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James Russell Wiggins Chair in Government and Polity
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Jamie McKown holds the James Russell Wiggins Chair in Government and Polity at the College of the Atlantic.
This endowed chair honors the memory of James Russell Wiggins, whose career included a distinguished 20-year tenure as managing editor of The Washington Post. Wiggins was an early trustee of the College and a longtime supporter of its educational mission. The James Russell Wiggins Chair in Governance and Polity was established to advance the study of the governance, philosophy and the practical application of democratic forms.
Jamie’s teaching and research interests lie at the intersection between political science, rhetorical criticism, critical theory, and American political history. He is currently wrapping up a project on Lincoln’s use of conspiracy rhetoric in the years before his election to the presidency. In addition he has recently begun a new long term project to recover the works of influential Michigan women’s suffrage activist and Republican operative Adelle Hazlett.
Before coming to COA Jamie was formerly a professor at the College of Charleston where he taught classes in rhetoric, political communication, and American campaign history. He has also previously taught classes at Northwestern University and Loyola University in Chicago. He spent a number of years as a coach for the Emory University debate team. While there, Jamie successfully coached three different teams to national intercollegiate championship titles. Based on these efforts he was awarded the Warren Aiken Outstanding Alumni Award by Emory in 2000. Thanks to a generous grant from the Davis family, he is currently working with a group of COA students to examine ways to bring more debate activities to our campus.
In addition to his academic work, Jamie brings to COA many years of grounded experience working in politics and on various electoral campaigns. While he no longer actively consults on campaigns, he continues to remain connected to the community. He regularly serves as a judge for the American Association of Political Consultants annual Pollie Awards. In a similar capacity he has worked with various media organizations both as a political commentator and as a producer/adviser for televised political debates. This has included televised appearances on ABC News Nightline, CNN, and ITN as well as references to his work in numerous print publications including The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, PR Week, Agence France Presse, etc.
Jamie holds a BA in Political Science from Emory University, a MA in Political Communication from Georgia State University, and a PhD in Rhetoric from Northwestern University.
HS856Arguing over Slavery: Lincoln, Douglas & the Debates of 1858
Perhaps one of the most widely invoked figures in modern history, Abraham Lincoln is frequently written about, quoted, and held up as an iconic example in contemporary political discourse. His debates with Stephen Douglas over territorial policy and the extension of slavery have come to define a particular moment in American political and rhetorical history. Though many people have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, very few people have read them, and even fewer still have a clear sense of what the debates were about in the first place. This is particularly unfortunate as a close reading of these texts reveals a much richer picture of the political climate leading up to the Civil War. This class is an intensive exploration into Lincoln?s political career in those years leading up to his presidency, the debates he engaged in with Douglas, the major issues involved, and the way we make sense of those events today. Students will explore Lincoln's activities as they relate to the issue of slavery, the death of the Whig party, and the ascendancy of the newly formed Republican Party. The first several weeks of the course will be dedicated to providing historical context to political climate of the antebellum period. We will then spend an extended period of time engaging in close argument and textual readings of each of the 1858 Senate debates between Lincoln and Douglas. Students will track the arguments as they evolve and devolve throughout the campaign. We will wrap up the term by analyzing what role these debates played in shaping Lincoln?s future political career. While the class will focus intensely on the political events of the 1850's, we will simultaneously track broader questions of political action in the context of a democratic society. When does the need to be a moral actor come into conflict with being a political actor? This course is intended for students with an interest in American political history, Constitutional law, rhetorical analysis,
HS759Conspiracy Theory and Political Discourse
The fear of the "hidden" enemy that lurks behind the shadows is a narrative theme that appears periodically in the political discourse of all democratic societies. Yet, this narrative of fear (often labeled as conspiracy theory) is regularly criticized as somehow being inherently antidemocratic, irrational, or dangerous. At the same time, this form of argument can also be "mainstreamed" and defended as a legitimate response to the events of the moment. How do we make sense of this tension? If conspiracy theory as a mode of explanation is inherently "irrational," what does this mean for its enduring presence in our political discourse? Is the only difference between a reasonable claim rooted in fear and the conspiracy theories of "kooks" and "nutjobs" simply a matter of which one is "correct?" This class will address the role fear and anxiety plays in our social and political lives. We will explore a variety of topics related directly to how threats, conspiracies, agents of "evil," and "otherness" become manifest in public discourse. Specific topics include: the possible tension between "rational" deliberative decision making and the cultivating of anxiety in public governance; why we dismiss some claims as mere conspiracy theory and yet have no problem accepting other similarly formed arguments; what role the "outsider" plays in cementing cohesion within an "in" group; and the disturbing possibility that fear is actually a healthy component of democratic debate. The class will look at both contemporary and historical examples from the United States and around the world. There are three primary goals of the class: first, to expose students to the analysis of primary texts rooted in public fear and anxiety; second, to provoke discussion about the role of conspiracy and threats in democracies; and third, to provide students with a survey of secondary work that seeks to situate and make sense of these topics. Readings will be a combination of primary artifacts for interpretation (such a speeches, manifestos, pamphlets, and movies) as well as secondary analytical readings. In addition to the regular class meeting time, students will be expected to attend a weekly evening lab session devoted to the screening of visual works and/or presentations by speakers. Evaluation will be based on readings driven discussion as well as individual student writing assignments. Students will produce several short length essay assignments during the term as well as a longer research paper at the end of the term. This class is open to students of all interests regardless of their experience with politics, government, or social theory.
Level: Intermediate; Class limit: 15; *HS*
This class will be conducted as a workshop with an emphasis on providing students with an opportunity to engage in various forms of public debate and argumentation. The majority of work related to the class will be spent participating in ?hands on? debate and argument practice. Students will get the chance to take part in wide array of debate formats covering a broad spectrum of topics and themes. In many instances decisions about topics will be student driven and guided by events external to the class. Along with the instructor, students will work together to refine argument structure, strategic argument selection, research practices, presentation skills, and audience analysis. In addition, students will also examine various historical accounts of academic debate practices and the theoretical/social context that gave rise to them. Previous debate and/or public speaking experience is not required. Students of all academic interests and backgrounds are encouraged to participate. Students will be evaluated on their participation in class, completion of process-based assignments, collaboration on team projects, and several individual reports that require outside research. At no point will the final evaluation of students be tied to any standard of what constitutes a "good" debater in a competitive sense. Students who feel that they are less proficient in the areas of argument and public communication should not be worried that this would somehow disadvantage them in terms of grading. While there is no set "lab", this class will require a good deal of time commitment outside of the traditional "classroom" environment. This includes research on the debate topics as well as actual performance time. Level: Introductory. Class limit: 10. *HS*
HS835Democracy: Models, Theories, Questions
HS664Environmentality: Power, Knowledge, and Ecology
Bringing critical theory directly to the gates of human ecology, this class will approach the central issue of how discourses of government, biopower, and geopower have intertwined and infused themselves within the representations of "environments" in popular debate. With a specific nod to Foucault, Marx, Baudrillard, Luke, and other critical social theorists, we will tackle the various complexities that arise when "ecology" become a site for political and economic expertization. Topics to be covered include the formation of knowledge/power/discourse, systems of environmentality, the rise of hyperecology, the valorization of ecodisciplinarians, and, as Timothy Luke puts it: "how discourses of nature, ecology or the environment, as disciplinary articulations of ecoknowledge, can be mobilized by professional-technical experts in contemporary polyarchies to generate geopower over nature for the megatechnical governance of modern economies and societies." The class will also address the question of "moving forward", and how these critiques can open productive spaces for new ways of representing modernity and ecology. The class will be highly interactive; discussion will be the primary mode instruction, and students will have considerable influence on the exact topics covered. Final evaluation will based on a combination of class participation, a series of analytical response papers, and two long form essays. While the class is open to all students, those with some background in critical theory, philosophy, or economic theory are encouraged to attend. Level: Intermediate/Advanced. Class limit: 12. *HS*
HS625Lincoln Before the Presidency
Perhaps one of the most widely evoked figures in modern history, Abraham Lincoln is frequently written about, quoted, and held up as an iconic example in contemporary public debate. Yet most people know little about Lincoln beyond a summary biographical sketch and a short speech or two. This is especially true as it relates to Lincoln's political life before the presidency despite the fact that these early years that offer us a wealth of moments which speak not only to the issues of the period, but also to broader questions of political action, compromise, and idealism. This class is an intensive exploration into Lincoln's political career prior to his election to the presidency in 1860. Students will explore Lincoln's activities as they relate to the debate over slavery, the death of the Whig party, and the ascendancy of the newly formed Republican Party. Class reading and discussion will be driven by a threefold examination of broad historical contexts, biographical materials, and public speech texts. Students will spend an extended period of time on the analysis of the 1858 Senate debates between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. While the class will focus intensely on the political events of the 1850's, the class will simultaneously track broader questions of political action in the context of a democratic society. As a result, students will have the opportunity both to acquire a richer understanding the historical moment that led to Lincoln's rise to power, as well as an opportunity to reflect on the larger issue of putting "truth" into political practice. This course is intended for students with an interest in American history, political action, and public debate. Familiarity with these issues is not a pre-requisite for the class. The class will be held in a seminar style environment and will be driven primarily by in-class discussion. There will be an intensive reading load as well as an intensive writing component to the class. Final evaluation wi
HS884Media and Society: Readings in Mass Communication
This course is a broadly defined survey of various areas of study that encompass the field of mass communication and media studies. The primary goal of the course is to expose students to the widest array of traditional and cutting edge theories and theorists that inform the way we think about and explain the role media plays in our society. This includes traditional modes of mass communication such as print journalism, radio, and television as well as more recent forms of mass communication made possible by advances in technology such as Facebook, Twitter, streaming media, etc. Looking to the future, we will explore the possibility that new media technology is moving us towards the seemingly paradoxical emergence of a micro targeted, mass communicated society. Given the broad range of material to be covered, there will be an emphasis on covering a breadth of topics as opposed to spending a great deal of time exploring a few particular areas in depth. As such, students should consider this course a starting point to help them kick start their future interests in these areas. Throughout the term we will explore a wide range of subjects relating to traditional and new media content, form, structures, effects, and processes. In doing so, we will cover various attempts to get at these issues from both qualitative and quantitative methodological standpoints. While there will be readings from traditional scholars in the communication discipline, we will also incorporate a broader interdisciplinary range of texts that connect the study of human communication to various other fields including, but certainly not limited to, political science, sociology, semiotics, rhetoric, anthropology, cultural studies, and psychology. The class will be primarily discussion driven with an emphasis on selected readings that represent key areas of study in the field. Students will be evaluated based on a combination of class participation, periodic short form essays, individual presentations, and group research projects.
Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: None. Class limit: 15. Lab fee: none. *HS*
HS765Money, Politics and Law
This seminar will provide an intensive examination of the role money plays in influencing politics and government as well as the myriad of laws, policies, and regulations that have been crafted in an attempt to limit this influence. The primary focus of the course will be contemporary campaign finance reform initiatives within the United States at both the federal and state levels. This includes a comprehensive examination of current laws and regulations, the historical setting that gave rise to these policies, possible upcoming challenges to the existing structure, and the viability of proposed alternative modes of electoral financing. In addition to the topical emphasis on law and policy, we will also step back and tackle the broader philosophical issues that arise whenever societies attempt to determine what is, and is not, legitimate "participation" in the democratic process. While the bulks of our case studies will come from within the United States, we will also examine various models of campaign financing from countries around the globe. This will be a reading intensive course driven by in-class discussion and deliberation. In addition to the common focus of the group, students will be encouraged to pursue their own individual research interests related to the topic of money and government. Evaluation will be based on a combination of class participation, periodic short form writing assignments, and a final research project. Interested students should have previous experience with coursework in politics, governance, the legal process, or policymaking. Level: Intermediate; Permission of the instructor is required; *HS*
HS633Political Action and Greek Philosophy
The class will attempt to tackle the issue of ethical political action in a democratic society from the level of individual practice. Utilizing a series of dialogues between philosophers and "sophists" from the Classical Greek period as a springboard, students will explore a wide variety of topics related to civic engagement and public debate. Though the readings for class will be thousands of years old, students who successfully complete the course will be able to make linkages to problems contemporary to their own daily lives including: does truth speak for itself, what is the role of the speaker in society, where is the line between "spin" and effective persuasion, and are all politicians nothing more than "con artists?" Included in the readings will be works by Gorgias, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. Students will also go outside of the assigned readings to apply these ancient debates to modern social/political questions. This is an introductory-intermediate level course for students with an interest in philosophy, political action, governance, and public persuasion. Familiarity with these issues is not a pre-requisite for the class. In class activities will be driven primarily by student discussion centered on flashpoints within the readings. There will be an intensive reading load as well as an intensive writing component to the class. Students will also be occasionally asked to "perform" sections of dialogue in class. Final evaluation will be based on a number of varied writing assignments, participation in class discussion, and several independent reports on contemporary social questions Level: Introductory. *HS*
HS607Political Campaign Communication: Messaging and Advertising
This class will provide a broad introductory overview of the history, practice, and theories that encompass political campaign communication. The overall goals of the course are three-fold. First, to provide a broad survey of the history of political campaign communication and advertising as it has developed in the United States. Secondly, to confront some of the pragmatic issues that go into producing political communication strategies for electoral candidates. Thirdly, to empower the student to read and critically analyze political campaign communication materials they confront in their daily lives. This class will include a specific emphasis on radio, television, and "new media" vehicles as sources of messaging. While we will focus heavily on the last 60 years of presidential elections, students will also apply their work to local, state, and national campaigns currently underway. The class will be highly interactive with discussion being the primary mode of instruction. Final evaluation will based on a combination of class participation, a series of analytical response papers, an in-class presentation, and a final comprehensive project dealing with a contemporary political campaign. This class will include a weekly 3 hour lab that will involve the screening of multimedia campaign texts, some practical work in designing messaging strategies, and the occasional outsider speaker. The class is open to all students, regardless of their experience in politics or their knowledge of American history. It is well suited for introductory students in their first years of study, but would also be equally valuable to advanced students interested in the topic. Level: Introductory/Intermediate. Class limit: 18. Lab fee: $25. *HS* *HY*
HS1039Political Persuasion and Messaging FundamentalsThis class will provide a broad introductory overview of the history, practice, and core concepts that encompass political messaging and persuasion through an empirical examination of grounded applications of such strategies. In order to capitalize on the saliency of the Fall election cycle, the course materials will be based on a series of historical case studies directly tied to American presidential campaigns. Instead of studying various theories of political persuasion in the abstract, we will extract principles that commonly appear in political messaging from these case examples. In addition, students will participate in two collaborative projects. The first will involve tracking political persuasion techniques in campaigns that are occurring in real time during the term. The second will involve students working in teams to produce their own political messaging materials for a hypothetical campaign. The overall goals of the course are three-fold. First, to provide a broad survey of the history of political campaign communication and advertising as it has developed in the United States. Second, to confront some of the pragmatic issues that go into producing messaging strategies for electoral candidates. Third, to help students cultivate a more critical approach to analyzing the political messages that they confront in their daily lives. The class will be highly interactive with discussion being the primary mode of instruction. However, there will also lecture components that provide the historical basis for the case studies we are examining. Final evaluation will based on a combination of class participation, several take home essay assignments, the contemporary tracking assignment, and a final creative project in which student produce their own campaign materials. The class is open to all students, regardless of their experience in politics or their knowledge of American history. It is well suited for introductory students who are interested in politics, human persuasion, and mass communication. However, it is also equally valuable for advanced students seeking to deepen their understanding of political persuasion.
Level: Introductory. Prerequisites: None. Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $25. Meets the following degree requirements: HS
HS1040Public Speaking WorkshopThis class will be conducted as a workshop with an emphasis on students producing increasingly advanced speeches for public performance and/or consumption. We will cover a wide variety of areas including those related to constructing the speech in advance (invention and arrangement), as well as those related to the actual performance of the text (style, memory, and execution). While the primary goal of the class is to create an environment in which students can improve these vital public communication skills, another important goal is to cultivate critical and respectful listening skills (which are themselves vital public communication skills). A wide variety of speaking genres will be covered during the term, though there will be a strong emphasis on public advocacy and persuasion.
This class is designed for students with varying levels of public speaking backgrounds. A diverse array of experiences, skills, and strengths helps foster a collaborative and supportive speaking environment. Throughout the term students will work on individual projects, in pairs, and in larger collaborative groups. There will be a minimal focus on theoretical questions in favor of a "hands on" approach to constructing speeches. Students will be evaluated on a number of "process" oriented assignments. Final evaluation will be relative to individual participation in the process and not to an objective scale of public speaking talent. As such, students who feel that they are less proficient in the area of public communication should not be worried that this would somehow disadvantage them in terms of grading.
Level: Introductory. Class limit: 10. Lab fee: none. Meets the following degree requirements: HS
HS737The Cold War: Early Years
This course provides a broad historical overview of the early years of the "Cold War" period that shaped global politics generally and American foreign policy specifically. Beginning in the 1940's and leading up to Richard Nixon's election in 1968 we will examine the diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and how this relationship has impacted state actors, economic policies, cultural production, and conceptions of identity. While there will be a heavy focus on traditional state-level diplomatic history, students will also explore a broad array of methodological approaches. Class sessions will include a mix of traditional lecture formats, class discussion, and outside presentations. An evening lab is scheduled in order to screen a variety of cultural artifacts from the various periods we will cover. The primary goal is to give students an intensive 10-week crash course into key events, concepts, figures, etc.. that defined the early decades of Cold War diplomacy. At the same time there is also time allocated for students to explore their own independent research interests. Given the far-reaching force of Cold War politics into everyday life, individuals with widely varying academic interests will find the course informative and productive. Evaluation will be based on a mix of class participation, individual research assignments, and exams. All students, regardless of their backgrounds, previous coursework, or interests are welcome. Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $20. *HS* *HY*
HS777The Cold War: The Later Years
This course provides a broad historical overview of the early years of the "Cold War" period that shaped global politics generally and American foreign policy specifically. Beginning with the election of Richard Nixon's in 1968 and following up to today, we will focus on the diplomatic relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia and how this relationship has impacted state actors, economic policies, cultural production, and conceptions of identity. While there will be a heavy focus on traditional state-level diplomatic history, students will also explore a broad array of methodological approaches. Class sessions will include a mix of traditional lecture formats, class discussion, and outside presentations. An evening lab is scheduled in order to screen a variety of cultural artifacts from the various periods we will cover. The primary goal is to give students an intensive 10-week crash course into key events, concepts, figures, etc.. that defined the later decades of Cold War diplomacy. At the same time there is also time allocated for students to explore their own independent research interests. Given the far-reaching force of Cold War politics into everyday life, individuals with widely varying academic interests will find the course informative and productive. Evaluation will be based on a mix of class participation, individual research assignments, and exams.While this class is designed to compliment the topics covered in The Cold War: Early Years, students are not required to have had this earlier class. Both courses are designed as "stand alone." All students, regardless of their backgrounds, previous coursework, or interests are welcome. Level: Intermediate. Class limit: 20. Lab fee: $20. *HS* *HY*
HS857The United States in the 21st Century World: End of Empire?
This is a reading intensive course that is tied to the annual "Camden Conference" held in Camden, Maine. This three day conference brings in experts from all over the world to discuss a range of topics related to foreign policy, international relations, and diplomacy. Over the past several years, College of the Atlantic has developed a relationship with the conference that enables our students to engage the various events over the full three days. Every year highlights a particular theme, with a new set of focused panel discussions, speakers, and readings. The topic of this year's conference is "The U.S. in a 21st Century World: Do We Have What it Takes?" Some of the anticipated discussion sessions will involve the following questions: What will it take to be an economic superpower in the Twenty-First Century? What are the likely threats the U. S. will face in the Twenty-First Century? Does American society have what it takes to be a Twenty-First Century "world citizen?" Is the US still the "indispensible nation" to help resolve seemingly intractable problems? What skills will Americans need to remain competitive in the Twenty-First Century? How secure is the energy future of the U.S.? How does gridlock in Washington affect US foreign policy? What is the role of media in influencing foreign policy? This class is built to parallel the thematic cornerstones of this year's Camden topic. We will cover some of these topics in depth, leave off others, and add a few of our own. It is modeled as a reading intensive and discussion based seminar that will include works from both the conference reading list as well as supplemental works that I have added. The goals of the class are twofold. First, to prepare students to attend and play an active role in the conference (attendance is a requirement of the class) by providing them a background immersion in the topics that are at the center of this year's conference. Secondly, to assist students returning from the conferen