Alisa Kessel

Alisa Kessel

Philip M. Phibbs Associate Professor of Political Theory

BA, Arizona State University, 1998
MA, Arizona State University, 2000
PhD, Political Science, Duke University, 2006





Professor Kessel teaches the following courses in political theory: 

PG 104:  Introduction to Political Theory
PG 340:  Democracy and the Ancient Greeks
PG 341:  Liberalism and Its Critics
PG 342:  Contemporary Democratic Theory
PG 345:  Politics of Community Engagement
PG 346:  Race in the American Political Imagination
PG 347:  Comparative Political Ideologies
PG 349:  Machiavelli

These courses aim to encourage students to think critically about their political power and freedom and to reflect on the conditions of powerlessness and oppression that persist within their political communities.   At the University of Puget Sound, the course offerings in political theory also include “Theories of International Relations” and “American Political Thought,” taught by Professor Weinberger and “Feminist Philosophy” and “Philosophy of Law,” taught by Professor Tubert.  Together, these twelve courses cover a wide range of Western political thought, but Professor Kessel is always open to suggestions from students about other courses they would like to see offered. 

While many of Professor Kessel’s courses cover specific time periods or ideological approaches to political thought, she also teaches PG 345, a unique course in political theory that allows students to “practice” democratic politics as they learn political theory.  In PG 345, the class studies an issue of local concern (such as transportation, hunger, or education); over the course of the semester, students learn about the dynamics of power, develop conflict resolution strategies for negotiating conflict, and generate policy proposals.  Through this course, students learn to deal with some of the most challenging aspects of democratic citizenship.    


Professor Kessel’s work in political theory reflects her interest in questions about political membership and agency in democratic communities.  Her current project, After Authority, is a book-length study of the role of authority in the democratic politics of resistance.  She suggests, paradoxically, that authority provides a source of obedience that enables democratic dissent.  She is also at work on an article about democratic education and the 1987 Mozert v. Hawkins court case. 

Professor Kessel regularly attends the annual conferences of the American Political Science Association, the Western Political Science Association, and (her favorite) the Association for Political Theory.