Anthropology 320: Public Spheres and Public Cultures

Spring 2007
Instructor: Christopher Kelty
Time: MW(F) 11:00 - 12:20
Place: Wiess 146

Since 1989, with the publication in English of Habermas' The 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.

Christopher M. Kelty
Last modified: Mon Jan 8 13:27:46 CST 2007