• Fall 2013 Engaged Citizen Courses

  • The Engaged Citizen: Engagement and the Good Life

    Aristotle famously noted that happiness is the good at which every craft and investigation, every action and decision aims. In other words, the reason for why we engage in certain activities is that we believe they will bring us happiness, either immediately or ultimately. Thus, the study of happiness and the means for achieving it occupy a central place in the question of what it means to be an engaged human. By examining texts from ancient philosophy and contemporary positive psychology, students will consider and evaluate various strategies for achieving—or at least working toward—a life well-lived.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Images of Politics and Society

    Images influence our perceptions of the world. From cave paintings to illustrations in magazines or on billboards, people use pictures to persuade those around them. Nothing is as persuasive as photographic reproductions. Using iconic photographs, we will address issues relating to some of the most salient topics in politics, such as war, democratization, globalization and equality. In addition to making students more aware of the different visual representations, viewpoints and debates, the course will seek to engage them by asking them to be photographers and create images that represent their own interpretation of the broader topics covered in the class.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Slaves/Revolutionaries/Citizens

    This seminar begins from a paradox. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) transformed the Caribbean and expanded the meaning of liberty, citizenship, and human rights and yet it is among the least remembered revolutions in world history. How could such a monumental event become so marginalized? This seminar seeks to answer this question through a close examination of the multiple historical interpretations of the Haitian Revolution and the works of fiction it inspired.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Enhanced Humans and Magic Pills

    Human enhancement has been discussed by the media in a number of different ways recently, ranging from cheating in sports to using study aids in the classroom to undergoing cosmetic modification. This course seeks to contextualize these conversations about human augmentation by examining the scientific possibilities of enhancement and considering modification in specific historical and cultural circumstances. The ethics of enhancement raise important questions about what constitutes “normal” and what constitutes “improvement” of the human experience. As new possibilities for modification arise, the question of appropriate responses, as individuals and as communities, will be central to engaging as a citizen.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Writing Changing Places

    Using anthropological and creative writing practices, this course seeks to deepen and complicate our understanding of contemporary landscapes and communities. Engaging with writings, class visitors, and local places, we will explore the role of place in the face of global processes like migration, electronic communication, and internet communities. We will consider issues of citizenship, exclusion, and those “out of place.” We will investigate how place is one of many factors that builds cultural and individual identity, and we will explore how writing methods and genres can change the way the writer and the reader experience and understand place.

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    The Engaged Citizen: The Evolved Citizen

    The evolution of human beings by natural selection is the best account of the origin of the human species. However, can evolutionary theory explain the mind, consciousness and values? We will discuss the arguments and evidence for evolutionary biology from philosophical and natural science perspectives. Next, we will consider whether evolutionary theory can answer questions about the origin of mind, cognition and consciousness. Lastly, we consider how evolutionary theory could account for a moral sense between good and bad, whether humans are naturally egoistic or altruistic, and what political systems are best for evolved citizens.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Art and Spirit

    Listen to John Coltrane or watch a Hendrix Players production. Spend an afternoon at Crystal Bridges Museum or interview local artists at Hendrix. You’ll see. Contemporary art touches, provokes, consoles and evokes the human spirit. It leads people into waters, both still and turbulent, well known to the world’s religions: awe, wonder, bewilderment, serenity, ecstasy, solitude. These waters need not be coupled with formal belief in order to be powerful. Art and Spirit explores the intersection of art and spiritual experience by studying The Hudson River School, Martha Graham, Isamu Noguchi and developing creative projects of your own.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Ethics, Story, & Social Reform

    When Abraham Lincoln called Harriet Beecher Stowe “The little lady who started the Civil War,” he was making a profound point about the power of story to move people to action. But antecedent to Beecher’s novel is a large body of philosophical writing that gave the visceral impact of the narrative its intellectual and moral underpinnings. Students will explore how story and moral theory interweave to reveal social problems and empower social reform. Students will be encouraged to consider what these stories and ethical theories mean for the stances they will take towards the social problems of their day.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Great Depression/Recession

    The Great Depression of the 1930’s was a watershed event in American history. In the stress of responding to this unprecedented economic crisis, the America government became more active in managing the economy. Some argue that the “social safety net” response to the Great Depression was the first step in dismantling the United States as an example of free-market capitalism. Others point to the government’s response as a vindication of Keynesianism. We will examine the economic, social, historical, and political implications of the Great Depression, and what they may imply for the Great Recession of 2008-present.

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    The Engaged Citizen: The Art of Subversion

    The Art of Subversion will explore political, religious, and cultural concerns that incorporate the expressive arts in relation to values, beliefs, and ethics. Students will explore parallels between political texts and music as they pertain to subversion and incitement, or affirmation and propaganda, and how they have shaped and influenced political discourse and public opinion. Students will critically examine artistic expression and how it reflects or critiques social and political issues using the works of composer John Adams as vehicle for an engaged learning project.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Asian Identities in Conflict

    Suicidal monks? Christian assassins? National heroes? Examining the politics of identity formation in recent and contemporary Tibet and Korea, this course considers when, where, and under what circumstances people in these societies have deployed certain identities (of religion, nation, and ethnicity) in political actions, often in the face of overbearing state power. It encourages students to think critically about categories of identity (nationality, ethnicity, religion) and the roles of both personally- and communally-held value and belief systems as well as national and ethnic narratives of inclusion and exclusion in the shaping of those identities at particular historical moments.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Poverty and Public Institutions

    This course provides you with the opportunity to critically reflect upon how engaged citizenship can be expanded further to include the poor. The study of poverty and engaged citizenship will also empower you to examine the interaction between poor people and institutions, including schools, the criminal justice system, welfare, and housing. It will use interviews with various representatives of poverty to tell their stories (via Skype, phone interviews, or presentations) about encounters with such institutions. You will be challenged to decide for yourself how communities can reshape these institutions in ways to expand the value of engagement to those who still remain poor.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Sex and Gender

    Human sexuality is a central focus of our culture, personal appearance and lifestyle. However, inequality between (and sometimes within) the sexes is widespread. Among other animals, sexuality is mainly associated with reproduction and specific features (size, appearance and genetics) distinguish males and females. However, these distinctions are often associated with different levels of inequality in the status, role and authority. The resulting competition among sexes is an important cost of sexual reproduction. In this course, we will explore the evolution of sexuality, the diversity and competition among sexes in humans and in other animals, and the social and political implications.

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    The Engaged Citizen: Origins and Ethics

    Combining religious studies and science, this course will explore how our understanding of human origins informs our ideas about of what it means to live the life of an engaged citizen. Various biblical representations of cosmic and human origins will be examined alongside scientific theories of the birth of the universe and the evolutionary origins of humankind. Students will consider the implications of these scientific and religious theories for human ethics and will be challenged to consider their own understandings of human origins and might compel them to live lives as engaged citizens.

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