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.

2019-2020 Courses

How Things Talk

Open , Lecture—Spring

A long-standing tradition within Western thought has conceptualized language as a system of signs clearly separate from material reality and aimed at enabling the transmission of information. The divide between the intangible realm of language and the material domain of things has dominated scholarship across several disciplines, leaking into common sense. This lecture course questions this deeply entrenched divide and suggests that, in order to understand our contemporary moment, we need to bring into the same analytical field both the linguistic and the material. The course readings provide an introduction to anthropology’s theories and methods through an investigation of how words and things mediate and enable human experience, creating the complex semiotic landscapes that we inhabit. Throughout the semester, students will be introduced to a series of theoretical and ethnographic readings aimed at illustrating the blurred boundaries between words and things, subjects and objects, signs and referents, artworks and artifacts, gifts and commodities, alienable and inalienable possessions. On the one hand, the course will challenge the classic language-world divide that has dominated both academic scholarship and popular common sense. Contrary to the view that language is exclusively a system of symbols that stand for and allow speaking about the world, a series of theoretical readings, practical exercises, and ethnographic case studies will reveal the materiality and performativity of language. Through this journey, language will appear as a material entity and as a form of action endowed with the power to shape the world. On the other hand, the course will dialogue with the emerging cross-disciplinary interest in materiality to invert the longstanding exploration of how people make things and generate a new reflection on how things make people. Contrary to the deeply entrenched opposition between subjects and objects, a selection of essays drawn from recent material culture studies will show how things mediate social relations and how inanimate objects may, in fact, be endowed with a form of agency.

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The Anthropology of Images

Open , Seminar—Fall

Images wavered in the sunlit trim of appliances, something always moving, a brightness flying, so much to know in the world.—Don Delillo, Libra

A few cartoons lead to cataclysmic events in Europe; a photograph printed in a newspaper moves a solitary reader; a snapshot posted on the Internet leads to dreams of fanciful places; memories of a past year haunt us like ghosts. What each of these occurrences has in common is that they all entail the force of images in our lives, be these images visual or acoustic in nature, made by hand or machine, or circulated by word of mouth or simply imagined. In this seminar, we will consider the role that images play in the lives of people in various settings throughout the world. In delving into terrains at once actual and virtual, we will develop an understanding of how people throughout the world create, use, circulate, and perceive images and how such efforts tie into ideas and practices of sensory perception, time, memory, affect, imagination, sociality, history, politics, and personal and collective imaginings. Through these engagements, we will reflect on the fundamental human need for images, the complicated politics and ethics of images, aesthetic and cultural sensibilities, dynamics of time and memory, the intricate play between the actual and the imagined, and the circulation of digital images in an age of globalization. Readings will include a number of writings in anthropology, art history, philosophy, psychology, cultural studies, and critical theory. Images will be drawn from photographs, paintings, sculptures, drawings, films, videos, graffiti, religion, rituals, tattoos, inscriptions, novels, poems, road signs, advertisements, dreams, fantasies, phantasms, and any number of fabulations in the worlds in which we live and imagine.

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Life, Death, and Violence in (Post)Colonial France and Algeria

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

But we must try to look more closely at the reality of Algeria. We must not simply fly over it. We must, on the contrary, walk step by step along the great wound inflicted on the Algerian soil and on the Algerian people. —Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 1959

This course attends to the multiple and complicated effects that French colonialism has had on the lives, bodies, institutions, and social, cultural, and political circumstances of Algerians and others living in Algeria and France. In attending to a number of important key historical events, colonial practices, and forms of domination, violence, and resistance—from centuries of French colonial rule in North Africa to the Algerian war of independence—we will consider a number of key conceptual themes, including colonialism and postcolonialism, state violence and terror, symbolic violence, personal and cultural trauma, personal and intergenerational memory, and the politics of traces, effacement, recognition, death, burial, and martyrdom. We will also give serious thought to literary, photographic, and filmic representations of violence, recovery, and creative renewal. Along the way, we will engage with a number of highly significant thinkers and writers—including Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Mouloud Feraoun, Kateb Yacine, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Foucault, Assia Djebar, Leïla Sebbar, Tahar Djaout, Albert Memmi, and Achille Mbembe—and watch and discuss a series of important films, including The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontocorvo, 1967), Chronicle of the Years of Ember (Mohammed Lakhdar Hamina,1975), and Caché (Michael Haneke, 2006). Students will be asked in their conference work to undertake a concerted research and writing project related to the themes of the course.

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On Whiteness: An Anthropological Exploration

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

Putih, Blanken, Blankes, Wazungu, Caucasian, Blanc, White, Oyibo, Onye ocha, Brancos, Blancos...all these words, in different parts of the world, have denoted particular populations as white. Who counts as white people varies, however, and has as much to do with behaviors and perceptions as with pigmentation. Settlers in overseas colonies, for example, ensured their ongoing privileged whiteness through particular behaviors, including racial segregation and the creation of leisurely pursuits and manners that mimicked the metropole. Whiteness is a complicated and messy category of particular relevance at this historical moment, and we will approach it in several ways. First, we will consider the discipline of anthropology as the source of an analytical toolkit. Having mastered that, we can conduct a more critical exploration of the discipline of anthropology and its practitioners’ work on questions of white and nonwhite. We will then turn to the examination of particular sites where whiteness has been generated and contested. These include the Dutch colonies of South Africa and Indonesia and British-occupied Kenya, followed by contemporary and more local expressions of whiteness—including white nationalism and popular culture in postwar Great Britain and shifting notions of whiteness in the United States. In all of our explorations, we will examine the constructions of whiteness as it articulates with gender, class, sexuality, and popular culture and with broader political contexts. Our resources will include anthropological texts, film, memoir, and fiction. The structure of the seminar is discussion based on readings. All students will participate in the discussions, both by speaking and by listening to each other.

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Telling Lives: Life History Through Anthropology

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Through studying life-history narratives (one person’s life as narrated to another), autobiographical memoir, 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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Spaces of Exclusion, Places of Belonging

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

How do people construct meaningful places in a favela in Brazil or in the hill farms of Scotland? What should we make of “place-less” spaces or states, such as those instantiated through technologies like social media or Hindu yogic and meditative practice? How should we understand notions of displacement, transborder identifications, or longings for homeland as they play out for Sierra Leonean Muslims in Washington, DC, Ecuadorians in Italy, or indigenous Latin American migrants in California and Wyoming? This course explores issues of identity and difference, locality and community, in the context of transnational mobility and the globalized flow of people, ideas, values, and things. Engaging with recent scholarly work in the fields of anthropology, critical race studies, critical indigenous studies, sociology, geography, architecture, and literature, we will seek to decode sociospatial arrangements to better understand structures and processes of exclusion and marginalization. At the same time, we will observe how people’s navigations through space and their efforts at “place-making” create sites of collective identity, resistance, belonging, and recognition. Posed in a wide range of ethnographic contexts, our efforts to puzzle through these issues will require attention to the ways in which space and place are, for instance, embodied, gendered, racialized, and (il)legalized. We will likewise attend to the politics and ethics of decolonizing scholarship on space and place and to the meanings of an engaged anthropology that leans toward social justice.

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First-Year Studies: Histories and Theories of Photography

Open , FYS—Year

What is a photograph? This course looks at that question from many different vantage points, including photography theory, social history, art history, media theory, and material culture studies. How is a photograph both a transcription of the world—an index, decal, or one-to-one transfer of a thing—and a representation, a culturally-encoded image that tells us about how we see ourselves and others in the world? We each hold thousands of photographs on our phones, but they are digital, disembodied, and dematerialized images that are simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. What can the history of photography (from 1839 to the present) teach us about the medium’s materiality—or how photographs were to be found in albums, lavish frames, photobooks, archives, the wall in a museum, or as slides projected on a screen? What do these material histories tell us about what photography was—and now is? This course will look closely at specific themes within the history and theory of photography, including: documentary aesthetics and discourses of colonization; photography’s archival practices and forms of social control; identity politics and the photographic representation of visibility; digitization and contemporary photography; globalization, labor, and photojournalism; and the ethics and politics of the photography of war and violence. Not a comprehensive survey, this course instead looks at focused case studies structured chronologically. We will do close readings of theoretical and primary source texts and consider scholarly, literary, and aesthetic texts. The course also places strong emphasis on what it means to write about and describe photographs. Whenever possible, we will look at photographs in person. Individual conference meetings will alternate biweekly with group activities that may include field trips to New York City collections, writing workshops, and research sessions in the library.

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Feminist Economics

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course has two sections; students should sign up for either the Monday/Wednesday section or the Tuesday/Thursday section. Some prior experience in economics is recommended.

Feminist economics arose as a critique of many of the fundamental assumptions underlying mainstream economics. For instance, feminist economics interrogates the androcentric and Eurocentric assumptions behind economics’ “homo economicus,” the supposedly autonomous individual who collects (freely available) unbiased information and makes rational decisions, self-interested in the market and altruistic in the home. Over the past 30 years, feminist economics has developed into coherent perspective in its own right. This approach acknowledges and investigates the existence of power differentials by race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, nation, and other variables in both the home and the market; it studies human behavior in relationship rather than as autonomous individuals; and it proposes policies to measure and to maximize the well-being of families and communities. This course will examine the underlying theoretical assumptions of this emerging paradigm and its application to questions of economic policy. Topics to be covered include: what we mean by “the economy,” which activities and transactions “count” (and “should count”) as economic, and the implications of these definitions; the role of unpaid caring labor and of publicly provided services to both individual economic success and national economic development; the persistence of both occupational segregation and wage differentials—explanations for and policies to mitigate these inequalities; the impact of domestic violence and other forms of nonmarket coercion on economic success; the conceptualization and measurement of economic development and success; and the capabilities approach and new measures of economic growth. In addition to class participation, requirements for the course will include frequent short essays on the readings and working in small groups to present those readings. In lieu of writing a conference paper, it may be possible for some students to engage in service-learning at My Sister's Place (a local domestic violence shelter) or another local feminist organization.

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The Geography of Contemporary China: A Political Ecology of Reform, Global Integration, and Rise to Superpower

Open , Seminar—Fall

Some experience in the social sciences is desirable but not required. Advanced first-year students are welcome to interview.

Despite widespread daily reporting on China’s rise to superpower status—and both its challenge to and necessary partnership with the United States—what do we really know about the country? In this seminar, we will explore China’s evolving place in the world through political-economic integration and globalization processes. Throughout the seminar, we will compare China with other areas of the world within the context of the broader theoretical and thematic questions mentioned below in detail. We will consistently focus our efforts on reframing debates, both academic and in mass media, to enable new insights and analyses not only concerning China but also in terms of the major global questions—in theory, policy, and practice—of this particular historical moment. We will begin with an overview of contemporary China, discussing the unique aspects of China’s modern history, and the changes and continuities from one era to the next. We will explore Revolutionary China and the subsequent socialist period to ground the seminar’s focus: post-1978 reform and transformation to the present day. Rooted in the questions of agrarian change and rural development, we will also study seismic shifts in urban and industrial form and China’s emergence as a global superpower on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. We will analyze the complex intertwining of the environmental, political-economic, and sociocultural aspects of these processes, as we interpret the geography of contemporary China. Using a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will analyze a series of contemporary global debates: Is there a fundamental conflict between the environment and rapid development? What is the role of the peasantry in the modern world? What is the impact of different forms of state power and practice? How does globalization shape China’s regional transformation? And, on the other hand, how does China’s global integration impact development in every other country and region of the world? Modern China provides immense opportunities for exploring key theoretical and substantive questions of our time. A product first and foremost of its own complex history, other nation-states and international actors and institutions—such as the World Bank, transnational corporations, and civil society—have also heavily influenced China. The “China model” of rapid growth is widely debated in terms of its efficacy as a development pathway and, yet, defies simple understandings and labels. Termed everything from neoliberalism, to market socialism, to authoritarian Keynesian capitalism, China is a model full of paradoxes and contradictions. Not least of these is the country's impact on global climate change. Other challenges include changing gender relations, rapid urbanization, and massive internal migration. In China today, contentious debates continue on land reform, the pros and cons of global market integration, the role of popular culture and the arts in society, how to define ethical behavior, the roots of China’s social movements—from Tian’anmen to current widespread social unrest and discontent among workers, peasants, students, and intellectuals—and the meaning and potential resolution of minority conflicts in China’s hinterlands. Land and resource grabs in China and abroad are central to China’s rapid growth and role as an industrial platform for the world, but the resulting social inequality and environmental degradation challenge the legitimacy of China’s leadership like never before. As China borders many of the most volatile places in the contemporary world and increasingly projects its power to the far corners of the planet, we will conclude our seminar with a discussion of global security issues, geopolitics, and potential scenarios for China’s future. Weekly selected readings, films, mass media, and books will be used to inform debate and discussion. A structured conference project will integrate closely with one of the diverse topics of the seminar.

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Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Some experience in the social sciences is desirable but not required.

In this intermediate 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 the term. The case studies will also 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 the United States. 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, students will be encouraged to do primary research over spring break.

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First-Year Studies: Literature, Culture, and Politics in US History, 1770s–1970s

Open , FYS—Year

This is an interdisciplinary course in which we use literature and other cultural texts to illuminate a history of ideas 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; that they do, 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, therefore, 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, hence, 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 and 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 to 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.

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Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders: Rethinking the Black Freedom Struggle

Open , Seminar—Year

Why do we know so little about the crowded field of women in the leadership of the black freedom struggle? When students imagine the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement, most see figures only like Martin Luther King, Jr and Thurgood Marshall; however, a new generation of historians is rethinking the freedom struggle so that students might begin to see the leadership of Gloria Richardson at the helm of the Cambridge Movement in Maryland, Ella Baker at the helm of New York’s NAACP, Diane Nash at the helm of the Freedom Rides, Septima Clark at the helm of the Citizenship Schools, Fannie Lou Hamer at the helm of the Mississippi Movement, Ericka Huggins at the helm of the Black Panther’s Oakland Community School, Amina Baraka at the helm of the African Free School and the Black Women’s United Front, and Johnnie Tillmon at the helm of the National Welfare Rights Organization. This seminar will interrogate the role of Yuri Kochiyama in the founding of the Black Panther Party and the Republic of New Africa, Denise Oliver in the development of the Young Lords Party, and Vicki Garvin in the building of the National Negro Labor Council. Those women claimed a tradition that they traced back to Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, and Claudia Jones. Historians are recovering the stories of hundreds of women writers, artists, actors, and activists in the Black Renaissance. Thus, students in this seminar will research some of those important subjects.

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The Sixties

Open , Seminar—Year

According to our national mythology, social insurgencies of the 1960s originated in the United States and pitted radical youth against the American mainstream. The real story is much more complicated. Politically speaking, the “sixties” began in the mid-1940s and extended into the late 1970s; the ferment was by no means confined to youth; and developments within the United States reflected global patterns. Revolutionary movements and ideas reverberated from Asia and Africa to Europe and the Americas, and they mobilized people from virtually all walks of life. This course situates US movements within their global contexts and explores movements that unfolded overseas. On both fronts, we focus especially on revolutionary nationalism and its various permutations among activists grappling with issues of colonialism, class, race, gender, and sexuality. Readings include both historical documents and scholarship, and the syllabus makes ample use of music and film.

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Diversity and Equity in Education: Issues of Gender, Race, and Class

Advanced , Seminar—Year

The education system is a central institution in the socialization of young people and the maintenance of the modern nation-state. Schools support meritocratic models of society by providing opportunities for social mobility. Paradoxically, schools also reproduce gender, racial, and class inequality. In this course, we will examine the roles that schools play in the transmission of culture, formation of identity, and reproduction of social structures. Paying special attention to gender and its intersection with other social categories, we will look at practices and policies that shape students’ performance as they strive for competence, achievement, and acceptance. We will also analyze the larger political and economic contexts that shape both schools and the communities in which they are situated.

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Women, Culture, and Politics in US History

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Through fiction, memoir and cultural criticism, political activism, and popular culture, American women have expressed their ideas and their desires, their values and their politics. This course will approach US history through the words and actions of all kinds of American women from the early 19th century through the late 20th century. Using both primary sources and histories narrow and broad, we will explore questions of race, class, sexuality, and gender and analyze the ways in which women have intervened and participated in the political and cultural world. This is a research seminar. Considerable attention will be paid to the development or refinement of a fluent and graceful expository writing style, well buttressed by the careful use of evidence.

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Public Stories, Private Lives: Theories and Methods of Oral History

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

The goal of this class is to introduce students to the best practices of oral-history interviewing, theory, and methodology. Oral-history methodology has moved from being a contested approach to studying history to becoming an integral method for learning about the past. Around the world, oral history has been used to uncover the perspectives of marginalized groups (women, ethnic minorities, workers, LGBTQI communities) and to challenge “official” historical narratives. It is now a mainstay of social history, helping researchers uncover voices that might otherwise be marginalized or ignored. In this regard, oral history has become one of the most important methods in a historian’s toolkit. Life histories enable us to focus on individual experiences and consider the historical significance of one person’s life. Long used by anthropologists and sociologists, life-history methods continue to be rediscovered by historians seeking to enrich their understandings of the past. Conducting oral-history or life-history research entails more than listening to someone talk and recording what he or she has to say. Researchers must approach their work with knowledge, rigor, respect, and compassion for their research subjects. Toward the goal of developing those skills, this class will focus on several contentious questions associated with oral history. Questions that we will ask include: Is there a feminist oral history that is different from other kinds of historical inquiry? What is the role of memory? What is the role of intersubjectivity, and how much does the researcher influence the interview process? How should researchers catalogue and make their work accessible? Are there ethical considerations to doing oral-history or life-history research, and are they different from other types of historical methodologies? How have social-media and digital technologies changed the practice of oral history, and what ethical/methodological questions do those technologies raise?

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Gender, Race, and Media: Historicizing Visual Culture

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

What does it mean, from a historical perspective, to live in a society immersed in visual technologies? How does power figure into past and contemporary viewing practices? In this course, we will explore the field of visual culture in order to develop a critical framework through which we may understand visual perception as a set of practices that inform, and are informed by, structures of power. We will accomplish this by focusing on the rich scholarship of visual culture theory; media and communication scholarship that foregrounds gender and racial analysis; and the excellent scholarship that bridges media/visual studies and women’s history. We will work with a variety of mediums, including art, advertising, film, and digital media. Readings span the 19th century through the contemporary era. Nineteenth-century scholarship focuses on the rise of “commodity racism” and the production and circulation of imagery of the other within the context of industrialization, commercial advertising, and immigration. Twentieth-century topics include the development of modern/postmodern aesthetic and philosophical frameworks, the notion of the gaze, and the rise of a global media landscape. An examination of contemporary viewing practices will enable us to consider some of the implications of an increasingly fractured “mediascape” and hyperniche digital content.

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Who Tells Your Story? Cultural Memory and the Mediation of History

Advanced , Seminar—Spring

Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

Media scholar Marita Sturken states that cultural memory “represents the many shifting histories and shared memories that exist between a sanctioned narrative of history and personal memory.” Sanctioned sites of remembrance, such as memorials and museums, indicate the extent to which cultural memory operates on regional, national, and global levels. As memorials are created to represent a specific point or event in history, they may also be understood as forms of media or technologies of cultural memory that produce meanings and contain their own revealing histories. This course examines the way in which objects of historical mediation, such as memorials, have a story to tell about the politics of remembrance and of forgetting. We explore how, through those objects, shifting histories collapse into one another and the technologies of cultural memory continue to take on renewed interest and urgency in the present. In addition to memorials, we focus on museums, documentaries, historical fiction, and the role of oral history in shaping regional and national historical narratives. We take an intersectional approach to this topic, and our time span falls roughly from the Civil War to the contemporary era—focusing primarily on the United States but also including African, European, and other forms of memorialization outside of the United States.

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Global Queer Literature: Dystopias and Hope

Open , Seminar—Fall

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, Britain, 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 these 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 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. Assignments for this course will include one presentation, two short class essays (6-8 pages), and your conference paper. Potential primary texts: Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain (1905); Passing, Nella Larsen (1929); Lihaaf, Ismat Chugtai (1942); Douloti the Bountiful, Mahasweta Devi (1995); The House of Hunger, Dambudzo Marechera (1978); The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi (1990); Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee (1999); Elizabeth Costello, J. M. Coetzee (2003); Bloodchild, Octavia Butler (1994); Animal’s People, Indra Sinha (2007); 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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First-Year Studies: European Literature: Past and Present

Open , FYS—Year

Literature defines the identity of cultures and nations perhaps more powerfully than anything else, bringing together peoples, races, and communities. This gives a special significance to the importance of translation. In a world where borders have become obsolete in many ways, approaching other cultures through their artistic manifestations is an essential necessity. Literature is one of these manifestations, as it defines societies and communities beyond the fluid notion of nationality, now in process of transformation worldwide. Geopolitically, all continents have an astonishing wealth of literatures; and in a global context, Europe—the subject of radical transformations in the last decades—is just one of them. The seat of ancient civilizations and empires that conquered the rest of the world, the Europe of today is dramatically different from what it once was. After the devastation brought by war and genocide and the collapse of formidable utopias, contemporary European reality is extraordinarily elusive and complex. Immigrants and refugees are at the base of the radical transformation being experienced on the continent. More than 40 languages are spoken in almost as many European countries nowadays, each of them represented by a vibrant body of literature produced, to a great extent, by men and women with deep cultural roots in distant places. The face of Old Europe has changed through a process that cannot be reversed and has become unrecognizable. In this course, we will study the literary manifestations of the new Europe, a multicultural, multiethnical, linguistically diverse, and immensely varied conglomerate of societies. Before we confront the vitality of the newer literary manifestations, we will study a number of canonical texts from the past. In our approach, we will pay special attention to Europe’s youngest generations of authors, with a special focus on women writers. We will examine sociopolitical displacements resulting from the impact of immigration and the incessant arrival of unwanted refugees. In group conference, we will pay attention to other cultural manifestations—mainly studying old and new forms of music and, very specially, film. Individual conference meetings will alternate biweekly with small-group conference meetings that will incorporate research methods, writing workshops for conference projects, field trips, and films, as well as the study of old and new forms of music complementing our texts.

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First-Year Studies: The Perils of Passion: Ancient Greek History for Today’s Troubled Times

Open , FYS—Year

Are we unwittingly reliving the past? Authoritarianism, magical thinking, and tribalism are beginning to characterize the 21st century as they characterized archaic Greece. Over centuries, however, the ancient Greeks experienced a movement in the opposite direction: They began to prioritize reality, condemn tyranny, and experiment with broader forms of political participation. In the fifth century BCE, the ancient Greeks devised, simultaneously, the concepts of history and democracy. As the Athenians were experimenting with the world’s first-ever democratic political institutions, the historians Herodotus and Thucydides distinguished history from myth and offered examples of behaviors to emulate or to avoid. These early historians can help us today to analyze facts, identify causes and consequences, and avoid the pitfalls of the past. Students will read (in English translation) Herodotus’s Histories and Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War, as well as selected works by Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristotle, and Ps.-Xenophon. Students will meet with the instructor individually for a half-hour conference once every two weeks. On the alternate weeks, when individual conferences do not meet, the entire class will meet for a group conference.

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Doing It for the Culture: Journeys Through Revelation, Aspiration, and Soul

Open , Seminar—Year

Is it possible to teach or produce African American literature without discussing black identity, the African, or the experiences within the African diaspora? For students of literature and ethnic studies, “literature” can connote fine lines; but African American literature and those who write within it are writing within a specific history. Thus, how does the literature provide a space for sustaining the cultural traditions of African Americans, interracial relations, queer black bodies, blackness as pathology, and blackness as an Afrofuture? The class begins with Phillis Wheatley’s “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” or from the “Dark Continent,” as it was named by imperialists. Before we turn to America, we shall first turn to the African before she became African American. Throughout the semester, we will source and investigate the poetics of spirituals and visual culture that provoke the black experience in America. This course begins in the fall with a theme on “chains and freedom,” as we look to writings of the 18th- and 19th-century Afrofuturists; but the course will continue into the spring with a theme on Afrofuturism as a modern rumination of aspiration and possibility. During the spring component, we will endeavor to identify the impact of modern African American literature, visual culture, feminism, queer visibility, and class consciousness within hip hop culture. On thinking of Amy Sherald’s spectacular painting in the National Portrait Gallery, “Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama,” Sherald remarked that Mrs. Obama is painted in grayscale to represent the past, present, and future—simultaneously. We shall turn to the literature to understand more fully what that sentiment could mean for modern writers and artists who are greatly influenced by the blueprints left behind by the late and great writers and by artists who came before them.

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Comparative Literary Studies and Its Others

Open , Seminar—Fall

As a discipline that defines itself as an inherently interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and transnational enterprise, comparative literature occupies a distinct place in the humanities. Many locate the origins of “comp lit” in Goethe’s conception of Weltliteratur, according to which the literary imagination transcends national and linguistic borders even as it views every work of literature as historically situated and aesthetically unique. Since its beginnings, comparative literature has foregrounded the dynamic tensions between text and context, rhetoric and structure—comparing different works within and across genre, period, and movement in their original language. By balancing theoretical readings in/about comparative literature with concrete examples of close textual analyses of poems, short stories, and novels, this course will also expose students to the ways in which comparative literature has expanded from its previous classically cosmopolitan and fundamentally Eurocentric perspectives to its current global, cultural configurations. Comparative literature is continually reframing its own assumptions, questioning its critical methodologies, and challenging notions of center and periphery—therefore, subverting traditional definitions of the canon and which writers belong in it. Today, it is impossible to study comparative literature without engaging its relation to translation studies, postcolonial and diaspora studies, and globalization, as well as to the ongoing concerns and various approaches of language-rich literary criticism and theory.

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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 story-telling and self-consciously “literary” forms, register all 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 tales, 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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Slavery: A Literary History

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course aims to provide a long view of literary representations and responses to slavery and the slave trade in the Americas, from William Shakespeare to Toni Morrison. Expressing the conflicted public conscience—and perhaps the collective unconscious—of a nation, literature registers vividly the human costs (and profits) and dehumanizing consequences of a social practice whose legacy still haunts and implicates us. We will study some of the major texts that stage the central crises in human relations, social institutions, and human identity provoked by slavery, considering in particular how those texts represent the perverse dynamics and identifications of the master-slave relationship; the systematic assaults on family, identity, and community developed and practiced in slave-owning cultures; modes of resistance, survival, and subversion cultivated by slave communities and individuals in order to preserve their humanity and reclaim their liberty; and retrospective constructions of, and meditations on, slavery and its historical consequences. Since literary structure and style are not only representational but also are means of subversion, resistance, and reclamation, we will do a lot of close reading. Readings will be drawn from the works of William Shakespeare, Aimé Cesaire, Aphra Behn, Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Edward P. Jones. Conference work may entail more extended work in any of these writers or literary modes or other writers engaged in the representation and interrogation of slavery; may be developed around a major theme or topic; and may include background study in history, philosophy, geography, politics, or theory.

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Introduction to Social Theory: Philosophical Tools for Critical Social Analysis

Open , Lecture—Year

How can social order be explained in modern societies that are too large, fluid, and complex to rely on tradition or self-conscious political regulation alone? Social theory is a distinctly modern tradition of discourse centered on answering this question and focused on a series of theorists and texts whose works gave rise to the modern social sciences, overlap with some of the most influential modern philosophy, and provide powerful tools for critical understanding of contemporary social life. The theorists whose works form the backbone of this course explore the sources of social order in structures, many of which work “behind the backs” of the awareness and intentions of those whose interaction they integrate and regulate. The market economy, the legal and administrative state, the firm and the professions, highly differentiated political and civil cultures, racial and gender order, a variety of disciplinary techniques inscribed in diverse mundane practices—one by one, these theorists labored to unmask the often-hidden sources of social order in the modern world. Moreover, this understanding of social order has evolved side-by-side with evaluations that run the gamut, from those that view Western modernity as achieving the apex of human freedom and individuality to those that see it as insinuating a uniquely thorough and invidious system of domination. This class will introduce many of the foundational texts and authors in social theory, the social sciences, and social philosophy—including Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, and Jürgen Habermas. In this way, we will also cover various schools of social explanation, including: Marxism, structuralism, poststructuralism, and (in group conferences) critical race theory, postcolonial studies, and feminism. The thread connecting these disparate authors and approaches will be the issue of the worth or legitimacy of Western modernity, the historical process that produced capitalism, representative democracy, religious pluralism, the modern sciences, ethical individualism, secularism, fascism, communism, new forms of racism and sexism, and many “new social movements.” Which of the institutions and practices that structured the process of modernization are worth defending or reforming? Which should be rejected outright? Or should we reject them all and embrace a new, postmodern social epoch? In addressing these issues, we will grapple both with classical texts and with the contemporary implications of different approaches to social analysis.

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Democracy, Diversity, and (In)equality

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Modern democracy, as defended by its most progressive advocates, promised to resurrect an ancient form of popular self-rule on a newly inclusive and egalitarian foundation. At certain points in recent history, it has seemed credible to believe that the “moral arc of the universe bends toward justice”—i.e., that the long-term trend of modern political life moved in the direction of democratic polities that treated all members with equal concern and respect; realized genuine fair equality of opportunity for all; limited social inequality so as to render it compatible with political equality; and repaired historical injustices like those rooted in race, gender, sexuality, and class. Since the beginning of the current century, however, this claim has appeared far less credible. Instead, modern politics appears increasingly less equal, inclusive, just, and democratic. On the one hand, democratic societies have become increasingly unequal as a result of globalization, changes in the nature and remuneration of work, new policies and technology, and new political conditions. On the other, the hitherto dominant (understood variously in racial, ethnic, national, gender, and/or religious terms) appear increasingly unwilling to surrender their privileges in the name of social justice, diversity, or inclusion—even while democratic societies are increasingly diverse as a result of immigration and demographic shifts and their citizens less willing to “forget” their many differences to melt into a dominant national culture. These two trends are far from unrelated: The failure to preserve fair distributions of income, wealth and opportunity contribute to the rise of nationalism and reactionary populism, while the fracturing of common civic identities undermines the resources of commonality and solidarity needed to resist the concentration of wealth and power in ever-smaller elite circles. These developments raise some basic questions: Is 21st-century democracy increasingly an instrument of unjust politics, impotent in the face of the social changes that globalization and galloping technological change produce, and perhaps simply doomed? Or might it be possible to reform democracy to render it compatible with conditions of deep diversity while also making it capable of securing the requisite degrees of political and social equality? This course will explore these questions in a number of ways. We will study exemplary historical statements of the ideal of democracy, drawing on traditional works in political philosophy. We will also draw on contemporary work in sociology, anthropology, cultural and legal studies, and political science to examine the nature of social and cultural diversity—including religion, class, gender, sexuality, and race. We will draw on a similar range of disciplines to seek to comprehend the causes and consequence of the widening inequality characteristic of almost all economically advanced democratic societies. Finally, we will explore works that bring these themes together by examining current scholars efforts to (re-)articulate the ideal and practice of democracy in light of increased diversity and inequality.

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Cultural Psychology of Development

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: previous course in psychology or another social science.

Cultural psychology is the study of the ways in which individual and culture, subject and object, person and world constitute each other. This course will explore how children and adolescents make meaning of their experiences in the contexts in which they live—assuming that, for all of us, development is an ongoing response to the cultural life around us and that culture is a dynamic process of engagement. We will consider topics such as: language and culture, early storytelling in families, transitions from home to school, and gendered and racial identities. We will read a combination of psychological and anthropological texts. Questions to be explored include: How are a sense of self and place constituted in early childhood? How are these values expressed in children’s stories, art, and play? How do adolescents navigate differing language communities and cultural values in forging their identities? What are some of the implications for public education in this country? Students will have the opportunity to do fieldwork in school or community settings and to use conference work to bridge reading and practical experience.

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First-Year Studies: Culture in Mind

Open , FYS—Year

In this FYS seminar, we will keep culture in mind as we explore the diversity of human behavior and experience across the globe. We will pay close attention to how culture influences psychological processes such as cognition, perception, and emotion, as well as people’s sense of self and their relations to the social world. Through our readings and discussions on the connections between culture and mind across the life course, we will ask questions such as the following: How does an Inuit child come to learn the beliefs and values that structure adult social life on a Canadian island? Is the experience of grief or anger universal or distinct in different societies? Why do some people experience cultural syndromes such as nervios or susto and others anxiety or depression? How does immigration influence Latinx adolescents’ identity? Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, our course material will draw from cultural psychology, human development, and psychological anthropology and will include peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and films that address core issues in a range of geographic and sociocultural contexts. Students will conduct a yearlong conference project related to the central topics of our course.

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Global Child Development

Intermediate , Small seminar—Fall

Prerequisite: a college-level course in the social sciences

The majority of the world’s children live in the global South, yet less than 10% of developmental science research has studied communities that account for 90% of the world’s population. Thus, there is a desperate need to better understand child and adolescent development outside of the United States and Western Europe. In this course, we will begin to do this by exploring what is currently known about children’s health and nutrition, motor and cognitive language, and social and emotional development across the globe. Where the research is limited, we will consider if and when research in the global North can be informative regarding child development in the global South. As we do this, we will discuss various bioecocultural approaches to better map out the connections between multiple factors, at multiple levels, impacting children’s developmental outcomes. Such holistic, multidisciplinary approaches will lay a foundation for sustainable, context-appropriate, community-based projects to better understand and reduce the aversive effects of multiple environmental risk factors on the development of children across the globe. These approaches will also help us understand and build upon the opportunities afforded by different contexts. Readings will be drawn from both classic and contemporary research in developmental and cultural psychology, psychobiology, anthropology, sociology, and public health, with a critical eye toward understanding both the usefulness and the limitations of this research in light of the populations studied and the methodologies employed. To better understand these contexts, we will also read the literary work of both classic and contemporary authors from the global South. Conference work will provide the opportunity for students to focus on a particular context of children’s lives in greater detail. This may include fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or in another setting with children. This is a small collaborative seminar. In addition to the class meeting time, students will meet in small working groups throughout the semester.

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Immigration and Identity

Open , Seminar—Spring

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 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 that include state-sponsored surveillance and immigration enforcement, language and educational policy, health and social services—shape and constrain immigrants’ understanding of their place in the world and their experience of exclusion and belonging. 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.

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Intersectionality Research Seminar

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Students who have studied race/ethnicity, gender, or sexuality in at least one other class would be best prepared to take this class.

This class is a hands-on introduction to conducting qualitative and quantitative psychological research on the intersection of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. Although research is an indispensable part of scientific endeavors, the conduct of research itself is part scientific ritual and part art form. In this class, we will learn both the science and the art of conducting ethical research with diverse participants. What is the connection of race, sexuality, and gender within an American multicultural and multiethnic society? Is there a coherent, distinct, and continuous self existing within our postmodern, paradigmatic, etc. contexts? How is the sexual/racial/gendered implicated in the creation of this self-identity? Is there principled dynamic or developmental change in our concepts of self, whether as human beings, sexual beings, and/or racial/ethnic beings? This class explores the analysis of race, ethnicity, and sexualities within psychology and the broader social sciences; how those constructs implicitly and explicitly inform psychological inquiry; and the effects of those constructs on the “psychology” of the individual in context. This class regularly moves beyond psychology to take a broader, social-science perspective on the issue of intersectionality.

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First-Year Studies: From Schools to Prisons: Inequality and Social Policy in the United States

Open , FYS—Year

Inequality and social policy go hand in hand in the United States. From the schools to the criminal justice system, policies structure our lives by either contributing to or helping to scale back inequality. This course introduces students to policymaking through the lens of different issue areas in the United States. Students will examine major policy areas—including immigration, criminal justice, health, and education—along three axes. First, we will explore these areas socially and historically to see how debates and policies have evolved. We will also draw from the social-science literature to examine the strengths and weaknesses and the intended and unintended consequences of those policies. Second, we will explore the complicated system of institutions that have the power to make public-policy decisions in each of those areas and across federal, state, and local levels. Finally, we will explore the role of different actors in attempting to influence and implement policy—organized interests, experts, and local communities. Students will leave the class with an understanding of major policy issues, policymaking, and how to effect policy change. This foundational information will feed into broader discussion about inequality in the United States. Biweekly individual conferences will alternate with group conference activities.

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The Politics of “Illegality,” Surveillance, and Protest

Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Over the past few years, newspapers, television, Facebook and Twitter have disseminated images of unauthorized immigrants and their allies taking to the streets to protest punitive immigration policies. The aerial shot of downtown Los Angeles on March 25, 2006, with more than 500,000 immigrants and allies wearing white t-shirts, was only one in a series of images that captured the 2006-2007 demonstrations in big cities where they were expected, like Chicago and New York, but also in smaller towns and cities in Nebraska, Colorado, Indiana, and elsewhere. More recently, images of unauthorized youth facing off with police and immigration officials have become more commonplace, the newest of these images being a young woman in Los Angeles sitting atop a ladder surrounded by police awaiting her fate. These images speak to us of a movement for immigrant rights that calls us to engage with questions of immigration enforcement, “illegality,” and citizenship. In this course, we will explore the historical, legal, and cultural construction of “illegality.” Rather than a strictly legal category, “illegality” has been constructed over time through policy and discourse. As such, we will ground our investigation of the present in an investigation of the past. Students will assess the evolution of immigration-control practices and of the construction of “illegality,” from the US focus on policing the Chinese through the buildup of the US-Mexico border and into the present. Our study of contemporary debates will center on the shifts in immigration control and the actions of key elite and grass-roots actors in attempting to shape this politics of enforcement. Students will use the theoretical tools provided by studies of immigration enforcement, social movements, and the politics of membership and belonging to assess immigration politics over time and to offer ways forward in the contemporary moment.

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Jewish Autobiography

Open , Seminar—Spring

Autobiography is among the most contentious literary/historical genres, compromised by the fallibility of memory and the human tendency towards self-fashioning yet unique in its insights into history as a lived experience. This course employs personal narratives as windows onto the Jewish transition to modernity. We begin with narratives by “traditional” Jewish men and women, including the mystic Hayyim Vital and the successful businesswoman Gluckel of Hameln. We then proceed to the wrenching accounts of early detractors from tradition—like Solomon Maimon, Ezekiel Kotik, and Pauline Wengeroff—and writings by Jewish leaders of modern political movements such as Zionism, Jewish socialism, communism, orthodoxy, and ultra-orthodoxy. We conclude with individual perspectives on the Holocaust through the eyes of victims, bystanders, and perpetrators; insights into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from each side; and American Jewish feminist, queer, and transgender self-narratives.

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The Holocaust

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

The Holocaust raises fundamental questions about the nature of our civilization. How was it that a policy of genocide could be planned, initiated, and carried out against Jews, Roma (Gypsies), leftists, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other groups by Germany, a country that had produced many of the greatest thinkers and artists the world has seen? In this course, we will attempt to explain how these events took place, beginning with the evolution of anti-Semitic ideology and violence. At the same time, we will look at how victims, especially Jews, chose to live out their last years and respond through art, diary-writing, spiritual practices, physical resistance, evasion, and more. Finally, we will attempt to come to grips with the crucial but neglected phenomenon of bystanders—non-Jews who stood by while their neighbors were methodically annihilated. We shall inevitably be compelled to make moral judgments; but these judgments will be of value only if they are based on an understanding of the various actors’ perspectives during this dark chapter of European history.

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The Ideas of Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

This course is a hybrid. Each week, for the first 10 weeks of the semester, a different photographic idea or genre will be traced from its earliest iterations to its present form by means of slide lectures and readings. And each week, students will respond with their own photographic work inspired by the visual presentations and readings. Topics may include personal dressup/narrative, the directorial mode in photography, contemporary art-influenced fashion photography, new strategies in documentary practice, abstraction, the typology, the photograph in color, and narrative photography. In the final weeks of the semester, the emphasis will shift as students work on a subject and in a form that coincides with the ideas they most urgently wish to express. No previous experience in photography is necessary nor is any specialized equipment. A desire to explore and to create a personally meaningful body of work are the only prerequisites.

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The New Narrative Photography

Open , Seminar—Spring

A photograph alone, without caption, is like a simple utterance. “Ooh!” or “aah!” or “huh?” are responses to it. But when pictures are presented in groups with an accompanying text—and perhaps in conjunction with political or poetic conceptual strategies—any statement at all becomes possible. Then, photographs begin to function as a sentence, a paragraph, or an even larger discourse. Whether working in fiction or nonfiction, artists such as Alan Sekula, Robert Frank, Susan Meiselas, Taryn Simon, Jim Goldberg, Roni Horn, and others have transformed the reach of the photograph. Without formal agreement to do so, they have created a new medium, which might be entitled: The New Narrative Photography. In this course, students will study the work of these artists and others and will create their own bodies of work. If you have a story to tell or a statement to make, this course is open to you. No previous photographic experience is necessary nor is any special equipment. The opportunity to work in a new medium is rare. This course aims to create the forum and the conditions necessary for all to do so in a critical and supportive workshop environment.

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Experiments With Truth: Nonfiction Writing From the Edges

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Nonfiction writing is defined not by what it is but by what it is not. It is not fiction. But what it is not comprehends a vast territory. We will spend the semester looking at the more unusual, experimental, and lyrical inhabitants of this territory: personal essays masquerading as anthropological studies or paleontological meditations or political screeds, blog posts from medieval Japan and Renaissance France, diaries, poems in the form of diary entries, essays masquerading as poems, micro nonfictions, feuilletons, prose poems passing themselves off as travelogues, koans, sermons, speeches, and prayers. We will read a variety of writers from the past (among—but not limited to—Sei Shonagon, Montaigne, Sir Thomas Browne, Wilde, Pessoa, Gandhi, Mandelstam, Elizabeth Bishop, V. S. Naipaul, the unknown genius who wrote the Book of Job), and from the present (John D’Agata, Bhanu Kapil, Anne Carson, Jonathan Franzen). After the first few weeks, we will alternate, week-by-week, sessions discussing reading with sessions discussing student work. Conference work will comprise discussion of reading tailored to individual students and the equivalent of two large pieces of writing in whatever form student and instructor agree upon.

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First-Year Studies: Ecopoetry: Poetry in Relation to the Living World

Open , FYS—Year

Poetry is the human song called out: in joy, in love, in fear, in wonder, in prayer, in rebuke, in war, in peace, in story, and in vision. The human poem collects us together, individuates us, and consoles us. We read poems at funerals, at weddings, graduations...they accompany us through the gates of our lives, in public, or in private...shared through a book, a computer, a letter, a song. Now we find ourselves at the brink of an unstoppable ecological disaster. A change of consciousness is necessary. How can poetry accomplish this? For a long time, we have not noticed how our civilizations and technologies have affected the rest of the living world. This course will ask questions: Who do we think we are? Who taught us that? Who are we in relation to the other animals? To trees and plants? To insects? To stars? How have our human myths informed those relationships? How are those myths evident in our human world today? What is poetry? What is ecopoetry? How can poetry instruct? How can poetry document? How can poetry re-vision? Prophesy? Protest? Preserve? Imagine? In our time together, you will read poetry written by published poets. You will write your own poems, one each week, and share them with each other. You will keep observation journals, meet with another person in our class each week in a poetry date, and meet with me in individual and small-group conferences. We will proceed as curious learners and writers. Through our close study, each of you (in conference work and together) will learn about a very specific aspect of the natural world that interests you (an animal, a forest, a coral reef, etc.) and then teach the rest of us in class what you have learned. We will learn how to write poems about these subjects so that the poem itself becomes an experience we have never had before. And we might slowly move away from the human as the center of the poem and welcome the rest of the living world in. We will know more at the end of this class about the other animals and plants and insects and rivers and oceans. If our hearts break with this deepening relationship, we might also discover a great joy and a new responsibility. We will want to share what we have learned and written with the wider community. We will find ways to do that. I can assure you, we will be changed. Students will have an individual conference every other week and a half-group conference on alternating weeks.

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First-Year Studies: Writing and the Racial Imaginary

Open , FYS—Year

In what ways have American writers and artists rendered the felt experience of race and racial inequality? How might we understand race and racism not only as social forces but also as imaginative ones? And how might we, as writers and readers, productively grapple, contend, and engage with our own positions as artists and citizens within these historical and imaginative legacies? In other words, how might we fruitfully think about what Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda have recently called—in their anthology of the same name—“the racial imaginary”? Over the course of this yearlong creative-writing workshop, students will be asked to explore the American racial imaginary by examining writing in a variety of genres and disciplines—from short stories to personal essays and poetry, as well as academic criticism and historical scholarship—in the interest of producing and workshopping their own original writing. 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 students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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Nonfiction Writing Seminar: Mind as Form: The Essay, Personal and Impersonal

Open , Seminar—Fall

The essay has been used as a vehicle of intimacy and directness not only by writers of all genres but also by artists of other art forms and by intellectual workers in a wide variety of fields. Why is this? Maybe because the essay is flexible enough to adapt to the shape, structure, and movement of our minds as they actually function. We will examine the essay by reading 15 to 20 significant examples of the genre, ranging from contemporary writers (Maggie Nelson, David Foster Wallace, Nancy Mairs, Claudia Rankine, among others) to writers from recent history (Sontag, Didion, Mailer, Eiseley, Baldwin, Orwell, Tanizaki), to its classic writers (Yeats, Pater, Hazlitt), to its creator (Montaigne), and then to its prehistory in the sermon, the meditation, the epistle, the spiritual autobiography (Edwards, Basho, Augustine, St. Paul, Plato). Conference work will comprise two essays, both to be presented to the whole class, and a series of exercises.

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Our World, Other Worlds

Open , Seminar—Year

This is a writing course that explores the use of episodes in a world made of words. We read short stories, parts of novels, poems, newspaper articles, and essays from many times and worlds and occasionally watch episodes and films. We also do exercises designed to help practice character drawing, dialogue, pacing, composition, editing, and world building. Still, much of the work of the class involves writing episodes of a long work that becomes our conference work and can be completed in one or two semesters. These works are discussed in small groups, whose members become experts on each others’ creations. Many of the works take place in an imaginary world, some are memoirs, others go back and forth between worlds. The course is open but involves a willingness to enter sympathetically into someone else's work over time and to be an informed reader for that person. It also involves the ability to work on a piece of writing for at least a semester.

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The Kids Are All Right: Fiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Fall

This workshop will focus on developing and sharpening stories with adolescent protagonists. The course will strive to answer the questions: How does one write teenage characters with an authentic voice? How do we channel the angst of our youth to craft honest, true-to-life narratives? And how can we capture on the page, without pandering, the sheer bigness of first experiences? The texts to which we will return in this course will range from young adult fiction, to literary fiction, to film in order for us to better understand the nature of stories about young people and the ways in which they manifest themselves based on era, medium, and intended audience. The workshop will be grounded in empathy—and all critiques, discussions, and feedback will reflect that ethos. Readings for workshop and conference will include: The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin; Long Division, by Kiese Laymon; The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth; The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton; Darius the Great Is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram; and Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid, among others.

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