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 2021-2022 Courses

First-Year Studies: The Anthropology of Images

Open, FYS—Year | 10 credits

A handful of cartoons lead to cataclysmic events in Europe; a man’s statement that he “can’t breathe” ricochets across North America; a photograph reflects phenomena of time; 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 those images are visual or acoustic in nature, made by hand or machine, circulated by word of mouth, or vividly 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 uses and perceptions tie into ideas and practices of sensory perception, time, memory, 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 informing the creation and reception of images, 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, visual studies, and critical theory. Images will be drawn from photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, films, videos, graffiti, religion, rituals, tattoos, inscriptions, novels, poems, storytellers, road signs, advertisements, dreams, fantasies, phantasms, and any number of fabulations evident in the worlds in which we live and imagine. Students will be encouraged, both in class and in conference, to undertake individual and collaborative work related to their creative and intellectual interests. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks; biweekly conferences thereafter.

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Ethnographic Research and Writing

Advanced, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

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

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Childhood Across Cultures

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

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

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Telling Lives: Life History in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

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

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Immigration and Identity

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

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

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Children in Imperial Projects

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

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

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Faking Families

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

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

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Indigenous Mobilities

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

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

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Black England: From Tudors to Two-Tone

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

In 1596, Elizabeth Tudor wrote to lord mayors of major English cities that there were “of late divers blackamoores brought into this realm, of which kind of people there are already here to manie…….those kinde of people should be sente forth of the land.” A common myth about England is that it was a homogeneously white nation until Jamaicans and South Asians emigrated to Britain after World War II. Another myth is that there were no slaves held in England. As the above quotation indicates, free Black people were already settled there in the 16th century; and they were already the object of scapegoating for increasing poverty in the land at that time. The 17th century brought African slaves to England and, by the 19th century, the great ports of London, Bristol, and Liverpool were populated by West Africans (free and unfree); Lascars (Muslim sailors from east of the Cape of Good Hope); and seamen from Shanghai and Guangzhou, who created the first European China Town in the London Docks. In this class, we will investigate the multiracial nature of England from the Tudor era to the late 20th century. We will consider temporal moves between free and unfree lives and the role of free Africans in the abolition movement. Articulations of race, gender, and sexuality will be central, particularly as they play out in family formations and economic activities. We will wrestle with the absence of people of color in discourses about the English past and with contemporary constructions of racist stereotypes, such as the 19th-century trope of the Chinese opium den. Finally, we will engage with cultural explosions in music (reggae, ska, two-tone), film (Young Soul Rebels, Bend it Like Beckham, The Stuart Hall Project), and literature (Fathima Zahra, Aizaz Hussain, Paul Gilroy) created by second- and third-generation children of Commonwealth immigrants, particularly as they articulate with antiracism movements. Our hands-on class materials will be multidisciplinary (anthropology, history, literature) and multimedia, with a particular focus on visual images, audio, maps, and archival documents.

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First-Year Studies: Masterworks of Art and Architecture of the Western Tradition

Open, 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 will have as its subject a limited number of artists and works of art and architecture, about which students will learn 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. If health considerations and COVID restrictions allow, students will be asked to schedule time on weekends to travel to Manhattan, either on their own or in the College van, to do assignments at various museums in New York. You will need several hours for each of these visits and will keep a notebook of comments and drawings of works of art. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences; in the spring, we will meet every other week.

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Romanesque and Gothic Art: Castle and Cathedral at the Birth of Europe

Open, Large Lecture—Fall

This course explores the powerful architecture, sculpture, and painting styles that lie at the heart of the creation of Europe and the idea of the West. We will use a number of strategies to explore how expressive narrative painting and sculpture and new monumental architectural styles were engaged in the formation of a common European identity; we will uncover, as well, the artistic vestiges of diverse groups and cultures that challenge that uniform vision. These are arts that chronicle deep social struggles between classes, intense devotion through pilgrimage, the rise of cities and universities, and movements that could both advocate genocide and nurture enormous creativity—in styles both flamboyant and austere—growing from places as diverse as castles and rural monasteries to Gothic cathedrals. The course will explore those aspects of expressive visual language that link works of art to social history, the history of ideas, and political ideology.

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Paris: A History Through Art, Architecture, and City Planning

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will trace the history of Paris from its foundation until World War I, working from the visual arts that both defined and emanated from this remarkable city. We will explore works of art, architecture, and urban design as documents of history, social and cultural values, and the history of ideas. Our readings and discussions will lead us to interactions between the arts and the history, fashion, religion, science, and literature of Paris. In both individual and group projects, students will chart these relationships graphically and construct a cultural history of Paris from Roman Lutetia to the City of Lights.

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Japan’s Heisei Era (1989–2019): Culture, Society, and Experiences

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will embark on an examination of Japan’s Heisei Era (1989-2019). Over the course of 30 years, this dynamic period of contemporary Japanese history gave rise to significant societal changes, profound cultural transformations, and multiple shared national traumas. Persistent demographic shifts produced far-reaching consequences, greatly altering individuals’ lived experiences and expectations. Devastating natural and manmade disasters deeply shaped collective and individual consciences. Desires for catharsis, escapism, recreation, and reflection reinvigorated popular culture across a plethora of mediums: J-pop, literature, puroresu, anime, and many more. Relaxed societal constraints facilitated new options for self-expression, livelihood, and interpersonal relations. Underrepresented voices were added to critical dialogues. We will examine the unique sociocultural phenomena and historical events that constitute the Heisei Era, utilizing a diverse and interdisciplinary array of primary sources—ethnography, literature, journalism, analyses, and narratives—augmented by albums and films. We will attempt to deconstruct the era from a monolithic entity into a series of interlinking but distinct features in order to better understand and evaluate it. We will explore key sociocultural developments of the Heisei Era: Japan’s rapidly aging and decreasing population, family structure, alienation, gender norms and reform, rural depopulation, historical reckonings, and more. We will investigate the ramifications of major events, such as the Aum Shinrikyo terror attacks; the collapse of the bubble economy; and the “311” Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. We will also examine influential Heisei-defining individuals and exemplars of popular culture, potentially including Hikaru Utada, Studio Ghibli, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hakuho, and Perfume. Our ultimate aim is to comprehend this immensely impactful period in recent Japanese history from a variety of perspectives through both academic analyses and the creative output of the period itself.

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Clinical Perspectives: Challenges to Child and Adolescent Development

Advanced, Seminar—Spring

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

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The Environmental Imagination: Perspectives From the Social Sciences, Environmental Humanities, and the Arts

Open, Seminar—Fall

“Climate change” covers a variety of hydrological, thermal, geological, and atmospheric crises that are intersecting and accelerating in scope and intensity. Inspired by Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwOvBv8RLmo) performing her poem Earthrise, this course invites a conversation that draws together the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts: a journey through the global climate crisis on a variety of scales, in specific contexts, and through diverse media. Fiction and nonfiction writing, history, and film will be drawn upon to investigate understandings of an epoch controversially called “the Anthropocene.”  What do these different perspectives, methods, and insights bring to our perceptions of specific environments? How do different rhetorical formations, imaginaries, narratives, and visual images inform cognitive and affective responses to the Anthropocene?  What do they bring to our understanding of the global environmental emergency that is the signature of this moment in planetary history? How do interventions in the arts and humanities constitute acts of “world-making”—new ways of seeing, feeling, and imagining human ways of caring for this planet? In conjunction with the literatures of political ecology and cultural anthropology, we will read fiction by authors such as Amitav Ghosh and Stanislas Lem; nonfiction by Robert MacFarlane (Underlands), Ben Ehrenreich (Desert Notebooks), Joseph Masco (irradiated landscapes in the American West), Kate Brown (Plutopia), and Madeleine Watts (The Inland Sea).

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Virtual Voyages: Travel Cinemas From Silent Film to Social Media

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course surveys the history of cinema as a mode of travel from the 1890s to the present. The movie camera, by its very nature, is a device that represents time and space. The exploration of the world through images (and later sound) has always been one of cinema’s primary features. While genres of early cinema, such as travelogues and scenics, were eclipsed in popularity by narrative features by 1910, travel cinema lives on in documentaries, ethnographic films, home movies, wildlife television shows, IMAX productions, and, more recently, social media feeds. As COVID-19 abruptly restricted global travel, the lure of viewing distant places on a screen from one’s home allows us to approach film anew as a surrogate for physical travel and the experiential economy. This course takes a broad view of travel film, studying both media texts and historical context. The course will examine an eclectic body of filmed content to analyze how filmmakers, companies, and other groups have used moving images to represent desirable destinations and impressions of spectacular and distant lands for artistic, commercial, and noncommercial purposes. We will also investigate the history of travel cinema by examining the colonial ideologies and other power relations embedded within a representational mode that reflects the worldview of those privileged enough to travel and record their experiences. All the while, we will also attend to the rise and evolution of travel films amidst historical developments in media technology, transportation, the tourism industry, leisure, and more. Screenings will span the classic and the contemporary, from documentaries Grass (1927) and Baraka (1992) to recent television shows Planet Earth and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, among many, many others.

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Media Lab: Youth Education and Community Engagement

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Open, Lecture—Year

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

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Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to acquaint us with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political-economy of which the “Third World” is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial “development” to understand the evolving meaning of this term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political-economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, urbanization, industrialization, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines: widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change, as well as the potential of ”a new green deal.” Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class: the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and North America. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage, substantive research project. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, you will be encouraged to do primary research over fall study days. Some experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

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The Rise of the New Right in the United States

Open, Seminar—Spring

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

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Beginning Greek

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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European Imperialism: Violence, Knowledge, and Migration Since the 19th century

Open, Lecture—Fall

The history of imperialism, like all history, was a history of power relations. Direct and indirect acts of violence sustained that power, but so did networks of knowledge and the voluntary and involuntary migration of peoples. The history of European expansion continues to shape the world we live in today, not only in the former colonies but also in the former metropoles. The structure of international relations and the presence of colonial objects in European museums attest to the legacy of domination. But dishes like Dabba gosht (a staple of Bohri cuisine but allegedly influenced by the shepherd’s pie of British colonial troops) and chicken tikka masala (invented in Britain by a Bangladeshi chef) are reminders and remainders of the hybridity that could emerge as a result of imperial networks, as well. The course will begin with a brief introduction to early modern colonial empires but will then focus on the period of so-called High Imperialism from the second half of the 19th century and end with decolonization and a survey of some aspects of imperialism’s legacy today. The course will introduce students to the ways in which trade networks enmeshed metropole and colonies; how people moved and were moved between them; how scientific knowledge was gained, produced, and used in the context of imperialism; and how it created, supported, but eventually also ended direct imperial rule. The lecture investigates the projection of power through formal and informal means, be it military control or urban planning, and looks at the way imperialism affected politics and society in the global north and global south. The course meets for one weekly lecture and a weekly group conference that will give us the chance to discuss the themes of the lecture in more detail. Postcolonial studies have decentered the history of European imperialism in productive ways and challenged the one-directional relationship from metropole to colony. This decentering will be reflected in the voices we will hear and read in our weekly group conferences, with scholarship and primary sources hailing from various directions and perspectives.

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Theories at Heart

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Intermediate Latin

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

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

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Can This Republic Be Saved? Cautionary Evidence From Ancient Rome

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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Conscience of the Nations: Classics of African Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open, Lecture—Spring

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

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Global Circulations: Art and Pop Music of Asia

Open, Lecture—Spring

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

 

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Sounding Creativity: Musical Improvisation

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Decolonizing Philosophy

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Being and Time

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will study closely one of the most influential books of 20th-century philosophy: Being and Time, by German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1776). Among the founding texts of existentialism and phenomenology, Being and Time (1927) offers an existential analysis of the human condition, including what it means to be in the world, to be with others, and to be toward death, as well as the difference between authentic and inauthentic modes of being. This work revolutionized some of the most deep-seated assumptions in philosophy, psychology, and science, inspiring new movements in psychoanalysis, feminism, linguistics, political theory, literary theory, and other fields.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

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

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Childhood Across Cultures

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Play and Imagination

Open, Seminar—Fall

Children’s play is considered the primary mode of communication for all children. This course examines children’s embodied storytelling, imaginative drawings, toys, and free play, as children themselves rarely separate play from the arts. A sophisticated set of processes often trivialized, psychologist Brian Sutton-Smith states, “The flexibility of the imagination, of play, and of the playful is the ultimate guarantor of our survival” (1997). Topics to be addressed include: play in the time of COVID, play aggression and trauma, and access to play as a social-justice issue. The course may involve observational fieldwork and online toy study, as we examine children’s opportunities for play, learning, and development. Students will read critical works in the psychology of play and recent cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research. There will be discussions, documentaries, and class presentations. Conference projects may relate to a literature review about a topic of interest, an original study, and/or a creative piece reflecting course insights and imaginings.

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Immigration and Identity

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

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

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Doing Research With Young People

Open, Seminar—Spring

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

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The Psychology of Social Influence

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Individuals are often influenced by others and by the social situations in which they find themselves. Social influence refers to the processes by which a person or group changes, or attempts to change, the opinions, beliefs, and/or behaviors of another person or group. This process can be either intentional or unintentional. In this seminar, we will examine the basic concepts, theories, and applications of social influence by reviewing four of its key areas: conformity, innovation, compliance, and obedience. Additionally, we will explore some related topics to demonstrate the pervasive nature of social influence. The topics to be addressed include attitude measurement and attitude change, propaganda, cults, subliminal persuasion, and the use and abuse of persuasion in our current social context. The seminar will make use of case studies and situations in daily life to better illustrate how social influence works.

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The Emergence of Christianity

Open, Seminar—Year

Perhaps no one has not heard the name of a seemingly obscure carpenter’s son executed by the Romans around 33 CE. Why? The religion that we call Christianity shaped the Western world for at least 1,500 years. In this course, we will study the origins of that tradition. As we study those origins, we will explore Judaism in the strange and fertile Second Temple period (515 BCE–70 CE). We will encounter the learned societies of holy men like the Pharisees and the Qumran sectarians, as well as the freedom fighter/terrorists called the Zealots. Our main source will be the New Testament of the Christian Bible, though these sources will be supplemented by other primary materials. Excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinic literature, as well as other Hellenistic texts from that period provide the cultural backdrop in which Christianity has its roots. We will learn about the spread of the new movement of “Christians,” as they were called by their detractors in Antioch, from its roots in the Holy Land into the greater Greco-Roman world. How did that movement, which began among the Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean, come to be wholly associated with Gentiles by the end of the second century? Who became Christian? Why were they hated so much by the greater Greco-Roman society? What did they believe? How did they behave? What are the origins of Christian anti-Semitism? What kind of social world, with its senses of hierarchy and gender relations, did these people envision for themselves?

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

Open, FYS—Year

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

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Theories of Agency and Action in Science Studies

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course surveys a rich historical debate in science, technology, and society studies on the nature of agency—or the motivation behind, and responsibility for, action. The lecture course begins with an exploration of the nature of scientific fact, including how discoveries are made and how they become accepted in society. We will pay special attention to the concepts of co-production, the idea that humans and technologies work together, and situated action, the reality that actions are rooted in social context, to study how technologies become central to social interaction. This grounding theory will lay a foundation for students to consider an ongoing debate on the distinction between human and nonhuman action. The course culminates with an exploration of three contemporary discussions on the nature of agency with respect to automated weapons systems, assistive technologies for people with disabilities, and the use of algorithms to order social life. For each topic, we will consider how technologies influence social interaction and who or what is responsible when things go wrong. In group conference, students will practice analyzing how technologies shape social interaction through a series of “object readings,” short analyses of a single technological object. These assignments are designed to prepare students for a final group analysis of a technology of their choice.

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Sociology of Global Inequalities

Open, Lecture—Spring

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

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Both Public and Private: The Social Construction of Family Life

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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The Sociology of Sports

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

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

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Measuring Difference: Constructing Race, Gender, and Ability

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this seminar, we will explore the sociology of classification, a subfield that critiques the ways in which society measures differences like race, gender, ability, and other social categories that communicate social worth. Three questions guide our inquiry: How does society construct and understand categories of difference? How do people experience and resist categories of social difference in themselves? How does social difference shape institutions like the family, education, employment, and government? Each week, students will engage a selection of texts that put theory, substantive research on social categories, and critical responses to them in conversation with one another. For a final class project, students will explore one area of social difference through individual and group writing assignments. Those assignments will provide training in documentary analysis, a qualitative method often used in historical and ethnographic research. Students will leave the course with the ability to identify areas of social difference, the practices through which these are produced, and a systematic critique of the ways in which measurement creates inequality in the social world.

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Site/Situation

Open, Seminar—Spring

Like the body, a sculpture is always somewhere. Movable or fixed, permanent or ephemeral, sculptural work is indivisible from the space in which it is experienced—a space that we, too, inhabit. Over the semester, students in this course will engage in progressively complex interactions with object, space, and site. Our first site will be a sheet of paper for “conversational” works with a partner. The course will end with students engaging in independently conceived interactions with a specific site (thinking of “site,” broadly, as the place where the work “resides”). Throughout, we will look at diverse examples of “installation” from throughout art history and a range of texts that take on the relationship of artist and site. And we will make at least one trip to museums and galleries in New York City. We will also discuss the process and possibilities of documentation (through photography, video, writing, and even speaking) as a part of the life and experience of the work.

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The Matter in Material

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

“...[O]ur bodies are large collections of oscillating entities existing in an environment made largely of diverse populations of other oscillating identities,” posits the philosopher Manuel DeLanda in column #10, Matter Singing in Unison, of his “Matter Matters” series in Domus Magazine (2005). Within the scope of those oscillations, our physical surroundings and the material of our daily existence hold inherent resonance and association within and upon our memories and bodies. As artists, how can we learn to tap those often invisible vibrations that course through stuff? How can the materials that we use in our work be encouraged to speak their own realities and histories? And how do we deepen our understanding of material in order to amplify this effect or, even better, understand what is already there? This semester-long course will explore diverse strategies to mine this “invisible” information. Broad (and messy) experimentation, collaboration, readings, and creative research in the first part of the course will lead to the creation of a series of two- and three-dimensional works that use the inherent assets of material (both physical and psychological) to create new forms and meanings. Reassembling, repurposing, recombining, relocating, and deconstructing will be examined as process filters through which we can push materials to communicate their histories and properties. Regular group discussions and critiques will allow us to learn from our own experiments and those of others. Prior experience in visual art courses is helpful, though not required. Please bring examples of relevant work to the interview, and expectations of what you hope to gain from the course.

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Art and the Climate Crisis

Open, Concept—Spring

Artists throughout time have used nature as both inspiration and medium. This course will explore art about our human relationship to the environment through to the natural trajectory of art that engages with our current climate crisis. What role are artists and art institutions taking in helping raise public consciousness about issues like climate change? As cultural producers, what is the responsibility of artists to sustainability or to the environment? We will discuss the ramifications of these questions by examining some of the history of artists working in and with the environment and nature, through taking field trips to relevant art works and installations, through dialogue with practitioners in the field, and through some hands-on creative exercises in making art within these themes. Concurrently, individual research in a topic of interest will lead students to a final project where they will make/propose/analyze/curate an environmental art project of their own. No previous experience in studio arts classes is required but could be helpful.

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

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

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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First-Year Studies: Two Lenses on Writing

Open, FYS—Year

The first semester of this FYS course will be focused on words and pictures, with its central lens on stories: how to find them, tell them, and make your listener, viewer, or reader come along with you. The course includes adding a visual element, photography, drawing, paste-ups, collage, animations, anime. We will read and then make a few of the following: a collective graphic novel, some children's books, adult books with pictures, illuminated manuscripts, comics. Your conference work will be a finished version of a project of your choice. The second semester of the course will be a class in episodes: pieces of a continuing story that follow a thread but may have different leading characters in each episode; or a frame, with many peoples' stories inside; or movement from one time, place, and set of characters to another. We will bring in and discuss episodes that we love in books, TV, podcasts. We will do exercises until we come upon something that engages us and then start our conference work, which will involve six episodes, more or less. In both semesters, we will have an extra meeting every other week to discuss whatever comes up: paper writing, social issues, food, procrastination. These sessions may be led by the professor, outside speakers, or a rotating group of students.

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Stories and...

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

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

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