Making the Modern Political Subject (2018/19)

Course Description: 

This 4-credit course builds upon the foundations from the fall semester “Gender and Migration” course in order to reexamine the neoliberal state with regards to the ‘new refugee crisis’. In this special topics course, we will explore and seek to connect a long history of neoliberal development and worsening global inequalities are connected to structurally determined constructions, as well as material realities, of gender, race and sexuality in the context of global migration. The course connects contemporary trends in global migrations with a historical understanding of how and why migrants move, as well as how modern nation-states have developed a precedent for inclusion and exclusion on the basis of who has the potential to ‘belong’ as a participating citizen. Using an intersectional and interdisciplinary framework, the course is organized into key topics that attempt to create an intellectual narrative (or guide map) to constructions of nations, borders, categories of legal and illegal migrants, the migrant body, all within the context of interrogating gender across (and within) borders. The goal of the course is to expose how today’s discourse of illegality and borders borrows from a longer history of state-sovereignty premised upon constructing – and excluding – the ‘other’. Bringing new discussions to bear on established bodies of work in migration studies, ethnic studies of migrant communities, and histories of immigration and exclusion, the course draws upon postcolonial and post-structural feminist and gender critiques of ‘new migrations’, and the ways in which the human costs of migration are intricately linked to global trends in environmental, financial, and cultural development.


Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Identify and engage with the major themes outlined in the course syllabus, and offer a critical interpretation of all class readings assigned to these themes.
  • Understand the key methodological developments in the field of global migration and refugee studies, and be able to reflect upon how these intersect with historical trajectories of migration, and more current modes of forced migration, diaspora and labour migration.  
  • Adopt an intersectional approach to the major themes of the course, and understand how gendered experiences and interpretations of migration, both in the past and in the present, shape the ways we conceptualize a ‘new refugee crisis’.
  • Identify how interdisciplinary qualitative work adds depth and context to a quantitative and numbers-based approach to understanding migration in the post-1945 period.
  • Draw upon key concepts in migration theory and employ these towards and integrative approach to exploring how and why the ‘new crisis’ opens up new fields of inquiry into the gendering of migration routes and experiences globally
  • Engage actively with political rhetoric and media influence on the concept of a ‘new crisis’, and speak with some authority on why the idea of a ‘new crisis’ is a dangerous development that threatens to reinforce old Eurocentric boundaries of First and Third World/developed and developing/new and old-world migrants (and their problematic categorizations!). 

Class Participation                                                                                           30%

Blog Post                                                                                                        30%

Blog Critique and Presentation                                                                        20%

Final in-class Exam                                                                                         20%

Course Assignments and Requirements

Class Participation (30%)

This is a discussion-based course, and therefore you must come to class – and participate in discussion - in order to receive a participation grade. If you do not come to class and participate every week, you cannot pass this course. Should you be forced to miss a class, you can write a one-page reflection on the readings and hand it in at the beginning of the next class. If you anticipate missing classes (including for religious observances) please get in touch with me as soon as possible.

You should arrive for class having completed the reading and prepared to engage in a discussion of the material with your colleagues. Simply showing up and sitting silently in class is not considered participation, and you will not receive participation points for doing so. You must take an active part in classroom discussion and in-class activities.

This course deals with sensitive and controversial material – especially given the current political climate in the U.S. and the long history of American imperialism that has shaped many of the developments we will discuss. I ask that you show every person in the classroom the same kind of courtesy and respect that you expect in return, REGARDLESS of colour, creed, sexuality or religious background. You are encouraged to share your background and experiences in class, and therefore it is imperative that we maintain a free and warm intellectual environment so that we can provide the same respect to each and every individual student.

If you are auditing the course, you are welcome to come as often as possible and to participate as an active member of the discussion. You are not required to hand in any written assignments, and you will not receive credit for the course.

Blog Posts (30%)

During the term, you will write three blog posts, each based on your reflections of the weekly topics – each post will be worth 10% of your final grade. These posts are designed to critically engage with the readings, and also as part of a class discussion outside of the classroom.

Each post should be no more than 500 words in length, and you can upload these to our course website where a designated space will be available for each weekly topic on Moodle. You must submit TWO of the posts in advance of the class, and ONE blog post must be submitted ONE WEEK in advance so that it can be critiqued in the open blog forum on Moodle (see below). 

You can use the blog to do the following:

  • Review and identify the key themes in the course readings
  • Identify connections between at the readings, and hopefully across topics
  • Pick out one or two key concepts that you want to talk more about in class
  • Discuss your response to the articles/chapters
  • Raise questions for your peers that we can then take up in our class discussion  

You will write a critique of one blog post written by another student in the course (see the next section). You will also submit ONE of your three blog posts to be critiqued in an open forum (Blog Peer Review forum) on the website. Both your blog post and the critique will remain public throughout the term, and I encourage students to comments on each other’s posts and critiques. 

Blog Critique and Discussant (20%)

Each student will get a chance to critique and discuss blog posts written by the other students in the course. During the term, you will select and critique one blog post that has been submitted for review by your peer. You will have one week to critique and post your comments, and then you will bring in your critique to share with the class on the day that we discuss the readings. Timing is essential – you are solely responsible for making sure that your blogs and reviews are posted according to the guidelines outlined above.

The critique should be no more than 500 words in length, and it must be posted to the open Blog Peer Review forum on the Moodle website. You will be graded according to your review and how you are able to apply constructive criticism as part of a broader discussion in class. There is need to present your critique in class – instead, each class I will open the floor to a discussion of the blog forum, and at that time you can raise questions and concerns, or even open up a section of the review for debate. It does not matter if you agree or disagree with either the readings or your colleagues – the point of the assignment is to open up the discussion to multiple ways of thinking and writing about the topics in question.


This method of peer review fosters a communication that goes beyond our time in class, and connects us to an ongoing conversation that can be accessed remotely; one that offers students the opportunity to continue to participate on their own time. It is also an important assignment that develops critical reading skills and is designed to foster a sense of community amongst members of the class over the term. However, keep in mind that the assignment asks you to critique – and criticize – the work of other students, and (likely) friends. Lively and critical debate is an essential part of graduate training, and you should be ready to engage in difficult discussions on politicized topics with your peers.

Final in-class Exam (20%)

During the last class of the term, you will write a short reflection paper based on a selection of three pre-assigned questions. You will receive the questions one week in advance of the exam, and you are welcome to bring in your laptops to complete the essay in class – the essay must be submitted by the end of the exam period. You may bring in a one-page essay outline/notes, which you can keep with you throughout the exam as you write your reflection paper. All other aides are prohibited – you will not have access to any other online material, nor can you bring in anything to assist you other than one page of notes.