Sophomore Research Seminar: 2017-2018

1.   Slavery in the United States

2.   On Death and Dying: Reflections on Death and What it Means in Our Lives

3.   The Self/Your Self

4.    Sport and the American Identity

5.    Representing Genders and Sexualities in French-Language Cinema

6.    The Politics of Free Speech in the U.S. and Abroad

7.    Discovery of Humanity, 1500-1800

8.    Going "Green" in New York State

9.    Consumer Finance

10.  Comparative History of Mexican/Latin American Immigration and Assimilation

11.  Schools of Thought: The Evolution of Educational Policy and Practice

12.  Transformative Partnerships with the Arts and Humanities

13.  Jewish Graphic Novels

14.  The Automobile in American Culture

15.  Art in Ritual Context

16.  Music as Activism

17.  Heaven on Earth: the material culture of Christianity

18.  Colonialism, Knowledge, and Power

19.  Cuba and the Cuban Revolution

20.  Histories of Hysteria

21.  African Migration: Borders, Violence, and Identity

22.  Time, Changer of Seasons

23.  Colonialism in Africa

24.  Art and the State

25.  Privacy, Trust, and Identity in the Era of Encryption

26.  Food for Thought

27.  Always Connected: The Societal and Technical Aspects of Electronic Communication

28.  Alexander the Great: Use and Abuse of History

29.  Mission to Mars! Discovering Earth’s Neighbor in the Solar System

30.  College!

31.  Responding to Wrongdoing

1.   Slavery in the United States (Professor Kenneth Aslakson)

The topic of this course is Slavery in the United States, but its primary objective is to teach you to become fully versatile in conducting research and fully competent in writing long research papers. In the first few weeks of the course you will become familiar with the issues and debates that have driven the scholarship on American slavery. This will provide the necessary context for you to conduct primary source research on the topic. The course will then turn its attention to research and writing. To this end, you will be responsible for a research project which defines a topic related to Slavery in the United States, locates sources, analyzes these sources in an appropriate way, and presents the results in an accessible fashion.

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2.   On Death and Dying: Reflections on Death and What it Means in Our Lives (Professor Robert Baker)

In this course we read the reflections of physicians, philosophers, theologians–and people approaching death–about what the fact of death means for our lives. We also visit a cemetery and write about tombstones and write our own obituaries. We also think about killing and mass killing by terrorists and in war, and by governments in the form of capital punishments. You will read a book that won the National Book Award, HOW PEOPLE DIE, and an Oxford reader on death, dying and killing. In addition to reading about, discussing and debating issues about death, dying and killing, you will also develop a research project and, with the help of the instructor, hone you skills in researching, developing resources (books, data, etc.), and debating, presenting and writing about your position on some topic related to the course.

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3.   The Self/Your Self (Professor Suzanne Benack)

Modern psychologists have claimed that late-adolescence-and-early-adulthood, the period of the lifespan inhabited by traditional college students, is a critical period for the formation of a “self,” or an “identity,” or a “life narrative.”  In this seminar, we will look at a variety of ways of thinking about this process of self-creation and using research techniques to try to understanding one’s self.  We will read some core writings about the modern self (e.g., Erikson’s Identity, Youth and Crisis; Gergen’s The Saturated Self) as well as memoirs (Dillard’s An American Childhood) and psychological works on basic dimensions of a person.  For your final project, you will conduct ​an ​investigation ​on a topic that is relevant to deepen​ing​ your self-understanding.

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4.    Sport and the American Identity (Professor Denis Brennan)

Three years after the U.S. Census Department announced that a fixed line demarcating the American frontier could no longer be drawn, Frederick Jackson Turner delivered his famous address, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” For Turner, the existence of the frontier had defined the rugged independence of the American individual, i.e., self-reliant, optimistic, adaptable, and ingenious. Furthermore, he warned that with the loss of the frontier the nation required a new means of defining American character. Concurrent with this development, the last decades of the 19th century witnessed an explosion of interest in sports. Long distained, especially by those who held Victorian values, athletic activity and sports developed during this period into an important institution with a vital social purpose in American life. In particular urban, middle-class men and women envisioned sport as an activity that taught the values fundamental to American identity, the values of a frontier society, the values of the rugged individual, of free enterprise, of community, of adaptability, of creativity, and of success. The intertwining of sport and American identity (whether by class, gender, ethnicity, or race) only deepened during the whole of the 20th century. The linkage of sport to the development of the distinctive traits often associated with American identity can be researched from a variety of perspectives. In addition to the expansion and acceptance of particular sports (perhaps especially professional baseball and college football) as well as the lives of late 19th and 20th century sports heroes and personalities, social reformers, business executives, and political leaders embraced and popularized this relationship.

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5.    Representing Genders and Sexualities in French-Language Cinema (Professor Michelle Chilcoat)

The overall focus of this course will be on how gendered and sexed identities are produced “cinematically” in mainstream (i.e., popular) French films (and some US remakes). More specifically, the course will divide into three sections: the first considers the “male gaze” and constructions of “normative” femininity in the “hetero-sexualization” of lesbian desire; the second, constructions of masculinity and homosexuality with regards to the “normative” family order; and the third, how bi, trans, inter and other sexualities may reinforce and/or productively disrupt “normative” heterosexuality. After each section, and informed by readings drawn from a variety of disciplines, including film theory, queer theory, women’s, gender, class and race studies, anthropology, psychoanalysis, feminism, and even masculinity studies, students will learn how to develop a “critical film analysis” paper (for a total of three 5-6 page papers), a form of scholarship integrating research into a film’s context (historical, ideological, social, cultural, etc.) with close film analysis. Students will also be encouraged to work toward refining one of their essays for submission to Film Matters, UNC-Wilmington’s high quality peer-reviewed undergraduate magazine now published by Intellect/University of Chicago Press.

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6.    The Politics of Free Speech in the U.S. and Abroad (Professor David Collinge)

Freedom of expression is viewed as central to the functioning of democratic society. It is an issue that protects as well as restricts our conversations about politics, race, gender, religion, art, education, and citizenship. In this Sophomore Research Seminar, students will explore key differences in the way speech is protected in the U.S. and several other countries, in addition to looking at a variety of case studies on the matter. These will include notable legal battles and uproars from the last 100 years, brought on by comedy routines, hate speech, desecration of the US flag, trigger warnings, protest music, and puppeteers. In this course, students will be expected to produce a research paper of 15-20 pages, which will be informed and guided by regular reading, daily writing exercises, and presentations and debates.

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7.    Discovery of Humanity, 1500-1800 (Professor John Cramsie)

Historians have long recognized that the peoples of Britain had a massive curiosity about the peoples of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In some cases the curiosity was just that, simple curiosity. At other times curiosity served the interests of commerce, conquest, and colonization — in other words, curiosity was central to the creation and expansion of the British Empire. In all of these cases, British writers produced a fascinating and diverse array of books describing the peoples whom they encountered. In this seminar we will study books within the genre of “discovery literature” printed between 1500 and 1800. We will analyze the authors, interrogate how their works reported on and constructed non-Europeans, and assess the impact of those works on British perceptions of and relationships with peoples around the globe.

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8.    Going "Green" in New York State (Professor Kara Doyle)

Which is more important, preserving our natural environment or growing our economy? How can — or can — people be motivated to change their habits of consumption?  Should natural gas and nuclear power be part of  a statewide solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?  In this course, you will acquire and hone research skills, analytical thinking skills, and communication skills (both written and oral) as you pursue a research project about a New York State environmental issue of your own choosing. We will take as our starting point three recently authored state reports on waste, conservation, and energy. We will closely examine the way researchers use and present scientific and other evidence to support their claims, learn about the way research enters into existing conversations, and discuss how to move past “either/or” thinking into the complexity of real world scenarios.  Along the way you will develop an interest in a particular environmental problem in New York State, which will become the springboard for your project. In the second half of the course, after having narrowed your initial idea down to a manageable size, you will work intensively on your own project, researching it thoroughly in order to present a possible solution.

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9.    Consumer Finance (Professor Tomas Dvorak)

Consumer finance examines how consumers make decisions about borrowing, saving, and managing risk. The goal of this course is to learn how to think critically about these decisions. We will learn concepts such as time value of money, risk, and consumption smoothing. We will examine the markets for credit (credit cards, student loans, mortgages), saving/investment (mutual funds, retirement plans, annuities), insurance and financial advice. We will ask why these markets sometimes fail and how regulation can help. Finally, we will examine how psychological biases influence consumers’ financial decisions and how private and public sectors can help in achieving better outcomes. This course is not just about how to manage your personal finances. It is about understanding consumers’ needs and identifying opportunities for better products and services.

A number of factors make consumer finance an increasingly important topic. First, traditional pensions are rapidly being replaced by 401k type of retirement plans. While traditional pensions placed the burden of managing retirement savings on the employer, 401k plans place that burden on the employee. Second, the financial sector offers increasingly complex products - from adjustable rate mortgages to equity-indexed annuities. The vast majority of public is unprepared for managing their finances – one study finds that only 65% of Americans can calculate compound interest. Third, new research in economics and psychology finds that humans suffer from biases that lead to sub-optimal financial decisions – we all want to save more, just not today. Finally, the financial crisis of 2008-2009 highlighted the importance of regulation and risk management not just for large financial institutions but for households as well – the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is recognition of the need to regulate consumer finance.

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10.  Comparative History of Mexican/Latin American Immigration and Assimilation (Professor Joseph Garcia)

Since 1910s, Mexican and later Latin American immigration to the United States has been a national issue and has influenced nearly every major change in immigration policy. The “assimilation” of immigrants has also been a central concern in the U.S. since the founding of the republic. Although there are some commonalities among different immigrant groups, there are also enormous differences in the extent to which immigrants were pressured to conform to an Anglo-American model, the extent to which they were eventually accepted as “white,” and whether they were racialized. This course examines twentieth century Mexican/Latin American immigration in comparison to earlier European and Asian immigration. It also focuses on how twentieth century immigration policy, including the bracero agreements, sought to respond to and shape the flow of Mexican repatriation in the 1930s, the emergence of Mexican American, Chicano, and other Latin American organizations, the bracero program, the consequences of immigration legislation since 1965, the debate over what would be required to effectively prevent illegal entries, and immigration policy debate. As is necessary in a course it will emphasize the close examination and discussion of assigned readings. The purpose of the course is to engage students in a process of developing an understanding through critical thinking and writing about the history of immigration and assimilation in the U.S. It is the goal of the instructor to use the literature to provide an organic approach to the importance of studying the interconnected world we live in, requiring students to take part in the class. The main project of the course is a paper of approximately 15-18 pages, including bibliography and end/footnotes. The topic will be of your choosing, from a list of suggestions pertaining to U.S. immigration history covering the period from 1910 to the present.  The paper will draw on both primary and secondary sources.  You will discuss with the class your plans for the paper and distribute to the class a two-paragraph prospectus of your project and an annotated bibliography of at least five sources, at least one of which is a primary source.  Everyone will present his/her final paper orally to the class in a poster or Mixonium project that everyone will critique.

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11.  Schools of Thought: The Evolution of Educational Policy and Practice (Professor Margaret Graham)

American children entering kindergarten today will likely remain in schools 16.5 years. During that time, they will be subjected to a variety of educational policies and practices, only some of which have been proven effective. In this course, we will explore the evolution of the American educational system in the last century to understand why and how changes were made. We will look at the impacts of federal mandates such as Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka and the No Child Left Behind Act as well as social movements such as the civil rights, feminism, and LGBTQ rights. We will examine the concepts of teacher and student, along with the role of education in a society. Students will write scaffolded research assignments on the educational issue of their choice, culminating in a final research paper and a presentation.

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12.  Transformative Partnerships with the Arts and Humanities (Professor Christine Henseler)

Students in this class will reflect on the role and meaning of the arts and humanities in their own lives and careers and across a wide variety of disciplines and professional fields. They will learn about the surprising ways in which professionals from the worlds of business and finance, biology and engineering, medicine and environmental science, innovate their fields by working with and through the knowledge and skills gained from the arts and humanities. Students will discover how today’s most innovative thinkers and doers are questioning assumptions, coming up with new solutions and working to transform the future. Whether for the purpose of community engagement and awareness, public protest, or entrepreneurial innovation, students will get to conduct research a topic of their choice that explores how artistic and humanistic learnings are transforming the way we think, live, and work in surprising and exciting new ways.

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13.  Jewish Graphic Novels (Professor Judith Lewin)

Jewish Graphic Novels is a course with a specific focus: reading graphic novels on “Jewish” subjects, learning critical analysis and writing a research paper employing at least one Jewish graphic text as part of your research. As a group we will investigate the creation of the genre “graphic novel”, learn about its terminology and visual and textual logic and how and why it became associated with Jews and Jewish issues. The graphic novel offers a special combination of narrative devices and unusual rewards for its readers that this course will help us to appreciate and to articulate orally and textually. In addition to a final paper, we will also present our findings publically in a poster session at Union. You will strive to improve your reading and writing skills and to understand what it means to write analytically in general and to make an argument about graphic literature in particular.  Please elect this course if you have a particular interest in researching the combination of word and image. This course is not designed for those who simply want “less reading” or who are “Spiderman/Marvel/DC” fans —  graphic narrative involves new ways of reading and new types of heroes/anti-heroes.

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14.  The Automobile in American Culture (Professor Bradley Lewis)

Arguably no people in the world have been more in love with their cars than Americans. Certainly no country’s real estate, livelihood, and life were more reshaped by the automobile than those of the United States, in the course of little more than a century.  Our seminar will explore when, how, and why the automobile came to so dominate our society, how that dominance in American transportation has affected our entire culture, and what recent challenges to that dominance say about our changing culture.  Our common readings (including My Years with General Motors by GM Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. and Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster) are designed to give us enough common understanding and discussion to facilitate a useful dialogue on the automobile in American culture and to allow each student to write a meaningful paper on a relevant topic that relates the automobile specifically to American culture.  For the same purpose, we will also use other shorter readings and historical mass media (especially music, advertising, and sports) to further examine the changing role of the automobile and American culture. We will discuss briefly, and students may write on, a wide variety of topics including (but not limited to) the changing science and engineering of cars; the economics of the industry, mass production, and niche marketing, design and aesthetics, before and after the rise of foreign competition; the reshaping of urban and rural landscapes and life, with a focus on Schenectady as a case study; the changing politics of transportation; and such diverse cultural phenomena as the 50’s and 60’s youth car and music scene, auto racing, changes in sex roles and family life, and subcultures heavily influenced by the car.

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15.  Art in Ritual Context (Professor Sheri Lullo)

Many of the works we see on display in museums, from African masks and Buddhist statuary to Chinese bronze vessels and Egyptian relief carvings, were not simply considered “art” in their original contexts. Though they were often created to be pleasing to the eye—in many instances, the most expensive and precious materials available were used—these works were primarily intended to provoke and activate much more profound feelings or emotions related to the spiritual, and were frequently intended to facilitate communication with participants beyond the human realm. This research seminar aims to explore and restore the use contexts, performative spaces and architectural frameworks that are frequently lost when works of visual culture are hung on museum walls or placed within a glass case. We will read about anthropological and art historical approaches to art and ritual and analyze case studies of the ways in which ritual practice, both sacred and secular, can be integral to our understanding of how the works of art were created, used, viewed and experienced across global contexts. Your research project in this course will focus on an object chosen from Union’s own rich collection of works.

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16.  Music as Activism (Professor Jennifer Matsue)

From Green Day’s iconic American Idiot (2004) to the strumming of Middle Eastern lutes in Syrian refugee camps, music is an integral means of expressing individual and collective identity, critiquing injustice, and enacting change. This course explores the forms such activism may take and how music and the arts may increase awareness of real social and environmental problems and potentially help resolve conflicts. Both through theoretical arguments and concrete case studies, we will see that music—and the individuals who make it—play a central role in shaping social interaction and inspiring social activism, from advocating for autistic children in the United States (Bakan 2015), to motivating anti-nuclear demonstrations in post-Fukushima Japan (Manabe 2015). Students will also develop their own critical reading and argumentative writing skills through a series of assignments covering a variety of research and composition styles, including a short essay, a song analysis, and a community project proposal. Throughout the course, we will also work through the research and writing techniques presented in Craft of Research (2016). Students will further explore their own musical interests and a particular activist approach in a final research project (consisting of an oral proposal, an outline with annotated bibliography, a presentation, and a final paper). Students thus will expand their knowledge of research methodology while also exploring the power of music to move people.

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17.  Heaven on Earth: the material culture of Christianity (Professor Louisa Matthew)

For all of its attention to the heavenly and the spiritual, Christianity was profoundly engaged with life on earth – from the physical bodies of saints and their burial sites to monks in stone huts on the coast of Ireland to crusading knights on the battlefields of the Middle East. We will be studying the variety of objects made and structures built during 1000 years of Christian history in Western Europe and the “Holy Land”. Your research will be based on an object of your choice from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum. Your object will be the focus of your research throughout the term. You will examine  different aspects of the object as the course progresses , including, for example, materials and techniques, geographical and cultural affiliations, including possible ties to non-Christian cultures, relationships to Christian ritual and belief, and  the meanings of imagery – all of which will be synthesized in the final paper.  Each week we will engage with an aspect of the research and writing process, from choosing a topic, to bibliographical research, creating topic statements and outlines, creating notes and bibliographies, and writing draft papers.

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18.  Colonialism, Knowledge, and Power (Professor Rajashree Mazumder)

The purpose of the course is to understand what is colonialism? How are ‘knowledge’ and ‘power’ intrinsically linked and essential tools in the creation of Empire? How did the colonial rulers imagine India? How is the “other” visualized? How have some of these stereotypes endured even today and are the various sources we can use in our research? We will try to understand how contemporary political and social concerns informed the creation of these works and how to critically analyze them as historical sources for Modern India. SRS is a writing and research-intensive seminar designed to aid students in developing skills to effectively research, analyze and write academic papers. This course is aimed at teaching students research techniques, methods to evaluate sources, and how to successfully communicate their ideas in writing.

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19.  Cuba and the Cuban Revolution (Professor Teresa Meade)

The focus of the course is the history of Cuba from the 1959 triumph of the revolution led by Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement, through the several decade-long period in which Cuba struggled to build an independent communist nation aligned with the Soviet Union, into the post-Cold War decades since the demise of the Soviet bloc and ending with the recent opening of relations with the United States. The course will examine changes within Cuba in revolutionary ideology, problems of scarcity and tensions among different sectors of Cuban society, gender and race relations, economic and political relations with the US, Latin America, and the rest of the world.

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20.  Histories of Hysteria (Professor Kassandra Miller)

The term “hysterical” has meant many things over the centuries. It has been used to describe medical conditions of the womb, the nerves, and the psyche, a personality type, and a kind of panicked response. Today, physicians and researchers are still debating the medical status of “hysteria,” although they often refer to it by other names.

In this course, we will investigate how the concept of “hysteria” has developed over time, from antiquity to the present day. We will address such topics as: Greek notions of wandering wombs, Renaissance fears of witches and wild women, nineteenth-century rest cures and sanatoria, Freudian psychoanalysis, and the use of the term “hysteria” in modern parlance. Along the way, we will find ourselves confronting challenging questions about the relationships between mind and body, sickness and health, deviance and normality, “male” and “female,” doctor and patient, biology and culture. Ultimately, students will formulate and pursue their own research questions, and present their findings in papers and oral presentations.

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21.  African Migration: Borders, Violence, and Identity (Professor Cheikh Ndiaye)

This course examines the critical terms of home and elsewhere through the lens of African migration to Europe and North America. African youth who are under overwhelming socio-cultural and economic pressures migrate to Europe and North America in search for greener pastures. In the course of these migrations, successful stories are often overshadowed by traumatic and violent experiences and identity crisis. Our study of African migration will be undergirded by an in-depth examination of the notions of border, exile, trauma, violence, and identity. We will use critical texts, works of fiction, films, and documentaries for that purpose. One of the goals for this course is to hone student's critical thinking and writing skills. Thus, students will read, discuss, present, and write about both primary and secondary sources.

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22.  Time, Changer of Seasons (Professor Anastasia Pease)

From ancient calendars to the theory of relativity, humanity has always been preoccupied with Time. And human ideas about Time have changed through the ages. Time has been perceived as linear or cyclical, as a flow or as another dimension of the universe. But what *is* Time really? What is the "space-time continuum"? How did our species learn to measure time? From sundials to hourglasses to cell-phones, how were timepieces invented and perfected? How were they used? How do different cultures view time? Why does time seem to slow down when you're bored? Why does it fly when you're having fun? These and many other questions will be explored in this section of the SRS.  Students will be encouraged to research related topics of particular interest to them.  The SRS will encompass Physics, Astronomy, Sociology, History, Biology, Psychology, Geology, Theology, Philosophy, and Literature.

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23.  Colonialism in Africa (Professor Brian Peterson)

This course will explore the history of European colonial rule in Africa from the period of exploration and conquest during the nineteenth century to the era of decolonization in the 1950s and 1960s. The course will explore different interpretations of imperialism and colonialism, through a careful examination of case studies drawn from diverse colonial contexts. The central questions for the course will be: How and why did Africans lose control over their lands following the wars of conquest? What impact did European colonialism have on Africa? How did colonial states manage to stay in power? The course will be structured as a seminar, which means the focus will be on the discussion of readings. Furthermore, we will spend considerable time focused on student research projects.

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24.  Art and the State (Professor Joshua Plencner)

For long-time observers of the American art world, the recent political controversies over federal funding of arts programs through agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are only the latest chapter in a long story—one that seems constantly fraught by strong-willed critics and patrons alike, who, over time and through active debate, have reshaped the “proper” relationship between art and the state. This interdisciplinary seminar course is devoted to exploring that debate through close readings and discussions of critical works drawn from political theory, aesthetics, art history, and cultural studies as they concern the politics of art. After briefly surveying the theoretical literature to help equip us with a strong conceptual tool-kit, we will study a variety of cases to better understand how government is mobilized to foster, produce, defend—and sometimes attack—specific artworks and artists. Alongside readings and discussion, students will also spend a significant amount of time independently researching and critically analyzing a variety of historically important artworks, alternative or historically neglected artworks, and prominent political controversies concerning the production, circulation, and reception of art. In developing their research projects, students will consider such fundamental questions as:  What is art to the state? How (and when) is art political? How (and when) is politics artistic? Does art merely fashion a lens onto major political struggles of the day, or is art itself a means of political struggle? What can art do to, for, against, without, or in spite of the state?

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25.  Privacy, Trust, and Identity in the Era of Encryption (Professor John Rieffel)

At the dawn of the twenty first century, ground-breaking technological advances ranging from gene sequencing to self driving cars have quickly outpaced thoughtful discussions about their ethical, social, and cultural consequences. In many cases, innovation carries unintended costs and consequences: YouTube, for instance, offers viewers across the globe access to a wealth of entertainment and knowledge while at the same time hosting gruesome recruitment videos for terrorist groups. Similarly, the cellphones used by the police to track criminals (or activists) are the very same phones that facilitate citizen documentation of police brutality.

The goal of this Sophomore Research Seminar is to explore, as a group, the interplay between trust and privacy in the era of secure encrypted communication. Strong encryption facilitates a large swath of digital life — everything from credit card transactions to video calls to anonymous chat boards. This research seminar will provide a foundation in the technological basics of encrypted communication, and then allow you, the student, to pursue meaningful intellectual inquiries about its consequences. Material for this course will draw from contemporary events such as WikiLeaks, the Sony email hack scandal, the Panama Papers, and the struggle between the US Government and Apple Computer over iPhone backdoors. Over 2,300 years ago Alexander “the Great” conquered “the known world” in less than ten years, creating an empire from Greece to the border of modern India.  And yet, most likely a clinical alcoholic, he died mysteriously at the age of 33 in Babylon.  His career and conquests influenced the political and cultural development of the Mediterranean world for over a thousand years and the effects of his career and legend resonated throughout history down to the early modern era.  Alexander is still prayed to for aid by fishermen in Greece, he is cursed as a “thief” in Iran, and worshipped as a saint in the Coptic Church of Egypt.  After Jesus Christ, no figure of western antiquity has had such a pervasive and enduring impact on our own culture and cultures far removed from our own. This course, through reading the four ancient sources on Alexander and sampling the prodigious modern bibliography, will introduce students to the story of Alexander, and to the “history” of Alexander.  Alexander has fascinated historians from antiquity to the present and he illustrates the problem of writing an accurate account of the past versus a commentary on the present through the use of the past.

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26.  Food for Thought (Professor Patrick Singy)

Whether we eat to live or live to eat, food is at the center of our lives. Our ordinary days are punctuated by meals and snacks and we feast or fast on holy days. And yet, we rarely give food the serious thought it deserves. For the most part, we chow down like automata, guided at best by our taste buds, traditions, medical fears, or desired body image. Using the tools of both history and philosophy, this research seminar will examine critically a few of the many issues related to food.

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27.  Always Connected: The Societal and Technical Aspects of Electronic Communication (Professor John Spinelli)

Until the mid-1800s, the speed of communication was the about same as the speed of the transport of goods; sending someone a message involved moving a letter or a messenger from one place to another. Beginning with the telegraph, and continuing with telephones, radio, TV, email, the Internet and smart phones, we have developed and become accustomed to the ability to contact each other and access information instantaneously, anywhere, and at any time. This course will explore both how this technology works as well as how it has affected our lives and the organization of our society. The technology will be studied in order to understand how its abilities and challenges shape the types of communication and information that we have access to. This will lead to examining online privacy, freedom of expression, and censorship using the U.S., Europe, and China as case studies.

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28.  Alexander the Great: Use and Abuse of History (Professor Mark Toher)

Over 2,300 years ago Alexander “the Great” conquered “the known world” in less than ten years, creating an empire from Greece to the border of modern India.  And yet, most likely a clinical alcoholic, he died mysteriously at the age of 33 in Babylon.  His career and conquests influenced the political and cultural development of the Mediterranean world for over a thousand years and the effects of his career and legend resonated throughout history down to the early modern era.  Alexander is still prayed to for aid by fishermen in Greece, he is cursed as a “thief” in Iran, and worshipped as a saint in the Coptic Church of Egypt.  After Jesus Christ, no figure of western antiquity has had such a pervasive and enduring impact on our own culture and cultures far removed from our own. This course, through reading the four ancient sources on Alexander and sampling the prodigious modern bibliography, will introduce students to the story of Alexander, and to the “history” of Alexander.  Alexander has fascinated historians from antiquity to the present and he illustrates the problem of writing an accurate account of the past versus a commentary on the present through the use of the past.

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29.  Mission to Mars! Discovering Earth’s Neighbor in the Solar System (Professor Heather Watson)

This course is designed to introduce students to research and writing about science and scientific discovery. The topic of focus will be our current understanding of the planet Mars, and several recent and planned missions to the red planet. Major questions that will be addressed are (1) How did Mars form, and what is its history? (2) Is there (has there been) life on Mars? How do we know? (3) Is a manned mission to Mars reasonable in the near future? (4) What are the major scientific discoveries coming from our current Mars missions? (5) What are the major open questions regarding Mars that we are still thinking about? A major theme in the course will be about not only what we know about Mars, but how we know it, and the process of scientific discovery. This course is a seminar course, and students will be expected to actively participate in class discussions and presentations. The final product of this course will be a term paper and presentation on a topic of the student’s choice. (Please see syllabus for proposed research topics).

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30.  College! (Professor Terry Weiner)

The purpose of this course is to use the research methods scholars use everyday to examine the experience of going to college and the contentious issues one is confronted with as a college-going student in America. We will follow the path of college-going from the process of applying and being admitted to college, paying for college, adapting to college life, and the expectations for what will be accomplished by graduation. The course will therefore include topics like the use of the SAT/ACT in admissions, drug and alcohol abuse on campus, the role of athletics, the challenges of diversity and multiculturalism, freedom of speech, gender and sexual harassment, and whether or not college helps close the gap of inequality in America.

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31.  Responding to Wrongdoing (Professor Leo Zaibert)

We are all familiar with the experience of judging someone’s action to be wrong. It is not important for our purposes in this course to establish whether we are correct or mistaken when we so judge: plainly, there exist actions we (rightly or wrongly) deem to be wrong. The question that will concern us is: How should we (as individuals, but also as societies) respond to wrongdoing? One option, of course, is to do absolutely nothing: to refuse to respond. To always refuse to respond to wrongdoing strikes me as neither a credible stance nor a theoretically interesting position. Thus, we shall focus instead on the justification for two of the most salient and interesting responses to wrongdoing: punishment and forgiveness. We shall explore the theoretical proximity between the justificatory enterprise vis-à-vis each of these two responses to wrongdoing, and the implications that this proximity has both for our personal lives, and for our views on public policy.

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