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).

Interested students must complete the Democracy Minor Map and return it, in person, to Abigail Negley (Harper Memorial Library Room 252) to declare their intention to pursue the minor, no later than Spring Quarter of their Third year. Students can also meet with Abigail in person or via Zoom for a longer meeting, should they wish. Abigail will contact the student to let them know if they have been approved, upon which the student should submit the approval to their college adviser for the latter’s approval during the quarter. Note that students may be given credit for approved courses taken before declaring the minor.

How to declare the minor:

  1. Complete the Democracy Minor Map and return it, in person, to Abigail Clark (Harper Memorial Library Room 252)
  2. Set up a meeting with Abigail Clark (Zoom or in person) via calendly, if you would like
  3. Sign up for our newsletter (Note: link will be added here shortly)
  4. Return your final consent form to your college adviser once Abigail sends it to you

See the Democracy Studies page in the College Catalog for more detail on minor requirements.


  • Primary Contact for Undergraduates: Abigail Clark​, Divisional Coordinator, Social Sciences Collegiate Division (abigailn@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: March 15, 2023


Course Instructor(s) Equivalent courses
Big Problems
BPRO 25900. Digitizing Human Rights J. Spruill, N. Briz HMRT 25900, MAAD 25900
Classical Studies
† * CLCV 21222. Democratic Failure in Greece and Rome C. Ando HIST 30602, HIST 20602, CLAS 31222
† * GREK 23922. Plato on Tyranny and Injustice A. Kadellis GREK 33922
Comparative Human Development
* CHDV 25699. When Cultures Collide: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies R. Shweder HMRT 35600, PSYC 45300, ANTH 45600, CHDV 45699, GNSE 45600, KNOW 45699
Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
CRES 22112. African American Political Thought: Democracy’s Reconstruction Larry Svabek PLSC 2221
* CRES 27002. The Age of Emancipation M. Hicks LACS 29002, HIST 39002, HIST 29002, LACS 39002
English Language and Literature
ENGL 27250. Wealth, Democracy and the American Novel Kenneth Warren  
Formation of Knowledge
KNOW 36077. Crisis of Expertise Tal Arbel  
HIST 18001. The United States in the Age of Total War Jim Sparrow LLSO 18001
HIST 18101: Democracy in America? Jim Sparrow  
HIST 28301. Early American Political Culture, 1600-1820 E. Cook LLSO 20602, HIST 38301
HIST 18802. Performing Democracy J. Dailey & F. Maxwell TAPS 20802, CHST 18802
HIST 26409. Revolution, Dictatorship, and Violence in Modern Latin America Brodie Fischer  
* HIST 27103. American Revolution in Global Context Steve Pincus HIST 37103, LLSO 27103
Human Rights
HMRT 21002. Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations Ben Laurence PHIL 21002, HIST 29319, HMRT 31002, MAPH 42002, HIST 39319, PHIL 31002, LLSO 21002, INRE 31602
HMRT 21005. Militant Democracy and the Preventative State Kathleen Cavanaugh PLSC 21005, HMRT 31005
* HMRT 23511. Memory, Reconciliation, and Healing: Transitional Justice   CHDV 23511, LACS 23511
Law, Letters, and Society
LLSO 29060. Freedom of Religion David Lyons RLST 29060
LLSO 29071. Great Books of the Founding Fathers: Revolution and Constitution David Lyons HIST 27016
Master of Arts Program in Social Sciences
MAPS 30235. Democracy, Race and Equal Protection Kyla Bourne Cross listed for undergrads as PLSC 21011; Also HMRT 30235, CRES 30235, SOCI 30335
Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse
PARR 18600. Public Engagement and Participation Leila Brammer  
PHIL 21403. Locke and Rousseau D. Brudney  
Political Science
PLSC 24810. Politics of the U.S. Congress M. Hansen LLSO 24810
PLSC 25201. After Multiculturalism: Democratic Citizenship & Indigenous Resurgence in Settler Colonial Contexts    
PLSC 25215. The American Presidency W. Howell PBPL 25216, LLSO 25215, AMER 25215
* † PLSC 26603. Democracy and the Immigrant in Classical Greek Thought
Demetra Kasimis
CCCT 26603, CRES 26603, CLCV 26622
* PLSC 26615. Democracy’s Life and Death    
PLSC 26703. Political Parties in the United States R. Bloch Rubin LLSO 26703
PLSC 28701. Introduction to Political Theory (Note: This counts toward the minor in AY2022-23, as it focuses on democracy, but may not in future years)    
* PLSC 28901. Introduction to Comparative Politics M. Albertus, M. Nalepa  
PLSC 28555. The Economy of Conspiracy D. Kasimis PLSC 38555
Public Policy Studies
PBPL 25910. The Health of American Democracy Anthony Fowler
PLSC 25911
PBPL 28765. The Politics of Authoritarian Regimes Alexei Zakharov PLSC 28765
Religious Studies
* RLST 28612. The Global Revolt Against Liberalism Yiftach Ofek GLST 28612
* SOSC 21001. Human Rights: Contemporary Issues Susan Gzesh LLSO 21001, HMRT 21001, HIST 29304, LACS 21001, CHST 21001

Still want to learn more?


We have compiled a set of frequently asked questions about the minor. If you have other questions, please contact Abigail Clark (abigailn@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.