Every year, graduate students in the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota put together a schedule of academic sessions relevant to political theory, in the form of paper presentations, roundtable discussions, and reading groups. Presenters are graduate students, department faculty, faculty from other cognate departments at the university, other local college faculty (Carleton, Macalester, St. Olaf, etc.), and the occasional out-of-town guest. Past guests have included Charles Mills (CUNY Graduate Center), Linda Zerilli (UChicago), Ernesto Laclau (Northwestern), Amitai Etzioni (George Washington), Wendy Brown (UC Berkeley), Bonnie Honig (Brown), and Nicholas Xenos (UMass Amherst).

MNPTC Spring 2021 Schedule

March 19 

Debra Thompson (McGill University) (joint event with the Power, Equity. and Diversity (PED) seminar)


March 26 

Amber Knight (UNC Charlotte) (joint event with the American Politics Colloquium (APC))


April 16 

Charisse Burden-Stelly (Carleton College)


MNPTC Fall 2020 Schedule

This semester we kick off MNPTC by re-engaging with the theme of “democracy under threat” from a new vantage point. Last semester, we approached this theme by opening up a set of conversations on the threats to democracy posed by populism, authoritarianism, and neoliberalism.

We will re-engage with these issues from our current political moment. It is no secret that the world as we know it has changed dramatically in the first half of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is laying bare the systemic inequalities of global capitalism and structural racism as it continues to wreak havoc on marginalized communities across the country and around the world. A wave of protests and uprisings in and beyond the United States are calling for transformative changes such as the defunding of the police and the abolition of the prison-industrial complex. As scholars and residents of the Twin Cities, we can ill afford to neglect the ongoing changes to the world, our communities, and the ways we lead our lives.

Therefore, we are excited to commence the Fall 2020 series of MNPTC with a focus on abolition democracy. Abolition/abolitionism as a political concept has been underexamined in political theory. It is primarily associated with social movements that advocate the overthrowing of unjust institutions or practices, such as slavery, the death penalty, or the prison-industrial complex. We will first take up a work of political theory that thinks through abolition and democracy together – Joel Olson’s The Abolition of White Democracy.

In anticipation of Juliet Hooker’s talk on November 13, we will also be reading the introduction to Theorizing Race in the Americas in order to explore the possibilities and limitations of using juxtaposition as a methodological approach to think cross-nationally. We will think through the abolition of white supremacy in the United States with the annihilation of caste hierarchy in India. To facilitate this juxtaposition, we will read selections from B.R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, which Drishadwati Bargi from Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature will help introduce and situate in the context of Dalit social struggles in India. We want to explore what new insights could be gained about deepening democracy through the juxtaposition of two texts written across temporal and geographical scales.

Please look over the schedule below and mark all dates on your calendar.

The Fall 2020 Schedule for MNPTC:
******Note that Juliet Hooker’s talk will not be at the regular time of 1:30 pm. It will be at 2:30pm on November 13, 2020*********

September 25 – 1:30-3pm CST
Student-faculty discussion of The Abolition of White Democracy.

Joel Olson, The Abolition of White Democracy, (Minnesota, 2004): Introduction (pp. xi-xxix) & Chapter 5, “The Abolition-Democracy” (pp. 125-145)

Joel Olson, The Politics of Protestant Violence 

October 2 – 1:30-3pm CST
Student-faculty discussion of Annihilation of Caste & Theorizing Race in the Americas

B. R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste (Verso, 2016 edition): pp. TBD
Juliet Hooker, Theorizing Race in the Americas (Oxford, 2017): Introduction (pp. 2-22)

Discussion of Ambedkar facilitated by Drishadwati Bargi (CSCL)

October 23 – 1:30-3pm CST
Nancy Luxon
Title: “Fanon’s Psychiatric Hospital as a Waystation to Freedom”

October 30 – 1:30-3pm CST
Garrett Johnson
Title: “Baldwin, Exile, and the Art of Stillness”

November 13 – 2:30-4pm CST
Juliet Hooker (Co-sponsored with CPC)
Title: TBD