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.

2017-2018 Courses

Politics

The Legitimacy of Modernity

Open , Lecture—Year

How can social order be explained in modern societies that are too large, fluid, and complex to rely on tradition or self-conscious political regulation alone? Social theory is a distinctly modern tradition of discourse centered on answering this question and focused on a series of theorists and texts whose works gave rise to the modern social sciences. They explore the sources of social order in structures, many of which work “behind the backs” of the awareness and intentions of those whose interaction they integrate and regulate. The market economy, the legal and administrative state, the firm and the professions, highly differentiated political and civil cultures, a variety of disciplinary techniques inscribed in diverse mundane practices...one by one, these theorists labored to unmask the often hidden sources of social order in the modern world. Moreover, this understanding of social order has evolved side-by-side with evaluations that run the gambit from those who view Western modernity as achieving the apex of human freedom and individuality to those who see it as insinuating a uniquely thorough and invidious system of domination. This class will introduce many of the foundational texts and authors in social theory and the social sciences, including Thomas Hobbes, Adam Smith, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, and Jürgen Habermas. In this way, it will also cover various schools of social explanation, including Marxism, structuralism, poststructuralism, and (in group conferences) postcolonial studies and feminism. The thread connecting these disparate authors and approaches will be the issue of the worth or legitimacy of Western modernity, the historical process that produced capitalism, representative democracy, religious pluralism, the modern sciences, ethical individualism, secularism, fascism, communism, new forms of racism and sexism, and many “new social movements.” Which of the institutions that structured the process of modernization are worth defending or reforming? Which should be rejected outright? Or should we reject them all and embrace a new, postmodern social epoch? In answering these questions in class and group conferences, we will grapple with both the classical texts and the contemporary implications of different approaches to social analysis.

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Introduction to International Relations

Open , Lecture—Fall

War made the state, and the state made war. —Charles Tilly

This course will take a critical approach to the study of international relations. First, we will study the main theories (e.g., realism, liberalism, constructivism, Marxism), concepts (e.g., the state, anarchy, sovereignty, balance of power, dependency, hegemony, world order), and levels of analysis (systemic, state, organizational, and individual) in the field. Then we will apply those various theoretical approaches and levels of analysis to current international conflicts and crises in order to better understand the many ongoing debates about war and peace, humanitarian interventions, international institutions, and the international political economy. Some of the questions that we will explore include: Why do states go to war? Why do some humanitarian interventions succeed while others fail or simply never materialize? Why are some regions and states rich while others are poor, and how do these inequalities shape international relations? How do international organizations help to reinforce or moderate existing interstate political and economic inequalities?

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People on the Move: Narrating Displacement, Critiquing Crisis, and Advocating for Refugees and Forced Migrants

Open , Seminar—Year

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres famously declared in 2007 that the 21st century would be one of “people on the move.” The idea that the term “refugee” should apply only to individuals who have been forced to flee their homes due to state persecution or armed conflict is of limited use in a world where the number of forced migrants is more than 65 million and the causes of displacement (both within states and across borders) are increasingly complex and interrelated—including conflict, extreme deprivation, and environmental degradation due to climate change. The refugee "crisis" in Europe has drawn attention to the plight of forced migrants worldwide, but liberal democracies continue to institute border controls and nonarrival measures in order to restrict access to asylum—citing security threats from smugglers, irregular migrants, and “bogus” refugees—while failing to recognize the structural violence of international migration regimes or taking responsibility for the active harm inflicted upon refugees. This yearlong seminar will draw upon case materials, selected readings (including policy briefs, academic articles, memoirs, and ethnographies), and documentary films to explore the causes and consequences of displacement. Special attention will be paid to the lived experiences of, and knowledge produced by, forced migrants. We will also examine the assumptions and actions of governments, the donor community, the United Nations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that typically intervene on behalf of refugees. Complex ethical, legal, and policy issues will be considered, such as: (1) ethical dilemmas in the provision of protection and care for the most vulnerable groups, such as orphans and unaccompanied children, during refugee migrations; (2) contrasting models of care: camp settings vs. urban refugees; (3) legal status and distinctions between refugees, asylees, and other migrants; (4) decisions about “durable solutions”: repatriation, local integration, and third country resettlement; (5) the need for burden-sharing arrangements between countries of the global North and the global South (which host the vast majority of refugee populations); (6) states’ responsibilities and increasing restrictions on access to asylum; and (7) challenges that refugee migrations pose to state-centric concepts of citizenship. Experiential learning will be a key component of the course. Throughout the year, students will explore the link between global refugee movements and the status of refugees and other forced migrants in the United States through involvement in individual service-learning projects in their local community. Students are expected to engage in a community service activity that brings them into direct contact with refugees for at least three hours per week. Students may act as homework tutors, activity leaders for children, English conversation partners, teachers’ aides, or advocates promoting public awareness for refugees. Conference work will engage students in advocacy efforts on behalf of refugees and forced migrants and will be conducted in groups in both the fall and the spring semesters. In the fall, students will conduct research, in collaboration with Scholars at Risk, on the case of an imprisoned scholar and plan advocacy activities for the spring semester. Students will develop a social media campaign and conduct outreach to case stakeholders, including human rights organizations, the UN, and government officials. In the spring, in addition to implementing their advocacy plans, students will work in groups to conduct community needs assessments at their service sites and author grant proposals in response to identified needs.

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Modern Political Theory

Open , Seminar—Year

Political theory consists of a discourse of thinking about the nature of political power; the conditions for its just and unjust use; the rights of individuals, minorities, and majorities; and the nature and bounds of political community. Rather than tackling pressing political problems one at a time, political theorists seek systematic solutions in overall visions of just societies or comprehensive diagnoses of the roots of oppression and domination in political orders. In this course, we focus on modern writers who shaped the terms and concepts that increasingly populate political imaginations the world over; that is, the conscious and unconscious ideas about rights, power, class, democracy, community, and the like that we use to make sense of our political lives. Thinkers to be considered include Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Mill, and Nietzsche. By studying their work, we will be better positioned to answer something like the following range of questions: What is the nature of political power? What is the content of social justice? Does democracy threaten basic individual rights? Is it more important to respect the individual or the community when the interests of the two conflict? Is a market economy required by or incompatible with democracy? What aspects of human potential and social worlds do different grand theories of political life illuminate and occlude? Finally, this course will pose the issue of the worth and legitimacy of European modernity; that is, the historical process that produced capitalism, representative democracy, religious pluralism, the modern sciences, ethical individualism, secularism, fascism, communism, new forms of racism and sexism, and many “new social movements.” Which of the ideas that jostle for prominence within this tradition are worth defending? Which should be rejected? Or should we reject them all and, instead, embrace a new, postmodern political epoch? In answering these questions, we will be forced to test both the internal coherence and the continuing relevance of the political visions that shape modern politics.

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Presidential Power

Open , Seminar—Year

The President is the most prominent actor in the US government, and developing an understanding of how and why political leaders make the choices that they do is the goal of this course. Presidents must make countless decisions while in office and, as Edwards and Wayne explain, “Executive officials look to [the presidency] for direction, coordination, and general guidance in the implementation of policy...Congress looks to it for establishing priorities, exerting influence...the heads of foreign governments look to it for articulating positions, conducting diplomacy, and flexing muscle; the general public looks to it for...solving problems and exercising symbolic and moral leadership...” This course will examine and analyze the development and modern practice of presidential leadership in the United States by studying the evolution of the modern presidency, which includes the process of presidential selection and the structure of the presidency as an institution. We will then reflect on the ways in which presidents make decisions and seek to shape foreign, economic, and domestic policy. This will be based on a variety of literatures, ranging from social psychology to organizational behavior. We will look at the psychology and character of presidents in this section of the course. We will also explore the relationship of the presidency to other major governmental institutions and organized interests. We will pay particular attention to how presidents have attempted to expand presidential power and the various struggles the White House has had with the ministry, Congress, the Judicary, and global institutions such as the United Nations. We will pay particular attention to a particular set of presidents: Franklin D Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and Dwight D Eisenhower. We will conclude by examining the post-9/11 era of Bush, Obama, and Trump, where all of these presidents have greatly sought to increase the power of the Oval Office relative to other branches of government. While the course is open to all students, the workload is intense, and prior background in American history and politics is preferable.

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African Politics

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to African politics, challenging common assumptions and misunderstandings of the continent. We will investigate persistent political institutions, as well as mechanisms of political and economic change. Key questions include: How are postcolonial African states distinctive from other postcolonial states? How do the politics of patronage, prevalent in many African states and societies, affect processes of political and economic change such as democratization and the implementation of structural adjustment and poverty alleviation programs? What role have external influences, from colonialism to current forms of European and North American influence, played on the continent? What impact has China's rising role (alongside other Asian states) had? What choices and trade-offs have Africa's postcolonial leaders and citizens faced? This course will not investigate the experiences of all African states but will address these questions by drawing upon the experiences of a few countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. The course will begin with an in-depth analysis of the colonial experience, decolonization, and the legacy of colonialism. We will then move on to address key questions regarding postcolonial governance, concerning the nature of the postcolonial African state, the role of violence in governance, the nature of popular demands for democracy, and popular rebellion and elite resistance. The final section will build upon the first two by investigating approaches to, and ideals of, economic development, including structural reforms, aid, trade, debt, private investment, and social programs in order to unearth the contradictions and promises of these processes.

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International Political Economy: The Rise (and Fall) of Neoliberal Hegemony.

Open , Seminar—Spring

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

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Democracy and the Market

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Prior coursework in the social sciences is required.

This yearlong seminar will address the question of how liberal democracy and market capitalism reinforce and contradict one another. It will also explore alternative ideals. We will begin with the seemingly timeless debate concerning modernization and consider the lessons of past successful, state-led growth strategies without democracy. This brings us to the question as to whether such state-led strategies, with or without democracy, are still possible in the post-Cold War era in light of the so-called Washington—and now post-Washington—consensus. To understand the challenges that individual states face, we investigate the wave of democratization that occurred from the late 1980s and the ways in which economic conditions and economic policy contributed to the pressure for change and limited possible outcomes. We will also consider the role of social movements in pressing for change and the discrepancies between what many people mobilized for and the results of regime change. This leads us to consider inequality in both the political and economic realm and the interaction between the two. Corruption forms another key challenge that is often highlighted or ignored for ideological and partisan reasons. We will approach corruption debates from a number of disciplinary perspectives to assess what is really at stake. Finally, the course will investigate a wide range of country case studies, transnational movements, and international actors (IOs, INGOs, donors) and consider both their defense of liberal ideals and the alternatives that they offer.

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American Politics and the Constitution

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

This course examines the development of American constitutional politics. It begins with an exploration of the impact of American political culture and early historical events on the Constitution’s text and its later interpretations. We will place special emphasis on the shifting meaning that Americans have attached to fundamental rights and liberties. Next, we will address some of the theoretical debates about the impact of the Constitution on our lives, its existence as both a written and unwritten document, and its intended and unintended effect on American democracy. Finally, we will examine some of the most visible contemporary political debates, including states’ rights, sexual and reproductive freedoms, equal access to education, and voting rights and electoral rules by learning about the politics of constitutional lawmaking and by reading some of the key Supreme Court opinions that shaped these issues. Throughout the duration of the course, we will attempt to answer the following questions: How does the Constitution shape our everyday lives? What effect, if any, do the Supreme Court justices’ political views have on American politics? How democratic is the US Constitution?

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Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Open , Lecture—Year

Economics has a profound impact on all of our lives—from where we live and go to school to what we do for a living, how we dress, and how we entertain ourselves. Economics is also crucially intertwined with the social and political issues that we care about, from global warming to poverty and discrimination. This yearlong course introduces a variety of approaches to economics—including neoclassical, Keynesian, behavioralist, Marxian, and feminist—and encourages students to apply these contrasting perspectives to current economic issues. We conclude with an exploration of the causes and consequences of the recent financial and economic crisis.

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Understanding 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 , Seminar—Fall

Background in humanities, social sciences or arts preferred. Advanced, open to students with developed skills in critical thinking and analysis of texts.

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

Open , FYS—Year

Some 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 evolutions of a world political economy, of which the Third World is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial "development" to understand the evolving meaning of this term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation states. We will then examine globalization; and its relation to emergent 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 in the fall semester to be 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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The Geography of Contemporary China: A Political Ecology of Reform, Global Integration, and Rise to Superpower

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Some experience in the social sciences desired but not required.

Despite widespread daily reporting on China’s rise to superpower status—and both its challenge to and its necessary partnership with the United States—what do we really know about the country? In this seminar, we will explore China’s evolving place in the world through political-economic integration and globalization processes. We will consistently focus our efforts on reframing debates, both academic and in mass media, to enable new insights and analyses. We will begin with an overview of contemporary China, discussing the unique aspects of China’s modern history and the changes and continuities from one era to the next. We will explore Revolutionary China and the subsequent socialist period to ground the seminar’s focus: post-1978 reform and transformation to the present day. Rooted in the questions of agrarian change and rural development, we will also study seismic shifts in urban and industrial form and China’s emergence as a global superpower on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. We will analyze the complex intertwining of the environmental, political-economic, and sociocultural aspects of these processes as we interpret the geography of contemporary China. Using a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will analyze a series of contemporary global debates: Is there a fundamental conflict between the environment and rapid development? What is the role of the peasantry in the modern world? What is the impact of different forms of state power and practice? How does globalization shape China’s regional transformation? And, on the other hand, how does China’s global integration impact development in every other country and region of the world? Modern China provides immense opportunities for exploring key theoretical and substantive questions of our time. A product first and foremost of its own complex history, other nation states and international actors and institutions—such as the World Bank, transnational corporations, and civil society—have also heavily influenced China. The “China model” of rapid growth is widely debated in terms of its efficacy as a development pathway, and yet it defies simple understandings and labels. Termed everything from neoliberalism to market socialism to authoritarian Keynesian capitalism, it is a model full of paradoxes and contradictions. Not least of these is its impact on global climate change. Other challenges include changing gender relations, rapid urbanization, and massive internal migration. In China today, contentious debates continue on land reform, the pros and cons of global market integration, the role of popular culture and the arts in society, how to define ethical behavior, the roots of China’s social movements—from Tian’anmen to current widespread social unrest and discontent amongst workers, peasants, students, and intellectuals—and the meaning and potential resolution of minority conflicts in China’s hinterlands. Land and resource grabs in China and abroad are central to China’s rapid growth and its role as an industrial platform for the world. But resulting social inequality and environmental degradation challenge the legitimacy of China’s leadership like never before. As China borders many of the most volatile places in the contemporary world and increasingly projects its power to the far corners of the planet, we will conclude our seminar with a discussion of security issues, geopolitics, and potential scenarios for China’s future. Throughout the seminar, there will be comparisons with other areas of the world within the context of the broader theoretical and thematic questions mentioned above. Weekly selected readings, films, mass media, and books will be used to inform debate and discussion. A structured conference project will integrate closely with one of the diverse topics of the seminar.

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The Russian Revolution

Open , Seminar—Fall

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the two Russian revolutions of 1917: the February Revolution that overthrew the tsar and the October Revolution, nine months later, that put the Communist Party of Vladimir Lenin in control of the world’s largest country. Arguably, the seizure of power by Lenin’s party was the decisive political event of the 20th century. If that hadn’t occurred, there would probably have been no turn toward fascism in Europe, no Hitler, and no World War II. A large part of the world’s population would not have found itself, after 1945, under the rule of Marxist dictatorships. Students in the course will read and discuss a variety of texts that discuss the causes of the 1917 revolutions, the nature of the regime that Lenin and his followers instituted following their conquest of power, and the global repercussions of their success in establishing what they claimed to be the world’s first “Workers’ State.” The course will therefore serve not only as an introduction to the history of modern Russia but also to the history of world communism and anti-communism in the four decades after 1917. Students may choose to pursue conference research devoted to events in Russia but also will be encouraged to develop projects dealing with the reverberations of the Russian Revolution in other parts of the globe.

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Love, Sex, and Globalization

Open , Seminar—Year

In 2015, the issue of gay rights in Israel was thrust into international spotlight when 26 Israeli surrogate babies were evacuated from earthquake-devastated Kathmandu, but their Nepalese surrogate mothers were left behind. Among the Israeli parents were gay couples who had been forced to look abroad, as surrogacy is restricted to heterosexual couples in Israel. What this event also revealed are the strange bedfellows that love and sex find when they travel and take up new life in the age of globalization. In recent years, scholars have been increasingly concerned with the worldwide political-economic and technological restructuring that goes under the name of “globalization.” Too often, however, globalization has been figured as an abstract and all-powerful capitalist phenomenon imposed on the rest of the world by American political elites and US corporations. Missing have been accounts of how this restructuring is experienced by people in their daily lives, including their most intimate acts and practices. This course seeks to challenge the binaries of proximate/distant, economic/intimate, and global/local by which we understand globalization. Using an interdisciplinary lens drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, international relations, literature, and film and media studies, we will seek to account for the complex ways in which political-economic and technological transformations both shape and are shaped by love, sex, and intimacy. Among the topics of discussion will be gay marriage, mail-order brides, transnational adoption, international sex work, militarism, the Internet, and social media. Potential readings will include Symposium by Plato, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1977) by Roland Barthes, The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) by Anthony Giddens, Neon Wasteland: On Love, Motherhood, and Sex Work in A Rust Belt Town (2011) by Susan Dewey, Gay Bombay: Globalization, Love and (Be)longing in Contemporary India (2008) by Parmesh Shehani, Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa (2010) by Mark Hunter, and On the Move for Love: Migrant Entertainers and the US Military in South Korea (2010) by Sealing Cheng. For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the basics of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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Global Masculinities

Open , Seminar—Fall

What does it mean for straight white men in fraternities and the military to grab each other’s penises as part of a hazing ritual (Ward 2015)? Or for blond, “all-American” jocks to dress like “nerds” with glasses and perform a Revenge of the Nerds skit for a high school’s “homecoming king” contest (Pascoe 2007)? Or for the National Basketball Association to feature a promotional video of Yao Ming, the first Chinese player in the NBA, leading a Tai-chi practice on a basketball court wearing his Rockets jersey (Wang 2004)? What do these images and practices reveal about the diverse cultures of masculinity that exist within the United States and around the world? Often when scholars study gender, they focus on women. In contrast, within this course we will spotlight the lives of men who have long escaped critical examination as members of an unmarked category that has stood for humanity in general. In exploring the diversity of men’s lives across the globe, this course will highlight the social construction of masculinity; that is, rather than understanding being “male” or a “man” as biological facts, we will view them as sociocultural constructs that vary not only according to time but also setting. We will see how masculinity intersects with race, class, age, language, sexuality, religion, and nationality to create various models of hegemonic and subordinate masculinities that co-exist and compete with one another. We will explore how, even as masculinity operates to empower men as a group, they inhabit positions of power and wealth and simultaneously regulate the behavior of all men. Therefore, we will also discuss how drag queens, butch lesbians, and transgender people create their own complex genders (Taylor 2004) that have the power to disrupt the gender binary that, in turn, supports not only a white normative queer community and heteronormative family system but also hetero-masculinist states as part of a global capitalist system of homosocial bonding and rivalry. Potential readings include Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (2011) by C.J. Pascoe, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men (2015) by Jane Ward, Sexual Discretion: Black Masculinity and the Politics of Passing (2014) by Jeffrey McCune, “The Track of My Tears: Trans* Affects, Resonance, and PitBulls and Parolees” (2015) by Harlan Weaver, Manly States: Masculinities, International Relations, and Gender Politics (2012) by Charlotte Hooper, and Chih-ming Wang’s “Capitalizing the big man: Yao Ming, Asian America, and the China Global” (2004). For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the fundamentals of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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Queer New Media

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

Until recently, “queer media” called to mind bar rags or community newsletters. With the proliferation of computer-mediated communication—including cell phones, fax machines, satellite television, and the Internet—queer communities around the world have seen the proliferation of multimedia conglomerates very much modeled on their mainstream counterparts (Gamson 2003). Not only that, as location-aware dating applications such as Tinder and Grindr provide novel opportunities for queers to socialize outside of gay spaces, Web 2.0 has resulted in the increased centrality of user-generated content, including DIY porn that is pro-sex, collaborative, and explicitly queer (McGlotten 2012). Finally, social networking and entertainment sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook offer possibilities, in previously unimaginable ways, for grassroots organizing and political struggle for social justice. Yet, even as the connectivity of the Internet has reinvigorated hopes for radical queer politics, democracy, and global community, it has also fed into fears about damage to face-to-face interactions and community. For instance, “No Fats, No Fems, No Asians” is now a ubiquitous phrase on gay hook-up apps where white, muscular, masculinity is most prized. At the same time, Big Data gathered from our Google searches and Facebook likes is threatening to become a regular part of diffuse and opaque campaigns of social engineering that involve guessing, among other things, one’s sexual orientation for marketing purposes. Clearly then, a more precise understanding of both the real and novel effects of queer new media is needed. Eschewing the largely speculative writing on sexuality and new media, this course will investigate how social media affect how queer users interact in online spaces as particular raced, classed, and gendered beings and how these interactions shape their understandings of themselves and the world. It will also explore how these communication technologies are situated in larger structures of political economy and how they have the potential to remediate mass mobilization and political action. Potential readings include Corinne Lysandra Mason’s “Tinder and humanitarian hook-ups: the erotics of social media racism” (2016), Catherine Connell’s “Fashionable Resistance: Queer ‘Fa(t)shion’ Blogging as Counterdiscourse” (2013), Dominique Pierre Batiste’s “‘0 Feet Away: The Queer Cartography of French Gay Men’s Geo-social Media Use” (2013), Shaka McGlotten’s Virtual Intimacies: Media, Affect, and Queer Sociality (2013), and Lindsey O’Connor’s “‘Weird’ Sex: Identity, Censorship, and China’s Women Sex Bloggers” (2014). For conference work, students will have a chance to expand upon their personal interests and learn the basics of ethnographic research by conducting mini-ethnography on a selected topic of their choice. Samples of past student work may be found on the instructor’s faculty home page.

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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, and 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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First-Year Studies: From Homer to Plato

Open , FYS—Year

The habit of asking questions, which constitutes Western thought, has its primary origin in Greece. In this class, we will read Greek epics, tragedies, histories, comedies, and works of philosophy in order to think about how our thinking got started.

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Philosophy and Conflict: The Idea of War

Open , Seminar—Spring

Plato is the first philosopher to describe war in terms of an art (in the Republic). He does so in a context in which the strongest warriors turn out to be philosophers with special training in gymnastics, geometry, and dialectic. The suggestion seems to be that solving geometrical proofs, resolving philosophical contradictions, and fighting enemies are related pursuits. This appears to be especially true of Thucydides, for whom philosophy and history coincide in one exemplary event: the Peloponnesian War. Since that war was between Greeks and Greeks, Thucydides’ interest is in opposition arising from similarity. We will read his History of the Peloponnesian War, followed by Machiavelli’s The Prince. Machiavelli, too, contemplates potential war within sameness, especially conspiracies on the inside of cities (among which is Machiavelli’s book). The idea that the inside might contain the possibility of further insides suggests that the political problem—a certain tension between “us” and “them”—might be a philosophical problem and, conversely, that the philosophical tension exhibited by contradictions might be somehow political.

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Thinkers on the Right

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

The goal of the seminar is to investigate the development of the "Right" in European political thought after the French Revolution. We will read selections from Joseph de Maistre, Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, and other things yet to be determined.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open , Lecture—Spring

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

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

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Constructing Citizenship, Dismantling Hierarchies: The Immigrant and Racial Struggle for Political Equality

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

In the past few years, we have witnessed the undocumented, African Americans, and Latinos taking to the streets in protest, engaging in acts of civil disobedience, calling and writing letters to policymakers, and participating in a variety of other political activities. Meanwhile, organizations—newly created and long standing, political and nonpolitical—are joining in by organizing political actions and lobbying on behalf of marginalized groups. Still, the impetus for these demonstrations, the mixed and sometimes nativist public reactions toward marchers, and the continued passage and implementation of punitive enforcement policies are also a reminder of the political marginalization of immigrant and racial and ethnic groups in the United States. This course examines this heightened activism by situating it within historical political and social contests over citizenship in the United States. The first part of the course will draw from immigrant adaptation, minority political incorporation, and social movements to examine the political incorporation of immigrant and racial groups in the United States. The second part of the course will provide a historical overview of citizenship and its legal and social constructions at key moments throughout US history. Specifically, we will examine moments in which citizenship was being constructed, challenged, and resettled. Citizenship is a multifaceted concept that is not fixed; rather, it is constantly being negotiated, contested, and reformulated. Students will not only be engaging in theoretical and empirical debates about citizenship but also will be asked to consider their own role in its contestation.

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The Art of Protest

Open , Seminar—Year

Contentious, collective action is everywhere. Especially now, it is easy to recall the images of undocumented youth activists staring down Immigration and Customs enforcement officials or the face-off between protestors and police in Ferguson over the shooting of Michael Brown and the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” meme launched in solidarity. Protest is (and has been) a major form of claims-making for groups that find their voices shut out of traditional institutional spaces. People take to the streets to challenge policies and systemic violence; they collectively resist in their workplaces; and they confront and assert their place in distinct organizational spheres of society. Through their activism, they create alternative social and political spaces in their efforts to effect change by reforming or dismantling dominant societal institutions. In this course, we will bridge the academic literature on social movements and protest with case studies of different movements in the United States and transnationally. We will imagine and reimagine what a just society looks like and how protest can help to create that society—but also where it fails. Students will consider questions such as: Why do people protest? What gains can be made via protest? How is protest policed, co-opted, or contained as politics-as-usual? And, finally, is there a liberatory potential to fundamentally reshape society via protest?

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