Public Policy

Sarah Lawrence College’s public-policy program addresses the most pressing public-policy issues of our time, including promoting peace, protecting the environment, providing education and health services, and safeguarding human and workers’ rights. Supported by the College’s Office of Community Partnerships, students partner with unions, community organizations, and legal groups in the New York City area as a required element of their course work, gaining direct experience that they can relate to theoretical issues.

Students also participate in international fieldwork, including at a labor research exchange in Cuba, a health care worker conference in the Dominican Republic, a community-organizing project to help establish a medical clinic for residents of the impoverished community of Lebrón in the Dominican Republic, and a study trip to the United States/Mexico border area of El Paso/Juarez. This combination of study and direct experience exposes students to various approaches to problems and builds an enduring commitment to activism in many forms.

Public Policy 2022-2023 Courses

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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Clinical Perspectives: Challenges to Child and Adolescent Development

Advanced, Seminar—Spring

How do varying childhood experiences impact children’s mental health and wellbeing? What happens when the course of development is affected by trauma or depression? This seminar will focus on challenges that arise in child and adolescent development, drawing upon approaches in clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and cultural psychology/clinical ethnography. We will analyze how particular psychological experiences and behaviors have been typically understood as abnormal or pathological and how they are intertwined with the experience of child development. We will also explore critical commentaries on clinical diagnosis and treatment in order to analyze the merits and drawbacks of the common approaches to these issues. Students will learn about the clinical categories of conditions such as ADHD, autism, depression, and anxiety, as compiled in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). We will look at case examples to illuminate the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, course, and treatment of such psychological conditions in childhood and adolescence. Through readings and course discussion, students will be invited to question the universal applicability of Western clinical approaches that rest on particular assumptions about normality, behavior, social relations, human rights, and health. We will also explore how diagnostic processes and psychological and psychiatric care are, at times, differentially applied in the United States according to the client’s race/ethnicity, class, and gender and how clinicians might effectively address such disparities in diagnosis and care. Students will complete conference projects related to the central themes of our course and may opt to work at the Early Childhood Center or a local community program that serves children or adolescents.

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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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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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Natural Hazards

Open, Lecture—Fall

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

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Watersheds

Open, Seminar—Year

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

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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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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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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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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 City of Yonkers: Histories of Change, Continuity, and Community

Open, Seminar—Fall

Yonkers, the fourth-largest city in New York State, is known as the “Queen City of the Hudson.” Over the course of its history, Yonkers has also been known as “The City of Gracious Living” and, more recently, “Westchester’s Hippest City.” During the 20th century, the city weathered social, economic, political, and cultural movements that mirrored national developments. A stronghold for industry, factories within Yonkers were vital to World War I and World War II production. In the wake of the world wars, the city became a site of mass deindustrialization, as companies looked westward and to the Caribbean for more cost-effective options. Following this economic wane, public housing became the centerpiece of a US Supreme Court case that linked desegregation to education and community. After a nearly 30-year battle, the case forever changed the landscape and composition of the city. The aftershocks of that monumental legislation have reverberated well into the 21st century, as Yonkers experiences a revitalization of its waterfront and downtown area. At the core of each of the transitions are communities and organizations that responded using a variety of tactics. This course studies the local history of Yonkers and its role within state and national narratives. Through readings, music, film, and course work, we will consider how history relied on the actions of individuals, as well as community groups. Moreover, we will analyze their role in dismantling or upholding systems of inequality. In order to do this, we will focus on conceptions of citizenship and examine the entwined relationships of the people, places, and ideas that have shaped the city. This semester-long class will enable students to develop an understanding of how race, class, gender, and community shaped the changes that the city experienced over the last century to provide an interdisciplinary discourse on how Yonkers continues to thrive and survive.

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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: Cities, Suburbs, Trains, and Highways: Politics and Geography

FYS—Year

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

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Rising Autocrats and Democracy in Decline?

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Fall

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

Open, Seminar—Spring

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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First-Year Studies: Urban Health in a Multicultural Context

FYS—Year

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

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International Perspectives on Psychology

Open, Lecture—Fall

What does psychology look like outside of the United States? How does psychology operate across multiple cultures? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions as we explore multiple international perspectives of psychology. First, we will begin with an examination of the history of psychology as a field. Next, we will grapple with arguments for and against international psychology. Our course will explore the development of psychology in multiple parts of the world. Our readings will focus on tracing the roots of specific schools of psychology, such as liberation psychology and South African psychology, and examining case studies in India, Aotearoa/New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, and El Salvador. Readings may include perspectives from theorists such as Martin-Baro (liberation psychology), Sunil Bhatia (decolonizing psychology), Frantz Fanon (postcolonial theory and psychology), and Lev Vygotsky (cultural-historical psychology). Lastly, we will explore the role of international organizations and mental health, such as the WHO and the UN. In conference work, students will be encouraged to explore international perspectives of psychology beyond the examples discussed in class. This course is open to students interested in psychology, mental health, international relations, politics, regional studies, and anthropology.

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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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Doing Research With Young People: Research, Policy, and Activism

Open, Seminar—Spring

How is research conducted with young people? What are the ethical dilemmas when working with children, adolescents, and young adults? Instead of focusing on traditional research methods on subjects, this course will explore the possibilities of conducting research with, or alongside, young people. This is an interdisciplinary course, and our readings will be pulled from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, education, criminal justice, and critical childhood studies. First, we will examine the sociohistorical context of children, adolescents, and youth. Next, we will investigate the rights of young people and the policies that designate them as protected populations. This course will survey a number of different research methods with youth participants, including but not limited to interviews, mapping, narrative analysis, youth participatory action research, and visual and performative research. We will apply a critical eye to a number of case studies of young people dismantling systemic oppression and working toward racial, immigration, and environmental justice. Students will develop their own conference project, focusing on how to conduct research with young people.

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Family Caregiving Across the Lifespan

Open, Seminar—Spring

Care and caregiving are aspects of daily life that each of us depend upon at various times throughout our lives. Yet, care remains hidden and devalued in our current sociopolitical climate in which women continue to provide a majority of care. In this course, we will look at care, both as an orientation and as an activity provided by family and friends to people with disabilities and older adults. An ethics of care will provide a lens through which to explore the experiences of family caregivers. Specifically, our focus will be on caregiving youth, young-adult, and male family caregivers, as well as on paid caregivers and care receivers living with a variety of disabilities and chronic illnesses. Students will have the opportunity to engage with qualitative research methods, such as interviews and photovoice, as we explore care and caregiving from a variety of perspectives. This course will take an interdisciplinary approach and introduce students to the various literatures on family caregiving. From psychology to public health, we will consider care as a reciprocal process that ebbs and flows throughout the lifespan. We will read from feminist theory, critical disabilities studies, psychology, and public health, as well as look at how care is portrayed in popular culture, film, and books. We will learn about individual and policy responses geared toward supporting family caregivers, as well as about organizations that are dedicated to creating better conditions of care for all of us. There may be opportunities to engage with grassroots advocacy organizations and with research (with me) for conference, although this depends upon the status of the research and the community-based projects.

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Critical Urban Environmentalism, Space, and Place

Intermediate, Seminar—Spring

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

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Sociology of the Built Environment

Open, Lecture—Fall

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

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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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Sociology of the Body, Disability, Illness, and Health

Open, Seminar—Year

In this yearlong seminar, we will examine bodies: how disability and illness shape life experience; the ways in which the body is surveilled by government and other institutions, including the medical profession; and the individual development of social identity. The course explores several themes, including the politics of reproduction, agency and labor, bodies in transition, stigmatization, and resisting bodies. Substantive topics include the experience of pregnancy, gender development in childhood, the development of sexual identity, the onset of severe mental illness, the isolating experience of physical decline, and the politics of death and dying. For their conference work, students are invited to select one bodily experience, disability, or illness to explore in depth. The first semester will be devoted to background reading and the development of a research question. This will lay the groundwork for second-semester data collection and analysis.

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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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Technology and Social Identity

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will explore the nature of agency—or the motivation behind and responsibility for action—and the role of technology in shaping personal social identity. We begin by discussing how to treat nonhumans as actors in their own right before exploring key concepts that include Donna Haraway’s cyborg and Bruno Latour’s hybrid agent—concepts that allow us to consider how humans utilize nonhumans in their environment (assistive technologies for people with disabilities, animals, clothing, etc.) to enact social identity and become inseparable from them. This lays a foundation for us to explore how social identities like race, gender, ability, and socioeconomic status are made and unmade in interactions with technology. We will consider how identities are shaped by institutions, embodied in individuals, and conceived as lifelong projects. In past conference projects, students have explored deaf identity and cochlear implants, responsible pet ownership and leashes, bicycles in urban space, and hacking culture on video-game servers.

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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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