By Alysse Schultheis
Many students will relate to Dr. Adam Dahl’s undergraduate experience. Upon entering the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he thought a political science degree would lead him to law school after graduation. However, like many students, his plans as a freshman changed drastically as he took more courses, and by his Junior year, Dahl started to get really interested in the study of politics more broadly, and not just in law, thanks to some inspiring professors. Interested particularly in questions of race, poverty, and social policy in his undergraduate work, Dahl went on to receive his master’s degree from Purdue University. Although he “studied a lot of political theory at Purdue—thinkers like Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, and Foucault—[he] also worked as a research assistant on projects concerning global climate change policy.”
After completing his masters, Dahl went on to earn his PhD at the University of Minnesota, where he at first planned to continue his interests in race and poverty, but Dahl slowly began to focus more on his current interests, which include American political thought, democratic theory, and political theories of race and empire. His current research focuses on the role of empire and colonialism in shaping nineteenth century American political thought and culture. During Dahl’s undergraduate career, he found value in participating in campus political organizations; “so I think being involved in some way as an advisor for such organizations at Sewanee would be something I’d have a lot of fun doing.” Dahl considers his classes on politics important, but “as I look back I see my involvement in these groups (e.g. Amnesty International) as being a crucial part of my political education.” Dahl sees political theory as a civic activity, something that citizens and not just philosophers should do in order to understand their political and social world. Dahl also has experience organizing lectures, conferences, and talks, so students should contact Dahl if they are interested in bringing speakers to campus.
Sewanee is the perfect place for Dahl since he prefers a small seminar-style class over large lecture rooms. While he enjoys big classes and the “performance that often comes with them,” his favorite thing about teaching is working with students on an individual or small group basis. Reading challenging texts and working with students as they grapple with difficult theoretical and philosophical ideas is essential to a successful class, in Dahl’s view. Dahl will have to sit in on incoming professor Ettensohn’s World Literature class, since his favorite book is J.M. Coetzee’s novel, Waiting for the Barbarians. Dahl’s favorite movie is Children of Men. If he could meet any historical figure, he would choose William Apess. Growing up in the upper-Midwest his whole life, Dahl loves southern cuisine. “I’m not sure how I developed this love of Southern food, but needless to say, I’m really excited to move to Tennessee to experience more Southern cuisine and culture.” Dahl also loves folk and blues music, so he has definitely come to the right place. Welcome to the Sewanee community, YSR!