Faculty specializing in the modern United States focus on the history of ideas, institutions, and movements relating to rights and social justice. Our research interests range from struggles over urban space, the racialized politics of crime and punishment, and the expansion and restructuring of American capitalism, to the design and functioning of human rights institutions and the creation of activist and protest cultures. We share a commitment to exploring the ways that enduring ideals of U.S. political culture (such as "democracy," "equality," or "freedom") often ground persistent inequality and injustice even as they may also motivate people to demand change. Particular areas of expertise include race, gender and incarceration; African-American urban politics; human rights ideas and institutions; the state and sexuality; and LGBTQ communities and activism.
Several faculty members have affiliations with other units (the School of Law, Department of African and African American Studies, Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, American Culture Studies Program). These and others, such as the Danforth Center for Religion and Politics, provide graduate students with opportunities for collaboration and intellectual community. University resources such as the vast Henry Hampton Collection at Olin Library related to the modern civil rights movement are available for the use of faculty and graduate students.