Culture and Politics (CULP)

  • Curricular Field Chair: Ayman Shabana
  • Curricular Dean: Dean Morgan Fisher


The Culture and Politics (CULP) major is designed to provide students with a complex understanding of the relationship between culture, knowledge, and power. It aims to provide students with theoretical frameworks and analytical skills that enhance cross-cultural tolerance, social justice, and ethical leadership, in order to make a difference in a world marked by power hierarchies and cultural conflicts. Students learn to apply analytical tools from multiple fields as they practice critical reflection on self and society and enhance their analytic sophistication through collective problem solving.

Students build their substantive expertise in the politics of culture through an in-depth foundational course that stresses fluency in a variety of theories, definitions and genres of culture. Students then go on to assemble their own course sequence around their individually chosen topical concentrations. All students are expected to master the analytical methods and skills necessary to become thoughtful, rigorous readers and writers of scholarship on cultural power relations in the international arena.

CULP Goals and Objectives: The Purpose of the Major

What do a critical moral judgment, a parliamentary act, an earnest prayer, a patriotic poem, and a romantic movie all have in common?  They are all expressions of a culture, and as such, they are shaped by the power their culture exerts on those who create them and those who perform them.

More overt exercises of power—by police, or the military, or people with formal political authority—are obvious and easy to see.  But the relation between culture and power is often less visible.  Culture imprints itself upon your mind and your body: it shapes the words that come out of your mouth; the way you greet others; the judgments you make about morality, religion, books and movies; the knowledge you take for granted; the way you conceptualize yourself.

The goal of the CULP major is to make visible this power, and to understand the relation between culture, power, and knowledge.   For only when it is visible can we understand the risks of power, and engage in a critique of power, of existing cultures, of the way power dictates behavior, social relations, creative activity.  But this visibility also allows us to see how power makes possible any and all human action in the first place—how without cultural power, there can be no human speech; no cultural products such as art, poetry, film, literature, news, or architecture; no morality or religious practice; nor any other of the elements that define us as humans.

The CULP major aims to produce students who:

  • understand how power operates within culture to produce agents with specific identities, social relations, and ways of understanding themselves and the world;
  • can understand theory from a variety of different disciplines, from history, sociology and anthropology to philosophy, literature and the performing arts—and understand how power operates in each discipline;
  • understand cultural diversity and can think about different cultures in relation to each other;
  • can write clearly and persuasively, and can effectively communicate ideas orally;
  • are better producers of culture—whether through art, writing, photography, or some other medium of cultural production;
  • understand how culture can empower ordinary people as agents of change—for example, how the arts (such as music, literature, and video) can be used to raise awareness; and
  • are prepared for a variety of careers—whether at a bank, for the government, for an NGO, as a filmmaker, or graduate school.

Students in the Honors program will further develop these abilities, as well as their research and writing abilities, and will produce theses comparable in quality and depth to many Master’s theses.

CULP Major Requirements (Total of 10 courses)

  • CULP 2100 Introduction to Culture and Politics (must be completed by the end of Year 3)
  • 4 classes tagged as CULP (must be in at least two different disciplines i.e. course prefixes)
  • 5 classes oriented around a self-constructed theme (topical electives)

Sample Courses

GU-Q offers a variety of courses that fulfill the requirements of the CULP major. CULP courses can be identified by searching CULP attributes on each semester’s schedule of classes.

Below are some recently offered courses:

  • ANTH 3360: War Ethnography
  • ARAB 3340: Arabic Drama
  • ENGL 4000: Capitalism and Mysticism
  • HIST 4607: Islamic Law and Gender
  • THEO 3020: Religion and Violence

Writing in the Culture and Politics Major

Culture and Politics (CULP) is a major of articulations; it develops the understanding, discovery, and creation of connections between Culture and Politics and across disciplinary boundaries, even as it fosters the critical expression of those connections. Grounded, thus, in this double articulation, CULP is grounded, too, in the intensive work on writing throughout its curriculum. This process begins in the one course that all CULP students take, 2100, Theorizing Culture and Politics. Here, they will learn the fundamental elements of writing about and with the theoretical texts that form the basis of CULP, beginning with simple modes of textual and conceptual explication and ending with a more complex, synthetic cultural analysis.

From there, the interdisciplinary nature of the major and the diversity of individual students’ concentrations necessitate a broad attention to writing, for no single course or sequence of courses can provide every student with the instruction he or she needs to develop expertise in the chosen area of study. Each course in the major thus focuses on writing within its field, seeking, depending on its level, to introduce, develop, or hone students’ skills. As they complete the major, students will gain expertise in more than one disciplinary field—and the ability to critically articulate the relations between them. Moreover, should they chose, students will also be able to develop a bilingual facility in writing for the major, for the CULP courses in Arabic pay direct and careful attention to students’ writing.

As they progress in the major, eligible students may elect to pursue an Honors thesis, a project that gives them the opportunity to propose an original research topic engaging culture and politics, then pursue it through a survey of existing literature, the development of an appropriate methodology (qualitative or quantitative), and the construction of a rigorous critical argument. Alternately—or additionally—CULP majors may take the skills they have gained and apply them to a certificate in Arab and Regional Studies, American Studies or Media and Politics.

Honors & Awards

Honors in the Major

The honors program in CULP allows a student to examine a scholarly issue in detail and to focus time and attention on an important issue in which the student is deeply interested. Honors theses are original works of thought and research, not merely summaries of the work and ideas of others. The standards and expectations for honors-quality work are consistent with the idea that students graduating with honors from the school are among the premier thinkers and writers at Georgetown.

How to Apply to Honors

To apply for honors, students must do the following by early March of the junior year (specific date will be announced each year):

  • Earn a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher, and 3.67 or higher in the CULP major, or show strong evidence of the capacity to achieve these by graduation.
  • Submit a complete research proposal using either the proposal form or following the proposal guidelines.  The proposal is reviewed by, and the admission to the program is determined by a CULP faculty Honors committee.
  • Identify a Georgetown faculty mentor who has agreed to work on this project.
  • Adhere to the revision and final submission dates, if invited to revise a proposal.

To graduate with CULP Honors, students must do the following:

  • Successfully complete two semesters of work dedicated to thesis preparation.  This includes CULP 4998 (3 credits) in the fall semester of the senior year and CULP 4999 (3 credits) in the spring semester of the senior year. 

Students must meet the following benchmarks to progress from fall to spring semester honors work:

  • Students must have approval from a thesis reader by November 1 of the senior year, so the reader can start engaging in the project during the fall semester.
  • Students must successfully complete the fall semester Honors course.  A grade of A- or higher in this course indicates that a student is making good progress, and this is the recommended grade to proceeding with honors in the spring semester.  Earning a grade lower than an A- is an indicator that the project may not be successful, and the student and mentor need to have a discussion about the overall progress.  
  • The thesis mentor ultimately will determine if the project proceeds to the spring semester of the senior year, so the mentor must confirm by January 4 if the student is making good progress on the project and should be allowed to continue pursuing Honors in the Major for the spring semester.
  • Earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 and a grade point average of 3.67 in the CULP major at graduation.
  • Submit a senior thesis by April 10 (deadline subject to change)  of the senior year, which is judged to be of honors quality by a faculty committee appointed for this purpose. The committee will comprise the CULP field chair and 2-3 additional CULP faculty who are not mentoring the thesis.
  • Make a formal public thesis presentation in late March (specific date announced each year) of the senior year.
  • Note: A thesis paper can be judged to be of honors quality, but if other requirements are not met, the student can’t earn honors. If this is the case, the honors classes, if completed successfully, will still count toward the student’s CULP topical electives and degree program.

Information for CULP Honors in the Major Applicants, Current Students and Faculty Mentors

  • Read Previous Honors Theses
  • Honors in the Major Application Form – due early March of the junior/third year of studies
  • Rubric for Assessing a CULP Honors Thesis 
  • CULP Honors Coursework
    • CULP 4998 is a three-credit honors research seminar that strengthens research and writing skills. This course is taught by one faculty member, and all honors students will enroll in this one course.  Even though mentors are not teaching a thesis course in the fall semester, they are expected to continue working with students during that time on the specific content of the thesis. 
    • CULP 4999 is a three-credit tutorial with the thesis mentor.  The mentor meets with the thesis student(s) every week to guide the completion of the thesis.

Outstanding CULP Graduating Senior Award

An award is given every year to the Outstanding Graduating Senior CULP major who has demonstrated excellent performance as demonstrated through written work, cumulative grade point average, leadership, and other markers of academic success, throughout his or her undergraduate years.

CULP Topical Area/Concentration

CULP is unique in that it offers students the opportunity to develop an area of study specific to their interests, which is called the CULP topical area. Students are required to identify and take five courses for the CULP topical area as part of the CULP major. Hence, it’s an opportunity to design a component of the curriculum tailored to student interests.  It is expected that this topic may evolve over time as majors explore topics further  in their upper-level coursework.

Examples of past CULP topical areas include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Cultural hybridity in the GCC
  • Statehood and identity in the Middle East
  • Identity politics, law and marriage
  • Women and politics in the media
  • Arab/Israeli conflict
  • Women and children in conflict zones
  • Gender, religion and economic development
  • Psychology of addiction

Frequent Questions

Previous CULP graduates from GU-Q have pursued careers in higher education, government ministries, cultural or non-profit organizations, and private industry.

Choosing an area of topical concentration affords each CULP major the ability to design the major around a topic that is of particular interest to him/her. Students then choose five courses that enable them to explore the topic in depth. The high degree of flexibility afforded to CULP majors allows them to become independent agents of knowledge capable of designing their own program of studies according to their individual interests and talents.

IPOL focuses on political actors and agents whereas CULP focuses more broadly on the factors that shape cultures, such as religion, gender roles, ethnicity, and examines how these shape relations between states, communities and people.

One cannot pursue Honors and a Certificate simultaneously, given the heavy workload. If the student insists to do both, he or she MUST complete the Certificate thesis in the junior year. The deadline for submitting the certificate thesis in its approved form would be the first day of classes in the student’s senior year.