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Prisons, Politics, Policy (Undergraduate Lecture)

Prisons are social and political institutions governed by local, state and national policies. They have a profound influence on American society. In the United States, prisons amplify inequality and compound disadvantage. The massive number of people imprisoned in this country reflects our policy priorities and affects our democracy. What policy processes directly and indirectly account for the United States’ dubious distinction as the nation that incarcerates more of its population than any other?  Relatedly, how do such policies affect the lives of the millions of people who come into contact with the criminal legal system each year? To gain clarity on these questions, we will examine how public policies affect people’s lives before, during and after incarceration. Students will gain an empirically grounded, theoretically far-reaching and experientially oriented understanding of one of the most consequential and transformative institutions in America.

The Politics of Public Policy
(Undergraduate Lecture)

Public policy shapes all of our lives in profound and multitudinous ways. In the United States, public policy is now a primary mechanism for addressing the most vexing and important problems of our time: inequality, poverty, mass incarceration, climate change and much more. But policies do not appear out of thin air. They are the product of complex political processes. Moreover, even after policies are made, political decisions determine how they are implemented and to what end. In order to evaluate or change policy, we must understand politics. That is the focus of this course. We begin with a review of theoretical approaches to conceptualizing and studying public policy. We then explore key policy actors (the President, interest groups, denizens etc.), as well as core aspects of policy design and implementation. Finally, we closely study several specific policy arenas (health, housing and environmental policy). Along the way, students will be challenged to grapple with the paradoxes of policy making and to envision pathways to substantive change.

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Racial and Ethnic Politics in the U.S.(Graduate Seminar)

This course examines racial and ethnic politics (REP) in the United States, highlighting its fundamental role in shaping American politics. We will explore the political origins of the American racial order and the ways it has both persisted and changed over time. Focusing on participation, representation and resistance, we will emphasize the political agency of racialized groups while recognizing the power of institutions and policies in shaping their trajectory. This course should provide students with the knowledge and analytical tools necessary to better understand and more effectively study the complexities of race that loom large in a post 9/11, post-Obama, post-George Floyd America.

The Politics of Poverty in the U.S.
(Undergraduate Lecture)

Poverty is an issue of enduring importance with significant implications for democratic governance. This course explores poverty in the United States, with a particular emphasis on its political causes and consequences. What is the extent of U.S. poverty? How has it developed and been addressed historically? What are its causes? What explains persistent racial disparities in rates of poverty? What is the proper role of government in addressing poverty? What policies best alleviate poverty? How might people living in poverty gain political power despite their relative disadvantage? We will tackle these and other questions by drawing on insights from political science, sociology, history and economics.

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Poverty and Social Policy
(Graduate Seminar)

This course explores the causes of poverty in the United States, analyzes the various policies meant to address it, and assesses the political processes that condition and constrain those policies. In the first part of the course, we will focus on the conceptualization, measurement and history of poverty in the United States. Then, we will assess theories of the causes of poverty and examine the relationships between race, poverty and policy. In the final part of the course, we will study specific policies related to social welfare, labor, housing and health. Through all this, we will foreground the consequences of policy for the well-being of people experiencing poverty and consider the role that people living in poverty play in shaping and responding to policy environments.

©2020 by Jamila Michener.