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Northwestern University

Choosing a First-Year Seminar

Information on Fall Quarter 2019 Seminars will be posted in late May 2019.

Spring Quarter 2019 First-Year Seminars

The following seminars will be offered in Spring Quarter 2019.  Click on the ">" in front of a title to read the course description.  For students who are scheduled to take a Spring Quarter first-year seminar, the Top 10 process will open at 12:01 AM (just after midnight) on Wednesday, February 13, and will close at 8:00 AM on Friday, February 15, 2019.  When you have identified the ten seminars that interest you most, log in to your dossier and scroll down to First-Year Seminar Selections: Spring 2019 to submit your Top 10 list.  You will be placed in your Spring 2019 seminar shortly after the dossier closes on February 15, 2019.  Students who do not submit their Top 10 list by the deadline will need to choose from the seminars with spots available.

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Instructor(s): Sian Olson Dowis

Description: In recent years, the #MeToo movement has sparked a nationwide conversation about feminism and gender equality in the United States. This first-year seminar contextualizes our present moment by tracing the development of the modern American feminist movement (or movements) over the twentieth century. Our readings will emphasize multiplicity in American feminism, paying particular attention to how how feminists grappled with - and diverged over - issues of race, class, sexuality, gender, and political ideology. Topics to be covered include suffrage; the early birth control movement; labor feminism; the relationship between feminism and the 1960s New Left; Black feminism and the emergence of the concept of "intersectionality"; and the split between "anti-pornography" and "sex-positive" feminists in the 1980s.

American Feminism
TTh2pm-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Jay Grossman

Description:

One could search high and low through the annals of American literature without being able to find two BIGger BOOKS than the ones we will read in Spring 2019: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Moby-Dick. For one thing, both books are long, and part of what we will talk about are the specific pleasures and challenges of reading BIG BOOKS. How do we gauge, and thereby engage with, narratives of disproportionate scale and encyclopedic ambition? How do we lose, or find, our place in colossal fictional worlds?

But Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Melville’s Moby-Dick are BIG BOOKS in another way, too. Each of them has been a hugely influential and profoundly consequential novel. Indeed, one cannot really understand American literary and cultural history if one is not familiar with these two BIG BOOKS. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel was a watershed text for both sides in the Civil War. Upon meeting Stowe, Abraham Lincoln reportedly said to her, “So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” Stowe’s novel sold 300,000 copies in the first year—an unprecedented number—and her story became the basis for countless stage adaptations, spin-offs, parodies, editorials, refutations, and re-writes. (Check out some of them here: <http://utc.iath.virginia.edu>) The reputation of Melville’s novel took longer to take shape—its early readers enjoyed the material about whaling, but didn’t quite know what to make of the story of Ahab’s obsession with the White Whale. But over the course of the twentieth century these views reversed themselves, and Ahab’s maniacal quest has come to be widely recognized as one of the masterpieces of world literature. Our work in Spring 2019 will be, like Ahab, to take on these Leviathans, these BIG BOOKS, better to understand them and the worlds they shaped—including our own.

Big Books
MW12:30pm-1:50pm

Instructor(s): William Dichtel

Description: Access to clean water for drinking, farming, and many other uses is a basic human need that is anticipated to become more expensive and difficult because of climate change, expanding populations, and resource depletion. We will learn this problem from both a chemical and practical perspective. What are common water sources and their common contaminants? How is drinking water and waste water treated today, and what are the limitations of these methods? What technologies are emerging or need to emerge to address these limitations? How does water relate to food production and energy consumption in regards to sustainability? We will answer these questions through literature research, studying current and recent problems in water systems, and by visiting local drinking water and/or waste water treatment facilities.

The Chemistry of Clean Water
MW11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Lance Rips

Description: This class looks at the way people think about mathematical infinity. Topics include Galileo's Paradox, differences in the sizes of infinite sets, and ordinal numbers. The topics also include how children learn about the infinity of the positive integers and children's and adults' mistakes in reasoning about infinity.

Concepts of Mathematical Infinity
TTh2pm-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Rachel Riedl

Description: The last 3 decades in sub-Saharan Africa have witnessed dramatic swings in regime change, including the transition from single party and military regimes to multiparty competition and, in some cases, democracy. The contemporary period marks new challenges to democracy around the world, and to Africa in specific ways. These challenges include economic pressures and globalization, institutional design and voting practices, term limit challenges, mobile and transnational populations, and questions of state capacity and security. We will begin by asking: what is democracy, what does it do, and what are the challenges it creates? We will analyze competing theoretical approaches to regime politics. We will look at current cases of democratization and autocratization in Africa and contribute to the news wrap section of a podcast.

Democracy and its Challenges in Africa
WW 2pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Bernard Dobroski

Description: This seminar is designed for the general campus student. Students with a music major, or a dual degree with music, are not permitted to register for this seminar. The course is designed to provide opportunities for music aficionados to experience music and music theater events from the inside-out. The only prerequisite for the course is a love of the performing arts - you don't have to read, perform, or understand music notation to succeed. However, you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time attending rehearsals and concerts (minimally six to eight hours a week), outside of the two required class sessions. During and outside of classroom sessions, the instructor and invited guests will attempt to nurture a heightened awareness of the challenges that conductors, opera and music theater directors and musicians/actors face when preparing for a performance. Through a series of observations, presentations, interviews, and interactive discussions/seminars, you will be better prepared to listen, observe, and critically analyze performing arts events on and off campus - during this academic quarter, and hopefully for the rest of your life. After Week One's introduction to the course and the music library, the Week Two class sessions will concentrate on conducting lessons and video observations of concerts and rehearsals. In these initial sessions, you will learn many of the techniques needed to lead the world's greatest instrumental and choral ensembles (of course, with many additional years of practice). Course participants, using their required conductor's baton and music CDs will learn a variety of conducting techniques - mastering beat patterns, the expressive use of the left hand, and using the conducting gesture to communicate interpretation, phrasing, dynamic shading. You may never conduct a major ensemble, but after meeting the requirements of the class you should have the knowledge and understanding to critically analyze conductors during your future career as a member of audiences for classical and popular music concerts.

First Rehearsal to Final Performance
MWMW 2pm-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Martha Biondi

Description: Given the many gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, what accounts for the rise of #BlackLivesMatter? Why do the police and criminal legal system seem so resistant to change? This seminar examines racial conditions since the 1960s and explores some of the analysis, remedies and solutions that young activists are formulating to address the challenges of the 21st century. Readings include historical studies and first person accounts.

From Black Power to #BlackLivesMatter
MW11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Julian Glover

Description: In this course, we will read pop culture texts–including works by Rihanna, Cardi B, Beyoncé and Janet Mock—alongside scholarly texts which contend with the ubiquity of black death and gratuitous violence. Through this interrogation of events, figures and organizations within American popular culture, we will examine and contend with expressions of complex personhood. Our focus will be on embodied knowledge—that is, the harnessing of knowledge derived from lived experiences of hegemonic racial, gendered and sexual subjection—and how this knowledge is transformed into strategies, tactics and tools that enable black people to acquire the human and material resources needed for survival.

From Spillers to Beyoncé: Blackness, Embodied Knowledge and Popular Culture
TTh 11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Richard Kraut

Description: We will examine and discuss some of the most important concepts that figure in contemporary political discourse. Among our topics will be: equality, liberty, democracy, liberalism, socialism. gender and race. Our readings will include one classic of political philosophy (On Liberty by John Stuart Mill) but will otherwise be contemporary authors.

Fundamental Concepts of Political Philosophy
TTh2pm-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Maziyar Faridi

Description: From the Middle East to Europe and now to the United States, today’s world is once again haunted by a violent resurgence of the nativist discourses of identity. The flames of sectarian wars have engulfed the Middle East; the borders that the European Union promised to dissolve are reappearing; and white nationalists are marching in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. What is identity? How do we form an identity? How do we liberate ourselves from the violence of an exclusionary identity? How do cinema and literature represent and complicate our ideas of identity? This seminar explores how a critical practice of engaging with global cinema, alongside reading literary texts, challenges our understanding of identity. We will closely analyze a wide range of films from the past century about the paradoxes and complexities of individual and collective identities. “Identity” is never straightforward and watching/reading for it in cinema and literature requires entering different forms of labyrinth. The focus of our seminar will be on how memory, trauma, and language relate to various formations of (gender, national, colonial, etc.) identities in literature and cinema. We will also examine the ways through which different forms of literary and cinematic relations and communications problematize the identity of these works. Our attempt will be to approach cinema and literature as a way of making worlds and crossing between them. Students are required to write a research paper by the end of the quarter.

Global Cinema: The Many Labyrinths of Identity
MW11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Robert Gundlach

Description: In this seminar, we will explore the power and complexity of the human voice as we encounter it in both speech and writing. We will begin by examining the physical and cognitive aspects of speaking and listening. We will then consider how the human voice conveys cultural meanings, how voices interact in conversation, and how "voice" is expressed in written form. Each student will select a topic of individual interest for a final research project. Topics might include (but are not limited to) the role of intonation in linguistic communication, voice and technology (e.g., telephones), voice in social media, voice and music, voice in professional roles, voice and gender, voice and age, voice disorders, the forensic use of "voiceprints," voice in acting, voice in animal communication, human-machine vocal interaction, variations of voice across languages, accents and voice control in second language learning, the significance of voice in public speaking, and the representation of speech in literature. Throughout the quarter, students will also develop their ability and confidence as writers, and may use this seminar as an opportunity to experiment with their own written voices in a variety of forms.

Human Voice, Spoken & Written
TTh11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Robert Launay

Description:

"Caravans of Gold: Fragments of Time" is an absolutely unique exhibition at the Block Museum that focuses on the medieval caravan trade across the Sahara Desert between North Africa and West Africa. This was at the time the principal source for gold throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond. The fourteenth century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta provided an eyewitness account of the trip across the desert to the West African empire of Mali. This was hardly his only journey. The most famous Muslim traveler of all time, his journeys to India and China among other lands are comparable to those of that other great medieval traveler, Marco Polo.

The first part of the seminar will focus on the fourteenth century world, particularly in Africa and Asia, through the writings of Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo. To what extent did this world appear differently in the eyes of a Christian and of a Muslim traveler?


The second part focuses specifically on the caravan trade, based both on written accounts including Ibn Battuta and on material objects uncovered by archaeological excavations. How did the trade operate in practice? How did the incorporation of Mali into the Muslim world structure relations between North and West Africa?


The third part deals with the empire of Mali on its own terms, those of Mande culture in particular. The class will focus on the epic of Sunjata, the story of the foundation of the empire of Mali, as told by professional jeli, praise singers or "griots".

Aside from class discussion of the written sources, the class will benefit from a guided tour of the museum exhibition; from guest lectures by and archaeologist of West Africa and scholars of Islamic manuscript culture in Morocco and/or West Africa; and from films.

Ibn Battuta and the Caravans of Gold
TTh3:30pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Regina Schwartz

Description: This course will examine ideas of justice in western cultural and literary traditions. Biblical prophecy, the trial of Jesus, Plato, and tragedy in Shakespeare will be included. Our exploration will be done in the context of theories of justice. But the literature offers elaborations of theories of justice, both within legal frameworks and beyond, as they shape communities and the private lives of people. We will ask how religious ideas of justice inform and depart from secular ideas of justice, how retributive and distributive ideas of justice are imagined and critiqued, and how the relation between justice and law has been conceived.

Ideas of Justice
MW 9:30am-10:50am

Instructor(s): Charles Yarnoff

Description: We live in a time when hostility towards immigrants has made many Americans forget that, as President Obama said, “We are and always will be a nation of immigrants," and has obscured the complex reality of their lives. In this course, we will study literary works by immigrants and their children in order to understand that complex reality. We will explore such questions as: How do social institutions and structures impact the lives of immigrants as they seek to pursue the American Dream? What happens to the relationships between parents and children through the process of acculturation into American society? How do differences in national origin connect with other differences, particularly gender, race, ethnicity, and class? What are the similarities and differences between the experiences of immigrants and those of refugees?

We will read novels and short stories that were written over the last 100 years and that tell stories of immigrants from Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, Barbados, and Japan.

Immigrant Stories
MWF 11am-11:50am

Instructor(s): Myrna Garcia

Description: This course will explore the histories, identities, and experiences of Chicago’s heterogeneous Latina/o/x populations through an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary framework. With a special focus on ethnic Mexican and Puerto Rican communities, we will study migration histories as well as the trans/formation of Latina/o/x identities, political activism, and cultural expressions. Moreover, we will also study how, and under what circumstances, Latinas/os/xs engage with Latinidades. Lastly, we will discuss how Latinx Chicago scholarship has shaped the field of Latina/o/x Studies.

Latinx Chicago
MW 2pm-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Meaghan Fritz

Description: Where are you from? What does your hometown look like, sound like, feel like? This is a crash course in learning how to write about places, partly by way of surveying American regionalism, a genre often criticized for its narrow focus on local histories, cultural manners, and peoples of particular places and geographies rather than on larger national themes. Instead of isolating our readings of regional works, we will place texts focusing on five different regions of the United States in conversation with one another. We will study the West through Mark Twain, the South through Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Kate Chopin, New England through Sarah Orne Jewett, the Midwest through Zona Gale, and the Great Plains through Zitkála-Šá. Using Digital Humanities tools such as StoryMap and Omeka, we will build a visual, digital map tracing and connecting our readings of regionalist works, comprising not only a cross-country survey of the genre, but also a snapshot of the ways in which the post-Civil War nation was negotiating genre, race, colonialism, and gender. We will expand our map, potentially beyond the borders of the United States, by experimenting with our own regional writing, critically reflecting not only on the places where we are from or have come to love, but also on the Chicago/Northwestern region where we currently reside. (No prior training in digital tools nor skills in storymaking are required for this course).

Mapping American Literature
TTh11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Sara Cerne

Description: Since Mark Twain, Americans have romanticized the Mississippi as a site of freedom and pristine wilderness. Interrogating such uncritical projections, this course examines class, race, and environmental issues in culturally diverse 20th- and 21st-century literature and culture about the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. We will read literature like Richard Wright’s short story “Down by the Riverside” (1938), Joy Harjo’s poem “New Orleans” (1983), and Jesmyn Ward’s novel Salvage the Bones (2011). Additionally, we will address the politics of nostalgia in Mississippi River cookbooks and discuss the radical potential of visual art like Richard Misrach’s photographs in Petrochemical America (2012) and music ranging from early 20th-century blues to Beyoncé. Apart from introducing you to both literary and cultural analysis, our class will focus on college-level composition skills and provide you with constructive feedback on your writing.

Muddy Waters: The Mississippi River in Literature & Culture
TTh3:30pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Alexandra Thomas

Description: This first-year seminar will explore the relationships of Muslims and Christians during the premodern centuries, during the crucial moments of sustained contact ranging from the time of the Crusades to the Ottoman Empire. We will analyze the realities and falsehoods surrounding the ongoing coexistence and conflicts between Christians and Muslims at the point in history when the two groups first started to know something of each other. During the birth of modernity, coherent states began to form, the art and practice of international diplomacy was solidified in an ever-expanding world, and relationships of all kinds between Christians and Muslims became more commonplace. What is the history behind the very concept of West and East, or one side versus another as in the dangerous "clash of civilizations" thesis? Are such notions only modern inventions? This course will explore themes of empire, intermarriage, religious conversion, slavery, commercial and military rivalries, alliances and warfare, and the influence of art, in addition to mutual perceptions of "the other" from both sides of the Mediterranean Sea.

Muslims and Christians during The Birth of Modernity
TTh11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Daniel Majchrowicz

Description: India is home to the second largest population of Muslims on earth. It’s also host to the world’s largest film industry, best known as Bollywood. Little wonder, then, that Bollywood films regularly feature Muslim characters, social spaces, and cultural references that are readily marked or coded as “Islamic.” But in spite of a large coterie of Muslims working within the industry – as actors, song writers, or producers – the representation of Muslims in Indian films has consistently raised complex issues around ideas of identity and belonging in a nation where they constitute a clear (and conspicuous) minority. We will read these films against the historical backdrop of the search for national identity in post-colonial India, as well as in the context of the so-called “war on terror.” Students will be given the opportunity not only to learn about Indian (particularly Bombay) cinema, but also to explore how cinematic representations intersect with issues of identity and belonging in the modern nation-state.

Muslims, Bollywood and Modern India
TTh2pm-3:20pm

Instructor(s): Christine Helmer

Description: This course explores the Nazi Olympics, held in Berlin 1936, in relation to religion, philosophy, politics, and the history of fascism. We show how the Nazi Olympics appropriated themes from the ancient Olympics in Greece in order to create a new religious, aesthetic, and political ethos. We also look at the contemporary Olympics, particularly in view of ethics and political activism.

The Nazi Olympics and Religion
MW9:30am-10:50am

Instructor(s): Katherine Amato

Description: In the movies, lemurs dance, capuchins slap people in the face, and apes take over the world. We are faced with images of our closest living relatives everyday. But how accurate are these images? How do they affect our perspectives on primates and their place in the world? In this course we will explore the intersections between human and primate lives in an effort to understand how we view primates, what factors influence those views, and how both humans and primates are ultimately affected. Using writing and discussion, we will consider primates in the media, primates as pets, primates in research, and primate conservation, among other topics. At the end of this course you will be able to evaluate how accurately primates are portrayed in a range of contexts and understand the consequences of those portrayals. You will have a stronger appreciation for the complex relationship between humans and primates worldwide and how it affects our everyday lives. And most importantly, you will have challenged and enriched your own perspectives on primates.

Perspectives on Primates
MW12:30pm-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Ayca Alemdaroglu

Description: While countries across North America, Europe and East Asia are grappling with declining birthrates and aging populations, young people are the largest population bloc in the Middle East. Over sixty percent of population in Iran and Egypt and over 50 percent in Turkey are under 30 years old. Despite the political significance of youth in the region, young people have been long regarded as apolitical or alienated. The recent protests in the region unpredicted by most challenged this view and brought Middle Eastern youth to global attention. In this course, we are going to examine young people’s role and experiences in the region’s social, cultural and political transformation.

Politics, Protest and Youth in the Middle East
TTh11am-12:20pm

Instructor(s): Marcelo Vinces

Description: The topics we will cover, among others: the cultural, political and societal barriers to reaping the benefits of biological research; the damaging legacies of racism, sexism and colonialism on the biological research enterprise; the role of communications in the field of biology; and select biological topics in evolution, genetics and disease. Students will learn from press articles, academic literature and non-fiction books (Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Shah, The Fever: How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years).

Promises & Perils: The Social Reality of Biology
TTh3:30pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Megan Hyska

Description: Democracy works when people are able to make conscientious, informed decisions about the kind of society they want to live in. Thinkers from antiquity to the present have been concerned with the various ways that this ability can be undermined by propaganda, both in purported democracies and in explicitly authoritarian regimes. On the other hand, many radical thinkers have suggested that propaganda isn’t always bad, and is perhaps a necessary component of liberatory social and political movements. In this course we will be asking three central questions: What is propaganda? How does propaganda function in the world today? And finally, how can a just society deal with propaganda’s negative effects?

Propaganda
TTh12:30pm-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Stefan Henning

Description:

China today combines a quasi-capitalist economy with an authoritarian state ruled by a single party. This combination has proven extraordinarily successful economically. Where other countries have failed in their drives toward a prosperous market economy – from Argentina and Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia, to the Russian Federation – China has soared and lifted the living standard of many of its citizens dramatically. Chinese economic success has far outstripped that of its closest competitive rival, India. China has joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, hosted the Beijing Olympics in 2008, sailed through the great recession of 2008, sent people into space, launched aircraft carriers, and elbowed out Germany and Japan to become the world’s second largest economy. The Chinese car market is now bigger than that of the United States.

This class introduces you to the shadow land behind and below of that victory march, the means and methods to exclude the vast majority of Chinese from political decision-making. We will use a mix of media – academic monographs, film documentaries, newspaper and magazine reporting, and internet videos – to understand how the Chinese Communist Party has struck fear into urban Chinese in Beijing in 1989, a fear that lasts until today; how it has identified, censored, bullied, persecuted, imprisoned, and tortured those who organized to voice alternative road maps for China’s immediate future, among them human rights lawyers, labor organizers, feminists, and the activist and artist Ai Weiwei; and how it achieved its greatest coup: to convince a young generation of urban Chinese that authoritarian rule is necessary and in their best interest.

Rebellion and Its Enemies in China Today
TTh12:30pm-1:50pm

Instructor(s): Susie Phillips

Description: What are the Seven Deadly Sins, how did they come into being, and how do can we make sense of the role they continue to play the 21st century popular imagination? What is the nature of moral and ethical transgression: is sin a disposition, a thought, an action, or an external force? And how does one make amends for such transgression? Over the course of the quarter, we will attempt to answer these questions by exploring the evolving representations of sin, secrets and confession that some of the most popular medieval texts. Exploring the work of preachers and poets alike, we will investigate the ways in which medieval writers adapted their depictions of sin to address the major social and political issues of their day, highlighting certain sins while hiding others as the moment required. We will also explore how modern texts and films take up and transform these medieval ideas in order to reach contemporary audiences.

The Seven Deadly Sins
TTh9:30am-10:50am

Instructor(s): Anna Michelson

Description: How do academics study popular culture? What IS popular culture, and how do we distinguish it from high culture? Through an examination of cultural objects including music, movies, books, video games, TV, and more we will explore how popular culture is produced and consumed and how our likes and dislikes are socially constructed. Special attention is given to issues of power, resistance, and representation in popular culture. This course draws on a mix of academic theory and real-world examples to make connections between social theory and everyday experience. Readings will include cultural theorists like Stuart Hall and Pierre Bourdieu, contemporary sociological research, and articles from popular media. Students will engage with course material through reflective journaling and class discussion. Research and writing skills are built into the curriculum, culminating in a research paper where students can explore any popular culture topic.

Sociology of Popular Culture
TTh9:30am-10:50am

Instructor(s): Haydon Cherry

Description: This course will introduce students to the history of modern Southeast Asia, from the early twentieth century to the present, as it appears in well-known works of Western fiction. Students will read novels by George Orwell, Graham Greene, Christopher Koch, and Colin Cotterill, as well as works of literary criticism and historical contextualization. They will examine how images of Asia have been constructed in Western fiction and the ideological work those images have performed.

Southeast Asia in Fiction
TTh3:30pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): Todd Nordgren

Description: From literature to film, creators of science fiction and fantasy grapple with the relationship between people and places, exploring our understanding of racial, ethnic, or sexual minorities through fiction. Some stories take place in fictionalized versions of real world locales, from the eerie version of Transylvania in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) to the futuristic Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), while others create otherworldly new places, such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s dragon-infested Earthsea or the extra-terrestrial planet of Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” (1984). Surveying a range of literature, film, and television from Dracula to Star Trek, we will track the developments of ideas about race, science and technology, sexuality and gender, and national identities as they appear in science fiction and fantasy, preparing you for your own role as a thoughtful participant in popular culture and academic research.

Speculative Fictions: Race & Space
MW3:30pm-4:50pm

Instructor(s): John Bushnell

Description: The seminar will grapple with the way in which Soviet citizens tried to make sense of what went on around them during the 1930s, a decade in which several million peasants died after their farms were collectivized, millions of innocent people wre sent to forced labor in the Gulag prison camps, and another million or so were executed for political crimes they did not actually commit. We will read documents, diaries, memoirs, and fiction written during the 1930s but not published until much later.

Stalinism
TTh9:30am-10:50am

Instructor(s): Onur Ozgode

Description: In this course we will examine why truth, particularly the scientific kind, has come under assault in recent decades. To explain this perplexing phenomenon, we will focus on a series of controversies ranging from AIDS and Ebola epidemics to autism and climate change. In each case we will study the struggles between different stakeholders, including scientists, politicians, and ordinary people, over different types of claims on knowledge, legitimacy, and authority. We will first concentrate on how experts construct facts and knowledge and use them to persuade the public on a given topic, such as the hazards of the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the late 1980s. Then, we will analyze the ways in which experts coopt lay people who are directly affected by their activities and ask whether there is any room for empowering ordinary people in the production of expert knowledge. Here, we will take the case of AIDS in the 1980s and analyze how activists and scientists built an alliance to contain the epidemic. Finally, we will venture into why this collaborative strategy no longer works as well in preventing a phenomenon as catastrophic as climate change. In this last part of the course, we will zoom in on the sheer power of money over both politics and scientific truth. We will seek to understand why a new style of politics around denial has become a popular way of resisting authority and power of experts. In addition to climate change denialism, we will examine a range of cases ranging from flat earthers and the tobacco industry to Holocaust and Armenian Genocide denialism.

War on Science
TTh11am-12:20pm
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