The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “denizen” as an “inhabitant” or “one that frequents a place.” But it also defines the term as “a person admitted to residence in a foreign country, especially an alien admitted to rights of citizenship.” We like this definition. It captures who we are, as well as our intent for this blog, and for our broader work.
We are Steve Klien and Christopher Whitt, professors at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. Our professional home is a small, residential liberal arts college on the Mississippi River between Illinois and Iowa. At our heartland home, we teach undergraduate students and conduct research about American politics. Steve is a rhetorician in the Communication Studies Department, focusing on political communication, rhetorical criticism, and media studies. Christopher is an American political institutions and political behavior specialist in the Political Science Department, focusing on the presidency, congressional politics, and the intersection of race, wealth and inequality amongst other areas of interest.
In our work we convey to our students, and remind ourselves, of the importance of understanding political institutions and actions from a variety of contextual standpoints. We also bring our joy and sense of vocation to the work – for all of its problems, in a very real sense we are politics junkies who love observing this world, and we stubbornly maintain an optimism that our political system and culture can make our lives better.
So we are Political Denizens – we live in the world of American politics without making it go around, but our views are from Beyond the Beltway. We examine this world from both within and without. We seek to observe this world from different disciplinary perspectives, bringing to bear a liberal arts sensibility to political commentary. We are, first and foremost, teachers, so we seek to demystify and illuminate this world by providing a sense of context to the events and issues, and by providing resources for understanding these events and issues in an accessible way. We believe that informed, engaged public discourse is the best way to smash the barrier between cynical citizens and the systems that disaffect them and to begin, in a small way, to make real the promises of democracy.
Many of our post will be reminiscent of what one may find from us in our classrooms. We want to pick elements of the political discourse of the day that may otherwise go overlooked or under-analyzed. The analyses we will provide will not push readers into believing one thing or another. Readers will not be told what to think, but instead they will be helped in understanding issues and leave with confidence in asking some of the key questions and keeping a keen eye on various elements of politics.
We are Political Denizens – and we invite you to dwell in this realm from Beyond the Beltway, and join in the conversation. Readers should never hesitate to contact us with questions. We encourage questions and feedback. That is especially the case when it comes to feedback on the individual posts in the comment areas.
Note: The views of the Political Denizens, their guest contributors and visitors do not reflect those of Augustana College. The Denizens are thankful to the College for providing them with resources and an outlet for their observations and commentary in the spirit of academic freedom and free public speech.