Politics

The study of politics at Sarah Lawrence College encompasses past and present thinking, political and interdisciplinary influences, and theoretical and hands-on learning. The goal: a deep understanding of the political forces that shape society. How is power structured and exercised? What can be accomplished through well-ordered institutions? And how do conditions that produce freedom compare with those that contribute to tyranny? Questions such as these serve as springboards for stimulating inquiry.

Rather than limit ourselves to the main subdisciplines of political science, we create seminars around today’s issues—such as feminism, international justice, immigration, and poverty—and analyze these issues through the lens of past philosophies and events. We don’t stop at artificial boundaries. Our courses often draw from other disciplines or texts, especially when looking at complex situations. Because we see an important connection between political thought and political action, we encourage students to participate in service learning. This engagement helps them apply and augment their studies and leads many toward politically active roles in the United States and around the world.

2018-2019 Courses

Politics

First-Year Studies: Imperialism, Resistance, Development, Intervention: African States in the International System

Open , FYS—Year

This course will engage key questions in development studies, international relations, and politics from the perspectives and experiences of African states and societies. We will begin with the African continent’s introduction to international politics and economics through trade in goods and slaves to imperialism and colonialism. We ask not just what Europeans wanted but also how Africans responded and resisted. We will also investigate present-day campaigns to address colonial-era human-rights violations. With the end of colonial rule, independent African states became full, but subordinate, members of the international system. As the Cold War reached new heights, states were pressed to choose between capitalism and communism, to ally with the West or the Soviet Union. We will explore the forms of economic and political development that states and social actors pursued. What sorts of aid did they receive? What conditions were attached to that aid? What room was there for democracy? What role did institutions like the World Bank play in aggravating or alleviating conditions of poverty? We will bring our discussion of international aid and development up to the present by discussing China’s dramatically expanded role on the African continent by providing loans, building infrastructure, and engaging in trade. We will conclude the fall semester by considering to what extent China presents either a different model of development and international politics or just an updated version of earlier models. During the second semester, we will focus on war, interventions, justice, and peace. With the end of the Cold War, African states experienced a dramatic increase in civil and interstate wars. We will investigate the central causes of key conflicts, as well as interventions by non-African states. Key questions include: Under what circumstances did Western states engage in humanitarian or other forms of intervention in response to conflict? Why did the international community withdraw during the Rwandan genocide? What institutions did the international community establish in order to support human rights, and how effective have they been? We will consider the various forms of justice pursued after the Rwandan genocide, as well as the charge that the International Criminal Court is targeting African states. Finally, we will use what we have learned to consider the impact of the United States’s Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) on US and other military actions on the African continent. The United States has dramatically increased its military presence on the continent in the last decade, as members of the US military have engaged in dramatic firefights with militants in East Africa and the Sahel. US-armed drones have killed significant numbers. We will consider how those interventions impact the prospects for short-term and long-term peace and development. This course will not provide any easy answers but will equip students to ask better questions, to effectively support their arguments, and to engage in in-depth research. Conference meetings will largely be one-on-one, but we will also schedule a few small group conferences during the year. There is also the possibility of full group outings, depending upon local events.

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First-Year Studies: Democracy, Diversity, and (In)Equality

Open , FYS—Year

From ancient times through the major modern democratic revolutions, democracy’s advocates—as well as its critics—believed that democracy requires, and tends to bring about, political equality. Often democratic equality has also been understood to entail important limits on social inequality. And it has also been long presupposed—and sometimes argued—that democracy only works in fairly homogeneous societies, since only in such societies can a people be sufficiently similar and equal to form shared political understandings and projects. Absent considerable commonality—religious, linguistic, ethnic, racial, and/or cultural—as well as political and perhaps social equality, it is feared that democracy deteriorates into the tyranny of the majority or a war of all against all or a shallow contest of competing interests. At the outset of the 21st century, however, we are witness to two dramatic shifts in the character of society that increasingly seem to challenge the viability of democracy, at least if these long-held views about its necessary social presuppositions are correct. On the one hand, democratic societies have become increasingly unequal as a result of globalization, changes in the nature and remuneration of work, new policies, and new political conditions. On the other, democratic societies are increasingly diverse and their citizens less willing to “forget” their many differences to melt into a dominant national culture. These developments raise some basic questions. Can the character of democracy be reconceived so that it is either better suited to—and/or better able to modify—these new social conditions? If not, is democracy doomed? Or might it be possible to reform democracy to render it compatible with conditions of deep diversity while also making it capable of securing the requisite degrees of political and social equality? This course will explore these questions in a number of ways. We will study exemplary historical statements of the ideal of democracy, drawing on traditional works in political philosophy. We will also draw on contemporary work in sociology, anthropology, cultural and legal studies, and political science to examine the nature of social and cultural diversity, including religion, class, gender, sexuality, and race. We will draw on a similar range of disciplines to seek to comprehend the causes and consequence of the widening inequality characteristic of almost all economically advanced democratic societies. Finally, we will explore works that bring these themes together by examining current scholars‘ efforts to (re)articulate the ideal and practice of democracy in light of increased diversity and inequality. By the end of the course, students will have been introduced to a variety of different disciplines in the social sciences, with a special focus on contemporary political philosophy, and will have surveyed a number of different proposals for deepening democracy in 21st-century social conditions. Educational objectives include acquiring, developing, and perfecting the skills necessary to: read demanding texts with care and rigor; participate in focused analytic discussion of these texts; write, edit and revise interpretive and argumentative academic essays; and conduct original, independent research projects. Students will meet for individual conferences to discuss their independent research projects on a biweekly basis and will also participate in small-group, biweekly meetings to discuss, among other things, the applicability of various concepts discussed in seminar to everyday social and political contexts; to engage in peer-writing workshops; and to take trips to New York City as a “laboratory” of democracy, diversity, and inequality.

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Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do: Secession and Exit in the “End of History”

Open , Seminar—Year

The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the posthistorical period, there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself, and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed. —Francis Fukuyama, The End of History.

In 1989, as liberal capitalist democracy appeared to be the only game in town, Francis Fukuyama predicted the end of history. For him, it was bound to be an age of boredom. Meanwhile, liberal and neoliberal theory proponents predicted greater economic interdependence and cooperation among states and other actors in the international system. They argued that as states accepted liberal democracy and capitalism, opened their borders to trade, and embraced the free market, everyone would benefit from economic prosperity and “liberal peace.” Ironically, the end of history has proven surprisingly eventful. The collapse of the Eastern Bloc has resulted in multiple armed conflicts in postsocialist Eastern Europe. Some observers have dismissed these conflicts merely as the price for joining the posthistorical world of liberal democracies. Yet, increasing disappointment with mainstream (neo)liberal parties and the growing popularity of antiestablishment parties, both on the right and on the left, do not fit comfortably with the narrative of postideological boredom. Neither are Brexit and heated debates over Grexit and separatist movements in Scotland and Catalonia compatible with (neo)liberal theories of convergence and of growing importance of international alliances. What is evident is that many of the tensions and fundamental contradictions of liberalism are far from having been resolved. The end of history has turned out to be a time of major political and economic upheavals. From global financial crises to the growing popularity of the radical right and the illiberal fascination with nativism, xenophobia, and racism, the West seems to be in the very midst of history after all—and the future looks more chaotic than ever. In this yearlong class, we will study the new rise of competing ideologies, nationalist movements, and exit from liberal alliances that threaten to tear Europe apart and attempt to understand their sources and potential implications. We’ll discuss how nationalist movements and the eventual collapse of the Eastern Bloc were associated, paradoxically, with the rejection of nationalism as a serious challenge to liberalism. We’ll ask why Eastern European secessionist and other nationalist movements were praised as liberalism- and democracy-promoting, while their Western counterparts are seen as reactionary, anti-democratic, and illiberal. Overall, we will attempt to understand the challenges that contemporary politics pose to liberal predictions of growth, peace, and international cooperation after the so-called end of history.

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International Organization

Open , Seminar—Fall

The most pressing issues of our time—climate change, refugee crises, global pandemics such as AIDS and SARS, world hunger and poverty, terrorism, human trafficking, global arms trade and drug smuggling—are what former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan referred to as “problems without passports,” because they transcend national boundaries and cannot be solved by states acting unilaterally. Rather, Annan argued, such challenges require “blueprints without borders.” International organization may be the most, if not the only, appropriate forum for tackling transnational issues. This course examines international organizations per se, but its main focus is the broader concept of how the international community organizes to address collective problems. Increasingly, states choose to pool sovereignty in supranational institutions like the European Union and to cede authority in certain issue areas to intergovernmental organizations—both global, such as the United Nations, and regional, such as NATO—that then take on a life of their own. At the same time, nongovernmental actors, including nonprofit human-rights organizations as well as multinational corporations, are interacting with states in the international arena—both challenging them and collaborating with them. What collective problems exist at the international level? What solutions are states and other actors pursuing? Why do some international organization efforts succeed and many fail? We will investigate these questions through a discussion of international organization’s role in the areas of global migration, international security and justice, and responses to global health pandemics and climate change.

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Scholars at Risk: The Politics and Practice of Human-Rights Advocacy

Open , Seminar—Spring

The course focuses on the history and politics of the human-rights regime and humanitarianism, human-rights advocacy (theory and praxis), advocacy networks, information politics, advocacy strategies and techniques, and human-rights monitoring and reporting. Around the world, scholars and students are routinely threatened, imprisoned, and even killed as part of targeted attacks on higher-education individuals and institutions. Scholars at Risk (SAR) is a nongovernmental organization that monitors violations of academic freedom worldwide, provides scholarships for threatened scholars, and advocates for the release of imprisoned scholars. In partnership with SAR, students in this course will select the case of an imprisoned scholar, research the case, and create an advocacy campaign for the scholar’s release—which will include a trip to Washington, DC, to lobby lawmakers.

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Damaged Democracy: Structural Roots of Democratic Dysfunction

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Contemporary democratic and American politics are deeply unsettled. Throughout the democratic world, popular disaffection and anger with “politics as usual” propels candidates from outside the establishment into front-runner status. The “new normal” of our politics includes partisan polarization, an escalation of rhetorical salvos, persons with little to no political experience being elevated to leadership positions, an increasing impatience with the rule of law and similar institutional niceties, and media saturated with highly negative and distortive reportage and advertising. This political climate belies the gravity of issues faced: the erosion of wages and standards of living; increasing inequality and stalled social mobility; unsustainable spending on core state goods, including social security and medical care; ongoing security challenges; global climate change; education and healthcare systems that deliver mediocre results at extraordinarily high costs; etc. What are we to make of our democratic ambivalence, as we live with the triumphs and troubles of a political system that is the worst—except for all the others? To gain insight into these issues, we will look at democracy from a more philosophical, historical, and comparative perspective. We will examine transformations in American political institutions, economics, and civil culture that have, perhaps, made our politics at once more inclusive but also more fractious, unequal, and dysfunctional. The first semester will concentrate on the history of modern democracy, looking both to develop a strong, critical account of democracy as a normative ideal by studying its theoretic roots in seminal texts of modern political thought from Locke to Tocqueville and to gain a critical historical overview of its cultural and institutional genesis, evolution, and decay (Fukuyama and Habermas). We will then turn, mainly in the second semester, to examine some main aspects of the forces troubling democracy in the United States and elsewhere, surveying, in turn: the decline of the legislative process; the decline of political parties and voluntary associations and the consequent “hollowing out” of civil society; important changes in the political economy that have rendered democratic capitalism more prone to crisis, oligarchic capture, and cultural distortion; the role of (new and old) mass media in late-modern democratic politics; the question of whether constitutional democracy is intrinsically valuable or inherently contradictory, in general, and whether the American Constitution is (anti) democratic; the way in which different aspects of an electoral system, from districting to how winners and losers are determined, structure different forms of democracy; and whether the politics of identity is, at once, redressing historical injustice while also fracturing democratic solidarity. Finally, the course will conclude by considering some proposals to strengthen democracy as we move into the heart of the 21st century.

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State Terror and Terrorism

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Prior coursework in the social sciences and/or related disciplines is required.

The events of September 11, 2001, unleashed a bitter and contentious debate regarding not just how states and societies might best respond to the threat of violence but also, fundamentally, what qualifies as terrorism. Just nine days later, and without resolving any of these difficult issues, the United States announced its response: The Global War on Terrorism. Almost two decades later, we are no closer to consensus concerning these politically and emotionally charged debates. This course will investigate the use of violence by state and nonstate actors to assert their authority and to inspire fear. The modern state, as it was formed in Western Europe, was born of war. In Charles Tilly’s often-quoted phrase: “War makes states, and states make war.” The ability to control violence within a territory has long been a key part of the definition of a functioning state. The presence of armed groups on a state’s territory, which the state does not or cannot effectively control, is therefore a direct challenge to a state’s authority and has the potential to undermine its recognition as an international actor. After briefly discussing the historical development of modern states, we will investigate the evolution of the terminology of terror and terrorism from the French Revolution to today. We will explore acts of state terror and their consequences and consider the use of the term ”terrorism” in the popular press, in political rhetoric, and in policymaking by states and international organizations. We will investigate a number of nonstate actors that employed violence—including South Africa’s ANC, Sri Lanka’s LTTE, and Al Qaeda, among others—and consider the impact this had both for their popular support and for the local and transnational communities impacted by their struggle. Finally, we will consider how various forms of violence have been either memorialized or publicly forgotten.

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Community and Civility

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Social theorist Wendell Berry argues, “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” This course will explicitly examine Berry’s ideas about collective possibility and how community shapes the American idea, our national ethos, political and social life, and the very concept of civility that is essential in society. From America’s founding to the Age of Trump, the course will look at how concepts of community and civility have evolved from New England and frontier towns to suburban postwar sprawl and the current rise of inner cities, planned communities, and gentrification. Moreover, the course will attempt to make sense of the seeming polarization in American society today, along with the concurrent rise in rudeness, anxiety, social dislocation, and isolation that is chronicled regularly in both popular and academic writing. To be sure, this course on community and civility fits into a larger and growing area of research that has shown that the norms and networks of civil society have powerful practical effects in many disparate geographic, political, and economic arenas, including questions of inequality and social mobility. We will examine concepts such as “social capital” and “civil society,” and the seminar will explore these areas with a focus on the United States. Although many issues, concepts, and methods discussed in this seminar have important analogues in other settings, from the United Kingdom to Brazil, the literature and substantive focus of this seminar is entirely US-based. This seminar is intended to be both practical and contemporaneous to the politics of the present, and it will straddle the border between academic research and contemporary policy questions. The course will be both applied and theoretical and will ask students to apply social scientific concepts and methods to controversial public problems. The course is advanced, the workload is intense, and prior background in American history and politics is preferable.

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First-Year Studies: How Things Talk: The Linguistic Materialities of Late Capitalism

Open , FYS—Year

One of the effects of advanced capitalism is to complicate the distinction between words and objects and between humans and things. Within the radicalization of market ideologies characterizing our contemporary moment, what counts as inalienable spiritual values as opposed to alienable material entities? Is kindness a virtuous demeanor or a form of immaterial affective labor that requires the performance of specific acts of speech? What should and what should not have a price? Which is the original, and which is the copy? Is a brand a symbol that stands for a product or a product in itself? How can we distinguish medium from message? This course provides an introduction to anthropology’s theories and methods through an investigation of how words and things mediate and enable human experience, creating the complex semiotic landscapes that we inhabit. The aim is to problematize the conventional conceptualizations of language and materiality and show how, within a regime of advanced capitalism, life and labor unfold through complex interplays of semiotic codes, affective registers, and material objects. Throughout the year, students will be introduced to a series of theoretical and ethnographic readings aimed at illustrating the blurred boundaries between words and things, subjects and objects, signs and referents, artworks and artifacts, gifts and commodities, and alienable and inalienable possessions. Aside from achieving a deeper understanding of how our life is shaped by our relation with things and language, students will also be introduced to the craft of ethnography as a method of research and a genre of writing. At the beginning of the fall semester, each participant will be assigned two objects and will be asked to explore them—as an individual item or as a class of objects—through a series of short essays and ethnographic tasks, which may or may not provide the material for a larger conference paper. Contrary to the classic approach in which the ethnographer engages the description of a specific cultural context through the narratives, beliefs, experiences, and actions of human agents, these thing-centered essays will provide mini-ethnographic sketches of how objects produce cultural meanings and social relations. During biweekly group conference meetings, held throughout the fall semester, students will compare notes on their ongoing thing-ethnographies, share their findings, and discuss their theoretical concerns and methodological problems. Students’ thing-ethnographies will also be presented periodically to the entire class during dedicated workshops. The format of these short presentations will be at the discretion of the participant, but students are encouraged to make use of digital voice recording, photography, and video to illustrate the objects and their contexts of use.

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Paris, City of Light and Violence

Open , Seminar—Fall

So they had begun to walk about in a fabulous Paris, letting themselves be guided by the nighttime signs, following routes born of a clochard phrase…. —Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch

For centuries now, the city of Paris, France, has held an actual and imaginary intensity in the lives of many. In this seminar in cultural anthropology, we will explore a number of themes and forces that have shaped the cultural and political contexts of life in Paris through the 19th and 20th centuries and on into the 21st—from great works of art to transformations in urban design to the politics of colonialism, migration, racism, marginalization, and police surveillance, as well as critical events of state and collective violence. In walking (conceptually) about a Paris at once fabulous and haunted, we will come to know various signs of being and power in this renowned city. In attending to key events in the recent history of Paris—in 1942, 1961, 1968, 1995, and 2015, for instance—we will work toward developing a comprehensive sense of the many social, cultural, and political dimensions of urban experience in la ville lumière, the “city of light,” in both its central arrondissements and its peripheral banlieues. Along the way, we will consider a number of important literary writings (Hugo, Balzac, Baudelaire, Breton, Modiano, Cortázar, Perec, Sebbar, and Bouraoui), films (Godard, Truffaut, Marker, Varda, Tati, Kassovitz, Haneke, and Sciamma), and scholarship (Benjamin, Dubord, Harvey, Kofman, Fanon, Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, and Latour). Students will be encouraged to undertake conference work on artists, writers, and thinkers associated with Paris or to develop their own anthropological reflections on Paris or another intensive city known to them.

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Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open , Seminar—Spring

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—Year

“The future belongs to the ghosts,” remarked the philosopher Jacques Derrida in 1996. As 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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Privacy, Technology, and the Law

Open , Seminar—Fall

What do digital currency, self-driving vehicles, and Edward Snowden have in common? The answer lies in this course, which focuses on how a few very specific computer technologies are dramatically altering daily life. In lecture, we will develop a series of core principles that explain the rapid change and help us chart a reasoned path to the future. We begin with a brief history of privacy, private property, and privacy law. Two examples of early 20th-century technologies that required legal thinking to evolve are: 1) whether a pilot (and passengers) of a plane are trespassing when the plane flies over someone's backyard; and, 2) whether the police can listen to a phone call from a phone booth (remember those?) without a warrant. Quickly, we will arrive at the age of information and can update those conundrums to, for example: a drone flies by with an infrared camera, a copyrighted video is viewed on YouTube via public WiFi, a hateful comment is posted on reddit, a playful tweet is taken out of context and goes viral for all to see, an illicit transaction involving Bitcoin is made between seemingly anonymous parties via Venmo. To get a better handle on the problem, we will consider the central irony of the Internet. It was developed at the height of the Cold War as a way to maintain a robust communication system in the event of a nuclear attack. Now, its open nature puts us at risk of 21st-century security threats such as electronic surveillance, aggregation and mining of personal information, and cyberterrorism. We will contrast doomsday myths popularized by movies such as War Games with more mundane scenarios such as total disruption of electronic commerce. Along the way, we will address questions such as: Does modern technology allow people to communicate secretly and anonymously? Can a few individuals disable the entire Internet? Can hackers launch missiles or uncover blueprints for nuclear power plants from remote computers on the other side of the world? We will also investigate other computer-security issues, including spam, computer viruses, and identity theft. Meanwhile, with our reliance on smart phones, text messages, and electronic mail, have we unwittingly signed ourselves up to live in an Orwellian society? Or can other technologies keep 1984 at bay? Our goal is to investigate if and how society can strike a balance so as to achieve computer security without substantially curtailing rights to free speech and privacy. Along the way, we will introduce the science of networks and describe the underlying theories that makes the Internet and its related technologies at once tremendously successful and so challenging to regulate. A substantial portion of the course will be devoted to introductory cryptology—the science (and art) of encoding and decoding information to enable private communication. We will conclude with a discussion of how cutting-edge technologies, such as blockchains, are impacting commerce today and how quantum cryptography and quantum computing may impact the privacy of communications tomorrow.

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Econometric Analysis: Structural Explorations in the Social Sciences

Open , Lecture—Year

This lecture requires some basic knowledge (high-school level) of mathematics and statistics. A review of core concepts in these subjects will be carried out at the beginning of the fall semester.

The 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. It 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 a social metric 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 those problems. In addition, we will take a similar approach to understanding and correcting model specification errors. Finally, we will focus on the analysis of historical time-series models and the study of long-run trend relationships between variables. At the end of the fall semester, students will have to carry out an econometric analysis of a World Bank study on labor markets. The spring semester class will build on the fall class by introducing students to advanced topics in econometrics. We will study 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. At the end of the spring semester, students will have to do in-class presentations of self-designed econometric projects (either singly or in groups) on topics of their choice. 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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Resource Economics and Political Ecology

Open , Seminar—Fall

Humankind’s ability to radically shape, alter, degrade, and threaten the Earth’s system(s) is strongly evidenced. From stratigraphic (geological) markers to plastic and electronic waste to climate change, nonrenewable resource depletion, and soil, water, and air spoliation, the consequences of human activity-induced (anthropogenic) provisioning are well-known, unceasing, and, it appears, accumulating and intensifying. Given the impact and interaction between humankind and the natural environment, far less certainty exists as to how to conceptualize, give narrative to, and address the complex, evolving, and continuous influence between humankind and its environment. As for the discipline of economics, significant tensions exist as to what tools, methods, vision, qualitative and quantitative measurement indicators, and theoretical foundations are appropriate and best-suited for voicing, revealing, stewarding, and redressing existing and future ecological challenges. Along with established and significant topics such as sustainability, externalities, pollution, regulation, global governance, benefit-cost analysis, taxation and subsidy, property rights and the commons, technology, competition and markets, biophysical realities, planetary boundaries, ecosystem services, consumption, and environmental ethics, this semester-long seminar will: 1) investigate distinct and alternative methodological, analytical, and theoretical tools of various schools of economic thought and their approaches to environmental concerns (e.g., mainstream neoclassical, ecological economics, post-Keynesian, Marxian, feminist/ecofeminist, institutionalist, behavioral); 2) examine and stress issues of environmental, racial, and intergenerational justice; unequal ecological exchange; trade and development; labor and ecological arbitrage; legal, political, and public policy dimensions; monetary considerations, accounting; value theory and social costs; 3) consider topics such as deep, shallow, social, industrial, urban, and dark ecology; thermodynamics; and novel ecosystems; 4) analyze and apply evaluative tools, methodologies, and practices, including interdisciplinarity, theoretical pluralism, systems thinking, critical ethnography, critical realism, neoliberalism, ultrasociality, cultural ecosystem services, and indigenous and postcolonial ontologies and epistemologies; and 5) critically explore, appraise, envision, and theorize as to existing and alternative provisioning possibilities and theses such as green capitalism, ecosocialism, degrowth (décroissance), metabolic rift analysis, capitalocene, anthropocene, and subsistence and sufficiency perspectives. Conference production (work) will look to situate students (economists) as keen and discerning interdisciplinary social scientists and will consist of research projects where a broad range of formats or mediums will be accepted in offering the opportunity to examine a topic of personal interest concerning the complex and evolving interaction between humankind’s economic system(s) and the Earth’s system(s).

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Microeconomic Theory and Policy: Advanced Topics

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Some prior background in economics is required.

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 semester-long seminar in intermediate 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; public policy and legal foundations; and theories of value and income distribution. Critical analysis, reflection, and insight into these and other topics will be supported and strengthened by appealing to a broad range of traditions in economics, including neoclassical (orthodox, mainstream, marginalist) and post-Keynesian, feminist, Marxian, law and political economy, and institutionalist (heterodox schools of thought). Insights from legal analyses on microeconomic topics (such as cost-benefit analysis, the Coase theorem, and Pareto optimality) will also be discussed.

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Introduction to Property: Cultural and Environmental Perspectives

Open , Seminar—Fall

Perhaps few issues are more contentious in the environmental arena than those surrounding struggles over rights to private, as well as common, property resources. What is property, and how is it made? Who makes property? How are property rights performed, publicized, and enforced? What is a commons, and what is common property? Debates over the “commons” implicate ideas of citizenship, community, the public good, justice, and governance. Controversies over public space and community gardens, genetic recombinant research and rights to the genome, and North-South disputes over rights to biodiversity in the geographic South—as well as debates over property in the Middle East—form some of the hotly contested terrain of property rights and the commons use and ownership. Property rights on a variety of scales—from the biomolecular to whole organs and organisms, from individual trees to whole ecosystems—are examined in varied geographic, biological, cultural, and historical contexts. This course is an introduction to ideas and cultures of property (private, public, and collective); debates, claims, and arguments over the commons; and the environmental and social consequences of different property regimes.

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Landscapes in Translation: Cartographies, Visions, and Interventions

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Open to students with developed skills in critical thinking and analysis of texts. A background in humanities, social sciences, or arts is preferred.

This course investigates the multiple ways in which landscapes have been imagined, interpreted, physically shaped, and controlled in a variety of historical and contemporary sites. The first section, Cartographies, explores ideas of landscape in Euro-America, Southeast Asia, and colonial-era Africa. The literatures of critical geography and political ecology provide theory and cases illuminating connections between the position of the cartographer and presuppositions about the nature of the territory being mapped and managed. We examine how landscapes on a variety of scales, from “bioregions” to nations, are imagined, codified, and transformed through representational processes and material moves. The second section, Visions, investigates how landscapes are embodied in fine arts and literature, as well as in garden and urban design. Readings draw on examples of landscape design in colonial New England and Indonesia and on contemporary examples of landscape design in response to climate change. We also study reworkings of the urban landscape to integrate more productive, biologically diverse “fringes,” as well as rooftop farms and apiaries. The third section, Control: Emerging Security-Scapes, investigates the rise of militarized “security-scapes” or “surveillance-scapes,” dating from slavery in the United States to the Department of Homeland Security in the post-9/11 era. We analyze the visual surround and landscapes seen by remote drone “pilots” scanning Los Angeles and Somalia and surveillance of the occupied Palestinian landscapes. We draw upon websites, advertisements, and new scholarship in security studies, media studies, and social theory.

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Documentary Filmmaking: Truth, Freedom, and Bearing Witness

Open , Seminar—Year

Nonfiction is our search for the truth; it is an exploration in humanity—our beauty, complexities, and the often unimaginable. This class is designed for students who, through filmmaking, hope to move humanity one step closer to understanding who we are and how connected our life experiences may be. In this yearlong course, students produce one 15- to 30-minute documentary on the subject of their own choosing. Students will develop treatments, pitch their projects, create production schedules, and work in small teams to create their films. Each week, students must demonstrate clear progress on their projects, including outlined shoot dates, updates on production needs, screening of unedited material, assembly cuts, rough cuts, and the eventual final delivery of their conference films. During class, we will screen short- and long-form documentary films from around the world, complemented by hands-on production techniques and experience. Although this is an open class, students must be prepared to learn camera operation, sound recording, and lighting with diligence and professionalism. Each student will direct his/her own project; however, the crew will be made up of the student’s peers, who will be entrusted with delivering strong technical material. This course will challenge students to think beyond the beautiful gates of Sarah Lawrence and take on subjects and opportunities that are new spaces both emotionally and physically. Nonfiction requires passion for storytelling and, ultimately, a passion for people. We hope to finish the year with a lens on the world that’s evolved to new heights of understanding and compassion.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

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 guests will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm field trip is possible, if funding permits. The seminar participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and agriculture,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation is also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Geography Lecture and Film Series—approximately once per month in the evening from 6-8 pm. The Web board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of assignments will be made there, along with follow-up commentaries. There will be in-class essays, debates, and small group discussions. Conferences will focus on in-depth analyses of course topics. You will be required to prepare a poster project and paper on a topic of your choice related to the course, which will be presented at the end of each semester in a special session.

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Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

Experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

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 its associated institutions and the role that they 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”; 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. Where possible and feasible, students will be encouraged to do primary research during fall study days and winter and spring breaks.

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Intermediate/Advanced Greek: Defeating Despotism: Essential Strategies From Ancient Greek and Roman Epic Poetry

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Fall

Permission of the instructor is required.

Fearing tyranny, the framers of the US Constitution in the 18th century drew vital lessons from ancient Athenian democracy (508-322 BCE) and the Roman Republic (509-27 BCE). Before and during the Greeks’ and Romans’ radical and unprecedented experiments in broader political participation, Ancient Greek and Roman epic poetry shaped cultural attitudes regarding the use and abuse of power. As the modern world drifts backward in the 21st century toward various forms of dictatorship and authoritarian populism, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Vergil’s Aeneid can help arm us against the tyrants we might serve and the tyrants we might become. Students will read all three epics in their entirety in English translation. Greek conferences will meet twice each week either individually or in small groups to suit each student’s needs/abilities. In conference, students will develop their comprehension of ancient Greek by close reading of selected texts.

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The Price of Citizenship: A History of Poverty and Public Policy in the United States

Open , Lecture—Year

This lecture is a super-lecture and may enroll up to 60 students.

The history of poverty and public policy in the United States did not begin with President Roosevelt’s New Deal or with President Johnson’s War on Poverty. Before the Great Depression and the Other America, the public policy toward urban poverty began with the humiliating and punitive institution of the poorhouse. And subsequently, public policy and social welfare in America developed in the shadow of the poorhouse. If one school of experts suggests that American social welfare has been obsessed with the social control over poor people, then a second school of experts has been engrossed in dividing the poor into two moral categories: the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. Unfortunately, many experts were preoccupied with “improving” the morality of poor people rather than with ending economic poverty amid American bounty. By contrast, there is another tradition—one of social-justice movements that demand an end to American economic poverty and savage inequality. How did those dynamics shape the contours of American citizenship during the New Deal and the Great Society? Those issues will be explored in the lectures, discussions, and films in this course.

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International Law

Open , Lecture—Fall

In a global landscape pocked by genocide, wars of choice, piracy, and international terrorism, what good is international law? Can it mean anything without a global police force and a universal judiciary? Is “might makes right” the only law that works? Or is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These essential questions frame the contemporary practice of law across borders. This lecture provides an overview of international law—its doctrine, theory, and practice. It addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war, human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession.

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Making Latin America

Open , Seminar—Year

The making of Latin America—deeply embedded in global histories of capitalist expansion, imperial domination, and circulation of Western ideas—must nonetheless begin by looking inward. The course examines the ways in which landowners and campesinos, intellectuals and workers, the military, blacks, whites, and mestizos understood and shaped the history of this region in the world. From the early settlements in the Americas and the pre-Hispanic civilizations to the contemporary battles between neoliberals and neosocials, this yearlong course offers a survey of the more than five centuries of history of the region that we know as Latin America. After an overview of the intellectual and political debates about what the term Latin America means and encompasses, the first half of the course will survey the fall of the Aztec and Inca empires, the colonial order that emerged in its stead, independence from Iberian rule, and the division of the empire into a myriad of independent republics or states searching for a “nation.” 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 second semester, the course will delve into 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, and reformism, among other concepts key to the debates in contemporary Latin America.

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Palestine/Israel and the Politics of History

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to major topics and debates in the historiography of Palestine/Israel from the mid-19th century to the present. The course has two broad goals: first, to delineate significant trends and transformations that defined the political, economic, cultural, intellectual, and social history of that contested land in the modern period; and second, to explore the evolution of—and fraught political debates surrounding—varying interpretations of this history. Themes to be covered include: Ottoman Palestine in the 19th and early 20th centuries; Jewish modernity and the origins and trajectory of Zionism as an ideology and political movement; the emergence and development of Palestinian national identity and nationalism; British colonial rule and the Mandate system; the historiography of partition and its consequences; the construction of Israeli national culture and identity after 1948; the politics of memory among Israelis and Palestinians; regional war and diplomacy; the role of the United States and the global ramifications of struggle in Palestine/Israel; and various aspects of state and society within Israel, with a special focus on the diversity of its ethnic and religious composition. It bears saying that this is not a course about the “Arab-Israeli conflict” or even primarily about “conflict,” as such; rather, this course provides an integrative approach to Palestinian and Israeli history, emphasizing the construction and articulation of multiple visions for forging collective identity within Palestine/Israel, as well as strategies for establishing and asserting control over it. To this end, we will pay particular attention in this course to cultural sources—especially literature and film—as a way to capture the complexity of voices and identities that claim this land as their own.

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Drugs, History, and Politics in Latin America and Beyond

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

The “War on Drugs,” shootings in favelas, colgados in US-Mexican border states, and (in)famous drug lords (or ”narcos”) dominate contemporary images of, and conversations about, drugs in Latin America. From the narconovelas and narcocorridos to even narco-tourism, narcoviolence has created a myriad of cultural and social artifacts that cultivate both fascination and repulsion over a phenomenon that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications for the region and for the world. This course seeks to understand the multiplicity of historical causes and effects of narcoviolence in the most conspicuous cases in Latin America during the 20th century: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Central America. To do so, the course will situate the current narcoviolence within a longer history of psychoactive drugs as goods, linking producers and consumers through global capitalism since the early modern period. From coffee to cocaine, we will discuss the origins of both fascination with and prohibition of psychoactive drugs. We will examine the social, political, and economic functions of drugs in different historical contexts, their transformation from luxury to mass commodities, and even their fetishization. In addition, the course explores the economics, politics, and culture of drugs in the long era of narcoviolence and globalization. Using primary and secondary sources, history and social science perspectives, the course seeks to foster deep and serious engagement with the history of Latin America and its complex relation to psychoactive drugs.

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Right and Left in Latin America

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

The categories of right and left go beyond party affiliation or ideological orientation, transcending labels loosely attached to politicians, intellectuals, and institutions. The battles between states and markets, individual rights and collective action, or order and freedom reveal society’s fundamental but constant problem: how to organize itself. Most recently, the Pink Tide—or the rise of popular, socially oriented, and outspoken politicians to the presidencies of Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, among others—aimed at putting an end to the Washington Consensus era. Reacting against the preeminence of technocrats, open markets, and international capital of the previous decade, these battles unleashed a new chapter in the long-term battle between the right and the left. Drawing on policy battles in the political, economic, social, and cultural fields in the history of Latin America, the course will examine the shifting and sometimes conflicting meaning of right and left. Rather than siding with the frontrunners or underdogs of history, we will attempt to understand the options available to historical actors, the underlying premises of those choices, and the costs and benefits of the policy options of both the right and the left. From the colonial debates on the nature of Indians and their consequent role in the New World society to the Cold War struggles between violent revolution and progressive reform, the seminar covers a broad historical arc but delves deeply into each historical moment. We will use documents produced by those involved in the debates, along with secondary sources, to question the extent to which we can speak about the past using the modern categories of right and left. Thus, the seminar provides an overview of Latin American history through its key figures and classical dilemmas, as well as the analytical tools to understand how political stances about the organization of society—such as right and left—emerge and transform.

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Beginning Latin

Open , Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Latin grammar, syntax, and vocabulary—with a view toward reading the language as soon as possible. Close reading of Vergil’s Aeneid in English will accompany intensive language study in the fall. By midsemester, students will be translating authentic excerpts of Latin poetry and prose. During the spring semester, while continuing to develop and refine their knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary, students will read selections of the Aeneid in Latin.

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First-Year Studies: 20th-Century Italian Literature

Open , FYS—Year

No previous knowledge of Italian is required.

The course will explore 20th-century Italian literature, focusing on important literary figures, works, and movements (e.g., futurism, neorealism) that helped shape the century. Italy had become a unified nation in 1860, and its literature addressed issues such as (national and personal) identity, tradition, innovation and modernity, the role of literature and of the writer, and the changing role of women in Italian society. We will also explore the interrelation between Italian literature and crucial historical events such as the Great War, the rise and fall of Fascism, World War II, the Resistance, the birth of the Republic, the postwar economic boom, the students’ and women’s movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and the terrorism of the “Anni di Piombo.” We will examine sources ranging from manifestos and propaganda to poetry, fiction (novels and short stories), memoirs, and diaries; the main focus, however, will be on the novel. Texts will include those authored by Gabriele D’Annunzio, Ignazio Silone, Vasco Pratolini, F. T. Marinetti, Italo Svevo, Grazia Deledda, Sibilla Aleramo, Alba de Céspedes, Alberto Moravia, Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, and Italo Calvino. Readings will be supplemented by secondary-source material that will help outline the social, historical, and political context in which those authors lived and wrote, as well as provide relevant critical frameworks for the study of their works. Individual conferences will be held every other week; conference topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, or topic relevant to the course and that might be of interest to the student. On alternate weeks, we will have group activities that may include film screenings, museum visits, and talks relevant to the week’s topics.

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17th-Century British Literature

Open , Seminar—Year

Prerequisite: At least one year of a college-level class in the humanities or a strong AP course in literature.

In England during the 17th century, the great ordering coherences of medieval and earlier Renaissance thinking seemed to disintegrate under the warring impulses of individualism and authority, empiricism and faith, and revolutionary transformation and reinforcement of tradition. Yet, even as monarchy and 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. This course 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 court and the robust and bawdy urban center of London through a reading of masques and plays by Jonson and Shakespeare and their contemporaries; dramatic and meditative experiments in “metaphysical” and moral verse by John Donne, Ben Jonson, Aemilia Lanyer, George Herbert, and other poets; various developments in scientific, philosophical, and meditative prose by Francis Bacon, Richard Burton, and Thomas Browne; and the early poetry of John Milton. The second semester will study major writing in the period of the English Revolution and Restoration. Our focus will be on Milton, but we will also study the poetry of the Cavaliers, Katherine Philips, Andrew Marvell, and John Dryden and the prose of Thomas Hobbes, John Bunyan, Aphra Behn, and Margaret Cavendish.

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Defeating Despotism: Essential Strategies From Ancient Greek and Roman Epic Poetry

Open , Seminar—Fall

With the permission of the instructor, qualified students may opt to take this course as Intermediate or Advanced Greek and will do conference work in Greek at the appropriate level. Greek conferences will meet twice each week either individually or in small groups to suit each student’s needs/abilities. In conference, students will develop their comprehension of ancient Greek by close reading of selected texts.

Fearing tyranny, the framers of the US Constitution in the 18th century drew vital lessons from Ancient Greek democracy (508-322 BCE) and the Roman Republic (509-27 BCE). Before and during the Greeks’ and Romans’ radical and unprecedented experiments in broader political participation, Ancient Greek and Roman epic poetry shaped cultural attitudes regarding the use and abuse of power. As the modern world drifts backward in the 21st century toward various forms of dictatorship and authoritarian populism, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Vergil’s Aeneid can help arm us against the tyrants we might serve and the tyrants we might become. Students will read all three epics in their entirety in English translation.

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The Music of What Happens: Alternate Histories and Counterfactuals

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

The alternate history imagines a different present or future originating in a point of divergence from our actual history—a branching point in the past. Alternate history is both an increasingly popular form of genre fiction and a decreasingly disreputable form of analysis in history and the social sciences. While fictions of alternate history were, until very recently, only a subgenre of science fiction, two celebrated American “literary” novelists, Philip Roth and Michael Chabon, have within the last four years written well-regarded novels of alternate history (The Plot Against America and The Yiddish Policeman’s Union). Similarly, while counterfactual historical speculation is at least as old as Livy, academic historians have until recently scorned the practice as a vulgar parlor game; but this is beginning to change. In the early 1990s, Cambridge University Press and Princeton both published intellectually rigorous books on alternate history and counterfactual analysis in the social sciences; Cambridge more recently published a volume analyzing alternate histories of World War II; and in 2006, the University of Michigan Press published an interesting collection of counterfactual analyses titled, “Unmaking the West.” This course will examine a number of fictions of alternate history, some reputable and some less reputable, and also look at some of the academic work noted above. We shall attempt to understand what it might mean to think seriously about counterfactuals, about why fictions of and academic works on alternate history have become significantly more widespread, and about what makes an alternate history aesthetically satisfying and intellectually suggestive rather than ham-fisted, flat, and profoundly unpersuasive.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open , Lecture—Fall

Mathematical prerequisite: basic high-school algebra and geometry.

Correlation, regression, 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 important? And what exactly fueled the failure of statistical polls and projections leading up to the 2016 US presidential election? 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, 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. Conference work will serve as a complete practicum of the theory learned in lecture: Students working closely in small teams will conceive, design, and fully execute a small-scale research study. This lecture is recommended for anybody wishing to be a better-informed consumer of data and strongly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate work and/or research in the natural sciences or social sciences.

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Game Theory: The Study of Conflict and Strategy

Open , Lecture—Spring

The minimum required preparation for successful study of game theory is one year each of high-school algebra and geometry. No other knowledge of mathematics or social science is presumed.

Warfare, elections, auctions, labor-management negotiations, inheritance disputes, even divorce—these and many other conflicts can be successfully understood and studied as games. A game, in the parlance of social scientists and mathematicians, is any situation involving two or more participants (players) capable of rationally choosing among a set of possible actions (strategies) that lead to some final result (outcome) of typically unequal value (payoff or utility) to the players. Game theory is the interdisciplinary study of conflict, whose primary goal is the answer to the single, simply-stated, but surprisingly complex question: What is the best way to “play”? Although the principles of game theory have been widely applied throughout the social and natural sciences, their greatest impact has been felt in the fields of economics, political science, and biology. This course represents a survey of the basic techniques and principles in the field. Of primary interest will be the applications of the theory to real-world conflicts of historical or current interest.

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Philosophy as Therapy

Open , Lecture—Year

Since Socrates, philosophy has understood itself as therapy—of “opinion” (Socrates, Plato), of anxiety and passion (the Stoa), of superstition (the Epicureans), and of dogmatism (the Pyrrhonian skeptics and the New Academy). This conception of philosophy receded in the Middle Ages—when philosophy in Christian Europe was conceived of as a “handmaiden to theology”—but returned in the Renaissance and continued to be important in the Enlightenment. Among the moderns, thinkers who understand philosophy as involving therapy include Montaigne, Descartes, Shaftesbury, and Kant, as well as some in the 20th century. In the fall semester, we shall focus on the ancients; in the spring, on the moderns.

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How to Become Who You Are: Readings in Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Life

Open , Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will read selected works from different phases of Nietzsche’s career and become acquainted with some of the central themes of his philosophy, including his views of art, tragedy, history, and morality. While we will give each theme its own due, our guiding thread will be Nietzsche’s promotion of a morality grounded in an affirmation of life—“yes-saying,” as he called it—and his rejection of all ethical appeals to something beyond this life, this body, this world. To cast light on the profound impact and enduring life of this philosophy, we will accompany our primary readings in Nietzsche with critical appropriations of his thought by leading 20th-century philosophers, including Heidegger, Irigaray, Deleuze, and Foucault.

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What’s in a Name? Perspectives on Poverty

Intermediate , Seminar—Fall

Previous coursework in psychology, sociology, or economics or instructor permission required.

Poverty, misery or want is a phantom with a thousand faces that vents its fury primarily among the majority of people who live in what is referred to as the Third World and among the pockets of poor people living on the fringes of the large industrialized cities… —Santiago Barquín

What is poverty? Does it have a face? Is it confined to a particular space? What does it mean to be poor? This seminar challenges students to confront their individual conceptualizations of poverty through a cross-disciplinary study into its dynamics. Readings will survey the way poverty has been defined by economists, psychologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists. Students will gain an understanding of how these definitions bear on the methodological approaches used to study both the prevalence of poverty and the severity of its effects. Students are expected to discuss the merits and demerits of each perspective and the practical consequences they engender. The course will move to situate poverty into context in order to examine how it is expressed across different environments. How is urban poverty similar to or different from rural poverty? Does suburban poverty even exist? The course will trace the origin of stereotypes about poor people and how they are perpetuated and supported by popular discourse through readings from White Trash: The 200-year Untold History of Class in America. Readings from $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America will ask students to interrogate the factuality of myths about who is poor. Together, the course will ponder the differential impact of poverty on racial and ethnic groups in America. Students will be asked to evaluate state-level welfare policies to observe the variation in state legislatures and the consequences for individuals and families. In thinking about the consequences of poverty, the course will also cover the way individuals are shaped by poverty, charting its effects on the brain and the body. Conference projects will give students the opportunity to research poverty-related social issues such as the poverty-obesity paradox and the income-academic achievement gap. Throughout the course, students are encouraged to be mindful of the way poverty is operationalized and to consider what psychological perspectives have to offer by way of improving our understanding of how people are affected by life in poverty.

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The Experiences of Immigrant Children

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

Prerequisite: previous course work in psychology, politics, or public policy or permission of the instructor isrequired.

In the years to come, the United States is expected to see unprecedented growth in the foreign-born population. As our population becomes more diverse, we have an essential need to understand the experiences of immigrant individuals. In this seminar, students will explore the influence of immigration policies on recent trends in immigration and the consequences of those policies on families. Special attention is paid to the intersection of gender, poverty, and race in shaping patterns of migration. Although theories of immigration span across many social-science disciplines, the bioecological-systems approach will be used as a framework for contextualizing these theories and for applying a child-centric view to the migratory process. This seminar will take turns considering the unique experiences of Asian, Latinx, and Black immigrant children before, during, and after migration.Issues of legal status and maternal separation are central course themes. Other course topics include acculturative stress, discrimination, family dynamics, identity, and trauma. These experiences will be connected to the developmental outcomes of immigrant children. Course work requires students to consider the experiences of immigrant children and how best our schools, communities, and broader society can meet their needs. During the semester, students are asked to engage with the bioecological model of development in order to structure their analysis of the many factors affecting immigrant children. Students are encouraged to use their conference projects to hone in on one area of interest.

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Immigration, Race, and the Making of the United States: An Immigration Policy Perspective

Open , Seminar—Year

Immigration has been a recurring and polarizing political issue in the United States and globally. While undocumented youth have forced their plight into the national debate, in an earlier moment “Positively No Filipinos” and “Irish Need Not Apply” signs were commonplace in places of business. And yet, in the contemporary political climate, immigration policy is debated as if it were ahistorical and fixed. In this yearlong course, students will explore immigration, immigrant integration, and societal inequality. We will answer questions such as: How has immigration policy changed over time? And how are immigrants integrating into society? We will delve into theoretical debates over why people migrate, the role of states in managing migration flows, the “actors” who have shaped immigration policy, and how today’s immigrants compare with earlier waves of immigrants. More specifically, this course will trace the history of immigration policy and of immigration flows into the United States, as well as the distinct trajectories of groups and cohorts along a series of societal indicators. Students will contribute to ongoing debates by reflecting on where we are and what we can we do to create a better system and a more equitable society.

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Marijuana, DACA, and Guns: A Primer on Voice and Power in Crafting Policy Change

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will examine political power at different levels through both theoretical and practical lenses. We will consider questions of membership and belonging and of political engagement. How are communities defined? How is political voice exercised? And how do power dynamics shape who belongs and whose voices are heard? Current policy debates will serve as a backdrop for the course, which will allow us to explore the relationship between national- and local-level policy contests. Through conference work, students will trace the pathways for effecting change in a series of contemporary policy debates at different levels of government and geographies—including debates over marijuana, DACA, and guns. New York will be our extended classroom, positioning students to connect theory and the academic classroom to practice and the real world.

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American Religious Mythmaking: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Open , Seminar—Fall

History, like the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, is the telling of a story that reveals something about who we are, how we came to be here, and what our purpose is. In this course, rather than looking at past events in chronological order, we will explore some of the stories that Americans have told themselves over the centuries to make sense of their peoplehood and their place in the world. By exploring iconic events, institutions, texts, and artifacts from the Great Awakening to the Black Church to Fiddler on the Roof, we will see how religious narratives have informed interpretations of the American past, layering ancient stories of conquest, redemption, and rebirth onto memories of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. While intentionally foregrounding Protestant religious narratives because of their dominance in American culture, this course will also attend to indigenous, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Mormon experiences and stories.

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First-Year Studies: Nations, Borders, and Mobilities: An Introduction to Migration Studies

Open , FYS—Year

In a global context where immigration has become one of the biggest flashpoints in political discourse, our understanding of how people (and things) move across national borders needs to be re-examined and reconsidered. In addition to major humanitarian issues leading to global refugee crises, we are also looking at an ever-growing number of people who move across and within national borders in search of work, opportunities, education, and a chance to fulfill their aspirations for a better life. People also move because of conflict, dispossession, coercion, and environmental issues. Much of this happens in the backdrop of rising xenophobia, anti-immigrant hatred, and the emergence of far-right supremacist movements across societies in the West. Powerful and virulent new articulations of national “purity” and values are being championed in the name of protecting nationhood from the foreign “Other.” Classical scholarship on migration has focused predominantly on two largely distinct phenomena of “immigration” and “emigration,” while more recent developments in transnational studies have led to a stronger emphasis on cross-border movements and flows of people, goods, capital, ideas, and vectors. This yearlong course serves as an introduction to the field of migration studies, drawing upon sociological and anthropological scholarship on issues such as refugee crises, human trafficking, economic exploitation of migrants, modern-day slavery and indentured servitude, and the increasingly precarious conditions of migration. Questions include: What are some of the reasons influencing the movement of people away from their homes and countries of origin? How does the movement of people from privileged and wealthier backgrounds differ from that of people from poorer, marginalized communities (particularly in the Global South)? What are some of the institutional frameworks and regimes that govern, regulate, and produce new classes of “migrants” in today’s world? We will be using classical and contemporary readings that address the themes and issues at hand in addition to nontraditional sources such as videos, fiction, and games. For conference, students will be expected to develop a yearlong research project around a particular theme or problem related to migration and borders. During the first semester, students will prepare a research proposal (with a review of the relevant literature, research questions, and proposed methods of data gathering). For the second semester, students will complete the analysis and prepare their reports and papers. For these projects, students will be encouraged to conduct mini-ethnographic projects, interviews, surveys, and/or archival research in line with their particular interests and skills. In the fall semester, students will also be given an introduction to working with local organizations and groups that are involved with migrant communities—followed by engagement work in the spring with one of those organizations.

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First-Year Studies: (Re)Constructing the Social: Subject, Field, Text

Open , FYS—Year

How does the setting up of a textile factory in Malaysia connect with life in the United States? What was the relationship of mothers to children in upper-class, 17th-century French households? How do our contemporary notions of leisure and luxury resemble, or do they, notions of peoples in other times and places regarding wealth and poverty? What is the relation between the local and the global, the individual and society, the self and “other(s)”? How is the self constructed? How do we connect biography and history, fiction and fact, objectivity and subjectivity, the social and the personal? These are some of the questions that sociology and sociologists attempt to think through. In this seminar, we will ask how sociologists analyze and simultaneously create reality, what questions we ask, and what ways we use to explore our questions and arrive at our findings and conclusions. Through a perusal of comparative and historical materials, we will look afresh at things that we take for granted; for example, the family, poverty, identity, travel and tourism, progress, science, and subjectivity. The objective of the seminar is to enable students to critically read sociological texts and also to become practitioners in “doing” sociology—something we are always already involved in, albeit often unself-consciously. This last endeavor is designed both to train students in how to undertake research and intended as a key tool in interrogating the relationship between the researcher and the researched, the field studied, and the (sociological) text. In conference, students will undertake research on topics of interest to them and learn the craft of research by working on topics of direct interest to them. In the seminar, students will also engage in a few shorter collaborative projects with their peers.

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Marx and Marxisms: Lineages and Contemporary Relevance

Advanced , Seminar—Year

Ideas of social movements and social change throughout the world in the 19th and 20th centuries were significantly informed by the ideas of one social thinker: Karl Marx. Even today, thinkers in the humanities and social sciences— including media and cultural studies—along with social and political activists continue to be engaged with Marx’s ghost. While many detractors would argue—following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end to the “Cold War”—that Marx’s thought is now irrelevant, others argue the opposite: that the current phase of globalization that we are presently in was, in fact, anticipated by Marx. In this seminar, through a close and in-depth study of Marx’s writings and those of others about him, we will examine the impact of Marx’s ideas on thinking about and practices of social change. The themes in Marx’s writings on which we will focus include the following: his views on human nature, social structures and individual agency and subjectivity, alienation, religion and ideology, objectification and commodification, social class and power relations, and political economy including globalization. Following our close scrutiny of Marx’s work in the fall, in the second semester we will study later thinkers whose work has been inspired by Marx and who carried his ideas further and/or addressed new questions in the light of developments since the historical period in which Marx was writing. Among the latter, we will include thinkers such as Gramsci, Barthes, and Williams, who addressed questions of culture and hegemony; structuralists like Althusser, who dealt with the state and ideology; socialist feminists interested in the relationship of class, gender, and sexuality; geographers interested in the relationship of space, class, and power such as David Harvey and Dorren Massey; critical race theorists; and current analysts of globalization. For conference, students could work on specific social thinkers in the Marxist tradition and/or examine political and social movements inspired by his analysis.

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First-Year Studies: Fake News, Real News, News That Stays News

Open , FYS—Year

This combination literary survey and writing course will introduce students to the rhetoric and reality of factual writing and to the dilemmas of truth that obtain when we take complex, fragmentary human experience—whether personal or social—and transform that experience into stories. Students will be asked to write their own stories and to research stories about the world along the spectrum of nonfiction from journalism to essays to oral histories to case studies. They will also be asked to think about the underlying epistemic problems that come with representing facts in language—from blunt-force manipulations of truth for the sake of political gain to more subtle distortions that arise from the techniques of creation, representation, and persuasion. We will read a broad variety of writers, ranging from Aristotle, Longinus, and St. Augustine to Basho, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, and Marshall McLuhan to a legion of contemporary writers writing about race, gender, sex, art, technology, the environment, sports, and themselves. We will think long and fruitfully about how the ephemeral facticity of the world is fashioned into, on the one hand, propaganda and polemic and, on the other, great art.

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What’s the Story? A Radio Journalism Class

Open , Seminar—Fall

Almost two years into a politically divisive presidency that has fractured the country—and with the proliferation of fake news—journalism is more important than ever. And so are the skills required to do the job. The landscape of radio is exploding, and new podcasts are being launched almost faster than listeners can decide which episode to download next. These outlets, shows, and storymaking machines are hungry—both for stories and for the producers with the skills to know how to tell stories. In this class, we’ll learn the fundamentals of making radio news—both writing and production, for short stories and long. We’ll cover editing, software, interviewing skills, and, of course, how to hold your microphone. We’ll learn what makes a story, how to get good tape, and how to write for the ear (very different than for the eye—just try comparing an article from The New York Times with a transcript from NPR). We’ll also cover the skills critical for all nonfiction narrative storytelling, print or audio, from “Morning Edition” to “This American Life.” We’ll talk research, ethics, fact checking, how to find sources, and how to get them to talk. Finally, we’ll cover the art of the pitch. That’s industry lingo for selling your story. It’s no good getting the scoop if you don’t know how to sell your stuff. News is new. Come and learn something new.

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Nonfiction Workshop: To Tell the Truth

Open , Seminar—Fall

This class will explore the mysteries of writing what has been called “nonfiction,” focusing particularly on questions around what has been called lying and what has been called telling the truth. Was Toni Morrison right when she said our minds have an “antipathy to fraud”? Does lying have a syntax? What are the cultural contexts, nourishments, and manipulations that may affect what happens between a writer and a drafted or published sentence? What's the difference between a lie that illuminates the truth and a lie that obfuscates or tries to extinguish it? Are famous writers good? Can popular writing lie? Is it possible to “tell the truth”? Our readings may include the work of James Baldwin, Anne Carson, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Dionne Brand, Aimé Césaire, Edward Said, Fred Moten, Hannah Arendt, and Virginia Woolf, as well as that of Wallace Stegner, William F. Buckley, Jr., Charlotte Beers, Henry Kissinger, and the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture. In conference, we’ll discuss drafts of student work; in class, we’ll discuss readings, in light of the questions above, as a way of guiding our own makings. You’ll be expected to attend class, engage with assigned and suggested readings, participate in discussions, and, by the end of the class, produce 20 pages of publishable nonfiction. The only prerequisites are a passion for reading that equals your passion for writing and a willingness to undertake whatever might be necessary to read and write better on our last day of class than on our first.

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