Politics, Public Life & Governance

illustration of people

Politics, Public Life, and Governance builds on the current renaissance in political history, broadly defined, at Duke and in the profession as a whole. This resurgence has involved a breakdown of older boundaries of political history with the infusion of concepts, methods, and findings from social and cultural history. The most exciting work in the field now stems from the recognition that politics is conducted in distinct ways by a wide variety of groups, including the formally disenfranchised, and that governance takes place through numerous institutions, including many that are not part of the state, among them labor unions, trade associations, communal organizations and more. What unites faculty in this area is interest in exploring the workings of power: who has it, who lacks it and why; how it is exercised and experienced and negotiated; and how and why its character and distribution have changed over time.

The ways we explore these issues, however, vary across geographic regions, thematic subfields, conceptual frameworks, and analytic lenses such as political economy, gender, race, class, and nation. Areas of particular strength at Duke include the intersections of state and empire formation; high politics, public policy, and the evolution of national states; formal institutions such as early modern charter companies, the military, and corporations as distinct political communities and instruments of innovation and domination; popular politics and social movements; citizenship and the law as sites of political contestation and recognition and categories for political inclusion and exclusion; the relationship between strategies of governance and the evolution of modern capitalism in different societies; the modern administrative state as a pivotal site of economic and political conflict; political violence, including state violence; and the transnational flows of political ideas, movements, policies, and identities.

Faculty and students working in this area benefit from an unusual array of resources. Among them are the area’s outstanding research libraries and archival collections including collections on segregation and civil rights at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Program on History, Public Policy and Social Change and a series of collaborative seminars including The Moral Challenges of Poverty in North Carolina (Duke-UNC), Rethinking Regulation (Duke-UNC), and Global Governance and Democracy (Duke faculty/graduate students).