Courses

The following is from the 2013/14 catalogue. View the 2014/15 Vassar College Catalogue.

I. Introductory

106a and b. Perspectives in International Studies (1)

An introduction to the varied perspectives from which an interdependent world can be approached. Themes which the course may address are nationalism and the formation of national identity, state violence and war, immigration, religion, modernization, imperialism, colonialism and postcolonialism, indigenous groups, cultural relativism, and human rights. These themes are explored by examining the experiences of different geographic areas. This multidisciplinary course uses texts from the social sciences and the humanities. Mr. Kennett.

The particular themes and geographic areas selected, and the disciplinary approaches employed, vary with the faculty teaching the course.

This course is required for all International Studies majors. Sophomores and freshmen should take this course if they are interested in pursuing an International Studies major.

110b. International Study Travel (1)

Normally the study trip takes place in the spring semester break. Enrollment for the trip is made early in the first semester. The course, which is taught in conjunction with the study trip, provides a systematic multidisciplinary introduction to the social cultural, religious, historical, geographic, political and economic aspects of the place of travel. The precise disciplinary foci of the trip varies depending on the faculty leading the trip and teaching the course. Language instruction is required when appropriate.The department.

122. Tradition, Religion, Modernity: A History of North Africa and the Middle East (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 122) This course provides an introduction to the modern history of the Middle East and North Africa covering the period from the end of the eighteenth century until the present. The aim is to trace the genealogy of sociopolitical reform movements across this period of the history of North Africa and The Middle East. The course is designed to familiarize students with major themes spanning the colonial encounter, the rise of nationalisms, and postcolonial nation-building.

Our inquiry includes an examination of the rise of political Islam as well as the contemporary popular revolutions sweeping through the region at the moment.

Our goal is to achieve a better understanding of the culmination and collision of the historical trends of tradition religion and modernity and their manifestation in the ongoing Arab Spring. Mr. Hojairi.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2013/14.

II. Intermediate

210a. International Social Movements and Revolution in the Modern World (1)

Why have forms of protest, once common---grain riots, social banditry, and nomadic raiding---generally declined while strikes, demonstrations and terrorist bombings have all increased? Why do some social movements express collective grievances through demonstrations and rallies while others turn to suicide bombings? What is a revolution and how would we know one if we saw it? What is the future of social movements and revolutions in an age of globalization? Using the work of historians but also of anthropologists and sociologists this course examines social movements and revolution from the urban artisans of the French revolution who supported the Terror to peaceful demonstrators in modern day Argentina. We will explore how the identity, goals, and techniques of popular contention have changed over the last two centuries. Mr. Hanagan.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2013/14.

222. Urban Political Economy (1)

(Same as Urban Studies 222) This course employs the multidisciplinary lens of political economy to analyze economic development, social inequality, and political conflict in contemporary cities. Why do people and resources tend to concentrate in cities? How does the urban landscape promote and constrain political conflict and distribute economic and social rewards? The course develops an analytical framework to make sense of a variety of urban complexities, including poverty, segregation, suburban sprawl, the provision of affordable housing, global migration, and the effects of neoliberalism on rich and poor cities throughout the world. Mr. Koechlin.

Not offered in 2013/14.

235a. Ending Deadly Conflict (1)

(Same as History 235) This course uses historical case studies to identify practical ways to end conflict and build sustainable peace. It is concerned with the vulnerability of the weak, failed and collapsed states, with post conflict periods that have reignited into violence, and problems of mediating conflicts that are unusually resistant to resolution. Of particular interest will be the role that third party intermediaries and global governance institutions have played in bringing about a negotiated end to violence. Major topics may include: the Paris Peace Accords, South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commissions, the Good Friday Agreement, Israel-Palestine negotiations, the Dayton Peace Accords ending the Balkans wars, and negotiations to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Brigham.

Two 75-minute periods.

238a. Environmental China: Nature, Culture, and Development (1)

(Same as Asian Studies and Geography 238) China is commonly seen in the West as a sad example, even the culprit, of global environmental ills. Besides surpassing the United States to be the world’s largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, China also experiences widespread pollution of its air, soil and water--arguably among the worst in the world. Yet, few will dispute the fact that China holds the key for the future global environment as it emerges as the largest economy on earth. This course examines China’s environments as created by and mediated through historical, cultural, political, economic and social forces both internal and external to the country. Moving away from prevailing caricatures of a "toxic" China, the course studies Chinese humanistic traditions, which offer rich and deep lessons on how the environment has shaped human activities and vice versa. We examine China’s long-lasting intellectual traditions on human/environmental interactions; diversity of environmental practices rooted in its ecological diversity; environmental tensions resulting from rapid regional development and globalization in the contemporary era; and most recently, the social activism and innovation of green technology in China. Ms. Zhou.

Two 75-minute periods.

241b. Topics in the Construction of Gender (1)

This course examines the construction of gender as a social category and introduces students to various methodologies of gender studies and feminist analysis. Particular attention is given to the connections between gender, class, race, sex, and sexual identity. Topics vary from year to year and may include the study of gender in the context of a particular historical period, medicine and science, or the arts and literature. May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Not offered in 2013/14.

242b. Brazil: Society, Culture, and Environment in Portuguese America (1)

(Same as Africana Studies, Geography, and Latin American and Latino/a Studies 242) Brazil, long Latin America's largest and most populous country, has become an industrial and agricultural powerhouse with increasing political-economic clout in global affairs. This course examines Brazil's contemporary evolution in light of the country's historical geography, the distinctive cultural and environmental features of Portuguese America, and the political-economic linkages with the outside world. Specific topics for study include: the legacies of colonial Brazil; race relations, Afro-Brazilian culture, and ethnic identities; issues of gender, youth, violence, and poverty; processes of urban-industrial growth; regionalism and national integration; environmental conservation and sustainability; continuing controversies surrounding the occupation of Amazonia; and long-run prospects for democracy and equitable development in Brazil. Mr. Godfrey.

Two 75-minute periods.

249b. National Model United Nations (1)

Prepares students to participate in the National Model United Nations in New York City. Students represent a country, research its history, its political, economic and social systems, and its foreign policy. There is also a comprehensive evaluation of the UN system, and the role of states and non-state actors, such as NGOs. Participation in the Model United Nations simulation occurs in the spring. Mr. Reitano.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Application is required early in the fall term. >br>

One 4-hour period.

250b. Language and Early/Late Globalizations (1)

How have early global (colonial) and late global (post- or neo-colonial) states formulated language policies, and to what degree have their subjects conformed to or resisted these attempts? How does language use relate to the notion of belonging to globalized colonial, national, and local domains? This course offers a survey of anthropological, historical, and linguistic approaches to these questions through a consideration of language contact in colonial and neo-colonial situations, a comparison of linguistic policies upheld by empires, nation-states and transnational processes, and the conflict between language policy and local linguistic ideologies. The course addresses case studies from the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia that cover the range between institutional language reform and individual strategies of accommodation and resistance as they relate to early and contemporary forms of global expansion from the 16th century onwards. Mr. Tavárez.

Two 75 minute periods.

251a. Global Feminism (1)

(Same as Women's Studies 251) The course focuses on several different forms of work that women , mostly in Third World countries, do in order to earn their livelihood within the circuits of the contemporary global economy. The types of work we examine include factory work, home-based work, sex work, office work, care work, informal sector work and agricultural labor. We consider how these forms of work both benefit and burden women, and how women's work interacts with gender roles, reinforcing or transforming them. We also consider some of the general aspects of economic globalization and how it affects poor working women; migration within and across national borders, urbanization, the spread of a culture of consumption, and ecological devastation. Ms. Narayan.

Two 75-minute periods.

252a. Cities of the Global South: Urbanization and Social Change in the Developing World (1)

(Same as Geography and Urban Studies 252) The largest and fastest wave of urbanization in human history is now underway in the Global South—the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Most of the world’s urban population already resides here, where mega-cities now reach massive proportions. Despite widespread economic dynamism, high rates of urbanization and deprivation often coincide, so many of the 21st century’s greatest challenges will arise in the Global South. This course examines postcolonial urbanism, global-city and ordinary-city theories, informal settlements and slums, social and environmental justice, and urban design, planning, and governance. We study scholarly, journalistic, and film depictions of Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro in Latin America; Algiers and Lagos in Africa; Cairo and Istanbul in the Middle East; and Beijing and Mumbai in Asia. Mr. Godfrey.

Prerequisite: a previous Geography or Urban Studies course.

Two 75-minute periods.

255b. Global Political Economy (1)

(Same as Latin American and Latino/a Studies 255) This course explores competing visions of economic globalization, and uses these distinct frameworks to analyze the meaning, causes, extent, and consequences of globalization, with a particular focus on the relationships among global, national and local economic phenomena. What do we mean by globalization? What are the effects of globalization on growth, inequality, and the environment? How might international economic policy and the particular form(s) of globalization that it promotes help to explain the pace and form of urbanization? Who benefits from globalization, and who might be hurt? Why do economists and others disagree about the answers to these and related questions? This course explores some of the ways that interdisciplinary analysis might enrich our understanding of economic globalization. Mr. Koechlin.

Two 75-minute periods.

256. Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism (1)

(Same as Africana Studies and Political Science 256) Conflicts over racial, ethnic and/or national identity continue to dominate headlines in diverse corners of the world. Whether referring to ethnic violence in Bosnia or Sri Lanka, racialized political tensions in Sudan and Fiji, the treatment of Roma (Gypsies) and Muslims in Europe, or the charged debates about immigration policy in the United States, cultural identities remain at the center of politics globally. Drawing upon multiple theoretical approaches, this course explores the related concepts of race, ethnicity and nationalism from a comparative perspective using case studies drawn from around the world and across different time periods. Mr. Mampilly.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2013/14.

260a. International Relations of the Third World: Bandung to 9/11 (1)

(Same as Africana Studies and Political Science 260) Whether referred to as the "Third World," or other variants such as the "Global South," the "Developing World," the "G-77," the "Non-Aligned Movement," or the "Post- colonial World," a certain unity has long been assumed for the multitude of countries ranging from Central and South America, across Africa to much of Asia. Is it valid to speak of a Third World? What were/are the connections between countries of the Third World? What were/are the high and low points of Third World solidarity? And what is the relationship between the First and Third Worlds? Drawing on academic and journalistic writings, personal narratives, music, and film, this course explores the concept of the Third World from economic, political and cultural perspectives. Beginning shortly after the end of colonialism, we examine the trajectory of the Third World in global political debates through the end of the Cold War and start of the War on Terror. Mr. Mampilly.

Two 75-minute periods.

261. "The Nuclear Cage": Environmental Theory and Nuclear Power (1)

(Same as Environmental Studies and Sociology 261) The central aim of this course is to explore debates about the interaction between beings, including humans, animals, plants, and the earth within the context of advanced capitalism by concentrating on the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of nuclear power. The first question concerning the class is how does Environmental Theory approach nuclear power and its impact on the environment. The second question deals with how this construction interacts with other forms of debate regarding nuclear power, especially concentrating on the relation between science, market and the state in dealing with nature, and how citizens formulate and articulate their understanding of nuclear power through social movements. Ms. Batur.

Not offered in 2013/14.

266a. Population, Environment and Sustainable Development (1)

(Same as Geography 266) Concerns about human population are integral to debates about matters of political stability, socio-economic equity, ecological sustainability, and human wellbeing. This course engages these debates via an examination of environmental change, power and inequality, and technology and development. Case studies include: water supplies, fishing and agriculture and the production of foodstuffs. Being a geography course, it highlights human-“nature” relations, spatial distribution and difference, and the dynamic connections between places and regions. Mr. Lindner.

Two 75-minute periods.

275b. International and Comparative Education (1)

(Same as Asian Studies and Education 275) This course provides an overview of comparative education theory, practice, and research methodology. We examine educational issues and systems in a variety of cultural contexts. Particular attention is paid to educational practices in Asia and Europe, as compared to the United States. The course focuses on educational concerns that transcend national boundaries. Among the topics explored are international development, democratization, social stratification, the cultural transmission of knowledge, and the place of education in the global economy. These issues are examined from multiple disciplinary vantage points. Mr. Bjork.

Prerequisite: Education 235 or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

276b. Economic Geography: Spaces of Global Capitalism (1)

(Same as Geography 276) This course analyzes the shifting economic landscape of globalization. It covers classic location theories in economic geography, but also the recent trends of industrial reorganization in agriculture, manufacturing and services. Two areas of focus in this course are the globalization of the world economy and regional development under the first and third world contexts. We analyze the emergence of the global capitalist system, the commodification of nature, the transformation of agriculture, the global spread of manufacturing and the rise of flexible production systems, and restructuring of transnational corporations and its regional impacts. Ms. Zhou.

Two 75-minute periods.

278a. Education for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (1)

(Same as Education 278) The aim of this course is to introduce students to the field of peace education and provide an overview of the history, central concepts, scholarship, and practices within the field. The overarching questions explored are: What does it mean to educate for peace, justice and human rights? What and where are the possibilities and the barriers? How do identity, representation and context influence the ways in which these constructs are conceptualized and defined and what are the implications of these definitions? How can we move towards an authentic culture of peace, justice, and human rights in a pluralistic world? In order to address these questions, we survey the human and social dimensions of peace education, including its philosophical foundations, the role of gender, race, religion and ethnicity in peace and human rights education, and the function and influence of both formal and non-formal schooling on a culture of peace and justice. Significant time is spent on profiling key thinkers, theories, and movements in the field, with a particular focus on case-studies of peace education in practice nationally and worldwide. We examine these case studies with a critical eye, exploring how power operates and circulates in these contexts and consider ways in which to address larger structural inequities and micro-asymmetries. Since peace education is not only about the content of education, but also the process, the course endeavors to model peace pedagogy by promoting inquiry, collaboration and dialogue and give students the opportunity to practice these skills through presentations on the course readings and topics. Ms. Hantzopoulos.

Prerequisites: Education 162 or 235.

Two 75-minute periods.

284b. Children's Rights (1)

(Same as Education 284) Every nation in the world, except for Somalia and the USA, has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). As a result, children's rights are beginning to play a major role in the human rights field generally - constitutions have been modified, legislative frameworks revamped, and dedicated national institutions established. In addition, international organizations and non-governmental groups have sped up their efforts to adopt a child rights framework that supports the development of their programs and policies for children. And yet, the children's rights field remains under-theorized and under-researched. Many scholars and practitioners call for a better understanding of the conceptual and empirical underpinnings of policy and practice in this area. This course focuses on both the theories surrounding, and practices of, children's rights. It starts from the foundational question of whether children really should be treated as rights-holders and whether this approach is more effective than alternatives for promoting well-being for children that do not treat children as rights holders and adopt a HR approach. Consideration is given to the major conceptual and developmental issues embedded within the framework of rights in the CRC. The course covers issues in both the domestic and international arenas, including but not limited to: children's rights in the criminal justice context including life without parole and the death penalty; children's rights to housing and health care; inequities in the education systems; child labor and efforts to ban it worldwide; initiatives intended to abolish the involvement of children in armed conflict; street children; the rights of migrant, refugee, homeless, and minority children; and the commodification of children. Country-based case studies are used to ensure that students come away with a solid understanding of current conditions. The course also explores issues related to the US ratification of the CRC, and offer critical perspectives on the advocacy and education-based work of international children's rights organizations. Ms. Holland.

Two 75-minute periods.

289a. Islam in History (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 289) This course is designed to introduce students to key moments in the history of Islam. It will cover the period from the end of the sixth century AD, eve of the rise of Islam, until the early sixteenth century and the demise of the Mameluke Sultanate. The course is designed to familiarize students with major themes from the sociopolitical as well as the intellectual history of Islam in the period spanning from the rise of Islam until the modern era. The course will explore the emergence of Islam as a world religion and the forces it set in motion; it will also address Islamic civilization and its characteristic political, social, and religious institutions and intellectual traditions. The readings will include a cross section of intellectual production, a myriad of cultural expressions as well as primary and secondary historical sources from the sixth century AD to the present. We will be examining a multitude of sources such as pre-Islamic poetry from the Arabian Peninsula, Quranic script, as well as theological, philosophical and scientific productions from the Medieval Islamic Empire. Mr. Hojairi.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2013/14.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

300a or b. Senior Thesis (1)

A 1-unit thesis written in the fall or spring semester. Students may elect to write their theses in one semester only in exceptional circumstances. Usually students will adopt International Studies 301-302.

301a. Senior Thesis (1/2)

A 1-unit thesis written in two semesters.

Yearlong course 301-302.

302b. Senior Thesis (1/2)

A 1-unit thesis written in two semesters.

Yearlong course 301-302.

305a. Senior Seminar (1)

An examination of selected global topics in a multidisciplinary framework. Topics vary from year to year.

360b. Problems in Cultural Analysis (1)

Covers a variety of current issues in modern anthropology in terms of ongoing discussion among scholars of diverse opinions rather than a rigid body of fact and theory. The department.

May be repeated for credit if topic has changed.

Topic for 2013/14b: Global Diasporas. (Same as Anthropology 360) This course highlights aspects of globalization that put waves of people, ideas and money on the move, paying specific attention to diaspora and migration. Theories of globalization, diaspora, and transnationalism provide students with frameworks for analyzing what happens when people move across state boundaries, and for considering the "push and pull" factors influencing movements from the South to North, and from East to West and vice versa. The use of ethnography, film, and the novel help students better understand how such flows are experienced locally, how connections across space and time are sustained, and how "culture" is continually (re)made in and through movement and as a consequence of contact rather than isolation. The question that animates and organizes our inquiries is: How do global flows of human interaction challenge or complicate our understandings of such constructs as "culture", "race" and "nation-state?" Ms. Lowe. Swift.

Prerequisites: previous coursework in Anthropology or International Studies, or permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour seminar.

363. Nations, Globalization, and Post-Coloniality (1)

(Same as Anthropology 363) How do conditions of globalization and dilemmas of post-coloniality challenge the nation-state? Do they also reinforce and reinvent it? This course engages three related topics and literatures; recent anthropology of the nation-state; the anthropology of colonial and post-colonial societies; and the anthropology of global institutions and global flows. Ms. Kaplan.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology or by permission of instructor.

Not offered in 2013/14.

365b. Civil Wars and Rebel Movements (1)

(Same as Political Science 365) Since World War II, civil wars have vastly outnumbered interstate wars, and have killed, conservatively, five times as many people as interstate wars. This seminar explores contemporary civil wars from a variety of different angles and approaches drawn primarily from political science, but also other disciplines. In addition, we consider personal accounts, journalistic coverage, and fictional accounts that seek to illustrate the reality of contemporary warfare. The course is divided into several thematic sections, each of which emphasizes the transnational nature of contemporary civil wars. Primarily, we explore literature on the organization and behavior of rebel organizations by guerrilla theorists and academics. The course also covers a selection of differing perspectives on the causes and consequences of civil conflicts. Finally, we consider an array of related subjects including female participation in political violence and the response to civil war by the international community. Mr. Mampilly.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

372. Topics in Human Geography (1)

This seminar focuses on advanced debates in the socio- spatial organization of the modern world. The specific topic of inquiry varies from year to year. Students may repeat the course for credit if the topic changes. Previous seminar themes include the urban-industrial transition, the urban frontier, urban poverty, cities of the Americas, segregation in the city, global migration, and reading globalization.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2012/13.

382. Terrorism (1)

No other issue generates as much discussion and controversy as the contemporary debate over ‘terrorism.' But what is this phenomenon? And how should we respond to it? This course examines ‘terrorism' with a critical eye, looking at the different ways that the subject is framed by various disciplines and authors. Drawing on political science, anthropological and historical accounts, as well as arguments made by scholars from economics, Women's studies and area studies, we discuss the ways in which terrorism has been presented, debated and analyzed. We also draw from the fictional universe through an examination of films and novels that depict the inner struggles of ‘terrorists' and those affected by their actions. Mr. Mampilly.

Not offered in 2012/13.

384. Transnational Queer: Genders, Sexualities, Identities (1)

(Same as College Course and Women's Studies 384) What does it mean to be Queer? This seminar examines, critiques, and interrogates queer identities and constructions in France and North America. In what ways do diverse cultures engage with discourses on gender and sexuality? Can or should our understanding of queerness change depending on cultural contexts? Through guest lectures and discussion seminars, the course examines a broad range of queer cultural production, from fiction to cinema and performance. Topics include such diverse issues as queer bodies, national citizenship, sexual politics, legal discourse, and aesthetic representation. All lectures, readings, and discussions are in English. Mr. Swamy.

By special permission.

Prerequisites: Freshman Writing Seminar and one 200-level course.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2013/14.

385. Women, Culture, and Development (1)

(Same as Latin American Latino/a Studies, Sociology, and Women's Studies 385) This course examines the ongoing debates within development studies about how integration into the global economy is experienced by women around the world. Drawing on gender studies, cultural studies, and global political economy, we explore the multiple ways in which women struggle to secure well-being, challenge injustice, and live meaningful lives. Ms. Carruyo.

Not offered in 2013/14.

386b. Central Asia and the Caucasus: Nation Building and Human Rights (1)

(Same as History 386) The Muslim regions between Russia and China are becoming more populated, prosperous, and connected. The Caspian Sea region is booming with new oil and gas wealth. A wave of democracy movements swept newly independent states but oligarchs and long-term autocratic presidents dominate politics and business. An Islamic revival after the fall of communism has brought a crisis of political Islam, including problems like terrorism, re-veiling campaigns, and bride-kidnappings. Chechnya and the North Caucasus became magnets for violence, while Tatarstan has seen a quiet renaissance of liberal Russian Islam. This cross-listed seminar explores nation building, human rights, and spiritual life in Central Asia and the Caucasus from a historical perspective. Topics include the legacies of Mongol and Tatar power verticals, the impact of communism on Central Asia, the war in Chechnya and its effect on human rights in the region, the history of Kazakhstan's new capital, Astana, and daily life and politics since independence in 1991. Ms. Pohl.

One 2-hour period.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

The program faculty.