Minor in Democracy Studies

The University of Chicago’s Minor in Democracy Studies

The University of Chicago’s new minor in Democracy Studies, which launched in Fall Quarter 2022, provides 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 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.

To learn more about the minor, continue reading this page and see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

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.

Requirements and Declaration Process

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).


Declaring the minor:

All students who wish to declare a minor in Democracy Studies must contact the program before the end of Spring Quarter of their third year. Students may be given credit for approved courses taken before declaring the minor. To declare the minor, please follow these steps:

  1. Review the approved course list below;
  2. Fill out the minor map and send it to Elizabeth Shen via email (elizabethshen@uchicago.edu); and
  3. Sign up for the Democracy Studies minor mailing list.

Once you submit your minor map, Elizabeth will send your approved minor declaration to your College adviser. Please email Elizabeth or set up a meeting if you have any questions. See the Democracy Studies page in the College Catalog for additional information on minor requirements.


Updating your minor courses:

After you declare the minor, if you make changes to the courses you will use to satisfy your minor, you do not need to send a new form to the Democracy program: we will check in with you once per quarter to ask for course updates and will submit revised approval to your College advisor.


  • Primary Contact for Undergraduates: Elizabeth Shen, Divisional Coordinator, Social Sciences Collegiate Division (elizabethshen@uchicago.edu)
  • Faculty Director: James T. Sparrow, Associate Professor, History Department
  • Kevin Kromash, Senior Research Associate, Chicago Center on Democracy

Approved Courses

The following elective courses may be counted toward minor requirements. This list is drawn from the 2022-23 College Catalog, and it will be updated on a regular basis, at least quarterly. Changes that we are likely to make to the list include:

  • If we learn that a course is not being offered this year, we will remove it (but may add it in future years when it is being offered).
  • We may add additional courses as we learn about them.
  • We may learn that we have listed a course under the wrong department, in which case we will amend the listing.

Courses qualifying as “global” are marked with an asterisk * and those as ancient denoted with an obelus †.

Last updated: October 27, 2023

Autumn 2023

CHST 24700 Organizing Coalitions for Change: Growing Power and Social Movements
* GLST 25850 No Justice, No Speech! Free Speech and Palestine in the University and Beyond
HIPS 22204 Science, Governance, and the Crisis of Liberalism
HIST 17908 African-American History to 1865
HIST 22508 Fascism
HIST 28307 Populism in the United States: Past and Present
* HMRT 21001 Human Rights: Contemporary Issues
HMRT 21005 Militant Democracy and the Preventative State
HMRT 21002 Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations
PLSC 20138 Politics/Participation/Organization
* PLSC 28901 Introduction to Comparative Politics
RDIN 22112 African American Political Thought: Democracy’s Reconstruction
RLST 25561 Justice at the Margins: Religion, Race, and Resistance Ethics
RLST 24901 Religion and Human Rights

Winter 2024

BPRO 25900 Digitizing Human Rights
HIST 17604: The Declaration of Independence
* HIST 26409 Revolution, Dictatorship, and Violence in Modern Latin America
HIST 25300: American Revolution, 1763 to 1789
* HMRT 21001 Human Rights: Contemporary Issues
PARR 23500: Freedom of Speech on Campus: Ideologies, Scenarios and Modes of Discussion
PLSC 20406: Contemporary Democratic Theory: Realism, Deliberative Democracy, and Agonism
RLST 29000 The American Culture Wars

Spring 2024

† * CLCV 21222 Democratic Failure in Greece and Rome
* HMRT 21001 Human Rights: Contemporary Issues
PBPL 28765 The Politics of Authoritarian Regimes
† * PLSC 28555 The Economy of Conspiracy
PLSC 28701 Introduction to Political Theory (Note: This counts toward the minor in AY2023-24, as it focuses on democracy this year, but may not in future years)
PLSC 25215 The American Presidency
RLST 28903 Religion and Civic Leadership in Chicago

Previously offered courses

* CRES 27002. The Age of Emancipation
† * GREK 23922 Plato on Tyranny and Injustice
HIST 18001 The United States in the Age of Total War
HIST 18101 Democracy in America?
HIST 18802 Performing Democracy
* HIST 27103 American Revolution in Global Context
HIST 28301 Early American Political Culture, 1600-1820
* HMRT 23511 Memory, Reconciliation, and Healing: Transitional Justice
LLSO 29060 Freedom of Religion
LLSO 29071 Great Books of the Founding Fathers: Revolution and Constitution
LLSO 29075/99 Neoliberalism in Europe
MAPS 30235 Democracy, Race and Equal Protection
PARR 18600 Public Engagement and Participation
PBPL 25910 The Health of American Democracy
PHIL 21403 Locke and Rousseau
PLSC 24810 Politics of the U.S. Congress
* † PLSC 26603 Democracy and the Immigrant in Classical Greek Thought
* PLSC 26615 Democracy’s Life and Death
PLSC 26703 Political Parties in the United States
* RLST 28612 The Global Revolt Against Liberalism

Still want to learn more?


We have compiled a set of frequently asked questions about the minor. If you have other questions, please contact Elizabeth Shen (elizabethshen@uchicago.edu)

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.