course schedule












By wearing this cloth, this Mande man is claiming power and the authority to wield it legitimately.

 HIS 227 and PSC 227,


 INTRODUCTION: This course seeks to provoke an intellectual examination of issues connected to the concepts "power" and "authority" as exercised and experienced within selected nonwestern societies and cultures.  Using a cross disciplinary and interdisciplinary approach, the course will explore notions, types and uses of power and authority through political, historical and cultural "case studies" drawn from the experiences of the Hausa and Mande in Africa and Brazilians.  Our discussions also will provide implicit and explicit comparisons along the way with the function and use of power and authority in American culture and society. 

The variety of social and cultural contexts studied will enable students to examine, among other topics, the power and authority vested in traditional customs and beliefs, the impact of westernization and modernization on expressions of power and authority within nonwestern political traditions, the manifestations of power and authority in aspects of contemporary popular culture, the nature of the "postmodern" construction of power and authority and cross-cultural conflicts in the practice of medicine. 

The course seeks to illuminate answers to the following set of specific related questions:

  • What is the nature of "power" and "authority"?  How do "power" and "authority" interact with one another both in theory and in practice?  How are the two concepts interrelated?  How are they made manifest in various social and cultural contexts?  How expressed?

  • Where does power and authority reside?  How do standards of power and authority gain legitimacy?

  • Who controls / possesses / shapes the exercise and imposition of power and authority within a given cultural or social context?

COURSE OBJECTIVES: By the end of fifteen weeks of instruction, students enrolled in POWER AND AUTHORITY IN NONWESTERN SOCIETIES should be able to --
  1. effectively conceptualize a variety of meanings inherent in usage of the terms "power" and "authority";

  3. analyze, using appropriate supporting examples and illustrations drawn from course content, various manifestations (economic, social, political, religious, cultural) of power and authority applicable in a variety of historical, social and cultural contexts;

  5. illustrate the interplay between power and authority utilizing a variety of specific illustrative examples drawn from the study of nonwestern societies and cultures;

  7. examine with insight and understanding the locus and controlling factors evident in the expression of power and authority in specific contexts (traditional / modern / contemporary / postmodern;  western / nonwestern)

Course content will be delivered through readings, video, discussion, the Internet, computer-aided presentations and lecture.  Students will be expected to demonstrate mastery of this content through a series of short (2 - 4 page) essays on assigned topics as well as a number ofl shorter writing exercises.  Readings for the course are available online through Electronic Course Reserve or at Barnes and Noble Bookstore. You should either buy or get access (libraries, OhioLink, InterLibrary Loan) to the following book:

Barbara Hoffman. Griots at War: Conflict, Conciliation and Caste in Mande. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000.

This site has been prepared by Donald Ramos (d.ramos @csuohio.edu) for the use of students enrolled in ANT227, HIS 227 and PSC 227, Power and Authority in Nonwestern Societies, at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, during the Spring Semester of the 2003-2004 Academic Year.
This site is presently being maintained by Donald Ramos;
please contact him with any comments.

last revised: February 22, 2004