Minor in Democracy Studies

Launching in Fall 2022: The University of Chicago’s Minor in Democracy Studies

The University of Chicago’s new minor in Democracy Studies, launching in Fall Quarter 2022, will provide students essential knowledge, insights, methods, and critical perspectives necessary to understanding the world around us and the historical developments that have placed it in such a precarious state. Students in the minor will learn, among other topics, how democracy extends well beyond the political arena, to encompass a broad set of structures, including civic organizations, laws, deliberative practices, rhetorical strategies, cultural forms, collective imaginaries, and moral, ethical, and spiritual codes.

The minor therefore offers a broad range of courses allowing students to select cross-disciplinary electives suitable to forming a broadly conceived program of study.

Who Should Apply?

Beyond its broader educational and civic value, a minor in Democratic Studies offers preparation for a range of career interests, from politics, law, and public policy, to education, social work, journalism, media, and public interest advocacy.

Students pursuing careers in STEM may find a minor in Democracy Studies to be useful preparation for the ethical and professional challenges awaiting them in the marketplace.

A minor in Democratic Studies also provides a compelling interdisciplinary topical focus for students interested in pursuing graduate study in the social sciences and humanities.


Students in the minor complete a total of five courses, including one required course, “DEMS 15000: Democracy and Its Critics,” and four electives (see list of approved courses below). Official information about the requirements of the minor can be found in the 2022-23 College catalog.

The required Democracy and Its Critics course provides students with a multi-disciplinary introduction to the many ways in which struggles over self-government have raised fundamental challenges within politics, culture, and society.

Students are required to take one “global” course which largely focuses on the democratic experience of countries outside of the United States. Students are further encouraged, but not required, to take one course on democracy in ancient times (defined as prior to 650 AD).


  • Faculty Director: James T. Sparrow, Associate Professor, History Department (jts@uchicago.edu)
  • Undergraduate Primary Contact: Atiya Singh, Minor Coordinator (atiya@uchicago.edu)
  • Senior Research Associate, Chicago Center on Democracy: Kevin Kromash (kkromash@uchicago.edu)

Approved Courses

The following elective courses may be counted toward minor requirements (this list is drawn from the 2021-22 catalog. It will be updated when the 2022-23 catalog is published). On an annual basis additional courses may be approved for inclusion in this list. Those qualifying as “global” are marked with an asterisk * and those as ancient denoted with an obelus †. 


Course Instructor(s) Equivalent courses
ANTH 25459. Topics in Contemporary Critical Theory III Lisa Wedeen PLSC 25459, CCCT 25459
Classical Studies
* CLCV 23921. Thucydides and Athenian Democracy at War Robert Stone SCTH 20677
* CLCV 24521. Politics and Political Space in Ancient Rome T. Clark ARCH 29450, CLAS 34521
* CLCV 27709. Caesar and His Reception Michèle Lowrie CLAS 37709
Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
*CRES 21748. Global Human Rights Literature Nory Peters HMRT 21748, CMLT 21748
English Language and Literature
ENGL 25230. Democracy and the School: Writing about Education Emily Coit  
Germanic Studies
*GRMN 25421. Babylon Berlin: Politics and Culture in the Weimar Period Eric Santner  
Global Studies
*GLST 20203. Caste and Race: The Politics of Radical Equality Ahona Panda SOCI 30529, KNOW 20203, SALC 30203, GNSE 32233, KNOW 30203, SOCI 20529, SALC 20203, GNSE 22233
*GLST 22600. What Is Socialism? Experiences from Eastern Europe Míša Appeltová HIST 12600, HMRT 12600, GNSE 12600
*HIST 17110. Democracy: Age of Revolutions Steven Pincus  
* HIST 20507. The Idea of Freedom in Antiquity Andrew Horne HIST 30507, CLCV 24319, CLAS 34319, LLSO 24319
*HIST 22610. Paris and the French Revolution Colin Jones FREN 32619, HIST 32610, ENST 22610, ARCH 22610, FREN 22619
HIST 25300. American Revolution, 1763 to 1789 Edward M. Cook, Jr. LLSO 20601, HIST 35300
HIST 29632. History Colloquium: The CIA and American Democracy Bruce Cumings  
Human Rights
*HMRT 21001. Human Rights: Contemporary Issues Susan Gzesh HIST 29304, LLSO 21001, SOSC 21001, LACS 21001
HMRT 21002. Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations Ben Laurence HIST 39319, LLSO 21002, HIST 29319, HMRT 31002, MAPH 42002, PHIL 21002, PHIL 31002, INRE 31602
HMRT 21005. Militant Democracy and the Preventative State Kathleen Cavanaugh  
* HMRT 23561. Democracy: Athens and America Hannah Ridge  
Law, Letters, and Society
LLSO 28050. The American Constitution David Lebow  
LLSO 29030. Totalitarianism, Law and Revolution David Lyons  
LLSO 29071. Great Books of the Founding Fathers: Revolution and Constitution David Lyons HIST 27016
Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse
PARR 16600. Political Rhetoric: Presidential Inauguration, Transition, and Legislation Leila Brammer  
Political Science
PLSC 10500. What Should Democracy Mean Today?    
PLSC 20817. Race, Social Movements and American Politics Cathy Cohen CRES 20817
*PLSC 23100. Democracy and the Information Technology Revolution Michael Dawson LLSO 27101
PLSC 23313. Democracy and Equality James Wilson LLSO 23313, PLSC 43301
PLSC 23615. Reconstructing Democracy: Tocqueville and Du Bois Adom Getachew PLSC 33615
PLSC 25215. The American Presidency William Howell LLSO 25215, PBPL 25216, AMER 25215
PLSC 28405. Democratic Erosion Susan Stokes  
PLSC 28605. Challenges to Democracy Elisabeth Clemens, Susan Stokes  
PLSC 28701. Introduction to Political Theory Matthew Landauer  
PLSC 28765. The Politics of Authoritarian Regimes Scott Gehlbach; Zhaotian Luo PLSC 38765, PBPL 28765, PPHA 38765
*PLSC 28901. Introduction to Comparative Politics Michael Albertus, Monika Nalepa  
Public Policy
PBPL 25563. Does American Democracy Need Religion? Derek Buyan AMER 25563, RLST 25563, CRES 25563
Romance Languages and Literatures
*ITAL 21322. Literature and/of/Against Fascism Silvia Guslandi  
SOCI 20106. Political Sociology Elisabeth Clemens SOCI 30106, PBPL 23600, ENST 23500
*SOCI 20544. Democratic Backsliding Marco Garrido SOCI 30544
South Asian Languages and Civilizations
*SALC 26711. South Asia after Independence Elizabeth Chatterjee HIST 26711

Democracy was long a central theme of university curricula throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, but it has gradually become absent as a systematic focus.

The University of Chicago’s minor in Democracy Studies provides students with a corrective to this erosion.