You are here: American University Learning Communities Honors Curriculum HNRS-200: What is Legitimate?

CORE-106-001: What is Legitimate? (3 Credits)

The course explores how why equilibria around questions of legitimate action in the areas of domestic governance, foreign policy, and international interventions form and why they often remain contentious. The course encourages students to understand ideas of legitimacy as bound in time and space – i.e., what is considered legitimate by some societies at some point in time may not be considered legitimate by others. On this basis, the course helps students discover how different modes of production and resulting philosophical disputes and political agendas drive the social construction of legitimate action. The course draws primarily on sociological scholarship but embraces an interdisciplinary approach. It comprises lectures, student presentations, and case-based classroom debates. A guided tour of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center at Mount Vernon and to the United States Supreme Court help anchor key concepts in historical and contemporary contexts. Introductory training on interviews, surveys and experimental research designs enables experiential learning by empowering students to conduct their own research based on primary data collection in the DC metropolitan area.

Fall 2020: this course has lab Mon 2:30pm-5:20pm and class Mon/Thurs 5:30pm-6:45pm

Professor Daniel Esser

Professor Daniel Esser 
Department of International Service | SIS


To Contact Professor Esser

Send email to Daniel Esser
(202) 885-1892 (Office)
SIS-School of Intl Service
SIS - 221
Office hours on Tuesdays and Fridays. Please sign up online; no walk-ins. 


I am currently working on a book on sociopolitical dynamics of legitimization in different world regions. This course is an opportunity for me to share my knowledge while also incorporating students' perspectives in the project. I am particularly excited about students developing their own research on legitimacy, and I look forward to helping them operationalize their ideas and learn from their findings.