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Paul Musgrave Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations
M-R, 1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., and via appointment. Place TBD, but likely ICC MUG. Please schedule appointments via tungle.me/paulmusgrave
Introduction to the Course
This seminar approaches science fiction from the standpoint of social science. In particular, we will focus on themes relevant to political science—the study of political relations among social agents—and international relations—the study of social relations among socially-constituted actors. More plainly: this course wagers that science fiction and political science are often engaged in a similar enterprise: the use of creative theorizing to understand counterfactual outcomes. The scope of the “what-if” questions asked by science fiction authors and political scientists plainly differ. A political scientist might ask whether better economic conditions might have helped John McCain win in 2008; the modal piece of genre science fiction often assumes away such considerations (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 nuclear weapons?” to be worth answering. Obviously, both camps would approach their answers differently. But the question itself is both clearly within the camp of science fiction, since it involves speculation about the impact of technology upon human affairs, and international relations, since one of the greatest debates of post-1945 policy and practice has revolved around exactly that topic.
We should also note that the easy assumptions of genre fiction are often telling about the operative assumptions—or at least the live debates—of SF authors’ societies. Why else would the SF novelist, counterculture figure, and sometime drug enthusiast Philip K. Dick have set A Scanner Darkly in the context of a federal War on Drugs run rampant? At the opposite end of the scale, pre-Second World War genre literature (e.g., the Lensman series) often unquestionably accepted the “right to rule” of a select group of technocrats over less-developed peoples. This course will survey the similarity in the logics of inquiry of social science and science fiction, use science fiction as an entry point to selected major debates in political science (particularly IR), and spark debate about the representations and theories of politics inherent in selected works of science fiction. In so doing, we will resolve the superficially puzzling fact that the 2005-vintage Battlestar Galactica remake—which dealt with the near-annihilation of the human race by a species 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 this course is not. This is not a literature course. I am trained as a political scientist, not a student of literary theory. We will not explore the emergence of SF, its conventions, or its history; we do not read literary criticism of SF or cognate genres. Instead, we approach SF as many of its authors intend for it to be read: as an opportunity for ontological displacement and a landscape of the imaginary that allows us to contemplate contemporary socio-political concerns. Equally, this is not a lecture course. From time to time, I will use in-class lectures to convey some ideas not covered in the reading. But this course is principally a seminar. As an upper-division course, it will ultimately rise and fall on the strength of your participation and contributions. Seminars are places for intellectual exploration, challenge, and spirited conversation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, even if they are not yet fully formed. I also look forward to hearing your reactions to my thoughts, both the fully realized and the quarterbaked.
Your grade will be a function of the following factors: 30% Final research paper 20% Paper topic presentation 15% Peer discussant service
15% Response papers 20% Course participation
A+ A A97-100 93-96.9 90-92.9 B+ B B87-89.9 83-86.9 80-82.9 C+ C C77-79.9 73-76.9 70-72.9 D F 60-69.9 <60
Your final paper will be a 20-page (including bibliography) exploration of the politics-SF nexus that we will discuss in this course. It may cover works we use in 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 political science that does not just demonstrate how the tensions of different resolutions of those puzzles are worked out in SF literature but also shows the way for new theorizing about political science. (What can we learn about real-world empires by 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 a mélange of theorizing about real-world empires?) Other topics might include: an analysis of Dune in terms of COIN (counter-insurgency) doctrine; the postapartheid politics of recent South African speculative fiction; and representations of genocide in speculative fiction. I will not police genre definitions too strictly. (The Bourne films and the early Clancy novels are only slightly less science-fictional than Solaris.) But you must clear the works you’ll be discussing in your paper with me, just to make sure. I will also note that although I have stuck with Anglo-American works in laying out this syllabus I encourage you to consider looking at other SF traditions in building 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-point Garamond 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 the template. I will also provide you with a cover sheet, which you must staple to the end of your paper.
Paper topic presentation
Your paper topic presentation will be a discussion of your paper topic. Using PowerPoint, Keynote, or similar presentation software, you will give a 5-minute overview. The discussant and class will then have up to 10 minutes to offer
feedback on your proposed strategy. You will also turn in a 5-7 page version to me on the same day as your presentation.
You will be assigned to serve as a discussant for one of your colleagues’ presentations. That means that you will prepare 2-4 pages of comments on his or her proposed paper and share those comments with the class during the paper topic presentation session.
You are required to write at least three short (150-250 word) blog posts for each week of the class. These should involve informal reactions to the material, ideas for class discussion, additional ruminations on ongoing issues or themes, etc. You are also required to comment on at least two of your classmates’ posts over the course of the week.
A large body of literature in economics (e.g. Romer 1993 and Stanca 2006) provides fairly conclusive evidence to back up instructors’ long-standing commonsense notion that students who attend class do better than those who don’t. Similarly, the best practices of contemporary university education holds that only interactive education—in which both instructor and students are engaged in a joint endeavor, as opposed to a model in which the instructor oracularly imparts wisdom—is beneficial for students. In plainer English, that means that you have to show up and you have to be engaged. The best way for me to know that you’re paying attention is to have something interesting to say. That can mean confessing that you don’t know what’s going on, by the way; if you don’t, others probably don’t as well, and it’s better for everyone if I know that and can adjust the lecture or the conversation appropriately.
This is a reading-intensive course. As befits a course on speculative fiction, “reading” includes both texts and also cinematic, televisual, and possibly other sources. Because of the nature of the course and the compressed timeline of all summer session courses, you should anticipate spending two to three hours a day preparing for class (including writing response papers). This will both privilege and spur the development of good study habits, but it also means that we will be travelling intellectually light. Our aim is not to engage in close
readings of texts, unless such activities are necessary to elaborate our discussions of the major themes of the course and the texts. Instead, we will move from text to text by extracting the major points in each, building up a broader understanding of how speculative theorizing operates in both social-scientific and science-fictive environments. The books required for purchase are: 1. Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. ISBN: 978-055380958. List $15.00, currently $10.20 on Amazon. 2. Le Guin, Ursula. The Dispossessed. ISBN: 978-0061054884. List $7.99, currently $7.99 on Amazon. 3. Haldeman, Joe. Forever Peace. ISBN: 978-0441005666. List $7.99, currently $7.99 on Amazon. 4. Shute, Nevil. On the Beach. ISBN: 978-0307473998. List $15.00, currently $10.20 on Amazon. 5. Frank, Pat. Alas, Babylon! ISBN: 978-0060741877. List $14.99, currently $9.16 on Amazon. 6. Dick, Philip K. Now Wait for Next Year. ISBN: 978-0547572314. List $13.95, currently $11.17 on Amazon. 7. Turtledove, Harry. Ed. ISBN: 978-0345439901. The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century. List $18.00, currently $17.32 on Amazon. 8. Blish, James. A Case of Conscience. ISBN: 978-0345438355. List: $19.00, currently $16.26 on Amazon. 9. Heinlein, Robert. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. ISBN: 978-0312863555. List: $15.99, currently $10.87 on Amazon. Obviously, the prices listed are for new books. Used books or e-books may be cheaper. Other readings will be posted electronically for your downloading convenience. Television episodes and films are widely available on streaming services and elsewhere. It is your responsibility to complete all readings. Having said that, be sure that you also complete the readings in their assigned order.
All university policy regarding academic integrity applies in this course and will be strictly enforced. Violations include, but are not limited to, 1) cheating of any kind and 2) providing false or misleading information to receive a postponement or extension on a test, quiz, or assignment.
Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities should contact the Academic Resource Center (Leavey Center, Suite 335; 202-687-8354; email@example.com; http://ldss.georgetown.edu/index.cfm) before the start of classes to allow their office time to review the documentation and make recommendations for appropriate accommodations. If accommodations are recommended, you will be given a letter from ARC to share with your professors. You are personally responsible for completing this process officially and in a timely manner. Neither accommodations nor exceptions to policies can be permitted to students who have not completed this process in advance.
Classroom Etiquette and Student Conduct
Students should turn off all cell phones, pagers, and laptop computers while in class. (There are studies backing up instructors’ intuitions that students do not retain information as well if their laptops are open during teaching time, even if they are using their computers to take notes.) The use of iPads, Nooks, Kindles, and other tablet devices to view reading material only is allowed. To facilitate the policing of this rule, I will I will post lecture notes and other material on Blackboard.
Schedule of Classes
1) Introduction Jutta Weldes, “Popular Culture, Science Fiction, and World Politics: Exploring Intertextual Relations,” in Weldes, ed. To Seek Out New Worlds: Exploring Links between Science Fiction and World Politics, pp. 1-27.ONLINE Pohl, Frederik. "The Politics of Prophecy." From Political Science Fiction. Barlow, John Perry, “Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.” 2) Counterfactual Reasoning
Reading: (Selection from Judea Pearl, Morgan & Winship, or some such) Ferguson, Niall. “Introduction.” In Virtual History. Kornblith, Gary J. “Rethinking the Coming of the Civil War.” Journal of American History. Tetlock and Belkin, Introduction. Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological, and Psychological Perspectives. Robinson, Kim Stanley. “The Lucky Strike” in Best Alternate History Stories. Pp. 1-35. Bradbury, Ray. “A Sound of Thunder.” online 3) Counterfactuals and Nomothetic Approaches. Reading: Linaweaver, Brad. “Moon of Ice,” in Best Alternate History. Moore, Ward. “Bring the Jubilee,” in Best Alternate History. 4) Liberalism and Imperialism I: The Theory of Benevolent Empire. Reading: Asimov, Isaac. Selections from Foundation. (“The Psychohistorians,” pp. 1-40) ONLINE Clarke, Arthur C. Selections from Childhood’s End. (“The Overlords,” pp. 1--?) ONLINE Musgrave, Paul and Daniel Nexon. “States of Empire: Liberal Ordering and Imperial Relations.” Working Paper, 2011. 19pp.ONLINE Musgrave, Paul and Daniel Nexon. “Liberal Order and Empire.” Working Paper, 2011. 19pp.ONLINE 5) Liberalism and Imperialism II: Policing Benevolence Reading: Star Trek TOS: Episode, “A Private Little War” Star Trek DS9: Episode, “Babel” Fassin, Didier, and Mariella Pandolfi. “Introduction: Military and Humanitarian Government in the Age of Intervention.” Pp. 9-28. In Contemporary States of Emergency, Eds. Fassin and Pandolfi. ONLINE Makaremi, Chowra. “Utopias of Power: From Human Security to the Responsibility to Protect.” Pp. 107-128. In Contemporary States of Emergency, Eds. Fassin and Pandolfi. ONLINE Power, Samantha. “Bystanders to Genocide.” September 2001. The Atlantic. ONLINE Lagon, Mark. "We Owe It To Them To Interfere: Star Trek and U.S. Statecraft in the 1960s and the 1970s." In Political Science Fiction ONLINE
6) Liberalism and Imperialism III: Policing Benevolence Reading: Haldeman, Joe. Forever Peace. (Note: This is a little long, so start reading it a little early.) 7) Domination and Resistance I: Subtitle Reading: Selections from James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed. ONLINE 8) Domination and Resistance II: Subtitle Reading: Dick, Philip K. Now Wait For Next Year. 9) Domination and Resistance III: Subtitle Reading: Heinlein, Robert. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. 10) Several Paper Presentations Will Happen Today Battlestar Galactica, Miniseries 11) War, the State, and Man I: The Garrison State Reading: Harold D. Lasswell, “The Garrison State,” The American Journal of Sociology 14,4 (December 1943): 627-650. ONLINE Gaddis, Selections from Surprise, Security, and the American Experience
Friedberg, Aaron. “Why Didn’t the United States Become a Garrison State?” ONLINE Finish Galactica, Miniseries, if you haven’t; get started on the episodes listed in (12) below. 12) War, the State, and Man II: Policing Benevolence Reading: Battlestar Galactica, Episodes “33”, “Water”, and “Lay Down Your Burdens” Davis, Doug. "Science Fiction Narratives of Mass Destruction and the Politics of National Security." In New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction.
13) War, the State, and Man III: Subtitle Reading: Wohlstetter, Arnold. “The Delicate Balance of Terror” Foreign Affairs.
Rosenberg, David Alan. “’A Smoking Radiating Ruin at the End of Two Hours’: Documents on American Plans for Nuclear War with the Soviet Union, 1954-1955.” International Security. ONLINE (*) Waltz v. Sagan ONLINE Sagan, Introduction ONLINE Frank, Pat. Alas, Babylon! Shute, Nevil. On the Beach. 14) The State of Others I: The State and Being Reading: Selections from Locke ONLINE Selections from Hobbes ONLINE Selections from Schmitt ONLINE 15) The State of Others II: Discipline and Biopower Reading: (Selection on Discipline and/or Biopower) Vonnegut, "Welcome to the Monkey House." ONLINE Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron." ONLINE Vonnegut, "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow." ONLINE 16) The State of Others III: Subtitle Reading: District 9. Wilcox, Clyde. "Governing the Alien Nation: The Comparative Politics of Extraterrestrials." In Political Science Fiction. ONLINE Look ahead to the reading for (17) below. 17) The State of Others IV: Subtitle Reading: Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. Stross, Charlie. Accelerando. First third. (This book is available through commercial channels but also for free online.) Rapley, John. “The New Middle Ages.” Foreign Affairs. ONLINE Charles Tilly, “Warmaking and Statemaking as Organized Crime,” in Bringing the State Back In, ed. Evans, Rueschemeyer, and Skocpol
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). ONLINE 18) The Virtue of Politics I: Subtitle Reading: Blish, James. A Case of Conscience. 19) The Virtue of Politics II: Subtitle Reading: Gilliam, Terry. Brazil. 20) The Virtue of Politics III: Subtitle Reading: LeGuin, Ursula. The Dispossessed.
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