Course offerings for 2017–18
Please refer to the main York University website regarding times, dates, etc. for the individual courses
Note: Additional updates will follow, so check back regularly
SPTH has 3 fields. The course numbers determine the primary field the course is based in. For students in the program, if you are not sure what course is based in what field, please ask the program office, but below is the "quick reference" to fields by course numbers. (Some of the older courses will be assigned new course numbers so you will be able to determine what field they are in, but most of the courses fit the field course numbering below)
- History of Social and Political Thought — course numbers from 6100 to 6199
- Society and Economy — course numbers from 6200 to 6599
- Consciousness and Society — course numbers from 6600 to 6900
These are the courses hosted by SPTH, below the SPTH hosted courses, are the courses SPTH is cross listed to, and therefore have only limited access to seats in these courses.
For all directed reading course, students must submit the completed, signed directed reading form, and it must be reviewed and signed off on by the Graduate Program Director before a spot will be opened up for the student so they may enroll in the course. The Directed reading form is available on the main SPTH course webpage.
The student may send the form to the faculty member teaching the course and the faculty member can agree and forward the email in place of a signature as long as all course details are included or attached.
This is the core course for SPTH PhD students. It is a required course, and is not open to any students other than SPTH PhD Year 1 students.
This course will examine some of the major theories, approaches, opportunities, and methods in Social and Political Thought with the aim of exposing students to a wide range of relevant material to their studies and careers. It will achieve the following learning outcomes:
- Familiarize students with a broad range of historical and contemporary theories within Social and Political Thought (e.g. Marxism, Post-Colonial Theory, Feminism, Continental Philosophy, etc.).
- Familiarize students with a range of research methods appropriate to research in Social and Political Thought.
- Familiarize students with a range of approaches to issues within Social and Political Thought, through a range of specialist guest speakers from the GTA.
- Familiarize students with career and professional options for graduates of SPT.
The course will be graded on a pass/fail basis based on attendance and participation.
SPTH courses, hosted by SPTH
This course examines important texts on the philosophy of human freedom in modern continental philosophy from the late eighteenth to late twentieth centuries. It focuses on essays by Kant, Schelling, Heidegger and Žižek, in which the later essays interrogate the earlier essays. Same as HUMA 6309.3.0
The work of Pierre Bourdieu continues to influence cultural, social and political theory since his death in 2002. Many consider his work to form one of the most important contributions to social theory in the 20th century. This course approaches the work of theorist Pierre Bourdieu through close readings of some of Bourdieu's major work, in order to gain an in depth understanding of Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, field, cultural capital, social hierarchy, and power as well as his influence on, and debates with, contemporary theory. The texts to be examined will be The Logic of Pracitce, Practical Reason, The Field of Cultural Production and Distinction as well as some of the secondary literature on Bourdieu’s work. – Course pending approval
This course looks at the way empire has figured in the works of dominant 17th, 18th and 19th century ‘Western’ social and political thinkers. It takes as its primary objective the articulation of the contemporary implications of the historical treatment of empire, found in some of the classics of the ‘Western’ intellectual tradition. Investigation of the complexities of those implications, captured in, for example, the way Marx’s emancipatory thought sits alongside his orientalism and how this tension bears upon present day debates about the Other, civilizational in/commensurability, ethnic multiplicity, and global justice, constitute a major part of in-class discussion. The course commences with an examination of some of the debates over empire in contemporary thought as they relate to intellectual and academic developments as well as politics, culture and society. The works of such figures as Kant, Herder, Hegel, Spinoza, Locke, Marx, Mill, Diderot, Burke, Tocqueville among others are then examined, historically contextualizing their reflections and positions on race, civilization, progress and modernity, and imperialism and colonialism, etc., and critically assessing their discursive and ideological features. Other issues brought into play, as tangential but significant aspects of the major themes, are those involving, for example, the canonical formation of European cultural, social and political thought as articulated by Dussel and his argument about the relation between empire and the (European) exclusions (of ‘othered’ European traditions, such as the Spanish) at work in the authorship of modernity. The course ends with consideration of some provocative questions pertaining to contemporary formations of empire, and analysis of the ways in which empire continues, or not, in the 21st century.
This course aims to develop a multidisciplinary framework within which we will examine the relationships between the “margins” and the “political,” the former being understood as the groups or individuals who do not have access to resources via formal procedural means, and more specifically who are in the process of losing their voices or whose voices are not heard. How do the margins relate to the political and what are the conditions under which their relations are possible? In the answers to these main questions, besides using the socio-historical perspective of the “history from below,” we will theorize the relation between the margins and the political through the body of work in political sociology and anthropology, political philosophy, urban anthropology and sociology, geography and cultural criticism.
In this inquiry, our work in the course will take multiple yet interconnected directions. We will address the question of the ordinary in problematizing its relations to events, small acts and small things. In addition, we will deal with visibility and its manifestations, in particular at its juncture with various modalities of recognition. The third will focus on the debates that consider the notions of the popular, the people and their historicity, and “topics” such as the street, the poor and the disenfranchised. In all three currents, we will pay special attention to tracing the topicality of the concepts while avoiding the taken-for-granted generalizations on the margins and the political.
While most of the concerns of this course are theoretical, we will also address more empirically situated experiences so as to better understand the morphological structures that exit between the micro and macro levels, and to seize the continuities and ruptures between past and new forms that define the relations between the margins and the political.
Course that are cross-listed to SPTH
Students interested in these courses should note that SPTH has limited spots in these courses, so students are encouraged to enroll early. If you try and cannot get into the course, please contact the program office (416 736-5320) and we will check on the availability of seats in the course for you.
This seminar introduces students to contemporary literary theory and cultural studies; it covers major developments in such fields as Marxism, psychoanalysis, existentialism and phenomenology, aesthetics, feminism, deconstruction, postmodernism, queer studies, African-American and post-colonial studies, linguistics, structuralism and semiotics, ecocriticism and speculative realism. We will examine what the word “theory” means today, and explore its relationship to contemporary literature and culture, through a series of close readings of key theoretical texts, as well as examples taken from film, literature, music and other cultural forms. There will be 50 – 100 pages of readings, often quite challenging, per week. No background in theory is required – the course is designed to give students the tools to make these texts intelligible, and to help see what is at stake in them.
The course approaches current policy issues in international trade and economic integration from an interdisciplinary perspective, presenting both relevant mainstream economic analysis as well as alternative theoretical approaches. We focus on main trading arrangements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the European Union, and the World Trade Organization, placing particular emphasis on topical areas such as impacts on human development, labour, environment, and trade and development. Specific objectives within this area of inquiry are:
- to identify key policy issues;
- understand main approaches that have been proposed to deal with these issues;
- become acquainted with important policy debates; and finally,
- to encourage the student to pursue independently a line of inquiry in policy analysis. (Same as ECON 5910)
In terms of chronology, the course covers two segments: (a) The long 19th century, 1789-1914; and (b) the short 20th Century, 1917-1989. Conceptually, we move along two axes: the narrative history of the making of modern nations and nation-states; and the theoretical axis of the history, that is to say the clash, of ideas. Both these axes give rise to problems of periodisation, as well as problems of uneven development and differential temporalities on the global scale, which the course shall seek to address.
In the typical narrative, especially the ones currently the most influential (e.g. Anderson, Gellner, Hobsbawm), we get a certain privileging of the European experience, a somewhat diffusionist notion of the development of historical forms, a culturalist bias, a levelling out of the differential experiences in countries and regions outside Europe, and a certain suppression of the role of (and resistance to) imperialism in the making of non-European nationalisms. Taking as our starting-point the colonial expansion which predates the Napoleonic wars within Europe, the course will attempt to assemble a counter-narrative which takes into account the non-European and European histories simultaneously.
In assembling this counter-narrative (as opposed to Hobsbawm, for example), the course will try to provide a certain global perspective, with chronologies, sequences, differential temporalities across Europe and Asia (Latin America and Africa shall be somewhat secondary to our concerns). Equally, we shall be concerned with typologies and differential forms, as nationalism ranges from the anti-colonial to the fundamentalist, and from the liberal-bourgeois to the fascist; with the problem, in other words, of how analogous ideas and vocabularies can serve very different social and class purposes, and how difficult it is, therefore, to read back history from the articulation of ideas, as so often happens in those culturalist discussions of nationalism which abstract the ideological articulations from the political histories within which those ideas are embedded.
On the axis of the 'history of ideas', we shall also try to demonstrate how each major shift in the theory corresponds to larger shifts both in political history (e.g., the rise of class politics, the emergence of anti-colonialism and/or minority movements, the current forms of capitalist globalization) as well as in intellectual paradigms, all the way from German Idealism to philosophical postmodernity (from Herder and Fichte to Ben Anderson and the Sabalternists). Same as: POLS 6000R 3.0
Despite the predictions that consigned it to eternal oblivion, Karl Marx’s thought has returned to the limelight in recent years. Faced with a deep new crisis of capitalism, many are again looking to an author who in the past was often wrongly associated with the Soviet Union, and who was too hastily dismissed after 1989. After the waning of interest in the 1980s and the “conspiracy of silence” in the 1990s, new or republished editions of his work have become available almost everywhere. The literature dealing with Marx, which all but dried up twenty-five years ago, is showing signs of revival in many countries.
Marx’s writings are presently being published in German under the auspices of the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA²) project, the critical historical edition of the complete works of Marx and Engels, which resumed serial publication in 1998. The purpose of this course is to reconstruct the stages of Marx’s thought in the light of the textual acquisitions of MEGA², and hence to provide a more exhaustive account of the formation of Marx’s conceptions than has previously been offered.
The great majority of researchers have considered only certain periods, often jumping straight from the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 to the Grundrisse (1857-58). But, as will be shown, this is to overlook the crucial importance of less well-known stages – from his early intellectual formation through the Paris manuscripts of 1844 to the studies of political economy in the 1850s, the first preparatory drafts for Capital and the writing of the polemical work Herr Vogt. The study of priceless manuscripts, and of interesting interim results, has remained the preserve of a narrow circle of scholars capable of reading the German-language volumes of MEGA². One of the aims of this course is to make these texts more widely known, and to debate on the genesis and unfinished character of Marx’s works.
Altogether, the Marx that emerges from this examination of his work in the areas of post-Hegelian philosophy, the materialist conception of history, scientific method, alienation and political thought at the time of the International Working Men’s Association is a thinker very different from the one presented for such a long time by his detractors as well as many ostensible followers.
If we bear in mind not only the well-known works, but also the manuscripts and notebooks of extracts in MEGA², the immensity and richness of Marx’s theoretical project appear in a clearer light. The notebooks of excerpts and the recently published preparatory drafts of Capital show the huge limitations of the “Marxist-Leninist” account – an ideology that often depicted Marx’s conception as something separate from the studies he conducted, as if it had been magically present in his head from birth – but also of the debate in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, the participants in that debate could not consider the totality of Marx’s texts, and even some of these they treated as thoroughly finished works when that was far from being the case.
Marx’s researches between the period of the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and the Grundrisse have finally become accessible to scholars through the volumes of MEGA². This has made it possible to follow the many intermediate stages in the evolution of his ideas, both in the 1840s and 1850s, which suggest a more critical and open interpretation of his theory. The picture that emerges from MEGA² is of an author who left a large part of his writings unfinished, in order to engage until his death in further studies that would verify the correctness of his theses. A brand new picture of the International Working Men’s Association — Marx’s most important political experience — will be also provided.
At a time when Marx’s ideas have finally been liberated from the chains of Soviet ideology, and when they are again being investigated for the sake of analysing the contemporary world, a more faithful account of the genesis of his thought may not be without important implications for the future – not only for Marx studies, but also for the re-founding of a critical thought that aims to transform the present.
This course offers an introduction and collective examination of a stream that has become popular in social theory in the past decade. Traveling under the moniker of “New Materialism” the field draws from Feminist Science Studies, philosophy and from posthumanism. It is a post-positivist and post-constructivist field that re-encounters the real, material and biological not as received-facts, but complex nature cultures. Bodies – human and otherwise - are not static and (only) discursive, but lively, dynamic and emergent. We will read prominent theorists associated with this field such as Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Jane Bennett and Bruno Latour, Mel Chen and Elizabeth Grosz. Together we will explore what new materialisms mean for old ones, and what this field has to offer Sociology.
The course will cover three themes key to the thought of the first generation of Frankfurt School Critical Theorists. The first is the notion of critique, the second is the idea of ‘negative’ thought, and the third is the utopian nature of philosophical, historical and political possibility. There are many overlapping contexts for reading the work of Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse. They are philosophical, historical, social, cultural - and political. All of these are inextricably intertwined, though in any given text or thinker some may seem more relevant than others. Critiques of western philosophy/Reason/consciousness, of ideology, of modernity, of capitalism, of the modern state, of mass consumer culture, of aesthetics, of modern mass psychology, are all the work of Critical Theory. Through reading the key texts of the Frankfurt School thinkers, the course will focus on the ramifications of these intimately related critiques. We will ask, based on an exploration of their critiques of the western traditions of philosophical, social and political thought, whether it is possible to resuscitate a notion of the ‘whole’ or ‘totality’ from within modernity. Closely related to critique is the notion of political resistance. We will raise the complex question of the status of critique and resistance under historical circumstances where modern instrumental rationality seemed, to the Critical Theorists, to have become historically predominant in the advanced industrial societies of the global north in the mid-late twentieth century. Same as POLS 6070.3.0
This course focuses on nineteenth century British and European science and its social, political, cultural, and intellectual contexts. Adopting the "contextualist" approach to the history of science allows us to raise a series of provocative questions: in what way did all of these different contexts shape the "nature of nineteenth century scientific thought? How were scientific "facts" socially constructed? What was it about the nineteenth century context that led many intellectuals to reject Christianity and embrace science as providing a new, privileged form of knowledge? Included among the topics to be covered are the discourse of natural theology, the politics of geological controversy, Scottish philosophy and phrenology, radical working class Lamarckianism in England during the 1830's, the plurality of worlds debate, science and gender, the professionalization of science, English scientific naturalism and German scientific materialism, the literary structure of Darwin's Origin of Species, Darwinian theory and its ideological uses, and the late nineteenth century physics and psychics. This course will be of interest to students of British, European, social, and intellectual history. Same as History 5830.06
This course deals with themes in cultural history form the late nineteenth century to the present. Focusing on the interrelationships among ideas, culture, political, social, and economic change. While drawing on a wide body of readings in North America, British, and European history, it brings particular attention to bear upon the expression, social context, and impact of ideas and culture in the United States and Canada. It views culture not only as forms of artistic expression but as any value of trait which shapes society and, hence, infuses social and political ideas and trends. Weekly readings explore works in such areas as the cultural history of industrialism, imperialism, modernism, primitivism, antimodernist, social reform, social and behavioural science, the quantitative revolution, medicine, gender and sexuality, consumerism and advertising, mass culture, popular culture, and postmodernism. Same as HIST 5701
This course examines the complex relationships between colonialism, race and the law. The course works from the premise that law is central to the constitution of social life, political meaning and cultural relations. Law plays a central role in producing histories of violence and social inequality as it does in maintaining and challenging contemporary social and political Relations. As such, law is understood as a complex set of discourses, representations, institutions, practices, identifies, obligations, and affective commitments. Through an examination of law as a field of interaction, negotiation and coercion, we will focus on the ways in which liberal forms of governance rely on practices of racialized control and discipline.
Though other colonial formations will be referenced, the empirical context of the course will be anchored in the context of white settler societies. The course will address the intersections of law, modernity and liberalism in order to address the role that law plays in the constitution of racialized, gendered and classed subjects. The course will survey thinking in this direction in critical race theory, anti-colonial theory, cultural studies of law, legal anthropology, feminist theory and other points of departure.
The specific objectives of this course are three-fold:
- To develop a familiarity and literacy with theoretical terminology through a focus on colonialism, racialization, recognition, rights, subjectivity, agency and their contextualized deployments;
- To critically examine theoretical debates and methodological frameworks pertinent to the study of colonial and racial formations and the law;
- To develop interdisciplinary approaches to the consideration of socio-legal processes in order to engage specific empirical sites and questions.
This course is intended for students pursing interdisciplinary research in the field of soci-legal studies and/or the sociology of race.
(Same as SOCI 6893.3.0)
This advanced seminar seeks to understand the origins, ideas, and problems of the return to political philosophy in contemporary French thought. This multifaceted intellectual phenomenon presents a particularly rich and intense debate on the fundamental issues of political life such as freedom, democracy, conflict, domination, and social division.
(Same as POLS 6021)
The seminar focuses on the institution of capital and its role in the development of the global political economy. Topics are organized around four broad themes. Part I examines the concept of capital from neoclassical, Marxist and Veblenian perspectives. Part II focuses on the complex relationship between production and power, exploring its implication for the differential nature of accumulation. Part III looks at the business corporation, assessing various theories of the firm, the transnational corporation, and imperialism. Part IV examines aspects of the political economy of global accumulation, based on a conceptual dichotomy between horizontal expansion (‘breadth’) and vertical redistribution (‘depth’). Illustrations are derived from three case studies: (1) The post-war development of the armament and oil business, their convergence in the Middle East, and their role in the ongoing cycle of ‘energy conflicts.’ (2) The significance of Asia for global accumulation and crisis. (3) The political U?Turns in South Africa and Israel in light of the changing pattern of global accumulation. Same as POLS 6285.3.0
This course is intended as an in depth study of major theoretical schools and debates within contemporary film theory. The course is divided into three key units, each of which will focus on the historical development, methodological principles and philosophic underpinning of a specific school. This is a required course for all Critical and Historical Studies students.
(Same as FILM 6230)
This course examines the impact of international economic integration and liberalization policies on Latin America and the Caribbean. The course focuses on the social impact of globalization and the responses that these changes call forth. Thus we consider the range of responses of the state to the challenges of internationalization. In addition we examine civil society organizing, including the rise of new political parties, unions, and grassroots organizations. In particular, we look at international labour migration and the transnationalism that results from the international flow of capital, commodities, individuals and whole communities. These phenomena are examined with respect to case studies from the region that may differ from year to year. Same as POLS 6566 3.0
The course will explore key concepts, texts and debates in the field of contemporary cinema and media studies. While maintaining a focus on the intellectual and material histories of cinema studies and media studies as disciplines (and their recent convergence), including epistemological and ontological frameworks, methodological approaches, and institutional and technological supports, the course will emphasize recent developments in cinema and media studies. Three broad areas of study will structure the course: cinema and cultural theory; national and transnational cinema; cinema and technologies of the image. (Same as Film 7000 and CMCT 7125)
This course examines a variety of ways that space is created and experienced in film, television and video art with a consideration of themes such as the spaces of production and exhibition, location shooting and realism, cultural industries and real estate, special effects and virtual spaces, cognitive maps and habitus, and moving images as monuments. Featured theorists include Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer, Henri Lefebvre, Andre Bazin, the Situationists, Fredric Jameson, Laura Mulvey, Jean Louis Baudry, Stephen Heath, Paula Massood and David Harvey.
In the twentieth century there have been numerous attempts to think seriously about the meaning of power and violence as fundamental categories of human existence. The objective of `Thinking Power and Violence' is to develop an appreciation of the elusive multidimensionality of violence as a phenomenon.
'Thinking Power and Violence' is concerned with violence in many forms and manifestations: violence at the foundation of human community, conservative violence, divine violence, ecstatic violence, sacrificial violence, redemptive violence, self as violence against self and other, exclusionary violence, the violence of liberal freedom and the commodity, counter-hegemonic violence, the violence of the spectacle, the violence of outsiders and gender violence. (Same as POLS 6086.3.0)
(Same as Soci 6180.06 & GFWS/WMST 6505.06)
In the twentieth century there have been numerous attempts to think seriously about the meaning of power and violence as fundamental categories of human existence. The objective of `Thinking Power and Violence' is to develop an appreciation of the elusive multidimensionality of violence as a phenomenon.
`Thinking Power and Violence' is concerned with violence in many forms and manifestations: violence at the foundation of human community, conservative violence, divine violence, ecstatic violence, sacrificial violence, redemptive violence, self as violence against self and other, exclusionary violence, the violence of liberal freedom and the commodity, counter-hegemonic violence, the violence of the spectacle, the violence of outsiders and gender violence. (Same as POLS 6086.3.0)
The Politics of Aesthetics develops an aesthetic framework from eight continental philosophers who have an aesthetic theory as part of their philosophy. The philosophers include Hegel, Kant, Heidegger, Lyotard, Badiou, Ranciere, Nancy and Deleuze. These thinkers are selected because their philosophy facilitates artwork surpassing the aesthetic theory.
The course develops and applies assumptions and concepts from the eight philosophers. Hegel’s key assumptions are that art expresses the same content as philosophy; however, it does so in a sensory form; art portrays and allows the human spirit to emerge; and, God is revealed through art. Kant’s infamous distinctions between the beautiful (form) and the sublime (excess of form) recur and trouble postaesthetic theory. Lyotard theoretically reconfigures the landscape of the sublime in modernity and postmodernity. For Heidegger, art is the highest form of techné, that is, of bringing forth, and ‘a distinctive way in which truth comes into being, that is, becomes historical.’ (Heidegger, 1993, 202). ‘What is brought forth is a truth as something new.’ (Ibid) Heidegger positions art as ‘the setting-into-work of truth’ (ibid, 192), the artist as one who is able to ‘bring forth ... in Being something that does not yet exist,’ (Heidegger, 1981, 69) and artwork as that which ‘unconceals’ or ‘opens up in its own way the Being of beings.’ (Heidegger, 1993, 165). Artists who do this are artist-philosophers. The artist-philosopher is one who addresses the grounding question of philosophy: ‘What is Being?’ (Heidegger, 1981, 68) Alain Badiou turns Heidegger’s aesthetics into what he terms ‘inaesthetics’. ‘Inaesthetics’ is a relation of philosophy to art in which art is itself a producer of truths.
Art provides what Badiou calls ‘immanent infinity’ — a new manner of thinking the infinite itself in the work of art. Badiou says that ‘a real artistic event is a change in the formula of the world.’ (Badiou, 2007, 4) Badiou’s artistic event has a commonality with Rancière’s ‘aesthetic regime of art’. In the aesthetic regime the artwork is both autonomous and calls into question the distinction between art and other activities. (Rancière, 2004, 23) Rancière sees the contradictory role of the artwork as a singularity and its broader potential of influencing thought, perception, production and action as the dynamic of the aesthetic regime of art. It is dynamic singularity in terms of the sacred, singular, violent, forbidden that for Nancy makes the image seductive and unrepresentable. It is the singular sovereign experience that Deleuze identifies as the sensation or affect of the artwork. By sensation Deleuze means extension of the resonation of the artwork to the viewer and to the social. It is this resonation of the artwork with the external that produces the art event.
(Same as POLS 6087)
This course provides a comparative inquiry about the nature of transnational communal, religious, and political identities at the age of late capitalism. It puts emphasis on critical approaches to diasporas, their variant constructions of homeland and home, and their marked effects on the politics of the post-Westphalian state and international relations. Same as GS/POLS 6525.3.0