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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Policy

Undergraduate Course: Political Work (PLIT10093)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhat do people do when they are doing politics? What does politics consist of? What is political work and how is it done? What's it like being an activist, a bureaucrat or an elected representative? What happens in meetings, and how is politics done in talk? Why do documents matter so much in doing politics, and how does politics inhere in material artefacts, spaces and buildings, too? This course seeks to explore the micro-sociology of the political process, drawing on a range of perspectives from different disciplines.
Course description Following the practice turn in politics, and specifically in policy studies and international relations, this course asks simply what it is to 'do politics'. Drawing on further, interdisciplinary and ethnographic work in anthropology, sociology and science and technology studies it asks new questions about the nature and scope of the political, and does so empirically rather than, at least in the first instance, theoretically.

The course is framed by an introduction to the social worlds of activism, administration and elected representation, following actors in the course of their everyday activities. It investigates practices of meeting, speaking and listening in different contexts, as well as of the production and reception of documents and texts. It explores the material infrastructure of politics, including its technical artefacts and the buildings and spaces in which it takes place.

In this way, the course aims to capture politics in some of its essential social forms. It makes no a priori distinction between the local, the national and the international, or between the disciplines that might be used to understand them. Its intellectual roots are diverse: they include discourse theory and practice theory as well as a range of other approaches across the social sciences.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  40
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The course is assessed by a 4000 word course paper. This will comprise a case study of some element or aspect of 'political work', and will be derived from your own research: a typical case study might be based on an interview with a practitioner, observation of a meeting or event or the analysis of documents and material artefacts. It will provide relevant background and context, draw on secondary literature as appropriate, and offer critical reflection, analysis and discussion.
Feedback We begin to explore topics for case studies in class, and follow up with one-to-one meetings with the course tutor. We use one workshop to present proposals and work-in-progress to the group and generate more formative feedback that way. As your work develops, there are opportunities to refine your case study, making connections with others and the theories and concepts behind them in further meetings with your tutor.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. acquire and explore a conception of politics and policy making as a domain of practice or 'work'.
  2. have a detailed understanding of different instances and dimensions of political work.
  3. develop appropriate ways of interpreting and accounting for it through the critical appreciation of case studies.
  4. acquire and use essential skills of data collection and analysis in researching and writing case studies of their own.
  5. reflect critically on their own and others' work, in delivering presentations.
Reading List
Freeman, R (2021) doing politics []

Garton Ash, T (1990) 'The revolution of the magic lantern', New York Review of Books, 18 January []

Battistoni, A (2019) 'Spadework. On political organizing', n+1 34 []

Wagenaar, H (2004) ''Knowing' the rules: administrative work as practice', Public Administration Review 64 (6) 643¿656

Wodak, R (2009) 'One day in the life of an MEP', in Wodak, R The Discourse of Politics in Action: politics as usual, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan

Arendt, H (1958) The Human Condition. A study of the central dilemmas facing modern man, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Goffman (1971 [1959]) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Harmondsworth: Penguin

Freeman, R (2019) 'Meeting, talk and text: policy and politics in practice', Policy and Politics 47 (1) 37-56

Reckwitz, A (2002) 'Toward a theory of social practices. A development in culturalist theorizing', European Journal of Social Theory 5 243¿263

Brown, J S and Duguid, P (1996) 'The social life of documents';

Coles, K A (2004) 'Election day: the construction of democracy through technique', Cultural Anthropology 19 (4) 551¿580

Eggeling, K A and Adler-Nissen, R (2021) 'The synthetic situation in diplomacy: scopic media and the digital mediation of estrangement', Global Studies Quarterly 1 1¿14

Frenzel, F, Feigenbaum, A and McCurdy, P (2014) 'Protest camps: an emerging field of social movement research', Sociological Review 62 457¿474

Jones, B (1993) 'The Pitiless Probing Eye: politicians and the broadcast political interview', Parliamentary Affairs 46 (1) 66-90

Masi de Casanova, E and Jafar, A (2016) 'The body as a site of resistance', in The SAGE Handbook of Resistance, pp 139-155; DOI:

Medvetz, T (2006) 'The strength of weekly ties: relations of material and symbolic exchange in the conservative movement', Politics & Society 34 (3) 343-368

Salter, M B (2007) 'Governmentalities of an airport: heterotopia and confession', International Political Sociology 1 49¿66

Vree, W van (2011) 'Meetings: the frontline of civilization', Sociological Review 59 (s1) 241-262
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Richard Freeman
Tel: (0131 6)50 4680
Course secretaryMr James Heitler
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