Economics

At Sarah Lawrence College, economics is not taught as a set of techniques for working in a static field but, rather, as an evolving discipline. In the liberal-arts tradition, Sarah Lawrence students approach the study of economics by addressing issues in historical, political, and cultural context. Students analyze and evaluate multiple schools of thought as they relate to actual situations—exploring, from an economic perspective, topics such as globalization, growth and social policy, inequality, capitalism, and the environment. Students who have focused on economics have gone on to become union organizers, join the Peace Corps, intern with United Nations agencies, enter law school, and enter graduate programs in public policy and international development.

Economics 2024-2025 Courses

Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Open, Small Lecture—Year | 10 credits

ECON 2051

Economics has a profound impact on all of our lives, from where we live and go to school to what we do for a living, what we eat, and how we entertain ourselves. Economics is also crucially intertwined with the social and political issues that we care about, from global climate change to poverty and discrimination. In this course, we will examine the role of economics and economists in a range of key policy issues, such as money, taxation, governmental spending, finance, international trade, antitrust, labor market, education, environment protection, and climate change. We will focus on how economics has been used and, perhaps more importantly, misused in these policy issues. We begin this course with a brief history of the United States and the global economy. We then introduce a variety of approaches to economic analysis, including neoclassical, Keynesian, behavioral, Marxian, and feminist. Finally, we’ll apply these contrasting theoretical perspectives to current economic issues and controversies. Requirements will include frequent, short writing assignments and participation in small-group projects.

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Law and Political Economy: Challenging Laissez Faire

Open, Lecture—Year | 10 credits

ECON 2044

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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Controversies in Microeconomics

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

ECON 3553

What assumptions, methodologies, values, vision, and theoretical foundations do microeconomists incorporate and rely upon for analyzing economic behavior at the individual level? What insights, knowledge, inferences, and/or conclusions can be gleaned through examining characteristics of individual firms, agents, households, and markets in order to understand capitalist society? How do our theories of individual and business behavior inform our interpretation of distributional outcomes? Among other topics, this yearlong seminar in microeconomics will offer an inquiry into economic decision-making vis-à-vis: theories of demand and supply, the individual (agents), households, consumption (consumer choice); theories of production and costs; theories of the firm (business enterprise, corporations); theories of markets and competition; prices and pricing theory; and public policy. This course will provide a rigorous analysis of theory and policy in the neoclassical and broad critical political economy traditions. A central theoretical issue will be an engagement of the “governments versus markets” dichotomy, which is at the heart of neoclassical economics. This important theme will be addressed by investigating the rival treatments of institutions in neoclassical economics (New Institutional Economics) and the Law and Political Economy tradition. Among other topics, we will analyze how these different approaches to institutions and the economy study cost-benefit analysis, Pareto optimality, business competition, and the Coase Theorem. The spring semester will incorporate the study of business history.

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United States Workers’ Movement: From Colonial Slavery to Economic Globalization

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

ECON 3041

In this yearlong seminar course, we will explore the history of the US labor movement from its beginnings in the colonial society of the 1600s to the “globalized” cities of the 2020s. Beginning with the involuntary labor arrangements that structured the continent’s economy from the 1600s to the Civil War, we will focus on the international workers’ movement against slavery: abolitionism. The abolitionist struggle will take us from the first rebellions of involuntary workers to the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. From there, we will consider the strikes, uprisings, and organizations of the late 19th- and 20th-century industrial labor movement, beginning with the Great Upheaval of 1877 and ending with the postindustrial urban uprisings of 1967. We will consider the peak of “big labor” during the mid-20th century, alongside the peak in Cold War-era US imperialism that structured the economy during that time. We will begin the spring semester by thoroughly considering the major structural shifts in the US economy that began in the 1970s, generally referred to as a combination of “globalization” and “neoliberalism.” These shifts degraded job quality and worker power, relegating the working class to service positions in the “global city” structure. In responding to these shifts, we will consider numerous autonomous unions and “worker centers” that have sprung up to address the new issues of this new economy in the past 20 years. We will also focus on broader 21st-century people’s struggles—like the Anti-Globalization Movement, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter—and how these movements relate to the ongoing workers’ movement. Requirements for the course include discussion posts, short papers, and a group presentation. For the course’s major project, students will have two options. The first is writing two connected final essays, one for each semester. The second is engaging in a yearlong research project, which can be focused on service learning and in-the-field placements with local worker centers and unions, if students wish. Students will meet with the instructor every other week for individual conferences, depending on the student’s needs and the progress of their conference projects. Required texts may include: Strike! by Jeremy Brecher, The Many-Headed Hydra by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, An African-American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz, The Global City by Saskia Sassen, New Labor in New York by Ruth Milkman and Ed Ott, and Labor Law for the Rank and Filer by Staughton Lynd and Daniel Gross.

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Introduction to Feminist Economics

Sophomore and Above, Small seminar—Year | 10 credits

ECON 3514

Note: Some background in high-school or college economics is recommended but not required.

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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Money, Finance, Income, Employment, and Economic Crisis—Macroeconomic Theories and Policies

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

ECON 3764

Prerequisite: college-level economics course

What should monetary policies focus on? How should governments decide on taxation and fiscal spending? How do monetary policies and fiscal policies work? What factors impact income and employment in the short run and in the long run? Why are there economic and financial crises? Who is responsible for financial crises? What does modern finance do? Has the financial market grown too big? How big is too big? What’s the relationship between the economy and the environment? In this course, we will examine the fundamental debates in macroeconomic theory and policymaking. The standard analytical framework of GDP determination in the short run will be used as our entry point of analysis. On top of that, we will examine multiple theoretical and empirical perspectives on money, credit and financial markets, investment, governmental spending, unemployment, growth and distribution, crisis, technological change, and long swings of capitalist economies. For each topic, we will not only examine and discuss the theories but also use multiple in-class, hands-on activities to learn tangible, intuitive, and accessible methods for analyzing up-to-date economic data and simulating the macroeconomy in Excel or Google Sheets.

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Environmental Justice and Yonkers: The Political Economy of People, Power, Place, and Pollution

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

ECON 3802

Environmental injustice is both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, environmental injustice is the unequal distribution of environmental burdens (or benefits) in a society. As a process, environmental injustice is the history and institutions that project political, economic, and social inequalities into the environmental sphere. In this course, we will discuss the broad environmental justice literature and connect it with our immediate community: Yonkers, NY. We will first measure the disproportionate environmental burdens in the city’s low-income and minority neighborhoods. Then, we will utilize economics to examine the causal mechanisms of environmental injustice. We will focus on the evolution of the housing market, the changing demographics of Yonkers, the location choice of major pollution sources, political representation and power, exclusionary and expulsive zoning policies, etc. We will draw knowledge from multiple fields—economics, politics, sociology, geography, etc. We will examine the issue using multiple methodologies and assess different policy options for improving environmental and climate justice in Yonkers. We will also examine the policy implications of each environmental injustice issue. For each topic/issue, we will have in-depth discussions based on the readings, followed by in-class collaborative research activities that produce qualitative and quantitative evidence of environmental injustice in Yonkers. To visualize environmental injustice, we will use a geographic information system (GIS) to make maps. You will then be asked to write about the issue in an assignment and discuss potential policy recommendations.

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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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Environmental Justice and Yonkers: The Political Economy of People, Power, Place, and Pollution

Open, Seminar—Spring

Environmental injustice is both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, environmental injustice is the unequal distribution of environmental burdens (or benefits) in a society. As a process, environmental injustice is the history and institutions that project political, economic, and social inequalities into the environmental sphere. In this course, we will discuss the broad environmental justice literature and connect it with our immediate community: Yonkers, NY. We will first measure the disproportionate environmental burdens in the city’s low-income and minority neighborhoods. Then, we will utilize economics to examine the causal mechanisms of environmental injustice. We will focus on the evolution of the housing market, the changing demographics of Yonkers, the location choice of major pollution sources, political representation and power, exclusionary and expulsive zoning policies, etc. We will draw knowledge from multiple fields—economics, politics, sociology, geography, etc. We will examine the issue using multiple methodologies and assess different policy options for improving environmental and climate justice in Yonkers. We will also examine the policy implications of each environmental injustice issue. For each topic/issue, we will have in-depth discussions based on the readings, followed by in-class collaborative research activities that produce qualitative and quantitative evidence of environmental injustice in Yonkers. To visualize environmental injustice, we will use a geographic information system (GIS) to make maps. You will then be asked to write about the issue in an assignment and discuss potential policy recommendations.

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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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Making Latin America

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

This course examines Latin America in the making. From the time of Andean ayllus to the contemporary battles between the populist left and the populist right, this lecture course offers a survey of the more than five centuries of the history of the region that we know as Latin America. The course will examine the rise and fall of the Aztec and Inca empires, the colonial order that emerged in their stead, independence from Iberian rule, and the division of the empire into a myriad of independent republics or states searching for a “nation.” In the second part of the course, by focusing on specific national trajectories, we will then ask how the American and Iberian civilizations shaped the new national experiences and how those who made claims on the “nation” defined and transformed the colonial legacies. In the third and final portion of the course, we will study the long 20th century and the multiple experiences of, and interplay between, anti-Americanism, revolution, populism, and authoritarianism. We will ask how different national pacts and projects attempted to solve the problem of political inclusion and social integration that emerged after the consolidation of the 19th-century liberal state. Using primary and secondary sources, fiction and film, the course will provide students with an understanding of historical phenomena such as mestizaje, caudillismo, populism, reformism, corruption, and informality, among other concepts key to the debates in contemporary Latin America. The course meets for one weekly lecture and one weekly group conference. Aside from mandatory attendance and participation, the requirements for the course include an individual exam, a collaborative research project, and a primary source analysis.

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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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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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Multivariable Mathematics: Linear Algebra, Vector Calculus, and Differential Equations

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

Rarely is a quantity of interest—tomorrow’s temperature, unemployment rates across Europe, the cost of a spring-break flight to Fort Lauderdale—a simple function of just one primary variable. Reality, for better or worse, is mathematically multivariable. This course introduces an array of topics and tools used in the mathematical analysis of multivariable functions. The intertwined theories of vectors, matrices, and differential equations and their applications will be the central themes of exploration in this yearlong course. Specific topics to be covered include the algebra and geometry of vectors in two, three, and higher dimensions; dot and cross products and their applications; equations of lines and planes in higher dimensions; solutions to systems of linear equations, using Gaussian elimination; theory and applications of determinants, inverses, and eigenvectors; volumes of three-dimensional solids via integration; spherical and cylindrical coordinate systems; and methods of visualizing and constructing solutions to differential equations of various types. Conference work will involve an investigation of some mathematically-themed subject of the student’s choosing.

Calculus I: The Study of Motion and Change

Open, Seminar—Fall

Our existence lies in a perpetual state of change. An apple falls from a tree; clouds move across expansive farmland, blocking out the sun for days; meanwhile, satellites zip around the Earth transmitting and receiving signals to our cell phones. The calculus was invented to develop a language to accurately describe the motion and change happening all around us. The ancient Greeks began a detailed study of change but were scared to wrestle with the infinite, and so it was not until the 17th century that Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, among others, tamed the infinite and gave birth to this extremely successful branch of mathematics. Though just a few hundred years old, the calculus has become an indispensable research tool in both the natural and social sciences. Our study begins with the central concept of the limit and proceeds to explore the dual processes of differentiation and integration. Numerous applications of the theory will be examined. For conference work, students may choose to undertake a deeper investigation of a single topic or application of the calculus or conduct a study of some other mathematically-related topic. This seminar is intended for students interested in advanced study in mathematics or sciences, students preparing for careers in the health sciences or engineering, and any student wishing to broaden and enrich the life of the mind.

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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? How are they used? 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 many 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. Enrolled students are expected to have an understanding of basic high-school algebra and plane coordinate geometry.

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Deranged Democracy: How Can We Govern Ourselves if Everyone Has Lost Their Minds?

Open, Small Lecture—Year

Many of us are struck by the growing irrationality of contemporary democratic politics to the point where we despair of our capacity to address problems like global climate change or pandemics that could pose existential threats to our species, to fashion constructive foreign policy as wars rage, or to face a whole range of urgent but more mundane policy issues. In this class, we will seek to understand disturbing trends like populism, polarization, disinformation, and self-injuring or -defeating politics, as well as the resurfacing of nativism, xenophobia, and racism in contemporary politics—in part on their own terms but also by asking whether they are deeply rooted in human nature, at least on our current best understandings of ourselves. More specifically, democracy seems to rely on at least a minimum degree of rationality, learning, openness to argument and difference, and self-control on the part of the citizens whose votes and opinions guide government policy. But is this reliance foolhardy in light of what recent history, psychology, evolutionary theory, philosophy, and cognitive science teach? Do aspects of our current social and technological circumstances make us less able to manifest these qualities of character today than our Enlightenment progenitors hoped in the era of democratic revolutions—the era from which many of the ideas and institutions that continue to inform our politics today emerged? In this course, we will survey aspects of the political history of recent centuries, as well as our own historical moment, to ask if they should temper confidence in the power of reason in politics. We will also examine recent research in cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy that conclude that it is hard to sustain a model of human behavior that places reason and rationality in the driver’s seat. What alternative accounts of human nature are emerging from recent research? And what are their political implications, especially for democratic societies? By bringing together political science, history, and theory with cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy, we should be able to occupy the intersection of distinct but equally relevant disciplines to ask whether the Enlightenment’s faith in democracy was misplaced. Or, instead, are there reasons to believe that democracy can maintain its claim to legitimacy, even after reason has been demoted in our understandings of human nature? To address this final question, we will also examine proposals for 21st-century democratic reforms that either seek to adjust downward the expectations on the capacity of citizens to engage in deliberative politics or to refashion political institutions to better summon the better angels of our nature.

Faculty

Deranged Democracy: How Can We Govern Ourselves if Everyone Has Lost Their Minds?

Open, Small Lecture—Year

Many of us are struck by the growing irrationality of contemporary democratic politics to the point where we despair of our capacity to address problems like global climate change or pandemics that could pose existential threats to our species, to fashion constructive foreign policy as wars rage, or to face a whole range of urgent but more mundane policy issues. In this class, we will seek to understand disturbing trends like populism, polarization, disinformation, and self-injuring or -defeating politics, as well as the resurfacing of nativism, xenophobia, and racism in contemporary politics—in part on their own terms but also by asking whether they are deeply rooted in human nature, at least on our current best understandings of ourselves. More specifically, democracy seems to rely on at least a minimum degree of rationality, learning, openness to argument and difference, and self-control on the part of the citizens whose votes and opinions guide government policy. But is this reliance foolhardy in light of what recent history, psychology, evolutionary theory, philosophy, and cognitive science teach? Do aspects of our current social and technological circumstances make us less able to manifest these qualities of character today than our Enlightenment progenitors hoped in the era of democratic revolutions—the era from which many of the ideas and institutions that continue to inform our politics today emerged? In this course, we will survey aspects of the political history of recent centuries, as well as our own historical moment, to ask if they should temper confidence in the power of reason in politics. We will also examine recent research in cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy that conclude that it is hard to sustain a model of human behavior that places reason and rationality in the driver’s seat. What alternative accounts of human nature are emerging from recent research? And what are their political implications, especially for democratic societies? By bringing together political science, history, and theory with cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy, we should be able to occupy the intersection of distinct but equally relevant disciplines to ask whether the Enlightenment’s faith in democracy was misplaced. Or, instead, are there reasons to believe that democracy can maintain its claim to legitimacy, even after reason has been demoted in our understandings of human nature? To address this final question, we will also examine proposals for 21st-century democratic reforms that either seek to adjust downward the expectations on the capacity of citizens to engage in deliberative politics or to refashion political institutions to better summon the better angels of our nature.

Faculty

International Political Economy

Open, Seminar—Fall

It is often said that all politics is economics. The aim of this course is to show that all economics is politics. Though economists and policymakers often present their economic policy decisions and views as neutral—based solely on abstract mathematical models, guided by the laws of nature (or the “invisible hand” of the market)—they are, in fact, driven by transparent political ends and ideology. In this class, we will question the frequently proclaimed universality, neutrality, and inevitability of economic principles and policies through a close examination of liberal and neoliberal ideology and the ways in which it limits political discourse, reforms, and development. We will look at the origins of capitalism. We will examine the economic and political origins and consequences of shock therapy in Latin America and Eastern Europe, structural adjustment policies in countries suffering from economic crisis, and austerity measures imposed by the Troika on Greece and other states in the European Union. We’ll also look at socioeconomic explanations for the recent rise of populist parties and politicians and, especially, popular support for the far right. Some of the questions that we will explore include: What is the role of international economic institutions in domestic and international affairs? How do the interactions between international and domestic institutions and actors determine the production and distribution of scarce resources? And what is the relationship between capitalism and democracy and between international financial institutions and national sovereignty?

Faculty

The Political Economy of Democratic Capitalism

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

The 21st-century political economy is often blamed for backsliding and outright decay in many of the world’s democratic societies. An increasingly global, financialized, deregulated, information-intensive, and automated economy tends to produce high levels of inequality in wealth and income, accompanied by growing resentment at the unfairness of the distribution of resources. This resentment, in turn, feeds populist politics, often with an authoritarian drift and a nativist tendency to scapegoat immigrants, minorities, and/or (liberal) elites for the growing precariousness experienced by many. At the same time, unresponsive political institutions that seem powerless to regulate economic forces produce growing disenchantment with traditional democracy and mainstream political parties, reinforcing democratic decay. This diagnosis begs the question: What does 21st-century democracy require of its political economy? Posing the question from this perspective directs attention to the reasons that many democratic theorists have viewed democratic capitalism as dilemmatic rather than oxymoronic. They have simultaneously embraced two ideas. First, a capitalist economy—in which investment decisions remain largely at the control of private owners of capital and others’ need to sell their labor to firms organized to produce profit while goods and jobs are distributed by markets and regulated by pricing mechanism—has so far proved an essential prerequisite to the successful institutionalization of modern, constitutional, representative democracy (due, for instance, to the way in which it diffuses social power, supports the emergence of a sizable middle class, democratizes via commodifying culture, and incentivizes constructive cultivation of individual capacity and social innovation). But second, this kind of economy also unleashes powerful social forces that predictably distort or undermine fuller democratization; for instance, by generating levels of social inequality incompatible with the normative requirements of equal citizenship and, more generally, by allowing one of the main social systems via which society is reproduced to operate autonomously and, therefore, often in tension with the distinct logic of democratically formed opinion and will. In this course, we will examine these issues by attempting to identify: (1) the most defensible conceptions of democracy for the 21st century, (2) the most important and politically relevant trends of the contemporary economic epoch, and (3) whether recent economic developments are contributing to contemporary democratic decay. We will then (4) ask whether capitalism’s antidemocratic drives have ever been successfully tamed in the past and (5) seek to evaluate the prospects of some current proposal for taming capitalism’s antidemocratic impulses.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Emotions and Decisions

FYS—Year

Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it. —Baruch Spinoza, Ethics

What should I wear today? How should I respond to this text? Where should I apply to college? Every decision we make, big or small, is influenced by our emotions—at times without our explicit knowledge or conscious awareness of their influence. We can certainly appreciate how this might be the case in our own lived experiences, from the joys of picking a fun outfit to the anxiety of making a life-changing decision. Up until recently, however, the fields of psychology, economics, and neuroscience paid little attention to—and, in some cases, outright rejected—the empirical (evidence-based) study of how emotions affect our decisions. In this FYS seminar, we will explore the essential role that emotions play in our lives and their strong interplay with our decisions. During the fall semester, we will read and analyze works in psychology, behavioral economics, literature, philosophy, and popular media to examine how scholars in psychology and other disciplines have attempted to define and study something as subjective as emotions. Examples include works by William James, Paul Ekman, Lisa Feldman-Barrett, Daniel Kahneman, and others. We will also explore the role of emotions as the decision-making process unfolds. We will embed those processes in a variety of contexts, including personal, social, forensic, financial, and political realms. In the spring, we will revisit and build on these concepts by pinpointing the areas of the brain that are involved in generating, expressing, and regulating emotions and making decisions. No prior knowledge of psychology or neuroscience is required. This course may appeal to students who are curious about the mind and brain, as well as to those who wish to deepen their storytelling and character development in creative writing and filmmaking. Students will meet in biweekly conferences with the instructor to develop independent projects and biweekly small-group collaboratives with their peers to engage in creative group activities, applied workshops, book/journal clubs, film screenings, guest lectures, hands-on labs, and field trips.

Faculty

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.

Faculty

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.

Faculty

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.

Faculty

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.

Faculty

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.

Faculty