Anthropology 320: Public Spheres and Public Cultures
Instructor: Christopher Kelty
Time: MW(F) 11:00 - 12:20
Place: Wiess 146
Introduction: This class covers theories of the public and public
sphere, democratic self-governance, public opinion, social imaginaries
and the collective composition of a public world.
Since 1989, with the publication in English of Habermas' Structural
Transformation of the Public Sphere, there has been an explosion of
research organized around the concept of a public sphere, publics and
social imaginaries. Historical, anthropological, sociological and
philosophical work has used Habermas' work, and increasingly the work
of Arendt and Dewey to re-imagine empirical studies of actually
existing democracy. This class asks: has there been any progress
since then? Are the debates around publics and the public sphere,
ideology, diaspora replacements for the concepts of "culture" and
"ideology"-- if so, what do we gain from these new concepts?
Although the core of this course consists of four key philosophical
texts in the debate--Dewey, Arendt, Habermas and Taylor--the themes
for the course are much broader: self-governance "of the people, by
the people, for the people;" democracy in the US and around the world;
public opinion polling; Propaganda and censorship, reality television,
and mass media; the Internet and "virtual publics"; science and its
publics; The Wisdom of Crowds and "You"; Nascar racing and "Joe
Six-Pack"; Secrecy and torture; Hamas and Hezbollah; audit culture and
neoliberalism and so on and so forth. Although the key texts will
guide our thinking, our discussion should not be limited to them, but
to testing out the relevance and usefulness of the concepts in cases
that seem hard to understand or explain.
Pre-requisites: None. Although previous experience with philosophical
and anthropological texts and seminar-style discussion is helpful.
Attendance and Participation are required (40%)
6 (Bi-)Weekly response papers (c. 1000 words) (20%)
1 research paper, including literature review and proposal (40%)
Required Books (at the bookstore):
Taylor, Charles "Modern Social Imaginaries" Duke University Press ISBN: 0822332930
Habermas, Juergen, "The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere" MIT Press ISBN: 0262581086
Dewey, John "The Public and its problems" Swallow Press ISBN: 0804002541
Arendt, Hannah "The Human Condition" 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press ISBN: 0226025985
Pdfs and other readings on the course website
The ultimate and final source of info for the class is the website.
http://kelty.rice.edu/320 (also http://smatter.rice.edu/320)
pass: [in class]
Assignments and Grading
A. Attendance and participation is simply mandatory. (40%)
B. Research paper. (40%)
The research paper is the other core focus of your required work. You
should start thinking about it on day one, and it will develop
throughout the semsester. It can be ethnographic (i.e. you want to
actually hang out in a public), historical (you want to use historical
sources to make an argument about a particular public),
philosophical/critical (you want to closely read and develop an argument about
a set of texts relating to concepts of the public/public sphere) or a
The research paper should be conceived of as something incubated
throughout the semester, and not something to be completed in the last
two weeks of class. To help you along, there are four phases, all are
1. (Weeks 1-6) Topics and Literature review. Begin by choosing
three or more possible topics. Bring them to class to discuss, and
refine. Start searching for scholarly work and let your search
help define your topic. Use the force. Let the concepts flow
through you, Luke. As you read scholarship, newspaper articles,
watch TV or surf the Internets, let your reading and viewing help
refine you question. Be prepared to report regularly on your topic
ideas and the material you find. A literature review will be due
by the end of week 6.
2. (Weeks 7-9) Research proposal. Based on your literature review
and the evolution of your thinking, craft a research proposal. Be
as specific as you can. Think of it as an outline of the work you
can accomplish in weeks 9-16. Your research question should be as
clear as you can make it, and you should have a clear sense of what
you want to *do*.
3. (Weeks 9-16) conduct research. write. keep track of your
progress, report periodically in class.
4. (Weeks 15-16) Compile your final research paper. present.
C. Bi-weekly response papers (~5) (20%)
The last component of the class are Bi-weekly response papers. The
class will be divided into two groups that will alternate writing and
reading. Bi-Weekly papers are due no later than Tuesday at 5pm, each
These response papers serve two functions: first, they are meant to
ensure that you do at least some of the reading. second, they should
be a platform for you to try out your research paper topic, ideas and
questions. to the extent possible, try to relate your research
project to the assigned reading.
* = Response paper (Group 1)
# = Response paper (Group 2)
week 1. Introduction (readings are due on the day they are listed)
Mon. Jan. 8th: Introduction, What is a public and is it in crisis?
Wed. Jan. 10th: Introduction: Habermas p. 1-26. Alastair Hannay, "The
Public" p. 1-25.
week 2. Diagnosis and Basic Structure
Mon. Jan. 15th: No Class, MLK day.
*Wed. Jan. 17th: Habermas 27-88. Selections from Addison and Steele.
Find examples of the contemporary public.
week 3. Idea and Ideology, Argument and Opinion
Mon. Jan. 22nd: Kant, "What is Enlightenment?"; Habermas, 89-117.
#Wed. Jan. 24th: Habermas, 117-140.
week 4. Publics in America
Mon. Jan. 29th: Lippmann, Selections from Public Opinion and Phantom Public.
*Wed. Jan. 31st: Dewey-Lippmann debates. Dewey, Chapter 1,2
week 5. Phantom Publics and Great Communities
Visit from Bruno Latour
Mon. Feb. 5th: Dewey, Chapters 3,4. Intro to Making Things Public,
#Wed. Feb. 7th: Dewey, Chapters 5,6.
week 6. Disintegration.
Mon. Feb. 12th: Habermas 141-180.
*Wed. Feb. 14th: Habermas, 182-235.
week 7. Disintegration Cont'd
Mon. Feb. 19th: Discuss Lit Reviews and Proposals
#Wed. Feb. 21st: TBD
week 8. The/A public, publics, counterpublics and so forth
Mon. Feb. 26th: Discuss Lit Reviews and Proposals
*Wed. Feb. 28th: Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking the Public Sphere"; Michael Warner, "Publics and Counter Publics"
week 9. Mid-term Break
Mon. Mar. 5th: No Class (midterm break)
Wed. Mar. 7th: No Class (midterm break)
week 10. Public and Private
Mon. Mar. 12th: Arendt, p. 1-78.
#Wed. Mar. 14th: Warren and Brandeis, The Right to Privacy; Susan Gal,
A Semiotics of the Public/Private Distinction; Facebook.
week 11. Print, Film, Television
Mon. Mar. 19th: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, Intro and
*Wed. Mar. 21st: TBD
week 12. Modernities and publics
Mon. Mar. 26th: Taylor, Chapters 1-5
#Wed. Mar. 28th: Taylor, Chapters 6-10 muslim/Asia modernities
week 13. Composing the Public Sphere
Mon. Apr. 2nd: Arendt, Labor and Work 79-175
*Wed. Apr. 4th: Isabelle Stengers, Cosmopolitics
(6th): Spring recess
week 14. Action
Mon. Apr. 9th: Arendt, 248-
#Wed. Apr. 11th: Review.
Mon. Apr. 16th: Presentations
Mon. Apr. 18th: Presentations
Mon. Apr. 23rd: Presentations
Wed. Apr. 25th: Presentations
Fri. Apr 27th: Final Papers due, 5pm
Honor code statement: All written work is expected to be individually
pursued and completed, unless prior arrangements are made with the
professor. The weekly response papers will be graded based on how
well they help facilitate discussion in class; the final research
paper will be graded on its originality, thoroughness, timeliness, and
attention to detail among other criteria.
ADA statement:Any student with a disability requiring accommodations in this
course is encouraged to contact me after class or during
office hours. Additionally, students will need to contact
Disability Support Services in the Ley Student Center.
Materials for the class.
Last modified: Mon Jan 8 13:28:29 CST 2007