Lecture #1: The 2008 U.S. Presidential Campaign

and American Political Culture

* How do political campaigns and presidential races work? 

*      Madison Federalist #12 and the ‘scheme of representation” – how political representation would balance the republic – the Founders consider elections and develop the electoral college

*      Every four years: voters and the agreement that the loser will defer – the chaotic 1796 election

*      Alexis de Tocqueville on civil society in America and the evolution of universal suffrage

*      the development of national political parties and national political conventions

*      political primaries and caucuses

*      a million dollars a day – the politics of money in America

*      Virtual contenders: the role of the media and the internet in political campaigns

*      the modern presidential race – democracy in action?

* Interlude: Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men – and the American political novel

* The politics of identity – the history of race and gender – Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: expression of the politics of race and gender or transcendence of race and gender?

* Immigration, immigrants, and the 2008 presidential campaign

* Religion, conservatism, and the Republican Party: Mike Huckabee and John McCain

* Politics and generational change: fading Boomers and emerging Millennials and the modern electorate.

* Winning the race vs. doing the job – successful presidents and what made them that way

* The campaign for the presidency as an expression of modern American political culture.






Lecture #2:  We Are What We Eat and Eat What We Are:

A History of Food in America

* Food and history, food and economics, food and culture, food and identity – food in the United States

* Native foods and indigenous cuisines

* Fusion cuisine – American food as poly-culture

* The history of food – from subsistence to industrial production

* Five exemplary histories:

*      Apples – Johnny Appleseed makes the apple American; from applejack to an apple a day keeps the doctor way; organic fruit and food politics

*      Potatoes: from staff of life to fast food.  Potatoes and the biological exchange; the domestication of the potato; Monsanto splits the potato gene and patents it; industrial potatoes and American French fries

*      Corn as the original American food; corn in every field – for humans and for the animals they keep; the development of hybrid corn and making seeds a commodity; sweeter and sweeter – corn and corn syrup in everything; obesity and diabetes as American epidemics

*      Catfish and the American South; catfish, Mark Twain, fish fries, and the invention of heartland identity; Okie noodling and catfish hunting for sport; catfish instead of cotton (the emergence of catfish agriculture); catfish politics – why catfish matter, for better or for worse, so much in Mississippi (and Arkansas).

*      Making Meat: red meat and a chicken in every pot; from free range to feed lots; industrializing meat production and the problem of food in a modernizing society; the discovery of hygiene and quality control; Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and protecting the consumer – the Meat Inspection Act and the Food and Drug Act; E. coli and the problem of inspection in the 1990s; manufactured chickens and the pitfalls of Purdue; Mad Cow disease and the threat of avian flu – meat bites back

* The Green Revolution and its discontents; the discovery of agricultural pollution; the emergence of organic food production – its success and problems; the “buy local” and Slow Food Movements; obesity as an American epidemic; food in an affluent society; food and identity.


Lecture #3:  Race and Ethnicity in American Society

* The problem of “equality” and cultural differences in American history and culture. 

*      Melting pot or nation of differences? 

*      What differences should be recognized – again, what is “equality”?

*      Naming and categories of people – the U.S. Census vs. how groups of people name themselves.  How categories of “difference” are created.

*      “Nature” vs. “nurture” and categories of identity and “differences”

*      The problem of “differences” and globalization

* Who is Black?  And the problem of equality and differences in American culture.

*      The importance of names: “Negro,” “colored,” “black,” “African American,” “people of color,” “people of African descent.”  The history of the name issue:  The Civil Rights Movement and when ‘Negro’ becomes ‘black.’

*      The English language and “white” and “black” (see Robert Moore, “Racism in the English Language.”)

* “Who is Black?” and cultural politics – who gets to decide?

Ø      The history of slavery in America and legal definitions of “difference”

*        The evolution of slavery in the Americas – making “aggregates” from Africans from different cultures

*        What’s wrong with Gone With the Wind?

*        Government and laws and turning “Negroes” into property: the first statues/laws about slavery in Virginia in the 1660s.  The children of a slave mother become the property of the owner of the mother. 

*        Slaves as “human property” and the evolution of racism – the slave codes; the implicit recognition of slavery in the U.S.

Constitution:  the 3/5’s Compromise, which counted “slaves” differently than others; the protection of property rights in the 5th Amendment)

*        The evolution of racism – “science” and the definition of “race” – Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and the classification of races: Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian or Negoid, American, Malay.  Samuel Morton, Josiah Nott, and other American ethnologists and ranking the “races”

Ø      The Civil War, Emancipation, and the end of slavery –

*        Government and the commitment to equal rights:

·        14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1867) gives citizenship rights to freed slaves.

·         15th Amendment (1868) – “the vote cannot be denied on the basis of color, creed, or previous condition of servitude”

*        American Apartheid: Segregation and what it means to be black in America (1877-1965).  Segregation as a complete system:

·        An economic system: sharecropping and African Americans as “permanently poor”

·        A social system: the legal segregation of black and white in both public and private places

·        A political system: denying African Americans the right to vote

·        A psychological system: the Ku Klux Klan, terror and the domination of blacks by whites; lynching in the South (1890-1920)

* The Civil Rights Movement and the redefinition of what it means to be black in America:

*      Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka (1954) – ending the segregation of schools with “all deliberate speed.”  The commitment of the Supreme Court – and in 1957, the President, to equal rights for African Americans

*      Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955) – the Southern Christian Leadership Commission (SCLC).  African American Christianity and political power

*      The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), “sit-ins,” and the challenge to segregation in public places

*      The March on Washington (August, 1963) and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech – “What is black” and the American Dream

*      Voting rights – the Voting Rights Act of 1963 and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (against “poll taxes”)

*      The “black power” movement, and a new name for African Americans – “black,” instead of “Negro”

*      Identity politics and the transcendence of it in 2008 – have differences became equal in modern America?

* So what does it mean to be “black” in America?  Who is “black”?  What is “equality”?  How can “differences” be recognized at the same time that equality is observed?  Who gets to decide?  What difference to the names make?


* Who is Asian? Changing definitions of “Asian” in American history.  Where did the term “Asian-American” come from and who gets to decide?

*      Asian Americans and stereotypes.  Are positive stereotypes better than negative ones?

*      The importance of Asian Americans in recent American history – The number of Asian Americans has increased by a factor of ten since 1965; Now 4% of total U.S. population; 60-70% are foreign born; more than half live on the West Coast.  The meaning of equality for recent immigrants from Asia.

* But first, three perspectives:

*      How do Asians perceive Americans?  Viet Kieu perceptions of Americans.  And how do Asians perceive Asians who perceive Americans?  Vietnamese perceptions of Viet Kieu perceptions of Americans.  What are the stories that Asians tell about Americans and about themselves in America?

*      What stories to Americans tell about Asians?  In the past and now.

*      What stories do scholars and thoughtful observers tell about Asians in America?

*      What stories can we create about Asian in America that have multiple perspectives?

* What kind of narrative about Asian Americans can we create that includes all of these perspectives?






Lecture #4:  How Global Warming Got Noticed in America: 

the Culture and Politics of Global Warming in the U.S.

* What is global warming?  As a physical fact and a cultural understanding?  What stories are we telling about global warming?  Why?

* The study of the environment and of environmental issues to study American culture and politics

* Perceptions of climate and conceptions of climate – how Americans understood and understand climate. 

* The discovery of global warming and the evolution of climate science and climate science institutions

* The Kyoto Protocol; American conflict over the Kyoto Protocol

* Environmentalist fantasy or apocalyptic nightmare?  The stories Americans tell about global warming politics

* Swapping hot air: the development of grassroots carbon markets in America; making air a commodity. Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) and American society.  The emergence of carbon consciousness.

* An inconvenient truth and the emergence of a cultural consensus about global warming; strategies and responses

* Looking toward Kyoto 2012



Page count: 364
Last modify: 09-05-2016


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