At the College of Wooster, I am teaching two courses in the Department of Philosophy: The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School in Spring 2021, and Ethics, Justice and Society in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. Last year, I taught two upper division courses in the Department of Political Science: Theories of Punishment in Fall 2019 and Modernity and Coloniality: Post- and Decolonial Theory in Spring 2020.
Prior to arriving in Ohio, I was instructor of record for two upper-division political science courses at Notre Dame: Theories of Punishment (Fall 2017) and War and Diplomacy (Fall 2018, co-instructed with Michael Desch). In recognition of my teaching there, I received the “Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award” from the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning (a department-wide honor) as well as “First Honorable Mention for the Outstanding Graduate Instructor Teaching Award” from the Graduate Student Union (a university-wide honor). In 2019, I was nominated by Notre Dame for the Midwest Association of Graduate Students’ Excellence in Teaching Award.
A full teaching portfolio (including prospective course descriptions, examples of in-class assignments, and student evaluations) is available upon request. Below are course descriptions for classes I have developed and taught.
Spring 2021: The Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School
In the early twentieth century, a group of intellectuals broadly known as the Frankfurt School sought to move beyond standard class-based (i.e. Marxist) approaches in social analysis to investigate the unique challenges posed by capitalism, modern bureaucracy and mass politics. Against the backdrop of Nazism, Stalinism and monopoly capitalism, the Frankfurt School asked two questions: How did we get here? And, Where does emancipation lie? Influenced by Hegel, Marx, Weber, Nietzsche and Freud, they drew from a wide array of intellectual disciplines and theoretical approaches in an effort to diagnose the ruined, pathological world of modernity. Their studies – which go under the general name of “Critical Theory” – were among the first that can be properly labeled interdisciplinary, encompassing insights from numerous intellectual approaches. By the time of their mature works the Frankfurt School no longer referred to their work as philosophy, politics, sociology, aesthetics or psychology; it was, simply, “Theory.” The course will consider the strengths and limitations of Critical Theory through close readings of the school’s seminal texts, including Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, Horkheimer’s Eclipse of Reason, and Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man and Essay on Liberation, among other texts. Many of the readings assume familiarity with ‘modern’ social theory, particularly Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche and Weber, as well as ‘contemporary’ thought.
Syllabus coming soon.
Spring 2021, Fall 2020: Ethics, Justice, and Society
In this course, we will read a selection of philosophical texts spanning more than two millennia, from Thucydides to Angela Davis, in order to better confront some of the most foundational questions of the human condition: for example, What is justice? What is political community? What ought to be the role of government? How do we know what is morally right? What is the relation between reason and morality? Are justice, liberty, and equality in tension with each other? As we proceed, we will pay particular attention to how and on what grounds different thinkers answer these questions. At the same time, we will interrogate the implicit assumptions of the most famous currents of ethical and political thought in the Western tradition. To this end, we will also read texts that explicitly raise the questions of colonization, race, class, and gender. Through close reading and critical discussion, we will test our own political and ethical commitments and in doing so further our understanding of the present.
Syllabus coming soon.
Spring 2020: Modernity and Coloniality: Post- and Decolonial Theory
The “Western canon,” long associated with an education in the liberal arts, is undeniably intertwined with the history of colonialism and imperialism. In this course, we will explore what it means to “de-colonize” the canon by reading selections from post-colonial theorists (e.g. Fanon, Said, Gandhi, etc.) as well as de-colonial theorists (e.g. Quijano, Mignolo, Wynter, etc.) to criticize Eurocentric forms of domination and deconstruct the ontological and epistemological categories that the “Western canon” embodies. Questions we will wrestle with throughout the semester include: How are power and knowledge related? How does Eurocentric philosophy produce and enforce categories of race? What does it mean to be a subaltern voice or have disqualified knowledge? What are the political and ethical possibilities of colonized people? How are colonial categories internalized and reproduced? Why and how should we read the “Western canon” in light of de-colonial critique?
See syllabus here.
Fall 2019, Fall 2017: Theories of Punishment
Why do we punish? How do we justify it? Is punishment, ultimately, good? In this course, we will examine a range of philosophical treatments of punishment, texts in political theory and contemporary case studies (involving issues like corporal punishment, symbolic punishment, outgroup alienation) in order to better triangulate the very function of punishment in society. We will begin with the thesis that punishment, as a whole, is good: the rehabilitative and restorative traditions, along with relevant readings from thinkers like Kant and Hegel, articulate the moral and social benefits of punishment. As the semester proceeds, we will look to more instrumental utilizations of punishment, as referenced by utilitarian and deterrent traditions along with readings from Bentham and Machiavelli. Finally, we will look to historical genealogies of punishment coming out of Nietzsche and Foucault, which argue that our received understandings of punishment are predicated on a contingent history of conflicting narratives that ultimately has come to deny or exploit us. As we confront this broad spectrum of viewpoints, from ‘punishment as a possibility for righting the soul’ to ‘punishment as a vector of power exerted upon us’, we will continually revisit the questions of why we punish and to what end we punish.
Questions relevant to contemporary politics to highlight: What political ramifications does punishing someone have? What effect does the rally-round-the-flag effect have? What happens when we punish other groups symbolically or physically? Can punishment be justified even if the accused is innocent? What forms of punishment are defensible? What does a philosophy of punishment have to do with mass incarceration? Should prisons be abolished?
See syllabus here.
Fall 2018: War and Diplomacy (cross-listed as political theory and international relations)
The most influential and enduring work in contemporary international relations theory has deep roots in the classic texts of political thought. In this course, we will place seminal texts in the history of political thought alongside the most influential modern international relations theory in order to illuminate the enduring centrality of war and diplomacy in politics. We begin by exploring the ancient roots of Realism, which focuses on the anarchical nature of relations among states and the central role of military force, through the works of Thucydides, Machiavelli and Clausewitz. Next, we will consider Realism’s most important modern alternative: Liberalism. To understand modern Liberalism’s notion of very different international relations based upon a democratic/commercial/institutional peace, we explore thinkers like Kant, Montesquieu and Rawls. Finally, we end with an engagement with Constructivism, the view that anarchy and other aspects of statecraft are not given but socially constructed. We dig down to the roots of this view by reading thinkers such as Hegel, Schmitt and Fukuyama. Taken together, this course will provide students with an understanding of the debt modern international relations theory owes to the history of political thought, and why the questions raised in contemporary war and statecraft are actually part of a larger conversation stretching back to the beginning of human history.
See syllabus here.