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.

Ethnic and Diasporic Studies 2021-2022 Courses

Ethnographic Research and Writing

Advanced, Seminar—Year

Javanese shadow theatre, Bedouin love poems, and American community life are but a few of the cultural realities that anthropologists have effectively studied and written about. This is no easy task, given the substantial difficulties involved in understanding and portraying the concerns, activities, and lifeworlds other than one’s own. Despite those challenges, ethnographic research is generally considered one of the best ways to form a nuanced and contextually rich understanding of a particular social world. To gain an informed sense of the methods, challenges, and benefits of just such an approach, students in this course will try their hands at ethnographic research and writing. In the fall semester, each student will be asked to undertake an ethnographic research project in order to investigate the features of a specific social world, such as a homeless shelter, a religious festival, or a neighborhood in Brooklyn. In the spring, she or he will craft a fully realized piece of ethnographic writing that conveys something of the features and dynamics of that world in lively, accurate, and comprehensive terms. Along the way, and with the help of anthropological writings that are either exceptional or experimental in nature, we will collectively think through some of the most important features of ethnographic projects, such as interviewing others, the use of fieldnotes, the interlacing of theory and data, the role of dialogue and the author’s voice in ethnographic prose, and the ethnical and political responsibilities that come with any attempt to understand and portray the lives of others.

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Childhood Across Cultures

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will explore child and adolescent development through a cross-cultural lens. Focusing on case studies from diverse communities around the world, we will look at the influence of cultural processes on how children learn, play, and grow. Our core readings will analyze psychological processes related to attachment and parenting, cognition and perception, social and emotional development, language acquisition, and moral development. We will ask questions like the following: Why are children in Sri Lanka fed by hand by their mothers until middle childhood, and how does that shape their relations to others through the life course? How does an Inuit toddler come to learn moral lessons through scripted play with adults, and how does such learning prepare them to navigate a challenging social and geographic environment? Is it true that Maya children don’t do pretend play at all? How does parental discipline shape the expression of emotion for children in Morocco? How does a unique family role influence the formation of identity for Latinx youth in the United States? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from developmental psychology, human development, cultural psychology, 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 and may opt to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center.

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Telling Lives: Life History in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall

Through studying life-history narratives (one person’s life as narrated to another), autobiographical memoir, archival documents, and more experimental forms in print and on screen, we will explore the diverse ways that life courses are experienced and represented. Throughout our readings, we will carefully examine the narratives themselves, paying attention to the techniques of life-history construction and familiarizing ourselves with ethical, methodological, and theoretical challenges. We will consider a number of questions about telling lives: What is the relationship between the narrator and his or her interlocutor(s)? How does a life-history approach inform debates about representation? What can the account of one person’s life tell us about the wider culture of which he or she is a part? How can individual life narratives shed light on issues such as poverty, sexuality, colonialism, disability, racism, and aging? The selected texts attend to lives in various parts of the world, including Australia, Great Britain, the Caribbean, East Africa, and the United States. Students will also analyze primary sources and create a life history as part of their work for the course.

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Immigration and Identity

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This course asks how contemporary immigration shapes individual and collective identity across the life course. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach that bridges cross-cultural psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology, we will ask how people’s movement across borders and boundaries transforms their sense of self, as well as their interpersonal relations and connections to community. We will analyze how the experience of immigration is affected by the particular intersections of racial, ethnic, class, gender, generational, and other boundaries that immigrants cross. For example, how do 1.5-generation undocumented youth navigate the constraints imposed by “illegalized” identities, and how do they come to construct new self-perceptions? How might immigrants acculturate or adapt to new environments, and how does the process of moving from home or living “in between” two or more places impact mental health? Through our close readings and seminar discussions on this topic, we seek to understand how different forms of power—implemented across realms including 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. In our exploration of identity, we will attend to the ways in which immigrants are left out of national narratives, as well as the ways in which people who move across borders draw on cultural resources to create spaces and practices of connection, protection, and continuity despite the disruptive effects of immigration. In tandem with our readings, we will welcome scholar/activist guest speakers, who will present their current work in the field.

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Children in Imperial Projects

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

At the close of 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 Kenyan settler children growing up with African playmates and expressed her concerns about the morally deleterious effects of such play on these 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 success of imperial projects. In this seminar, we will examine a series of cases to understand the diverse roles, both intentional and unintentional, of children in imperial 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 and fathers) 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 poor-houses of the responsibility of taking care of them. The ancestors of many contemporary citizens of Canada, Australia, and South Africa were exported from metropolitan orphanages as children. In our intellectual explorations, 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 materials for this class include fiction, memoirs, scholarly texts, ethnographic accounts, historical documents, and visual images.

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Faking Families

Open, Seminar—Spring

In her study of transnational adoptees, Eleana Kim noted the profound differences between discourses about the immigration of Chinese brides to the United States and those describing the arrival of adopted Chinese baby girls: the former with suspicion and the latter with joy. Two ways that families form are by bringing in spouses and by having children. We tend to assume that family-building involves deeply personal, intimate, and even “natural” acts; but, in actual practice, the pragmatics of forming (and disbanding) families are much more complex. There are many instances where biological pregnancy is not possible or not chosen, and there are biological parents who are unable to rear their offspring. Social rules govern the acceptance or rejection of children in particular social groups, depending on factors such as the marital status of their parents or the enactment of appropriate rituals. Western notions of marriage prioritize compatibility between two individuals, who choose each other based on love; but, in many parts of the world, selecting a suitable spouse and contracting a marriage is the business of entire kin networks. There is great variability, too, in what constitutes “suitable.” To marry a close relative or someone of the same gender may be deemed unnaturally close in some societies; but marriage across great difference such as age, race, nation, culture, or class can also be problematic. And beyond the intimacies of couples and the interests of extended kin are the interests of the nation state. This seminar, then, examines the makings and meanings of kinship connections of parent and spouse at multiple levels, from small communities to global movements.

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Indigenous Mobilities

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

Indigeneity, by definition, calls into play complex relations to place. In this course, we will address contemporary Native American and indigenous experience, politics, and imaginaries across the Americas by exploring questions of place, as well as migration and movement. How might our notions of indigenous peoples and cultures shift if we consider migration and mobility as central to indigenous life? How are connections to ancestral territories and homelands implicated in, or altered by, the increasingly globalized world we inhabit, and what are the politics at stake? Our central readings of recent ethnographic texts and case studies will explore a range of experiences, including: 1) the transborder lives of migrants from Mexico (Oaxaca), Peru, and Ecuador who are living in California, Oregon, and New York and the intersections of immigration status, labor exploitation, ethnic/racial identity, and technological change; 2) the links between incarceration and detention, vulnerability, and various forms of gendered and racial violence that shape indigenous women’s lives across borders, including the lives of Guatemalan women crossing into the Southern United States in the past decade; 3) questions of sovereignty, rights, and recognition for the Mohawk Nation, whose ancestral lands span the settler colonial borders of the United States and Canada; and 4) Native American hubs created in unexpected places, like Silicon Valley, that form the basis for resistance, community, and justice for indigenous people in urban centers. Our readings center the experiences and perspectives of indigenous peoples, with special attention to works written by indigenous scholars. In all of our readings about indigeneity on the move, we will invoke notions of borderlands and boundaries and explore forms of geographic, social, and virtual mobilities and their intersections with race, legal identity, and claims to space and place. We will look at the new forms of mobility evidenced by recent indigenous transnational migration, as well as the histories of chosen and forced movement, displacement, dispossession, and intergenerational trauma and resilience that shape the Native American experience. Students may do conference work related to any aspect of Native American and indigenous studies; geographic focus for conference projects is open. Key authors will join us as invited speakers to discuss their work.

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Global Modernism, Internationalism, and the Cold War: 1930s, 1960s, 1990s

Open, Lecture—Year

This course is an introduction to diverse trajectories of modern and contemporary art from contexts that include Russia, Mexico, Iran, China, Japan, Argentina, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Ethiopia, Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan, as well as Europe and North America. The course ties these trajectories together via the theme of “internationalism” and its shifting geopolitical stakes over the course of the 20th century. The course follows the creation of modern internationalism in institutions like the League of Nations, the United Nations, UNESCO, and the Non-Aligned Movement; to a shift from diplomatic internationalism to economic “developmentalism” and “globalization” led by institutions like the World Bank and the IMF; and related cultural internationalisms promoted by MoMA, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Venice and São Paulo Biennales, and even the Stalinist state and Chinese Communist Party. Lectures will examine topics like Mexican muralism and Rockefeller internationalism; Négritude and its influence on African postcolonial modernisms; the infamous “weaponization” of abstract expressionism during the Cold War; debates on socialist realism in the Second and Third Worlds; the arrival of postcolonial diasporas to London and Paris and, relatedly, developments in “calligraphic modernism” spanning from North Africa to East Asia; and finally the proliferation of post-medium and new media strategies around the world toward the end of the century. Taking a chronological journey through global modern and contemporary art, the course focuses on three key decades to examine how artists navigated the shifting pressures and opportunities of internationalism throughout the 20th century. We will ask: How did modern artists think about national identity and nationalism in the colonial and postcolonial periods? What were the stakes of abstraction versus realism in different Cold War contexts? Can modernism exist in a totalitarian state? How have “First World” ideologies informed how modernist history has been written in the past? How are global modernists expanding the canon today? And on whose terms? While the course will include canonical readings on modern and contemporary art from the West, we will also read work by thinkers including Hannah Arendt and Rabindranath Tagore on nationalism; Mark Mazower and Vijay Prashad on the shifting politics of internationalism; Geeta Kapur and Ferreira Gullar on postcolonial avant-gardes; and primary documents, including UNESCO conference proceedings and artist manifestoes. The course lays a particular focus on recent work on global modernism by scholars that include Chika Okeke-Agulu, Iftikhar Dadi, Kellie Jones, Joan Kee, Ana María Reyes, and Reiko Tomii. These readings will illustrate current debates and shifts in the field, opening onto questions of art historical method and ways of looking, especially as they pertain to contested and formerly marginalized domains of art history. Writing assignments will focus on New York-area collections; the course will include a guided field trip to MoMA.

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Home/Nation: 20th-Century Asian Art–via New York

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar is an introduction to modern and contemporary art from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. The course takes its title from Indian artist Rummana Hussain’s “Home/Nation” (1996), a multimedia installation reflecting on rising political violence in India at the end of the century—especially against minority groups. In 1998, Hussain completed a residency at Art in General in New York and was one of numerous artists from across Asia showing in the City during the “global” and “multicultural” 1990s. This seminar elaborates on this global turn by tracing prior histories of Asian art in the City; however, our discussion and reading will also spend equal time in Asian and New York-based histories of modern and contemporary art, looking across continents to consider parallels, inversions, connections, and disconnections between and among them. We will, therefore, examine artists like Hussain, who might have visited New York only briefly, along with those who have lived in the City for all or most of their lives. Artists examined will include Toshi Shumizu, Rabindranath Tagore, Chao Chung-hsiang, F. N. Souza, Isamu Noguchi, Zainul Abedin, Yoko Ono, Tehching Hsieh, Zarina Hashmi, and Shahzia Sikander. We will consider how artists grappled with splits between “home” and “nation,” both in Asia and in the United States, during the 20th century, taking into account major events in Asian history that include decolonization, the Cold War, and neoliberal globalization. We will also explore the impact of World War I and World War II on Asian minorities in the United States, the civil rights movement and related passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the Vietnam War, and, more recently, the aftermaths of 9/11 and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Artistically, we will examine diverse trajectories of realism and abstraction, photography and performance, and new media and avant-garde strategies. Students will have the opportunity to visit New York-based museums, galleries, and archival collections, including the Asia Art Archive, as part of in-class and individual assignments. Seminar discussion and final papers will focus on primary documents: institutional correspondences and historical newspaper and magazine reviews, artist writings and interviews, and archival photographs, among other documentary forms. These records will be used to build on existing histories of Asian art in/via New York and, if possible, to rediscover new or forgotten ones.

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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 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 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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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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Hard Times Require Furious Dancing: Movement as Language in Performance, Politics, and Everyday Life

Open, Seminar—Year

This course begins with a close reading of Alice Walker’s 2010 collection of poems, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, as an entry into the multiple layers of meaning and complexity that movement can convey and to the ways in which those layers of meaning serve to mobilize us as individuals and as collectives. Acknowledging the apparently limitless possibilities for defining dancing, dance, and movement, we will consider a range of specific references as archetypes: staged performances, public/political demonstrations, and quotidian choreographies that occur as a matter of course in natural and human-made settings. In additional to Alice Walker’s writing, texts from fields including dance, performance, literary criticism, feminism, science fiction, cultural studies, ethno-ecology, and activism, as well as examples of live and recorded performance events (formal and informal), will serve as inspiration for reading, seeing, thinking, conversing, and writing throughout the year. Histories and perspectives of all participants will be called upon to illuminate those materials and translate them into our own words. Class activities will include reading, writing, discussion, and accessible movement practices. Each student will pursue independent research arising from one or more class activities, which will include reading, writing, and presentation. For students taking the course as a regular seminar, conference work may build upon independent research for class or may be configured as a separate project. The aim of this course is to extend our recognition of movement and dancing as essential aspects of existence; to explore theoretical potentials inherent in that study; and to incorporate new insights into our reading, thinking, conversation, and writing practices.

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West African Dance

Component—Spring

This yearlong course will use physical embodiment as a mode of learning about and understanding of 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.

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Hip-Hop

Component—Fall

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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Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong (Fundamentals)

Component—Fall

Students will be introduced to the traditional Chinese practices of Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong. These practices engage with slow, deliberate movements, focusing on the breath, meditative practice, and posture to restore and balance energy—called chi or Qi. The postures flow together, creating graceful dances of continuous motion. Sometimes referred to as one of the soft or internal martial arts, Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong are foundational practices within a lifelong, holistic self-cultivation in traditional Chinese culture. This class is open to dance, theatre, and any other students who are curious and interested in discovering alternative approaches to body and movement practices.

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Media Lab: Youth Education and Community Engagement

Open, Seminar—Year

This yearlong course is designed for students with a strong interest in community work and digital-media production. We’ll explore new forms of research creation and pedagogical, performative mode of engagement by considering the role of digital media in making new connections, building friendships, and forging communities. We’ll begin the year by examining the relation of aesthetics to politics and exploring the myriad ways in which theory and praxis can inform one another—with special attention to digital-media pedagogy. Students will engage in a series of short exercises that will equip them with the basic skills needed for digital-media production. Students will then have the opportunity to put those skills into practice, as we design a new kind of after-school program and host a digital-media workshop for youth in consultation with the College’s community partners in Westchester (schedules and groups TBD). This course asks students to play the role of teaching artists, integrating their art form, perspectives, and skills into the community setting. Students will team up to teach and support youth participants to create short audio (fall) and multimedia pieces (spring) through which they show and tell stories about themselves and their communities. All workshops will take place on campus for four Saturdays in the first semester (in October and November) and possibly more in the second semester. This format will allow us to cultivate emerging moments of coming together that vitalize creative making, as well as to find innovative ways to share what was learned from the teaching experience. This interdisciplinary and practice-based course invites students from all disciplines. No prior experience in teaching and/or media production is required.

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Visions of Social Justice

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this documentary course, students will collaborate with local nonprofit organizations and/or individual activists to produce a three-to-five minute film. The projects are a combination of advertising, research, and social justice, providing valuable content for underresourced efforts while centering the powerful work of people challenging destructive paradigms. The class members will work in teams to produce their films and, ultimately, deliver material to their partner organizations to be used online and beyond. When appropriate, limited local travel will be involved, along with an opportunity to collaborate with organizers, activists, and community partners. Students will be encouraged to create social-engagement strategies in partnership with the organization or subjects that elevate their mission and work. Given these unprecedented times—as we are presented with new opportunities to shift our understanding of self, community, and the roles that we can play in pursuing a just future—this course is for those who are committed to using filmmaking as a tool for change. This semester-long collaboration is equal parts media creation and an understanding of the power of artists in movements for justice.

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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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Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

In this 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 acquaint us 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 this 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 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, urbanization, industrialization, 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, as well as the potential of ”a new green deal.” 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 from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and North America. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage, substantive research project. 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 over fall study days. Some experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

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The Rise of the New Right in the United States

Open, Seminar—Spring

Why this course and speaker series/community conversations now? The rise of the New Right is a critically important phenomenon of our time, shaping politics, policies, practices, and daily life for everyone. The insurrection at The Capitol on January 6, 2021, is only one egregious expression of long-term ideas and actions by a newly emboldened collective of right-wing ideologues. The violent challenges to the realities of a racially and ethnically diverse America is not a surprise. Nor is the normalization of White Power politics and ideas within mainstream politics and parties. The varied nature of the New Right’s participants—their ideologies, grievances, and goals—requires deep analysis of their historical roots, as well as their contemporary manifestations. The wide range of platforms and spaces for communicating hate, lies, and calls for violence against perceived enemies require their own responses, including the creation of platforms and spaces that offer analysis and alternatives. Seriously engaging the New Right, attempting to offer explanations for its rise, is key to challenging the authoritarian drift in our current political moment and its uncertain evolution and future. To do so requires our attention; it also requires a transdisciplinary approach, something inherent to our college and to geography as a discipline, be it political, economic, cultural, social, urban, historical, or environmental geography. The goal of this new seminar, one that is accompanied by a facilitated speaker series and community conversations, is to build on work in geography and beyond and to engage a wide array of thinkers from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, institutions and organizations. In addition to teaching the course itself, my hope is that it can be a vehicle to engage our broader communities—at the College and in our region, as well as reaching out to our widely dispersed, multigenerational alumni. Pairing the course with a facilitated/moderated speaker series, livestreamed in collaboration with our Development and Alumni offices, offers the chance to bring these classroom conversations and contemporary and pressing course topics, grounded in diverse readings and student engagement, to a much wider audience and multiple communities. In this class, we will seek to understand the origins and rise of the New Right in the United States and elsewhere, as it has taken shape in the latter half of the 20th century to the present. We will seek to identify the origins of the New Right and what defines it, to explore the varied geographies of the movement and its numerous strands, and to identify the constituents of the contemporary right coalition. In addition, we will explore the actors and institutions that have played a role in the expansion of the New Right (e.g., courts, state and local governments, Tea Party, conservative think tanks, lawyers, media platforms, evangelical Christians, militias) and the issues that motivate the movement (e.g., anti-communism, immigration, environment, white supremacy/nationalism, voter suppression, neoliberal economic policies, anti-globalization, free speech). This is a reading-intensive, discussion-oriented large seminar in which we will survey a broad sweep of the recent literature on the New Right. While the class focuses most specifically on the US context, conference papers based on international/comparative case studies are welcome. Students will be required to attend all associated talk and film viewings, write weekly reading memos, engage colleagues in biweekly online essays and conversation, and write a brief final paper that links the themes of the class with their own interests, creative products, research agenda, and/or political engagement. Transdisciplinary collaborative activities across the College and community are encouraged. Film, performance, written commentary, workshops, and other forms of action can provide additional outlets for student engagement.

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Beginning Greek

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Ancient Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, with the aim of reading the language as soon as possible. By mid-semester in the fall, students will be reading authentic excerpts of Ancient Greek poetry and prose. Students will also read and discuss English translations of selected works of Plato, Aristophanes, Thucydides, and Ps.-Xenophon. During the spring semester, while continuing to refine their knowledge of Greek grammar and their reading skills, students will read extended selections of Plato’s Apology in the original Greek.

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First-Year Studies: Literature, Culture, and Politics in US History

Open, FYS—Year

This is an interdisciplinary course in which we use literature and other cultural texts to illuminate a history of ideas, culture, and politics in the United States. The course is premised on a series of assumptions: First, the public words and stories that Americans choose to tell reflect ideas, concerns, presumptions, and intentions about their time period; they do, both intentionally and unintentionally, “political work” in revealing the world in the way that they shore up, modify, or work to change power structures. Second, this course assumes that you, the reader, have some sense of context for these stories (or that you will work to acquire one) and, hence, have some sense of how the stories reflect the material world that they seek to change; novels, stories, memoirs, and critical essays all derive from a single vantage point and, therefore, need to be understood as one voice in a larger conversation coming from a particular time and a particular place. Third, these readings are largely primary sources  that are always paired with a secondary-source chapter, article, or introduction; this pairing presumes a desire on your part to grapple with the material of this moment yourselves, to write history as well as read it. Themes of particular significance will include the construction of national identity, class consciousness, the experience and meaning of immigration, slavery and particularly race, and the political significance of gender and sexuality. Conference projects in the fall will focus on history and literature to 1900; in the spring, on history and literature up to just yesterday. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on student needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides a broad introduction to the political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the Middle East from the late 18th century to the present. After a brief conceptual overview, the course draws upon a wide array of primary and secondary sources to illuminate the manifold transformations and processes that have contributed over time to shaping what has meant to be “modern” in this remarkably diverse and dynamic region. Particular attention will be paid to the following themes: the question of modernization and reform within the Ottoman and Qajar empires; the experience of different forms of European imperialism in the Middle East; the integration of the Middle East into the world economy; World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; state-building in both colonial and postcolonial contexts; transformations in religious thought; changing family norms and gender roles and the genesis of Middle Eastern women’s movements; nationalism; class politics, social movements, and revolution; Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict; post-World War II geopolitics and the Cold War in the Middle East; Nasserism and pan-Arabism; the role of US power in the Middle East; the origins and spread of political Islam; the political economy of oil; globalization and neoliberalism; and the impact of various new cultural forms and media on the formation of identities across the region.

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Class, Race, Gender, Work: Readings in US Labor History

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Year

This course explores American labor systems and labor struggles from the colonial era to the present. Core topics include slavery and peonage, as well as wage work; the enduring legacy of settler-colonial regimes; and intersections of class, racial, and gender hierarchies. Along the way, we will focus especially on the complex relationship between mechanisms of oppression and collective forms of resistance: from slave rebellions to insurgent political parties, from bread-and-butter unionism to revolutionary workers’ movements, from community-based organizing to prison uprisings, and from fights against gendered violence to campaigns for sexual freedom. Readings include fiction, journalism, historical documents, and scholarship that invite us to reimagine both the past and possibilities for the future. Class discussion of research methods, analytic paradigms, and conference projects figures prominently in the syllabus.

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Social Protest and Cultural Critique: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the United States

Advanced, Small seminar—Year

“I pray you, then,” W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in his 1903 The Souls of Black Folk, “receive my little book in all charity, studying my words with me, forgiving mistake and foible for the sake of the faith and passion that is in me, and seeking the grain of truth hidden there.” In this yearlong course, we will study the words of American activists, who used story, memoir, and cultural criticism to create social change. From Thomas Paine’s brash Common Sense and a (seemingly) conservative seduction novel intended to protect young women, Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, in the late 18th century, through narratives of enslavement meant to awaken somnolent Americans to the moral tragedy in their midst, to critiques of the ills of capitalism in the 19th century, to revealing the profound injustices meted on immigrants, as well as migrants, in the early 20th century, to James Baldwin and other critics of racial prejudice in the 1960s, to the feminists of the Women’s Liberation Movement, we will analyze the “faith” and seek the “grain of truth” in these passionate cries for social justice.

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Theories at Heart

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course takes political aesthetics, from the Zapatistas to Amazonian autonomy projects, as a point of departure to ground historical understandings of interculturality from an indigenous perspective. The course seeks to develop students’ critical skills as they acquire tools to talk about transcontinental political aesthetics. While engaging this aesthetics of resistance, students will be exposed to a series of critical theories that convey the depths of cultural memory—which is necessarily tied to a local indigenous history remembered in the community by heart. Students will read historical and literary texts from the 16th century onward, as well as secondary readings from recognized scholars interested on indigenous historiography. Thus, students can compare various indigenous perspectives—from the Amazon to the Andes and Chiapas and the people of Turtle Island—contextualized in each nation’s colonial long-durée.

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Nationalism

Open, Large seminar—Fall

This course provides a broad historical and theoretical inquiry into the phenomenon of nationalism—one of the most enduring ideological constructs of modern society. Indeed, the organization of the globe into a world of bordered territorial nation states—each encapsulating a unique social identity—is such a taken-for-granted feature of contemporary geopolitics that it is easy to forget that nations did not exist for most of human history and that nationalism dates back only to around the 1700s. And yet, despite many predictions of its imminent demise at different moments in history—Albert Einstein quipped famously that nationalism was an “infantile disease” that humanity would eventually outgrow—nationalism remains perhaps as powerful an ideological force as ever in the United States, as elsewhere. This course will examine a range of foundational questions about the emergence of nations and nationalism in world history: What is a nation, and how has national identity been cultivated, defined, and debated in different contexts? Why did nationalism emerge when it did? Who does nationalism benefit, and how do different social groups compete for control over national identity and ideology? How and why did nationalism become such a vital feature of anticolonial political movements beginning in the late-19th century? Is nationalism fundamentally a negative force—violent and exclusionary—or is it necessary for forging cohesive social bonds among diverse and far-flung populations? The course will begin with the emergence of nations and nationalism in Western Europe but will then move on to explore its evolution and ensuing spread to all parts of the globe, exploring a number of case studies along the way. The course will conclude with a brief survey of the state of nationalist politics today, with a particular emphasis on Brexit and white nationalism in the United States.

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Reconstructing Womanhood I: Writers and Activists in the United States, 1830–1930

Open, Seminar—Fall

“But if you ask me what offices they may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will,” Margaret Fuller wrote in Woman in the 19th Century in 1845. Not 10 years later, Fanny Fern’s autobiographical protagonist tells her daughter, when asked if she would write books when a woman, “God forbid,” because “no happy woman ever writes.” In this small seminar, we will discuss what US women writers imagined they could be and why they wrote (happy or not). We will read both major and forgotten works of literary activism from women writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, focusing on issues of gender and gender convention; race, racial prejudice, and enslavement; immigration, migration, and national identity; class and elitism; and sex and sexuality.

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Gendered Histories of Sickness and Health in Africa

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

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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Decolonization and the End of Empire

Open, Large seminar—Spring

Among the most salient features of the new international order that was ushered in by the end of World War II and the creation of the United Nations in 1945 was the emergence of an unprecedented global wave of decolonization that would last for roughly three decades. As many leaders of the international community consigned the “age of empire” to the dustbin of history, the world witnessed, in rapid succession, the dissolution of European overseas imperial configurations and the consequent formation of myriad new nation states across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. This seminar provides an in-depth historical inquiry into the global phenomenon of decolonization in the post-World War II era. The course will adopt a comparative and transnational lens, exploring—through a wide range of both secondary and primary sources—the complex historical processes that attended decolonization in the British, French, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese imperial domains. Particular attention will be paid to the following questions: Why did European imperialism end when it did, and how did the politics of anti-colonial nationalism vary across the different empires? How did nationalist movements and local elites negotiate the end of imperial rule, and what challenges did they face in their attempts to build postcolonial societies? What role did international organizations such as the United Nations play in constructing the new decolonized world order? How did the Cold War impact decolonization? How did decolonization work within nascent frameworks in post-World War II international law, particularly concerning the legal status of postcolonial national citizens as well as migrants? And finally, to what extent has decolonization led to a truly “decolonized” world order? Or, to what extent have older imperial discourses, ideologies, and cultural prejudices persisted into the era of postcolonial independence and self-determination? Conference work for this seminar will take the form of small-group work: Each group will undertake research relating to the experience of decolonization in a different European imperial context (British, French, Italian, Dutch, or Portuguese).

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Reconstructing Womanhood II: Writers and Activists in the United States, 1930–1990

Sophomore and Above, Small seminar—Spring

“You must not tell anyone,” my mother said, “what I am about to tell you,” begins Maxine Hong Kingston’s 1976 memoir of a girlhood among ghosts. This course will be a continuation of the work of the fall, as well as a stand-alone seminar. In this semester, we will explore the stories that women writers have not always told—focusing, in particular, on women writers from outside the mainstream of the time, women who chronicled and critiqued an American world that sought to silence them in some way. As in the fall, we will focus around issues of gender and gender convention; race, racial prejudice, and the legacy of enslavement; immigration, migration, and national identity; class and elitism; and sex and sexuality.

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Gender, Education, and Opportunity in Africa

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring

In modern Africa, equity in education—whether in relation to gender, ethnicity, race, class, or religion—remains an important arena of debate. As formal colonial rule ended on the continent and more African nations gained independence, education became synonymous with modernity and a leading indicator of a country’s progress toward development. Gender and class biases played (and continue to play) a powerful role in determining who received access to formal education. Even though traditional education was believed to be “accessible to all,” the demands of traditional education were often arduous, painful, and in direct conflict with Western schooling. While African governments and multilateral organizations like the United Nations and UNICEF emphasize the importance of more children attending school, disruptions as a result of political conflict, civil war, or infectious disease (including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and now COVID-19) undermine families’ abilities to keep children in school. This class studies the history of education in Africa, focusing on a wide variety of training, classroom experiences, and socialization practices. In particular, we will investigate the influence of gender in defining access to educational opportunity. An awareness of the significance of both formal and nonformal education has been reflected within the realms of African politics, popular culture, literature, and film. Because of this, we will use a range of sources to investigate how gender influences access to educational opportunity. We will begin by questioning prevailing constructs of gender and determine how relevant Western gender categories have historically been for African societies. By focusing our readings on countries as diverse as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, and South Africa, students will develop a broad overview of educational policy changes and practices across the continent and leave the class better able to analyze debates about education in Africa.

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Intermediate Latin

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

See the full description under Literature: Can This Republic Be Saved? Cautionary Evidence From Ancient Rome. Intermediate Latin students will complete the reading assignments for the literature course and attend all literature seminar meetings. In place of an independent conference project, Intermediate Latin students will read selected works in Latin and attend twice-weekly Latin group conferences.

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Milton, Blake, and the Bible

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

John Milton in the 17th century and William Blake in the late-18th and early-19th centuries forged fiercely independent poetics of visionary resistance to the trends toward intellectual materialism, religious conformity, economic mercantilism, and political authoritarianism that dominated the England and Europe of their periods. Both represented themselves as visionary teachers and prophets in a line of prophetic succession that began with Moses and included Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, and John, the writer of the Apocalypse. They founded their prophetic imaginations on what Blake called, “the sublime of the Bible,” the great epic of human liberation and imaginative inspiration. This course will provide readings of central biblical narratives and poetry and examine how Milton and Blake read, understood, and rewrote scripture in their major poetic texts in their prophetic expectation of changing the world and how we see it.

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Can This Republic Be Saved? Cautionary Evidence From Ancient Rome

Open, Seminar—Year

The democratic republic in the United States was modeled on the Roman Republic, for good and ill, and has lasted just 234 years. Our democratic republic is now under siege, both figuratively and literally, by forces threatening to replace it with a dictatorship or some form of authoritarian populism. The ancient Roman Republic lasted 450 years before imploding into a military dictatorship. The Roman experience shows that the introduction or reintroduction of violence into the political process—even if the aim is social justice—absolutely precludes any possibility of equity or justice. Since the collapse of the Roman Republic, history has shown repeatedly that political violence, if condoned and unchecked, inevitably produces not social justice but the atrocities and devastations of fascism or totalitarianism. This course will examine this and other lessons from ancient Roman literature and history that are vital for us today if we hope to survive and thrive as individuals, as members of various communities, and as a species. We will read (in English translation) and discuss selected works by Catullus, Cicero, Sallust, Appian, Plutarch, Horace, Livy, Ovid, and Cassius Dio.

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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 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 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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Crime, Punishment, and Freedom in African American Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

African American literature has been intertwined with crime and punishment since at least the 17th century. One of the earliest textual sources about American slavery, the John Punch case, is a tribunal transcript detailing the crime of a Black man and his punishment of slavery. In the following 200 years, the slave narrative as a genre came to cohere around the climactic crime of stealing the property that is one’s self. After emancipation, African American writers decried public portrayals of Black people as criminal in prison literature, lynching narratives, and more. What, exactly, is the relationship between African American literature and crime? To answer this question, we will read African American literature chronologically, written by authors like Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Angela Davis, and Toni Morrison. In so doing, we aim to better understand both crime’s role in constituting African American literature and African American literature’s portrait of crime. Short assignments throughout the class (including critical and creative responses and short, close readings) aim to help us better understand the texts in the moments in which they were produced and to develop the skills necessary to approach these texts critically.

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Conscience of the Nations: Classics of African Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

One way to think of literature is as the conscience of a people, reflecting on their origins, their values, their losses, and their possibilities. This course will study major representative texts in which sub-Saharan African writers have taken up the challenge of cultural formation and criticism. Part of what gives the best writing of modern Africa its aesthetic power is the political urgency of its task: The past still bears on the present, the future is yet to be written, and what writers have to say matters enough for their work to be considered dangerous. Political issues and aesthetic issues are, thus, inseparable in their work. Creative tensions in the writing between indigenous languages and European languages, between traditional forms of orature and storytelling and self-consciously “literary” forms, register all of the pressures and conflicts of late colonial and postcolonial history. To discern the traditionalist sources of modern African writing, we will first read examples from epic, folk tale, and other forms of orature. Major fiction will be selected from the work of Tutuola, Achebe, Beti, Sembene, Ba, Head, Ngugi, La Guma, Dangaremgba, and Sarowiwa; drama from the work of Soyinka and Aidoo; poetry from the work of Senghor, Rabearivelo, Okigbo, Okot p’Bitek, Brutus, Mapanje, and others. Conference work may include further, deeper work on the writings, writers, and genres that we study together in class; aspects of literary theory, particularly aspects of postcolonial and womanist theory relevant to readings of African literature; or readings of more recent writers out of Africa whose work draws on and develops the “classical” works that will be the foundation of our work together.

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Cold War Black Feminism

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

When Black feminist writing boomed in the 1970s, the United States was squarely in the middle of the Cold War. Accordingly, Audre Lorde decried the United States invasion of Grenada, June Jordan railed against the Vietnam War, and Assata Shakur penned her autobiography in asylum in Cuba. Yet, Black feminism has primarily been considered a domestic affair. How might we better understand Black feminist literature by reading it in the context of the Cold War? This course aims to answer this question first by reading proto-Black-feminist authors writing in the early Cold War and then returning to the famous authors of Black feminism to consider their portrait of international affairs. Authors may include Ann Petry, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Pat Parker, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, and others. Along the way, we will read recent scholarship to understand the historical context in which those texts were written. In so doing, we aim to better understand the Cold War’s effect on Black feminism and what those canonical texts of Black feminism can tell us about American foreign policy. Short assignments may include brief historical essays, short close readings, and response papers.

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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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African American Poetry After Emancipation

Open, Seminar—Spring

The sharp rise in African American literacy during Reconstruction gave rise to an increase in African American textual production and, especially, poetry. How did African American poetry respond to the conditions of emancipation and seek to exceed those conditions? This course aims to answer this question by taking the long view of African American poetry, beginning with Reconstruction and Nadir-era poets like Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charlotte Grimke. We will then follow their influence upon Harlem Renaissance poets like Langston Hughes and Jessie Redmon Fauset, Black arts and Black feminist poets like Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka, and 21st-century poets like Terrance Hayes, Danez Smith, and Eve Ewing. This course aims to introduce students to the broad array of postemancipation poetry, so we will read across a variety of poetic forms in historical context. In so doing, we aim to better understand African American poetry, its relationship to history, and the ways in which poetry aims to describe Blackness as exceeding the juridical category of emancipation. Short assignments will include poetry recitation, pastiche, close readings, descriptions of form, and more.

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Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in Context

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

Since the publication of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in 1951, scholars and artists have asked the book to speak to each moment in American history. Even today, the novel resonates with our most salient political problems: police violence, cross-racial activism, and so on. Yet, from its portrait of the Communist Party to its depiction of the 1943 Harlem Riot, Ellison’s novel told a historically specific tale. How and why has this novel transcended time and space? To answer this question, this class will first read Ellison’s sources: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Wright, W. E. B. Du Bois, and others. Then we will study Ellison’s early work and that of his contemporaries, such as novelist Ann Petry, musician Louis Armstrong, and the painter Romare Bearden. Then we will read Invisible Man slowly, carefully, and closely. From there, we will read academic works and artistic responses by scholars like Fred Moten and poets like Terrance Hayes. In so doing, we aim to better understand the changing meanings of Ellison’s novel, its importance to American history, and the evolution of Africana studies as a discipline. Along the way, our creative and critical assignments will better acquaint us with the various research methods and writing styles of literary criticism.

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Global Circulations: Art and Pop Music of Asia

Open, Lecture—Spring

This course examines how music and its global circulation make the relationships between people audible. In the social contexts of listening and musical performance—and in musical sound itself—we will understand how music and its movement across community-based, regional, and national boundaries shape people’s lives. As recordings, musicians, and ideas about music move, we will learn how they sound interpersonal relationships by using selected ethnographic examples of art and popular music from across Asia and the Middle East. Class topics will include South Indian classical music, taiko, Southeast Asian heavy metal, Iranian pop, Japanese hip hop, Bollywood, world jazz, noise, K-pop, world music 2.0, and others. Course themes related to the circulation of music will include the ideology of tradition, cultural imperialism, sound technologies, and the more recent proliferation of cultural nationalisms that seek to impede circulation. By encountering musical diversity through listening and reading materials, students will develop the critical thinking skills to make connections between sonic and textual resources and to better understand the many ways that music and sound are meaningful around the world. Participation in Faso Foli, our African percussion ensemble, is strongly encouraged.

 

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Sounding Creativity: Musical Improvisation

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar will focus on the widely practiced creative process of musical improvisation. Using video footage of live performances, reading and listening assignments, and class discussions, we will learn to hear and understand an array of specific improvisational choices as musicians from different backgrounds progress through their performances. We will question how personal expression and cultural context shape creativity, which will reveal improvisation as an intrinsic form of adaptation that is essential to artistic expression, communication, and survival. Using a cross-cultural perspective, we will examine the similarities and differences of musical improvisation around the world, exploring themes such as freedom, community, free will, determinism, social justice, ethnicity, race, nationalism, class, gender, and sexuality. Using ethnomusicology’s interdisciplinary approach to learning about music and culture, this seminar will draw from anthropology, linguistics, social theory, sociology, psychology, and artists’ personal accounts. Class topics may include music in Turkey, Egypt, West Africa, India, Cantonese Opera, 20th-century experimental art music, improvised singing games in Nepal, free improvisation, international and American jazz, and turn tabling and DJing. This course will be taught in-person or, if necessary, online. Participation in Balinese Gamelan is strongly encouraged.

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Critical Race Theory: Philosophical Perspectives

Open, Lecture—Spring

What is race? In what ways have prominent political movements—such as liberalism, Marxism, and feminism—failed to fully address the significance of racism? How should the relationship between racial and gender identity be conceptualized? How do processes of racialization differ across the globe? Is the assertion of racial identity in conflict with universal humanism—or are these, in fact, necessarily connected? In this course, we will look at some of the major themes, debates, and questions within critical race theory from a historical and global perspective. In the first half of the course, we will engage with thinkers from the African continent and the Caribbean who centered issues of Black consciousness and decolonial, antiracist solidarity. We then look at some of the major historical forbearers of critical race theory within the United States before turning to contemporary debates. Some of the figures that we will be reading include Paulette Nardal, Léopold Senghor, Frantz Fanon, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. By foregrounding the plurality of critical-race theoretical traditions, this course provides students with the theoretical tools to critically engage problems central to current political realities and discourse. Group conferences will meet every week, and discussion will be a central part of the course.

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Decolonizing Philosophy

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will think about the various strategies for reforming the philosophical “canon” with decolonial aims in view. Some of the questions that will guide our discussions throughout the semester are: How does academic decolonization differ from political decolonization? What are the connections between philosophy as an academic discipline and the historical reality of colonialism? Does decolonial theory require a break with the Western tradition of thought? And, if not, what are the advantages and disadvantages of remaining in dialogue with the Western “canon”? What are the various decolonizing strategies, and what goals do they enact? In the first half of the course, we will read a variety of key texts within decolonial theory that propose very different answers to these questions. Some of the thinkers we will look at include Walter Mignolo, Marisa Belausteguigoitia, Audre Lorde, Kwasi Wiredu, Lewis Gordon, and Nadia Yala Kisukidi. The second half of the course then moves on to put into practice one strategy for decolonizing philosophy in order to allow us to engage these questions more concretely. This strategy involves reading “canonical” texts of European phenomenology—including texts by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger—through the lens provided by decolonial thinkers such as Paulin Hountondji, Frantz Fanon, and Mariana Ortega. Beyond equipping students with the tools to think critically about canon formation and the meaning of academic decolonization, this course will familiarize students with seminal texts in Latinx and Africana traditions of decolonial theory, as well as with critical and decolonial phenomenology.

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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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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon, whereby 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 begins with some theoretical perspectives on immigration, as well as a brief historical overview of sociological and social psychological research on immigrants. We then examine the identity of the immigrant, stressing the profound distinctions between forced and voluntary immigrants. We will analyze the processes through which “illegality” is constructed by reflecting on the lives of undocumented immigrants. We will look at how the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and culture shape the psychological experience of immigrants. Seeking to extend our analysis to immigration’s impact on the host population, we conclude the course by discussing several social psychological issues, such as intergroup relations, discrimination, and modes of adaptation.

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Childhood Across Cultures

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will explore child and adolescent development through a cross-cultural lens. Focusing on case studies from diverse communities around the world, we will look at the influence of cultural processes on how children learn, play, and grow. Our core readings will analyze psychological processes related to attachment and parenting, cognition and perception, social and emotional development, language acquisition, and moral development. We will ask questions like the following: Why are children in Sri Lanka fed by hand by their mothers until middle childhood, and how does that shape their relations to others through the life course? How does an Inuit toddler come to learn moral lessons through scripted play with adults, and how does such learning prepare them to navigate a challenging social and geographic environment? Is it true that Maya children don’t do pretend play at all? How does parental discipline shape the expression of emotion for children in Morocco? How does a unique family role influence the formation of identity for Latinx youth in the United States? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from developmental psychology, human development, cultural psychology, 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 and may opt to do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center.

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Urban Health

Open, Seminar—Fall

This community partnership course will focus on the health of humans living within physical, social, and psychological urban spaces. We will use a constructivist, multidisciplinary, multilevel lens to examine the interrelationship between humans and the natural and built environment, to explore the impact of social group (ethnic, racial, sexuality/gender) membership on person/environment interactions, and to explore an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness across the lifespan. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness; and we will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers or anyone interested in city life. The community-partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class. We will work with local agencies to promote health-adaptive, person-environment interactions within our community.

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Immigration and Identity

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This course asks how contemporary immigration shapes individual and collective identity across the life course. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach that bridges cross-cultural psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology, we will ask how people’s movement across borders and boundaries transforms their senses of self, as well as their interpersonal relations and connections to community. We will analyze how the experience of immigration is affected by the particular intersections of racial, ethnic, class, gender, generational, and other boundaries that immigrants cross. For example, how do 1.5-generation undocumented youth navigate the constraints imposed by “illegalized” identities, and how do they come to construct new self-perceptions? How might immigrants acculturate or adapt to new environments, and how does the process of moving from home or living “in between” two or more places impact mental health? Through our close readings and seminar discussions on this topic, we seek to understand how different forms of power—implemented across realms, including 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. In our exploration of identity, we will attend to the ways in which immigrants are left out of national narratives, as well as the ways in which people who move across borders draw on cultural resources to create spaces and practices of connection, protection, and continuity despite the disruptive effects of immigration. In tandem with our readings, we will welcome scholar/activist guest speakers, who will present their current work in the field.

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Doing Research With Young People

Open, 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. Fieldwork in partnership with the Early Childhood Center or Community Partnerships is also possible.

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Emerging Adulthood

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

We have time, energy, questions, and few responsibilities. We want to push the envelope, resist compromise, lead revolutions, and turn the world upside down. Because we do not yet know quite how to be, we have not settled and will not let the dust settle around us. —Karlin & Borofsky, 2003

Many traditional psychological theories of development posit a brief transition from adolescence to adulthood; however, many people moving into their 20s experience anything but a brief transition to “feeling like an adult,” pondering questions such as: How many SLC alums can live in a Brooklyn sublet? What will I do when I finish the Peace Corps next year? In this course, we will explore the psychological literature concerning emerging adulthood, the period from the late teens through the 20s. We will examine this period of life from a unified biopsychosocial and intersectional perspective.

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From Secure Communities to the DREAM Act: Critical Themes and Reflections in Immigration Policy, the Livelihoods of Migrants, and Societal Inequality

Open, Seminar—Spring

Immigration has been a recurring and polarizing political issue in the United States and globally. During the Trump administration, we witnessed sweeping changes to our immigration and enforcement systems. While some of those changes were sharp disjunctures from the previous Obama administration, others have roots and continuities with earlier administrations. Now, again, immigration is set to be a central part of public debate and policymaking. And yet, despite immigration having been a central part of public debate in contemporary politics, it is still debated as if it were ahistorical and decontextualized. In this semester-long course, students will explore critical themes in the study of immigration and policy. We will answer questions such as: How do federal, state, and local immigration policies and their linkages impact the livelihood of migrants, and what does that mean for the shaping of societal inequality? Where is the most effective location at which to effect policy change, why, and how? More specifically, this course will trace critical moments of immigration policymaking at multiple scales and in multiple arenas. We will also center the contemporary moment by exploring the policies of the Biden/Harris administration and situating these within broader trajectories of policymaking. Finally, students will contribute to ongoing debates by reflecting on where we are and what we can we do to create a better system and a more equitable society.

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Gold Hoops, Red Lipstick, and YHLQMDLG: The Cultural in Everyday Politics and The Political in Everyday Culture

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

While ideas of politics and policy change can focus on electoral and sometimes contentious politics, the role of culture is important in (re)shaping ideas and discourses on particular issues and as political acts in and of themselves. For example, the visual imagery, musical soundtracks, theatre productions of migrant justice, Black Lives Matter, climate justice, and many other social movements have aided in providing and disseminating counternarratives and political claims that disrupt everyday institutional politics. In doing so, these cultural productions can help to build movements and provide power to those on the outside seeking change. Everyday culture, however, can also be political. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sonia Sotomayor have raised the significance of gold hoops and red lipstick as fashion choices rooted in Latinx communities but also as symbols of disruption, as they are Latinx women traversing hegemonic political spaces. Trap artist Bad Bunny debuted his studio album, YHLQMDLG, during a mobile concert in New York that started in the Bronx, traveled through Washington Heights, and ended in Harlem. According to anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla, while on its face the concert was expressly apolitical, the route it traversed, the date it was planned, and the songs themselves posed a political critique of a history of governmental neglect; it marked the eve of the devastation of Hurricane Maria and traversed historically Latino communities that have been most devastated by the current pandemic. At the same time, the mobile concert provided Latino communities a respite, a moment of collective joy and celebration that was also a response and production of this time of social distancing and the end of large gatherings. Popular culture in the form of beauty, fashion, music, and other productions and practices is shaped by, and responds to, cultural, political, and historical forces in ways that can sustain or reject dominant hegemonic constructions. This course, then, aims to provide an understanding of how the political marshals culture, of how everyday practices of looking and consuming are mediated through fields of power, and of how these practices can become the locus of world-building for different marginalized communities. In centering culture in this course, race, immigration, and gender/sexuality become important axes of analysis, as they have been intimately linked with major social movements and with world-making on the margins. While the course will cover politics and popular culture historically, it will also highlight current movements and social issues and include a community engagement component that will help to situate the course’s themes in time and place.

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The Holocaust

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

The Holocaust raises fundamental questions about the nature of our civilization. How was it that a policy of genocide could be initiated and carried out in one of the most advanced and sophisticated countries of Europe, a country that produced many of the greatest thinkers and artists the world has seen? In this course, we will attempt to explain how those events took place, beginning with the evolution of anti-Semitic ideology and violence. At the same time, we will look at how victims chose to live out their last years and respond to the impending catastrophe through art, diary writing, mysticism, physical resistance, hiding, and so on. Finally, we will attempt to come to grips with the crucial, but neglected, phenomenon of bystanders—those who stood by while their neighbors were methodically annihilated. We shall inevitably be compelled to make moral judgments; but those will be of value only if they are informed and based on a fuller understanding of people and perspectives in this dark chapter of European history. This course will be run as a lecture/seminar hybrid.

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Jewish Life in Eastern Europe: A Diaspora Case Study

Open, Seminar—Fall

Nearly three-fourths of the world’s Jewish population once resided in Poland and Russia, producing a vibrant culture that has been celebrated in the paintings of Marc Chagall and plays like Fiddler on the Roof. Thanks to extensive self-government, economic niches like tavern-keeping, educational institutions like yeshivas, and spiritual subcultures like Hasidism, many Eastern European Jewish men and women enjoyed a stable, prosperous, and confident existence. The 19th and 20th centuries, however, witnessed a steady breakdown, manifested in interethnic tensions, violent pogroms, expulsions, and genocide. This course explores the ways in which East European Jews promoted their own self-empowering discourses about gender, law, spirituality, magic, the arts, and politics (e.g., radicalism, nationalism, orthodoxy), often in the face of cultural coercion, exclusion, or violence. At the end of the course, we follow the mass migration to America and then return to confront The Holocaust from the perspective of its four million Eastern European Jewish victims. Throughout, the sources of Eastern European Jewish history will be examined in light of foundational readings in postcolonial and diaspora theory.

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Modern Jewish Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

As Jews were emancipated in Europe and freed from the “ghetto,” many began to grapple with modernity through literary genres. Writers like Franz Kafka, Isaac Babel, Primo Levi, S. Y. Agnon, and Sholem Aleichem (whose short stories formed the basis of the play, Fiddler on the Roof) achieved universal acclaim. But the path of the modern Jewish writer was rarely smooth. It usually entailed alienation, rebellion against tradition, bouts of nostalgia, longing, regret, and confrontations with increasingly virulent forms of anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust. In new centers in America and Israel, the Jews’ improved and inverted power status yielded a different, but no less acute, sense of ambivalence, as witnessed in works by authors such as Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, Amos Oz, and David Grossman. Despite the tension and anguish that runs through modern Jewish literature, we will discover works of beauty and poignancy by men and women whose outsider, “pariah” status gave them a unique perspective on the world.

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Perspectives on 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

It has now been 20 years since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. How have perceptions changed about the events that occurred that day in 2001? Shortly after the attacks, then-President George W. Bush insisted that Islam was not to blame and, instead, framed the battle ahead as “the war on terror.” But what about those who insisted that what had happened was an almost inevitable result of the “clash of civilizations”? How did Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda frame the narrative and their part in it? What kinds of arguments were presented to justify the attack and the US military interventions that followed? In the wake of the attacks on 9/11, what has been called the “Islamophobia industry” developed and flourished, taking full advantage of new forms of media. What role has mainstream and alternative media played in how Muslims have been portrayed and the discrimination that they have faced in the years since 9/11? Ten years after the attacks, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum opened in New York City. How has that site and other memorials shaped the collective memory of the events, as well as the curriculum being taught to a generation born after 2001? In addition to the architects of these memorials, artists, writers, and filmmakers have explored the many religious, political, and social dimensions of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. How have those works of imagination expanded the ways in which people have made sense of, and found meaning in, painful events? While this seminar is being offered as a religion course, the approach is an interdisciplinary one that draws upon readings and other materials from a variety of academic, artistic, and literary fields.

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Jewish Autobiography: Between History & Literature

Open, Seminar—Spring

Autobiography is among the most contentious literary/historical genres, compromised by the fallibility of memory and the human tendency toward self-fashioning yet unique in the insights it affords into the lived experience of history. This course employs personal narratives as windows onto the Jewish transition to modernity. We begin with narratives by “traditional” Jewish men and women. We then proceed to the wrenching accounts of early detractors from tradition and then to writings by Jewish leaders of modern political movements like Zionism, Jewish Socialism, Communism, Orthodoxy, and Ultra-Orthodoxy. We conclude with individual perspectives on The Holocaust, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and American Jewish feminist, queer, and transgender self-narratives.

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First-Year Studies: Borders, Nations, and Mobilities: A Sociological Introduction

Open, FYS—Year

In this FYS seminar, students will be introduced to the field of borders and migration studies based in the social sciences. We will start by reading some key sociological theories that provide students with an overview of sociology as a discipline and its relevance both within a liberal-arts education and to a wider social and political context. We will then focus on readings that provide students with foundational knowledge in border studies, globalization, the role of nations, nation states and nationalism in society, and, last but not least, migration and displacement studies. Special focus will also be given to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on globalization, migration, and the rise of new nationalisms around the world. As part of the seminar’s “practicum” dimension, students will learn the basics of initiating, designing, and carrying out sociological research using various methods of data analysis, including surveys, statistics, interview, and field research. Throughout the year, students will have opportunities to engage in new and ongoing research projects related to the themes of nationalism, borders, and mobilities by engaging with cross-campus organizations, community partners, and broader initiatives such as the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education. Starting in the fall, students will be introduced to some of the resources on campus that are essential for their learning and academic progress at Sarah Lawrence, such as the library and the writing center. Students will be expected to take advantage of these resources as they learn the ropes of conducting research in the social sciences and refining their academic writing skills. In addition to our regular class sessions, students will meet with the faculty instructor weekly during the fall semester for conference meetings. Conference meeting times will be used to discuss the student’s progress in the class and, more generally, during their first semester at Sarah Lawrence. In the subsequent spring semester, we will move to a biweekly conference-meeting schedule, depending on the student’s ongoing progress and needs.

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Sociology of Global Inequalities

Open, Lecture—Spring

The focus of this lecture will be to introduce students to the processes and methods of conducting sociological research projects using a transnational and/or comparative lens. We will be taking, as our starting point, a set of global themes—loosely categorized as human rights, culture, migration, health, climate, and development— through which we will try to build our understanding of inequality in various forms and in different contexts. The approach we will take here in designing research will be one that aims to move beyond the national or the nation state as a bounded “container” of society and social issues; rather, we will aim at a better understanding of how different trends, processes, transformations, structures, and actors emerge and operate in globally and transnationally interconnected ways. For example, we can look at migration not simply through the lens of emigration/immigration to and from particular countries but also through the lens of flows and pathways that are structured via transnational relationships and circuits of remittances, exchanges, and dependencies. As part of group conferences, students will be asked to identify one of the key global themes through which they will examine issues of inequality, using a range of methods for data collection and analysis—datasets from international organizations, surveys, questionnaires, historical records, reports, and ethnographic accounts—which they will then compile into research portfolios produced as a group.

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Both Public and Private: The Social Construction of Family Life

Open, Seminar—Year

Many of us take for granted the dichotomy between public and private life. The former is frequently understood as abstract, distant, and a key site of power; the latter, as the site of warmth, intimacy and emotional sustenance. In this seminar, we will critically examine the assumptions underlying such idealized distinctions between public and private domains. Through such revisioning, it is hoped that we will better understand the public and private dimensions of the family, its complexity, and its historical variability. In particular, our analysis will enable us to critically examine notions that posit the inevitability of the nuclear, heterosexual family as a universal and “natural” institution. Through historical, cross-cultural materials and oral histories, we will look at the myriad ways in which personal and social reproduction occur; the relationship between distinct family forms and different systems of social organization and social movements; and the expression of class, gender, racial relations, and sexual relations in diverse familial settings. Throughout, we will be attentive to shifting boundaries between the private domain (often erroneously and transhistorically understood in familial terms) and public institutions and practices. The “private” domain of the family will be problematized as a site for the construction of identity and caring and, simultaneously, as a location that engenders compulsion and violence. In this latter context, we will examine how relations of domination and subordination are produced through the institution of the “family” and how resistance is generated to such dominant relations and constructions. The course will conclude with an examination of family forms in contemporary societies (single-parent, same-sex, fictive-kin based) and of public struggles over these various forms.

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Bad Neighbors: Sociology of Difference, Diversity, and Cosmopolitanism in the City

Open, Seminar—Fall

The focus of the seminar will be on questions of diversity, difference, and cosmopolitanism as it pertains to urban life in a contemporary American city such as Yonkers or New York City, as well as in urban societies around the world. We will take a sociological look at how urban communities experience, navigate, and transform social structures, relationships, and institutions in their everyday lives, as they deal with problems such as inequality, hate, and exclusion while co-existing with different and diverse populations. We will read books and essays by Arlie Hochschild, Asef Bayat, Yuval Noah Harari, Dina Neyeri, Robert Putnam, and others, as we explore ways in which cities embody particular histories as central while marginalizing others—and how communities and people in their everyday lives resist, alter, and decenter those histories and hierarchies. Through engaged field research, we will try to learn and understand how diverse communities of people work and live together; build and provide for the wider community; and rely on informal and formal opportunities, resources, and networks to make life in the city possible.

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The Sociology of Sports

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This is a course about sports as practice, and practice is used here in a multiple sense. As an embodied activity, sporting practice is felt and experienced in and through the body, which is its primary but not sole “habitus”—a term that French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu popularized when elaborating on his notion of “cultural capital.” In this course, taking the sporting body and Bourdieu’s concept of habitus (taste, habits, skills, dispositions) as our point of departure, we will examine sports and its habitation of worlds that reach far beyond the individual (body) in both time and space. We will examine sports along multiple axes: as a collective and/or individuated activity; as a source of leisure and recreation; as a source of profitable employment; as a site of identity and nation-building projects; and as a space that engenders transnational mobilities and interconnections, as well as ruptures. In its commoditized contemporary form, sports is, more often than not, controlled by big money and/or the state and is part and parcel of what Debord refers to as the “society of the spectacle,” a site of production, consumption, and entertainment. The complex relationship between sports as experienced through the body and as a set of disciplinary practices will allow us to think through the relation of the individual, the collective, and institutionalized power, linking these to questions of body politics. Taking the internal dynamics and meaning of sports seriously, we will engage sports as a contradictory field—as both a productive space and a space of consumption. Our readings will include scholarly works, sports journalism, films, documentaries, and other primary sources. Possible conference topics include sports and politics; analysis of particular sports events (e.g., the Olympics, women’s basketball, the World Cup); (auto)biographies and/or oral histories of athletes; sports and protest; “fitness,” health, and the body; gender, race, sexuality, (dis)ability, and sports; nationalism(s), national “styles,” and sports; and the phenomenology of sports.

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Advanced Beginning Spanish: Forms of Culture in the Information Age

Open, Seminar—Year

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, song lyrics, 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 and 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 the 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: 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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Stories and...

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

This class involves reading stories, telling stories, writing or recording stories, illustrating stories with photos or drawings. It involves becoming collectors of the storytelling all around us and analyzing its form, uses and pleasures. It includes oral and written storytelling, formal and informal, short and long, fantasies, tales, and gossip. It also involves practice in being both a leader and a member of a story group at the Wartburg Elder Care Residence in nearby Pelham. The class will be scheduled for three hours, which includes a group trip to and from Wartburg, where we will gather with residents either to be given or to choose a prompt, prepare our stories, and share them. Homework will involve reading, working together as author/illustrator with a classmate, and calling on family and friends to tell their stories. Anyone interested in their own or other people’s lives, in leadership and followership, in teaching, and in stories should consider this course.

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Edgy Memoirs

Open, Seminar—Fall

There are memoirs that people write when they’ve had a great acting career or been president of a large country. We read these for their historic/cultural value. Our interest is in the story of their lives. But another kind of memoir tries to tell another kind of truth. Those are more personal stories of dysfunction, addiction, oppression, and overcoming the odds. These stories may take us on alcoholic journeys or tales of abuse into scary families and scarier souls. They can also be funny, uplifting, and redemptive. In this workshop, we attempt to uncover that kind of truth; but this isn’t a class in autobiography; rather, it’s a class in telling a story. What differentiates these stories from other tales of grief and woe is that they are, quite simply, well-told. We will read memoirs by authors such as Michael Ondaatje, Kathryn Harrison, Garred Conley, Cathy Hong Park, David Sedaris, Nick Flynn, James McBride, and Jeanette Taylor, as well as memoirs by recent Sarah Lawrence graduates such as T Kira Madden and Anna Qu. And we will attempt to write one of our own. The emphasis will be on how to tell our stories. Exercises and prompts will be designed to help jumpstart you.

Faculty

Ecopoetry

Open, Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the living world—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read and write poems every week. We will ask questions: When did we begin to think of nature as apart from us? Why did we begin to speak of the animals as if we are not also animals? What are the stories and myths that have determined our attitude toward what we are and what we believe? We will read some of these stories and myths (myths of creation; Eden, the lost garden). We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder to utterly contemporary poets writing right now. We will read books and articles that teach us about the other animals and living entities that we call plants and trees and planets and galaxies. Each student will research an aspect of the living world and teach the rest of us what they have learned. And we will write poems that incorporate that knowledge. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class in weekly poetry dates. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the Earth, the air? How can poetry address the planetary emergency? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world, to pay attention, and to write poetry that matters. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

Faculty