Eve Sandberg, Associate Professor, Department Chair
Marc Jeremy Blecher, Professor
Stephen Crowley, Professor
Paul A. Dawson, Professor
Christopher D. DeSante, Visiting Assistant Professor
Chris Howell, Professor
Harry Hirsch, Professor
Dane K. Imerman, Visiting Instructor
Ronald Charles Kahn, James Monroe Professor
Sonia Kruks, Robert S. Danforth Professor
Kristina Mani, Associate Professor
Michael Parkin, Associate Professor
Swapna Pathak, Visiting Assistant Professor
David W. Orr, Paul Sears Professor of Environmental Studies
Benjamin N. Schiff, Professor
Jacob Schiff, Assistant Professor
Harlan Wilson, Professor
Angela Wu, Visiting Instructor
The study of Politics explores many dimensions of political life, ranging from small groups and political movements to citizens’ organizations to cities, nation-states, and the international system. It includes basic information about government, law, and current events, but also examines issues of power, citizenship, and justice in broader and deeper contexts. Oberlin’s Department of Politics presents a variety of approaches to the study of politics, including economic, historical, philosophical, sociological, and behavioral orientations. The department encourages its students to develop sophisticated understandings of the conditions and uses of political power in the United States and the world, and to hone their analytical and critical skills.
A major in Politics can be the focus of a liberal arts program in the social sciences. It can help the citizen to understand, and act more effectively in, the political realm. The Politics major leads, as well, to careers in government service, international affairs, journalism, teaching, and organizations concerned with social change and public affairs.
It also prepares students for graduate study in political science, other social sciences, international studies, law, and public policy.
The Department of Politics offers coursework in four fields: American politics (the analysis of politics, government, policy, and law in the United States), comparative politics (the study of politics in other countries), international politics (the study of political relations among countries), and political theory (the history, interpretation, and criticism of political ideas through texts).
We encourage prospective majors to explore course offerings in each of the four fields. The department offers regular courses, colloquia, seminars, private readings, and honors projects. Introductory courses, numbered in the 100s, open into each of the department’s fields and do not have prerequisites. Intermediate courses, numbered in the 200s, normally require some previous preparation and constitute the core of departmental offerings for majors. Seminars, numbered in the 300s, require previous intermediate-level work; students should consult departmental faculty before choosing courses at this level. Private readings on topics not specifically covered in courses may be arranged with individual faculty. They may involve reading and discussion, research, or fieldwork, are generally at an intermediate or advanced level, and are carried out largely independently.
Students with a score of 5 on an AP examination in American government, comparative politics, or general political science will count as an introductory course worth three hours of credit towards graduation and the Politics major.
The department encourages students to consult a faculty member when they begin to consider a major in Politics. When declaring a major, students work with a faculty advisor to develop a program that fits the student’s interest and goals.
The Politics Major requires completion of: (a) a minimum of 30 credits in Politics, of which 20 must be above the introductory level; (b) intermediate (200-level) courses in at least three of the Department’s four fields: American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory; (c) a Politics research seminar (300-level) course. First Year Seminar courses taught by Politics faculty count towards the Politics major as introductory courses. At least fifteen credits must be taken from the Oberlin Politics Department. Courses graded beilow a C- will not count toward the major.
A minor in Politics consists of 15 hours in Politics, with at least two courses at the intermediate level or above. Courses must be in at least two fields. At least eight credits must be taken from the Oberlin Politics Department. Courses graded “D” will not count toward the minor.
Honors in Politics is a three-semester program in which students do sustained
independent reading and research under faculty supervision. A detailed description of the
program is available in the department office. Each January, the department reviews the
academic records of all junior majors and invites some of them to become candidates for Honors.
In the second semester of the junior year, such students normally undertake a junior project,
which consists of a research paper done in the context of a seminar or other course. (Students
who are away from Oberlin during that semester should consult the chair to work out an
alternative.) Students who successfully complete junior projects are invited to pursue Senior
Honors in one of the four departmental fields.
During their senior year, Honors students write a thesis and take oral and written
examinations, administered by an outside examiner, in their chosen field. Such students enroll for
Honors Research courses (POLT 403, 404) totaling two to five hours each semester. Because the
Honors Program builds on intermediate courses, we urge students interested in pursuing Honors
to enroll in courses in their expected field of interest as early as possible.
Department members who are participating in Winter Term sponsor projects including community service, off-campus internships, and other activities. Not all department members are available to sponsor Winter Term projects every year. Areas of particular interest are: Mr. Blecher: readings in comparative politics, Chinese and Asian politics, socialism, political economy, Marxism. Mr. Crowley: issues in post-communist politics, international relations of the Soviet Union and the former Soviet Republics, political sociology, theoretical issues in comparative politics. Mr. Dawson: local government and community service. Mr. Hirsch: Civil rights and civil liberties, including criminal law and the First Amendment; LGBT politics; American political thought, both historically and contemporarily. Mr. Howell: trade unions, political economy, left-wing parties, and readings in West European politics. Mr. Kahn: First Amendment, race and gender discrimination, urban politics, Federal courts and environmental issues, law and government. Ms. Kruks: feminist theory, contemporary continental theory, and history of political thought. Ms. Mani: peaceful conflict resolution, Latin American politics, international security affairs. Mr. Parkin: campaigns and elections, mass political behavior (voting, public opinion), media and politics, political psychology, quantitative analysis. Ms. Sandberg: international development, African politics. Mr. Schiff: international organizations, Middle Eastern politics, arms transfers and arms control, other topics in international politics. Mr. Wilson: history of political theory, environmental topics, utopias and dystopias, democratic theory, postmodernism and politics.
In addition, the department annually sponsors a January Winter Term Congressional Internship program. Information may be obtained from the department office.
Note that the application deadline for these internships is normally early in the Fall semester.
The Oberlin Initiative in Electoral Politics
The department oversees a program of course
offerings (POLT 207, 421, 422) and paid, eight-week summer internships designed to interest
students in, and prepare them for, service in elective offices. Information is available from the
For more information on the Politics Department, courses and instructors, please visit our home page at www.oberlin.edu/politics
The following cross-referenced courses can be counted towards the Politics major or minor.
African American Studies (AAST)
- POLT 204 - Criminal Law
- POLT 270 - Law and the Supreme Court in American Political Development
- POLT 304 - Topics in Political Psychology
Oberlin Initiative in Electoral Politics