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Govt 310 Sribd

Govt 310 Sribd

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Published by Paul Musgrave

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Published by: Paul Musgrave on Apr 17, 2012
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GOVT 310: Interstellar Relations:The Politics of Speculative Fiction
Summer 2012 
Contact Information
Paul MusgravePh.D. Candidate in International Relations
Office Hours
M-R, 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., and via appointment. Place TBD, but likely ICCMUG.
Please schedule appointments via tungle.me/paulmusgrave
Introduction to the Course
This seminar approaches science fiction from the standpoint of social science. Inparticular, we will focus on themes relevant to political science
the study ofpolitical relations among social agents
and international relations
the study ofsocial relations among socially-constituted actors.More plainly: this course wagers that science fiction and political science areoften engaged in a similar enterprise: the use of creative theorizing to understand
counterfactual outcomes. The scope of the “what
questions asked by sciencefiction authors and political scientists plainly differ. A political scientist mightask whether better economic conditions might have helped John McCain win in2008; the modal piece of genre science fiction often assumes away suchconsiderations (consider the flimsiness of the
“exposition” of the politics of the
Old Republic in
Star Wars
or the Federation in the pre-
Deep Space 9
Star Trek
 universe).Yet both political scientists and science-fiction authors would find a question
such as “How would international politics be different without nuclearweapons?” to be worth answering. Obviously, both camps would approach their
answers differently. But the question itself is both clearly within the camp ofscience fiction, since it involves speculation about the impact of technology uponhuman affairs, and international relations, since one of the greatest debates ofpost-1945 policy and practice has revolved around exactly that topic.
We should also note that the easy assumptions of genre fiction are often tellingabout the operative assumptions
or at least the live debates
SF authors’
societies. Why else would the SF novelist, counterculture figure, and sometimedrug enthusiast Philip K. Dick have set
 A Scanner Darkly
in the context of afederal War on Drugs run rampant? At the opposite end of the scale, pre-SecondWorld War genre literature (e.g., the
series) often unquestionably
accepted the “right to rule” of a select group of technocrats over less
-developedpeoples.This course will survey the similarity in the logics of inquiry of social science andscience fiction, use science fiction as an entry point to selected major debates inpolitical science (particularly IR), and spark debate about the representations andtheories of politics inherent in selected works of science fiction. In so doing, wewill resolve the superficially puzzling fact that the 2005-vintage
Battlestar Galactica
which dealt with the near-annihilation of the human race by aspecies of androids built by Man
—was often described as being “realistic.”
 Before I introduce the details of the class, let me make two points about what thiscourse is
.This is not a literature course. I am trained as a political scientist, not a student ofliterary theory. We will not explore the emergence of SF, its conventions, or itshistory; we do not read literary criticism of SF or cognate genres. Instead, weapproach SF as many of its authors intend for it to be read: as an opportunity forontological displacement and a landscape of the imaginary that allows us tocontemplate contemporary socio-political concerns.Equally, this is not a lecture course. From time to time, I will use in-class lecturesto convey some ideas not covered in the reading. But this course is principally aseminar. As an upper-division course, it will ultimately rise and fall on thestrength of your participation and contributions. Seminars are places forintellectual exploration, challenge, and spirited conversation. I look forward tohearing your thoughts, even if they are not yet fully formed. I also look forwardto hearing your reactions to my thoughts, both the fully realized and the quarter-baked.
Course Assessment
Your grade will be a function of the following factors:30% Final research paper20% Paper topic presentation15% Peer discussant service
15% Response papers20% Course participation
Grading Scale 
A+ 97-100 B+ 87-89.9 C+ 77-79.9 D 60-69.9A 93-96.9 B 83-86.9 C 73-76.9 F <60A- 90-92.9 B- 80-82.9 C- 70-72.9
Final Paper 
Your final paper will be a 20-page (including bibliography) exploration of thepolitics-SF nexus that we will discuss in this course. It may cover works we usein this course, works that you would like to examine, or a mixture of the two.The strongest possible paper would be one that uses a puzzle from politicalscience that does not just demonstrate how the tensions of different resolutionsof those puzzles are worked out in SF literature but also shows the way for newtheorizing about political science. (What can we learn about real-world empiresby thinking hard about how the Empire in
Star Wars
would “really” work—
while keeping in mind that the representation of the
Star Wars
Empire is amélange of theorizing about real-world empires?) Other topics might include: ananalysis of
in terms of COIN (counter-insurgency) doctrine; the post-apartheid politics of recent South African speculative fiction; and representationsof genocide in speculative fiction.I will not police genre definitions too strictly. (The
films and the earlyClancy novels are only slightly less science-fictional than
.) But you must
clear the works you’ll be discussing in your paper with me, just to make sure.
Iwill also note that although I have stuck with Anglo-American works in layingout this syllabus I encourage you to consider looking at other SF traditions inbuilding your papers.Your work must, of course, be original. We will verify this using turnitin.com.
 A Note on Formatting
: Your paper must be double-spaced and written in 12-pointG
aramond with 1” margins throughout. I will provide you with a template in
Word format; you may use another program, but it must be identical to thetemplate. I will also provide you with a cover sheet, which you must staple to the
of your paper.
Paper topic presentation 
Your paper topic presentation will be a discussion of your paper topic. UsingPowerPoint, Keynote, or similar presentation software, you will give a 5-minuteoverview. The discussant and class will then have up to 10 minutes to offer

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