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Punishment, Politics, and Culture

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 1, 2012

“Punishment, Politics, and Culture” is a five-week school teacher summer seminar for sixteen participants on punishment and its place in American culture. Austin Sarat, a political scientist who teaches in the Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought Program at Amherst College, leads a summer seminar to investigate the nature of punishment and its relationship to responsibility and justice; what punishment reveals about those who punish; selected episodes in the history of punishment and capital punishment in America; and the limits of punishment.  Meeting four times a week, participants read (in whole or in part) and discuss a wide range of works spanning ancient to modern eras such as the book of Job, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Kant’s Science of Right and Lectures on Ethics, Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd,” H. L. A. Hart’s Punishment and Responsibility, Leo Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata,” Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville’s On the Penitentiary System of the United States, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Henry David Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience,” Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Albert Camus’ “Reflections of the Guillotine,” Walter Berns’ For Capital Punishment, Martha Nussbaum’s “Equity and Mercy,” Elaine Scarry’s The Body In Pain, and additional works of social science, and important Supreme Court decisions; the group also views selected films relating to the subject matter.  The program includes three guest lecturers: Thomas Dumm (political science, Amherst College), Richard Moran (sociology, Mount Holyoke College), and Martha Umphrey (law and culture, Amherst College).  

Dates: June 25-July 27, 2012 (5 weeks)
Grantee Institutions: Amherst College
Location: Amherst, MA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.