Ethnic and Diasporic Studies

Ethnic and diasporic studies as an academic discipline lie at the intersection of several increasingly powerful developments in American thought and culture. First, interdisciplinary and comparative scholarship has become so prevalent as to represent a dominant intellectual norm. Second, the use of this new scholarly methodology to meet new academic needs and illuminate new subject matter has given rise to a plethora of discourses: women’s studies; Native American studies; African American studies; gay, lesbian, and transgender studies; and global studies. Third, and perhaps most important, there has been a growing recognition, both inside and outside academia, that American reality is incorrigibly and irremediably plural and that responsible research and pedagogy must account for and accommodate this fact.

We define ethnic and diasporic studies (loosely) as the study of the dynamics of racial and ethnic groups (also loosely conceived) who have been denied, at one time or another, the full participation and the full benefits of citizenship in American society. We see these dynamics as fascinating in and among themselves but also feel that studying them illuminates the entire spectrum of humanistic inquiry and that a fruitful cross-fertilization will obtain between ethnic and diasporic studies and the College’s well-established curricula in the humanities, the arts, the sciences, and the social sciences.

2020-2021 Courses

Making the World Go Round: Children as Cogs in the Machinery of Empire

Open, Lecture—Fall

In the 1920s, a Miss Wilson presented a paper at a London conference, addressing “The Education of European Children in Contact With Primitive Races.” In her talk, she described the life of rural white settler children in Kenya growing up with African playmates and expressed her concerns about the “morally deleterious” effects of such play on those future imperial leaders. This particular case illustrates discourse about the role of privileged white children in imperial regimes; but children of diverse social classes, races, and nationalities across the globe were all implicated in processes of imperial expansion and European settler colonization over (at least) the past three centuries. What was believed about children, done to children, and required of children was central to the political and economic success of empire. In this lecture, we will examine a series of cases in order to understand the diverse roles, both intentional and unintentional, of children in colonial processes. In addition to the white sons and daughters of European settler colonists in Africa and Southeast Asia, we will look at the contrary things that were said and done about mixed-race children (and their mothers) at different historical and political moments of empire. We will learn, too, about the deployment of “orphans” in the service of empire. In the metropole, particularly British cities, orphan boys were funneled into the military and merchant navy, while children of both sexes were shipped across the globe to boost white settler populations, provide free labor, and relieve English poorhouses of the responsibility of taking care of them. The ancestors of many contemporary citizens of Canada, Australia, and South Africa were exported as children from metropolitan orphanages. We will deploy approaches from sex-gender studies, postcolonial studies, and critical race theory. Questions that we will explore include: Why did settler authorities in Australia kidnap mixed-race indigenous children and put them in boarding schools, when such children in other colonies were expected to stay with their local mothers out of sight of the settlers? How did European ideas about climate and race frame the ways in which settler children were nursed in the Dutch East Indies? How did concepts of childhood and parental rights over children vary historically, socioeconomically, and geographically? How did metropolitan discourses about race, class, and evolution frame the treatment of indigent children at home and abroad? The sources for this class include literature, scholarly articles, ethnographic accounts, historical documents, and film. Students will attend the lecture twice a week and group conference biweekly.

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Culture in Mind

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relations to their social world. Through our readings and discussions, we will ask questions like the following: How do parents in Sri Lanka raise their toddlers to adapt to local social expectations of attachment, hierarchy, and morality? How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life in challenging geographic and environmental conditions? Is the experience of grief or anger universal, or distinct, in different societies? Do all people see color or experience time in the same ways, or does culture influence even those perceptual experiences that we often assume to be common to all people? What is it like to live across two cultural worlds or to move from one place to another, and how does the language that we speak or the communities in which we live influence the ways that we think, feel, and act? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, developmental psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Culture and Mental Health

Open, Seminar—Spring

This interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology will address mental health in diverse cultural contexts, drawing upon a range of case studies to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of mental illness across the globe. We open the course by exploring questions of the classification of mental illness to address whether Western psychiatric categories apply across different local contexts. We explore the globalization of American understandings of the psyche, the exportation of Western mental disorders, and the impact of psychiatric imperialism in places like Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Oaxaca, and Japan. Through our readings of peer-reviewed articles and current research in cultural psychology, clinical psychology, and psychological and medical anthropology, we explore conditions such as depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, susto, and mal de ojo to understand the entanglements of psychological experience, culture, morality, sociality, and care. We explore how diagnostic processes and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Finally, we explore the complexities of recovery or healing, addressing puzzles such as why certain mental disorders considered to be lifelong, chronic, and severe in some parts of the world are interpreted as temporary, fleeting, and manageable elsewhere—and how such expectations influence people’s ability to experience wellness or (re)integration into family, work, and society. Several of our authors will join us as invited guest speakers to talk about their current work. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Indigenous Rights and Representations

Open, Seminar—Spring

What role do indigenous identities play in global social and political movements? How do ideas about native peoples shape nationalist sensibilities and international projects? How do notions of cultural authenticity and autonomy figure in the discourse of indigenous rights? Attending to the legacies of colonialism, this course addresses contemporary representations, performances, and politics of indigeneity in places such as Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and the United States. Through a close look at ethnographic texts on this topic, we will investigate how perceptions about, and participation by, indigenous peoples have figured in environmental activism, transnational trade agreements, educational reform, nationalist campaigns, multiculturalist politics, and international migration. Our course readings will explore how indigeneity is engaged in struggles such as the Zapatista resistance movement in Chiapas, Mexico, the pan-indigenous mobilizations against environmental pollution in Ecuador and North Dakota, and efforts toward social justice in the aftermath of ethnic genocide in Guatemala. We will attend to the role of globalization, transnational mobilities, and technological innovation in emergent social movements, as well as to new imaginings of Native American and indigenous identity. And we will contemplate the implications of indigenous intellectuals’ and activists’ presence as key actors in both academic and public debate. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a service-learning component of the course at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

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Gendering in African Postcolonies

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Spring

This seminar explores ways in which gender operates in myriad African contexts during colonial and “postcolonial” periods. We will interrogate concepts of gender and of the postcolonial, identifying the ways in which colonial relations endure beyond the period of occupation. We will begin by historically looking at local articulations of gender in Nigeria (female political power), Sudan (boy wives) and Kenya (intersexuality). Reading European colonial’s narratives about gender in African contexts will tell us much about their own gender systems and their (mis)understandings of African societies. Readings will describe contested attempts by European government officials and missionaries to abolish practices that they consisered “barbaric,” such as the use of traditional medicinal practices, “paganism,” and circumcision. As we look at the period from the end of formal colonial rule to the present, we will analyse ongoing transformations in gender systems as they articulate with global issues. Of particular interest will be the ways in which Western feminist and queer-rights discourses impinge on African systems of gender and sexuality, resulting in a new kind of colonial relationship. The class will be discussion-based. Our texts will be archival documents, ethnographies, films, historical accounts, and fiction. Our writers will include Mariama Baa, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Ifi Amadiume, Ann Stoler, Gayle Rubin, and many more.

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Illegality and Immigration

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

This course will explore how social categories, law, and public policy shape processes of immigration and migrant lives across the globe. Drawing upon recent work in anthropology, sociology, psychology, public policy, critical ethnic studies, and critical indigenous studies, we will examine the ramifications of immigration policies and public discourses that demarcate citizenship, membership, and belonging in diverse contexts. We will analyze how the experience of unauthorized migration is affected by the particular intersections of racial, ethnic, class, gender, generational, and legal boundaries that migrants cross. In so doing, we will pose a range of questions. For example, how do undocumented youth navigate the constraints imposed by “illegalized” identities, and how do they come to construct new self-perceptions as emerging adults? How do families navigate transnational migration, separation, and the threat of arrest, detention, and deportation in places like Ghana, Nicaragua, Italy, Israel, and the United States? What forms do resistance and protest take, and how do migrants participate in social movements and social change? These questions will allow us to analyze how different forms of power—implemented across realms that include state-sponsored surveillance and immigration enforcement, language and educational policy, health and social services—shape and constrain immigrants’ understanding of their place in the world and their experience of exclusion and belonging. The questions will also lead us to ask how the categories of legal status or citizenship help us to understand the sociocultural, economic, and political structures that shape all of our lives. In tandem with our readings, we will welcome scholar-activist guest speakers, who will present their current work in the field. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central themes of the course and may conduct service learning as part of their conference work.

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Art and Society in the Lands of Islam

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course will explore the architecture and visual arts of societies in which Islam is a strong political, cultural, or social presence. We will follow the history of some of these societies through the development of their arts and architecture, using case studies to explore their diverse artistic languages from the advent of Islam through the contemporary world. We will begin with an introduction to the history surrounding the advent of Islam and the birth of arts and architecture that respond to the needs of the new Islamic community. We will proceed to follow the developments of diverse artistic and architectural languages of expression as Islam spreads to the Mediterranean and to Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America, exploring the ways in which arts can help define and express identities for people living in multi-confessional societies. We will then draw this exploration into the present day, in which global economics, immigration, and politics draw the architecture and artistic attitudes of Islam into the global contemporary discourse. Our work will include introductions to some of the theoretical discourses that have emerged concerning cultural representation and exchange and appropriation in art and architecture. One of our allied goals will be to learn to read works of art and to understand how an artistic expression that resists representation can connect with its audience. And throughout this course, we will ask: Can there be an Islamic art?

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Art, Religion, and Identity: Christians Jews and Muslims in the Arts of Medieval Spain

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

As an intermediate course, some of the things that would qualify you to enroll for this course would be having previously taken a course in medieval art or Islamic art, having taken a course in medieval or Islamic history or civilization, or having the ability to conduct research in Spanish. You are also welcome during interviews to make a case for other skills or background that you feel might qualify you.

How can we read peoples’ sense of identity in the arts? How do religious identities interact with national, regional, and cultural identities? Is European identity necessarily Christian? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this seminar. From 711 to 1492, the Iberian Peninsula was home to a number of kingdoms with constantly transforming demographics, cities marked by religious pluralism, and kaleidoscopic political alliances between political and religious groups. Opposing forces rarely aligned simply with religious affiliation in medieval Spain. If documents give us a biased and incomplete picture of the relationship between and among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the arts can provide a different kind of testimony to these rich and complex histories that continue to have an impact on our lives today.

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Hip-Hop

—Year

An open-level course teaching and facilitating the practice of hip-hop/urban dance technique and performance, the class will examine the theory, technique, and vocabulary of hip-hop dance. The course will facilitate the student’s development and ability to execute and perform hip-hop/urban dance steps.

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Hip-Hop: Dancing Diaspora from the Local to the Global

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course is open to students with a broad range of interests and can function either as a component of a performing arts Third (in dance, music, or theatre) or as a two-credit stand-alone course.

This course focuses on hip-hop as a dance form, from its origins in the South Bronx to its current status as a global phenomenon. We will explore hip-hop culture in the broader framework of the African diaspora—as a way to envision worldwide connections among people and cultures of African descent and to understand hip-hop’s lineage in a context of black social dance. We will also consider extensions of hip-hop into other dance forms, such as house and voguing, foregrounding issues of gender and sexuality. Themes of the course include dance in hip-hop as a mode of resistance and critique, a site of struggle over ownership in capitalism, and a means for imagining black liberation. Key theorists such as Naomi Bragin, Imani Kai Johnson, and Thomas DeFrantz will be discussed. The goal of this course is two-fold: (1) to understand how dance practices are bodily enactments of specific historical, cultural, and political developments; and (2) to investigate different approaches to writing about their significance in order to develop critical perspectives as thinkers and dancers.

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Hula

—Fall

This beginning-level dance class is designed to introduce students to Hawaiian hula dance through percussion, song, and dance. Through demonstrations and movement participation, students will explore a variety of movements and learn basic hula terminology from the distinct and unique culture of the Polynesian islands. Students will design a storyline through the hula movements learned over the course of the semester.

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Intersections of Dance and Culture: Studying Assumptions, Framing Experiences

Open, Seminar—Year

This course may be counted as either humanities or social-science credit. This course may also be taken as a semester-long component within a Dance, Music, or Theatre Third. No prior experience in dance is necessary.

When we encounter dancing, what are we seeing, experiencing, and understanding? How do current representations of dance perpetuate and/or disrupt assumptions about personal and social realities? Embedded historical notions and enforcements based on race, economic class, gender, social/sexual orientation, nationality/regional affiliation, and more are threaded through our daily lives. Performing arts, both inside and outside of popular culture, often reinforce dominant cultural ideas. Can they also propose or inspire alternatives? In this class, we will view examples of dancing on film, digital/internet media, television programs and commercials, as well as live performance. These viewings—along with readings of selected texts from the fields of dance and performance, literary criticism, feminist theory, queer theory, and cultural studies—will form the basis of class discussions and exercises. Each student will develop an independent research project arising from one or more class activities.  Independent research will include reading, writing, and presentation. The central aim of this course is to cultivate generously informed conversation, using academic research and experiential knowledge to advance our appreciation of dance as an elemental art form.

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West African Dance

—Year

Students may enter this yearlong course in the second semester with permission of the instructor.

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding African diasporic cultures. In addition to physical practice, master classes led by artists and teachers regarded as masters in the field of African diasporic dance and music, along with supplementary study materials, will be used to explore the breadth, diversity, history, and technique of dances derivative of the Africa diaspora. Afro Haitian, West African, Orisha dances (Lucumi, Afro Cuban), and social dance are some genres that will be explored. Participation in year-end showings will provide students with the opportunity to apply studies in a performative context.

Political Economy of Women

Open, Seminar—Year

What factors determine the status of women in different societies and communities? What role is played by women’s labor, both inside and outside of the home? By cultural norms regarding sexuality and reproduction? By religious traditions? After a brief theoretical grounding, this course will address these questions by examining the economic, political, social, and cultural histories of women in the various racial/ethnic and class groupings that make up the United States. Topics to be explored include: the role of women in the Iroquois Confederation before white colonization and the factors that gave Iroquois women significant political and social power in their communities; the status of white colonist women in Puritan Massachusetts and the economic, religious, and other factors that led to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692; the position of African American women under slavery, including the gendered and racialized divisions of labor and reproduction; the growth of competitive capitalism in the North and the development of the “cult of true womanhood” in the rising middle class; the economic and political changes that accompanied the Civil War and Reconstruction and the complex relationships between African American and white women in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; the creation of a landless agricultural labor force and the attempts to assimilate Chicana women into the dominant culture via “Americanization” programs; the conditions that encouraged Asian women’s immigration and their economic and social positions once here; the American labor movement and the complicated role that organized labor has played in the lives of women of various racial/ethnic groups and classes; the impact of US colonial policies on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Rican women’s economic and political status on both the island and the mainland; the economic/political convulsions of the 20th century—from the trusts of the early 1900s to World War II—and their impact on women’s paid and unpaid labor; the impact of changes in gendered economic roles on LGBT communities; the economic and political upheavals of the 1960s that led to the so-called “second wave” of the women’s movement; the gendered and racialized impact of the Great Recession and its aftermath; and the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues. In addition to class participation, requirements include regular, short (1-2 pp.) essays on the readings and approximately a half-dozen longer essays that synthesize class materials with the written texts.

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First-Year Studies: Introduction to Documentary Filmmaking

Open, FYS—Year

Nonfiction filmmaking is a tool and practice of observation. It has a way of starting out as a quest for truth and becoming a new way to be in the world—as a witness, a scholar, and an artist. During the course, we will hone our creative practice alongside building a foundation of practical, hands-on production experience. This art form requires an ability to both co-create and lead, to build relationships and practice humility as you honor your subjects. In this introductory course, students will be exposed to a wide range of nonfiction possibilities, particularly those opened up as we “decolonize the archives.” Screenings will also vary, tailored to the interests and questions that students bring to class. Each student will make several 1-2 minute, short exercises in addition to a 4-5 minute conference film. Finally, students will be asked to create a digital space where all of their work will live, learning how film is professionally distributed and innovating themselves as they lean into their own knowledge as digital natives. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks; biweekly conferences thereafter.

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Introduction to Television Writing: Writing the Spec Script

Open, Seminar—Spring

The fundamental skill of television writers is the ability to craft entertaining and compelling stories for characters, worlds, and situations created by others. Though dozens of writers may work on a show over the course of its run, the “voice” of the show is unified and singular. The best way to learn to write for television—and a traditional component of your application for important career development fellowships and for your portfolio for agents, managers, show runners, and producers—is to draft a sample episode of a preexisting show, known as a spec script. Developing, pitching, writing, and rewriting stories hundreds of times extremely quickly, in collaboration, and on tight deadlines is what TV writers on staff do every day, fitting each episode seamlessly into the series as a whole in tone, concept, and execution. This workshop will introduce students to those skills by taking them, step-by-step, through writing their own spec (sample) script for a currently airing American television series. The course will take students from premise lines through the beat sheet, then outline, to writing a complete draft of a full teleplay for a currently airing show (no original pilots). The class collectively decides a handful of shows on which to work. All work will be based on that handful of shows, which will include comedies, dramas, and animated shows originating on broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms. If this course is held remotely, it will be taught live, synchronous, via Zoom or similar platform.

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First-Year Studies: Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Open, FYS—Year

Some experience in the social sciences desired but not required.

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to become acquainted with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political economy of which the Third World is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial “development” to understand the evolving meaning of that term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role that some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy—one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence, across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines—widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change. Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class—the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa, but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project beginning in the fall semester and completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, you will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Open, Lecture—Year

Where does the food that we eat come from? Why do some people have enough food to eat and others do not? Are there too many people for the world to feed? Who controls the world’s food? Will global food prices continue their recent rapid rise? And if so, what will be the consequences? What are the environmental impacts of our food production systems? How do answers to these questions differ by place or by the person asking the question? How have the questions changed over time? This course will explore the following fundamental issue: the relationship between development and the environment, focusing in particular on agriculture and the production and consumption of food. The questions above often hinge on the contentious debate concerning population, natural resources, and the environment. Thus, we will begin by critically assessing the fundamental ideological positions and philosophical paradigms of “modernization,” as well as the critical counterpoints, that lie at the heart of this debate. Within this context of competing sets of philosophical assumptions concerning the population-resource debate, we will investigate the concept of “poverty” and the making of the “Third World;” access to food, hunger, grain production and food aid, agricultural productivity (the Green and Gene revolutions), biofuels, the role of transnational corporations (TNCs), the international division of labor, migration, globalization and global commodity chains, and the different strategies adopted by nation-states to “develop” natural resources and agricultural production. Through a historical investigation of environmental change and the biogeography of plant domestication and dispersal, we will look at the creation of indigenous, subsistence, peasant, plantation, collective, and commercial forms of agriculture. We will analyze the physical environment and ecology that help shape, but rarely determine, the organization of resource use and agriculture. Rather, through the dialectical rise of various political-economic systems—such as feudalism, slavery, mercantilism, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism—we will study how humans have transformed the world’s environments. We will follow with studies of specific issues: technological change in food production; commercialization and industrialization of agriculture and the decline of the family farm; food and public health, culture, and family; land grabbing and food security; the role of markets and transnational corporations in transforming the environment; and the global environmental changes stemming from modern agriculture, dams, deforestation, grassland destruction, desertification, biodiversity loss, and the interrelationship with climate change. Case studies of particular regions and issues will be drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The final part of the course examines the restructuring of the global economy and its relation to emergent international laws and institutions regulating trade, the environment, agriculture, resource extraction treaties, the changing role of the state, and competing conceptualizations of territoriality and control. We will end with discussions of emergent local, regional, and transnational coalitions for food self-reliance and food sovereignty, alternative and community supported agriculture, community-based resource management systems, sustainable development, and grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. Films, multimedia materials, and distinguished guest lectures will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm/factory field trip is possible in each semester if funding permits. The lecture participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and hunger,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation are also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Social Science Colloquium Series, which are held approximately once per month. The Web Board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of short essays will be made there, as well as followup commentaries with your colleagues. There will be in-class essays, a midterm quiz, and a final exam each semester. Group conferences will focus on in-depth analysis of certain course topics and will include debates and small-group discussions. You will prepare a poster project each semester on a topic of your choice that is related to the course and which will be presented at the end of each semester in group conference, as well as a potential public session.

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Intermediate Greek: The Perils of Passion: Ancient Greek Wisdom for Today’s Troubled Times

Intermediate, Lecture—Year

See course description under Literature.

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Readings in Intermediate Greek: Herodotus and Thucydides

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This course will review grammar concepts, as necessary, while reading—in Greek—selected passages of Herodotus and Thucydides.

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A History of Poverty and Public Policy: The New Deal or the Raw Deal for Black America?

Open, Small Lecture—Year

This is a history of urban poverty and public policy in America. Was the postwar urban crisis in cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Newark caused by the howling contradictions between the New Deal for White America and the Raw Deal for the Other America? What did those savage inequalities mean for employment, housing, and schooling, as well as for public health? What happened when grassroots movements aimed a death blow at Jim Crow public policies?

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The Cultural and Political Work of Women Writers in the United States, 1790–1990

Open, Seminar—Year

“This is what I want you to do,” novelist Rebecca Harding Davis wrote in 1861. “I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me—here, into the thickest of the fog and mud and foul effluvia. I want you to hear this story. There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has laid dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing to you.” Using the literary and expository writing of US women, we will explore American stories and secrets, what these writers are working to make “a real thing to you.” Readings will include autobiography, letters, novels, stories, and cultural criticism. Rather than following just canonical literary or intellectual history, we will investigate less well-known and popular fictions alongside classics. Major themes will include questions of politics, race, class, and regional conflict; womanhood, manhood, and sexuality; American identity and nationalism; and immigration. Course work will focus on literary and print culture, but students may explore other media in conference. Particular emphasis will be placed on careful research of the historical context when analyzing primary documents from the period. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to regularly consult a textbook.

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Gendered Histories of Sickness and Health in Africa

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

How does an individual’s gender expression determine how s/he or they receive health care in Africa? In what ways does gender influence who provides health care, the kind of care that they offer, or the social determinants of peoples’ health? In the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries, African citizens, refugees, and internally displaced persons have had to cope with a range of health care challenges. These include: high levels of disability as a result of car accidents and work-related injuries; disruptions to health care services and food provision stemming from war or political unrest; lack of supplies and access to quality care resulting from neoliberal economic policies; and, most recently, the challenges of food insecurity due to seasonal locust infestations. These concerns paint a bleak picture of the status of health and health care provision in Africa. Epidemics like ebola and cholera complicate conditions for people seeking to improve the quality of their health. In addition, pandemics like HIV/AIDS and now COVID-19 have transformed demographics and gender relations in both predictable and unexpected ways. Despite these challenges, millions of African men, women, and children find ways to survive and respond creatively in order to address their needs for health and wellbeing. This class is organized around the understanding that the idea of “good health” is a useful critical lens through which to analyze gender-related questions. How do women, men, and LGBTQ+ individuals organize, navigate, and seek care in order to attain good health? What historical, political, and economic factors influence the provision of quality health care? How have African citizens, governments, faith communities, activists, and indigenous healers responded to the challenges associated with disease and the goal of maintaining good health? Because the African continent is massive and every country is complex and diverse, this class will use case studies from countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to answer these questions. In addition, students will be able to choose other African countries to study in depth in order to gain as broad a picture as possible of this complex and important topic. While we will primarily focus our inquiries by using historical works, we will actively monitor innovations in African countries resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of what it takes to maintain a sense of “good health” in Africa.

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#BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName: Centering Black Women in the Fight for Racial Justice

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Year

Three black women—Alica Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors—created #BlackLivesMatter (#BLM) in 2012 to protest George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Three years later, #BLM became a rallying cry against police brutality across the country, particularly in Ferguson, Staten Island, and Baltimore. The African American Policy Forum created #SayHerName in 2014 to call attention to black women who have been killed by the police. Once dismissed as “hashtag activism,” #BLM has now become a global movement, as people have taken to the streets this summer not only to protest specific incidents of police brutality, such as the killing of George Floyd, but also to call for the abolition of the police state itself. Despite the popularity of #BLM, black women such as Breonna Taylor, who suffer state and gendered violence, have been downplayed or ignored in most media reports on police violence. This course will examine the historical contexts of both movements, focusing on the experiences of black women as activists and as targets of racial, gendered, and state violence. A core premise of the course is that we gain a much richer understanding of social systems and their problems by paying attention to society’s most vulnerable actors. Through classic and contemporary texts, we will also explore connections among #BLM, #SayHerName, and other social movements for racial justice in housing, health care, education, food, and the environment.

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Alternative Americas: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the United States, 1776–1976

Advanced, Seminar—Year

The story most typically told of America focuses on the path taken, the victors and the nature of their victory, the dreamers whose dreams were realized, and central figures in a largely political narrative. In this course, we will revisit the United States through the lives of those more on the margins, dreamers and doers who faced heavier odds or who dreamed of a world that never arrived. Through the words, dreams, memories, and exhortations of African Americans, workers, women, immigrants, and cultural critics of all sorts, we will revisit the story of the idea of America as it has unfolded. Readings will include primary sources from the time period, as well as historical articles and books. In the spring, we will add film. As we read and watch, we will also write, as this will be a course that emphasizes the synthesis of historical research and expository writing. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to regularly consult a textbook.

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Visions/Revisions: Examining Histories of Women and Gender

Advanced, Seminar—Year

Open to juniors and seniors

This course focuses on writings about women’s history and the history of gender. We will read a number of different examples of genres that engage in successful history writing: memoirs, novels, political histories, case studies, cultural histories, and biographies. These works will be considered with an eye toward developing students’ abilities in several critical areas, including analyzing primary sources, developing historiographies, and applying relevant theories in the fields of women’s history and gender studies. The required readings represent a range of locations on a global scale, as well as historical subjects that fall roughly within the 19th and 20th centuries—with a few notable exceptions. As a graduate-level course, students take an active role in guiding seminar discussions.

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Beginning Latin

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary with a view toward reading the language as soon as possible. Close reading of Vergil’s Aeneid in English will accompany intensive language study in the fall. By mid-semester, students will be translating authentic excerpts of Latin poetry and prose. During the spring semester, while continuing to develop and refine their knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary, students will read selections from the Aeneid in Latin.

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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 Section 377, a colonial-era law used to criminalize homosexuality and other “unnatural” sex acts, from the Indian Penal Code 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 these hegemonic structures might be and what it might reveal. Thinking through the ways 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. Students will engage with a diverse set of cultural, political, and legal artefacts, such as the writings of “founding fathers” like Gandhi and BR 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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The Perils of Passion: Ancient Greek Wisdom for Today’s Troubled Times

Open, Lecture—Year

With the permission of the instructor, qualified students may opt to take this course as Intermediate Greek and read selected portions of the text in Greek.

Are we unwittingly reliving the past? Authoritarianism, magical thinking, and tribalism are beginning to characterize the 21st century as they characterized archaic Greece. Over centuries, however, the ancient Greeks experienced a movement in the opposite direction: They began to prioritize reality, condemn tyranny, and experiment with broader forms of political participation. During the late sixth through fifth centuries BCE, ancient Athenians devised, simultaneously, the concepts of democracy and history. As the Athenians were experimenting with the world’s first-ever democratic political institutions, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides distinguished history from myth and offered examples of behaviors to emulate or to avoid. Today, those early historians can help us analyze facts, identify causes and consequences, and avoid the pitfalls of the past. Students will read, in English translation, Herodotus’ Histories and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, as well as selected works by Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristotle, and Ps.-Xenophon.

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Japanese Literature: Translations, Adaptations, and Visual Storytelling

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies, literature, art history, or film history is required for this course.

This lecture course is an introduction to Japanese literature from the 10th century to contemporary fiction, and we will explore the connections between and among literary texts, translations, and visual adaptations—paintings, hand scrolls, performing arts, film, and manga. We will read selected works of Japanese literature in English translation(s), including early Japanese tales such as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, The Tale of Genji, Life of an Amorous Woman, and modern novels and short stories by writers such as Shimazaki Toson, Hayashi Fumiko, Ota Yoko, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki. With each text, we will examine other texts that are in conversation with these literary works and explore the content and forms of those conversations. In addition to the lectures, there will be weekly group conferences and regularly scheduled film screenings throughout the semester.

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Studies in Ecocriticism: The Idea of Nature in the Western Tradition

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

As the capitalistic and predatory model aggressively promoted by the United States continues to reveal itself as a major threat for biodiversity and the environment in general, it is vital to explore and understand the concept of “nature” at the core of the Western tradition and how it was shaped over the course of more than 2,000 years. This course will create a series of bridges between and among the history of literature, philosophy, and science, with implications for many other disciplines. Most importantly, we will discuss the Western and Judeo-Christian concept of nature in the context of race and ethnicity in America today by confronting it with works and arguments developed by black, indigenous, Latine, and Asian American authors. Among many themes, we will study how antiquity came to develop a concept of “physis,” so different from our modern understanding of physics, but also shaped our aesthetic eye with the creation of the pastoral genre and the idea of agreeable and tamed landscapes or set a model for a utilitarian relationship to nature with Hesiod and Vergil’s agricultural treaties. We will also analyze specific places, such as the forest in medieval chivalric romances and American “wilderness” fictions, or chaotic landscapes admired and imagined by the Romantics, or the sea as depicted in Melville’s Moby Dick. The 17th-century scientific revolution and its mathematical and mechanistic approach to nature will lead us to discuss with Descartes the concept of animality in parallel with contemporary philosophers such as Deleuze and Guattari, who make use of models like the burrow or territoriality imported from the animal realm. Going into a completely different direction, we will question the characteristics of a Judeo-Christian conception of the world, organized around a remote and immaterial god, in direct opposition to a more organic understanding of nature as a “motherly” and immanent figure with all of the reservations that such a figure implies. These are some of the questions that we will explore, and the focus of our discussions will be to bring new voices in order to deconstruct the Eurocentric concept of “nature.”

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The World According to Ariyoshi Sawako

Open, Seminar—Fall

No previous background in Japanese studies or literature is required for this course.

In this seminar, we will read a variety of works by Ariyoshi Sawako (1931-1984), one of Japan’s most talented storytellers in the last century. Ariyoshi’s novels vividly portray the lives of women in different historical moments, such as the dancer Okuni, the originator of kabuki theatre, in Kabuki Dancer; the wife and mother of Hanako Seishu, the first surgeon to perform surgery using general anesthesia, in The Doctor’s Wife; and a mother, daughter, and granddaughter whose lives reflect changes in modern Japan in The River Ki. Many of Ariyoshi’s works also expose social issues, such as The Twilight Years, her immensely popular novel on the challenges of caring for aging parents, and Compound Pollution, her environmental novel that brought greater public attention to the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers and insecticides. Early in her writing career, Ariyoshi received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to study at Sarah Lawrence College, and we will also consider how her experiences at Sarah Lawrence may have influenced the directions she took in her subsequent writing. Ariyoshi’s literature will provide us with a lens to consider various topics, such as Japanese performing arts, history, gender, social issues, and translation. In addition to these readings, we will view some film adaptations of Ariyoshi’s literary works.

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Global Intertextualities

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course provides exposure to a wide array of contemporary global writing from locations such as France, India, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Readings consist of literary texts written in the last decade, originally in English as well as in translation, though students able to read these texts in their original languages will be encouraged to do so. Primary attention will be directed to the particular stylistic, formal, and thematic features of the individual works, as we keep in mind the dynamic relation between local contexts and transnational space—the complex circuits by which languages and cultures circulate and exchange in a global economy. Thus, we will interrogate notions such as “cosmopolitan,” “world,” “global,” and “postcolonial” as modes of intertextuality and consider what “comparative literature” means today.

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Music, Structure, and Power: Theories of Musical Meaning

Open, Lecture—Spring

This course may be counted as either humanities or social science credit. This course may also be taken as a semester-long component. No prior experience in music is necessary.

How do we listen to unfamiliar music? What ideas, principles, and ideologies influence how we hear? What do the sounds of music tell us about society? This course explores the practice of music theory and the search for musical meaning with examples from around the world. We will describe unfamiliar music and then understand it, using various attempts to translate its meaning. Course themes include musical and cultural difference, the relativism of musical perception, structuralist approaches to music theory, the politics of representation, decolonizing music history, and others. Course units will draw from varied ethnographic case studies from ethnomusicology and anthropology and may include examples from India, Indonesia, China, East Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. Class sessions of this course may be modified for an online format, if necessary. Participation in the Faso Foli (West African percussion) ensemble is strongly encouraged.

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Intersectionality and the Matrix of Race

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us....You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television....It is the wool that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. Neo: What truth? Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo.... The Matrix (1999)

....the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil and gifted with second-sight in this American world—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. —W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

The construct of race is adaptive and healthy but can also lead to human misery through deception about our (hierarchical) relationship to each other. Racially organized hierarchies, such as The Matrix or DuBois’ veil metaphor, interfere with our ability to clearly perceive our relationships to ourselves and to each other as racial/ethnic beings. In this lecture, we will examine the social construction of the matrix of racialized hierarchy, race, social class, and ethnicity within a historical perspective and how those constructs implicitly and explicitly inform psychological inquiry. We will use an intersectional frame to examine identity and social structure and will include readings by Morrison, Appiah, Haney Lopez, and Hill Collins, among others. We will also examine the development of racial/ethnic identity in childhood and adolescence, as well as gendered and sexual aspects of race/ethnicity. Finally, we will move toward a broader understanding of psychological aspects of prejudice, ethnic conflict, and immigration and how those themes are expressed within the United States and abroad.

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Culture in Mind

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relations to their social world. Through our readings and discussions, we will ask questions like the following: How do parents in Sri Lanka raise their toddlers to adapt to local social expectations of attachment, hierarchy, and morality? How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life in challenging geographic and environmental conditions? Is the experience of grief or anger universal or distinct in different societies? Do all people see color or experience time in the same ways, or does culture influence even those perceptual experiences that we often assume to be common to all people? What is it like to live across two cultural worlds or to move from one place to another, and how does the language that we speak or the communities in which we live influence the ways that we think, feel, and act? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, developmental psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles, books, as well as films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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Culture and Mental Health

Open, Seminar—Spring

This interdisciplinary course in psychology and anthropology will address mental health in diverse cultural contexts, drawing upon a range of case studies to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of mental illness across the globe. We open the course by exploring questions of the classification of mental illness to address whether Western psychiatric categories apply across different local contexts. We explore the globalization of American understandings of the psyche, the exportation of Western mental disorders, and the impact of psychiatric imperialism in places like Sri Lanka, Zanzibar, Oaxaca, and Japan. Through our readings of peer-reviewed articles and current research in cultural psychology, clinical psychology, and psychological and medical anthropology, we explore conditions such as depression and anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, susto, and mal de ojo to understand the entanglements of psychological experience, culture, morality, sociality, and care. We explore how diagnostic processes and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender. Finally, we explore the complexities of recovery or healing, addressing puzzles such as why certain mental disorders considered to be lifelong, chronic, and severe in some parts of the world are interpreted as temporary, fleeting, and manageable elsewhere—and how such expectations influence people’s ability to experience wellness or (re-)integration into family, work, and society. Several of our authors will join us as invited guest speakers to talk about their current work. Students will conduct conference projects related to the central topics of our course.

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The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Seminar—Spring

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon in which people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there temporarily or permanently. While anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective, this seminar explores the crucial role of psychology in understanding the processes associated with our conceptualizations of immigrants and immigration. The course will begin with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of some sociological and some social psychological research on immigrants. We will then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will explore the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will also look very closely at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture to see how they shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we will conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

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Mobilization and Social Change

Sophomore and above, Seminar—Fall

In light of recent national—as well as international—calls for racial justice, which have propelled several movements, this course will analyze the chronology of the various theories and research in both cultural and social psychology, highlighting the need to re-examine intolerance not only in the heads of people but also in the world. Given that these biases are often defined as individual prejudice, even though their persistence is systemic, we will see how they crystallize in ways that are marked in the cultural fabric, the various artifacts, the ideological discourse, and most institutional realities that all work in synchronicity with individual biases. In this class, we will highlight various examples of historically derived ideas and cultural patterns that maintain present-day inequalities (gender, sexualities, class, persons with disabilities, and various other forms of social injustice). We will first explore the theory of minority influence, a theory that stands in contra-distinction to conformity, providing a model to develop and articulate change. With the help of cultural psychology, we will then see how injustices are anchored and objectified in our everyday world. We will analyze how our preferences and selections are maintained through the contexts of our interactions. This perspective will lead us to explore the theory of social representations, moving us away from individual tendencies to focus on changing the structures in which collectively elaborated understanding is maintained and reproduced as a system.

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Health in a Multicultural Context

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

A background in social sciences or education is recommended.

This course offers, within a cultural context, an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness and will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. We will also explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic within the frame of these theoretical perspectives. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers. Conference work may range from empirical research to bibliographic research in this area. Community partnership/service-learning work may be an option in this class.

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First-Year Studies: Judaism, From Religion to Radicalism

Open, FYS—Year

Judaism since the biblical age has defied easy categorization, oscillating between religion and ethnicity and taking on political aspects. Our understanding of Judaism is complicated by the very nature of diasporic existence, which involves resisting or appropriating features of the dominant culture. We begin with the Bible and the Talmud and proceed through texts produced by traditionalist movements that challenged and, at times, displaced normative Jewish practice, including Kabbalah, messianism, and Hasidism. We proceed to movements that were more “modern” in their orientation, like Haskalah, Reform Judaism, Hebrew and Yiddish literature, and Zionism; and we will discuss the pioneering Jewish role in phenomena like psychoanalysis, musical theatre, and Hollywood. We conclude with manifestations of Jewish radicalism like socialism, communism, anarchism, and American counterculture.

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Religion and Power: Islam, Christianity, and the United States

Open, Seminar—Fall

Theology, whether it is acknowledged or publicly noted, has often played a significant role in the political life of the United States. Religious arguments and positions have provided the theoretical underpinnings for institutions such as slavery and incarceration and policies in the areas of immigration, foreign relations, and military interventions. In this course, we will focus on the intersection of Christian and Muslim theologies in America from the early republic to the Trump era. Some of the topics to be explored are the religious justifications used for owning slaves and creating barriers to citizenship, the religious/nationalist ideologies of black Muslims and white supremacists, the phenomenon of apocalyptic reasoning, American religious positions on the state of Israel, and white evangelical support for President Trump. Although the number of Americans identifying themselves as having a religious affiliation has been dropping steadily over the last decade, the influence of religion on American politics has not.

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The Hasidic Movement

Open, Seminar—Fall

Hasidism, a popular mystical movement founded in Eastern Europe that continues to flourish in centers in both Israel and America, has been romanticized as revolution and reviled as reaction. This class begins with the transformative ideas of Hasidism’s founder, Israel Ba’al Shem Tov (1700-60), a kabbalistic healer who reconceived the entire Jewish mystical tradition in a way that sanctified daily life and revitalized ritual. We trace the crystallization of Hasidic wisdom in tales and mystical discourses, observe the rise of its charismatic leaders (rebbes), and analyze burgeoning dynasties like Lubavitch, Bratslav, Ruzhyn, Ger, and Satmar. Throughout the course, we confront the movement’s controversial stances toward gender, sexuality, humanism, and secular education; however, we also attempt to understand Hasidism’s emergence as a culture of joyful resistance in the face of “civilizing” initiatives of empires and nation-states, collective violence and genocide, and Zionist and American conformist agendas. We conclude with a look at the way Hasidic communities of today are responding to contemporary challenges like the coronavirus pandemic.

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Jewish Mysticism From Antiquity to the Present

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course traces the path of Jewish mystical study, practice, and wisdom. Beginning with the Hebrew Bible, we proceed through early Jewish mystical magic, divination, and ascents. We then delve into the erotically-charged Kabbalah, focusing on The Zohar (Book of Splendor) and proceeding to the 16th-century Safed (Tzefat) mystical schools and the mass messianic eruption around Shabbetai Tzvi. Next, we explore varied manifestations of East European Jewish popular Kabbalah, Golem literature, and Hasidism. We conclude with contemporary manifestations of Kabbalah and Hasidism in America and Israel. Throughout the course, we will reflect on issues like gender, sexuality, messianism, magic, and resistance rituals.

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Borders and Transnational Mobilities

Open, Seminar—Year

In a global context, where immigration has become one of the biggest flashpoints in political discourse, our understanding of how human and nonhuman mobility takes place needs constant reexamination and refinement. In addition to major humanitarian issues leading to global refugee crises, we are looking at an ever-growing number of people who move across and within national borders in search of work, opportunities, education, and a chance to fulfill their aspirations for a better life. People also move because of conflict, dispossession, coercion, and environmental issues. Classical scholarship on migration has focused predominantly on the two largely distinct phenomena of “immigration” and “emigration,” while more recent developments in transnational studies and the “mobility” turn have led to a stronger emphasis on cross-border movements and flows of people, goods, capital, ideas, and vectors. Here, we will focus on building our knowledge about global and transnational mobility from an issue-based interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from the fields of sociology, anthropology, economics, history, and global studies. These issues include refugee crises, human trafficking, economic exploitation, modern-day slavery and indentured servitude, the global care-chain, and the emergence of new groups of precarious people around the world. To help with our exploration of these issues, we will be looking at how different regimes of mobility have developed, under the auspices of globalization in the past three decades, from a national, regional, international, and transnational perspective. What are some of the reasons influencing the movement of people away from their homes and countries of origin? How does the movement of people from privileged and wealthier backgrounds differ from that of people from poorer, marginalized communities (particularly in the Global South)? What are some of the institutional frameworks and regimes that govern, regulate, and produce new classes of “migrants” in today’s world? The course will follow a modular structure that focuses on various themes within mobility studies. In each module, we will be using classical and contemporary readings that address the themes and issues at hand in addition to nontraditional sources, such as videos, blogs, online forums, and websites. The second half of the course will be focused on helping students design and propose projects based on some of the issues covered and through an engagement with different forms of data and methods: surveys, ethnographies, demographics, historical, and digital. This course will likely appeal to students interested in learning, researching, and working with different migrant communities around the world.

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Contextualizing Communications: The Poetics of Seeing

Open, Seminar—Spring

Seeing is not a natural process or an individual activity; rather, it is embedded in social forces and imbued with historically and spatially constructed meanings. This seminar is designed to interrogate how we communicate and make meaning from such a vantage point. While this course takes a broadly construed sociology of culture as its point of departure, it understands sociology as what a British sociologist called a “parasitical” discipline that frequently disrupts and violates disciplinary borders and boundaries. The course will follow in that vein. Our initial readings, which will include Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Aime Cesaire, and John Berger, will set the conceptual framework for what follows. We will draw upon literature; film and music; (auto)biography; letters, diaries, oral histories; and archival and legal texts emanating from different parts of the globe, with an emphasis on cultural productions about and from the Global South and/or diasporic communities. Our analyses will be framed in terms of a number of themes and questions, relating those to the contexts within which the works were produced. We will start with an overview of historical and methodological questions; examine colonial texts and their critique, the production of nationalism(s) and identities, censorship, postcoloniality, and the violence of “home”; and conclude with transformative visions. It is hoped that this perusal of a diversity of genres and voices will enable us to rethink the relations between objectivity and subjectivity, fiction, biography and fact, political and social censorships to which their producers subscribe or against which they struggle, as well as struggles over voice and/in the remaking of space. Our goal is to problematize naturalistic “ways of seeing” (a term borrowed from John Berger) and thus show how seeing (through sonic, cinematic, and literary constructions) is both an ideologically regimented activity and a creative form of emancipatory action. Rather than seeing our readings as the expression of individual genius, we will engage with them as a way to become astute readers of the material poetics of social life.

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Forms of Culture in the Information Age: Spanish for Advanced Beginners

Open, Seminar—Year

Course taught entirely in Spanish. All students should take the placement test prior to registration.

This course is designed for students who have taken Spanish before but need to review the essentials of grammar and develop effective communicative skills at a post-elementary level. The course will start with a thorough review of the basics of Spanish morphology and syntax. Vocabulary building will take place through an intensive program of readings that will include the study and analysis of poems, lyrics of songs, newspaper articles, short stories, and adapted novellas. The linguistic exploration of those materials will be complemented by the active exploitation of musical compositions, excerpts of scripts, and the viewing of films, as well as selected episodes of TV series. All forms and manifestations of culture originated all over the Spanish–speaking world—fashion, art, film, music, photography, theatre, science, politics, comics, video games, gastronomy, etc.—will be the objects of our attention. These and other forms of cultural expression will be incorporated into the course of study, as long as Spanish is their vehicle of expression. The syllabus will be complemented by contributions from students, who will be encouraged to locate materials suitable to be jointly exploited by the class as a whole. Weekly conversation sessions with the language assistant are a fundamental part of this course. Students will complete guided conference projects in small groups and also have access to individual meetings to address specific grammar topics.

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Literatures From the Spanish-Speaking World: The Poetry and the Short Story

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

This seminar will operate as an introduction to the literatures of the Spanish-speaking world, centered on the study of two of its mainstays: the formation of the poetic canon and the tradition of the short story. We will examine the development of both forms of literary expression concurrently, paying attention to the most-important moments in the literary history of Latin America and Spain. In our exploration, we will not proceed in strict chronological order but, rather, focus on pivotal phases that illustrate the amalgamation of cultures and idioms that converge in the crystallization of the rich body of literatures produced in the score of nations that share Spanish as their vehicle of cultural expression. The point of departure will be the rise of modernismo at the end of the 19th century, when the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío became the pilot of the language, moving its center of gravity to Latin America after establishing a direct connection with vital centers of European literature, like France. The second pivotal moment of our journey will take us to the 20th century with figures like César Vallejo, who broke all stereotypes of poetic creation, establishing an idiom whose influence continues to be felt today. Along with his poetic output, we will study that of poets as influential as Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, Rosario Castellanos, Alejandra Pizarnik, Federico García Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez, and José Lezama Lima, among other towering names. We will continue our exploration of the poetic traditions of Latin America and Spain by studying the fascinating relationship between the present time and crucial moments from the past, including early manifestations such as the ancient jarchas, Iberian compositions in vernacular romance preserved in Arabic characters, or the unsurpassable anonymous authors of the beautiful medieval ballads that constitute the Romancero, as well as authors of Jewish origin such as don Sem Tob. Another important moment of our trajectory will consist of an examination of the roots and ramifications of realismo mágico, a form of expression that once defined the literary expression of Latin America and later reformulated by subsequent generations of writers. The last phase of the journey will consist of an investigation of the most recent forms of poetic expression as they occur in new forms of communication, from social networks to all kinds of outlets derived from technological sources and platforms. In each of these phases, the study of the poetic canon will have its counterpart in an exploration of the sister genre of the short story.

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Practices, Techniques, and Strategies in Photography

Open, Seminar—Year

$200–$400 materials expense per semester

The course offers a trio of necessary skills to build a photographic practice, including critical theory, art histories, and technique. Students will learn analog and digital, from photographic capture to scanning and printing. Through a series of assignments and lectures, students will consider the overarching concepts that inform their work. Dynamic themes include working within and against a field of influence, the roll of documentary and conceptual approaches to photography, subjectivity versus structural systems of production, and photography as event and narrative. Our time will be divided between group critiques and lectures. In the spirit of experimentation and play, drawing from research and the everyday, students will test their theories in practice. Students will develop a cohesive and original body of photographs and develop a generative practice based on a process of making, thinking, and remaking. Final work will be compiled into an artist-made, print-on-demand book.

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Intensive Semester in Yonkers: From the Known to the Unknown: Getting to Know the World Through Writing

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Students may take this course individually or apply to participate in the Intensive Semester in Yonkers.

This course is open for interviews and registration. Please visit Intensive Semester in Yonkers on MySLC for program information and application.

We will begin the semester by writing about the familiar—how it becomes beloved, despised, forgotten, lived within. We will explore how we experience the familiar at different ages while we take notes on the new, using words, photographs and sketches at our sites, on bus rides and walks, and in restaurants, parks, and churches. We will move from writing about the known to writing about how we get familiar with the new. We will pick five or more pieces to finish, revise, and edit for conference work and make chapbooks, using sketches and photographs to illuminate the world of our words. We will read other people’s explorations of their worlds, known and new, in an anthology that includes these writers, graphic novelists, and oral tale tellers: Dominican-American Junot Diaz, Iranian Marjane Satrapi, Malaysian Lat, Russian Isaac Babel, Italian Natalia Ginsberg, The Arabian Nights, African American folk tales, and poems from three languages—both ancient and modern.

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The Episode: A Course in Connections

Open, Seminar—Spring

This will be a course in the episode, a flexible way of putting together content—fictional or nonfictional—in this world or another. The episodes that we know best are streamed online. We also read them, often without noticing their form. They are different from chapters or short stories. We will start by introducing each other to our favorites. Then we will do enough exercises to catch ourselves doing something right and continue until we have six episodes that connect, not necessarily conventionally. These will be supported and critiqued in small groups, while weekly exercises get presented to everyone. This course is a sneaky way to get people to write and revise something long over time. Students can write fiction or nonfiction, for adults or children, and include poetry, songs, or drawings in their work. 

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Poetry Workshop: Wearing a Mask: Persona Poems

Open, Seminar—Spring

When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person.—Emily Dickinson, in a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

For centuries, poets have spoken in the voices of other people. From the early Greeks to Shakespeare, from Walt Whitman to Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, Louise Gluck, Patricia Smith, Nick Flynn, Jorie Graham, Tyehimba Jess, etc. What is made possible when one speaks in the voice of a character that is not oneself? What is made possible when speaking through a character in an ancient story or myth? What is made possible when one gives voice to a character nothing like oneself? Who dares to speak in the voice of a flower? Of a bee? Of a storm? Of a star? What if one gives voice to the fragments of voices within one’s consciousness? In this class, we will read poems where the poet has spoken in a different tongue or worn the mask of someone else or of something else. Each participant will be expected to deeply read assigned collections each week, to meet with another student in a weekly poetry date, and to bring in one new persona poem each week. I hope we will find that outside the limits of the personal story is a cosmos of possibilities for empathy, revision, wonder, instruction, and finding another way in: slant.

Faculty