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Amherst College Special Seminar for 2010-11

Colloquium

20 Media, Culture and Global Citizenship

(Offered as COLQ 20 at Amherst College and COMM 397A at the University of Massachusetts.)  This course examines different forms of belonging in the modern nation state, and the range of symbolic modes and genres for expressing (and refusing) belonging.  What does it mean to be a national?  What is the difference between nationality and citizenship?  What rights and obligations does citizenship entail?  The First Amendment guarantees the right of citizens to freedom of expression, at the same time that a range of institutions and strategies limit those rights.  We will explore those limits, along with the literacies demanded by citizenship (including those that familiar models of citizenship ignore, such as popular cultural practices and readings).  We will also consider the ways in which new communication technologies have affected how people imagine the communities to which they belong.

Limited to 50 students:  25 from Amherst College and 25 from the University of Massachusetts.  Spring semester.  To be taught at Amherst College.  Professor O’Connell and Professor Henderson of the University of Massachusetts.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Spring 2011

21 Catastrophic Communities

What becomes of communities and individuals in a catastrophe?  How are they destroyed, rebuilt, transformed, challenged and imagined?  What does it mean to grasp an event as catastrophic in the first place? This course approaches these questions from multiple vantage points in order to explore how a catastrophic event makes and unmakes the world.  Over the course of the semester, we will examine a number of catastrophes—natural and man-made, sudden and gradual: the Cherokee Removal (Trail of Tears); the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake; World War I (the Battle of the Somme); World War II (the Holocaust, the London Blitz, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki); the Kennedy assassination; the space shuttle Challenger explosion; Chernobyl; the September 11 terrorist attacks; and Hurricane Katrina. We will consider the different kinds of social formations that arise or are destroyed in disaster and think critically about what it means to be both an individual and part of a collective in times of unprecedented upheaval.  Because catastrophe’s shocks are felt, represented and addressed in a range of disciplines and discourses, our readings will span works of literature (Graham Greene, Virginia Woolf, Albert Camus, Georges Perec), legal opinions, critical and theoretical texts (Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster, Jonathan Lear’s Radical Hope, Geoff Dyer’s The Missing of the Somme, Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell), as well as essays by Orwell, Freud and John Berger and at least one film.

Limited to 25 students. Spring Semester. Visiting Professor Reichman.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011

32 Cities, Schools, and Space

In America, a child’s address, more than any other factor, often determines what kind of public education he or she will receive. A complex set of historical forces including local and federal housing policies, mortgage lending practices, highway construction, and school districting have channeled particular economic, racial, ethnic, and linguistic groups into particular neighborhoods, where many remain today. And because public schools are funded by local property taxes and influenced by neighborhood boundaries, they often become harnessed to a narrative of inequality. Yet recent Supreme Court rulings have severely circumscribed the strategies communities might employ to disrupt the linkage between residence and educational opportunity. This research seminar blends urban history with educational policy to explore how spatial relationships have shaped educational opportunity since World War II. It will investigate a range of historical, legal, and contemporary issues relevant to both the segregation and desegregation of American cities and their public schools in the twentieth century. Class meetings will alternate between seminar-style discussion and an intensive, hands-on study of one particular community – Cambridge, Massachusetts – noteworthy for the innovative strategies it has utilized to desegregate its public schools. This course involves a significant research component designed to expose students to a range of approaches including archival analysis and oral interviews. In particular, students will learn to utilize geographic information systems (GIS) to visualize the spatial evolution of inequality in urban communities like Cambridge and to analyze past, present, and future strategies to equalize educational opportunity in American cities. Because this course provides an intensive research experience, enrollment is limited to six students. 

Only open to juniors. Professor Moss and Dr. Anderson. Spring Semester.

 

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014

33 Advanced Topics in Latin America's Political Economy

This course is part of a new model of tutorials at Amherst designed to enable students to engage in substantive research with faculty.  It is open to juniors interested in developing a senior thesis project on any topic pertaining to Latin America's political economy.  The objective of the tutorial is to help students identify a researchable topic, master the relevant literature, develop a viable research design, learn to formulate causal arguments and address rival hypotheses, and finally, become comfortable with the academic practice of revising and resubmitting.  Each student is free to choose his or her topic of inquiry, after close consultation with the instructor and other participants.  Students are expected to work independently and meet jointly once a week to discuss progress.  At various points during the semester, students should also be prepared to share their work, orally or in writing, with everyone else in the course.  Final requirements will vary depending on the selected project and may include developing a thesis prospectus; writing a literature review; researching a topic in close collaboration with the instructor; collecting, analyzing and presenting data.  Pre-requisite:  the course is open only to juniors in Political Science who have a proven interest in pursuing independent research on Latin America's political economy. 

Enrollment limit: 6.  Professor Corrales. Spring Semester.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011

34 America's Death Penalty

The United States, almost alone among constitutional democracies, retains death as a criminal punishment.  It does so in the face of growing international presssure for abolition and of evidence that the system for deciding who lives and who dies is fraught with error.  This seminar is designed to expose students to America's death penalty as a researchable subject.  It will be organized to help students understand how research is framed in this area, analyze theories and approaches of death penalty researchers, and identify open questions and most promising lines of future research.  It will focus on the following dimensions of America's death penalty:  its history, current status, public support/opposition, the processing of capital cases in the criminal justice system, race and capital punishment, and its impact and efficacy.  During the seminar, each student will develop a prospectus for a research project on America's death penalty.

Limited to 6 sophomores.  Spring semester.  Professor Sarat.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011

35 Concepts and Representations of Fortuna in Ancient Rome

The primary goal of this course is to improve sophomores’ ability to conduct personal and original research, starting from the Roman understanding of fortuna. A supernatural power bringing pleasant or unpleasant surprises, a mysterious entity whose strokes can be skillfully tempered but never quite avoided, a capricious deity to be feared, respected, and at times worshipped, a force to which even gods and goddesses are subjected, and a notion which affected Roman religion, literature, figurative arts, politics, and history, fortuna provides both a unique window into Roman civilization and a fascinating unitary focus for interdisciplinary research. How was the Romans’ view of the forces that governed their world different from that of other Western civilizations? How did their understanding of fortuna affect their view on justice, and how did it shape their mapping of civic, ethical, psychological, and religious systems? Students will be encouraged to formulate questions in pursuit of their specific interests, to investigate and weigh conflicting explanations, to launch and test hypotheses, while drawing connections between disciplines and cultures and becoming familiar with the tools and methods of research.

No knowledge of Latin is required, and enrollment will be limited to 4. Professor Grillo. Spring Semester.

2015-16: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011
 

Colloquium