Stephen E. Van Holde began teaching at Kenyon in 1990. In the Department of Political Science, he teaches courses in environmental politics, comparative politics, international relations and the politics of science. He also regularly teaches in the international studies and environmental studies programs.

Van Holde is, with Lars Mjoset of the University of Oslo, co-editor of The Comparative Study of Conscription in the Armed Forces and more recently has investigated the social, political and environmental impacts of consumerism and consumption in China and around the world. He also has written more widely in the fields of environmental politics and science and politics, authoring papers on topics such as the science and politics of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Van Holde has contributed substantially to the international studies program and the environmental studies program, serving on both their committees and, since 2016, as the director of international studies. In addition, he has taught in the Integrated Program in Humane Studies (IPHS). He has served the College as a member of Campus Senate, the chair of the Curricular Policy Committee and the committee that designed the environmental studies program.

During the 2003-04 and 2006-07 academic years, Van Holde was the Fei Yi-Ming Professor of Politics at the SAIS Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing, China. He returned to China for several weeks in 2014 to lecture on consumption and to do additional research on the topic. His most recent work is on replacing consumerism with degrowth and a culture of environmental stewardship and care. 


1993 — Doctor of Philosophy from Cornell University

1986 — Master of Arts from Cornell University

1979 — Bachelor of Arts from Swarthmore College

Courses Recently Taught

This course is designed for sophomores who plan to major in international studies. It explores the evolution of modern international society by examining the roles of industrialization, capitalism, nationalism, individualism and other elements of modernity in propelling and directing the flow of wealth, people and ideas between different regions of the world. In addition to studying general political and economic changes, the course considers various local and personal perspectives, giving life to otherwise abstract forces and complicating attempts to construct a single overarching narrative of "modernization," "Westernization" or "development." Among the issues to be examined are the causes and effects of international economic disparities, migration, cultural tensions and stresses on the environment. In surveying major viewpoints and illustrative cases within these themes, the course is meant to serve as an introduction to the international studies major, utilizing a variety of academic disciplines and providing a foundation for further study of relations between different nations and peoples of the world. As part of the course, students complete a research paper related to the geographic area where they plan to go for their off-campus experience. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every year.

This course is an introduction to the study of international relations. It first provides students with the analytical tools and concepts necessary to understand and explain the interactions of states and other actors in the international system. It then explores some of the most pressing political problems and challenges in the modern international system. The course discusses issues such as the importance of power in the international system; the origins of war and peace; the challenges of the new global economy; security and terrorism; and the implications of these trends for the 21st century. This course is required for the major. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or first-year students currently enrolled in PSCI 102Y. Offered every year.

This course provides an introduction to comparative political development. It focuses on two key issues in the development of the contemporary world: the rise of the modern state and the emergence of modern nationalism. By analyzing the processes of state and nation-building in selected countries, we come to understand the means by which state power is constructed, maintained, and legitimized in political systems as varied as absolutist monarchies and modern nation-states. By examining nationalism in a variety of historical and geographical settings, we begin to comprehend the intriguing power and persistence of national identities in an increasingly multinational world. Although the course is explicitly analytic and comparative in character, analysis is supplemented as appropriate with case studies drawn from countries around the world. This counts toward the comparative politics/international relations requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every two years.

This course covers a variety of issues in environmental politics, placing special emphasis on global problems, politics and policy. Topics include population growth, consumption and consumerism, resource degradation, climate change and energy. We examine environmental governance and the prospects for environmental activism in the coming century. Although the course examines environmental issues around the globe, we may focus on certain countries or regions in order to examine those issues in greater detail. Case studies and films are used as appropriate to supplement lectures and discussions. This counts toward the comparative politics/international relations requirement for the major, the policy course for the environmental studies major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every year.

This course provides a comparative analysis of the process of revolutionary change covering the origins, development and outcomes of revolutions. It focuses on two or three classic revolutions (France, Russia or China) and one or two modern cases to be determined (e.g., the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe, the Arab Spring of 2011). A number of theoretical issues are addressed, including the relationship between revolutionary elites and "backward elements" such as the peasantry; the tensions between the revolutionary process and the political requirements of revolutionary states; and the role and relative importance of leadership, ideology and structural factors in shaping the outcomes of revolutions. The question of whether social media has changed the character and potential of social revolutions also are addressed. This counts toward the comparative politics/international relations or senior seminar requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every three to four years.

This course examines American environmental politics from its beginnings to the present day. Beginning with the “politics of nature” (Thoreau, Muir, Pinchot, Leopold, Carson, Abbey, Brower and various contemporary environmentalists), we subsequently turn to the “politics of pollution” (water pollution, air pollution, the toxic waste movement, Earth Day, and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts). The course then examines a variety of contemporary issues, including the use and management of land, water and marine resources; possible responses to climate change, the politics of energy and fracking, environmental justice, and efforts to secure sustainability. Throughout the course, we focus on politics and policy at all levels, from local efforts to “green” our neighborhoods, our workplaces and our lifestyles to national-level debates in and beyond Congress over resources, resource extraction, and pollution. Reasons that some policies prove effective and others fail to do so also are considered closely, by using a variety of case studies to examine several environmental policy successes and failures. Finally, we consider broader debates on the proper relationship between economic growth and environmental stewardship. This counts toward the seminar or elective requirement for the major, the policy course for the environmental studies major and the public policy concentration. No prerequisite. Junior standing. Offered every third year.

This course examines the relationship of science and politics from early modernity to the present and considers the probable course and character of that relationship in the future. Topics may include Galileo's conflict with the church, the theory of evolution, social Darwinism and the origins and implications of nuclear weapons research. We examine a number of contemporary controversies at the intersection of science and politics, including genetic testing and therapy, intelligence testing and the IQ debates, climate change and the debates surrounding the science and politics of AIDS. We also examine the value neutrality of science, the politics of risk assessment and the proper role of scientists in shaping policy. This counts toward the seminar requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Junior standing. Offered every three to four years.