This course challenges students to think beyond basic institutional definitions of democracy. It will provide an introduction to some basic anthropological tools that approach political systems more holistically through participant-observation research, studying the ways in which people experience concepts such as civil society. By looking at a series of non-Western political systems it will critique terms such as representative governance and democracy, and ask how political legitimacy is created in different settings. In the first half of the class, examples will draw from the Middle East, the Americas and Oceania. The course will then use these critiques to turn the lens back on our own political systems and ask how we create (or fail to create) political change and more democratic governance. The final part of this class will look particularly at the case of several democracy-promotion projects in Afghanistan. Invited speakers will lead the class through a series of workshops on the role of artists in encouraging more democratic practices.