Stephen L. Esquith
(517) 355-0212

C230F Snyder Hall
362 Bogue St
East Lansing, MI 48825


Political Philosophy; Global Ethics; Peace and Justice Studies

Curriculum Vitae


Stephen L. Esquith has been working on ethical problems in developing countries since 1990 when he was a senior Fulbright scholar in Poland and then again in Mali in 2005-06. While in Poland he collaborated on two collections of essays written by Polish and U.S. scholars on the changes in Eastern Europe since 1989. His research and teaching since that time has focused on democratic transitions in post-conflict situations. He has written on the rule of law, the problem of democratic political education, mass violence and reconciliation, and moral and political responsibility. He is the author of Intimacy and Spectacle (Cornell, 1994), a critique of classical and modern liberal political philosophy, and The Political Responsibilities of Everyday Bystanders (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010) on mass violence and democratic political education. 

He has been involved in numerous civic engagement projects in the public schools and has led a study abroad program focusing on ethical issues in development in Mali in summer 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014. He spent the academic year 2005-06 teaching and working with colleagues at the University of Bamako, Mali as a senior Fulbright scholar. There he taught two seminars on ethics and development at the Institut Polytechnic Rural and the Institut Supérieure de Formation et de Recherche Appliquée. He has co-edited a volume of critical essays on the human capabilities approach to development, and recently written on children’s human rights, peacebuilding, the role of film in democratic political education, human security, and philosophy for children. He is currently working with colleagues on several dialogue and reconciliation projects with internally displaced youth in Mali in collaboration with the Universitédes Lettres et des Sciences Humaines de Bamako, La Commission Vérité, Justice, et Réconciliation du Mali, and peace education projects for refugee youth in Michigan. 

After serving as chair of the Department of Philosophy for five years, he returned to Michigan State University in fall 2006 to become Dean of the new Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. He has moved back to the faculty full-time in the Philosophy Department to continue his research in Mali and other parts of West Africa, and to teach social and political philosophy and global ethics.  He is currently finishing a new book based on the work in Mali over the past ten years, tentatively titled, Peacebuilding: Political Education, Power, and Radical Poise 


Peacebuilding in Mali Education Abroad


Media Mentions


RCAH 202: Peace Building

RCAH 346: Repairs, Reparations, and Responsibilities

RCAH 492: When Words Lose Their Meaning


“Peacebuilding as Democratic Political Education: From Archive to Repertoire,” co-author Weloré Tamboura, in Reparative Futures and Transformative Learning Spaces, eds. Alejandra Boni, Diana Velasco, and Melanie Walker (London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023)  

“Realistic Political Education” in Envisioning Democracy, eds Terence Maley and John Wallach (Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press, 2023) 

“Peacebuilding in Mali through Photovoice,” co-author Weloré Tamboura, Journal of Global Ethics, Special Issue: Development in times of conflict: ethical pathways towards peace and justice (2023, forthcoming) 

“Mali’s roadmap for lasting peace has laudable goals: but it doesn’t go far enough,” The Conversation, August 24, 2021. 

“Civic Engagement’s Challenges for Study Abroad: An Ethical and Political Perspective,” in Crawford, P. & Berquist, B. Eds., Community Engagement Abroad: Perspectives and practices on service, engagement, and learning overseas (Michigan State University Press, 2020). 

“The Ciwara Picture Book Project,” in Philosophy in Classrooms and Beyond: New Approaches to Picture-Book Philosophy, ed. Thomas Wartenberg (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019)

“Peace Building, Political Reconciliation, and Human Security in Transitional Societies:The Localist Turn,” in Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics, eds. Jay Drydyk and Lori Keleher (Routledge, 2019)

“Ethics and Development during the Year of Global Africa,” The Engaged Scholar, Vol.13, 2018

The Political Responsibilities of Everyday Bystanders (Penn State University Press, 2010)

Capabilities, Power, and Institutions: Toward a More Critical Development Ethics, Stephen L. Esquith and Fred Gifford, eds. (Penn State University Press, 2010)

University News

MSU Deans Council’s Letter to Board of Trustees
Published January 16, 2019 in College of Arts & Letters
Beaumont tower surrounded by trees
Dear Members of the Board of Trustees of Michigan State University, The pattern of comments by Interim President Engler, including his most recent statement suggesting that some of the…Read now »