Sociology

Class, power, and inequality; law and society (including drugs, crime, and “deviance”); race, ethnicity, and gender issues; ways of seeing...these are among the topics addressed by Sarah Lawrence College sociology courses. Increasingly, social issues need to be—and are—examined in relation to developments in global politics and economics. Students investigate the ways in which social structures and institutions affect individual experiences and shape competing definitions of social situations, issues, and identities.

While encouraging student research in diverse areas, courses tend to emphasize the relationship between the qualitative and the quantitative, the relationship between theoretical and applied practice, and the complexities of social relations rather than relying on simplistic interpretations. Through reading, writing, and discussion, students are encouraged to develop a multidimensional and nuanced understanding of social forces. Many students in sociology have enriched their theoretical and empirical work by linking it thematically with study in other disciplines—and through fieldwork.

Sociology 2022-2023 Courses

Sociology of the Built Environment

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

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 | 5 credits

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 | 10 credits

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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Contextualizing Communications: The Poetics of Seeing

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

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 | 5 credits

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 | 5 credits

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 | 5 credits

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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Technology and Social Identity

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

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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Understanding Experience: Phenomenological Approaches in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall

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

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

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

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

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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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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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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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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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Gendered Histories of Sickness and Health in Africa

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

How does an individual’s gender expression determine how s/he/they receive health care in Africa? In what ways does gender influence who provides health care, the kind of care that they offer, or the social determinants of peoples’ health? In the 19th, 20th and early-21st centuries, African citizens, refugees, and internally displaced persons have had to cope with a range of health care challenges. These include: high levels of disability as a result of car accidents and work-related injuries; disruptions to health care services and food provision stemming from war or political unrest; lack of supplies and access to quality care, resulting from neoliberal economic policies; and, most recently, the challenges of food insecurity due to seasonal locust infestations. These concerns paint a bleak picture of the status of health and health care provision in Africa. Epidemics like ebola and cholera complicate conditions for people seeking to improve the quality of their health. In addition, pandemics like HIV/AIDS and now COVID-19 have transformed demographics and gender relations in both predictable and unexpected ways. Despite these challenges, millions of African men, women, and children find ways to survive and respond creatively in order to address their needs for health and wellbeing. This class is organized around the understanding that the idea of “good health” is a useful critical lens through which to analyze gender-related questions. How do women, men, and LGBTQ+ individuals organize, navigate, and seek care in order to attain good health? What historical, political, and economic factors influence the provision of quality health care? How have African citizens, governments, faith communities, activists, and indigenous healers responded to the challenges associated with disease and the goal of maintaining good health? Because the African continent is massive and every country is complex and diverse, this class will use case studies from countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to answer these questions. In addition, students will be able to choose other African countries to study in depth in order to gain as broad a picture as possible of this complex and important topic. While we will primarily focus our inquiries by using historical works, we will actively monitor innovations in African countries resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of what it takes to maintain a sense of “good health” in Africa.

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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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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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Novelists and Sociologists

Open, Seminar—Spring

One group of 19th-century realist novels, also some later novels with apparently comparable ambitions, are sometimes imagined to have been, in part, responses to things that seemed unprecedented; e.g., an acceleration of historical velocity, the diffusion of new forms of economic life, the rise of new classes and pressures on older elites, increasing urbanization, and the apparently sudden and disorienting arrival of something denoted by a word that dated from the beginning of the 19th century—modernity. The ambitions of these novels included description and assessment (in the title of one of them) of “the way we live now.” In roughly the same period, a new science—sociology— appeared, comparably ambitious and also attempting the description and analysis of new forms of social order and social change. Since some of the novelists and sociologists appear to have been engaged in a comparable project, it may be rewarding to read them together—which is what we’ll do in this class. Our syllabus will probably include Balzac’s Old Goriot, Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, Dickens’ Bleak House, George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Marx’s and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, some of Simmel’s essays and some of Weber’s, and W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk. Whether or not it proves particularly profitable to read these writers in the same course, we’ll certainly read some good books.

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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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The Beatles

Open, Large seminar—Spring

The impact of The Beatles has been immeasurable. In their seven years as a recording band, they explored and enlarged every aspect of songwriting technique, producing one musical milestone after the next. This class will trace the development of The Beatles chronologically through their 12 original English albums and the singles that were released alongside them. We will focus on the ways in which The Beatles used harmony, phrase structure, rhythm, structural ambiguity, and sonority in continuously innovative ways. We will also look at some of the musical styles and cultural phenomena that The Beatles assimilated and transformed—from early rock & roll, Motown, and The Goon Show to 1960s counterculture—and explore how The Beatles, in turn, influenced music and culture in the 1960s. There will also be guest-led discussions by other members of the music faculty on the following topics: The Beatles and the evolution of studio recording; the use of electronic music techniques (Yannelli); Norwegian Wood and the great sitar explosion (Higgins); electric guitar techniques (Alexander); and acoustic guitar techniques (Anderson). There are no conferences.

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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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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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The Age of Global Uprisings

Open, Seminar—Spring

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

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: Approaches to Child Development

Open, FYS—Year

What are the worlds of children like? How can we come closer to understanding those worlds? In this class, we will use different modalities to cast light on them. One set of lenses is provided by psychological theory. Various psychologists (Piaget, Vygotsky, Freud, Erikson, Bowlby, Skinner, Bandura, Chess, Bronfenbrenner) have raised particular questions and suggested conceptual answers. We will read the theorists closely for their answers but also for their questions, asking which aspects of childhood each theory throws into focus. We will examine systematic studies carried out by developmental psychologists in areas such as the development of thinking, social understanding, language, gender, friendship, and morality. We will take up the development of the brain and nervous system and consider the implications for psychological questions. An important counterpoint to reading about children is direct observation. All students will do fieldwork at the Early Childhood Center and make notes on what they observe. At times, we will draw on student observations to support or critique theoretical concepts. Fieldwork also will provide the basis for conference work. Ideally, conference projects will combine the interests of the student, some library reading, and some aspect of fieldwork observation. Among the projects students have designed in the past are exploring children’s friendships, observing what children say as they are painting, following a child as he is learning English as a second language, and writing and perhaps illustrating a children’s book. We will meet for conference weekly in the first semester, as you develop your individual conference project and for donning matters. In the spring, the conferences could be weekly or biweekly, depending on your needs and the progress of your conference projects. The world of childhood is magical. This course is for students who understand that the magic won’t disappear if we take a close, intellectually rigorous look.

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First-Year Studies: Urban Health in a Multicultural Context

FYS—Year

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

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Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Social Psychology of Immigration

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

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

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

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Community Psychology

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the field of community psychology, which is primarily concerned with individuals in their social context. Community psychology seeks to support and understand communities and to conduct research that helps communities thrive. Sometimes, community psychology engages broadly by doing work focused on large connected and diverse communities, such as the Black community; and sometimes it is more focused, such as on a community of students at a single university. As a critical community psychologist myself, my focus has always been on social justice, change, and activism. As such, this course will engage with critical theories, concepts, and methods within the field of community psychology. In doing so, it is my hope that students will gain a deeper understanding of community psychology. The course will move away from and challenge the traditional community deficit models and, instead, emphasize community psychology that focuses on community issues, engagement, empowerment, activism, and work.

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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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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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The Hebrew Bible

Open, Seminar—Year

The Hebrew Bible stands at the foundation of Western culture. Its stories permeate our literature, our art—indeed, our sense of identity. Its ideas inform our laws, have given birth to our revolutions and social movements, and have thereby made most of our social institutions possible (as well as the movements to remove them). What is this book? How was it written? Who wrote it? Who preserved it for us? Why has all or part of this body of literature been considered holy to the practitioners of both Judaism and Christianity? Four thousand years ago, various groups of small-tribe, wandering nomads would get together and tell stories. These stories were not preserved on stone tombs but in the hearts and memories of the people to whom they belonged. We will read the collection of traditions in the book called Genesis and compare these stories with other texts (written in mud and stone), such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Babylonian Creation Epic, which were contemporary with biblical traditions. We will read the Biblical epic of liberation, Exodus; the historical books that weave theology into a history of a nation; and the oracles of the great Hebrew prophets of Israel—those reformers, judges, priests, mystics, and poets to whom modern culture owes its grasp of justice. We will trace the social, intellectual, and political history of the people formed by these traditions from the Late Bronze Age until the Roman Age.

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The Voice: A Fiction Workshop

Open, Seminar—Fall

This workshop will focus on the process of finding and deepening voice as the vernacular of your imagination. We will build stories and their inhabitants using source material that is meaningful to each of us: literature, of course, but also music, film and video, visual art, semiotics, fashion, architecture, games, urban myths, family lore and history, our ever-shifting identities, and more. We will work toward writing the voices that feel most true to us and shaping stories based on our own visions for narrative itself. We will read work by writers such as Samuel Beckett, Jayne Ann Phillips, Virginia Woolf, Mitchell S. Jackson, Garielle Lutz, Carmen Maria Machado, Robert Lopez, D. Foy, and Shelly Oria. We will also listen to music, watch videos and excerpted films, look at art, and examine popular culture and our own families as if we were anthropologists. We will work to shed ideas of what we should be writing and discover what’s already inside us ready to be written.

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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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