Environmental Studies

Environmental studies at Sarah Lawrence College is an engagement with human relationships to the environment through a variety of disciplines. Sarah Lawrence’s environmental-studies program, a critical component of a liberal-arts education, is an intersection of knowledge making and questions about the environment that are based in the humanities, the arts, and the social and natural sciences. Sarah Lawrence students seeking to expand their knowledge of environmental studies are encouraged to explore the interconnections between disciplinary perspectives while developing areas of particular interest in greater depth. The environmental-studies program seeks to develop students’ capacities for critical thought and analysis, applying theory to specific examples from Asia, Africa, and the Americas and making comparisons across geographic regions and historical moments.

Courses include environmental justice and politics, environmental history and economics, policy and development, property and the commons, environmental risk and the rhetoric of emerging threats, and cultural perspectives on nature, as well as courses in the natural sciences.

Environmental studies offers an annual, thematically-focused colloquium: Intersections: Boundary Work in Science and Environmental Studies. This series brings advocates, scholars, writers, and filmmakers to the College, encouraging conversations across the disciplines among students, faculty, and guest speakers, as well as access to new ideas and lively exchanges. Students may participate in internships during the academic year or in rural and urban settings across the country and throughout the world during the summer. Guest study at Reed College (Portland, Oregon), the Council on International Educational Exchange (Portland, Maine), the semester in environmental science at the Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, Massachusetts), and other programs are available to qualified Sarah Lawrence students. Vibrant connections across the faculty mean that students can craft distinctive competencies while building a broadly based knowledge of environmental issues, problems, policies, and possibilities.

Environmental Studies 2022-2023 Courses

Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Specters of the Subject: Hauntologies of Ghosts, Phantasms, and Imaginings in Contemporary Life

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. His interlocutor, Bernard Stiegler, phrases the main idea behind this statement: “Modern technology, contrary to appearances, increases tenfold the power of ghosts.” With the advent of the internet, various forms of social media, and the ubiquity of filmic images in our lives, Derrida’s observations have proven to be quite prophetic, such that they call for a new field of study—one that requires less an ontology of being and the real and more a “hauntology” (to invoke Derrida’s punish term) of the spectral, the virtual, the phantasmic, the imaginary, and the recurrent revenant. In this seminar, we consider ways in which the past and present are haunted by ghosts. Topics to be covered include: specters and hauntings, figures and apparitions, history and memory, trauma and political crisis, fantasy and imagination, digital interfaces, and visual and acoustical images. We will be considering a range of films and video, photography, literary texts, acoustic reverberations, internet and social media, and everyday discourses and imaginings. Through these inquiries, we will be able to further our understanding of the nature of specters and apparitions in the contemporary world in their many forms and dimensions. Students will be invited to undertake their own hauntologies and, thus, craft studies of the phenomenal force of specters, hauntings, and the apparitional in particular social or cultural contexts.

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Queer(ing) India: Literature, Film, and Law

Open, Seminar—Fall

What is a queer perspective on culture and society? This course aims to provide an introductory survey to queer narratives and cultural production from India and the Indian diaspora as a way to think through this question. Texts will cover a large swath of time, from the early 20th century to the present, and will range across genres such as speculative feminist fiction, political and cultural manifestos, postcolonial novels, and contemporary films. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India finally struck down from the Indian Penal Code Section 377, a colonial-era law used to criminalize homosexuality and other “unnatural” sex acts, after more than a decade of legal battles. The fight for legal rights was accompanied by growing queer representation in popular culture and literature. The supposed “coming out” of queerness into Indian social and cultural life in the last 10 years, the demand to be seen and heard, has been critiqued by some as a by-product of “Westernization” or the influence of “foreign-returned” elites inspired by the Euro-American LGBTQ movement. This has brought with it the need to understand the diversity of queer India as well as the diaspora. In the case of the diaspora, we will work to de-center the Euro-American diaspora, paying attention to long histories of migration to the African continent and indentured labor in the Caribbean and the Pacific as sites for possible South-South solidarities. Taking seriously questions of race, caste, class, nationality, and gender, we will consider what a queer orientation to those hegemonic structures might be and what it might reveal. Thinking through the ways in which experiences of gender and sexuality were iterated and experienced across times and spaces will help us think through the specifics of each text (and its contexts) while also following threads and connections beyond. By considering these questions, this course hopes to think through the contradictory realities of a moment in India during which major Bollywood studios are producing gay dramas and even rom-coms, while questions of sexuality, gender, class, caste, and religious identity are being violently weaponized by mobs with seeming impunity granted by a Hindu-nationalist state. Students will engage with a diverse set of cultural, political, and legal artifacts—such as the writings of “founding fathers” like Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar—as well as legal briefs opposing the punitive Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, which further stigmatizes non-normative gender identities by requiring transgender people to register with the government. We will read fiction, old and new, such as Untouchable (1935), The God of Small Things (1997), and A Life Apart (2016), as well as watch movies ranging from indie films like Chitrangada (2012) to Bollywood rom-coms like Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan (2020).

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Global Queer Literature: Dystopias and Hope

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this seminar, we will study queer texts and films, considering their particular articulations of queer life and its possibilities. Texts will cover a large swath of time, from the early 20th century until the present, and will range across genres such as speculative feminist fiction, first-nations narratives, postcolonial novels, and contemporary Bollywood films. We will end the course by looking at science fiction that explores life in spaces that some consider dystopian futures but are already becoming the present for many. As this arc indicates, an underlying theme of the course will be the maintaining of the creativity and vitality of everyday life while drowning in literal and discursive trash. Across the globe, queer lives have already been lived in materially and discursively toxic contexts. Engaging with text and films produced across the world—set in places such as South Africa, India, Argentina, and even galaxies yet undiscovered—we will think through the lessons that the creation of a queer life illuminate for us. Queer life within the context of this seminar refers to the multifarious ways in which marginalized and non-normative bodies and peoples create social and political lives. Carefully considering the contexts and possibilities that the characters encounter, we will explore how “queer” is a term that translates and mutates in interesting ways across time and place. In paying attention to the specificities of the texts, “queer” itself is thus a term that we will reckon with. Taking seriously questions of race, class, nationality, and gender, we will consider what a queer orientation to those hegemonic structures produces or reveals—not only in past literary texts but also as a way of imagining a hopeful future. As we encounter air and water that is more polluted, toxic even, than at any time in which homo sapiens have walked the Earth, the only response may seem to be pessimism. Rejecting pessimism, we will ask what queer futures and hope we can imagine at a moment of planetary crisis. Potential texts: Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain (1905); Lihaaf, Ismat Chugtai (1942); The House of Hunger, Dambudzo Marechera (1978); The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi (1990); Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee (1999); Bloodchild, Octavia Butler (1994); Animal’s People, Indra Sinha (2007); Moxyland, Lauren Beukes (2008); The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy (2017); Happy Together (film, 1997); Margarita With a Straw (film, 2014); and Pumzi (film, 2009).

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First-Year Studies: Urban Ecology

FYS—Year

Ecology is a scientific discipline that studies interactions between living organisms and their environments, as well as processes governing how species are distributed, how they interact, and how nutrients and energy cycle through ecosystems. Although we may think of these processes occurring in “natural” areas with little-to-no human development, all of these processes still take place in environments heavily modified by humans, such as cities. This course will cover fundamental concepts in the discipline of ecology and then further explore how these patterns and processes are altered (sometimes dramatically) in urban environments. We will use examples from our local environment—the New York City metropolitan area—to understand ecological concepts in light of urbanization. The fall semester will include a biweekly outdoor lab session at local parks and field stations. Biweekly individual conferences with students will be held during both the fall and spring semesters. Special attention will be paid to the ecology of local streams and rivers, including field trips and work involving the Sarah Lawrence Center for the Urban River at Beczak. This course will also participate in interdisciplinary activities as part of the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE).

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Principles of Botany

Open, Seminar—Fall

Understanding the basic principles of plant biology is crucial to understanding the complex web of life on Earth and its evolutionary history. Nearly all organisms, including humans, rely on plants—directly or indirectly—for their basic needs. Consequently, plants are essential to our existence; by studying them, we learn more about our self and the world we inhabit. This course is an introductory survey of botanical science and is designed for the student with little science background. We will broadly examine numerous topics related to botany, including: cell biology comprising DNA/RNA, photosynthesis, and respiration; plant structure, reproduction, and evolution; and plant diversity, ecology, and habitats. Seminars and textbook readings will be supplemented by a field trip to the New York Botanical Garden. Conference projects will provide the opportunity for the student to explore specific botanical interests in detail.

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Gothic Decay: The Literature and Science of Soils, Swamps, and Forests

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

Western literature and culture deeply influence how our country negatively perceives transitional spaces, such as the spaces between cultivated land and forest or between water and land. The need for control pushes us to reshape or eliminate marshes, swamps, thickets, and other forms of overgrowth. Similarly, we feel uncomfortable considering the soils in which we bury our dead—or we ignore them completely. Yet, a closer examination of the biology of decay reveals cycles of life that follow death, with growth, reproduction, and nutrient exchange accompanying decay at every turn. We will read excerpts of literary works that have shaped our cultural perception of decay and of these transitional states and spaces, including works by Sophocles, Mary Shelley, Alice Walker, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and others. We will also explore the ecosystems themselves through lab experiments and trips to local parks and field stations (Center for the Urban River at Beczak, Untermeyer Gardens). This joint course will evaluate the divide between culture and science and explore how cultural representations may evolve with an adequate framing of scientific research and findings. This course fully participates in the collaborative interludes in the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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Plant Systematics and Evolution

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Understanding the diversity of plants and their evolutionary relationships is fundamental to understanding the complex web of life on Earth. Nearly all other organisms, including humans, rely on plants—directly or indirectly—for their food and oxygen. Consequently, plants are essential to our existence. And by studying plants in detail, we learn more about our own species and the world we inhabit. This course is a detailed survey of plant diversity and the evolutionary relationships of plants. You will gain a thorough understanding of the diverse morphology of plants and will acquire an understanding of the plant “Tree of Life.” You will be able to describe morphological structures of plants using botanical terminology and learn how to identify prominent plant families using diagnostic morphological characters and plant keys. Seminars and associated labs will be supplemented with independent field collections.

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General Chemistry I

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Chemistry is the study of the properties, composition, and transformation of matter. Chemistry is central to the production of the materials required for modern life; for instance, the synthesis of pharmaceuticals to treat disease, the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides required to feed an ever-growing population, and the development of efficient and environmentally-benign energy sources. This course provides an introduction to the fundamental concepts of modern chemistry. We will begin by examining the structure and properties of atoms, which are the building blocks of the elements and the simplest substances in the material world around us. We will then explore how atoms of different elements can bond with each other to form an infinite variety of more complex substances, called compounds. This will lead us to an investigation of several classes of chemical reactions, the processes by which substances are transformed into new materials with different physical properties. Along the way, we will learn how and why the three states of matter (solids, liquids, and gases) differ from one another and how energy may be either produced or consumed by chemical reactions. In weekly laboratory sessions, we will perform experiments to illustrate and test the theories presented in the lecture part of the course. These experiments will also serve to develop practical skills in both synthetic and analytic chemical techniques.

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General Chemistry II

Intermediate, Small Lecture—Spring

This course is a continuation of General Chemistry I. We will begin with a detailed study of both the physical and chemical properties of solutions. This will enable us to consider the factors that affect both the rates and direction of chemical reactions. We will then investigate the properties of acids and bases and the role that electricity plays in chemistry. The course will conclude with introductions to nuclear chemistry and organic chemistry. Weekly laboratory sessions will allow us to demonstrate and test the theories described in the lecture segment of the course.

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Environmental Chemistry

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course provides an introduction to basic concepts of chemistry and their application to current environmental issues. Topics include acid rain, ozone depletion, air pollution, climate change (global warming), surface water and groundwater pollution, and plastics and polymers. We will then consider how human activities such as transportation, energy production, and chemical industries influence the environment.

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Biochemistry

Advanced, Seminar—Spring

Biochemistry is the chemistry of biological systems. This course will introduce students to the important principles and concepts of biochemistry. Topics will include the structure and functions of biomolecules, such as amino acids, proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, RNA, DNA, and bioenergetics. This knowledge will then be used to study the pathways of metabolism.

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Econometric Analysis: Structural Explorations in the Social Sciences

Open, Lecture—Year

This course is designed for all students interested in the social sciences who wish to understand the methodology and techniques involved in the estimation of structural relationships between variables. The course is intended for students who wish to be able to carry out empirical work in their particular field, both at Sarah Lawrence College and beyond, and critically engage empirical work done by academic or professional social scientists. The practical, hands-on approach taken in this course will be useful to those students who wish to do future conference projects in the social (or natural) sciences with significant empirical content. The course will also be invaluable for students who are seeking internships, planning to enter the job market, or desiring to pursue graduate education in the social sciences and public policy. After taking this course, students will be able to analyze questions such as the following: What is the relationship between slavery and the development of capitalist industrialization in the United States? What effects do race, gender, and educational attainment have in the determination of wages? How does the female literacy rate affect the child mortality rate? How can one model the effect of economic growth on carbon-dioxide emissions? What is the relationship among sociopolitical instability, inequality, and economic growth? How do geographic location and state spending affect average public-school teacher salaries? How do socioeconomic factors determine the crime rate in the United States? During the course of the year, we will study all of these questions. In the first semester, we will cover the theoretical and applied statistical principles that underlie Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression techniques. We will begin with the assumptions needed to obtain the Best Linear Unbiased Estimates of a regression equation, also known as the “BLUE” conditions. Particular emphasis will be placed on the assumptions regarding the distribution of a model’s error term and other BLUE conditions. We will also cover hypothesis testing, sample selection, and the critical role of the t- and F-statistic in determining the statistical significance of an econometric model and its associated slope or “β” parameters. Further, we will address the three main problems associated with the violation of a particular BLUE assumption: multicollinearity, serial correlation, and heteroscedasticity. We will learn how to identify, address, and remedy each of these problems. In addition, we will take a similar approach to understanding and correcting model specification errors. The spring semester class will build on the fall class by introducing students to advanced topics in econometrics. We will study difference-in-difference estimators, autoregressive dependent lag (ARDL) models, co-integration, and error correction models involving nonstationary time series. We will investigate simultaneous equations systems, vector error correction (VEC), and vector autoregressive (VAR) models. The final part of the seminar will involve the study of panel data, as well as logit/probit models. As with the fall class, the spring class will also be very “hands-on,” in that students will get ample exposure to concrete issues while also being encouraged to consider basic methodological questions (e.g., the debates between John Maynard Keynes and Jan Tinbergen) regarding the power and limitations of econometric analysis. The spring semester is particularly relevant to students who wish to pursue graduate studies in a social-science discipline, although it will be equally relevant for those seeking other types of graduate degrees that involve knowledge of intermediate-level quantitative analysis.

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History of Political Economy and Economic History

Open, Seminar—Year

In this yearlong seminar, the fall semester will be devoted to the study of the theoretical debates on the history of economic and legal thought. It will be shown that the study of economics is incomplete without an understanding of the relationship of the economy to law and politics. These theoretical debates will be linked to transformations in capitalism in a number of different geographic contexts, especially the United States, Europe, and Africa. The dominant approach in contemporary economics is the neoclassical school. This course will introduce students to the origins, foundational tools and questions, and analytical constructs at the heart of both neoclassical and other schools of thought in economics. In the fall, the first part of the course will deal with what is called classical political economy (primarily Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx). Next, given that property, contracts, and torts are at the core of markets, the course will integrate the path-breaking insights from the linked American Legal Realist and Original Institutional Economics traditions to understand the legal institutional foundations of markets. The final part of the course will deal with the perspectives of some of the major founders of the neoclassical school (Léon Walras, William Stanley Jevons, and John Bates Clark) and their debates with institutional economists during the interwar period. Finally, the contemporary New Institutional Economics framework, with its foundations in neoclassical economics, will be compared with the insights of the original institutional economists and legal realists. The spring semester will be devoted to the study of two major topics: business history (including the study of colonialism, race, and slavery) and monetary history. The goal of the spring semester is to enable students to reflect on the applicability (or otherwise) of the theoretical perspectives discussed in the fall.

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Intermediate Microeconomics: Conflicts, Coordination, and Institutions

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Economics was born in the 18th century, around the same time that capitalism emerged in Europe. Since then, economists have sought to understand the ways in which people allocate, produce, exchange, and distribute things in capitalist societies and how such activities impact people’s welfare. For the most part of the 20th century, microeconomics centered on the “efficiency” of the free market. Since the late 20th century, contending and critical paradigms have successfully challenged the narrow definition of “efficiency” and broadened the scope of analysis from the free market to a variety of institutions. In this course, we will examine the fundamental questions, such as: What are the incentives of individual decision making under different circumstances? How do individuals make decisions? What are the social consequences of individual decision making? We will not only learn about traditional issues such as how individual consumers and firms make decisions and the welfare properties of the market but also examine how individuals interact with each other, the power relationship between individuals, the power relationship on the labor market and the credit market and inside the firms, the situations where individuals care about other than their self-interests, the successful and unsuccessful coordination of individuals, and the institutional solutions for improving social welfare.

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Economics of Environmental Justice (Intensive Semester in Yonkers)

Sophomore and Above, 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 focus on 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, and zoning policies. 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. There will be service-learning opportunities at local community organizations.

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Natural Hazards

Open, Lecture—Fall

Natural hazards are Earth-system processes that can harm humans and the ecosystems on which we rely. These processes include a wide variety of phenomena, including volcanoes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, heat waves, and hurricanes. The terms “natural hazard” and “disaster” are often used interchangeably. There have been many examples of natural hazards that have resulted in catastrophic loss of life, socioeconomic disruption, and radical transformation of natural ecosystems; however, through improved understanding of these phenomena, we can develop strategies to better prepare for and respond to natural hazards and mitigate harm. In this course, we will use case studies of natural-hazard events to explore their underlying Earth-system processes, covering topics such as plate tectonics, mass wasting, weather, and climate, along with the social and infrastructure factors that determined their impact on people. We will also explore related topics—such as probability, risk, and environmental justice—and the direct and indirect ways that different types of natural hazards will be exacerbated by global climate change. Students will attend one weekly lecture and one weekly group conference, where we will discuss scientific papers, explore data, and work on a collaborative project to investigate a potential natural-hazard event.

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Watersheds

Open, Seminar—Year

A watershed is an area of land (and the soils that underlie it) that drains to a common outlet. But this simple concept provides a critically important framework for understanding our most important water-management issues, along with many processes in environmental science and ecology. Watersheds can be defined across a range of spatial scales—from a suburban parking lot to the drainage basin of the Amazon River—and their diverse forms and characteristic represent a variety of climates, land uses, and topographies. In this course, we’ll learn how watersheds are delineated and explore the flow of water through watersheds, covering topics such as precipitation, evapotranspiration, infiltration, stream and river networks, and groundwater flow. During the second semester of the course, we’ll build on this foundation to study topics in watershed management, including water infrastructure, urbanization, interbasin transfers, flooding, water quality, and the impacts of global climate change. The course will include a weekly lab session, with indoor data-analysis activities along with field visits to sites in the Hudson River and Bronx River watersheds. No prior experience in earth or environmental science is required; however, students should be prepared to draw on the math skills they learned in high school for the water analyses that we’ll perform in this course.

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Pollution

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

The pollution of our air, water, and soils is responsible for millions of deaths across the globe each year, along with immeasurable harm to natural ecosystems. In this seminar, we will study the chemistry of environmental pollutants that are most salient today—including lead, soot, pesticides, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), sewage, nutrients, and greenhouse gases—and learn about how their chemistry influences their fate and their transport through the environment and, in turn, their impacts on human health and natural ecosystems. We will also study basic techniques of pollutant monitoring and strategies to remediate different types of pollution and restore healthy ecosystems and communities. Beyond this, we will explore the broader concept of pollution, considering how compounds that can be vital to our survival can also harm our environment, as well as how thresholds for when a compound becomes a “pollutant” are determined. Course work will include both chemistry problem-sets and diverse readings about historic and current pollution issues. Conference work will allow students to develop a case study of a pollution incident or ongoing pollution hazard.

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Critical Cartography and GIS

Open, Seminar—Fall

At first glance, the map is a pretty straightforward document. Its sole purpose (allegedly) is to orient us in our world. Orientation, however, is a big task; and when we trace the evolution of the map from the Tabula Rogeriana of the 12th century to the medieval mappa mundi and through the 3D landscapes rendered by the US military, we not only see the evolving ways in which we orient ourselves but also our evolving judgment of the worlds that we inhabit. Maps are historical documents unto themselves. For geographers, the map communicates the history of our discipline from tools of empire to Marxist counter-topography. Maps have never been value-free or objective. This course follows the evolution of the map, geographic thought, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) through the following disciplinary moments: critical geography and GIS, feminist geography and GIS, queering the map, indigenous mapping, mapping environmental (in)justice, and urban geography, among others. At the same time, students will learn the basics of the mapping software ArcGIS. Our seminars inform the critical geographic work that we will do in these lab sessions, and the sessions give us the opportunity to practically understand the social and political tensions of mapping. Students will not only source, manage, and analyze data to create maps of their choosing for their conference project but also ground their research, as a whole, in one of the subdisciplines covered in class. Students will also be encouraged to continue their research by adding a GIS/spatial component to their conference work in the second semester.

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Space, Place, and Uneven Development: Building the Countermap of New York City

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

The 1981 collection, This Bridge Called My Back (edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua), is a landmark text in women’s political and organizing literature. Forty years later, the text understandably no longer sits comfortably alongside our more contemporary critiques of gender and class. Despite its limits, and what no longer ages well, Audre Lorde’s essay, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, still resonates. We find the adage in our texts to one another, in our organizing materials, and in our own writing. For geographers, generally, and mappers, specifically, we encounter Lorde’s provocation every time we decide to map. The history of cartography is inexplicably linked to the history of imperialism and colonialism. Maps built the master’s house. And yet, despite this, countermaps of our experiences have also emerged to tell our stories of resistance. What do we make of this? Are they, too, tools that eventually undermine our efforts to carve out a different way of being and doing? Or are they truly radical bulwarks against racial capitalism? Whereas the Critical Cartography course in the fall focused on geography literature as it relates to GIS, this course discusses the politics of placemaking and, therefore, necessarily combines feminist, urban, and economic geography literatures. Here, we will situate what we already technically and critically know about spatial practices into the much broader context of placemaking in the unequal city. Our focus is New York, but our lens is varied. Student conference projects will focus on identifying particular vectors of inequality in New York, illustrating the spatial aspects of social, environmental, economic, or any other issue of the student’s choosing. This course will also be an opportunity for students to explore alternative, qualitative mapping practices.

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The Edgy Enlightenment

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

Between the triumph of the Enlightenment in the mid-18th century and the rise of Romanticism in the 1790s lies a span of time, extending roughly from 1760 to 1800, populated by a variety of writers who foreshadowed the end of the Enlightenment without being truly “Romantic.” Many of the most exciting and influential works of literature and thought produced in the 18th century were products of this ambiguous period. For want of a better name, scholars have labeled some of these works “pre-Romantic.” It might be more useful to think of them as products of an “edgy Enlightenment”—a late, adventurous phase of the Enlightenment whose representatives had begun to question the Enlightenment’s own cherished beliefs and, in some cases, to discard them. In this course, we will read a number of the most famous texts produced by writers of the “edgy Enlightenment.” Some were originally written in French: Rousseau’s path-breaking autobiography, The Confessions; Diderot’s comic experimental novel, Jacques the Fatalist and His Master. We also will look at works by Scottish writers: Adam Ferguson’s prophetic Essay on the History of Civil Society and the racy poetry of Robert Burns. Finally, we will read a number of German classics of this period: Goethe’s pioneering novel of an actor’s personal development, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship; several plays by his close collaborator, Friedrich Schiller; short treatises by the brilliant philosopher Immanuel Kant; and selections from the writings of the renowned explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Students may undertake conference projects on a broad range of topics in European history.

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First-Year Studies: Reality Check: Homer, Herodotus, and the Invention of History

FYS—Year

Reality is currently under siege. Millions of people today believe, to their core, things that are demonstrably not true. Are we “each entitled to our own reality,” as some would argue? The ancient Greeks thought otherwise. Some 2,500 years ago, the Greeks began to distinguish muthos (origin of the English word “myth”)—an unverified, unverifiable story—from historiē (origin of the English word “history”), an inquiry into the facts for the purpose of making a rational assessment. Simultaneously, the Ancient Greeks began to reject tyranny and introduce democratic political ideals and institutions. Tyrants, however, require obedient subjects unwilling or unable to fact-check even their most preposterous lies. Today’s autocrats and would-be autocrats bombard us with fictions, even contradictory fictions, so as to eradicate the very concept of objective fact. As individuals, we are losing the ability to assess facts on their merits. We’re losing the ability to learn not only from history but even from our own experience. Succumbing to authoritative speakers, many of us prefer virtue-signaling to real-world problem solving. We’re abandoning verbal persuasion in favor of violence and intimidation. Can democratic ideals and institutions survive if we can no longer distinguish myth from history, fiction from fact? What is the value of evidence-based, logical reasoning? How can we learn from fiction without being deceived by it? Reading and discussing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (c. 8th cent. BCE) and Herodotus’s Histories (c. 440s, 430s BCE), we will examine these and other questions that are as vital to human survival and success today as they were centuries ago. This course is designed for students who welcome open-minded critical inquiry and are eager to read texts that are challenging both intellectually and emotionally. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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Plundered: Tales of Extractivism and Resistance

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

First, it was gold. Then, it was silver, sugar, oil...bananas, avocados. Taking as its point of departure Eduardo Galeano’s foundational study, The Open Veins of Latin America, this course will explore the centuries-long history of plunder—and resistance—in Abya Yala through fiction and nonfiction, feature films, and documentaries. We will look at some of the most pressing environmental and social-justice issues in the region—including deforestation, industrial pollution, and access to water—with an eye toward the relationship between activism and artistic expression. Our contextualized readings and viewings will include public statements and creative works from land defenders; Pablo Neruda’s condemnation of neoimperialism in his poem, The United Fruit Company; Samanta Schweblin’s gothic novel about the horrors of agrochemicals; a narrative film set against the successful uprising against water privatization in Bolivia; and frontline journalism. This course will focus on the lands colonized by Spain and Portugal and the intersecting forms of neocolonial violence to which they continue to be subjected but will not lose sight of the resonances between these histories and those that took, and are taking, place across the continent. This interactive small lecture will fully participate in the collaborative interludes and other programs of the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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The Poetry of Earth: Imagination and Environment in English Renaissance Drama

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

One of John Keats’s sonnets begins, “The poetry of earth is never dead.” This interactive small lecture will step back from Keats—to the writing of several of his great predecessors in the English Renaissance—to reflect on how imagination shaped environment and how environment shaped imagination in the early modern period. Late 16th- and 17th-century was a time of transition between traditional, feudal society (with its hierarchical ideas of order, of humanity, and of nature) and emerging modernity (with its secularizing humanism, its centralization of political and economic power, its development of increasingly dense and complex urban centers, and its commitments to the study and potential mastery of nature through empirical science). With early modernity came all of the challenges to natural environment and its resources with which we are so familiar and by which we are challenged: urban sprawl and environmental degradation, privatization of land, air and water pollution, deforestation and exhaustion of other resources, and diminishment of local species populations. We will study how several major writers register and responded to these tensions and these changes in what we might call their environmental vision, their imagination of nature as wilderness, the "other” to civilization and its values; as chaos and threat; as liminal space of transformation; as pastoral retreat; and as cultivatable human habitation and home. Class reading will include two early plays of Shakespeare—A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You LIke It; Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene; John Milton's environmental epic, Paradise Lost, and poems leading up to it; Andrew Marvell's lyric poetry; and Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World. Conference work will entail more extended work in any of these writers and literary modes and will provide opportunities to explore other writers of the early modern period who are engaged in theorizing and imagining nature—including studies in history, philosophy, geography, politics, or theory.

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Tradition and Transformation: 17th-Century British Literature

Open, Seminar—Year

In the 17th century in England, the great ordering coherences of medieval and earlier Renaissance thinking seemed to disintegrate under the warring impulses of individualism and authority, empiricism and faith, revolutionary transformation and reinforcement of tradition. Yet, even as monarchy and the established church were challenged and torn apart, the 17th century produced an extraordinary flowering of drama, poetry, and prose that expressed the contradictory energies of the period. We will study English writing of the 17th century in a roughly chronological sequence. The first semester will explore the aesthetics and ideology of the Stuart courts and the robust and bawdy urban century of London through a reading of masques and plays by Jonson and Shakespeare and their contemporaries; dramatic experiments in “metaphysical” and moral verse by Donne, Jonson, Herbert, and other poets; various developments in scientific, philosophical, and meditative prose by Bacon, Burton, and Browne; and the early poetry of Milton. The second semester will be devoted to major writers during the periods of the English Revolution and the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Our primary attention will be on the radical politics and the visionary poetics of Milton, particularly Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes; but we will also study the work of the cavalier and libertine court poets, as well as Andrew Marvell, Katherine Phillips, Aphra Behn, and John Dryden. John Bunyan’s spiritual allegory Pilgrim’s Progress and Behn’s colonial romance novel, Oroonoko, will provide a retrospect of the imagined and the social worlds that we have traversed and a prospect of the worlds to come.

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Indigeneity and Environmental Crisis

Open, Seminar—Fall

Settler colonialism might be described as a colonialism that lasts, meaning that settlers come to stay and attempt to permanently dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands and waters. This course proposes that settler colonialism is, itself, a form of environmental crisis that Indigenous peoples have been weathering and resisting for more than 400 years. Using environmental humanities methods, students will be encouraged to think of both crisis and resistance in expansive terms. Topics to be addressed include (but are not limited to) location-based research, kinship relationships and responsibilities, environmental injustice in a settler colony, gender-based violence and resource extraction, Indigenous petrocultures, pipeline blockades, nuclear colonialism, and coalitional environmental resistance. The course begins by locating us in Lenapehoking—the lands of the Lenape—and, in subsequent weeks, we will consider case studies in environmental crisis and Indigenous resistance across local, continental, and global scales. The syllabus includes a range of literary, artistic, and critical texts, including works by Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, Nick Estes, and Warren Cariou.

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Gothic Decay: The Literature and Science of Soils, Swamps, and Forests

Open, Joint seminar—Spring

Western literature and culture deeply influence how our country negatively perceives transitional spaces, such as the spaces between cultivated land and forest or between water and land. The need for control pushes us to reshape or eliminate marshes, swamps, thickets, and other forms of overgrowth. Similarly, we feel uncomfortable considering the soils in which we bury our dead—or we ignore them completely. Yet, a closer examination of the biology of decay reveals cycles of life that follow death, with growth, reproduction, and nutrient exchange accompanying decay at every turn. We will read excerpts of literary works that have shaped our cultural perception of decay and of these transitional states and spaces, including works by Sophocles, Mary Shelley, Alice Walker, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and others. We will also explore the ecosystems themselves through lab experiments and trips to local parks and field stations (Center for the Urban River at Beczak, Untermeyer Gardens). This joint course will evaluate the divide between culture and science and explore how cultural representations may evolve with an adequate framing of scientific research and findings. This course fully participates in the collaborative interludes in the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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Care Work, Climate Adaptation, and the Settler Colony

Open, Seminar—Spring

How might we care for each other in the midst of accelerating planetary change? This course provides us with the theoretical frameworks to grasp the long and multifaceted history of environmental crisis on this continent and, likewise, to grasp the diversity of critical, careful responses to imposed disaster. The course begins with the proposition that dominant structures of care in the settler colony—afforded by the nuclear family, the state, and private enterprise—depend upon and reproduce racialized and gendered exploitation bound to the same systems that make environmental crisis inevitable. Throughout the semester, we will explore other literary and scholarly theorizations and enactments of care work that move outside dominant care regimes and that have always been responsive to environmental crisis in its long history. The reading for the course moves from Indigenous studies to queer studies to the energy and environmental humanities, illuminating critical intersections of use to a student interested in any one of those fields. Primary and secondary texts include works by José Esteban Muñoz, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Natalie Diaz, Sophie Lewis, Kim TallBear, Sheena Wilson, Imre Szeman, Samuel R. Delany, and Dean Spade, among others. Assignments for the course encourage students to take inspiration from the texts on our syllabus. In other words, you may present your work in creative as well as critical forms. Podcasts, manifestos, websites, –zines…are all more than welcome.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open, Lecture—Fall

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; 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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Animal Ethics

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course explores philosophical questions related to contemporary issues regarding our moral and political relations with nonhuman animals. We will begin with more theoretical questions about the source of value and moral standing, examining some influential texts that are foundational to the contemporary Western animal-rights movement. In the latter half of the semester, we will spend a great deal of time examining contemporary issues and animal advocacy, including the connections between social movements for the liberation of humans and nonhuman animals.

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Environmental Ethics as Liberatory Theory and Practice

Open, Seminar—Spring

Historically, Western environmental movements have placed an emphasis on the idea of “wilderness” and have been characterized by a striving for a “return” to a nature that never existed outside collective imagination. This course examines some of the foundations of Western environmental ethics and critiques of those by feminist, Black, Indigenous, and queer scholars. Through this engagement, students are encouraged to analyze their own values and assumptions related to value, climate, and our environments and to bring the contemporary issues that are most important to students into conversation with these texts. This course aims to examine the possibilities of decolonizing environmental ethics and to work toward a future of environmental ethics as an academic endeavor that is able to better meet the ethical, social, and political needs of our current ecological crises.

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First-Year Studies: Cities, Suburbs, Trains, and Highways: Politics and Geography

FYS—Year

Winston Churchill purportedly remarked that “we shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us,” suggesting that the built environment and geography more generally have a profound impact on society, culture, and politics. This course explicitly will take the study of politics and the social world out of the narrow and traditional views of political science—views that regularly see individuals as “atoms” that are, in the words of Kenneth Shepsle, “unconnected to the social structure in which he or she is embedded”—and, instead, look at how “politics and people” are embedded in particular spaces and places, and networks are highly conditioned, based on specific locational qualities, histories, and features. This course rejects the idea that individuals are atoms and explicitly brings geography into the picture in our study of American politics at the start of the 21st century—in a moment of intense rancor and polarization. After examining theory and methodology, the course tackles a number of big issues that are hotly debated in academic, political, and policy circles vis-à-vis the built environment. One example is the ever-growing literature on geographic differences and regionalism in the United States as an underlying cause of American division and fractionalization. These geographic fissures do not fall along easy‐to‐map state lines but, rather, along a variety of regions in the United States that have been described and mapped by scholars in a number of social-science disciplines. We will examine and review a number of literatures and large amounts of localized data that will enable us to look more precisely into the numerous claims that there are nontrivial regional differences in terms of political beliefs, behaviors, and distinct regional political cultures. While American regions display varied histories and cultures, the question that we will attempt to answer is whether these histories and cultures have an impact on contemporary political attitudes, behaviors, and social values. We will take on similar empirical topics throughout the year, using many tools available from the social sciences—from GIS to historical election and economic data—to examine issues of welfare, mobility, and “hollowing out the middle”; employment; innovation; gerrymandering and issues of representation; competition over natural resources; mass transit and the impact of transportation and highways on sociopolitical development; and urban and rural differences. Many of these topics will be familiar, but the tools through which we examine them will be via a geospatial lens; and the way in which we understand the surrounding politics will, hopefully, be more complete when compared to the traditional lenses of political science. This FYS seminar will be an open, nonpartisan forum for discussion and debate. As such, the course will be driven by data, not dogma. We will use a variety of approaches based in logic and evidence to find answers to various puzzles about American policy and will treat this material as social scientists—not ideologues. Comfort with numbers and statistics is expected. This course will have weekly conferences for the first six weeks; biweekly conferences thereafter.

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

Open, Lecture—Fall

Many of us are struck by what seems to be 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, not to mention a whole range of urgent but more mundane policy issues. In this class, we will seek to understand disturbing trends like populism, polarization, and disinformation 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 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 rational and self-controlled today than our Enlightenment progenitors hoped we were becoming 200-odd years ago in the era of democratic revolutions—the era from which 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 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? This course will survey these issues by examining the intersection of cognitive science, philosophy and political science, history and theory 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?

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First-Year Studies: Urban Health in a Multicultural Context

FYS—Year

This FYS/community-partnership course will focus on the health of humans living within physical, social, and psychological urban spaces. We will use a constructivist, multidisciplinary, multilevel lens to examine the interrelationship between humans and the natural and built environment, to explore the impact of social-group (ethnic, racial, sexuality/gender) membership on person/environment interactions, and to explore an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness across the lifespan. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness. And we will highlight research, methods, and applied issues. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers or for anyone interested in city life. The community-partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class; for one morning or afternoon per week, students will work in local community agencies to promote health-adaptive, person-environment interactions within our community. Students will have an individual conference every other week and a group conference on alternating weeks. In the group conferences, we will discuss the nature of academic work in general and practice research, reading, writing, and editing skills.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Remember, remember always, that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.—Franklin D. Roosevelt

Immigration is a worldwide phenomenon where people move into another nation with the intention of making a better life for themselves and/or residing there. This seminar explores the processes shaping our conceptualizations of immigration and immigrants. The course has a social-psychological emphasis, with social psychology being the latest in the social sciences to contribute to the immigration debates. Beyond that, the course is also anchored in a multidisciplinary perspective to assure the broadest possible exploration of this complex topic.

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Environmental Psychology: An Exploration of Space and Place

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course explores human-environment interactions and the relationships between natural, social, and built environments in shaping us as individuals. We will critically explore human interactions from the body, the home, and the local to the globalized world, with a return to the individual experience of our physical and social environments. As a survey course, we will cover myriad topics, which may include informal family caregiving; urban/rural/suburban relationships; gentrification; urban planning; environmental sustainability; globalization; social justice; and varying conceptualizations and experiences of “home,” based on gender, race, class, age, and people with disabilities. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will give special consideration to public space and home environments. As a discussion-based seminar, topics will ultimately be driven by student interest. Several films will be incorporated into the class.

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The Power and Meanings of Play in Children’s Lives

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Play provides us with an amazing and informative lens for observing the development and complex inner lives of young children. Yet, play is being threatened by increasing amounts of time spent on technology and a growing societal focus on scheduled activities and academic goals. This course will offer an introduction to the many fascinating aspects of play, including the importance of unstructured free play, how play shapes the brain, sensory processing and self-regulation in play, outdoor play, cultural contexts of play, and humor development in play. Through readings, video illustrations, and discussion of student fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center, we will explore the many ways in which play contributes to the complex social, cognitive, emotional, and imaginative lives of children. This course will provide a foundation for the spring course, Early Intervention Approaches for Young Children and Families.

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Critical Urban Environmentalism, Space, and Place

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

In North American countries, 83.6 percent of residents live in cities as of 2020, and 56 percent of the world’s population is urban. Traditional environmental movements focus on the “natural” world, and the built environment tends to be undertheorized and perhaps underanalyzed. Yet, urban spaces are also sites of resistance, as residents create community gardens from vacant lots, paint public-housing project exterior walls, and lobby for city government support of the built environment. This course explores paths toward humanistic urban revitalization and civic engagement through community partnership. We will read in three main domains: knowledge of local and global urban environments; physical, mental, and social/community health; and theory and philosophies of urban environments. The relationship between urban sustainability and social dynamics, such as ethical decision-making and sociopolitical power relations (Sze, 2020), seem to lead to a particular set of public-private solutions. These are implemented from the top downward, without input from stakeholders and residents, with serious implications for resident health. In turn, health is strongly affected by the urban physical environment, infrastructure, pollution, population density, and the concomitant social environment (Galea and Vlahov, 2005). And as development occurs, long-time residents of neighborhoods are being displaced. How can we ensure that the health and welfare of all denizens are developed as well as purported positive economic change? The community-partnership/service-learning component is an important part of this class. For one morning or afternoon per week, students will work in local community agencies to promote health-adaptive, person-environment interactions within our community.

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Sociology of the Built Environment

Open, Lecture—Fall

This course begins with a question: What is nature? Over the course of one semester, we will answer this question—drawing on insight from science and technology studies and the tools of ethnographic methods. Lectures will explore key concepts in the sociology of nature—including Karl Marx’s reproduction, Michael Bell’s natural conscience, and William Cronon’s second nature—in addition to substantive topics like the human ability to act on nature, the politics of land ownership, the relationship between humans and animals, and the conception of humans and cities as natural spaces. Group conferences will be devoted to training in ethnographic methods and peer review of ongoing ethnographic work. For their final conference work, students will craft an ethnographic portfolio of weekly ethnographic fieldnotes, memos reflecting on connections to course concepts, and a final analysis that summarizes key findings.

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Contextualizing Communications: The Poetics of Seeing

Open, Seminar—Fall

Seeing is not a natural process or an individual activity; rather, it is embedded in social forces and imbued with historically and spatially constructed meanings. This seminar is designed to interrogate how we communicate and to make meaning from such a vantage point. While the course takes a broadly construed sociology of culture as its point of departure, it also understands sociology as what a British sociologist called a “parasitical” discipline that frequently disrupts and violates disciplinary borders and boundaries. This course will follow in that vein. Our initial readings—which will include Raymond Williams, Edward Said, Aime Cesaire, and John Berger—will set the conceptual framework for what follows. We will draw upon literature, film and music, (auto)biography, letters, diaries, oral histories, and archival and legal texts emanating from different parts of the globe, with an emphasis on cultural productions about and from the Global South and/or diasporic communities. Our analyses will be framed in terms of a number of themes and questions, relating these to the contexts within which the works were produced. We will start with an overview of historical and methodological questions; examine colonial texts and their critiques, the production of nationalism(s) and identities, censorship, postcoloniality and the violence of “home,” and conclude with transformative visions. It is hoped that this perusal of a diversity of genres and voices will enable us to rethink the relationship of objectivity and subjectivity, fiction, biography and fact, and political and social censorships to which their producers subscribe or against which they struggle, as well as struggles over voice and in the remaking of space. Our goal is to problematize naturalistic “ways of seeing” (a term borrowed from John Berger) and, thus, show how seeing (through sonic, cinematic, and literary constructions) is both an ideologically regimented activity and a creative form of emancipatory action. Rather than seeing our readings as the expression of individual genius, we will engage with them as a way to become astute readers of the material poetics of social life.

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Global Refugees: Temporariness and Displacement

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

What does it mean to be a “temporary” person? The multiple discourses surrounding “migrants,” “refugees,” “illegals,” and other “foreign” people often paint problematic, exaggerated, and frustratingly misunderstood portraits about entire communities and populations. Politicians and movements (often of the far-right disposition) continue to reinforce views of the foreigner as a national threat, one that will rip apart the fabric of society if left to its own devices. Yet, more than ever, we live in a world where almost 245 million people are living in a country other than where they were born—and that includes millions of refugees and displaced populations who struggle under incredibly vulnerable and precarious conditions. Some 740 million people migrate internally, primarily from rural to urban centers, bringing the total number of migrants to more than one billion people. Even during a global pandemic, displacement around the world has continued to lead to large numbers of people stuck in “temporary” status and conditions, while the dual threat of climate displacement and geopolitical conflict promises even more expulsions and displacement. Here, we focus on communities and groups of migrants who are often targeted as national “problems”: refugees, undocumented persons, and so-called “economic” migrants. We start by looking at how different groups of migrants become categorized through institutionalized regimes as “temporary” populations—guest workers, asylum seekers, seasonal workers, and foreign workers—and examine what implications this temporariness imposes upon migrants themselves, both at the everyday level and in terms of the larger political climate. We will explore the realities of today’s migrant experience, with a special focus on temporariness, globalized fragmentation of social reproduction, and regimes of managed migration around the world. We will explore different forms through which the experiences of being temporary, precarious, and displaced are depicted and represented, including the mediums of photography, film, fiction, and video games. Lastly, we will look at how societies around the world are attempting to prepare for a changing demographic reality of hyperdiversity and a more permanent state of precariousness and vulnerability. The course will require students to seek out and develop reflective projects (blogs, forums, wikis, or journals) focusing on these key questions. As part of conference projects, students will be encouraged to imagine different, nonconventional ways of writing and expressing themes of vulnerability, precarity, temporariness, and being out-of-place in today’s world.

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Travel and Tourism: Economies of Pleasure, Profit, and Power

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This course takes a long view of travel, seeing it as a “contact zone”—a contradictory site of learning and exchange, as well as exploitation. Among the questions the course will address are the following: What are the reasons for travel historically and in the modern world? What factors draw individuals to travel singly and as members of collectivities? What sites draw the traveler and/or the tourist? What is the relationship between the visited site and the sight of the visitor? How is meaning produced in/through/of particular sites? How do these meanings differ, depending on the positionality of the traveler? What makes particular sites inviting? What is the relationship between the visitor and the local inhabitant? Can one be a traveler in one’s own home (site)? What is the relationship between travel and tourism, pleasure and power in/through travel? How are race, gender, and class articulated in/through travel? We will examine these questions through a multiplicity of sources—including but not limited to diaries, journals, and memoirs by travelers, as well as films and scholarly writings on travel and tourism. Throughout, the relation between material and physical bodies will remain a central focus of the course. Conference possibilities include analyses of your own travel experiences, examination of travel writings pertaining to specific places, theoretical perspectives on travel and/or tourism, or the political economy of travel. Fieldwork locally is yet another possibility for conference work.

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PostConcreteness

Open, Seminar—Fall

PostConcreteness explores an emergent phenomenon in the built environment; namely, the imperative to move beyond concrete (as a material) and the erosion of conceptual concreteness around the proper role of an architect in the Anthropocene. Rather than focusing on the immediate output of a building, PostConcreteness asks students to consider the longer timescales of building and the larger political and social regimes shaping labor, material extraction, and climate adaptation both for today and for decades into the future. PostConcreteness will explore these questions through individual and collective work—students will investigate the supply chains and embodied costs of specific construction materials, proposing current and future scenarios for their use, while collectively intervening into the studio space itself to create a recyclable display for the studio’s work at 1:1 scale.

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After Nature: On Writing the Environment

Open, Seminar—Year

The philosopher Glenn Albrecht coined the term “solastalgia” to refer to the distress caused by climate change. In this yearlong writing seminar, we will attempt, in a collective way, to write through our feelings about the changing world. Students will keep weekly notebooks about paying attention to plants, animals, weather, and place, culminating in writing through their encounters with the outside world. These responses will be catalyzed by reading ecological meditations that function, in many ways, as elegies that think through landscape, time, and our kinship with the nonhuman. The project is for our reading and writing to somehow counter, but also work through, despair with radical hope and imagination. The final conference project for each semester will be a finished piece of writing that has been critiqued in several drafts in conference, collaborative small groups, and a full-group workshop over the semester. This course fully participates in the collaborative interludes in the Sarah Lawrence Interdisciplinary Collaborative on the Environment (SLICE) Mellon course cluster.

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