The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Critical Political Studies

Critical Political Studies (CPS) fosters creative scholarship that critically engages with power inequalities in the world. We think about the ways in which knowledge production has been and continues to be implicated in these power inequalities. Faculty and students combine social and political theory with cutting-edge empirical research to produce scholarship on topics as diverse as:

  • Indigenous resistance to petroleum companies in the Americas 
  • The organization of mass violence on the kill floor of an industrialized cattle slaughterhouse
  • How legacies of empire and colonialism shape democratic thought and politics
  • The history of exclusion in western democracies
  • The creolization of liberal democracy in Africa and its diaspora 
  • The varieties of discourses on power, legitimacy, and democracy in the Islamic world
  • The globalization of political theory beyond Western traditions
  • Changing meanings of the environment
  • Feminist protest against the global Right

The division does not take existing concepts and categories as given, instead questioning their origins and empirical validity, the work they do in the world, and our role in advancing them. Our scholarship doesn’t take the parameters of politics for granted either, and locates them historically, comparatively, and ethnographically. CPS aims to “denaturalize” the familiar so that we can more clearly see its particularity and historicity.  

Our division focuses on race, patriarchy, colonialism, the state, animality, environment, and the economy, among other concepts. Drawing widely on ideas, theories, concepts, methods, and data from across the social sciences, humanities, and arts, we also engage with knowledge produced beyond the academy, and speak to audiences beyond the university. CPS is open to any methodological perspective but we prioritize contextualized understandings and scholarship that has close-to-the ground familiarity with lived experiences and understandings. We write in ways that are clear and accessible, and consider ourselves situated and engaged intellectuals, shaped, formed and constituted by events, stories, relationships, texts and experiences. And despite our common desire for a critical study of politics, we disagree, sometimes vigorously, on key questions such as—what is the role of the state? can capitalism ever be good?—but we value the insights that such debates generate.  

Professor Ahmed's main area of specialization is democratic studies, looking particularly at the politics of institutional choice in the process of democratization.  She is author of “Democracy and the Politics of Electoral System Choice: Engineering Electoral Dominance” (Cambridge University Press, 2013) which won the Best Book Award from the European Politics...Read more

My research interests include Greek philosophy and tragedies, Nietzsche, contemporary liberal theory, and American political thought. Civic Research: As part of my civic work in Puerto Rico, I have written several essays on social issues. These essays have been presented in public lectures and on radio and TV programs....Read more

My main areas of specialization are social movements and protest politics, comparative and transnational feminisms, and Latin American politics and cultures, with a focus on Brazil and the Southern Cone. My recent (co-edited) books include Quem São as Mulheres das Políticas para as Mulheres no Brazil? Vol. I, O...Read more

I specialize on issues of founding and refounding, popular constitutionalism, and indigenous rights and social movements in Latin America.  I am interested in examining the mechanisms and challenges involved in the creation and recreation of political orders, the significance of constitution-making and the law in processes of extraordinary politics,...Read more

Barbara Cruikshank

My research interests include modern and contemporary social and political theory, the history of reform, social movements, the politics of sex and sexuality, and relations of power and knowledge.Read more

My research and teaching interests are in American political thought, democratic theory, the politics of race and indigeneity, and political theories of empire and colonialism.  My first book, Empire of the People: Settler Colonialism and the Foundations of Modern Democratic Thought (University Press of Kansas, 2018), examines the constitutive...Read more

Carlene J. Edie

Carlene J. Edie has been a Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst since 1989. She received her PhD from UCLA. Her principal research interests have been in the areas of comparative political economy with a focus on the Anglophone Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. She is...Read more

My research interests include international relations, international relations theory, international political economy, international environmental politics, international institutions, the science-policy interface,  and global governance.

I am currently developing a research project on global issue coupling and global governance.  I am currently a member of the editorial boards of  Global Environmental Politics,...Read more

My research and teaching interests are in the areas of political philosophy, Islamic law and political thought, religion and political theory, and comparative and non-Western political theory more generally. My first book, Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus (Oxford, 2009) is an exploration of the...Read more

Frederic C. Schaffer, Frederic Charles Schaffer, Frederic Schaffer, Fred Schaffer

My subfield of specialization is comparative politics and my methodological area of expertise is the investigation of concepts. Substantively, I study the meaning of democracy, the practice of voting, and the administration of elections. Read more

I seek to better understand the creative, contentious, and politically fraught processes that undergird the creation of new market economies. My first book, Order at the Bazaar: Power and Trade in Central Asia, is available with Cornell University Press (2017) and examines the bottom-up creation and institutionalization of local marketplace...Read more