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The Political: Theories & Practices


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

A 200-level course in the CHS Major.


This is an advanced undergraduate course on political theories and practices. We examine a range of thinkers who have discussed concepts and processes central to political life. Among them are notions of passion, subjection, voice, conspiracy, retribution, disruption, and silence. We also analyze how politics actually unfolds, using historical and ethnographic writings on everything from everyday practices to national rituals.

The course material ranges from anthropology to political philosophy, and is comparative, drawing on societies across time and space. Our focus is on politics understood as
narratives and practices encompassing the body, law, statecraft, popular history, sexuality, and cultural tradition. The close and mutually reinforcing link between theory and practice is emphasized – how not only thinkers frame processes, but social actors themselves generate and use ideas for political outcomes.

Course Objectives

Students taking this course will become better proficient at humanistic and social science analysis. They will learn some of the more advanced vocabulary of fields including anthropology, history, and philosophy. Throughout the course, students will write weekly reflections, as part of a course portfolio, to hone their reading comprehension and interpretation skills. A final paper will allow students to apply theories to real-life examples.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course utilizes hybrid methods, including audio podcasts and in-person seminars, and has interrelated components for seven weeks. For the week’s first session, there will be, in alternating weeks, either an in-person lecture or a podcast by the instructor. Later in the week, for the second session, the instructor will facilitate an interactive seminar. The first lecture session or podcast provides context, highlights key concepts, shows different disciplinary approaches, and applies textual ideas to our world. Attending the first session, listening to the podcast, reflecting on the thematic questions, and conducting the weekly readings is critical for students to write their weekly reflection, due 24 hours before the in-person seminar of the week.

The seminars are devoted to deeper analysis of the assigned weekly texts. Each of the assigned texts introduces students to varied forms of analysis and argumentation in making sense of humans in their moral, social, and political aspects.

Assessment Method

Students are assessed on different parameters that correspond to discrete learning aims.

First, the learning aim of reading comprehension and critical understanding is assessed through a portfolio of weekly reflections from Weeks 1-7. This portfolio of reflections is worth 45% of the overall grade. Each reflection will be on the week’s texts and are to be submitted 24 hours before the second session of the week. These reflections have two components: first, a close reading of the weekly readings, which shows awareness of the author’s argument and reasoning, and second, your own analysis of their claims, and capacity to apply their ideas to today’s world.

Second, conceptual application and critical self-reflection is evaluated through a summary statement. Each student, by the end of Week 7, writes a reflection on their response to the course themes and texts, and evolution in thought. This statement is worth 10% of the final grade.

Third, a final exam judges analytical and interpretive capacities. It will respond to set questions on the course themes and will occur in Reading Week. This exam constitutes 45% of the overall grade. Students will formulate an argument, and empirically substantiate their position, using only course materials. Non-course texts and external references are not permitted in this exam.

Reading list

There are no texts to purchase. Readings will be available to students once the course commences.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Ajay Gandhi,