Fall 2016

AMST-111 Global Valley

Drawing on a wide range of primary materials, and taking advantage of the ease of visiting the sites of many of the topics we study, this course offers an introduction to American Studies through an exploration of the Connecticut River Valley that stresses both the fascination of detailed local history and the economic, political, social, and cultural networks that tie this place to the world. Topics may include conflicts and accommodations between Native peoples and English settlers; changing uses of land and resources; seventeenth-century witchcraft trials; the American Revolution and Shays rebellion; religious revivalism of the Great Awakening; abolitionist and other nineteenth- century reform movements; tourism and the scenic including Thomas Cole's famous painting of the oxbow; immigration, industrialization and deindustrialization, especially in the cities of Holyoke and Springfield; educational institutions and innovations; the cold war, the reach of the "military industrial complex" into local educational institutions, and "the bunker"; the sanctuary movement; feminist and gay activism; present environmental, mass incarceration, and other social equity issues; and of course, Emily Dickinson's poetry.

Limited to 20 students per section. Admission by consent of the instructor.  Professors Couvares and Sanchez-Eppler.  If Overenrolled: Let students register and if over-enrolled preference given to majors, and first and second year students as this is an introductory course.


AMST-265/SOCI-265 Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class and Gender in the United States

This class explores the ways in which race, class, gender and immigration status shape children’s lives. We begin by conceptualizing childhood as a social construct whose meaning has changed over time and that varies across context; for class privileged individuals, for example, childhood or adolescence may extend into the third decade of life, whereas for “others,” poverty and/or family responsibilities and community struggles may mean it scarcely exists at all. The bulk of the course draws from ethnographic scholarship focused on the relationship between childhood and inequality in key institutional contexts including school, family and the legal system. Through ethnography, we will critically examine the ways in which inequalities among and between groups of children shape their daily life experiences, aspirations and opportunities, and what this means for overall trends of inequality in the United States.

Limited to 35 students.  Professor Schmalzbauer.  If Overenrolled: Priority given to sociology majors then first and second year students


ARHA-308 Make it Public: Art and Social Practice

This studio course will introduce the field of Social Practice and provide an opportunity for students to develop artistic projects in the public sphere that engage with people or place. Interdisciplinary in nature, Social Practice encompasses work as diverse as interventions, utopian proposals, guerrilla architecture, project-based community practice, art and activism, collaborations, social sculpture, interactive media and street performance. Students will be assisted with and encouraged to envision their chosen discipline as a public practice, or to experiment with a new discipline and will be encouraged to collaborate with each other and with outside community groups.

To provide context and inspiration, the course will introduce key historical movements that set the stage for contemporary definitions of Social Practice. Presentations and guest artists will provide a survey of compelling projects, collectives, and artists working in the field today. Assigned readings will ask students to examine the field (and their projects) critically. In-class discussions will examine Social Practice's shifting definitions and methods, along with its distinct challenges in regards to ethics, aesthetics, institutionalization, instrumentalization and meaning.

Students will each conceive, plan and implement a Social Practice project (or in-depth proposal) with a broad focus on unknown stories about the place where the student now lives (its history, current issues, diverse communities).

Requisite: Nomination by the art departments of each of the Five Colleges. Limited to 15 students, with spaces reserved for 3 students from each of the Five Colleges. Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Herman.


ARHA-441/FAMS-441 Documentary Production

Intended for advanced film/video production students, this course will explore creative documentary practice through readings, weekly screenings and production assignments. Each student will complete a series of projects working both as a single maker and in collaboration with other members of the class. Topics may include: shooting the interview; scripting, performance and reenactment; history and narrativity; place and space; ethnography and the “embedded” filmmaker. We will also host visiting filmmakers and, where possible, visit a cultural institution which supports and screens cutting-edge documentary work.

The course will be taught annually but will focus on a set of revolving themes and issues that inform contemporary documentary filmmaking and the critical discourse that surrounds it. The theme for fall 2016 will be “Places and Spaces.”  One 3-hour class (some of which will include field shooting and research trips) and one evening screening each week.

Requisite: A prior 200-level production course or relevant experience (to be discussed with the instructor in advance of the first class). Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor Levine.  If Overenrolled: Priority will be given to FAMS and ARHA majors, then attention will be given to achieving a mix of majors and Five College participation


ECON-111 Introduction to Economics with Environmental Applications

A study of the central problem of scarcity and of the ways in which the U.S. economic system allocates scarce resources among competing ends and apportions the goods produced among people. Two 80-minute and one 50-minute lecture/discussion per week.

Requisite for all other courses in Economics. Limited to 35 Amherst College students fall semester: Professors Rabinovich, Raymond and Westhoff. Limited to 30 Amherst College students spring semester: Professors Ishii, Theoharides and Westhoff.  If Overenrolled: Drop students who do not attend the first two classes and admit students from a waiting list.


ENGL-120 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

Students, as part of the work of the course, each week will tutor or lead discussions among a small group of students at Holyoke High School. The readings for the course will be essays, poems, autobiographies, and stories in which education and teaching figure centrally. Among these will be materials that focus directly on Holyoke and on one or another of the ethnic groups which have shaped its history. Students will write weekly and variously: critical essays, journal entries, ethnographies, etc. Readings for the course will include works by Sylvia Ashton-Warner, James Baldwin, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Dewey, Jonathan Kozol, Herbert Kohl, Sarah Lightfoot, John Stuart Mill, Abraham Rodriguez, Esmeralda Santiago, and Patricia Williams. Two class meetings per week plus an additional workshop hour and a weekly morning teaching assistantship to be scheduled in Holyoke.

Limited to 20 students.  Professor B. Sánchez-Eppler.  If Overenrolled: Pre-registered students have priority.


ENGL-355 Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson’s poetry is rich in what she called “illocality.”  Her writing characteristically dissolves images and refuses all specificity of place or event, and yet no writer is more intimately connected to a single particular place. Dickinson wrote almost all of her poems within this one house on Main Street in Amherst. We will have the extraordinary opportunity to read these poems here, to study both her individual life and her practices of literary expression in the place where she lived and wrote and with access to many of the artifacts and records of family and local history. We will study Dickinson’s biography, her poetic practices, and her historical context.  In exploring the social and political situation of her poetry we will pay particular attention to local materials and history. Most class meetings will be held in the Dickinson Homestead and coursework will include projects of use to the Dickinson Museum.

Limited to 12 students.  Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.  If Overenrolled: Preference given to English majors, and beyond that to those who still need to meet the major requirement for 300-level courses.


ENST-280 Organic Farming: Politics and Practice

What is organic farming and why does it matter?  What does organic farming mean in practice and how does it compare to conventional farming?  Is there a difference between organic and non-organic food crops?  By delving into the politics and practice of organic farming, this course will examine these and many other questions.  The structure of the class will revolve around (i) readings, response papers and discussions examining what organic farming is and why it matters in our contemporary U.S. food production landscape, and (ii) experiential learning opportunities at Book & Plow farm.  Weekly readings, discussions and written responses will span four major themes, including:  (1) the history of U.S. agribusiness; (2) the social and environmental dimensions of conventional farming; (3) the rise of organic farming, what it means and why it matters in relation to conventional farming; and (4) the cultural politics of food in the U.S.  In addition to response papers, students will be responsible for producing group projects and presentations on the deliverable of their choosing.

Requisite: ENST 120 or permission of the instructor.  Limited to 35 students. Pick Visiting Professor Stewart.  If Overenrolled: Preference given to majors, then 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st year studentS.


FYSE-101 Amherst Poets

Amherst has an unusually rich literary heritage:  from Emily Dickinson to Robert Frost; Sylvia Plath to Richard Wilbur; James Merrill to Elizabeth Alexander; many of America’s most treasured poets have called this area home.  This introductory course is designed to welcome students who have not previously taken a college-level English course into the literary environment of Amherst, and from there, into the global community of poetry readers. How does our experience of living in Amherst change how we might read the poetry that was written here?  In turn, how might reading this poetry deepen our experience more broadly?

We will explore how poetry can mediate the relationship between interior and exterior worlds, between real and imagined communities, and between private and public spheres.  We will make sustained use of the local resources available to us, discuss manuscript versions of poems held at Amherst’s Frost Library and at Smith College, meet with David Sofield and Daniel Hall, poets writing and teaching on the Amherst College campus today, and attend a poetry reading at the Smith Poetry Center. Students will also work to give something back to our literary community as part of their own learning process. We will make several trips to the Emily Dickinson Museum and attend to the intersections between Dickinson’s poetry and the spaces she wrote in.  Students will work closely with the director of public programs at the museum to produce audio and digital guides specially designed for disabled visitors to the museum.  Finally, the class will collaborate on an event in celebration of Amherst poets, hosted by the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst College.

No prior experience of poetry will be assumed.  Limited to 12 students.  Professor Worsley.  If Overenrolled: Dean handles this.


FYSE-122 Representing Equality

This seminar is part of an on-going campus conversation about building community out of diversity and considering how equality is essential to that goal.  Recently, many communities have had to respond to incidents of aggressive disrespect directed against specific racial, sexual or religious groups. This year, the debate around transgender bathrooms has taken such discussions in a new direction. As more and more people address the multiple and fluid ways in which they define themselves, the focus has shifted from an emphasis on accommodation to considering how these differences can become a tool for reshaping our communities.  Difference can be sources of tension as well as a resource for learning and growth between people. We will look at examples of the former and work towards creating the conditions for the latter. 

We will read essays and works of fiction drawn from a variety of disciplines that consider campus diversity in the U.S. in the context of other spaces where scarcity and struggle have led to exciting new ways of exploring difference and creating dialogue. We will also view a number of films and art works. Visiting artist Zanele Muholi, a renowned South African photographer and visual activist, will work with us on our final project, a representation of ourselves and members of the LGBT community in photographs and text.

 Professor Cobham-Sander and Visiting Artist-in-Residence Ewald.  If Overenrolled: Dean handles this.


FYSE-125 Giving

The act of giving can appear deceptively straight forward and entirely altruistic.  But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “We wish to be self-sustained.  We do not quite forgive a giver.”  In this seminar we will examine the act of giving–giving between people, between institutions and people, and entirely between institutions–from an inter-disciplinary lens to reflect on what it means to give. We will intentionally reveal and challenge our initial assumptions about giving.  Using a variety of texts in class–religious, literary, first-person accounts, and public policy, we will explore the diverse forms philanthropy has taken over time and across cultures–its philosophical underpinnings, its complex interrelationships with religious notions of charity and secular notions of democracy, and its often paradoxical effects on social relations and public policy.  Each student will be asked to spend at least 10 hours working with a local charity organization.

The work with a local charity will be undertaken with careful attention to the ethical questions that are raised by this work. We will also view it as one more text that is accessible to analysis and meaning making. The course will begin and end with the same assignment–a reflective essay in which each student develops his or her personal framework for giving. It is anticipated that the texts and class discussions will influence the evolution of this framework and, hence, the robustness of the final essay.  Along the way, class discussions, readings, and short papers will help students develop their skills as readers, writers and thinkers. 

Lecturer Mead.


GEOL-301 Hydrogeology

As the global human population expands, the search for and preservation of our most important resource, water, will demand societal vigilance and greater scientific understanding. This course is an introduction to surface and groundwater hydrology and geochemistry in natural systems, providing fundamental concepts aimed at the understanding and management of the hydrosphere. The course is divided into two roughly equal parts: surface and groundwater hydrology, and aqueous geochemistry. In the first section, we will cover the principal concepts of physical hydrogeology including watershed analysis and groundwater modeling. In the second half, we will integrate the geochemistry of these systems addressing both natural variations and the human impact on our environment. Three hours of lecture and three hours of lab or field trip each week.

Requisite: GEOL 111 or consent of the instructor.  Professor Martini.


MUSI-428 Seminary in Popular Music: Popular Music and Cultural Identity

Music often serves as one of the primary ways that we create and maintain identities. Our social groups--peers, colleagues, acquaintances--are often determined by shared affinities for specific musical styles, artists, and the world views they come to represent. Yet music is also frequently used to catalyze various forms of social and political activism, challenge our relationship to society and structures of power, and initiate change. This seminar explores the nature of popular music and its relationship to culture, politics, and identity. The first part of the course surveys the discourse of popular music studies and the various trends in cultural studies that have prompted new ways of examining the relationship between popular music and social and cultural identities. We will use this theoretical landscape to analyze an array of popular music cultures in and beyond the United States. The second part of the course focuses on developing multifaceted research projects that put these theories to use. Students will be encouraged to combine ethnographic research (interviews, location-based research) with historical and critical analysis to generate a unique, personal project exploring the relationship between music and identity. Two class meetings per week. Fulfills either the departmental seminar requirement or the comprehensive exam requirement for the major.

Requisite: MUSI 111 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Professor Robinson.  If Overenrolled: If over-enrolled, priority will be given to majors, seniors, and juniors.


POSC-136 Regulating Citizenship

This course considers a fundamental issue that faces all democratic societies: How do we decide when and whether to include or exclude individuals from the rights and privileges of citizenship? In the context of immigration policy, this is an issue of state power to control boundaries and preserve national identity. The state also exercises penal power that justifies segregating and/or denying privileges to individuals faced with criminal sanctions. Citizenship is regulated not only through the direct exercise of force by the state, but also by educational systems, social norms, and private organizations. Exclusion is also the result of poverty, disability, and discrimination based on gender, race, age, and ethnic identity. This course will describe and examine the many forms of exclusion and inclusion that occur in contemporary democracies and raise questions about the purpose and justice of these processes. We will also explore models of social change that would promote more inclusive societies. This course will be conducted inside a correctional facility and enroll an equal number of Amherst students and residents of the facility. Permission to enroll will be granted on the basis of a questionnaire and interview with the instructor. Preference will be given to political science majors. If space is available, first-year students will be admitted during the add/drop period.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Professor Bumiller. If Overenrolled: Preference will be given to political science majors and to students who attend all class meetings before the end of the Add/Drop period.


PSYC-236 Psychology of Aging

An introduction to the psychology of aging. Course material will focus on the behavioral changes which occur during the normal aging process. Age differences in learning, memory, perceptual and intellectual abilities will be investigated. In addition, emphasis will be placed on the neural correlates and cognitive consequences of disorders of aging such as Alzheimer’s disease. Course work will include systematic and structured observation within a local facility for the elderly.

Requisite: PSYC 100  or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 20 students.  Professor Raskin.  If Overenrolled: Favor majors.


SOCI-226 Unequal Footprints on the Earth: Understanding the Social Drivers of Ecological Crises and Environmental Inequality

Creating a more sustainable relationship between human society and the rest of nature requires changing the way we relate to one another as humans. This course will explain why, while answering a number of associated questions and introducing the exciting and engaged field of environmental sociology. We study the anthropogenic drivers of environmental change from an interdisciplinary and historical perspective to make sense of pressing socio-ecological issues, including climate change, sustainability and justice in global food production, the disproportionate location of toxic waste disposal in communities of color, biodiversity loss, desertification, freshwater pollution and unequal access, the accumulation and trade in electronic waste, the ecological footprint of the Internet, and more. We examine how these issues are linked to broad inequalities within society, which are reflected in, and exacerbated by, persistent problems with environmental racism, the unaddressed legacies of colonialism, and other contributors to environmental injustice worldwide. Industrialization and the expansionary tendencies of the modern economic system receive particular attention, as these continue to be central factors promoting ecological change. Throughout the course a hopeful perspective in the face of such interrelated challenges is encouraged as we study promising efforts and movements that emphasize both ecological restoration and achievement of a more just, democratic world.

Course readings include foundational texts in environmental sociology, as well as the most current research on course topics. Writing and research assignments allow for the development of in-depth analyses of social and environmental issues relevant to students' community, everyday life, personal experience, and concerns.

Limited to 25 students.  Professor Holleman.  If Overenrolled: Priority will be given to students in Anthropology and Sociology and Environmental Studies, with space reserved for undeclared freshmen and sophomores.


SOCI-337 Dilemmas of Diversity: The Case of Higher Education

In this course, we will focus on the diversification of higher education. We will pay particular attention to efforts made by selective liberal arts colleges and universities to open their doors to students disadvantaged by barriers of racial discrimination and excluded by the means of class privilege. We will critically interrogate the concept of diversity and its implementation, paying attention to both successes and problems. Among these problems is the gap between a diversity promised and a diversity delivered.

We will employ sociological theories and concepts to explore this gap, the dilemmas it presents, and the cultural strategies that have emerged in response to them. Situating contemporary efforts of selective colleges and universities to diversify in historical context, we will pay particular attention to broader transformation of racial and class discourse in the United States in the post civil rights era, including federal efforts to address discrimination, Supreme Court decisions regarding race-based admissions policy, changes in corporate personnel policies, the rise of “colorblind” rhetoric, growing economic inequality, and the expansion of neoliberal policies and practices in higher education today. Drawing on this context, we will assess the strengths and weakness of diversity initiatives that have been put into place, the patterns of cultural change occurring on campuses, and the role social difference can play in constructing alternatives to inclusive communities as we presently envision them.

Students will be encouraged to work collaboratively and will employ a variety of methods to document systematically the current state of diversity on their respective campuses.

Requisite: SOCI 112 or equivalent. Limited to 15 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professor Lembo.  If Overenrolled: senior and junior majors, then seniors, juniors, etc.


THDA-111 The Language of Movement

An introduction to movement as a language and to dance and performance composition. In studio sessions students will explore and expand their individual movement vocabularies by working improvisationally with weight, posture, gesture, patterns, rhythm, space, and relationship of body parts. We will ask what these vocabularies might communicate about emotion, thought, physical structures, cultural/social traditions, and aesthetic preferences. In addition, we will observe movement practices in everyday situations and in formal performance events and use these observations as inspiration for individual and group compositions. Two two-hour class/studio meetings and a two-hour production workshop per week. Selected readings and viewing of video and live performance.

Limited to 20 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Professor Woodson. If Overenrolled: class list will be finalized after first meeting.


THDA-353/FAMS-345 Performance Studio

In this advanced course in the techniques of creating performance, each student will create and rehearse a performance piece that develops and incorporates original choreography, text, music, sounds and / or video. Improvisational and collaborative structures and approaches among and within different media will be investigated.  The final performance pieces will be presented in the Holden Theater. 

Two ninety-minute class sessions per week.  There will be weekly mandatory showings.  These showings are a working document of the important and necessary vicissitudes within a creative process.   

Requisite: THDA 252 or the equivalent and consent of the instructor. Professor Woodson.