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The Political: Theory and Practices


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

  • Any 200-level course of the CHS Major.


This is an advanced undergraduate course on theories and practices of the political. 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 conceptual theories to the world.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course has two interrelated components. For the first session of the week, students will privately study the course readings and the instructor’s podcast. Secondly, the instructor will facilitate a live or online interactive seminar. The podcast explores the weekly theme through an analysis of assigned readings, and provides context, highlights concepts, shows disciplinary approaches, and applies texts to the world. Listening to the podcast and conducting the weekly readings is critical to students writing a weekly reflection, due 24 hours before the seminar of the week. Our interactive seminars are devoted to deeper analysis of the assigned weekly texts.

Assessment Method

Students are assessed in two ways (there is no participation grade).

First, to assess critical understanding and conceptual application, students will write a portfolio of 750-word weekly reflections from Weeks 1-7. Along with a 1000-word summary statement, this portfolio of reflections is due in its entirety by the final seminar in Week 7. It is worth 50% of the overall grade. Each weekly reflection will be on (at least one of) the week’s texts. They are to be submitted 24 hours before the second session of the week. These reflections have two components: first, a close reading of one or more 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 real-world events and processes.

Second, a final essay judges analytical and interpretive capacities. It will respond to set questions on the course themes and is due in Reading Week. This is worth 50% of the overall grade, and it requires that students submit a draft beforehand to which they will get feedback. Students will formulate an argument, and empirically substantiate their position, using only course materials; external texts are not permitted.

Reading list

There are no mandatory texts to purchase. The readings will be available 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,



Note that as mentioned under "Mode of Instruction" this course will have a hybrid format, with the first class of each week consisting of pre-recorded materials while the second session will be an interactive seminar.