Institute of U.S. and Canada Studies in Moscow. He emigrated to America in 1998. Pleshakov's books include The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of TsushimaStalin's Folly: The Tragic First Ten Days of World War II on the Eastern Front, and There Is No Freedom Without Bread! 1989 and the Civil War That Brought Down Communism. His most recent book is The Crimean Nexus: Putin's War and the Clash of Civilizations. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts and is currently a Visiting Professor at Amherst College.

This fall semester he will be teaching

POSC 380 - Kremlin Rising: Russia's Foreign Policy in the 21st Century.

This course will examine the foreign policy of the Russian Federation of the past twenty years. As a successor state Russia has inherited both the Soviet Union's clout (nuclear arms, a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council) and Soviet debts—monetary, psychological, and historical. What are the conceptual foundations of Russian diplomacy? Can we deconstruct Russian nationalism so as to examine its different trends and their impact on foreign policy? Do Russian exports of oil and gas define Russian diplomacy, as it is often claimed? Is there any pattern in the struggle over resources and their export routes in continental Eurasia?

This Spring semester he will be teaching

POSC 301 - Terrorism and Revolution: A Case Study of Russia

Russia was among the first nations in the world to face political terrorism when in the 1870s the leftist People's Will group launched the hunt for Tsar Alexander II. The terrorist trend continued into the twentieth century; in 1918, the Socialist Revolutionary Party attempted to assassinate Lenin. Eradicated by Stalin, terrorism resurfaced in the 1990s, when Russia found itself under attack by Chechen separatists. Legitimacy of political terrorism as the last refuge of the oppressed has been actively debated in Russia for more than a century, and the fact that terrorist groups in question ranged from proto-Marxists to the pseudo-Islamic has made Russian discourse on terrorism uncommonly rich. We will be using a variety of primary sources, such as terrorists’ manifestos and memoirs, as well as conceptual critiques of terror, starting with Dostoyevsky’s novel Demons. First, we will wrestle with the definition of “terrorism” as opposed to “terror.” Second, we will explore the place of terrorism in a revolutionary movement and war. Third, we will look at the counter-terrorism measures applied by the Russian government in the past and now. A case study of terrorism in Russia will hopefully help us to answer a number of questions that are highly relevant today.

  Manuela Picq

Manuela Picq

Manuela Lavinas Picq is a Karl Loewenstein Fellow and Visiting Associate Professor in Political Science at Amherst College. She is a professor of International Relations at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), Ecuador. Her research tackles Indigenous politics and sexuality in world politics and Latin America. She is the author of Sexuality and Translation in World Politics  (E-International Relations Publishing 2019,  Vernacular Sovereignties: Indigenous Women Challenging World Politics (University of Arizona Press, 2018), Sexualities in World Politics (with Markus Thiel, Routledge 2015) and Queering Narratives of Modernity (with Maria Amelia Viteri, Peter Lang 2016). She has held research positions at Freie Universität (2015), the Institute for Advanced Study (2013), and the Woodrow Wilson Center (2005). Her publications appear in scholarly journals like Latin American Politics and Society, Cahiers du Genre and International Political Science Review. She contributes to international media outlets.

In 2018, Professor Manuela L. Picq guest edited a special issue of the journal New Diversities on Indigenous Politics of Resistance: From Erasure to Recognition for the Max Planck Institute. She also launched a new book, Vernacular Sovereignties: Indigenous Women Challenging World Politics (University of Arizona Press, 2018). The book argues that Indigenous women have long been dynamic political actors shaping state sovereignty. Her research on Ecuador shows that although Kichwa women face overlapping oppressions, they are achieving rights unparalleled in the world and successfully shaped the first constitution in Latin America to explicitly guarantee the rights of Indigenous women, and the first worldwide to require gender parity in the administration of justice. This book weaves feminist perspectives with Indigenous studies as it expands conceptual debates on state sovereignty.

Picq was nominated among a new generation of twenty public intellectuals across the Western Hemisphere by the New York based organization Global Americans. Her public engagement, which led her to be detained then expelled from Ecuador in 2015, was taken to the big screen with full feature documentary film by Director Clara Linhart: “La Manuela” is touring a variety of film festivals worldwide. In 2018, the government of Ecuador finally reversed the ban against Picq; she now alternates semesters at Amherst College and Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. Recently she did fieldwork collaborating with the Legal Office for Indigenous Rights in Guatemala and taught a course on political ecology in the Galapagos islands

This Fall she will be teaching the following 2 courses:

POSC 307 - States of Extraction: Nature and World Politics in the Americas

The global energy boom has increased states’ dependency on commodities across the Americas. States are putting entire territories up for sale in an effort to turn nature into "quick cash." In Latin America, governments have expanded the extractive frontier, mining the Peruvian highlands and drilling the Amazon for oil without prior consultation and despite widespread opposition. Far from reversing historical dependencies, governments on the political Left have exacerbated this commodification of nature. This course explores states of extraction and offers an activist approach to political ecology in the Americas. We analyze water politics, extractive practices from Brazil to Canada, and Indigenous resistance like Bagua and Standing Rock. The course engages theoretical tools and comparative perspectives to grasp current debates in political ecology. It also seeks to foster a critical inquiry to bridge lasting divides between academia and activism.

POSC 411 / SWAGS 411 - Indigenous Women and World Politics

Indigenous women are rarely considered actors in world politics. Yet from their positions of marginality, they are shaping politics in significant ways. This course inter-weaves feminist and Indigenous approaches to suggest the importance of Indigenous women’s political contributions. It is an invitation not merely to recognize their achievements but also to understand why they matter to international relations.

This course tackles varied Indigenous contexts, ranging from pre-conquest gender relations to the 1994 Zapatista uprising. We will learn how Indigenous women played diplomatic roles and led armies into battle during colonial times. We will analyze the progressive erosion of their political and economic power, notably through the introduction of property rights, to understand the intersectional forms of racial, class, and gender violence. Course materials explore the linkages between sexuality and colonization, revealing how sexual violence was a tool of conquest, how gender norms were enforced and sexualities disciplined. In doing so, we will analyze indigenous women’s relationship to feminism as well as their specific struggles for self-determination. We will illustrate the sophistication of their current activism in such cases as the Maya defense of collective intellectual property rights. As we follow their struggles from the Arctic to the Andes, we will understand how indigenous women articulate local, national, and international politics to challenge state sovereignty.  

New Political Science Courses Offered For Fall 2019

  • POSC 235 - Globalization Through the Lens of Border Culture - Professor Lorne Falk
  • POSC 236 - Introduction to International Relation - Professor Gustavo Salcedo
  • POSC 255 - The Politics of Aesthetic Concepts - Professor Monique Roelofs
  • POSC 257 - Race and U.S. Politics - Professor Tess Wise
  • POSC 335 - The Political Theory of Foucault - Professor Thomas Dumm
  • POSC 423 - Technologies in Political and Social Theory - Professor Kasper Villadsen
  • POSC 424 - The Politics of Address: From Benjamin to the Present - Professor Monique Roelofs
  • POSC 426 - The Politics of Consumer Finance - Professor Tess Wise

International Relations Certificate Courses in Political Science Offered for Fall 2019

  • POSC 112 - The International Politics of Climate Change - Professor Eleonora Mattiacci
  • POSC 154 - The State - Professor Javier Corrales
  • POSC 248 / LLAS 248 - Cuba: The Politics of Extremism - Professor Javier Corrales
  • POSC 307 - States of Extraction: Nature and World Politics in the Americas - Professor Manuela Picq
  • POSC 320 - Post-Colonial Nationalism - Professor Amrita Basu
  • POSC 380 - Kremlin Rising: Russia's Foreign Policy in the 21st Century - Professor Constatine Pleshakov
  • POSC 411 - Indigenous Women and World Politics - Professor Manuela Picq

News and Announcements

Political Science Majors Dinner

There will be a dinner for all Political Science Faculty and Majors on Thursday, September 26, 2019 at 6:00 PM in Lewis-Sebring Commons, Valentine Hall. This will be an opportunity for you to meet and talk with some of the faculty members from the Political Science department. This event is by invitation only and you must RSVP by September 18th.  If you are a Political Science Major and have not received an Evite invitation, please contact Theresa Laizer at by Friday, September 13th so your invitation can be sent. We look forward to seeing you there.

Senior Thesis Writers Workshops

The Thesis Writers workshops have been scheduled for this year. Please save the dates.

  • Monday, September 16, 2019
  • Monday, October 21, 2019
  • Monday, February 10, 2020

The workshops will be held in the CHI Seminar Room in Frost Library from 5:30 - 7:00 PM. Food and Beverages will be provided. Pre-registration is required. An invite will be sent prior to each event.

Professor Javier Corrales Announces New Course for Spring 2020

Professor Javier Corrales has proposed teaching the following new course this coming spring semester:

POSC 430 - The Incumbent’s Advantage in Latin America

This is a research-intensive course on the political and economic factors that provide (or reduce) political advantages to incumbent presidents when running for re-election in Latin America.  We will examine cases of re-elections and defeats, as well as premature interruptions in office.  This course is designed to enable students to engage in substantive research with faculty.  The objective is to expose students to various aspects of academic research: identify a researchable topic, master the relevant literature, develop a viable research design, learn to formulate causal arguments and address rival hypotheses, become comfortable with the academic practice of revising and resubmitting, etc. Students will start doing research from day one.  Most students will work as part of a team. At various points during the semester, students should also be prepared to share their work, orally and in writing, with everyone else in the course. I too will share drafts of some of my work for discussion. Final requirements will vary depending on the topic and may include: developing a thesis prospectus; writing a literature review; researching a topic in close collaboration with me; collecting, analyzing and presenting data. Pre-requisite: priority will be given to seniors and juniors who have taken at least one course with me.

Professor Austin Sarat publishes new book

austin sarat               austin

Amherst Books will be hosting a book discussion/book launch for Professor Austin Sarat's new book titled "The Death Penalty on the Ballot: American Democracy and the Fate of Capital Punishment". 

This event will be on Monday, September 16, 2019, at 7:00 PM. The event is open to the public. Amherst Books is located at 8 Main Street, Amherst, MA., tel# 413-256-1547.

Announcing Two New Student Prizes

Amherst College is pleased to announce two new student prizes on Latin American and Latinx Studies. One of the awards is a thesis prize and the other is an undergraduate prize. These awards were made possible by the generous funding from Robert C. Vogel '60.

Robert C. Vogel '60 Senior Thesis Prize. This prize is awarded every year to the Senior who writes the best thesis addressing the politics, economics,  history, or society of Latin American countries of Latinx communities.

Robert C. Vogel '60 Undergraduate Prize. This prize is awarded every year to the junior student showing the most accomplishment in the field of Latin American and Latinx studies.

New Book Proposal by Professor William C. Taubman

William C. Taubman - Bertrand Snell Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, has signed a contract with his publisher, W.W. Norton, to write a new book with his brother (former New York Times correspondent and editor Philip Taubman) about Robert S. McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and later President of the World Bank.

 Declaring Your Political Science Major

To officially declare your major in Political Science with the Registrar's office, you must print and complete the form at the link below.  Your form will need to be signed by your current advisor and the chair of the Political Science department and then brought the Registrar's office.

Form to declare a Political Science major.

When students declare their Political Science major, the department chair will assign you a major advisor.  Once you have decided to declare, please send an email to the department chair. The email should include the following information:

  1. A copy of the Political Science Major Advising Form (please include courses you have taken and are currently taking)
  2. Preferences for a major advisor indicating whether you have already spoken to him or her about serving as your advisor
  3. Other majors you have already declared or intend to declare.
  4. You should arrange for a time to meet with the department chair to have your advisor assigned and major declaration form signed. Open office hours for the department chair can be found here

After your major advisor has been assigned, you should arrange a meeting with your new advisor to talk about your plans to complete the major requirements for graduation.

Curriculum of Major Requirements in Political Science

What do we mean by politics? Amherst’s Department of Political Science treats the study of politics as a liberal art, offering students new perspectives on political phenomena. The Department offers a diverse range of courses in three broad areas of study: 1) Political Theory, 2) Domestic Politics and State–Society relations, and 3) International Politics and Practices. Our courses engage theoretical assumptions that underlie political life and examine different institutional arrangements and political practices. They provide the resources by which students can critically evaluate and engage contemporary political life.

The Major

Majoring in Political Science requires the completion of 9 courses. These courses are grouped into four distinct categories as follows:

100 Level Courses - Introductions:

These courses emphasize writing, critical reading, and analytical interpretation and introduce students to the study of politics from a variety of perspectives. The department recommends that these courses be taken in the first and second year, or immediately following the declaration of the major. These courses may be offered in either lecture or seminar format.  FYSE courses taught by members of our department can also count toward as introductory courses.

200 Level Courses - Surveys:

These courses survey broad topics in the study of politics. They engage students in the study of different institutions, countries, regions, theories, and modes of political thought. They focus on such key phenomenon as power, justice, order, conflict, mobilization, and development. These courses may be offered in either lecture or seminar formats.

300 Level Courses - Research Seminars:

Research Seminars in politics allow students to deepen their own inquiries into politics. They encourage students to develop research skills through examination of particular debates and topics in politics. Students should take at least one of these courses in their second or third year in order to facilitate subsequent work in the Department’s thesis program. These courses have prerequisites, limited enrollment, and may have a substantial writing requirement.

400 Level Courses - Specialized Seminars:

Specialized seminars might include in-depth investigations into specialized or conceptually complex issues, may utilize new pedagogical approaches, may require more engaged forms of writing than lower-level courses, and may allow students to design and implement research in novel settings. These courses have prerequisites and limited enrollment.


Prior to declaring a major in Political Science, students should have completed the following:

At least 2 courses in Political Science, one of which should be at the 100 level

Majors in Political Science must take 9 courses:

Of the 9 courses, students must take a minimum of 6 within the Political Science department at Amherst College, at least one from each of the four levels (but no more than two 100 level courses will be counted toward the major).

Majors may also include among courses to complete the major 1 course from outside the discipline of political science. Such a course should be designated as counting toward the major at the end of registration, or, if the course is completed prior to declaring the major, at the time of the declaration.

Credits are available for study abroad, 5 college courses, and transfer students.

No courses in political science taken under the pass/fail option will count toward completion of major.

In total, majors in Political Science must complete 9 courses for rite, or 11 for honors (a result of 2 additional thesis research courses in the senior year), in courses offered or approved by the Amherst College Political Science Department.

Honors Requirements

Students intending to write a thesis must successfully complete at least 1 research seminar before the conclusion of t

Students who wish to be considered for graduation with Departmental Honors in Political Science must have an A- cumulative average or higher after six semesters.  Prospective applicants should consult with members of the Department during their junior year to define a suitable Honors project and to determine whether a member of the department is competent to act as an advisor and will be available to do so.

Information about topics that faculty members would like to advise on is posted on our website. We will give preference to working with students whose research interests coincide with our own.  In assigning advisors for honors work, in addition to the expertise/interests of the faculty, we will also consider equitable distribution of the workload and student preferences. Permission to pursue projects for which suitable advisors are not available may be denied by the Department.

Five College Professors who regularly teach in our department may serve as primary advisors or as second and third readers. In assigning second and third readers, the principal advisor shall play a primary role. Colleagues from other departments at Amherst or in the Five Colleges may serve as second and third readers. Only one member of a thesis committee may be from another department at Amherst or from the Five Colleges.

The Department Chair will organize three meetings for juniors who hope to do honors work, in December, February and April. Students should attend as many of these meetings as possible. Those who are studying abroad should communicate with prospective thesis advisors before leaving and while abroad.

Credits for Study Abroad, 5 College Courses, and Transfer Students

Students must take a minimum of 6 courses, at least 1 at each level, from within the Political Science Department at Amherst College. Students who are enrolling in elective courses taught abroad for one semester may count up to 2 elective political science courses toward the major; they may count up to 3 elective courses if they are abroad for 1 year.

Students may take up to two courses in political science from Smith, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and the University of Massachusetts. Such courses must 1) be taught by someone with a degree in political science or have substantial political content; and 2) not be redundant with other courses already taken. The chair of the department will decide which 5 College courses will be given credit toward the major.

For transfer students, the Department will accept up to three courses for the major from the school from which they transferred.  We may waive the introductory course requirement if the transfer student has had an equivalent course.

For students coming to the College with a BA we will accept 4 courses and waive the introductory course requirement.

Decisions Regarding Credit or Requests to Vary the Requirements for Completion of the Major

Decisions regarding credit or requests to vary the requirements for completion of the major shall be made by the Department Chair.