CSER Undergraduate Course Offerings – Spring 2024

UN3303 Whiteness, Sentiment and Political Belonging

Catherine Fennell — Thursdays 10:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Scholars of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and race have long been preoccupied with the terms, categories, and processes through which the United States has excluded or qualified the citizenship of particular groups, including women, immigrants, indigenous nations, and descendants of enslaved Africans. Yet it has spent less time interrogating the unqualified content of Americanness, and the work that the imagination of a “default” American identity does in contemporary political life. This seminar introduces students to this problem through an unspoken racial dimension of American political belonging — the presumed whiteness of ideal American citizens. Readings drawn from several disciplinary traditions, including anthropology, linguistics, sociology, history, and journalism, will ground students in the course’s key concepts, including racial markedness, the history of racialization, and public sentiment. Students will mobilize these tools to analyze several cases that rendered white sentiment explicit in politically efficacious ways, including the “panic” incited by the destabilization of race-based residential segregation, the “paranoia” of conspiracy theorists, the “sympathy” associated with natural disasters, and the “resentment” or “rage” associated with the loss of racial privileges


UN3522 War, Gender & Migration

Bahia Munem — Wednesdays 2:10 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

What are the lived experiences and historical contexts of war? How are war and peace gendered and racialized? How do war and conflict impact and complicate belonging and influence the movement of people across borders and boundaries? With these questions in mind, this course examines the dynamics of war and its aftermath through a complex intersectional lens of gender, race, sexuality, class, religion, and nation. We will also consider how war and conflict lead to forced migration. Most regions of the world are currently or have been, immersed in war and conflict. In order to better understand how and why wars are fomented and conflicts occur, we will examine U.S. wars as well as transnational conflicts and perspectives, while considering how the construction of “the enemy” is gendered and racialized. We will utilize readings from various fields of study to examine historical processes of war, conflict, and displacement. We will combine diverse texts and theoretical engagements, lectures, documentary films, discussions, and class-based activities to interrogate war and notions of subjectivity, alterity, and belonging across time, place, and space.


UN3701 Latinx Racial Identity & Cultural Production

Edward Morales — Tuesdays 2:10 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The course will investigate the impact of racial identity among Latinx in the U.S. on the cultural production of Latinos in literature, media, politics, and film. The seminar will consider the impact of bilingualism, shifting racial identification, and the viability of monolithic terms like Latinx. We will see how the construction of Latinx racial identity affects acculturation in the U.S., with particular attention to hybrid identities and the centering of black and indigenous cultures. Examples will be drawn from different Latinx ethnicities from the Caribbean, Mexico, and the rest of Latin America.


UN3821 Archives of Possibility 

Frances Negron-Muntaner — Wednesdays 4:10 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

In part due to the rise of social and political movements challenging and reshaping colonial narratives about the past, the emergence of digital technologies, and unprecedented access to information, attention to archives has increased over the last decades. This course aims to familiarize students with theories, histories, and practices of archival-building as a mode of knowledge production and to explore questions regarding the relationship between archives and power. The course also examines how and under what conditions archives open up new possibilities by producing and circulating marginalized knowledge, narratives, and perspectives; promotes archival research, and familiarizes students with the basics of preservation in collaboration with the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. As part of the course, students will research Columbia’s archives and build their own as part of this process.


UN3905 Asian Americans and Psychology of Race

Motoni Hodges — Tuesdays 10:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

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.


UN3928 Colonization/Decolonization

Karl H Jacoby — Wednesdays 10:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

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.


UN3940 Constitutional Challenges

Elizabeth Ouyang — Thursdays 10:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

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. The 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 slaves, and Japanese Americans during World War II.


UN3390 Senior Project Seminar

Darius Echeverria — Wednesdays 12:10 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

The Senior Project Seminar will focus primarily on developing students’ ideas for their research projects while charting their research goals. The course is designed to develop and hone the skills necessary to complete a senior thesis paper or creative project.  An important component of the seminar is the completion of original and independent student research. The seminar provides students a forum in which to discuss their work with both the instructor and their peers.  The professor, who facilitates the colloquium, will also provide students with additional academic support through seminar presentations, one-on-one meetings, and classroom exercises; supplementary to the feedback they receive from their individual faculty advisors.  The course is divided into three main parts: 1.) researching and producing a senior project thesis; 2.) the submission of coursework throughout the spring semester that helps lead to a successful completed project; 3.) an oral presentation showcasing one’s research to those in and beyond the CSER community at the end of the academic year.  This course is reserved for seniors who are completing a CSER senior project and who have successfully completed Modes of Inquiry in either their junior or senior year.  


GU4004 Data, Race, Power, and Justice

Brian Luna Lucero — Fridays 10:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

For more than a century, scientists, policymakers, law enforcement, and government agencies have collected, curated, and analyzed data about people in order to make impactful decisions. This practice has exploded along with the computational power available to these agents. Those who design and deploy data collection, predictive analytics, and autonomous and intelligent decision-making systems claim that these technologies will remove problematic biases from consequential decisions. They aim to put a rational and objective foundation based on numbers and observations made by non-human sensors in the management of public life and to equip experts with insights that, they believe, will translate into better outcomes (health, economic, educational, judicial) for all. But these dreams and their pursuit through technology are as problematic as they are enticing. Throughout American history, data has often been used to oppress minoritized communities, manage populations, and institutionalize, rationalize, and naturalize systems of racial violence. The impersonality of data, the same quality that makes it useful, can silence voices and displace entire ways of knowing the world.


GU4005 Abolition: Theory and Practice

Matt Sandler — Mondays 4:10 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

This course will follow the idea of abolition as expressed first through the eighteenth and nineteenth-century struggle to end chattel slavery in the Americas, and then as it has come to define the struggle against over-policing and mass incarceration in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. In the first half of the class, we will consider abolition in England and its colonies, Haiti, Cuba, and the U.S. In so doing we will examine both primary sources from abolitionist print culture (narratives by fugitives from slavery, speeches, poems, and polemical tracts), as well as secondary sources by historians, literary critics, and political theorists. In the second half, we will likewise read writing by activists (some incarcerated or formerly incarcerated, and some not) alongside journalism and scholarship from the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of carceral studies. Across both periods, Black writers will take up the bulk of our attention.


GU4350 Cinema of Subversion; Global Responses to Authoritarianism

Eric Gamalinda — Thursdays 4:10 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Russian filmmaker Andre Tarkovsky said that “the artist has no right to an idea in which he is not socially committed.” Argentine filmmaker Fernando Solanas and Spanish-born Octavio Getino postulated an alternative cinema that would spur spectators to political action. In this course we will ask the question: How do authoritarian governments influence the arts, and how do artists respond? We will study how socially committed filmmakers have subverted and redefined cinema aesthetics to challenge authoritarianism and repression. In addition, we will look at how some filmmakers respond to institutional oppression, such as poverty and corruption, even within so-called “free” societies. The focus is on contemporary filmmakers but will also include earlier classics of world cinema to provide a historical perspective. The course will discuss these topics, among others: What is authoritarianism, what is totalitarianism, and what are the tools of repression within authoritarian/totalitarian societies? What is Third Cinema, and how does it represent and challenge authoritarianism? How does film navigate the opposition of censorship, propaganda, and truth? How do filmmakers respond to repressive laws concerning gender and sexual orientation? How do they deal with violence and trauma? How are memories of repressive regimes reflected in the psyche of modern cinema? And finally, what do we learn about authority, artistic vision, and about ourselves when we watch these films?


GR5001 Methods in American Studies

Jessica Lee — Tuesdays 4:10 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Conceived in the 1920’s and 1930’s, American Studies sought to make a synoptic account of the “national character.” Since the 1960s, 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.


GU4325 Abolition Medicine: Medical Racisms and Ant-Racisms

Sayantani Dasgupta — Thursdays 12:10 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

In 1935, WEB Dubois wrote about the abolition of democracy: an idea based not only on breaking down unjust systems but on building up new, antiracist social structures. Scholar activists like Angela Davis, Ruth Gilmore, and Mariame Kaba have long contended that the abolition of slavery was but one first step in ongoing abolitionist practices dismantling racialized systems of policing, surveillance, and incarceration. The possibilities of prison and police abolition have recently come into the mainstream national consciousness during the 2020 resurgence of nationwide Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests. As we collectively imagine what nonpunitive and supportive community reinvestment in employment, education, childcare, mental health, and housing might look like, medicine must be a part of these conversations. Indeed, if racist violence is a public health emergency, and we are trying to bring forth a “public health approach to public safety” – what are medicine’s responsibilities to these social and institutional reinventions? Medicine has a long and fraught history of racial violence. It was, after all, medicine and pseudoscientific inquiry that helped establish what we know as the racial categorizations of today: ways of separating human beings based on things like skin color and hair texture that were used (and often continue to be used) to justify the enslavement, exclusion, or genocide of one group of people by another. Additionally, the history of the professionalization of U.S. medicine, through the formation of medical schools and professional organizations as well as the certification of trained physicians, is a history of exclusion, with solidification of the identity of “physician” around upper-middle-class white masculinity. Indeed, the 1910 Flexner Report, whose aim was to make consistent training across the country’s medical schools, was explicit in its racism. From practices of eugenic sterilization to histories of experimentation upon bodies of color, medicine is unfortunately built upon racist, sexist, and able-ist practices. This course is built on the premise that a socially just practice of medicine is a bioethical imperative. Such a practice cannot be achieved, however, without examining medicine’s histories of racism, as well as learning from and building upon histories of anti-racist health practice. The first half of the semester will be dedicated to learning about histories of medical racism: from eugenics and racist experimentation to public health xenophobic fear-mongering. The second half of the semester will be dedicated to examining medical and grassroots anti-racist practices: from the free health clinics and hospital takeovers of the Black Panther and Young Lords Parties to environmental activism in Flint and the Sioux Rock Reservation to antiracist AIDS and COVID activism


UN1512 Battle for N. America

Michael Witgen — Tuesdays/Thursdays 1:10p.m. – 2:25 p.m.

This course will explore the struggle to control the continent of North America from an Indigenous perspective. After a century of European colonization Native peoples east of the Mississippi River Valley formed a political confederation aimed at preserving Native sovereignty. This Native confederacy emerged as a dominant force during the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812. At times Native political interests aligned with the French and British Empires, but remained in opposition to the expansion of Anglo-American colonial settlements into Indian country. This course is designed to engage literature and epistemology surrounding these New World conflicts as a means of the colonial and post-colonial past in North America. We will explore the emergence of intersecting indigenous and European national identities tied to the social construction of space and race. In this course, I will ask you to re-think American history by situating North America as a Native space, a place that was occupied and controlled by indigenous peoples. You will be asked to imagine a North America that was indigenous and adaptive, and not necessarily destined to be absorbed by European settler colonies. Accordingly, this course will explore the intersections of European colonial settlement and Euro-American national expansion, alongside of the emergence of indigenous social formations that dominated the western interior until the middle of the 19th century. This course is intended to be a broad history of Indigenous North America during a tumultuous period, but close attention will be given to the use and analysis of primary source evidence. Similarly, we will explore the necessity of using multiple genres of textual evidence – archival documents, oral history, material artifacts, etc., — when studying indigenous history


UN3501 Indians and Empires in North America

Michael Witgen — Wednesdays 4:10 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

In this course, you will be asked to re-think American history. That is, we will approach the history of America as a continental history. This will require that we think of North America as a New World space, a place that was inhabited and occupied by indigenous peoples, and then remade by the arrival and settlement of Europeans. You will be asked to imagine a North America that was indigenous and adaptive, as well as colonial and Euro-American. This approach to the study of North American history is designed to challenge the epistemology and literature of the history of colonization and American expansion, which displaces Native peoples from the central narrative of American history by placing them at the physical margins of colonial and national development. Instead, we will explore the intersection and integration of indigenous and Euro-American national identity and national space in North America and trace their co-evolution from first contact through the early nineteenth-century


GR6068 Reckoning with Asian America

Jennifer Lee — Mondays 2:10 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

It took the mass murder of six Asian women in Atlanta on March 16, 2021, to draw national attention to what Asian Americans have been warning about since the wake of COVID-19: a surge in anti-Asian violence and hate. Since the onset of the coronavirus, 1 in 8 Asian American adults experienced a hate incident, and 1 in 7 Asian American women worry all the time about being victimized, reflecting an under-recognized legacy of anti-Asian violence, bigotry, misogyny, and discrimination in the United States that dates back more than 150 years. Drawing on research and readings from the social sciences, this course links the past to the present in order to understand this legacy, and how it continues to affect Asian Americans today

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