Melvin L. Rogers

Associate Professor

Contact Information

Email    mrogers097@ucla.edu ; mrogers097@polisci.ucla.edu
Office  4289 Bunche Hall
Phone  (310) 825-4331
Melvin L. Rogers is the Scott Waugh Chair in the Division of the Social Sciences and Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies.

Rogers has wide-ranging interests located largely within contemporary democratic theory and the history of American and African-American political and ethical philosophy. His research is motivated by the political and social present and seeks to illuminate our current condition by directing our attention to undiscovered, underappreciated, or incompletely excavated resources in the history of political, social, and African-American thought. He is drawn to a series of "Big Questions": How ought we to understand the norms of conduct that underwrite political life? How should we talk about political relations and its development outside of electoral politics or juridical procedures? What might that language be and what concepts must we employ? Can we harness the power of self-regulation and self-improvement without resorting to stories or theories about absolute political and moral values? These questions inform his reflections on race, governance, and democracy. They guide his inquiry into the way actors in the past thought about the depth and quality of our capacity to be emotionally responsive to the pain of others. These questions direct his attention to the untapped potentiality of human agency and imagination that stands beyond the reach of domination and apathy.

His points of reference for engaging these issues include (and not always explicitly) Aristotle, Thomas Jefferson, John Dewey, and W. E. B. Du Bois; the power of philosophical pragmatism for thinking about modern life; and contemporary ideas and concepts within democratic theory, metaethics, aesthetics, and rhetoric.

Thematically, much of his work has been concerned with the possibility of self-regulation and self-improvement shorn of absolute values, especially in relation to democratic governance, normative judgment, and race relations. His first book, The Undiscovered Dewey: Religion, Morality, and the Ethos of Democracy, explored these issues through an interpretation of John Dewey's writings and the theme of human responsiveness central to his work. That book was haunted by the unpursued theme of racial injustice and its place in American democracy. Rogers' second book, The Darkened Light of Faith: Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought, will be devoted to figures within American and African-American political thought; it will combine close readings of figures and historical contextualization to think through the themes of democratic responsiveness, redemption, and faith amid racial injustice. This will set the stage for the third book that will explore the dark-side of this same tradition -- the justified eclipse of faith resulting from the culturally and institutionally supported disposability of black lives in American society.

Graduate students interested in working with him should note that while he often teaches and draws widely from other traditions, they largely serve as supplements to illuminate American and African-American political and moral life.

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B.A. in Political Science, Amherst College, 1999

M.Phil. in Political Thought and Intellectual History, University of Cambridge, 2000

M.Phil. in Political Science, Yale University, 2004

Ph.D. in Political Science, with Distinction, Yale University, 2006