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 those 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.

Politics 2022-2023 Courses

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

FYS—Year | 10 credits

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

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

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

Many of us are struck by what seems to be the growing irrationality of contemporary democratic politics to the point where we despair of our capacity to address problems like global climate change or pandemics that could pose existential threats to our species, not to mention a whole range of urgent but more mundane policy issues. In this class, we will seek to understand disturbing trends like populism, polarization, and disinformation in part on their own terms but also by asking whether they are deeply rooted in human nature—at least on our current best understandings of ourselves. More specifically, democracy seems to rely on at least a minimum degree of rationality and self-control on the part of the citizens whose votes and opinions guide government policy. But is this reliance foolhardy in light of what recent history, psychology, evolutionary theory, philosophy, and cognitive science teach? Do aspects of our current social and technological circumstances make us less rational and self-controlled today than our Enlightenment progenitors hoped we were becoming 200-odd years ago in the era of democratic revolutions—the era from which ideas and institutions that continue to inform our politics today emerged? In this course, we will survey aspects of the political history of recent centuries, as well as our own historical moment, to ask if they should temper confidence in the power of reason in politics? We will also examine recent research in cognitive science and philosophy that conclude that it is hard to sustain a model of human behavior that places reason and rationality in the driver’s seat. What alternative accounts of human nature are emerging from recent research? And what are their political implications, especially for democratic societies? This course will survey these issues by examining the intersection of cognitive science, philosophy and political science, history and theory to ask whether the Enlightenment’s faith in democracy was misplaced. Or, instead, are there reasons to believe that democracy can maintain its claim to legitimacy even after reason has been demoted in our understandings of human nature?

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Presidential Leadership and Decision Making

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

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 presidential scholars George C. Edwards III and Stephen J. 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 that 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: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, and Donald Trump. We will conclude by examining the post-9/11 era of Bush, Obama, and Trump, where each 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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International Political Economy

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

It is often said that all politics is economics. The aim of this course is to show that all economics is politics. Though economists and policymakers often present their economic policy decisions and views as neutral—based solely on abstract mathematical models, guided by the laws of nature (or the “invisible hand” of the market)—they are, in fact, driven by transparent political ends and ideology. In this class, we will question the frequently proclaimed universality, neutrality, and inevitability of economic principles and policies through a close examination of neoliberal ideology and the ways in which it limits political discourse, reforms, and development. We will look at the origins of capitalism. We will examine the economic and political origins and consequences of shock therapy in Latin America and Eastern Europe, structural adjustment policies in countries suffering from economic crisis, and austerity measures imposed by the Troika on Greece and other states in the European Union. We’ll also look at socioeconomic explanations for the recent rise of populist parties and politicians. 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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Introduction to Modern Political Philosophy

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Political philosophy 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. In this semester-long introduction to this field, we will concentrate on the long social-contract tradition that stretches from Hobbes and Locke to Rousseau and Kant and its critics, especially Hume and Hegel. By studying these thinkers, 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? What aspects of human potential and social worlds do different grand theories of political life illuminate and occlude? 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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Rising Autocrats and Democracy in Decline?

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

At the end of the Cold War, many Western writers wrote triumphantly about the global victory of democracy and capitalism. In the last five years, we have been bombarded with news of autocrats, both at home and abroad, undermining democracy. We hear that democracy is dying while markets and inequality reach new heights. COVID-19 has reinforced many of these trends but also created new opportunities for shifting some of our current trajectories. This seminar will address the connections between liberal democracy and market capitalism as they have reinforced and contradicted one another. It will explore the role of social movements in bringing about change and the alternative ideals they have offered. To understand the challenges that states face, we begin with inequality in the United States and the election and reelection campaign of Donald Trump. We then look backward and forward for a deeper understanding of political and economic regime change in a range of states. In this moment of great significance for the future of American democracy, we will pay particular attention to the United States but will also consider a set of powerful states outside the OECD, which have defined themselves as the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. To understand present-day challenges and opportunities, we will discuss the rise of neoliberalism, as well as state experiments with social democracy and the redistribution of wealth. We will explore the increase in populist leaders and popular uprisings. As we evaluate the present, we will consider a range of popular responses to these challenges, as well as alternative frameworks for the future.

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The Age of Global Uprisings

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

The first two decades of the 21st century have been decades of uprisings. Looking at images of protesters filling the streets of Paris, France, or Santiago, Chile, it’s hard to believe that, in 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the end of history—delivered by the final victory of liberalism over competing ideologies. He concluded: “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.” The 1990s, indeed, seemed to confirm Fukuyama’s predictions. Liberal ideology—with its promarket, technocratic, and antidemocratic policies—left no space for politics or resistance. Margaret Thatcher’s infamous argument that “There is no alternative” became a posthistorical axiom rather than an ideological position. But in Belgrade on October 5, 2000, a state radio/television station was charged by a heavy-equipment machine, beginning a series of Colour Revolutions in Eastern Europe; and just like that, the posthistorical period of boredom was over. In this class, we will look at a series of uprisings that have taken the early 21st century by storm. We will start with the Colour Revolutions, move on to the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, and end with more recent uprisings—including the Yellow Vests in France, independence movements in Catalonia and Hong Kong, and antiausterity protests in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. Some of those movements organized in opposition to corrupt and undemocratic governments or fake elections; others, in response to democratic governments’ lack of consideration for the livelihood of the working people and dominance of capital over human beings and environment. Not all of those movements were ultimately emancipatory projects, however, and their demands and tactics have been radically different. This class will look at the differences and similarities between the movements and ask: What can we learn from those uprisings, and what is next?

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Justice, Care, and the Lifespan Revolution: A Community-Based Seminar

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

What does it mean to age with dignity? What is required, both individually and socially, to fairly and with dignity provide the special care that the elderly often require? Special urgency attends these questions today, as we are in the midst of a lifespan revolution with many people living more than twice as long as the average person did just a few generations earlier. This urgency is compounded by the fact that the organization and distribution of care labor does not yet adequately reflect this lifespan revolution or the transition to highly mobile and less traditional societies characterized by rapid social and technological changes—changes that can make aging harder and care more difficult to provide. Societies in which an ever-larger portion of their populations have entered elderhood face issues to do with justice in the distribution of care, the nature and forms of ageism, or the isolation of those deemed elderly from the rest of society. Meanwhile, the organization and distribution of care labor remains deeply structured by traditional assumptions, as well as inequalities and prejudices that occupy the intersections of age, gender, and race. Viewed simultaneously from these angles, the lifespan revolution presents new and pressing ethical issues about how best to lead a complete and extended human life. The lifespan revolution also presents issues of justice about how society can productively incorporate—while also respecting and caring for those living far longer than humans have in the past—and fairly distribute “Love’s Labor” of caring. These will be among the most urgent issues of ethics and justice in the middle of the 21st century. This course will examine these issues, in part, by drawing on a variety of academic fields, including philosophy, political theory, psychology, cognitive science, labor studies, and literature. This is also a community-based course; we will partner with Wartburg, a diverse adult care community in Mount Vernon, NY, close to the College. In the first half of the course, students will study the range of issues described above and begin to develop a more specific focus on how lifelong learning contributes to well-being in elderhood. This focus serves as preparation to offer “cognitive care” to the elderly members of the Wartburg community and will be accompanied by visits to Wartburg so that students can get a sense of its members and their interests and have an opportunity to observe lifelong learning in practice. Students will also develop short classes or workshops to offer at Wartburg as the main focus of their conference work. In the second half of the course, the study of specific issues of justice and care presented by the lifespan revolution will continue but also be supplemented by engagement at Wartburg, as students offer the courses or workshops that they have developed to the residents there.

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

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

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

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Privacy, Technology, and the Law

Open, Seminar—Spring

What do Bitcoin, NFTs, Zoom, 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 this course, we will develop a series of core principles that explain the rapid change and will 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 required legal thinking to evolve: 1) whether a pilot (and passengers) of a plane is 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 will be able to update these conundrums: 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 TikTok 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, and 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 up ourselves 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 make 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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First-Year Studies in Performing Arts: A Multidisciplinary Collective/Portal in Practice and Theory

FYS—Year

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. —Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal (April 2020)

Acclaimed feminist author, educator, and revolutionary thinker bell hooks wrote, “Art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact” (Art on My Mind: Visual Politics, 1999). Historian Howard Zinn echoes this, saying, “…the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created…” (Artists in Times of War, 2003). The tumultuous period that we are currently experiencing, with unprecedented challenges in social, political, and environmental realms, sets the stage for us as artists to contribute the vital elements of human civilization that are our domain. Collective effort is at the heart of performing arts; thus, our contributions rely upon our abilities to connect and coordinate. Ultimately, the power of any collective relies upon the vibrance of each member. From Broadway, opera, and concert stages to experimental performance venues and political demonstrations, collective actions by artists have played a part in moving society forward. We will study works by visionary artists who have been inspired to venture across disciplines to grapple with the challenges of their times (including Anna Deveare Smith, Tony Kushner, Janelle Monet, Bill T. Jones, Meredith Monk) and will join forces, drawing upon the unique history of each participant to construct an expansive portal for individual and collaborative inquiry. This is a course for students with an established practice and experience in theatre, music, and/or dance who wish to continue advancing skills in their established disciplines. Students will take additional multiple components in dance, music, or theatre to comprise a Third program in one of these performing arts. Students will be guided through a selection of components in their discipline during registration and will attend discipline-specific information sessions as part of the registration process.

  • Theatre students will take two or three additional theatre components, along with biweekly Theatre Meetings and periodic Think Tank meetings, and will fulfill Tech Credit requirements. Students are welcome to audition for theatre projects each semester.
  • Music students will take three or four additional components, including individual lessons, Music Theory, Music History, Music Technology (optional), and Performance Ensemble (by audition), along with concert attendance and periodic Music Tuesday meetings. Students are welcome to join more than one performance ensemble (recommended for students who have had previous training in music, such as instrumental lessons, beginning theory, etc.).
  • Dance students will take three or four additional components, including movement practice classes and creative practice, along with periodic Dance Meetings, and will fulfill the Dance Tech Production requirements. Students are welcome to audition for dance program performances each semester.

FYS in Performing Arts is a yearlong course comprised of a weekly component class and weekly individual donning conferences. Serving as a home base for students, it will be a core class from which explorations into various disciplines arise. Class meetings will incorporate both practice-based and theoretically-based activities, experimenting with interdisciplinary possibilities through collaborative exercises, reflection, discussion, reading, and writing. Class readings will be selected texts from within theatre, music, and dance, as well as fields beyond the arts. Conferences in the spring semester may be weekly or biweekly, according to students’ needs and progress. Over the course of the year, we will conceptualize and create a collective multidisciplinary performance work to be shown informally at the end of the spring semester, with elements contributed by each member of the class/collective. Independent research inquiries will be pursued throughout the year, supported by individual conferences and periodic working groups in class, culminating in the writing, revising, and presentation of a research paper in the spring semester. The aim of this course is to support the development of skills necessary for expansive artistic collaboration and sustained academic research. Supported by the immersive opportunities of SLC’s theatre, music, and dance programs, with emphasis on live performance, students in this course will acquire new abilities and critical insights through experiential and theoretical studies. FYS in Performing Arts is intended for students who have both a strong interest in theatre, music, and/or dance and a desire to discover more about the interconnectedness of the disciplines.

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Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Open, Small 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, what we eat, and how we entertain ourselves. Economics is also crucially intertwined with the social and political issues that we care about, from global climate change to poverty and discrimination. We begin this course with a brief history of the US economy, including the economic impact of slavery, unpaid household labor, and immigration. We then introduce a variety of approaches to economic analysis, including neoclassical, Keynesian, behavioralist, Marxian, and feminist. Finally, we’ll apply these contrasting theoretical perspectives to current economic issues and controversies. Requirements will include frequent, short writing assignments and participation in a small-group project.

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Econometric Analysis: Structural Explorations in the Social Sciences

Open, Lecture—Year

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

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Political Economy of Women

Open, Seminar—Year

What factors determine the status of women in different societies and communities? What role is played by women’s labor, both inside and outside the home? By cultural norms regarding sexuality and reproduction? By religious traditions? After a brief theoretical grounding, this course will address these questions by examining the economic, political, social, and cultural histories of women in the various racial/ethnic and class groupings that make up the United States. Topics to be explored include: the role of women in the Iroquois Confederation before white colonization and the factors that gave Iroquois women significant political and social power in their communities; the status of white colonist women in Puritan Massachusetts and the economic, religious, and other factors that led to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692; the position of African American women under slavery, including the gendered and racialized divisions of labor and reproduction; the growth of competitive capitalism in the North and the development of the “cult of true womanhood” in the rising middle class; the economic and political changes that accompanied the Civil War and Reconstruction and the complex relationships between African American and white women in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; the creation of a landless agricultural labor force and the attempts to assimilate Chicana women into the dominant culture via “Americanization” programs; the conditions that encouraged Asian women’s immigration and their economic and social positions once here; the American labor movement and the complicated role that organized labor has played in the lives of women of various racial/ethnic groups and classes; the impact of US colonial policies on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Rican women’s economic and political status on both the Island and the mainland; the economic/political convulsions of the 20th century, from the trusts of the early 1900s to World War II, and their impact on women’s paid and unpaid labor; the impact of changes in gendered economic roles on LGBT communities; the economic and political upheavals of the 1960s that led to the so-called “second wave” of the women’s movement; and the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for more inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues. In addition to class participation and the conference project, requirements include regular short essays on the readings and approximately a half-dozen longer essays that synthesize class materials with the written texts.

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History of Political Economy and Economic History

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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Intermediate Microeconomics: Conflicts, Coordination, and Institutions

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

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

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Economics of Environmental Justice (Intensive Semester in Yonkers)

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

Environmental injustice is both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, environmental injustice is the unequal distribution of environmental burdens (or benefits) in a society. As a process, environmental injustice is the history and institutions that project political, economic, and social inequalities into the environmental sphere. In this course, we will focus on our immediate community: Yonkers, NY. We will first measure the disproportionate environmental burdens in the city’s low-income and minority neighborhoods. Then, we will utilize economics to examine the causal mechanisms of environmental injustice. We will focus on the evolution of the housing market, the changing demographics of Yonkers, the location choice of major pollution sources, and zoning policies. We will draw knowledge from multiple fields—economics, politics, sociology, geography, etc. We will examine the issue using multiple methodologies and assess different policy options for improving environmental and climate justice in Yonkers. There will be service-learning opportunities at local community organizations.

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Intermediate Macroeconomics: Theory and Policies

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

Keynes not only revolutionized economic theory in 1937 but also led generations of economists to believe that the government should play an active role in managing a country’s aggregate demand. Yet, since the 1980s, the theoretical and policy world of mainstream economics took a great U-turn and, once again, embraced the fundamental role of the free market. In macroeconomics, this is reflected by the pursuit of goals such as fiscal austerity, a balanced budget, financial deregulation, and liberalization of international finance. In this course, we will examine the fundamental debates in macroeconomic theory and policymaking. The standard analytical framework of aggregate demand, aggregate supply, labor market, inflation, exchange rate, and economic growth will be used as our entry point of analysis. On top of that, we will examine multiple theoretical and empirical perspectives on money, credit and financial markets, consumption, investment, governmental spending, unemployment, international finance, growth and distribution, economic crisis, technological change, and long waves of capitalist societies. More recent progressive theories and policies will be discussed, such as universal basic income and job guarantee, modern monetary theory, etc.

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Critical Cartography and GIS

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Readings in Intermediate Greek

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

Qualified students will read selected passages of Homer and Herodotus in Greek. The class will meet twice each week.

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Intermediate Greek: Poetry and Prose

Intermediate, Small seminar—Spring

In this course, students of Ancient Greek will choose two texts, one by a prose author and one by a poet, for close reading over the semester. Examples of texts might be: Herodotus’ Histories and the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, or the poems of Sappho and Plato’s Symposium. Our goal will be to investigate poetic and prosaic literary constructs, review grammar, and to read different types of Ancient Greek texts.

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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. The course 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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The Path to Putin

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Vladimir Putin has now been the dominant figure in Russian politics for more than 20 years. He has presided over the creation of an autocratic system of government in his country that is very different from the system that the friends of democracy hoped would emerge in Russia after the collapse of Communist Party rule. He has also made Russia one of the most unpredictable and feared state actors on the international scene. This course will attempt to shed light on the Putin phenomenon by placing him, his regime, and his policies in their historical context. We will examine the political culture of the Soviet Union in its final decades and the role played in the Soviet system by the KGB, the internal security and espionage apparatus in which Putin and many of his closest associates began their careers. We will trace the demise of single-party rule and the crack-up of the Soviet empire under Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the USSR. We will examine the reign of Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia and the man who anointed Putin his successor in 1999. We will look at the revisionist narrative of Russian and Soviet history elaborated by Putin and other influential figures during the past quarter-century. We will examine Putin’s dealings with the “Near Abroad” (the now-independent republics that used to be components of the Soviet Union), especially Ukraine. We will look at the long history of Russia’s highly ambivalent attitudes toward the West and at various manifestations of this ambivalence in contemporary Russia. Finally, we will explore some of the rival theories recently put forward about the ultimate nature of the Putin regime, its internal dynamics, and the aims of its aggressive conduct toward its neighbors and Western rivals.

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Human Rights

Open, Lecture—Spring

History is replete with rabid pogroms, merciless religious wars, tragic show trials, and even genocide. For as long as people have congregated, they have defined themselves, in part, as against an other—and have persecuted that other. But history has also yielded systems of constraints. So how can we hope to achieve a meaningful understanding of the human experience without examining both the wrongs and the rights? Should the human story be left to so-called realists, who claim that power wins out over ideals every time? Or is there a logic of mutual respect that offers better solutions? This lecture examines the history of international human rights and focuses on the claims that individuals and groups make against states in which they live.

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The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides a broad introduction to the political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the Middle East from the late 18th century to the present. After a brief conceptual overview, the course draws upon a wide array of primary and secondary sources to illuminate the manifold transformations and processes that have contributed over time to shaping what has meant to be “modern” in this remarkably diverse and dynamic region. Particular attention will be paid to the following themes: the question of modernization and reform within the Ottoman and Qajar empires; the experience of different forms of European imperialism in the Middle East; the integration of the Middle East into the world economy; World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; state-building in both colonial and postcolonial contexts; transformations in religious thought; changing family norms and gender roles and the genesis of Middle Eastern women’s movements; nationalism; class politics, social movements, and revolution; Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict; post-World War II geopolitics and the Cold War in the Middle East; Nasserism and pan-Arabism; the role of US power in the Middle East; the origins and spread of political Islam; the political economy of oil; globalization and neoliberalism; and the impact of various new cultural forms and media on the formation of identities across the region.

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Pirates, Tyrants, and Radicals: A History of Capitalism and Socialism

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year

When the first self-declared socialists began to articulate their critique of a society that was rapidly industrializing and urbanizing, “capitalism” did not yet exist. Karl Marx, the leading theorist of political economy and history, would speak of “capital” and “capitalists,” but it was not until the end of the 19th century that the word “capitalism” entered the English language. As the twin concepts of socialism and capitalism evolved and their proponents sought to redefine their vision and the nature of their nemeses, those proponents launched political and economic projects that staked a claim to modernity and even the salvation of humankind. Whereas bankers, pirates, and entrepreneurs dominate historical imaginaries of capitalism, soviets, tyrants, bureaucrats, and revolutionaries dominate the history of socialism. The world of markets, exchange, and profit seems to be the purview of the history of capitalism, whereas top-down planning and egalitarian utopias fill the image of a socialist world. Although capitalism and socialism do not define the totality of economic life, they do represent two crucial inroads to understand how individuals and societies produce, consume, distribute, and also waste resources. This course will study money, markets, and exchange from a historical perspective by following their trajectories both before capitalism and socialism and within capitalist and socialist contexts in different times and places. The course aims to take students deeply into the vagaries of economic life and to historically situate economic concepts. Were societies in previous eras marked by significantly different relationships toward markets, power, and financial instruments? How can such capacious visions such as capitalism and socialism, with such variegated political iterations, be defined and understood? Who were the important actors and institutions that created these movements? What are the origins of “capitalism”? Is there a path to socialism; and, if so, what is it? This course seeks to address these questions through study of the movements, the people who created them, and the institutions that resulted from them. At the same time, it seeks what makes socialism socialist or capitalism capitalist and the extent to which these terms of analysis help or hinder our understanding of the economic and political behavior of individuals, communities, and institutions. The course is divided into two parts: The fall semester of this yearlong course will be devoted to studying historic economic concepts like money, markets, exchange, growth, and development; we will also explore the debates in the origins of capitalism and its relationship to slavery, imperialism, development, war, and welfare. The spring semester will explore the intellectual origins of socialism, as well as the different versions of “real socialism” around the world.

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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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Globalization Past and Present: Local and Global Communities in Yonkers and Beyond

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course is an introduction to thinking globally and acting locally; it examines how different national, regional, and local communities see their place in the world and how events, processes, or structures that cross national and regional boundaries affect specific communities and individuals. The course examines the cultural, economic, and political origins of globalization and how globalization transforms over time. The course assumes globalization as both historical and contemporary and, thus, is divided into two parts. The first part of the course explores globalization in a long-term, historical perspective, including: ancient world precedents; 14th-century exchanges before European hegemony; the encounter and collision of Europe, Africa, and the Americas in the modern world; the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions; the Industrial Revolution; and the Great Divergence, among others. The second part of the course explores major transnational issues today in historical perspective, including: climate change and environmentalism; social justice and human rights; movement of diseases and global health; world trade and financial inequality; migration and labor movements; and world religions and multiculturalism, among others. The course has a community work component; it asks students to interrogate the concepts, practices, processes, and events studied in class through and within their work within the Yonkers community. The course will help students situate the experience of migration, labor, finance, health, education, religion, and culture of Yonkers communities and individuals within wider and longer patterns of flows, structures, and networks between the Americas and the world.

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The Edgy Enlightenment

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

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

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Propaganda and Mass Communications in Modern History

Intermediate, Large seminar—Spring

This seminar provides an interdisciplinary analysis of the phenomenon of propaganda and mass communications within modern society. How does propaganda “work”? How should we characterize the individuals and institutions that shape and disseminate it? What are the specific languages and visual symbols that propagandists have typically used to persuade and communicate with mass audiences? How have both “democratic” and “authoritarian” societies sought to generate consent? And how, in turn, have individuals and social groups drawn the line between what is truth and what is propaganda? Although the manipulation of information for political ends has been intrinsic to human societies across history, this course focuses on the so-called “axial age of propaganda,” beginning with World War I, which saw the emergence of tightly organized, large-scale, government-sponsored propaganda efforts across Europe and the United States. This course will utilize a variety of case studies to explore the symbolic content of specific kinds of propaganda and the institutional milieux that produce it, paying attention to propaganda that seeks both to overthrow social structures and to maintain them. We will place special emphasis on the interwar period, when—amid the onset of totalitarian regimes in Europe—the very nature of “public opinion” and mass society were hotly debated by intellectuals and interpretive experts. The course will also closely investigate the emergence of mass communications “experts” during World War II and trace their role in shaping social-science research throughout the Cold War. Finally, the course will consider the ubiquity of propaganda in contemporary society, focusing on the role of image-making professionals working in the spheres of political campaigning, advertising, and public relations.

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Beginning Italian: Viaggio in Italia

Open, Seminar—Year

This course, for students with no previous knowledge of Italian, aims at giving the student a complete foundation in the Italian language with particular attention to oral and written communication and all aspects of Italian culture. The course will be conducted in Italian after the first month and will involve the study of all basic structures of the language—phonological, grammatical, and syntactical—with practice in conversation, reading, composition, and translation. In addition to material covering basic Italian grammar, students will be exposed to fiction, poetry, songs, articles, recipe books, and films. Group conferences (held once a week) aim at enriching the students’ knowledge of Italian culture and developing their ability to communicate. This will be achieved by readings that deal with current events and topics relative to today’s Italian culture. Activities in pairs or groups, along with short written assignments, will be part of the group conference. In addition to class and group conferences, the course has a conversation component in regular workshops with the language assistant. Conversation classes are held twice a week (in small groups) and will center on the concept of viaggio in Italia: a journey through the regions of Italy through cuisine, cinema, art, opera, and dialects. The Italian program organizes trips to the Metropolitan Opera and relevant exhibits in New York City, as well as offering the possibility of experiencing Italian cuisine firsthand as a group. The course is for a full year, by the end of which students will attain a basic competence in all aspects of the language.

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Intermediate Italian: Modern Italian Culture and Literature

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This course aims at improving and perfecting the students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, as well as their knowledge of Italy’s contemporary culture and literature. In order to acquire the necessary knowledge of Italian grammar, idiomatic expressions, and vocabulary, a review of all grammar will be carried out throughout the year. As an introduction to modern Italian culture and literature, students will be introduced to a selection of short stories, poems, and passages from novels, as well as specific newspaper articles, music, and films in the original language. Some of the literary works will include selections from Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Natalia Ginzburg, Gianni Rodari, Marcello D’Orta, Clara Sereni, Dino Buzzati, Stefano Benni, Antonio Tabucchi, Alberto Moravia, Achille Campanile, and Elena Ferrante. In order to address the students’ writing skills, written compositions will be required as an integral part of the course. All material is accessible on MySLC. Conferences are held on a biweekly basis; topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, film, or any other aspect of Italian society and culture that might be of interest to the student. Conversation classes (in small groups) will be held twice a week with the language assistant, during which students will have the opportunity to reinforce what they have learned in class and hone their ability to communicate in Italian. When appropriate, students will be directed to specific internship opportunities in the New York City area, centered on Italian language and culture.

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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 from Vergil’s Aeneid in Latin.

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

FYS—Year

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

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Plundered: Tales of Extractivism and Resistance

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

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

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Literature in Translation: 20th-Century Italian Literature and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

The course will explore 20th-century Italian literature, focusing on important intellectuals, works, and movements that helped shape it and their connection with the arts, cinema, and society at large. Italy had become a unified nation by 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 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, the terrorism of the “Anni di Piombo”—until the recent contribution of migration literature to the Italian literary canon. Among the authors and intellectuals, we will explore Sibilla Aleramo for her literary treatment of the issue of female emancipation at the beginning of the century; Luigi Pirandello and his work as a novelist and playwright; Gabriele D’Annunzio as a poet, playwright, and novelist but also a war hero and politician; F. T. Marinetti, whose futurist manifestos and literary works reflected his desire to renew Italian art, literature, and culture in general; B. Mussolini’s fascist regime, its dictates, and their influence on propaganda literature and cinema; Ignazio Silone’s novels on the fascist era; Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist cinema; Italo Calvino’s, Beppe Fenoglio’s, and Elio Vittorini’s literature of the Resistance; Primo Levi’s depiction of The Holocaust; and women writers such as Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, and Dacia Maraini. Readings will be supplemented by secondary source material that will help outline the social, historical, and political context in which these authors lived and wrote, as well as provide a relevant critical framework for the study of their works. On occasion, we will watch films that are relevant to the topics and period in question. No previous knowledge of Italian is required. Students proficient in Italian may opt to read sources in the original language and write their conference projects in Italian. Conference topics may include the study of a particular author, literary text, or topic relevant to the course and that might be of interest to the student.

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An Introduction to Statistical Methods and Analysis

Open, Lecture—Fall

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

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First-Year Studies in Performing Arts: A Multidisciplinary Collective/Portal in Practice and Theory

FYS—Year

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. —Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal (April 2020)

Acclaimed feminist author, educator, and revolutionary thinker, bell hooks wrote, “Art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact” (from Art on My Mind: Visual Politics, 1999). Historian Howard Zinn echoes this, saying, “…the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created…” (from Artists in Times of War, 2003). The tumultuous period that we are currently experiencing—with unprecedented challenges in social, political, and environmental realms—sets the stage for us as artists to contribute the vital elements of human civilization that are our domain. Collective effort is at the heart of performing arts; thus, our contributions rely upon our abilities to connect and coordinate. Ultimately, the power of any collective relies upon the vibrance of each member. From Broadway, opera, and concert stages to experimental performance venues and political demonstrations, collective actions by artists have played a part in moving society forward. We will study works by visionary artists who have been inspired to venture across disciplines to grapple with the challenges of their times (including Anna Deveare Smith, Tony Kushner, Janelle Monet, Bill T. Jones, Meredith Monk) and will join forces, drawing upon the unique history of each participant to construct an expansive portal for individual and collaborative inquiry. This is a course for students with an established practice and experience in theatre, music, and/or dance who wish to continue advancing skills in their established disciplines. Students will take additional multiple components in dance, music, or theatre to comprise a Third program in one of these performing arts. Students will be guided through a selection of components in their discipline during registration and will attend discipline-specific information sessions as part of the registration process.

  • Theatre students will take two or three additional theatre components, along with biweekly Theatre Meetings and periodic Think Tank meetings, and will fulfill Tech Credit requirements. Students are welcome to audition for theatre projects each semester.
  • Music students will take three or four additional components, including individual lessons, Music Theory, Music History, Music Technology (optional), and Performance Ensemble (by audition), along with concert attendance and periodic Music Tuesday meetings. Students are welcome to join more than one performance ensemble (recommended for students who have had previous training in music, such as instrumental lessons, beginning theory).
  • Dance students will take three or four additional components, including movement practice classes and creative practice, along with periodic Dance Meetings, and will fulfill the Dance Tech Production requirements. Students are welcome to audition for dance program performances each semester;

FYS in Performing Arts is a yearlong course comprised of a weekly component class and weekly individual donning conferences. Serving as a home base for students, it will be a core class from which explorations into various disciplines arise. Class meetings will incorporate both practice-based and theoretically-based activities, experimenting with interdisciplinary possibilities through collaborative exercises, reflection, discussion, reading, and writing. Class readings will be selected texts from within theatre, music, and dance, as well as fields beyond the arts. Conferences in the spring semester may be weekly or biweekly, according to students’ needs and progress. Over the course of the year, we will conceptualize and create a collective multidisciplinary performance work to be shown informally at the end of the spring semester, with elements contributed by each member of the class/collective. Independent research inquiries will be pursued throughout the year, supported by individual conferences and periodic working groups in class, culminating in the writing, revising, and presentation of a research paper in the spring semester. The aim of this course is to support the development of skills necessary for expansive artistic collaboration and sustained academic research. Supported by the immersive opportunities of SLC’s theatre, music, and dance programs, with emphasis on live performance, students in this course will acquire new abilities and critical insights through experiential and theoretical studies. FYS in Performing Arts is intended for students who have both a strong interest in theatre, music, and/or dance, as well as a desire to discover more about the interconnectedness of the disciplines.

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First-Year Studies: Literature and Philosophy: Enthusiasm, Fanaticism, Superstition

FYS—Year

We live at a time when fanaticism, religious and otherwise, has become a subject of great concern. This is not a new problem: Western literature and philosophy have been concerned with fanaticism since the beginning, and we cannot understand the way the problem of fanaticism appears to us now without going back to the earlier discussions and transformations of that question. The reading list, which may be modified, is Euripides, Bacchae; Plato, Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedrus, Lucretius, On the Nature of Things; St. Paul, Epistle to the Romans; Montaigne, “On Presumption”; Shaftesbury, Characteristics; Swift, Gulliver’s Travels; Hume, “The Natural History of Religion,” “Of Superstition and Enthusiasm,” “Of Parties,” History of England, Vol. 5, an excerpt on the New Model Army; Kant, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer; Lessing, Nathan the Wise; Bentham, “Anarchistical Fallacies”; Orwell, Animal Farm, 1984. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences with some opportunities for small-group meetings; in the spring, we will normally meet every other week.

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Jewish Philosophers: From Spinoza to Arendt

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Hannah Arendt famously wrote that 19th-century Jews stood “between pariah and parvenu,” a formulation that embodies the complex relationship between Jews and the modern world. With the rise of the new science in the 17th century, Enlightenment beliefs and practices in the 18th century, and the emancipation of Jewish communities in the 19th century, the role played by Jewish philosophers—in advancing these processes, as well as struggling to locate themselves within them—became increasingly prominent. Tracing the history of Jewish thinkers from the 17th to the 20th centuries, we will consider how they grappled with their cultural heritage in a climate of enlightenment and emancipation on the one hand and anti-Semitism, persecution, and pogroms on the other. Central themes include the role of the sacred in the modern world, alienation and exclusion, national consciousness and utopianism, memory, and cultural despair. While most of our sources are philosophical (Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Maimon, Marx, Freud, Benjamin, Arendt), we’ll read historical documents, theological treatises, novels, poems, and correspondences, as well.

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The Philosophy of Sex and Love

Open, Seminar—Year

One of the fundamental transformations to occur in society and culture over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries is the understanding of sex and love and the relation—or nonrelation—between them. Among the many catalysts for this change, we may count changing perceptions of sexual difference, gender, sexuality, gender identity, and gender roles; an increasing range of possibilities for reproduction or nonreproduction; and the problematization of the nuclear, monogamous, heterosexual family structure. This yearlong seminar will engage in the philosophical examination of these topics. While we will read some ancient philosophy, including Plato’s Symposium and some late-modern texts by the Marquis de Sade and the Baron von Sacher-Masoch (the authors who gave their names to Sadism and to Masochism, respectively), most of our readings will be from 20th- and 21st-century sources, including Sigmund Freud, Claude Levi-Strauss, Georges Bataille, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Audre Lorde, Lee Edelman, Paul Preciado, Maggie Nelson, and Luce Irigaray. Students will be required to not read Fifty Shades of Grey.

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Gender and Sexuality in Greek Literature and Philosophy

Open, Seminar—Fall

Modern discussions of gender and sexuality have a predecessor in the literature and philosophy of ancient Greece, which have informed recent thought on the topic. Of the Greek discussions, we shall focus on just a few. We shall begin with poetry by Sappho, Sophocles’ Antigone, and Euripides’ Bacchae. We shall go on to Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae, Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes’ Ecclesiazusae, and Book Five of Plato’s Republic.

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Relativism

Open, Seminar—Spring

Is there truth over and above the point of view of the individual or group? This topic received considerable discussion in the philosophy of Plato, whose treatment of the topic remains indispensable for grappling with it. We shall read the Euthyphro, on piety; The Apology, in which Socrates defends himself against the charge of subverting the religion of Athens; and selections from The Republic, in which Socrates considers whether justice is just a matter of convention. We shall then go on to the Theaetetus, on knowledge, and the Sophist, on falsehood.

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

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

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

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Introduction to Ancient Greek Religion and Society

Open, Seminar—Fall

Few people dispute the enormous impact that the Ancient Greeks have had on Western culture and even on the modern world in general. This seminar will introduce the interested student to this culture mainly through reading salient primary texts in English translation. Our interest will range broadly. Along with some background reading, we will be discussing mythology (Hesiod), epic hymns and poetry (Homer), history (Herodotus), politics, religion, and philosophy. By the end of the seminar, students should have a basic understanding of the cultural contribution of the Ancient Greeks, as well as a basic timeline of their history through the Hellenistic age.

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Perspectives on 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

It has now been more than 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. How have perceptions changed about the events that occurred that day? Shortly after the attacks, then-President George W. Bush insisted that Islam was not to blame and, instead, framed the battle ahead as the “War on Terror.” But what about those who insisted that what had happened was an almost inevitable result of the “clash of civilizations”? How did Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda frame the narrative and their part in it? What kinds of arguments were presented to justify the attack and the US military interventions that followed? In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, what has been called the “Islamophobia industry” developed and flourished, taking full advantage of new forms of media. What role has mainstream and alternative media played in how Muslims have been portrayed and the discrimination that they have faced in the years since 9/11? Ten years after the attacks, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum opened in New York City. How have this site and other memorials shaped the collective memory of the events, as well as the curriculum being taught to a generation born after 2001? In addition to the architects of these memorials, artists, writers, and filmmakers have explored the many religious, political, and social dimensions of the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. How have these works of imagination expanded the ways in which people have made sense of, and found meaning in, painful events? While this seminar is being offered as a religion course at the College, the approach is an interdisciplinary one that draws upon readings and other materials from a variety of academic, artistic, and literary fields.

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Migration, Mobility, and Modernization: Exploring Received Narratives in American Jewish History

Open, Seminar—Spring

What is “Jewish” about American Jewish history? Does a single “American Jewish history” even exist? What does “Jewishness” mean, and does it differ from “Judaism”? How do we reconcile history and memory? This course invites us to think critically about American Jewish history beginning in the colonial period when Jews first settled on American shores, thereafter, and continuing into the present. These questions will allow us to explore how Jews developed a diverse and fluid array of social, cultural, political, and religious practices as they encountered new social structures, ideologies, and cultures throughout what became the United States. Our discussions will center Jewish communal formation and evolution in response to the changing conditions of the United States over time, as we trace how these innovations contributed to the diversity of Jewishnesses that we recognize today. We will examine Jewish immigration to the United States, a complex and multifaceted process that encompasses immigrants’ decisions to leave their homes, journey across land and sea, arrive in a new country, build new lives, and grapple with the question of naturalization and negotiating multiple types of borders throughout. Additionally, we will consider how gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and disability shaped American Jews’ self-understandings, relationships to the places where they settled, and interactions with the people and governmental institutions that they encountered along the way. In our classroom community, we will deepen our conceptions of American Jewish history by analyzing texts featuring both storied figures and marginalized voices, as we learn to apply different theoretical approaches and examine how historical narratives evolved and coalesced. Students will analyze primary sources, write creative pieces unpacking historical events, and produce a research paper on a topic of their choice. The readings chosen for this course are not meant to be exhaustive but, rather, to strengthen students’ understanding of American Jewish history, provide a range of theoretical approaches to enhance their analytical toolboxes, and illuminate the construction and perpetuation—and, when relevant, associated agendas—of American Jewish historical narratives.

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Sociology of the Built Environment

Open, Lecture—Fall

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

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Sociological Perspectives on Detention and “Deviance”

Open, Lecture—Spring

In this lecture, students will be introduced to key areas of study in the sociology of “deviance,” detention, and illegality. We will be taking a global and transnational perspective on examining the ways in which social groups define, categorize, and reinforce deviance and illegality, from the treatment of minority and persecuted groups to the detention and expulsion of populations such as undocumented migrants and refugees. Students will learn about foundational theories and concepts in the field, starting with a reading of Émile Durkheim’s classical study of suicide and the idea of anomie, followed by Robert Merton’s strain theory, and then contemporary ones such as conflict theory, labeling theory, and the infamous “broken-windows” theory. The class will take a critical approach to reflecting and challenging ideas about deviance and illegality by examining global and transnational forms of population governance, such as ongoing mutations to human rights and the technocratic management of displaced populations through humanitarianism around the world. We will be reading about major sectors of transnational deviance and crime, including industrial fishing and trafficking on the high seas (Ian Urbina’s Outlaw Ocean), exploitation and profiteering through international logistics (Carolyn Nordstrom’s Global Outlaws), and transnational sex work and trafficking (Christine Chin and Kimberly Hoang). This critical lens is intended to help us understand how different groups and populations are rendered “deviant” or “illegal” for the purposes of management and control (or political leverage) and to what extent groups themselves are able to resist or challenge those categorizations. Finally, we will be looking at how social movements and acts of resistance can produce widescale changes in societies toward the treatment and categorization of people seen as “deviants,” “criminals,” or “illegals”—including struggles against apartheid, hunger strikes in prisons, and protest movements for undocumented groups. Additionally, we will be discussing how social transformations wrought by three years of living under a global pandemic has led to the emergence of new forms of deviance related to biopolitical and biotechnological notions of population health and well-being. For conference work in this lecture, students will work in groups to produce portfolios of research on an area of study related to deviance, detention, and illegality. Each portfolio will include presentations and discussions of the chosen area of study, as well as critical essays written by each student that bring in conceptual and theoretical discussions drawn from the class.

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Contextualizing Communications: The Poetics of Seeing

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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Global Refugees: Temporariness and Displacement

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

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

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

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

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

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Everyday Cosmopolitanism in Yonkers

Open, Seminar—Spring

Cities and urban spaces are important places in which the marginalized poor and other underprivileged communities seek refuge and shelter by engaging in forms of rebuilding and placemaking that tend to fall outside of the purview and control of the state and authorities. Here, we take a transnational perspective on how the precarious and vulnerable urban poor develop strategies and practices of living that are geared toward securing greater autonomy and dignity primarily through forms of peripheral development and informality. We will explore interconnected themes of family, kinship, work, gender, and social reproduction as they pertain to the urban poor. We will also pay attention to how diversity and difference are negotiated daily by communities of faith, creed, color, ethnicity, and gender that share the same urban work and communal spaces. Some of the theories and concepts that we will read include: Teresa Caldeira’s “autoconstruction,” Asef Bayat’s “quiet encroachment of the ordinary,” Henri Lefebvre’s “right to the city,” Ananya Roy’s “subaltern urbanism,” and Mignolo’s “border thinking.” The City of Yonkers will be a case study for many of those themes of difference, informality, everyday cosmopolitanism, and hyperdiversity. This course will take the City of Yonkers as an urban center for the ethnographic study of life in a cosmopolitan setting. Students will have the opportunity to work with organizations such as the Yonkers Public Library to explore some of the questions around difference, diversity, and everyday cosmopolitanism among the various communities in the city. The course will include a fieldwork component where, each week, students will couple ongoing participant observations with the writing of field notes.

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Advanced Intermediate Spanish: Political Creativity

Open, Seminar—Year

This course looks at ways that individuals and communities across the Spanish-speaking world have gotten creative about politics and political about creativity. Students will develop analytic skills and explore social-justice issues through literature, film, music, and visual art by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Sara Gómez, Samanta Schweblin, Yásnaya E. Aguilar Gil, Lia García La Novia Sirena, and many more. We will also study the politically creative actions of communities and organizations working outside the structures of the nation-state. An important aspect of this course will involve following activist movements in real time and working with social-justice initiatives in Yonkers and its surroundings. Students will produce both critical and creative written work. This discussion-based course will be conducted in Spanish and is intended for students who wish to further hone their communication and comprehension skills through advanced grammar review.

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First-Year Studies in Performing Arts: A Multidisciplinary Collective/Portal in Practice and Theory

FYS—Year

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. —Arundhati Roy, The Pandemic is a Portal (April 2020)

Acclaimed feminist author, educator, and revolutionary thinker, bell hooks wrote, “Art constitutes one of the rare locations where acts of transcendence can take place and have a wide-ranging transformative impact” (from Art on My Mind: Visual Politics, 1999). Historian Howard Zinn echoes this, saying, “…the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artist thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created…” (from Artists in Times of War, 2003). The tumultuous period that we are currently experiencing, with unprecedented challenges in social, political, and environmental realms, sets the stage for us as artists to contribute the vital elements of human civilization that are our domain. Collective effort is at the heart of performing arts; thus, our contributions rely upon our abilities to connect and coordinate. Ultimately, the power of any collective relies upon the vibrance of each member. From Broadway, opera, and concert stages to experimental performance venues and political demonstrations, collective actions by artists have played a part in moving society forward. We will study works by visionary artists who have been inspired to venture across disciplines to grapple with the challenges of their times (including Anna Deveare Smith, Tony Kushner, Janelle Monet, Bill T. Jones, Meredith Monk) and will join forces, drawing upon the unique history of each participant to construct an expansive portal for individual and collaborative inquiry. This is a course for students with an established practice and experience in theatre, music, and/or dance who wish to continue advancing skills in their established disciplines. Students will take additional multiple components in dance, music, or theatre to comprise a Third program in one of these performing arts. Students will be guided through a selection of components in their discipline during registration and will attend discipline-specific information sessions as part of the registration process.

  • Theatre students will take two or three additional theatre components, along with biweekly Theatre Meetings and periodic Think Tank meetings, and will fulfill Tech Credit requirements. Students are welcome to audition for theatre projects each semester.
  • Music students will take three or four additional components, including individual lessons, Music Theory, Music History, Music Technology (optional), and Performance Ensemble (by audition), along with concert attendance and periodic Music Tuesday meetings. Students are welcome to join more than one performance ensemble (recommended for students who have had previous training in music, such as instrumental lessons, beginning theory, etc.).
  • Dance students will take three or four additional components, including movement practice classes and creative practice, along with periodic Dance Meetings, and will fulfill the Dance Tech Production requirements. Students are welcome to audition for dance program performances each semester.

FYS in Performing Arts is a yearlong course comprised of a weekly component class and weekly individual donning conferences. Serving as a home base for students, it will be a core class from which explorations into various disciplines arise. Class meetings will incorporate both practice-based and theoretically-based activities, experimenting with interdisciplinary possibilities through collaborative exercises, reflection, discussion, reading, and writing. Class readings will be selected texts from within theatre, music, and dance, as well as fields beyond the arts. Conferences in the spring semester may be weekly or biweekly, according to students’ needs and progress. Over the course of the year, we will conceptualize and create a collective multidisciplinary performance work to be shown informally at the end of the spring semester, with elements contributed by each member of the class/collective. Independent research inquiries will be pursued throughout the year, supported by individual conferences and periodic working groups in class, culminating in the writing, revising, and presentation of a research paper in the spring semester. The aim of this course is to support the development of skills necessary for expansive artistic collaboration and sustained academic research. Supported by the immersive opportunities of SLC’s theatre, music, and dance programs, with emphasis on live performance, students in this course will acquire new abilities and critical insights through experiential and theoretical studies. FYS in Performing Arts is intended for students who have both a strong interest in theatre, music, and/or dance and a desire to discover more about the interconnectedness of the disciplines.

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First-Year Studies: W/E: The Making of the Complete Lover, West/East

FYS—Year

The known universe has one complete lover, and that is the greatest poet. —Walt Whitman

This class will aim to provide a writer’s introduction to poetry, as seen through the cultural lenses of what’s been called the “East” and what’s been called the “West.” While keeping faith with the sacred jazz ethic of improvisation, we’re likely to spend our class time: (a) discussing questions like what is a poem, what is taste, what is the “East,” and what is the “West,” and how have those constructs influenced writers and readers; (b) getting to know each other as readers and writers and working collaboratively; and (c) doing writing exercises as practicum. In weekly conferences, we’ll discuss college and look at your drafts—mostly of poems, along with some critical writing about our shared texts—particularly Edward Said’s Orientalism and Dionne Brand’s A Map to the Door of No Return. Along the way, I’ll ask you to participate in readings at each term’s middle and end; compile an anthology and a chapbook; work with a partner and introduce his/her work; and contribute to a collective zuihitsu, a Japanese form combining what's been called “poetry” and what‘s been called “prose.” (We’ll be reading two versions of Narrow Road to the Interior: Basho’s from the 17th century and Kimiko Hahn’s from 2006.) The only prerequisites are a passion for reading that equals your passion for writing, the courage to give up spectatorhood for active participation, and a willingness to undertake whatever might be necessary to read and write and think better on our last day of class than on our first.

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Details Useful to the State: Writers and the Shaping of the US Empire, 1945 to the Present

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

Are you going to ask where I am? I’ll tell you—giving only details useful to the State... —Pablo Neruda, Letter to Miguel Otero Silva, 1948

What might it mean for a writer to be useful to a state? How have states used writers, witting and unwitting, in projects aimed at influence and hegemony? How might a state make use of language as a weapon? What might it mean for a writer to attempt to avoid being useful to a state? How might a state inflect and influence the intimacy between writers and what they may write? In this class, we’ll discuss an array of choices that writers have made in relation to state power, focusing particularly on the United States from just after World War II until the present. You’ll be asking to read four books: Joel Whitney’s Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers; Frances Stonor Saunders’sThe Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters; Eric Bennett’s Workshops of Empire: Stegner, Engle, and American Creative Writing During the Cold War; and Peter Dale Scott’s long poem, Coming to Jakarta. This is not a history or a literature class; our lens will be that of a writer, using deep study and playful practice to figure out the dilemmas and best practices of the present. Although this is a lecture class, with a limit of 30 students, you’ll be asked to participate, improvise, and do some class reading and writing work with a partner, as well as to participate in one group conference a week. At the end of the class, you’ll be asked to lecture in teams, addressing some of our questions and your responses to them. The only prerequisite is the courage to think out loud with other people—a.k.a. the courage required to learn.

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Episodes

Open, Seminar—Spring

The use of the episode is both ancient and modern and is central to storytelling in everything from The Arabian Nights to telenovelas, from Netflix to The Canterbury Tales, from comics to true-crime podcasts. Episodes differ from chapters in a novel and from short stories and can have many changing characters and plot lines. Episodes are disinclined toward resolution but love time, hunks of it, and do well depicting both the daily and the historical. We will be reading, looking at, and discussing episodes in several forms and, for conference work, writing six episodes over the semester, supported by small brainstorming groups as we go forward. This course may be taken with Words and Pictures as a year course.

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Wrongfully Accused

Open, Seminar—Year

Long-form investigative journalism has opened many doors, perhaps most literally in America’s penal system where journalists have regularly revealed—and freed—the wrongfully convicted. This class will set out to expose the innocence (or confirm the guilt) of a man or woman convicted of a controversial murder or other serious felony. Working collectively and using all of the tools and traditions of investigative journalism, the class will attempt to pull out all known and unknown threads of the story to reveal the truth. Was our subject wrongfully accused? Or are his or her claims of innocence an attempt to game the system? The class will interview police, prosecutors, and witnesses, as well as friends and family of the victim and of the accused. The case file will be examined in depth. A long-form investigative piece will be produced, complete with multimedia accompaniment.

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