Tocqueville Seminars

With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the University of Richmond undertook a three year project to internationalize the study of American history and culture. Working with visiting scholars and international partners, faculty at the University of Richmond and allied colleges developed innovative multidisciplinary courses that explore the United States and its place in the world.

The University of Richmond's "Tocqueville Seminars" initiative took its inspiration from Alexis de Tocqueville, the nineteenth-century French political theorist, social critic and traveler whose landmark work, "Democracy in America", has played a formative role in discussions of American national character. Once considered a canonical figure in a field that privileged the exceptional qualities of a seemingly unified American experience, Tocqueville may yet be relevant to emerging trends in American studies that emphasize the politics of cosmopolitanism and imperialism; global exchanges of peoples, cultures and economic power; histories of racial, ethnic and religious violence; and subjectivities and citizenries that traverse national boundaries. Tocqueville's comparativist approach to American political institutions, history and culture-along with his wide-ranging writings on issues as diverse as empire and slavery-challenges contemporary Americanists to situate their scholarship and teaching within global networks of exchange, power and influence.

The project began in November 2009 with an academic symposium that examined Tocqueville's major and minor writings and their impact on the study of U.S. history and culture. This kicked off a two-year series of faculty development seminars and lectures that explored the consequences of the transnational turn in American studies for research and undergraduate pedagogy. The program concluded with a one-day conference during the spring of 2012 that gathered all project participants to exchange ideas on the direction and effectiveness of their new courses.

A list of new courses that have been incorporated in to the University of Richmond’s curriculum as a result of this project is below.

Paul Achter
Course: Representing America II: Travel, Tourism and Transnationalism in the U.S. South

Bertram Ashe
Course: International Jazz and American Culture

Laura Browder
American Studies
Course: Documenting the Iraq War

Olivier Delers
Modern Literatures and Cultures
Course: Seeing America through French Eyes

Jan French
Course: Native America Today

Jane Geaney
Religious Studies
Course: American Buddha/American Jesus

Patricia Herrera
Course: Global Hip Hop

Amy Howard
Center for Civic Engagement
Course: Cosmopolitan Richmond

Suzanne Jones
Course: Americans in Paris

Peter Lurie
Course: Cross Cultural Influences: Poe, Faulkner, and the Film Noir

Rob Nelson
Digital Scholarship Lab
Course: Transatlantic Abolitionism

Melissa Ooten
Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL)
Course: Comparative Freedom Movements

Kevin Pelletier
Course: Transnational American Renaissance

Meghan Rosatelli
American Studies
Course: Introduction to American Studies: New Media Research Lab

Nicole Sackley
Course: America in India, India in America

Doug Winiarski
Religious Studies
Course: Religion & Violence in John Brown's America, 1800-1860