Anthropology

The study of anthropology traditionally covers four fields: sociocultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology. At Sarah Lawrence College, we concentrate on sociocultural and linguistic anthropology.

Behind almost every aspect of our lives is a cultural realm, a shared construction that shapes assumptions and determines much of how we perceive and relate to the world. Sociocultural anthropology is the study of that realm—its extent and its effects. As students learn to approach with an anthropological eye what they formerly might have taken for granted, they gain insight into how social forces govern the ways in which we relate to ourselves and to each other: how we use words, how we define ourselves and others, how we make sense of our bodies, even how we feel emotions. Through examining the writings of anthropologists, viewing ethnographic films, and discussing these and other materials in seminar and conference sessions, students develop a comprehensive and multipatterned sense of the cultural dimensions of human lives. By studying the underpinnings of language, symbolic practices, race, gender, sexuality, policy and advocacy, medical systems, cities, modernity, and/or social organization across a range of Western and non-Western settings, students come to better understand how meaning is made. With seminar dynamics and content characteristic of graduate-level work, Sarah Lawrence’s anthropology courses take students in often unexpected and challenging directions.

Anthropology 2024-2025 Courses

First-Year Studies: Anthropology and Images

FYS—Year | 10 credits

ANTH 1317

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 man’s statement that he “can’t breathe” ricochets across North America. 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, whether these images are visual, acoustic, or tactile in nature; made by hand or machine; 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 and social media. We will also consider the spectral, haunting qualities of many imaginal moments in life. Readings are to include a number of writings in anthropology, art history, philosophy, psychology, cultural studies, and critical theory. Images are to be drawn from photographs, films and videos, paintings, sculptures, drawings, street art and graffiti, religion, rituals, tattoos, inscriptions, novels, poems, road signs, advertisements, dreams, fantasies, and any number of fabulations in the worlds in which we live and imagine. The seminar will be held during two class sessions each week during the fall and spring terms. Along with that, students will meet individually with the instructor every other week through the course of each semester to discuss their ongoing academic and creative work. In the fall semester, we will all also meet every other week in an informal group setting to watch films together, discuss student research and writing projects, and engage creatively with images and imaginal thought.

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Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

ANTH 3627

How does a chronic illness affect a person’s orientation to the everyday? What are the social and political forces that underpin life in a homeless shelter? What is the experiential world of a blind person, a musician, a refugee, or a child at play? In an effort to answer these and like-minded questions, anthropologists have become increasingly interested in developing phenomenological accounts of particular lived realities in order to understand—and convey to others—the nuances and underpinnings of such realities in terms that more general social or symbolic analyses cannot achieve. In this context, phenomenology offers an analytic method that works to understand and describe in words phenomena as they appear to the consciousnesses of certain peoples. The phenomena most often in question for anthropologists include the workings of time, perception, selfhood, language, bodies, suffering, and morality as they take form in particular lives within the context of any number of social, linguistic, and political forces. In this course, we will explore phenomenological approaches in anthropology by reading and discussing some of the most significant efforts along these lines. Each student will also try their hand at developing a phenomenological account of a specific social or subjective reality through a combination of ethnographic research, participant observation, and ethnographic writing.

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Childhood Across Cultures

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

ANTH 3043

In this interdisciplinary 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 do Inuit toddlers 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 | 5 credits

ANTH 3155

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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Spaces of Exclusion: Places of Belonging

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

ANTH 3127

Note: Prior course work in the social sciences is recommended.

This course explores issues of identity and difference, locality and community, through the lens of space and place. Engaging with recent scholarly work in the fields of sociocultural anthropology, ethnic studies, sociology, geography, architecture, and literature, we will seek to decode sociospatial arrangements to understand structures and processes of exclusion and marginalization. At the same time, we will observe how material realities and linguistic discourse shape people’s navigations through space and how efforts at placemaking create sites of collective identity, resistance, belonging, and recognition. We will ask questions such as: How does “talk of crime” instantiate racial segregation in a Brazilian favela? What boundaries are created by gated communities in places like Texas and Mumbai? How does public policy in San Diego police green spaces to restrict access by people who are unhoused? What should we make of “placeless” spaces or states, such as those instantiated through technologies like social media, radio, or 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? 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 spoken, 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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Global Connections: An Anthropology of Kinship

Intermediate/Advanced, Small seminar—Fall | 10 credits

ANTH 3148

Prerequisite: Students must be age 21 or above and must have registered for the course in March 2024.

Note: This course will be taught at Bedford Hills Correctional Center.

In her study of transnational adoptees, Eleana Kim noted differences in the ways Americans talk about the immigration of Chinese brides to the United States on the one hand and those describing the arrival of adopted Chinese baby girls on the other: the former with suspicion and the latter with joy. 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 class, then, examines the makings and meanings of kinship connections at multiple levels, from small communities to global movements. Our examples will include materials on Korea, China, India, Italy, Ghana, the US, and the UK.

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Language, Politics, and Identity

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

ANTH 3207

This course will ask how words do things in the world, exploring the complex linkages of language, politics, and identity in both past and present contexts. We will pose a range of questions, such as: How does language enable powerful regimes to take force, and how do linguistic innovations constitute a creative means to challenge oppression? What role do the politics and poetics of language play in broader social movements and cultural revitalization efforts? How do particular political configurations produce language shift or constrain the possibilities for verbal expression in specific social groups? How does language take shape through specific narrative forms like testimonio, and how do such forms constitute or enable acts of political resistance? We will look at such topics in a range of ethnographic contexts, with a special focus on the Americas. Our readings will address case studies, including: the emergent Zapotec language and music revival in the highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico; the lexicon of terror that shaped the political kidnappings and murders of Argentina’s Dirty Wars; the legacies of secrecy, silence, and creative resistance among Pueblo nations in the US Southwest; the challenges and joys of bilingualism among transnational migrants; and the acts of narrative witnessing employed by a range of activists, including political prisoners, Indigenous rights leaders, and undocumented youth. Students will be invited to draw upon original linguistic research as a central part of their conference work.

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Immigration and Identity

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

ANTH 3237

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. In tandem with our readings, we will welcome scholar-activist guest speakers, who will present their current work in the field. Prior course work in psychology or social sciences is recommended.

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First-Year Studies: Art and History

FYS—Year

The visual arts and architecture constitute a central part of human expression and experience, and both grow from and influence our lives in profound ways that we might not consciously acknowledge. In this course, we will explore intersections between the visual arts and cultural, political, and social history. The goal is to teach students to deal critically with works of art, using the methods and some of the theories of the discipline of art history. This course is not a survey but, rather, will have as its subject a limited number of artists and works of art and architecture that students will learn about in depth through formal analysis, readings, discussion, research, and debate. We will endeavor to understand each work from the point of view of its creators and patrons and by following the work's changing reception by audiences throughout time. To accomplish this, we will need to be able to understand some of the languages of art. The course, then, is also a course in visual literacy—the craft of reading and interpreting visual images on their own terms. We will also discuss a number of issues of contemporary concern; for instance, the destruction of art, free speech and respect of religion, the art market, and the museum. Students will be asked to schedule time on weekends to travel to Manhattan on their own or in the College van to do assignments at various museums in New York. You will need to leave several hours for each of these visits and will keep a notebook of comments and drawings of works of art. There will be weekly conferences first semester and biweekly conferences second semester in the first-year studies.

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Arts of Spain and Latin America 1492–1820

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course will explore the art and architecture of Spain and of Latin America as its lands emerged from colonialism to forge strong independent identities. We will focus on selected topics, including extraordinary artists such as El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Cabrera, and Aleijadinho, as well as on complex issues surrounding art and identity in contested and textured lands—in particular, Casta painting, colonialism, and arts of revolution and national identity. Students may, if they wish, extend their conference work to later artists (e.g., Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo, José Bedia, Belkis Ayón, among others).

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Global Histories of Postwar and Contemporary Art

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

Taking a global approach, this course will look at how artists redefined the mediums, materials, and hierarchies of modernism in the postwar period. We will look closely at how artists embraced radicality by protesting for civil rights, Latinx, Black, and Indigenous rights, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and claiming an antiwar politics in the 1960s and 1970s. This radicality shifted in the 1990s with the rise of neoliberalism and the global art market, and we will investigate changes in contemporary art and its display after 1990. Movements that this course will explore include: Gutai, Neoconcretism, Happenings, Pop Art, Fluxus, Minimalism, Global Conceptualism, Site-Specificity, Earthworks, the Chicano Arts Movement, the Black Arts Movement, Feminism, Video Art, Institutional Critique, Installation, Activist Art, Participatory Art, Relational Aesthetics, Craft, New Media, Biennials, and the Global Art Museum. Throughout, we will focus on specific artworks and gain a vocabulary for close looking while also attending to primary sources (manifestos, letters, statements, poems) and secondary, art historical, and theoretical accounts. Assignments will include papers (based on works in New York City collections), peer-reviews, presentations, reading responses, a contextual research essay, and a curatorial assignment. This course is a lecture-seminar hybrid: One lecture a week will introduce you to the broader movements; weekly group conferences will look at specific case studies and scholarly approaches to writing about contemporary art.

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History of the Museum, Institutional Critique, and Practices of Decolonization

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

This course looks closely at the art museum as a site of contest and critique: How are museums not neutral spaces but, rather, powerful institutions that shape narratives about the objects that they collect and display? Readings will consider the origins of the modern art museum in Europe in the 17th century and explore how the conventions of display impacted art’s reception and meaning. We will analyze histories of institutional critique to look at how artists have taken aim at the museum as a site of discursive power, raising questions about the kinds of value judgments that go into determining what counts as art. We will look closely at current discourses of decolonizing the museum, weigh how museums should confront their colonizing histories of systemic racism, and explore histories of exhibitions of Indigenous and African and African Diasporic art, as well as how museums shape historical memory. This course will include field trips and conversations with visiting speakers. Because this course considers the historiography of art, some previous course work in art history is required; but with its broad coverage, this course will have something for everyone regardless of their background.

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Forensic Biology

Open, Lecture—Spring

From hit television shows such as CSI, Bones, and Forensic Files, to newspaper headlines that breathlessly relate the discovery of a murder victim’s remains, and to Amanda Knox, the Golden State Killer, and other real-life courtroom cases, it is clear that the world of forensic science has captured the public imagination. Forensic science describes the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems and encompasses an impressively wide variety of subdisciplines and areas of expertise, ranging from forensic anthropology to wildlife forensics. In this course, we will specifically focus on the realm of forensic biology—the generation and use of legally relevant information gleaned from the field of biology. In an effort to move beyond sensationalism and the way it is portrayed in the public media, we will explore the actual science and techniques that form the basis of forensic biology and seek to understand the use and limitations of such information in the legal sphere. Beginning with the historical development of forensic biology, selected topics will include death and stages of decomposition; determination of postmortem intervals; the role of microorganisms in decomposition; vertebrate and invertebrate scavenging; wound patterning; urban mummification; biological material collection and storage; victim and ancestral identification by genetic analysis; the use of genealogical and DNA databases such as CODIS; and the biological basis of other criminalistics procedures, including fingerprinting and blood-type analysis. Finally, we will consider DNA privacy and Supreme Court rulings, including the 2013 decision, Maryland v. King, that established the right of law enforcement to take DNA samples from individuals arrested for a crime. In all of these areas, the techniques and concepts employed are derived from some of the most fundamental principles and structure-function relationships that underlie the entire field of biology. No background in biology is required; indeed, a primary objective of this course is to use our exploration within the framework of forensic biology as a means to develop a broader and more thorough understanding of the science of biology.

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Law and Political Economy: Challenging Laissez Faire

Open, Lecture—Year

This yearlong course, based on the professor’s new book—Legal and Political Foundations of Capitalism: The End of Laissez Faire?—introduces students to the emerging Law and Political Economy tradition in economics. The course will deal with four interrelated questions: (1) What does economic regulation mean? (2) What is the relationship between institutions, legal ones in particular, and the economy? (3) How does one theoretically analyze the nature of property rights, money, corporations, and power? (4) How does rethinking the relationship between law and the economy challenge conventional ideas about the nature of economic regulation? The course will seek to understand the nature of power and its relationship to institutions, especially legal ones, by considering property rights and money, the business corporation, constitutional political economy, the links between “free markets” and authoritarianism, colonialism and race, and inequality as it intersects across class, race, and gender lines. We will deal with these questions by focusing on the insights of the Original Institutional Economics and American Legal Realists and their relationship to the classical political economy tradition (especially Adam Smith and Karl Marx). The Law and Political Economy framework will be contrasted with the insights of New Institutional Economics, with the latter’s basis in neoclassical economics. Core questions that will be addressed include: What is laissez faire, and does legal-economic history show any proof of its existence? What is assumed when dueling perspectives advocate “more” or “less” government intervention; and are these, in fact, false binaries that distract from core questions of public policy and key challenges such as climate instability, growing inequality, and threats to democracy? No prior background in economics is required.

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Introduction to Feminist Economics

Sophomore and Above, Small seminar—Year

Feminist economics arose as a critique of the androcentric and Eurocentric assumptions underlying mainstream (neoclassical) economics. But over the past 30 years, feminist economics has developed into a coherent perspective in its own right. Feminist economics acknowledges and investigates power differentials in both the home and the market on the basis of race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, nation, and disability status. Feminist economics takes seriously the crucial economic impact of caring labor (both paid and unpaid) in the home and the broader community. And feminist economics proposes alternate measures of economic success that emphasize bodily integrity, human agency, sustainability, and human rights. We will begin this course with a brief exploration of the historical context for the development of feminist economics; i.e., the rise of feminist movements in both the developed world and the Global South. We’ll then examine the differences between feminist and mainstream neoclassical economics by examining questions such as: What do we mean by “the economy”? Do transactions and activities have to be monetized to be “economic”? How is caring labor (both paid and unpaid) conceptualized in economics, and how does the performance of this labor impact one’s status in both the labor market and the household? The answers to these and similar questions will help us reconceptualize economics to take account of all of the labor necessary to reproduce individuals and social/economic structures. Finally, we’ll apply this reconceptualized, feminist economics to questions of economic policy. We’ll examine a number of case studies, including: the persistence of occupational segregation and wage differentials by gender and race and policies to mitigate these inequalities; the impact of domestic violence and other forms of nonmarket coercion on economic outcomes; the impact of reproductive control (or the lack thereof) on the economic trajectories of both individuals and societies; and the (re)conceptualization and measurement of economic development and growth. In addition to class participation, requirements for the course will include frequent short papers on the readings, leading class discussions (in pairs), participation in group presentations, weekly participation in a service-learning project, and a placement journal. Possible service-learning placement sites include a domestic violence shelter, a group promoting healthy relationships in local high schools, a local LGBT support and advocacy organization, a reproductive-rights group, or an organization advocating for the rights of domestic workers.

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Workshop on Sustainability Solutions at Sarah Lawrence College

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

As we want to engage in individual and collective efforts toward sustainable and climate-change mitigating solutions, this workshop offers an opportunity for students to explore the multiple ways in which “sustainability” can be fostered and developed at an institution like Sarah Lawrence College. Students will work in small groups on a variety of projects and produce research and educational material that can lead to concrete and actionable proposals for the College and our community to consider. Students will determine their own areas of interest and research, from energy and water-usage monitoring to composting solutions, recycling/reusing and consumer sobriety, landscaping choices, pollinators and natural diversity, food growing, natural and human history of the land, and community collaborations, to name a few. As part of their project effort, students will engage with College administrators who are actively working toward sustainable solutions, as well as student, staff, and faculty groups such as the Warren Green vegetable garden, the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collective on the Environment (SLICE), and the Sustainability Committee. We will also explore the possibility of writing grants in coordination with other actors at the College. This workshop will meet once a week for one hour. It is offered as pass/fail based on attendance and a group project that will mostly be developed during our meeting time. It is open to all students, including first-year students. All skills and areas of expertise are welcome, from environmental science to writing and visual and studio arts—but any interest in issues of sustainability and a strong sense of dedication will suffice!

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Celebrity Studies

Open, Lecture—Spring

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama wrote this about himself: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them.” In this rare moment of critical self-evaluation, Obama revealed a key to understanding celebrity culture—that our thoughts about celebrities have far less to do with the celebrity themselves and much more to do with how we project our own anxieties, joys, cultural condition, and economic position in society onto those we admire. In short, we often use celebrities to help us understand our own views on the world and how we’d prefer to move through that world. In examining the increasingly self-aware culture associated with celebrity, mass media, and Web 2.0, we will discuss the ways in which celebrity is conceived, constructed, performed, and discussed—as well as how it shapes notions of identity and has reconfigured concepts of work, class, consumption, intimacy, authenticity, and the “American dream.” A critical analysis of celebrity encompasses many aspects of culture, and we will draw connections between celebrity and a number of issues, including: scandals and yellow journalism; the erosion of privacy; aspirational fantasies of social mobility; notions of health, beauty, and success; celebrities as memes; how celebrities are used to advance political causes; and the ways in which individuals become commodities. With an emphasis on media’s relationship to celebrity, we cover a broad range of topics and modes of analysis. We will conduct a brief history of celebrity culture, from the heroes of the precinematic era and the cultivation of the larger-than-life Hollywood star to the intimate television personality and the even more personal social media microcelebrity. We will discuss the ways in which celebrity exceeds the boundaries of a given text; for example, how the viewer’s insights into a particular star may shape their interpretation or enjoyment of a text. We will analyze the ways in which social media such as X (formerly known as Twitter), YouTube, and Instagram foster new relationships between celebrities and fans and blur the boundaries between production and consumption. We will consider the social and cultural roles of gossip and scandal, as they often provide focal points around which cultures establish behavioral norms. Celebrity is also a “product” that is produced, regulated, and monetized; as such, we will address the ways in which people as images are owned and circulated in “the celebrity industry.”

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Documentary Filmmaking and Music as Liberation I

Open, Large seminar—Fall

This is an open course designed to enlighten our creative consciousness, using music and nonfiction filmmaking as tools for liberation. Music and other sonic experiences are intrinsically connected to how we witness, experience, and tell nonfiction stories. In this course, we will examine work where the score itself plays a character while also creating films of our own inspired by the soundtrack as a living piece of our form. Broken into groups, students collectively will create a five-minute film that invites the viewer into subjects that are engaging and new, while also challenging the binary and often Western notion of what storytelling can be. The role that music and sound can play as a form of protest, meditation, and transformation are at the heart of our visual experience. In the spirit of global movements toward a more just and sustainable world, this course infuses a cinematic quest for truth in storytelling with the undeniable power that music brings to our understanding of a moment in time, a scene, a relationship, and ourselves. From American Utopia to Amazing Grace and Gimme Shelter, students will screen, discuss, and be inspired to create work that challenges all of the senses.

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

FYS—Year

In this yearlong seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to 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 that some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines—widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; epidemics and public-health challenges; and the perils of climate change. Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class: the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies primarily from Africa but also from Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the United States. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage substantive research project beginning in the fall semester and completed in the spring. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Smaller creative projects are also a component of the course, including podcasts, videos, art, music, and other forms. Where possible and feasible, students will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks. Some experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Open, Lecture—Spring

Where does the food 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 they 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 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 if funding/timing permits. The lecture participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “the climate crisis, food, and hunger,” tentatively planned for 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 approximately once per month. The Web Board is an important part of the course. Regular required postings of short essays will be made here, as well as follow-up commentaries with your colleagues. There will be occasional short, in-class essays during the semester and a final exam at the end. Group conferences will focus on in-depth analysis of certain course topics and will include short prepared papers for debates, the debates themselves, and small-group discussions. You will prepare a poster project on a topic of your choice, related to the course, which will be presented at the end of the semester in group conference, as well as in a potential public session.

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The Rise of the New Right in the United States

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

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 seminar, one that is accompanied by a planned facilitated speaker series and community conversations, is to build on work in geography and beyond and 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 by reaching out to our widely dispersed, multigenerational alumni. Pairing the course with a subset of facilitated/moderated speaker series, live-streamed in collaboration with our Alumni Office, 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, explore the varied geographies of the movement and its numerous strands, and 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., anticommunism, immigration, environment, white supremacy/nationalism, voter suppression, neoliberal economic policies, antiglobalization, free speech). This is a reading-intensive, discussion-oriented, open, 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 essays and engage colleagues in conversation online the night before seminar; and write two short research papers that link the themes of the class with their own interests, creative products, research agenda, and/or political engagement. Students will also do two associated creative projects/expressions. Transdisciplinary collaborative activities across the College and community are encouraged. Film, performance, written commentary, podcasts, workshops, and other forms of action can provide additional outlets for student creative projects and engagement.

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History of South Asia

Open, Lecture—Fall

South Asia, a region at the geographic center of the world’s most important cultural, religious, and commercial encounters for millennia, has a rich history of cultural exchanges. Its central location on the Indian Ocean provided it with transnational maritime connections to Africa and Southeast Asia, while its land routes facilitated constant contact with the Eurasian continent. The region has witnessed numerous foreign rules, from the early Central Asian Turkic dynasties to the Mughals and, finally, the British. After gaining independence from British colonial rule, the region was eventually partitioned into three different nations—India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh—each with its distinctive form of government. South Asia has produced a significant diaspora worldwide, preserving its cultural heritage and creating further cultural exchanges with the adopted nations, thereby influencing global culture. Despite facing development challenges and political instability, South Asia is rapidly developing within the capitalistic world economy and becoming an important player on the global scene, both politically and culturally. This course will provide students with a survey of South Asia from the era of the early Indus Civilization to the present. Lectures and sources will trace major political events and the region’s cultural, ecological, and economic developments that have significantly shaped South Asian history. Students will analyze both primary and secondary sources, enhancing their understanding of this diverse society. They are expected to engage in lectures, reading, class discussions, group work, and writing to examine the major themes and debates in South Asian history and develop sound arguments.

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Local Oral History: From Latin America to Yonkers

Open, Seminar—Fall

This community-partnership course will bring students closer to Latin American oral history writing in order to write their own community-based narratives. Since the advent of military and repressive regimes in late 20th-century Latin America, social scientists and historians have turned to oral histories. By interviewing eyewitnesses to reconstruct the past and act upon the present, oral histories originally served to document the stories of both oppressors and oppressed but, since then, have expanded in scope and purpose. Building on existing rich oral traditions in the region, this course will first explore the methodologies of Latin American colonial chroniclers, popular educators, activists, and professional historians to understand the historical origins and context of production of different oral histories, as well as their academic and political use. Then, focusing on the history of late 20th-century Chile and its transition from socialism to neoliberalism, students will read, view, or listen to different oral history-based narratives, including life histories, documentaries, biographies, and truth and reconciliation commissions, among others. By doing so, the course will help students both get a glimpse of Latin American history and assess and develop skills to craft their own narratives based on the observation of, and participation in, the Yonkers community. The third and final part of the course will be devoted to workshop the narratives produced by students. Throughout the semester, students will have the opportunity to work with a particular community organization in Yonkers. Students are expected to develop a conference project based on their work with the community, using the oral-history questions, tools, and problems learned and discussed in the seminar. The conference project may take any format, including essays, podcasts, short videos, timelines, and interactive maps.

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Socialist Stuff: Material Culture of the USSR and Post-Soviet Space, 1917-present

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course examines the experience of people living in the Soviet Union and other socialist states via things. Objects under socialist regimes were supposed to be transformative, turning yesterday’s backward peasants into new socialist men and women. Communism promised unheard-of abundance, but those who lived under the system often suffered from severe shortages. Things from outside of the communist world often took on an aura of forbidden fruit. People learned a variety of tricks to survive and, today, are even nostalgic for many of its trappings. Beginning with a reading of theoretical texts to get us thinking about how to think through stuff, we will proceed to look at a number of cases in Soviet history where objects are key to the story. Each week, students will be responsible for a short written response, 250-500 words, and providing two questions to feed our discussion. At the end of the semester, each student will design a display for a virtual museum of the Soviet Union, in which they will use one or more objects to tell a story about Soviet history. At the center of this course is the idea that all objects are the products and markers of social, political, and economic change that are filled with meaning—even if those meanings are not obvious or can be highly variable.

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History of the Indian Ocean

Open, Seminar—Spring

The Indian Ocean is the third-largest ocean in the world and contributes almost 30 percent to the total oceanic realm of our planet. Current scholars have defined the Indian Ocean to include the oceanic and littoral spaces in the southwest from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, to the Red Sea in the north, then horizontally through to the South China Sea in the east, and down to Australia in the southeast. Commerce around the Indian Ocean continued as a web of production and trade that spanned across the ports of India, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Indian Ocean ports were the fulcrum of maritime trade that precipitated spontaneous transcultural interactions between traders and inhabitants of different geographic regions who mingled there to exchange commodities. Ships followed monsoons or seasonal wind patterns, and sailors were obliged to wait at length for return departures from ports, which was a significant cause of cultural transfer. Various religions, including Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, were mobile across the Indian Ocean networks; and extant beliefs, practices, and material cultures are evidence. The study of the Indian Ocean World (IOW), as some historians have termed it, is a newly emerging field in world history. New evidence from historical research of the last 30 years has recovered the lost significance of this region, which was the center of a robust and complex trade and cultural network for a millennium and that continues today. This course is designed to provide students with a survey of Indian Ocean world history from the medieval to the colonial era. Lectures and sources will help students deepen their knowledge of peoples and cultures around the Indian Ocean and gain a wider appreciation for the transnational trade and cultural and religious networks that existed there. Students will learn to examine that globalization is not a modern phenomenon but, rather, an ongoing aspect of the Indian Ocean. Each week, students will evaluate sources that explore the discrete regions of the Indian Ocean, their people, and the religious networks, commercial exchanges, migrations, and political events that they engender to make a complex and dynamic connected history. Students are expected to engage in lectures, reading, class discussions, group work, and writing to examine the major themes and debates in Indian Ocean history and develop sound arguments.

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“Friendship of the Peoples”: The Soviet Empire From Indigenization to “Russkii mir”

Open, Seminar—Spring

This seminar looks at the history of the Soviet Union through the lens of ethnonational diversity. To be a Soviet person, one had to be identified by “nationality” (closer to our understanding of ethnicity), a category that outlasted class. Soviet policy toward different nationalities varied widely from 1917 to 1991, ranging from the aggressive promotion of indigenous cadres and cultures to the deportation of whole nationalities. The USSR was the largest country in modern history and the first attempt to build a communist state, yet it ended up as a union of federal republics organized along national lines. The nation was supposed to be the vehicle that ushered people through Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist phases of historical development, yet the nations that constituted the Soviet Union outlasted it. We will look at the ways in which Soviet conceptions of nationalities shaped the Soviet project and how being a member of one or another nationality impacted people’s fates. Our readings begin with a brief overview of the diversity of the Russian Empire on the eve of revolution and continue to address the major events of Soviet history through to the continued relevance of the history of Soviet nationalities policies today.

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First-Year Studies: African Politics and International Justice

FYS—Year

The Council on Foreign Relations has succinctly noted: “The future is African.” This course offers a comprehensive introduction to international politics from the perspective of African states and societies. We will consider how states on the continent are shifting global politics from economic relations and consumer trends to humanitarian interventions and international justice. We will begin our exploration by considering the dramatic changes that African societies have experienced from colonialism to decolonization and the present. We will engage key questions regarding postcolonial governance and popular demands for democracy. How have Africans engaged their governments to call for reform or revolution? Where has this led to effective democracies? Why have some states experienced civil wars? What role have external influences, from Western aid to the expansion of Chinese influence, played on the continent? We will consider the demands of protesters and the causes for rebellion and seek to understand both pressure for and resistance to reform. At the end of the fall semester, students will simulate the US President’s National Security Council to debate a US response to an imagined political crisis on the African continent. In the second semester, we will consider cases of humanitarian crises and conflict. What are the appropriate responses to widespread human-rights violations as they are occurring? Are there cases in which military intervention is warranted? If so, who should intervene? What else can be done? Once the violence has subsided, what actions should the international community take to support peace and justice? We will explore critical ethical, legal, and political questions by considering key cases of intervention and nonintervention, including Rwanda, Darfur, and Libya. Finally, we will evaluate different pathways in pursuing truth, justice, and reconciliation in the aftermath of gross violations of human rights. Cases include the domestic processes established by South Africa’s pioneering Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Rwanda’s Gacaca, as well as the ongoing work of the International Criminal Court. Toward the end of the second semester, students will conduct a UN Security Council simulation to debate possible actions in a simulated humanitarian crisis. Finally, we will end the academic year with an exploration of what an “African future” will mean not just for Africans but also for societies across the globe. During the year, students will engage ideas, readings, and debates in class conversations, in short posts to the class, and in papers. Students will also conduct research projects both on their own and with a partner.

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The Domestication of Us: Origins and Problems of the State

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Thomas Hobbes believed that the State, or what he called the Leviathan, was the necessary result of individuals trying to escape from a state of nature, where existence was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Charles Tilly compared states to racketeers; Vladimir Lenin, following the lead of Marx and Engels, wrote that the State exists to maintain the domination and oppression of one class by another. John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” demanding Americans’ unquestioning, altruistic loyalty to the State. And for about two centuries, communists, socialists, anarchists, and social democrats have debated whether the State must be reformed, overthrown, or abolished in the name of democracy, equality, and popular sovereignty. These different and often contradictory approaches reveal that there is no common agreement on the nature or role of the State. So, what is the State? Where did it come from? What are the sources and limits of its power? Why does it have so much control over our lives? These are the questions that we’ll ask in this class. We will pay special attention to the relationship between the development of the modern state and capitalism; the rise of the welfare state, the epitome of modern state power; and state violence. We’ll discuss alternative visions of the State’s role and responsibility and ask: Do we need the State, and can we make the State work for us?

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Finding Happiness and Keeping It: Insights From Psychology and Neuroscience

Open, Lecture—Fall

We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague. —William James, 1887, Habit

We all want happy lives filled with meaning and satisfaction. Yet, for many of us, happiness can be difficult to obtain with regularity or to sustain over a long period of time. Happiness is more than a feeling; rather, it is a state of well-being that should last a lifetime. Like exercising to improve physical health, it takes sustained cognitive effort to improve our mental health and engage in practices to promote well-being. We can look to evidence from the fields of psychology and neuroscience that tells us that we are mentally unprepared to: (1) predict what will make us happy, and (2) engage in behaviors that are known to make us happier. In this course, we will cover the psychological and brain-based factors for why happiness feels so fleeting and what we can do to build better and more effective habits that have been shown to lead to longer-term maintenance of a positive mood and well-being. Students will read foundational work in the field of positive psychology by Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Edward Diener, Daniel Kahneman, and others. We will also discuss studies in neuroscience that show how behavioral interventions in positive psychology can impact the brain’s structure and function—just like building stronger muscles during exercise. Through small-group conferences, students will apply evidence-based practices, such as bringing order and organization to their daily lives, expressing gratitude, and building social bonds (i.e., “cross training” for the mind) in activities called “Rewirements.” For the final project, called “Unlearning Yourself,” students will learn to undo or replace a detrimental habit (e.g., overspending, social-media use, poor sleep hygiene, complaining, procrastinating) by establishing a plan to cultivate evidence-based practices for sustained well-being. By the end of this course, students will have gained the ability to sift through the ever-booming literature on positive psychology and neuroscience to identify the practices that work best for them, along with an appreciation for the notion that finding and keeping happiness and well-being requires intentional practice and maintenance. Students should come prepared to engage in meaningful self-work.

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Childhood Across Cultures

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this interdisciplinary 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 do Inuit toddlers 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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Children’s Friendships

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall

Making friends, losing friends, keeping friends...through the use of psychological and literary texts, we will explore the important functions of friendship for children and adolescents. During much of the 20th century, psychologists had assumed that adults serve as the major social influence on a child’s developing sense of self and personality, that perhaps only toward adolescence would children’s social relations with peers come to play an important role in their lives. We now know better. In recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in the study of friendships and peer relations throughout childhood, even in toddlerhood. The important psychological benefits of having friends are increasingly recognized. So, too, are the potential problems of its obverse: Children who are truly without friends are at greater risk for later social-emotional difficulties. We will explore the writings of major theorists such as Sullivan, Youniss, Selman, and Rubin; read and discuss the recent studies that have observed “friendship in the making”; and examine what friendship means to children and adolescents in their own words. In addition, fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center or elsewhere will be encouraged, so that students can have firsthand knowledge of children’s social relations.

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Immigration and Identity

Sophomore and Above, 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. In tandem with our readings, we will welcome scholar-activist guest speakers, who will present their current work in the field. Prior course work in psychology or social sciences is recommended.

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First-Year Studies: The Hebrew Bible

FYS—Year

The Hebrew Bible stands at the foundation of Western culture. Its stories permeate our literature, our art...indeed, our sense of identity. Its ideas inform our laws, have given birth to our revolutions and social movements, and have thereby made most of our social institutions possible (as well as the movements to remove them). What is this book? How was it written? Who wrote it? Who preserved it for us? Why has all or part of this body of literature been considered holy to the practitioners of Judaism and Christianity? Four thousand years ago, various groups from small tribe-wandering nomads would get together and tell stories. These stories were not preserved on stone tombs but, rather, in the hearts and memories of the people to whom they belonged. We will read the collection of traditions in a book called Genesis and compare these stories with other texts (written in mud and stone), such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Babylonian Creation Epic, which were contemporary with biblical traditions. We will read the Biblical epic of liberation, Exodus; the historical books that weave theology into a history of a nation; and the oracles of the great Hebrew Prophets of Israel—those reformers, judges, priests, mystics, and poets to whom modern culture owes its grasp of justice. We will trace the social, intellectual, and political history of the people formed by these traditions from the Late Bronze Age until the Roman Age. The conferences for this course will meet weekly until October Study Days and then biweekly for the rest of the school year.

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First-Year Studies: Nations, Borders, and Mobilities

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, nationalism in society, and, finally, migration and displacement studies. The readings and discussions for the seminar adopt a “social problems” approach, looking at themes such as dimensions of inequality (race, class, and gender), labor, forced migration, and religious conflict through a transnational lens. 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, interviews, 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 and community partners in the City of Yonkers and wider Westchester County. During the second semester (spring 2025), students will be expected to engage in fieldwork, either independently or volunteering with community partners such as the Yonkers Public Library, Hudson River Museum, Wartburg, CURB, Center Lane, ArtsWestchester, or another organization. The fieldwork component will form the basis for the sociological research and writing that students produce for their conference work in the seminar. 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 individual conferences. Conference meeting times will be used to discuss the students' 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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Sociological Perspectives on Detention and ‘Deviance’

Open, Lecture—Fall

In this lecture, students will be introduced to key areas of study in the sociology of “deviance,” detention, and illegality. We will be taking a global and transnational perspective on examining the ways in which social groups define, categorize, and reinforce deviance and illegality, from the treatment of minority and persecuted groups to the detention and expulsion of populations such as undocumented migrants and refugees. Students will learn about foundational theories and concepts in the field, starting with a reading of Émile Durkheim’s classical study of suicide and the idea of anomie, followed by Robert Merton’s strain theory and then contemporary ones such as conflict theory, labeling theory, and the infamous “broken-windows” theory. The class will take a critical approach to reflecting and challenging ideas about deviance and illegality by examining global and transnational forms of population governance, such as ongoing mutations to human rights and the technocratic management of displaced populations through humanitarianism around the world. We will be reading about major sectors of transnational deviance and crime, including industrial fishing and trafficking on the high seas (Ian Urbina’s The Outlaw Ocean), exploitation and profiteering through international logistics (Carolyn Nordstrom’s Global Outlaws), and transnational sex work and trafficking (Christine Chin and Kimberly Hoang). This critical lens is intended to help us understand how different groups and populations are rendered “deviant” or “illegal” for the purposes of management and control (or political leverage) and to what extent groups themselves are able to resist or challenge those categorizations. Finally, we will be looking at how social movements and acts of resistance can produce widescale changes in societies toward the treatment and categorization of people seen as “deviants,” “criminals,” or “illegals”—including struggles against apartheid, hunger strikes in prisons, and protest movements for undocumented groups. Additionally, we will be discussing how social transformations wrought by three years of living under a global pandemic has led to the emergence of new forms of deviance related to biopolitical and biotechnological notions of population health and well-being. For conference work in this lecture, students will work in groups to produce portfolios of research on an area of study related to deviance, detention, and illegality. Each portfolio will include presentations and discussions of the chosen area of study, as well as critical essays written by each student that bring in conceptual and theoretical discussions drawn from the class.

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Material Moves: People, Ideas, Objects

Advanced, Seminar—Year

In public discourse, we are bombarded with assertions of the newly “global” nature of the contemporary world. This assertion assumes that former stable categories of personhood, ideational systems, nation, identity, and space are now fragmented and transcended by intensified travel, digital technology, and cross-cultural contact. This seminar is based on the premise that people have traveled throughout history; current global moves are but the most recent manifestation of a phenomenon that has historically occurred in many forms and places. This long(er) view of mobility will allow us to rethink and reexamine not only our notions of travel but their shifting connotations and significance across time and space. We will explore how supposed stable categories—such as citizen, refugee, nation, and commodity—are constructed and consider several theoretical approaches that help us make sense of these categorizations, the processes accompanying their normalization and dissemination, and their underlying assumptions. Our questions will include: What are the political, navigational, and epistemological foundations that go into mapmaking and schemas of classification? How do nomads change into settled city dwellers or wageworkers? How does time become disciplined? How does travel change into tourism? How do commodities travel and acquire meaning? What is the relationship between legal and illicit moves? How do technologies of violence, such as weapons and drugs, circulate? What is the meaning of their circulation in different contexts? How do modern technologies enable time/space compression? What are the shifting logics of globalization? What is their relationship to our notions and constructions of authenticity, subjectivity, and identity? During the fall semester, we will begin by developing an analytical approach toward our topic (which we will continue to develop throughout the year). We will then consider the implications of classification, categorization, and mapping. For the remainder of the semester, we will follow the travel(s) of ideas, commodities, and people. In the process, we will begin to think about questions of time/space compression. In the spring, we will return to some of the themes of the fall semester but examine them in a different context and through a different lens. Among our concerns in the spring semester will be issues of fusion and hybridization in cultural practices regarding people and things (e.g., food, music, romance, families); shifting places (e.g., borders, travel, and tourism); time/space compression through new technologies of travel and communication; and drugs, terror, violence, and poverty. As our sources, we will rely primarily on interdisciplinary analytical writings but will also include travel narratives, literature, and films.

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Beauty and Biolegitimacy

Open, Seminar—Fall

What does it mean to be “beautiful”? Whose bodies qualify as beautiful? This seminar will explore the social construction of beauty as a process imbued with power and violence. Our investigation begins by overviewing Michel Foucault’s concepts of “biopower” and “biolegitimacy” to understand how the state manifests social hierarchies and control through the construction of the idealized, beautiful body. We will subsequently explore in what ways beauty standards are deployed to create gendered and raced distinctions that uphold colonial powers and white supremacy. Moreover, students will study the transformation of beauty standards across time with the goal of understanding how these changes reflect broader sociohistorical transformations and political interpretations of gender and race. Our seminar will subsequently study the impact of beauty standards on a microsocial level, including to what degree individuals come to internalize or resist notions of biolegitimacy and beauty. Within this conversation, we will study various forms of body modification and plastic surgery, as both an ontological tool for self-construction and as a means for pathologizing deviance from beauty standards. For conference, students may choose to trace the historical roots and evolution of a specific beauty standard. Alternatively, conference work might focus on how individuals collectively resist a given beauty standard, potentially within the context of subcultures that substitute alternative notions of biolegitimacy.

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Changing Places: Social/Spatial Dimensions of Urbanization

Open, Seminar—Fall

The concept of space will serve as the point of departure for this course. Space can be viewed in relation to the (human) body, social relations and social structures, and the physical environment. In this seminar, we will examine the material (social, political, and economic) and metaphorical (symbolic and representational) dimensions of spatial configurations in urban settings. In our analysis, we will address the historical and shifting connotations of urban space and urban life and their material dimensions. In our examination of spatial relations within urban settings, we will also examine practices and processes whereby social “space” is created, gendered, revisioned. “Space,” in this latter sense, will no longer be seen solely as physical space but also be (re)viewed through the construction of meanings that impact our use of and relations in both physical and social settings. While economic factors will continue to be of significance to our analysis, we will emphasize extra-economic relations and constructs—including power, gender, and sexuality. The focus will encompass both macroanalyses and interrogation of everyday life, including the significance of public-private distinctions. In the latter part of the seminar, particular attention will be paid to attempts by scholars and activists to open up space both theoretically and concretely. Although the analytical questions at the core of this seminar lend themselves to an analysis of any city, our focus in class will be largely, although not exclusively, on New York City. Students are encouraged, however, to examine the relevance of our readings to other spaces, including places in which they have lived. In their conference work, students can elect to study space- and place-making in different contexts and/or with respect to themes that are of particular interest to them.

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Exploring Transnational Social Networks

Open, Seminar—Spring

This seminar offers a deep dive into the multifaceted world of social connections that span across national borders, challenging the traditional notions of space, identity, and community. The seminar’s core focus is on understanding how transnational networks operate within and influence various spheres of global society, including migration, economic practices, digital communication, and social movements. Through a critical examination of these networks, the course aims to shed light on the complexities of global interconnectedness, the role of technology in facilitating transnational ties, and the implications of these networks for social change and policy-making. In order to become equipped with a nuanced understanding of global social dynamics, students will engage with contemporary sociological theories and methodologies to analyze the formation, evolution, and impacts of transnational social networks in order. The seminar will incorporate a range of scholarly articles, book chapters, and case studies to explore topics such as the dynamics of diaspora communities and their influence on homeland politics; the economic ramifications of transnational remittances; the role of social media in fostering transnational activism and solidarity; and the impacts of transnational networks on cultural identity and integration processes. Readings include works by Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou on the concept of “social capital” within immigrant communities, Arjun Appadurai's theories on the cultural dimensions of globalization, Faranak Miraftab's notion of “transnational relationality,“ and Manuel Castells’ insights into the network society.

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Sociology of Sports

Open, Seminar—Spring

This is a course about sports as practice, which 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 the 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 seriously the internal dynamics and meaning of sports, 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., Olympics, women’s basketball, 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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Are You a Good Witch? The Sociology of Culture and Witchcraft

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

In the 1600s, political leaders in Salem, Massachusetts, infamously executed more than 25 members accused of witchcraft. Almost 400 years later, the “satanic panic” swept across America, as parents feared for the spiritual well-being of their children. More recently, protestors in the 2017 Women’s March brandished signs reading, “We are the daughters of the witches you could not burn.” What do these disparate examples have in common? This seminar will study the “witch” as a shared cultural symbol. We will explore why the witch emerges into the American cultural zeitgeist at particular moments in history and what their emergence (and public reception) tells us about the cultural and sociopolitical contexts of our time. We will draw upon the works of theorists like Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, Emile Durkheim, Sylvia Federici, and Stanley Cohen to guide our discussions and explore the capitalist, hegemonic, and gendered meanings of the witch. In the latter half of the semester, students will explore contemporary literature within the sociology of culture, as well as the sociology of social movements, to understand how the witch has been simultaneously co-opted and used as a figurehead of collective resistance to these very same systems. Throughout these conversations, we will also discuss the ways in which the witch has been strategically racialized, consequently villainizing women of color and misrepresenting indigenous practices such as Voodoo or Santería. For conference, students may unpack a particular moment in history when magic or witchcraft emerged in the public discourse. Alternatively, students may explore how the witch—or another shared cultural archetype—has been used to express group identity during moments of resistance. Finally, students are encouraged to think about these topics in non-American contexts, if they so choose.

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