BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
American Politics: Why Do They Do That?

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI31061
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course offers students the opportunity to consider the nuances of American Politics. Working across three broad themes of democracy, inclusion and exclusion, the course provides a detailed examination of American Politics.  


The unit aims to:

1.    Provide students with overview of American political culture

2.    Detail the intersection of democracy, inclusion and exclusion

3.    Articulate this intersection by addressing question such as "Why do people vote against their own best interests?"; "How does the legacy of racism(s) manifest in and impact upon contemporary politics?"; "How does the ‘American independent spirit’ transform into political hegemony of ‘conformity and normalcy’?"; "How is power understood in America and in American politics?"

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be taught through one 2hour lecture and one 1hour tutorial each week. This will be supplemented by reading of core pieces (provided on Blackboard), the expectation that students will read online US news outlets and special sessions which include films and guest speakers (via Skype). In 2020, lectures will be online and the format may be slightly different. Each student will have a one hour tutorial each week, with some of these face to face as circumstances permit. I will run weekly drop-in sessions to discuss issues about the course or current events in American politics. 

Knowledge and understanding

  1. Articulate an understanding of the evolution of American political culture and connect this to contemporary debates.
  1. Articulate an understanding of the complexity of American political culture and the intersections and tensions of democracy, inclusion and exclusion.

Intellectual skills

1. Apply this new understanding to their everyday interpretations of American politics.

2. Consider various themes within American politics from a range of perspectives.

Practical skills

1. Traditional academic essay writing; short, focused, project writing; listening and engaging in debate on issues in American politics.

2. Research skills which deploys academic research knowledge and skills to assist in understanding emerging facts and commentary.

3. Be better informed spectators of American politics and consumers of news events involving America.

Assessment methods

70% essay 3,850 words

30% project 1,650 words

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff.

Recommended reading

Democracy in America, de Tocqueville

Anti-intellectualism in American Life, Hofstadter

What’s the Matter with Kansas?, Frank

American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony, Samuel Huntington

Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, Rothenberg

One Nation, Slightly Divisible, Brooks

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Angelia Wilson Unit coordinator

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