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, with a special interest in elections, voting systems, legislative politics, party development, and voting rights. She examines these issues in historical and comparative perspective and her work combines a regional focus on Europe and the United States.  She is author of “Democracy and the Politics of Electoral...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

Angélica Maria Bernal is Associate Professor of Political Sci­ence at UMass Amherst and faculty affiliate with the Center for Latin American, Latinx and Caribbean Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Her research and teaching focus on issues of popular power, constitutional change, decolonial theory and politics, and indigenous social movements and resistance in...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 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 Islamic juridical...Read more

I write about how violence becomes normal in societies that pride themselves on being civilized.  For my book every twelve seconds, I worked for nearly six months in an industrialized cattle slaughterhouse in Nebraska and used that experience to think about power and violence in modernity.  In 2020, every twelve seconds was...Read more

My subfield of specialization is comparative politics and my methodological areas of expertise are interviewing, working with concepts, and interpretivism. Substantively, I study the meaning of democracy, the practice of voting, and the administration of elections. Read more

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  I teach comparative political economy, development, energy and Central Asian politics courses. My current research examines New England energy politics and electric grid reform, and the climate implications of our energy and water use...Read more