Theory at UNC

The political theory program at UNC is small but vibrant, with three core faculty in the department, and several more faculty with strong political theory interests in other UNC departments.  We aim to admit two graduate students a year in political theory; with 10 to 15 students altogether in the program at any one time, our graduate courses are small, and our students get the attention they need from the faculty. Yet the political community here is large enough to sustain a lively intellectual environment. Political theory students must take at least four political theory courses, and one relevant course in a different department; a language is required if it is germane to the dissertation.  Statistical methods are optional for theory students. The full requirements for the degree can be found here.

In political theory, our faculty’s interests are wide-ranging. Susan Bickford is an expert in feminist theory and democratic theory and has published a book on listening, conflict and citizenship, as well as articles examining the institutional aspects of public life that perpetuate inequality. She also studies and writes on topics in classical Greek political theory, most recently on the role of emotion and reason in political judgment. Her current project focuses on realist and utopian thinking, and the role of affect in creating political possibilities. Much of my work centers on the tensions between liberalism and religious and ethnic group life, and he has longstanding interests in issues of multiculturalism and nationalism. My recent book examines democracy and injustice in a comparative cast, considering cases from the U.S. to Europe to India. My current project blends a normative and empirical examination of the idea of democratic respect. Alexandra Oprea’s primary research interests are in the history of political thought (particularly early modern and Enlightenment figures) and in contemporary democratic theory. She is currently finishing a book about children and politics in modern political thought. Her next project is about the distribution of educational power in the US education system between teachers’ unions, parents’ associations, legislatures, courts, and private actors.

We teach a wide range of courses in our political theory program, so graduate students can regularly choose among seminars in classical, modern, American, contemporary, and feminist theory, as well as special topics. Our department also includes two undergraduate teaching professors who are political theorists and serve as resources for our graduate students. Matt Weidenfeld teaches the Teaching Political Science course that all graduate students take, and is an expert in the use of simulations in teaching. Our theory graduate students will have the opportunity to serve as teaching assistants for Matt. Nora Hanagan’s teaching interests are in American political thought as well as ethics and food policy. She is the author of a recent book, Democratic Responsibility: The Politics of Many Hands in America. Finally, we maintain close ties with our neighbors at nearby Duke University, and our students often take courses and attend presentations and workshops there. In short, there is a rich and exciting network of resources here for anyone with an interest in political theory.