Development Studies

Classes from disciplines such as anthropology, economics, environmental studies, geography, history, politics, public policy, sociology, and writing comprise the classes available within this cross-disciplinary path.

Development Studies 2022-2023 Courses

Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. His interlocutor, Bernard Stiegler, phrases the main idea behind this statement: “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida’s observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida’s punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and, thus, craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

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Queer(ing) India: Literature, Film, and Law

Open, Seminar—Fall

What is a queer perspective on culture and society? This course aims to provide an introductory survey to queer narratives and cultural production from India and the Indian diaspora as a way to think through this question. Texts will cover a large swath of time, from the early 20th century to the present, and will range across genres such as speculative feminist fiction, political and cultural manifestos, postcolonial novels, and contemporary films. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India finally struck down from the Indian Penal Code Section 377, a colonial-era law used to criminalize homosexuality and other “unnatural” sex acts, after more than a decade of legal battles. The fight for legal rights was accompanied by growing queer representation in popular culture and literature. The supposed “coming out” of queerness into Indian social and cultural life in the last 10 years, the demand to be seen and heard, has been critiqued by some as a by-product of “Westernization” or the influence of “foreign-returned” elites inspired by the Euro-American LGBTQ movement. This has brought with it the need to understand the diversity of queer India as well as the diaspora. In the case of the diaspora, we will work to de-center the Euro-American diaspora, paying attention to long histories of migration to the African continent and indentured labor in the Caribbean and the Pacific as sites for possible South-South solidarities. Taking seriously questions of race, caste, class, nationality, and gender, we will consider what a queer orientation to those hegemonic structures might be and what it might reveal. Thinking through the ways in which experiences of gender and sexuality were iterated and experienced across times and spaces will help us think through the specifics of each text (and its contexts) while also following threads and connections beyond. By considering these questions, this course hopes to think through the contradictory realities of a moment in India during which major Bollywood studios are producing gay dramas and even rom-coms, while questions of sexuality, gender, class, caste, and religious identity are being violently weaponized by mobs with seeming impunity granted by a Hindu-nationalist state. Students will engage with a diverse set of cultural, political, and legal artifacts—such as the writings of “founding fathers” like Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar—as well as legal briefs opposing the punitive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, which further stigmatizes non-normative gender identities by requiring transgender people to register with the government. We will read fiction, old and new, such as Untouchable (1935), The God of Small Things (1997), and A Life Apart (2016), as well as watch movies ranging from indie films like Chitrangada (2012) to Bollywood rom-coms like Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan (2020).

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Global Queer Literature: Dystopias and Hope

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this seminar, we will study queer texts and films, considering their particular articulations of queer life and its possibilities. Texts will cover a large swath of time, from the early 20th century until the present, and will range across genres such as speculative feminist fiction, first-nations narratives, postcolonial novels, and contemporary Bollywood films. We will end the course by looking at science fiction that explores life in spaces that some consider dystopian futures but are already becoming the present for many. As this arc indicates, an underlying theme of the course will be the maintaining of the creativity and vitality of everyday life while drowning in literal and discursive trash. Across the globe, queer lives have already been lived in materially and discursively toxic contexts. Engaging with text and films produced across the world—set in places such as South Africa, India, Argentina, and even galaxies yet undiscovered—we will think through the lessons that the creation of a queer life illuminate for us. Queer life within the context of this seminar refers to the multifarious ways in which marginalized and non-normative bodies and peoples create social and political lives. Carefully considering the contexts and possibilities that the characters encounter, we will explore how “queer” is a term that translates and mutates in interesting ways across time and place. In paying attention to the specificities of the texts, “queer” itself is thus a term that we will reckon with. Taking seriously questions of race, class, nationality, and gender, we will consider what a queer orientation to those hegemonic structures produces or reveals—not only in past literary texts but also as a way of imagining a hopeful future. As we encounter air and water that is more polluted, toxic even, than at any time in which homo sapiens have walked the Earth, the only response may seem to be pessimism. Rejecting pessimism, we will ask what queer futures and hope we can imagine at a moment of planetary crisis. Potential texts: Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain (1905); Lihaaf, Ismat Chugtai (1942); The House of Hunger, Dambudzo Marechera (1978); The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi (1990); Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee (1999); Bloodchild, Octavia Butler (1994); Animal’s People, Indra Sinha (2007); Moxyland, Lauren Beukes (2008); The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy (2017); Happy Together (film, 1997); Margarita With a Straw (film, 2014); and Pumzi (film, 2009).

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Theories of Development

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

“There’s nothing so practical as a good theory,” suggested Kurt Lewin almost 100 years ago. Since then, the competing theoretical models of Freud, Skinner, Piaget, Vygotsky, and others have shaped the field of developmental psychology and have been used by parents and educators to determine child-care practice and education. In this course, we will study the classic theories—psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and cognitive-developmental—as they were originally formulated and in light of subsequent critiques and revisions. Questions that we will consider include: Are there patterns in our emotional thinking or social lives that can be seen as universal, or are these patterns always culture-specific? Can life experiences be conceptualized in a series of stages? How else can we understand change over time? We will use theoretical perspectives as lenses through which to view different aspects of experience—the origins of wishes and desires, early parent-child attachments, intersubjectivity in the emergence of self, symbolic and imaginative thinking, and the role of play in learning. For conference work, students will be encouraged to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children, as one goal of the course is to bridge theory and practice.

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Clinical Perspectives: Challenges to Child and Adolescent Development

Advanced, Seminar—Spring

How do varying childhood experiences impact children’s mental health and wellbeing? What happens when the course of development is affected by trauma or depression? This seminar will focus on challenges that arise in child and adolescent development, drawing upon approaches in clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and cultural psychology/clinical ethnography. We will analyze how particular psychological experiences and behaviors have been typically understood as abnormal or pathological and how they are intertwined with the experience of child development. We will also explore critical commentaries on clinical diagnosis and treatment in order to analyze the merits and drawbacks of the common approaches to these issues. Students will learn about the clinical categories of conditions such as ADHD, autism, depression, and anxiety, as compiled in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). We will look at case examples to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of such psychological conditions in childhood and adolescence. Through readings and course discussion, students will be invited to question the universal applicability of Western clinical approaches that rest on particular assumptions about normality, behavior, social relations, human rights, and health. We will also explore how diagnostic processes and psychological and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender and how clinicians might effectively address such disparities in diagnosis and care. Students will complete conference projects related to the central themes of our course and may opt to work at the Early Childhood Center or a local community program that serves children or adolescents.

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Early Intervention Approaches for Young Children and Their Families

Advanced, Small seminar—Spring

This small seminar will explore several early-intervention approaches for young children and their families, with a particular emphasis on the theory and technique of play therapy. While this course will focus mostly on child-centered play therapy (CCPT), we will also look at the methodology of other types of approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and DIR/Floortime. In addition, course material will highlight cultural considerations, therapeutic work with parents and caregivers, challenges in therapeutic treatment, self-reflection, self-regulation, and interoception. Readings, class discussions, group play-based activities, and video illustrations will provide students with both a theoretical and introductory clinical basis for play-based therapeutic work with young children in early intervention.

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Econometric Analysis: Structural Explorations in the Social Sciences

Open, Lecture—Year

This course is designed for all students interested in the social sciences who wish to understand the methodology and techniques involved in the estimation of structural relationships between variables. The course is intended for students who wish to be able to carry out empirical work in their particular field, both at Sarah Lawrence College and beyond, and critically engage empirical work done by academic or professional social scientists. The practical, hands-on approach taken in this course will be useful to those students who wish to do future conference projects in the social (or natural) sciences with significant empirical content. The course will also be invaluable for students who are seeking internships, planning to enter the job market, or desiring to pursue graduate education in the social sciences and public policy. After taking this course, students will be able to analyze questions such as the following: What is the relationship between slavery and the development of capitalist industrialization in the United States? What effects do race, gender, and educational attainment have in the determination of wages? How does the female literacy rate affect the child mortality rate? How can one model the effect of economic growth on carbon-dioxide emissions? What is the relationship among sociopolitical instability, inequality, and economic growth? How do geographic location and state spending affect average public-school teacher salaries? How do socioeconomic factors determine the crime rate in the United States? During the course of the year, we will study all of these questions. In the first semester, we will cover the theoretical and applied statistical principles that underlie Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression techniques. We will begin with the assumptions needed to obtain the Best Linear Unbiased Estimates of a regression equation, also known as the “BLUE” conditions. Particular emphasis will be placed on the assumptions regarding the distribution of a model’s error term and other BLUE conditions. We will also cover hypothesis testing, sample selection, and the critical role of the t- and F-statistic in determining the statistical significance of an econometric model and its associated slope or “β” parameters. Further, we will address the three main problems associated with the violation of a particular BLUE assumption: multicollinearity, serial correlation, and heteroscedasticity. We will learn how to identify, address, and remedy each of these problems. In addition, we will take a similar approach to understanding and correcting model specification errors. The spring semester class will build on the fall class by introducing students to advanced topics in econometrics. We will study difference-in-difference estimators, autoregressive dependent lag (ARDL) models, co-integration, and error correction models involving nonstationary time series. We will investigate simultaneous equations systems, vector error correction (VEC), and vector autoregressive (VAR) models. The final part of the seminar will involve the study of panel data, as well as logit/probit models. As with the fall class, the spring class will also be very “hands-on,” in that students will get ample exposure to concrete issues while also being encouraged to consider basic methodological questions (e.g., the debates between John Maynard Keynes and Jan Tinbergen) regarding the power and limitations of econometric analysis. The spring semester is particularly relevant to students who wish to pursue graduate studies in a social-science discipline, although it will be equally relevant for those seeking other types of graduate degrees that involve knowledge of intermediate-level quantitative analysis.

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History of Political Economy and Economic History

Open, Seminar—Year

In this yearlong seminar, the fall semester will be devoted to the study of the theoretical debates on the history of economic and legal thought. It will be shown that the study of economics is incomplete without an understanding of the relationship of the economy to law and politics. These theoretical debates will be linked to transformations in capitalism in a number of different geographic contexts, especially the United States, Europe, and Africa. The dominant approach in contemporary economics is the neoclassical school. This course will introduce students to the origins, foundational tools and questions, and analytical constructs at the heart of both neoclassical and other schools of thought in economics. In the fall, the first part of the course will deal with what is called classical political economy (primarily Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx). Next, given that property, contracts, and torts are at the core of markets, the course will integrate the path-breaking insights from the linked American Legal Realist and Original Institutional Economics traditions to understand the legal institutional foundations of markets. The final part of the course will deal with the perspectives of some of the major founders of the neoclassical school (Léon Walras, William Stanley Jevons, and John Bates Clark) and their debates with institutional economists during the interwar period. Finally, the contemporary New Institutional Economics framework, with its foundations in neoclassical economics, will be compared with the insights of the original institutional economists and legal realists. The spring semester will be devoted to the study of two major topics: business history (including the study of colonialism, race, and slavery) and monetary history. The goal of the spring semester is to enable students to reflect on the applicability (or otherwise) of the theoretical perspectives discussed in the fall.

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Intermediate Macroeconomics: Theory and Policies

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Keynes not only revolutionized economic theory in 1937 but also led generations of economists to believe that the government should play an active role in managing a country’s aggregate demand. Yet, since the 1980s, the theoretical and policy world of mainstream economics took a great U-turn and, once again, embraced the fundamental role of the free market. In macroeconomics, this is reflected by the pursuit of goals such as fiscal austerity, a balanced budget, financial deregulation, and liberalization of international finance. In this course, we will examine the fundamental debates in macroeconomic theory and policymaking. The standard analytical framework of aggregate demand, aggregate supply, labor market, inflation, exchange rate, and economic growth will be used as our entry point of analysis. On top of that, we will examine multiple theoretical and empirical perspectives on money, credit and financial markets, consumption, investment, governmental spending, unemployment, international finance, growth and distribution, economic crisis, technological change, and long waves of capitalist societies. More recent progressive theories and policies will be discussed, such as universal basic income and job guarantee, modern monetary theory, etc.

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Writing Fantasy Scripts

Open, Seminar—Fall

This class will involve learning how to write the fantasy genre for film and TV, as well as learning the necessary components of a strong script for both short-form and feature scripts. The class will cover the essential elements of a well-written fantasy script. In addition, we’ll explore how to create scripts that mix genres and use fantasy elements, which many popular films and TV shows do. After learning about the format for short- and web-series scripts, students will have the option of pitching and developing ideas in either the genre or subgenre of fantasy. They will then learn how to further develop the plot, characters, theme, style, and tone of their scripts through discussion, exercises, and outlines. We will workshop the scripts with readings in class, which will be followed by notes given by myself and fellow students. Students will revise their scripts and finish the class with a completed and polished draft of their short- or web-series scripts. This class is designed to help both beginning and experienced screenwriters understand how to create strong fantasy elements in their scripts while finding his or her voice as a screenwriter. Having the fantasy genre and effective techniques of visual storytelling as the main focuses of this class will particularly support these goals and will also inspire students to delve into their imaginations to create distinctive and well-structured fantasy scripts or scripts where fantasy is a subgenre, such as comedy, drama, horror, etc.

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The Path to Putin

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Vladimir Putin has now been the dominant figure in Russian politics for more than 20 years. He has presided over the creation of an autocratic system of government in his country that is very different from the system that the friends of democracy hoped would emerge in Russia after the collapse of Communist Party rule. He has also made Russia one of the most unpredictable and feared state actors on the international scene. This course will attempt to shed light on the Putin phenomenon by placing him, his regime, and his policies in their historical context. We will examine the political culture of the Soviet Union in its final decades and the role played in the Soviet system by the KGB, the internal security and espionage apparatus in which Putin and many of his closest associates began their careers. We will trace the demise of single-party rule and the crack-up of the Soviet empire under Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the USSR. We will examine the reign of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia and the man who anointed Putin his successor in 1999. We will look at the revisionist narrative of Russian and Soviet history elaborated by Putin and other influential figures during the past quarter-century. We will examine Putin’s dealings with the “Near Abroad” (the now-independent republics that used to be components of the Soviet Union), especially Ukraine. We will look at the long history of Russia’s highly ambivalent attitudes toward the West and at various manifestations of this ambivalence in contemporary Russia. Finally, we will explore some of the rival theories recently put forward about the ultimate nature of the Putin regime, its internal dynamics, and the aims of its aggressive conduct toward its neighbors and Western rivals.

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Pirates, Tyrants, and Radicals: A History of Capitalism and Socialism

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year

When the first self-declared socialists began to articulate their critique of a society that was rapidly industrializing and urbanizing, “capitalism” did not yet exist. Karl Marx, the leading theorist of political economy and history, would speak of “capital” and “capitalists,” but it was not until the end of the 19th century that the word “capitalism” entered the English language. As the twin concepts of socialism and capitalism evolved and their proponents sought to redefine their vision and the nature of their nemeses, those proponents launched political and economic projects that staked a claim to modernity and even the salvation of humankind. Whereas bankers, pirates, and entrepreneurs dominate historical imaginaries of capitalism, soviets, tyrants, bureaucrats, and revolutionaries dominate the history of socialism. The world of markets, exchange, and profit seems to be the purview of the history of capitalism, whereas top-down planning and egalitarian utopias fill the image of a socialist world. Although capitalism and socialism do not define the totality of economic life, they do represent two crucial inroads to understand how individuals and societies produce, consume, distribute, and also waste resources. This course will study money, markets, and exchange from a historical perspective by following their trajectories both before capitalism and socialism and within capitalist and socialist contexts in different times and places. The course aims to take students deeply into the vagaries of economic life and to historically situate economic concepts. Were societies in previous eras marked by significantly different relationships toward markets, power, and financial instruments? How can such capacious visions such as capitalism and socialism, with such variegated political iterations, be defined and understood? Who were the important actors and institutions that created these movements? What are the origins of “capitalism”? Is there a path to socialism; and, if so, what is it? This course seeks to address these questions through study of the movements, the people who created them, and the institutions that resulted from them. At the same time, it seeks what makes socialism socialist or capitalism capitalist and the extent to which these terms of analysis help or hinder our understanding of the economic and political behavior of individuals, communities, and institutions. The course is divided into two parts: The fall semester of this yearlong course will be devoted to studying historic economic concepts like money, markets, exchange, growth, and development; we will also explore the debates in the origins of capitalism and its relationship to slavery, imperialism, development, war, and welfare. The spring semester will explore the intellectual origins of socialism, as well as the different versions of “real socialism” around the world.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open, Lecture—Fall

Variance, correlation coefficient, regression analysis, statistical significance, and margin of error—you’ve heard these terms and other statistical phrases bantered about before, and you’ve seen them interspersed in news reports and research articles. But what do they mean? And why are they so important? Serving as an introduction to the concepts, techniques, and reasoning central to the understanding of data, this lecture course focuses on the fundamental methods of statistical analysis used to gain insight into diverse areas of human interest. The use, misuse, and abuse of statistics will be the central focus of the course; specific topics of exploration will be drawn from experimental design theory, sampling theory, data analysis, and statistical inference. Applications will be considered in current events, business, psychology, politics, medicine, and other areas of the natural and social sciences. Statistical (spreadsheet) software will be introduced and used extensively in this course, but no prior experience with the technology is assumed. Group conferences, conducted in workshop mode, will serve to reinforce student understanding of the course material. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue advanced undergraduate or graduate research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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International Perspectives on Psychology

Open, Lecture—Fall

What does psychology look like outside of the United States? How does psychology operate across multiple cultures? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions as we explore multiple international perspectives of psychology. First, we will begin with an examination of the history of psychology as a field. Next, we will grapple with arguments for and against international psychology. Our course will explore the development of psychology in multiple parts of the world. Our readings will focus on tracing the roots of specific schools of psychology, such as liberation psychology and South African psychology, and examining case studies in India, Aotearoa/New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, and El Salvador. Readings may include perspectives from theorists such as Martin-Baro (liberation psychology), Sunil Bhatia (decolonizing psychology), Frantz Fanon (postcolonial theory and psychology), and Lev Vygotsky (cultural-historical psychology). Lastly, we will explore the role of international organizations and mental health, such as the WHO and the UN. In conference work, students will be encouraged to explore international perspectives of psychology beyond the examples discussed in class. This course is open to students interested in psychology, mental health, international relations, politics, regional studies, and anthropology.

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The Power and Meanings of Play in Children’s Lives

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Play provides us with an amazing and informative lens for observing the development and complex inner lives of young children. Yet, play is being threatened by increasing amounts of time spent on technology and a growing societal focus on scheduled activities and academic goals. This course will offer an introduction to the many fascinating aspects of play, including the importance of unstructured free play, how play shapes the brain, sensory processing and self-regulation in play, outdoor play, cultural contexts of play, and humor development in play. Through readings, video illustrations, and discussion of student fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center, we will explore the many ways in which play contributes to the complex social, cognitive, emotional, and imaginative lives of children. This course will provide a foundation for the spring course, Early Intervention Approaches for Young Children and Families.

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Doing Research With Young People: Research, Policy, and Activism

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

How is research conducted with young people? What are the ethical dilemmas when working with children, adolescents, and young adults? Instead of focusing on traditional research methods on subjects, this course will explore the possibilities of conducting research with, or alongside, young people. This is an interdisciplinary course, and our readings will be pulled from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, education, criminal justice, and critical childhood studies. First, we will examine the sociohistorical context of children, adolescents, and youth. Next, we will investigate the rights of young people and the policies that designate them as protected populations. This course will survey a number of different research methods with youth participants, including but not limited to interviews, mapping, narrative analysis, youth participatory action research, and visual and performative research. We will apply a critical eye to a number of case studies of young people dismantling systemic oppression and working toward racial, immigration, and environmental justice. Students will develop their own conference project, focusing on how to conduct research with young people.

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Sociology of the Built Environment

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course begins with a question: What is nature? Over the course of one semester, we will answer this question—drawing on insight from science and technology studies and the tools of ethnographic methods. Lectures will explore key concepts in the sociology of nature—including Karl Marx’s reproduction, Michael Bell’s natural conscience, and William Cronon’s second nature—in addition to substantive topics like the human ability to act on nature, the politics of land ownership, the relationship between humans and animals, and the conception of humans and cities as natural spaces. Group conferences will be devoted to training in ethnographic methods and peer review of ongoing ethnographic work. For their final conference work, students will craft an ethnographic portfolio of weekly ethnographic fieldnotes, memos reflecting on connections to course concepts, and a final analysis that summarizes key findings.

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