July 31, 2014  

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Steedman Lectures on the Role of Race in American Democracy Nov. 15

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Dr. Marek Steedman

An expert on American political thought will address a topic that scholars have debated for centuries – the role of race in American democracy.

Dr. Marek Steedman, assistant professor of political science at The University of Southern Mississippi, will present “Race and Liberty In Tocqueville’s America” at 4 p.m., Mon., Nov. 15 in Gonzales Auditorium.

This lecture comes as a result of Steedman’s recent award from the Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC) as the Teacher of the Year. MHC celebrated Arts and Humanities Month in October by honoring humanities faculty from colleges and universities throughout the state. The Teacher of the Year award requires recipients to present a public lecture on their field of expertise. Additionally, they receive a $500 honorarium.

“It is a great honor to be chosen to receive the Humanities Teacher Award at Southern Miss, especially when I look at the amazingly talented faculty who have received this award in the past,” said Steedman, who also serves as the director of graduate studies for the Southern Miss Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs.

Steedman’s lecture will examine the tension between racial hierarchy and liberty in democratic societies through the famous account of early American democracy by French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville. According to Steedman, Tocqueville’s account of the American political system, published in “Democracy in America,” remains important to how Americans understand their own democracy even today.

“Scholars debate the role that race plays in Tocqueville’s account,” Steedman explained. “Does he ignore or downplay the importance of racial slavery in early America or does he show that racism was inherent in American democracy form the start?”                                                   

Steedman argues that Tocqueville sees racial privilege as analogous to aristocratic privilege, which he feels is ultimately incompatible with the equality that is, for Tocqueville, the core principle of democracy. He will explain his perspective and conclude with brief reflections on implications for America’s contemporary politics of race.

Steedman is an authority on race in the development of American political thought. Presently, he has published three articles in scholarly journals, completed two book chapters and has one article under review. In the classroom, Steedman is highly respected by his colleagues and students as a significant contributor to the field of political science.

“Students who would never have considered taking a political theory course have sought out his upper division classes after taking his introductory level classes,” said Dr. Allan McBride, department chair and professor.

McBride, who nominated Steedman for the MHC Teacher of the Year award, credits him with single handedly reviving the theory courses in the political science department.

“Several of his current and former students have taken time to extol his teaching of arcane political thought using phrases such as ‘one-of-a-kind,’ and saying ‘he has an innate gift of guiding students to question their world.’”

For more information on Steedman’s award and lecture, call the Southern Miss Department of Political Science, International Development and International Affairs at 601.266.4310.