CSER Undergraduate Course Offerings – Spring 2021



Renzo Aroni – MW 10:10am-12:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

Notes: Priority to CSER Students, Subterm: 03/08-04/15 (B)

How do societies that have gone through long-term political violence, civil war, and military dictatorship deal with human rights abuses in their aftermath? Through what mechanisms do they struggle to restore peace and democracy, pursue truth and justice, and advocate for memory and reconciliation? This seminar will tackle these questions to understand, assess, and critique the battles over memory that shaped Latin American countries following the brutal violence that took place since the mid-20th century up to the present. Examining the concept of “political struggles for memory,” in which diverse individuals and social groups compete to establish their meanings of the past events to structure the present, we focus on four case studies: Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, and Peru. We will approach these cases using diverse source materials from a wide range of academic reflections and cultural productions–memoirs, testimonial biographies, films, visual arts, music, and performances–to examine how decades of violence and atrocities are being remembered and dealt with since the return to democracy. The course will interest in students of humanities, social science, arts, human rights, politics, literature, and creative writing projects because of its interdisciplinary approach. No prior knowledge is necessary.




Viola Lasmana – R 2:10pm-4:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

This course examines the intersection of race and aesthetics in cinema. Race, here, is used intersectionally to include not only race and ethnicity, but also all of the affiliated lines of contact, including national identity, gender, and sexuality. While the study of race is typically associated with political questions and concerns, and aesthetics are frequently linked with artistic form, this course seeks to locate the intersection of those categories in cinema and to complicate the ways in which the terms operate in relation to one another. Films and readings are drawn from a diverse set of global cultures, artists, and authors, and span a broad historical horizon. Our discussions will include questions including (but not limited to): do certain forms of racial representation generate unique aesthetic form? For instance, can we trace a specific kind of aesthetics in the works produced by the L.A. Rebellion filmmakers? How do certain film movements align with and inspire one another, such as those between Black and Asian/Asian American filmmakers? How does analyzing a film’s formal elements further our understandings of the thematic, political, cultural, and social forces that underpin the film? Together, we will think through these issues, informed by a range of theoretical frameworks including critical race theory, postcolonial theory, feminist theory, and queer theory.




Fernando Montero Castrillo – T 6:10pm-8:00pm | TBA

Despite being driven by an overarching rationale of zero tolerance, the War on Drugs across the Western Hemisphere encompasses a wide array of policies and interventions that have very different effects on manifold peoples and places. This course closely examines these interventions – as well as their alternatives and various forms of resistance – in places as diverse as Philadelphia and San Francisco, the “Tierra Caliente” of Michoacán and Guerrero (Mexico), the Afro-indigenous Moskitia region of Central America, and the Colombian and Peruvian Amazon and Andes regions. The course will put to the test the thesis that the War on Drugs is reproducing the conditions driving drug commerce, in large part by allowing for the emergence of interests which have the aim of extracting, producing, and subsidizing capital at various points of the punitive regime. Through detailed ethnographic and historical analyses of drug-related governmental intervention, the course probes the multifarious entanglement between drug control regimes and the social formations from which they emerge and upon which they act. We will engage scholarship on crop substitution and crop eradication programs in South America, regimes of coca regulation in the Andes, militarization and drug rehabilitation programs in Central America, and territorial reconfigurations in Tohono Indigenous land along the US-Mexico border, among others.




Czarina F Thelen – W 10:10am-12:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

Guatemala’s recurrent history of Indigenous genocide is closely linked to U.S. interventions. Meanwhile, Maya organizing in Guatemala has helped spearhead Indigenous political visibility globally. This course examines socio-historical dynamics that have shaped Indigenous Guatemala to better understand current crises like migration and postwar violence. We study settler colonialism; Maya land dispossession and labor exploitation; U.S. corporate imperialism via banana republics; Maya autonomy efforts; Maya intellectuals, populist organizing, and the guerrilla revolutionary movement; racism and postwar multiculturalism; genocidal military counterinsurgency; sexual violence and femicide; the social impacts of Guatemalan and U.S. Catholicism and Evangelicalism; postwar neoliberal restructuring; and the rise of the narco-state and resource extraction on Indigenous territories.  We will look at contemporary postwar issues of political disillusionment, militarized “war by other means,” conflicts between Indigenous communities and environmental conservationists, gender and the recovery of Indigenous law and anti-GMO organizing involving Native seed banks.  We pay special attention to Indigenous political action as resistance to highly oppressive regimes of terror.




Julia M Hampton – M and W 10:10am-11:25 am | ONLINE ONLY

From the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, African and African-descended people were systematically forced into a cruel system of slavery. Under such extreme circumstances, how did people use music to resist their enslavement? How did their allies, both black and white, use music to mobilize the antislavery movement? And how have musicians used the rhetoric of antislavery to resist slavery’s legacies from 1865 to today? This course takes a chronological approach to these questions, tracing shifting strategies of musical resistance to slavery before, during, and after the Anglo-American antislavery movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We will cover a wide range of musical genres, including street ballads, spirituals, operas, and protest songs, as well as written sources such as travel accounts, runaway slave advertisements, and slave narratives. The course takes an inclusive approach to the antislavery movement, paying special attention to the voices of free and enslaved black people as well as women, white and black, who worked to fight slavery.




Fantinato Geo Desiqueira Maria – T and R 11:40am-12:55pm | ONLINE ONLY

The Amazon is a big, diverse, and complex region, hard to contain under a sole narrative. This course takes the Amazon as a case study for engaging in sound, song, and audiovisual productions as modes of fabricating and perceiving difference, creating with difference, as well as imagining and transforming territories. Through texts, audiovisual material, and songs focused mainly on the Brazilian Amazon, as well as material produced by Amazonian peoples of rural and urban territories in Brazil, we will examine clashing and coexisting sensorial perceptions and histories of the region. We will critically engage with the ways the region is perceived as forest, resource, and nature at harm. Students will be invited to examine the Amazon as a home to many different social groups whose modes of living question clear cut separations between the city and the forest, and as a cosmopolitan region with diverse cultural articulations of the sacred and the profane. We will analyze sonic and audiovisual products from and about the Amazon in terms of the ethics of their making and the imaginaries they propose and create. This course is open to students from all departments who are interested in the interdisciplinary study of sound, anthropology, media, and film, as well as anyone interested in expanding their critical sociocultural approach to listening.



Glenn Magpantay – T 12:10pm-2:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

This course provides an overview of Asian/ Pacific American history from the late 18th Century until the present day. The course follows a thematic format that begins with European and American empires in Asia and the Pacific. The course surveys significant and interrelated topics — including anti-Asian movements, immigration and exclusion, various forms of resistance, Orientalism, media representations, the model minority myth, the Asian American movement, identity, and racial, ethnic, and generational conflicts — in Asian/ Pacific American history of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each of these concepts and topics will resonant, in various expressions and forms, well into the 21st Century and beyond.



Edward Morales – T 4:10pm-6:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

The course will investigate the possibility that hybrid constructions of identity among Latinos in the U.S. are the principal driving force behind the cultural production of Latinos in literature and film. There will be readings on the linguistic implications of “Spanglish” and the construction of Latino racial identity, followed by examples of literature, film, music, and other cultural production that provide evidence for bilingual/bicultural identity as a form of adaptation to the U.S. Examples will be drawn from different Latino ethnicities from the Caribbean, Mexico, and the rest of Latin America.



Shinhee Han – M 10:10am-12:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

This seminar provides an introduction to mental health issues for Asian Americans. In particular, it focuses on the psychology of Asian Americans as racial/ethnic minorities in the United States by exploring a number of key concepts: immigration, racialization, prejudice, family, identity, pathology, and loss. We will examine the development of identity in relation to self, family, college, and society. Quantitative investigation, qualitative research, psychology theories of multiculturalism, and Asian American literature will also be integrated into the course.



Claudio Lomnitz – M 10:10am-12:00pm | TBA

Prerequisites: Open to CSER majors/concentrators only. Others may be allowed to register with the instructor’s permission. This course explores the centrality of colonialism in the making of the modern world, emphasizing cross-cultural and social contact, exchange, and relations of power; dynamics of conquest and resistance; and discourses of civilization, empire, freedom, nationalism, and human rights, from 1500 to 2000. Topics include pre-modern empires; European exploration, contact, and conquest in the new world; Atlantic-world slavery and emancipation; and European and Japanese colonialism in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The course ends with a section on decolonization and post-colonialism in the period after World War II. Intensive reading and discussion of primary documents.



Alex Larotta – M 10:10am-12:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

This course is designed to get students to think more deeply about the ethno-racial roots—and routes—of rock and roll music as a national, historical phenomenon. In this class, we’ll conceive rock and roll broadly to include peripheral genres which are related to or derived from its origins, including rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, funk, boogaloo, salsa, disco, and hip-hop, to thread together and discuss the relationships between music, identity, and race in the United States. Latinxs and African Americans have played significant, if underrecognized, roles in shaping American popular music; the cultural connections and musical interactivity between these communities are lesser understood in popular narratives of postwar American music. To this end, this course will uncover a broad social, racial, national, and transnational history of rock and roll to understand how musicians of color innovated long-standing musical traditions in their communities; maintained cultural and political links within the diaspora; and navigated regional racial schemas in the United States and Latin America.



Elizabeth Ouyang – R 10:10am-12:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

This course will examine how the American legal system decided constitutional challenges affecting the empowerment of African, Latino, and Asian American communities from the 19th century to the present. Focus will be on the role that race, citizenship, capitalism/labor, property, and ownership played in the court decision in the context of the historical, social, and political conditions existing at the time. Topics include the denial of citizenship and naturalization to slaves and immigrants, government sanctioned segregation, the struggle for reparations for descendants of slavery, and Japanese Americans during World War II.



Nathalie Handal – M 2:10pm-4:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

This course explores contemporary Arab and Asian Diasporic cultures and history through literature and film produced by writers and filmmakers of these communities. As a starting historical point, the course explores the idea of Arabness and Asianness, and examines the Arab and Asian migration globally. By reading and viewing the most exciting and best-known literary works and films produced by these writers and filmmakers, students will attain an awareness of the richness and complexity of these societies. Additionally, students will read historical and critical works to help them have a deeper understanding of these creative works. This class combines the critical with the creative—students have to read and critique memoirs as well as write a final 10-page nonfiction creative writing piece. Discussions revolve around styles and aesthetics as well as identity and cultural politics. Some of the writers and filmmakers the class will cover include, Wajdi Mouawad, Amin Maalouf, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Anthony Shadid, Hisham Matar, Kim Thúy, Jane Jeong Trenka, Nadine Labaki, Fatih Akin, Hong Khao and so forth.



Darius V Echeverria – W 12:10pm-2:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

The Senior Paper Colloquium will focus primarily on developing students ideas for their research projects and discussing their written work. The course is designed to develop and hone the skills necessary to complete the senior paper. Students will receive guidance in researching for and writing an advanced academic paper. Conducted as a seminar, the colloquium provides the students a forum in which to discuss their work with each other. The CSER preceptor, who facilitates the colloquium, will also provide students with additional academic support, supplementary to the advice they receive from their individual faculty sponsors. While most of the course will be devoted to the students work, during the first weeks of the term, students will read and discuss several ethnic studies-oriented texts to gain insight into the kinds of research projects done in the field.



Elsa Stamatopoulou – TR 4:10pm-5:25pm | ONLINE ONLY

Indigenous Peoples, numbering more than 370 million in some 90 countries and about 5000 groups and representing a great part of the world’s human diversity and cultural heritage, continue to raise major controversies and to face threats to their physical and cultural existence. The main task of this course is to explore the complex historic circumstances and political actions that gave rise to the international Indigenous movement through the human rights agenda and thus also produced a global Indigenous identity on all continents, two intertwined and deeply significant phenomena over the past fifty years. We will analyze the achievements, challenges and potential of the dynamic interface between the Indigenous Peoples’ movement-one of the strongest social movements of our times- and the international community, especially the United Nations system. Centered on the themes laid out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), the course will examine how Indigenous Peoples have been contesting and reshaping norms, institutions and global debates in the past 50 years, re-shaping and gradually decolonizing international institutions and how they have contributed to some of the most important contemporary debates, including human rights, development, law, and specifically the concepts of self-determination, governance, group rights, inter-culturality and pluriculturality, gender, land, territories and natural resources, cultural rights, intellectual property, health, education, the environment and climate justice. The syllabus will draw on a variety of academic literature, case studies and documentation of Indigenous organizations, the UN and other intergovernmental organizations as well as States from different parts of the world. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with Indigenous leaders and representatives of international organizations and States and will be encouraged to attend the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Select short films will be shown and discussed in class.



Matthew Sandler – M 4:10pm-6:00pm | ONLINE ONLY

Conceived in the 1920’s and 1930’s, American Studies sought to make a synoptic account of the “national character.” Since the 1960’s, the field has turned towards a focus on various forms of inequality as the dark side of American exceptionalism. This course surveys the development of the field’s current preoccupations, covering a range of periods, regions, groups, and cultural practices that present productive problems for generalizations about U.S. identity. We begin with the first academic movement in American Studies, the myth and symbol school—and think through its growth in the context of post-WWII funding for higher education. We then move on to a series of debates centered at intersections of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. We’ll close by examining the historical background of protest movements built around the identitarian concerns about rape culture and mass incarceration.

CSER continues to be Columbia's main interdisciplinary space for the study of ethnicity and race and their implications for thinking about culture, power, hierarchy, social identities, and political communities. The Center also offers a wide range of public programming, including Artist at the Center, Indigenous Forum, and Latino Public Speaker Series and the Transnational Asian/American Speaker Series. CSER's most recent spaces include the Media and Idea Lab and Gallery at the Center, a space dedicated to curating artistic and thematic exhibits around the Center’s key areas of interest.
Follow Us :        
Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
 420 Hamilton Hall, MC 2880
1130 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027