Current Courses, 2018-2019

The following course descriptions are for fall 2018 and spring 2019. Check your STUINFO account for enrollment details. Incoming students will enroll during their Academic Orientation Program (AOP) during summer 2018.

If you have any additional questions about course details, contact Niki Rudolph at nrudolph@msu.edu.

  • Fall 2018

    RCAH111- Writing Transcultural Contexts

    Section 001 (Plough) | M W 8:00 a.m. – 9:50 a.m.
    Intercultural Obligations

    The majority of the world is multilingual. The United States is the exception. The socio-political and economic reasons for this are critically reviewed. The consequences for society and for the individual are also examined before turning our attention to our own increasing experiences of intercultural collaboration in school and in the workplace. The challenges and opportunities of these interactions are discussed and then analyzed. For example, how do different cultures view the role of hierarchy in the decision-making process? What are the rules for direct and indirect communication? What is the protocol for conflict resolution? In the end, who is responsible for the ‘success’ of these interactions? These are among the questions we address in class discussions and in writing. 

     

    Section 002 (Aronoff) | M W 10:20 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
    Telling Stories: Composing Knowledges in Transcultural Contexts

    In this section of RCAH 111, we will focus on the connection between culture and “storytelling,” broadly conceived.  That is, we will examine the ways in which culture shapes the ways we perceive the world around us, and how we organize those perceptions into oral and written narratives – be they what we conventionally would call “stories” like personal narratives, myths or novels, or other genres like scientific, academic or philosophical writing, each with their own generic rules for the “stories” they tell.  Drawing primarily on short stories and novels, we will be particularly interested in what happens when different “cultures,” or ways of knowing and writing, collide, clash or mix, in a process we will call “transculturation.”  In what ways, we will ask, does “culture” provide us with narratives, patterns, genres, through which we “shape” our experience into something meaningful?  In what ways do we deploy, bend, mix these “stories”? If culture might be defined as a shared system of meanings through which one interprets the world, in what ways might the classroom constitute “a culture,” and what kinds of “stories” are employed therein?  In what ways are cultural “ways of knowing” embodied in (or constituted by, or complicated through) different genres of writing?  What do each of these ways of knowing/writing/storytelling reveal or enable us to see, and what might they leave out?  In what ways can certain kinds of writing or storytelling be seen as the mixing of, or struggle between, multiple systems of meaning or cultures?  Possible course texts include Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony and/or Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

     

    Section 003 (Hunter Morgan) | M W 10:20 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
    Edges & Intersections: How Writers Confront Cultural Contrast

    In this course, we will explore how various writers use cultural contrasts as scaffolding for their work. We’ll think about many kinds of cultural intersections, and we’ll read work that confronts places or moments when traditional binaries (rural and urban, East and West, North and South) collide or blend. We’ll think about how writers handle racial, religious, and generational intersections, and we’ll discuss how many of these junctures are both personal and universal. We’ll examine how specific writers explore and acknowledge the complexity of “other,” and we’ll consider how the work we study might help us grow as readers, writers, and human beings. “Borders” are fascinating places, and many writers use the notion of edges – where one thing meets another – as a meaningful framework for their writing. We’ll read short fiction and essays by ZZ Packer, Joan Didion, John McPhee, Eula Biss, Barry Lopez, Cheryl Strayed, Jamaica Kincaid, and others. We’ll also watch a few short (very short) films. Your work will draw from various genres. You will combine a sense of story with factual elements to generate three creative non-fiction essays as well as a vignette.

     

    Section 004 (Paula) | M W 12:40 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
    The Right to the City: Challenging Spatial Inequalities

    As 21st century cities all over the globe face unprecedented transformations such as mass immigration, rapid urbanization, growing inequality, racial segregation, gentrification, and climate change, we are compelled to think about the struggles over urban resources we are confronted with on a daily basis. By focusing on issues of social justice in its various relations to the city and the urban environment, this course intends to develop contextual understandings of urban struggles in a variety of settings. While engaging with interdisciplinary perspectives, this course will focus particularly on the social, political, and cultural aspects of the “right to the city” concept. With that in mind, this course will examine a variety of urban processes from the perspective of the “right to the city” and look at successful and unsuccessful examples of attempts to create more inclusive and less socially divided cities.

     

    Section 005 (Sheridan) | M W 3:00 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.
    Transculturation in Michigan

    This class will investigate narratives of transculturation in Michigan, including pieces set in the Lower and Upper Peninsulas, in large, small, and midsized cities, pieces located on the Great Lakes and pieces sealed within the state’s interior. We’ll “read” stories, poems, essays, paintings, videos, and songs.  These readings will help launch conversations about the challenges that emerge when cultural groups come into contact.  As a class, we will write about/against/in-response-to these narratives, producing a wide range of compositions, from analytical essays to multimedia projects.

     

    RCAH192-Proseminar

    Section 001 (Delgado, G) | M W 12:40 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Yoga and Art: Creating Space for Creativity in Everyday Life

    “The arts (painting, poetry, etc.) are not just these. Eating, drinking, walking are also arts; every act is an art.” ~César Vallejo, Aphorisms (2002)

    Bring your yoga mat and art supplies to class! In this course, we will develop creative rituals for our daily lives by infusing contemplative practices with artmaking. The contemplative practices will include yoga, meditation, and walking. We’ll use these centering tools to think deeper and great more meaning with our art. The creative skills, including poetry, bookmaking, journaling, drawing, painting, and assemblage, will allow us to expand our strategies for navigating the challenges of living and breathing the artist way of life.

     

    Section 002 (Miner) | W 12:40 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
    Q:What is black and white and re(a)d all over?
    A: Zines, Artists’ Books, Pamphlets, Chapbooks, and Other Multiples

    A generation ago, everyone knew the answer to the riddle: What is black and white and re(a)d all over? At the time, you would have answered newspapers – or any other print publication – was black and white and read all over. This class takes the above outmoded riddle as a point of departure to study the history and role of do-it-yourself publishing – particularly zines, artists’ books, pamphlets, chapbooks, handbills, broadsides, posters, flyers, etc. – as well as teach students how to create limited-edition publications. In this proseminar, students will make their own zines, artists’ books, or chapbooks, as well as contribute to a collective publication with others in the class. We will read and discuss various limited-edition and short run alternative publications, as well as make our own publications using a digital duplicator – commonly known as risograph or stencil printing – located in the LMC. While risograph printing was used primarily before the advent of photocopiers, artists and designers now use this antiquated technology to publish limited-edition publications, commonly distributed at zine fests and art book fairs.

     

    RCAH202-The Presence of the Past

    Section 001 (Aerni-Flessner) | Tu Th 10:20 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
    Presence of the Past: Global Slavery

    Starting with slavery in ancient times and working toward the present, this class looks at how various forms of involuntary servitude (conveniently all lumped together under the term “slavery”) have served as underpinnings for production of goods and services. We will look at the Atlantic World, but also the Indian Ocean World, and systems on the African continent to compare involuntary servitude across time and space. We will be looking at how these systems of involuntary labor differed and were similar—and debate whether they were all “slavery.” We will also examine how they contributed in ways large and small to the creation of the globalized world in which we live. The forces that led to the rise and fall of slavery have shaped our world in a wide variety of ways, and this course will help you interrogate the ways in which this is still important, and how debates over the legacy of slavery and reparations have been and continue to be contentious.

     

    Section 003 (Hamilton-Wray) | Tu Th 12:40 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
    African Oral Traditions and the Making of History

    Oral tradition plays a vital role in the construction and reproduction of “official histories”. However, the role of oral tradition is often not explicitly acknowledged. This course makes visible the presence and role of oral tradition in history-making, with particular focus on African diasporic oral culture found in folklore, music, proverbs, cuisine, humor, literature, and other aspects of African and African diasporic society. Our look at multiple histories, specifically oral history, imagined history, autobiographical history, and “trans-history” (history that connects the past and the future), will guide us in addressing the questions: What do these multiple histories of African peoples reveal about their struggle, resistance, and liberation? How have and can these histories be employed for positive social change? How do we understand our own official histories when we take into account oral tradition?

     

    Section 004 (Thobani) | Tu Th 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    Representing the Exotic: Sex, Gender and Culture in Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts

    This course introduces students to the politics of representation and cultural production by examining how gender and sexuality have been depicted in representations of the ‘exotic’. How have such representations shaped popular imaginaries from the colonial past to the ‘postcolonial’ present? In what ways have these representations changed and/or remained consistent over time? What kinds of ideas about cultural difference are embedded in notions of the ‘exotic’? Attending to these questions, we will learn how to apply an historical approach to account for the continuities and discontinuities between past and present ideas about the ‘exotic’. Drawing on examples from visual art, literature, performance and contemporary popular culture, we explore how sex and gender have been represented in reference to different regions of the ‘Orient’. We will also study the relationship between different cultural contexts as we analyze examples of such cultural production from Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia.

     

    Section 005 (Esquith) | Tu Th 7:00 p.m. – 8:50 p.m. (Honors Section)
    Mythic Heros of War

    One way to grasp the presence of the past is through the dominant myths that we live by. What stories do we tell about the past and its development over time? How do these stories – whether they take the form of poetry, theater, film, novels, constitutions, or the everyday rituals of popular culture – structure and guide our lives?  In what sense are these stories present to us?  In what sense are they myths we live by?

    The goal of the course is to understand how certain myths about heroism have been carried forward, what other possible worlds they may open to us, and how they empower some people while disabling others. We will focus specifically on heroes of war. We will focus initially on the Homeric heroes Achilles and Odysseus, and the main characters in Sophocles's Ajax. As we read these texts, we will also consider ways in which these stories prefigure the stories of today’s soldiers who suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and moral injury. Among the contemporary texts that students will choose from are Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad; Roxanna Robinson, Sparta; Ellen McLaughlin, Ajax in Iraq; Paul Woodruff, The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness and Rewards (Oxford University Press, 2011); Nancy Sherman, Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of our Soldiers (Oxford University Press, 2015), and David Finkel, Thank you for your service (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013).

     

    RCAH291-Arts Workshops

    Section 001 (Sheridan) | M W 10:20 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
    Advanced Media Production and Design

    This workshop will explore the social and aesthetic potentials of video- and print-based media. Content is tailored to students who already have a background in one or more areas of media production. Students will generate creative and socially meaningful projects, exploring fundamental principles of design in the process. We will also investigate strategies for critiquing the work of others. This class will provide excellent preparation for anyone who wishes to work in the RCAH Language and Media Center.

     

    Section 002 (Scales) | M W 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    The Music of Southern Appalachia

    Appalachian communities have a rich and deep musical tradition that has played a unique role in the musical, political, and social life of America.  In this class, students will engage with this tradition through the first hand participation in the music, performing “old-time” string band music, ballad singing, shape-note singing, and more.  We will also examine the many social functions of this music in American public life, including its influence on other contemporary musical genres (bluegrass, country, folk and protest music), its connection with American leftist politics in the 20th century, and its central role in the public imagination of “authentic” American identity.  Some background in music is recommended (but not required).

     

    Section 003 (Baibak) | Tu Th 12:40 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
    Painting on the Edge

    If one is going to paint, why paint on a canvas? Our world holds so many forms.
    Let us explore them with acrylic paint. Paint is the great transformer! Its color and texture can alter the way we perceive the shape of a thing.  In this class, students will examine the relationships between paint and the 3-dimensional surface. We will look at artists/designers who already paint this way while developing our own painting techniques. We’ll consider how form can communicate our ideas, create metaphors, and present as visual poetic compositions.  The class will work with translucent forms and paint in reverse. We will be guided by real shadow and light relationships. We shall explore objects as topographies and mess up their varying surfaces. Let’s transform! We will question ideas about objects in our culture; why and how to create in a world where maybe we have too many things. Let’s reason “makings” value; should we create more stuff, or is it part of our evolution? These are questions that always come up for me, so maybe you’re thinking about these things too.  Let’s paint on the edge without fear of falling off. No previous painting experience needed.

     

    Section 004  | Tu Th 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    Acting Fundamentals

    The goal of this class is to awaken the imagination and intellect of the student actor to make them more aware of the transformative power of theatre and the role of the arts in human society.  The craft of acting requires disciplined use of the body, including the voice and the mind, to uncover the meaning and vision of a play. Practice in close reading skills will prepare students to unearth the text, subtext, style and genre of dramatic texts. Regular on-your-feet workshops in various contemporary acting techniques, and practice in solo and group scene work will deepen their self-knowledge so they might represent these stories in open, honest and believable ways. Opportunities to explore performing using plays largely drawn from the 20th and 21st centuries (since 1960) will expose students to the felt history of recent human experience. By the end of the semester, students will have cultivated a greater sense of themselves, learned to listen and collaborate with others deeply, and gained new perspectives on human culture and their own potential.

     

    RCAH292A-Engagement Proseminar

    Section 001 (Esquith) | M 3:00 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.
    Peace Building

    The focus of this introduction to civic engagement is peace building, that is, how we can reduce violent conflict both globally and locally through civic engagement. What can we as citizens do to mitigate violence and encourage more non-violent forms of dialogue and discussion among opposing groups? Peace building is not utopian. It does not aspire to rid the world of conflict. Its goal is to lessen the levels of violence in the context of continuing conflicts, disagreements, and compromises.

    One of the earliest modern peace builders in the US was Myles Horton. Horton began as a union organizer in the mountains of Appalachia and that led him to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s. His autobiography, The Long Haul, is still relevant to us today as we struggle to build peace in a world plagued with violent conflicts at home and abroad. After acquainting ourselves with Horton’s story, we will consider a more conceptual approach to peace building, Transformative Change: An Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies.

    We will apply these insights to an ongoing peace building project, the World Peace Game, which RCAH students have created in collaboration with high school students through the Lansing Refugee Development Center (RDC). We will meet once per week at our regular class time (Mondays, 3-4:50 PM) and then an additional 2 hours (probably Mondays 6-8 PM) with these young refugee students to play and discuss the World Peace Game.

    To understand the Peace Game and how it has been incorporated into the RCAH civic engagement curriculum earlier, see this article by RCAH alumna Kelsey Block) 

    Section 002 (Brooks) | Th 3:00 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.
    Holistic Citizenship: Living and Working in Engaged Communities

    This proseminar is an introduction to civic engagement and explores the concepts of identity, consciousness, community, culture, citizenship, and reflection using an interdisciplinary approach. Employing theories and methodologies from the arts and humanities, as well as incorporating methods from the social and natural sciences, students will read and discuss an assortment of written and visual texts (artwork, writings, film, etc.) to facilitate learning and to enhance critical thinking. In addition, students will complete experiential learning exercises that build relationships with civic organizations and work toward improving personal and community health/wellness. More specifically, this course will assist students with developing an understanding of the various types of civic engagement activities in relation to the RCAH model on civic engagement (insight, practice, action, passion). Students will be challenged to evaluate notions of vulnerability, empathy, and belongingness. Then, students will be asked to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate existing and new ways of performing civic engagement that improves individuals, families, communities, and humanity.

     

    RCAH292B-Engagement and Reflection

    Section 001 (Delgado, G) | T 12:40 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    The Prison Poetry ‘Zine Project

    In this civic engagement course, we will practice and use the arts to infuse positive social change in our prison system and beyond. Through weekly visits to prisons, we will work side-by-side with incarcerated people, including children, to create poetry ‘zines and facilitate and perform slam poetry. We will investigate and reflect on why the arts matter in prison—its impact on rehabilitation and communities inside and outside the prison walls. The works of poets who wrote while in prison, including Etheridge Knight, Jimmy Baca Santiago, Marilyn Buck, and Reginald Dwayne Betts, will be introduced and discussed.

     

    Section 002 (Torrez) | Tu Th 3:00 p.m. - 4:50 p.m.
    Educacíon, comunidad, y familia

    Through investigating with various research models, local history, and exploring community-based models, this course will bring together the experiences of students from Michigan State University (MSU) and Lansing School District (LSD). Collaboratively we will work alongside Latinx youth in shaping Lansing School District's understanding of the Latinx community.  Working with 9th-12th-grade students in Lansing high schools, we will discover the power of telling stories by way of seeing local Latino history through the eyes of Latino youth.  Engaging with high school students, we will work alongside our high school partners to learn the importance of their own story and their impact on their local community.

     

    RCAH292C-Independent Engagement

    Section 001 (Arranged)
    Independent Engagement

    292C courses are unique, independent engagements of variable credit negotiated between students, community partners, and RCAH faculty. They assume that the student and the community have established a relationship of mutual respect, trust, and benefit. They also assume a high level of passion and experience. These courses focus heavily on the action and insight areas of the RCAH Civic Engagement model. Students select and work with a specific faculty of record and community partner to develop and implement the syllabus and the engagement program for the course.

     

    RCAH320-Art and Public Life

    Section 001 (Hamilton-Wray) | M W 10:20a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
    Third Cinema and Film for Social Change

    This course explores the global film movement, Third Cinema, a radical approach to filmmaking that challenges injustice and oppression, and encourages an active relationship between the filmmakers and their audiences. This course looks at the roots of Third Cinema, as well as how particular political landscapes shape the many ways that Third Cinema has developed and is expressed. With a background in Third World film history and Third Cinema film theory, students will investigate specific national cinemas and the different ways that politics, culture, and cinematic expression converge in Third Cinema globally? Additionally, they’ll explore specific challenges Third Cinema filmmakers face in funding, creating, distributing, and exhibiting their work? And finally, students will look at the possibilities film for positive social change and the practice of Third Cinema in a local context?

     

    RCAH330-Nature and Culture

    Section 001 (Skeen) | Tu Th 10:20 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
    Appalachian Literature and Culture

    The primary goal of this course is to explore the history of the Appalachian region through looking at documentary and popular film, scholarly and personal essays, and the work of poets and fiction writers from Appalachia.  As West Virginia is the only state completely in the Appalachian region, we will focus our study on the literature and culture of that state and learn how it is both representative of and different from other areas of Appalachia.  We will work to comprehend the richness of this region, past and present, and explore the themes of regional folklore and music, fine art and local craft, the power of religious and family tradition, and isolation and community.  For students who would like to spend a little time in Appalachia (for an additional cost of approximately $300) the course will include a four-day excursion to West Virginia near the end of September for a weekend of regional history and culture.
     

    Section 002 (Aerni-Flessner) | Tu Th 1:00 p.m. – 2:20 p.m.
    Nature and Culture: Disease and the Making of Public Health in Africa

    How do societies define a “disease?” When is a disease a threat to a government, or to individuals, and when is it an individual matter? This course will explore issues in endemic and epidemic diseases, focusing largely on the African continent. We will look at how and when governments decide to provide medical services to people within their borders. Using Africa will allow us to explore the dynamics of public health within the realm of colonialism as well as in post-independence governments that are supposed to represent the will and desire of the people. Do they? For whom are health programs designed, and in the 21st century what role do international organizations, from faith-based charities to multi-national corporations and foundations play in the provision of health facilities and care? The class will ask students to explore issues related to ethics and morality as well as health.

     

    RCAH380-Third Year Tutorial

    Section 001 (Thobani) | M W 3:00 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.
    Performing India: Arts, Culture and Nation Formation

    This course examines the role of ‘arts and culture’ in producing ideas about Indian national identity. Some of the questions we will address in class include: What are the convergences and divergences between colonial ideas about India, anti-colonial nationalist constructs of cultural heritage, and contemporary representations of a globalizing Indian nation? What makes artistic and cultural production such a powerful medium for the construction and dissemination of these ideas? What does it mean to practice and consume ‘arts’ that are historically rooted in the colonial encounter in the present moment? This course will be of interest to students of South Asian studies, as well as students interested in postcolonial studies, cultural studies, and studies of nation formation more broadly.

     

    Section 002 (Monberg) | Tu Th 12:40 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Community Literacy, Civic Engagement, Collaboration

    What is do we mean by the term, “community literacy”? What programs support the literacies of community members? How do programs  collaborate with schools, colleges, and universities? When is a sustainable model appropriate and when is a more tactical approach necessary and why? In this tutorial, students will explore these questions by looking at research on community literacy and the kinds of programs that foster community literacy and civic engagement through innovative models of collaboration. There will be a particular focus on programs that work with Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) communities, communities of color, and other historically underrepresented communities. We will begin with some common readings. Students will then survey/research several models of community literacy collaborations. Finally, students will define their own individual projects, which may include proposing, creating, or expanding a community literacy project; developing a curriculum to foster community literacies; or researching the collaborative process of creating sustainable programs. The goal of the class is to further develop students’ research capacities (broadly defined) and to guide them through the process of designing and carrying out a research-informed project.

     

    Section 003 (Yoder) | Tu Th 2:40 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    Religion without God? – Topics in Religious Naturalism

    “Religious naturalism” is a term that emerged in the 1980s from a wide ranging conversation between theologians, scientists, and philosophers of religion. Though it is an umbrella term used to cover a range of positions, the intellectual terrain included in religious naturalism is roughly defined by two shared commitments. The first is a commitment to naturalism, to the premise that we should look to the natural world, rather than some supernatural realm to explain and give meaning to our experience. The second is the claim that this commitment to naturalism does not preclude religion, that there can be authentic religious responses to the world that do not depend on the existence of a supernatural realm.

     

    RCAH390-Language and Culture

    Section 001 (Bosse) | M  6:00 p.m. – 8:50 p.m.
    Music, Language and Meaning

    It is often said that music is a universal language. While untrue, we collectively cling to this notion for reasons that reveal something important about human communication; for music and language are among the semiotic skills and behaviors that most uniquely define us as humans. While music and language may be useful in different ways, both involve the conversion of complex auditory sequences into meaningful units and structures (and vice versa) in a real-time, moment-to-moment, rapid-fire fashion.

    Scholars through the ages have explored the connections between music and language, and music as language, from Plato to Charles Darwin to Leonard Bernstein. Participants in this course will add our voices to the conversation; engaging disciplines ranging from cultural criticism and cultural anthropology; musicology and music theory; semiotics, linguistics and communication studies; cognition, psychology and neuroscience.

     

    Section 002 (Torrez) | Tu Th 10:20 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
    Am I My Language?  

    Language is more than a tool of communication and its cultural significance moves beyond a channel through which information is transmitted. In fact, language is used as a channel for tradition, knowledge, survival skills, healing, and resistance. In the above statement Joshua Fishman intimates how in certain circumstances, language is used as a weapon for colonization, subjugation, and assimilation. Therefore, it is not surprising that amidst an era of globalization, the language of commerce is rampantly replacing dozens of Indigenous and heritage languages. In response to global unilingualism, communities devote efforts to maintain heritage languages, while demanding their linguistic rights. Additionally, these communities perform counter-hegemonic actions to prevent the dissolving of their sociocultural and linguistic practices.

    In addition to the commonly studied categories of race, gender, and class, this section will investigate how language is inextricably linked to identity formation and the implications of a global society.  This course will delve into the discussion of language attrition and revitalization, in addition to how these processes affect identity construction (both individually and as a community). Through meaningful dialogue, we will discuss the importance of language on our own identities and the implications of language loss on the identities of our respective communities.  We will focus on the manifestations of these issues from a global perspective. 

      

    RCAH492-Senior Seminar

    Section 001 (Aronoff) | M W 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    What’s Culture? Whose Culture?  Where’s Culture?

    A key term in academic and popular discourse – including in the RCAH curriculum – is “culture.”  But behind this deceptively simple word is a long, tangled and complex history, the study of which leads one immediately into histories of exploration, imperialism, race, class, science and the arts.  This class will examine key texts in the history of the idea of culture in the West – ranging from works of literature, science, anthropology, philosophy and aesthetics – with particular attention to the emergence of anthropology in the modernist period, and the many permutations and problems with culture in contemporary discourses of multiculturalism, transnationalism and the global circulation of “culture(s).”  Along the way we will ask questions like:  What is “culture”?  What does it mean to “have” (a) culture?  To be “cultured”? How do ideas of culture intersect with ideas of ethnicity, race, nationality and personal identity?  Who owns (a) culture?  How do particular cultures “own” you? What is the relationship between “culture” and individual creativity?  Culture and change?  Transculturation and cultural appropriation? How is culture embodied/represented in particular institutions and media (museums? MTV? The internet?) What kinds of ideas of culture are embodied in the idea of the liberal arts curriculum (and RCAH curriculum)?    What is the “culture” of the RCAH?  How was that culture created?

  • Spring 2019

    RCAH112-Writing Research Technologies

    Section 001 (Aronoff) | M W 10:20 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
    Our America:  Cultures of American Modernism, 1919-1930

    The focus of this section of RCAH 112 is the idea of “American culture” as it is renegotiated and reimagined in the United States in the 1920s and 30s. More accurately, we might say we are investigating shifts in “American” “culture,” since, we will discover, both of these terms – what it means to be an “American” and what it means to “have culture” – undergo crucial and complex shifts in this period.  This section, then, will examine debates over “American” culture, race, national identity and art in the modernist period.  Looking at various primary documents, with particular attention to the arts (modernist poetry, literature, jazz and other media), we will ask:  how do these texts imagine the relationship between “race,” “nation,” and “culture”? How do these constructions engage debates over immigration, assimilation and pluralism?  What is the relationship between racial and /or cultural identity and political identity (or citizenship)? What is the relationship between “culture,” art, and new modes technologies? Is industrialism and its methods the end of “culture” as “high art,” or the beginning of a new kind of “culture”?  How did new forms of artistic expression (broadly speaking, “modernist” art) respond to, challenge, or incorporate these new social conditions?  We will then think about how these modernist debates reverberate in contemporary, 21st Century contexts, in questions of transnational migration, national identity, cultural “ownership” and authenticity, etc. The breadth of these questions will allow for a wide variety of approaches and specific interest:  like all sections of 112, we will be able to pursue the burning questions we raise by developing our skills as researchers and writers.

     

    Section 002 (Yoder) | M W 10:20 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
    Researching and Writing about Ethical Issues

    While questions in bioethics are often considered to be very personal, they are also at the heart of many public controversies.  In this course we will use both public and scholarly reflection on bioethical issues to deepen our understanding of the practice of research and writing in the humanities.  We will use this material in order to increase our understanding of 1) what it means to do research in the humanities, 2) how to use writing as a means of inquiry, 3) how to evaluate and construct arguments, and 4) how to conduct and present a research project in the humanities.  Each student will produce a thesis-driven research paper on a relevant topic of their choice, a project utilizing an alternative format for presenting the results of their research, and a writing portfolio documenting both these final products and the processes used to produce them. 

     

    Section 003 (Paula) | M W 12:40 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
    Community Activist and Social Movements

    A Transnational Perspective Social movements have long been considered a driving force behind political, social, and cultural change. Focusing on the cultural contexts of collective action, this course will explore theoretical perspectives and look at local, national, and global examples of social movements activism. Throughout the semester, we will discuss the tactics and organizing strategies used by social movements and examine the various reactive and repressive responses to social activism. In addition, we will study how social movements have changed in the last century and explore the role of allies and adversaries in supporting and/or damaging community engagement.

    The course is intended to prepare students to conduct academic research and requires students to produce critical research papers or projects (topic of their choice) that consider how social movements come about, and what allows them or constrains them in effecting social change.

     

    Section 004 (Sheridan) | M W 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    The Production of Culture

    This class focuses on the ways that the analytical and creative work of the arts and humanities can help to solve real-world problems.  The premises of this course are: (1) that forms of cultural expression (such as stories, videos, performances, music, etc.) can be powerful tools of social change; and (2) that all of us are potentially producers of these forms.  Accordingly, students will begin by identifying a cultural problem — something they would like to see changed in the world.  They will analyze the way the problem is embodied in popular culture (e.g., movies, music, websites).  Finally, they will devise their own "cultural interventions": movies, music, websites, and other compositions aimed at addressing the cultural problem in question.

     

    Section 750 (Delgado,V) | (Arranged)
    Program on Sustainability in Costa Rica

    More information at:
    http://rcah.msu.edu/student-life/study-abroad-away/rcah-program-sustaina...

     

    RCAH192-Proseminar

    Section 001 (Skeen) | M W 8:30 a.m. – 9:50 a.m.
    Poetry:  News that Stays News

    “The most famous statements about poetry and journalism hide an equation inside an opposition: “It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack// of what is found there” (William Carlos Williams). Or else they hide an opposition inside an equation: “Poetry is news that stays news” (Ezra Pound).”  --Stephen Burt.

    Every day we find ourselves bombarded with “the news”:  breaking news, fake news, old news, cable news, to name just a few.  If poetry really is “news that stays news,” who are the poets who have reported that news and helped us to survive by reading it?  In this course we will look to the U.S. Poets Laureate, a position that was created by Congress in 1937, over 80 years ago, and examine what those poets have said to us.  Who or what is a poet laureate?  Who chooses the poets, and what do they do?  We’ll place these writers in an historical and literary context, as well as look at the often uneasy position they found themselves in between politics and art, as many of us do today.  And what about the state and city poets laureate?  Which states appoint them and which don’t?  Who are they?  What do they do?  We’ll do reading, research, and writing, both scholarly and creative.

     

    Section 002 (Torrez) | M W 10:20 a.m. – 11:40 p.m.
    It’s a Small World, After All

    Walt Disney once said, “I think of a child’s mind as a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly.” Using this philosophy, Disney erected a multibillion-dollar corporation Imagineering future generations ideals, roles, and beliefs. For some, Disney became a symbol of imagination, fantasy, and peace; while others came to see Disney as the hands molding children into conventional American values not mirroring their own principles. Yet others saw Disney as a pervasive entity neatly packaging childhood into Eurocentric ideals, represented through character-based products ranging from cookies to beauty products to clothing to McDonald Happy Meal toys.

    In this course, we will collaboratively investigate and compare stories in their original form to those (re)told in contemporary times. Traditionally stories began as a way to pass along customs, histories, and morals, they also worked as devices to instill certain societal principles. In this way, cultures throughout the world have used storytelling as a means to inform younger generations of how they become “community members,” how the elements are created, or even motivations for migration. A few questions guiding this course are: What is lost in the (re)telling of these stories?  Can the communities that depend on these stories to pass along cultural knowledge reappropriate those stories once they are Disneyified? Are Disney films “innocent” entertainment or are they something else? Is Disney a reflection of society or society a reflection of Disney?

     

    Section 003 (Aerni-Flessner) | Tu Th 10:20 a.m. - 11:40 a.m.
    Proseminar: Urban Renewal in Lansing

    This course is an introduction for students to ideas of renewal and change, development and progress. These terms all seemingly have positive connotations, but they have also in American history concealed violence and histories of community dispossession. Most of the “urban renewal” projects of the 1960s, including freeway construction and the creation of housing projects, involved cutting swaths through African-American and other poor/marginalized communities. This was true for the Lansing area, and its Interstate 496 project.

    This class will look at some of those histories to better understand how discourses of progress and social programs purporting to serve poor populations have been used to displace as well. We will also be working with digital humanities professionals from across campus and a collection of photographs that the Historical Society of Greater Lansing has to create a digital recreation of the African-American neighborhood that was razed to create Lansing’s modern transportation network. The project will focus on what was there, what is there today, and how various groups and individuals understood the changes taking place.

     

    RCAH203-Transcultural Relations

    Section 001 (Plough) | Tu Th 10:20 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
    The Globalization of Yoga

    After an overview of the origins and major schools of yoga, the course focuses on the introduction and spread of the practice and philosophy outside of India. We will explore possible reasons for and the effects of the worldwide adoption of yoga on the practice itself, taking into consideration the commercialization (e.g., clothing, retreats, publications) of the tradition as well as its integration into western medicine (e.g., pain management, stress relief, improved mobility). Among the questions we will address are: What commonalities exist between ‘modern’ and ‘classical’ yoga? How has yoga changed since its introduction to populations outside of India? How does the ‘same’ yoga differ based on where it is practiced? Is there an ‘authentic’ or ‘pure’ yoga? 

     

    Section 002 (Aerni-Flessner) | Tu Th 12:40 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
    Transcultural Relations: African Popular Culture and Independence in the 20th Century

    This course examines histories of popular culture—things like music, the arts, and sport, etc.—to think about how people built community. With the rise and fall of colonialism, people across Africa had to work to build new communities around shared ideas of country and culture.

    This class looks at a number of case studies to try to figure out how popular culture was used (and abused) by leaders and common people alike in their quest to build new nations out of the damage caused by colonialism. We will look at apartheid South Africa, and how protests that erupted globally helped change perceptions about the country. We will look at and listen to popular music from Angola and Zimbabwe to try to better understand how people survived wars against European colonial powers, and how they used music and other forms of culture as part of the battle. 

    How is citizenship constructed and what does it mean for a country to be “independent?” Looking at Africa, we will ask questions that are relevant to contexts the world over.

     

    Section 003 (Thobani) | Tu Th 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    Migration and Diaspora Through the Arts

    In this course, we will study the relationships among and between ‘homelands’, ‘diasporas’ and ‘host nations’ by focusing on art and cultural production. In what ways do ‘cultures’ shift and change as diasporic communities migrate and settle in their new locations? How are the cultures of the homeland, diaspora, and host nation reproduced over time? How does the relationship between these three sites affect diasporic cultural production, and how is it shaped by such production in turn? In what ways do diasporic communities and actors address issues of race, class and gender through cultural production? What can the study of diasporic art reveal about identity formation in the context of migration? Taking examples from music, dance, cinema, fashion, literature and the visual arts, we will explore the many ways in which diasporic identity is produced and expressed in different locations. We will also interrogate questions of cultural belonging, nostalgia, ‘authenticity’, and essentialism. Rather than limit the focus to one particular diasporic community, our aim in this course is to study the connections that exist between and across different cultural groups in the transnational present.

     

    Section 750 (Delgado,V) | (Arranged)
    Program on Sustainability in Costa Rica

    More information here

     

    RCAH291-Arts Workshop

    Section 001 (Delgado, G.) | M 12:40 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
    The Prison Poetry ‘Zine Project

    In this arts workshop course, we will practice and use the arts, including poetry and creative writing, to infuse positive social change in our prison system and beyond. Through weekly visits to prisons, we will work side-by-side with incarcerated people, including children, to create poetry ‘zines and facilitate and perform slam poetry. We will investigate and reflect on why the arts matter in prison—its impact on rehabilitation and communities inside and outside the prison walls. The works of poets who wrote while in prison, including Etheridge Knight, Jimmy Baca Santiago, Marilyn Buck, and Reginald Dwayne Betts, will be introduced and discussed.

     

    Section 002 (Bosse and Scales) | Tu Th 10:20 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
    Creative Workshop: Songwriting and Music Production

    This class involves the creation and recording of popular music, from the initial stages of songwriting through to the recording of those songs. Students will explore the challenges of the creative process, develop their musicianship skills, and become proficient in digital recording technologies, including various kinds of microphones, microphone placements, and some of the basic principles of acoustics.  Part of this process will also include analyzing songs we love and those we love to hate. Students should have the minimum ability to perform in some fashion the music they currently enjoy to listen to and create. 

     

    Section 003 (Miner) | Tu Th  12:40 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
    Printing Politics: Posters, Broadsides, and Radical Ephemera

    As aesthetic and political objects, the poster has a long tradition, particularly in relation to activist, revolutionary, and public art. For the Atelier Populaire, a French collective working during the May ’68 uprising, posters functioned as ‘weapons in the service of the struggle,’ as well as an inseparable part of that same struggle. Much like their peers in Cuba a decade earlier or in Mexico three decades prior, the Atelier Populaire is central to ‘popular printmaking’ practices in which artists and activists use hand-printed posters to challenge dominant institutions.  Today, with the advent of digital printing and the prominence of capitalism as the dominant economic system, the poster has become synonymous with slick corporate marketing, particularly linked to Hollywood cinema.  Outside the constraints of corporate design, popular printmaking – such as screenprinting –  confronts and contests the frequency of digital technologies and the corporate control of visual spaces.

    In this class, students will learn basic 1. relief printing, 2. screenprinting, and 3. risography as techniques available to them as they work on their projects in this class.

     

    Section 004  (Newman) | Tu Th 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    Dance as Human Experience

    Why do humans have an innate impulse to move, to dance? Through observation and exploration, students begin with a personal journey, from noticing ordinary movement to recognizing the extraordinary choices and possibilities that dance offers. Relationships to the broader context of history, culture, communication, social issues, and aesthetics are realized over the arc of experience. Students in this class can expect to move, to discover, to create, to write. They will learn to recognize dance/movement as an everyday tool by which humans experience and interpret life. No previous dance experience necessary.

     

    RCAH292A-Engagement Proseminar

    Section 001 (Brooks) | Tu 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    Holistic Citizenship: Living and Working in Engaged Communities

    This proseminar is an introduction to civic engagement and explores the concepts of identity, consciousness, community, culture, citizenship, and reflection using an interdisciplinary approach. Employing theories and methodologies from the arts and humanities, as well as incorporating methods from the social and natural sciences, students will read and discuss an assortment of written and visual texts (artwork, writings, film, etc.) to facilitate learning and to enhance critical thinking. In addition, students will complete experiential learning exercises that build relationships with civic organizations and work toward improving personal and community health/wellness. More specifically, this course will assist students with developing an understanding of the various types of civic engagement activities in relation to the RCAH model on civic engagement (insight, practice, action, passion). Students will be challenged to evaluate notions of vulnerability, empathy, and belongingness. Then, students will be asked to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate existing and new ways of performing civic engagement that improves individuals, families, communities, and humanity.

     

    Section 002 (Monberg) | Th 4:10 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
    Stories that Sustain Community

    This proseminar prepares students for civic engagement in RCAH and beyond by exploring the difference between serving and sustaining community. The United States, in particular, has a “distinct culture” of nonprofit and community-based organizations that depend on volunteerism (Stewart and Casey 2013). While volunteerism has its place in community-based work, it often privileges a short-term commitment and a short-term understanding of communities. Taking a long-term view of community, students in this course will first explore different models of civic engagement and how those models inform and impact community collaborations. We will then explore civic engagement programs that use spoken word and digital storytelling to foster community among refugee youth and communities. Finally, in the later part of the semester, students will collaborate with a youth program at Lansing’s Refugee Development Center (RDC) on a spoken word or digital storytelling project.

     

    Section 750 (Delgado,V) | (Arranged)
    Program on Sustainability in Costa Rica

    More information at:
    http://rcah.msu.edu/student-life/study-abroad-away/rcah-program-sustaina...

     

    RCAH292B-Engagement and Reflection

    Section 001 (Whitney) | M W  10:20 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.
    Nonprofit Arts and Innovation: Community Engagement through Experiential Learning

    Designed to provide authentic field experiences in conjunction with academic study, this course has a primary focus on non-profit arts management with an introduction to social entrepreneurism. Civic engagement experiences will offer individual students a behind-the-scenes perspective at the site of community arts agencies and an opportunity to gain knowledge, skills, and connections with community partners. Class sessions will feature several expert guest speakers and examine aspects of nonprofit arts organizations, such as: vision, leadership, innovation, and the discipline within day-to-day operations integral to making a mission a reality.

     

    Section 002 (Brooks) | M W  3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    Health and Wellness in Our Communities

    This course on engagement and reflection assists students with developing a deeper understanding of civic engagement and cultivates a fervent commitment to improving personal and community health and wellness. Students will be introduced to issues and challenges affecting the health and well-being of our communities. Using an interdisciplinary approach from the arts, humanities, and social sciences, this course explores the historical, physiological, psychological, spiritual, social, environmental, and occupational forces influencing our health behaviors and lifestyle choices. Topics explored consist of historical and cultural perspectives on health/wellness, psycho-social challenges to healthy living, environmental concerns, chronic diseases, alternative interventions and resources, and health policy studies. The goals of this course are to improve health literacy, draw attention to health disparities, and encourage greater participation in physical activity.

     

    Section 003 (Baibak) | W 12:40 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
    Inside the Peckham Art Studio

    In this civic engagement course we will work with RCAH’s partners at Peckham Inc., inside the Peckham Art Studio. Peckham provides people with physical, cognitive, behavioral and socio-economic challenges, a platform to demonstrate their ability, learn new skills, participate in work and enjoy the rewards of their success. We’ll use this unique experience to explore what is “Civic Engagement”. By working alongside Peckham artists, in their studio, making art, and sharing stories, we will be fueled to reflect on how interpersonal interactions expand our own understanding of the world we live in. The class will learn “People First Language”, be exposed to social design, and engage as amateur social anthropologist practicing participatory observation. Students will assess the time we spend with our partners through creative writing and art processes.

     

    Section 750 (Delgado,V) | (Arranged)
    Program on Sustainability in Costa Rica

    More information at:
    http://rcah.msu.edu/student-life/study-abroad-away/rcah-program-sustaina...

     

    RCAH292C-Independent Engagement

    Section 001 (Arranged)
    Independent Engagement

    292C courses are unique, independent engagements of variable credit negotiated between students, community partners, and RCAH faculty. They assume that the student and the community have established a relationship of mutual respect, trust, and benefit. They also assume a high level of passion and experience. These courses focus heavily on the action and insight areas of the RCAH Civic Engagement model. Students select and work with a specific faculty of record and community partner to develop and implement the syllabus and the engagement program for the course.

     

    RCAH304-LGBTQ Studies

    Section 001 (Schwartz) | M W 4:10 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (cross listed with WS/LBC)
    From Perversion to Marriage: Media and the LGBTQ Community

    The rise of the LGBTQ community equality movement is one formed and informed by the media, ranging from the early 20th century reports of same-gender loving persons as perverts, the red scare and the free love movement to the Stonewall Rebellion and the struggle for marriage equality. The rise of HIV and its death toll in the LGBTQ communities provided a focused reality for the struggle for equality and caused newsrooms to confront their biases, both in their news coverage and employment practices. The epidemic also served as a pivot point shifting the media focus from the acts of sex to the identity of sexuality and the humanity of the people impacted. Gay press led the way, but it's an untold story that will be revealed through this course led by a journalist with 50 years’ experience on the front lines.

                 

    RCAH310-Childhood and Society

    Section 001 (Torrez) | M W 12:40 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
    Critical Pedagogy

    Teaching is a political act and the classroom is a potential revolutionary space.  These words, pronounced by Brazilian educational theorist Paulo Freire, are often used globally to situate teaching within notions of activism.  In a time when education is confused with schooling, and learning is solely gauged by “standardized” assessments, we must critically interrogate our roles as teachers and as learners.

    This course is founded on democratic education, presupposing that everyone actively participates in the generation, transformation, and production of knowledge. In this way, everyone must engage in the process of transformative learning, facilitating active participation in a process “that by rethinking our past, we can fundamentally gain an understanding of the formation of our self, the roots of our present condition, and the limits as well as the possibilities of our being a self-in-the-world” (Torres, 2007). In this course we will engage in questions such as: How do current students, overwhelmed with a turbulent political climate, critically engage in/with their learning process? Why should we bother to engage? What are the responsibilities of educators and learners in democratic education and how can we assume those responsibilities?

     

    RCAH340-Technology and Creativity

    Section 001 (Aronoff)| M W 3:00 p.m. - 4:20 p.m.
    Fictions of Science and Technology

    This course will examine the interplay between scientific philosophies, technology and literature.  We will explore this interplay in terms of both content and form: in other words, we will study the ways in which the “subject matter” of science and technology – the theories, discoveries, inventions of science – are explored within novels and short stories to probe their implications for our conceptions of society, the self, and art; we will also think about how scientific “ways of knowing” – rationality, empiricism, linear narrative – have been deployed and resisted to shape the genres of the realist novel, detective fiction, gothic tales and science fiction.  Finally, we will also think about how the technology of the book itself shapes the kinds of narratives that can be produced, and how new technologies – the internet, hypertext, etc. – might produce new kinds of narratives.

     

    RCAH380-Third Year Tutorial

    Section 001 (Paula) | M W 10:20 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
    Insurgent Citizenship: New Urban Social Movements

    This course will consider the ways in which groups of ‘insurgent citizens’ subvert old paradigms of political participation and take on novel forms of action to address various aspects of the urban experience. We will look at transnational and transcultural insurgent modes of claiming spaces and rights through urban social movements that reconfigure conventional understandings of what it means to be a citizen. We will explore how interventions such as squatter occupations in Barcelona, mega informal markets in Buenos Aires, widespread tagging in São Paulo, Chicana and feminist biking collectives in Los Angeles and first peoples-led rights of nature movement effectively engage in meaningful practices of citizenship including its social, economic, political, and cultural dimensions. From an interdisciplinary approach, we will address some of the ways in which urban social movements advance their class, race, gender, and environmental agendas via practices of insurgent citizenship.

     

    Section 002 (Hunter Morgan) | Tu Th 12:40 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Once Upon a Time: The Potency of Fairy Tales and the Magic of Book Arts

    “The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

    Why do we love fairy tales? They enchant, yes. But they do more than that as well. Hans Christian Anderson translator Erik Christian Haugaard said, “I know of no fairy tale which upholds the tyrant, or takes the part of the strong against the weak. A fascist fairy tale is an absurdity.” Angela Carter called the spirit of the fairy tale “heroic optimism.” Tolkien claimed, “It was in fairy-stories that I first divined the potency of words, and the wonder of the thing, such as stone, and wood, and iron; tree and grass, house and fire; bread and wine.” That these tales are full of loss, jealousy, and suffering in addition to stones, wood, and iron, make them real to us. That they generally end with what Tolkien described as sudden and miraculous grace is an assertion of the triumph of desire over dread. During this course, we will divine the potency of these tales, and we will discover the beauty of the book itself.

    This interdisciplinary course will combine fundamentals of literature, creative writing, and traditional book arts. We will think about what makes a fairy tale a fairy tale, and why we need, as Tolkien said, “to hold communion with other living things.” In addition to reading traditional tales, we’ll read contemporary or near contemporary re-tellings of old tales, and we’ll consider the role of fairy tales in film and poetry. Students will generate their own work (a connected series of poems or a list essay) and will learn how to make their own books to contain this work.
     

    RCAH390-Language and Culture

    Section 001 (Thobani) | M W 3:00 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.
    Translating Culture: Understanding Performance and Otherness in Cross-Cultural Contexts

    If, as scholars of performance studies suggest, artistic production and performance provide ways to communicate one’s cultural identity, what happens when these performances occur cross-culturally? That is, are performances such as those of music and dance universal in their ability to communicate, even when they originate in cultures marked as ‘different’? Can performance, as embodied practice, communicate that which is beyond language, or is it inseparable from language as a form of communication? What is the relationship between such performances and the ways in which entire cultures are defined and understood, especially in a context where ‘world’ music and dance draw such large followings? Taking these questions as our starting point, we will interrogate the relationship between communication and performance in relation to ‘Otherness’ by paying close attention to the politics of translation, interpretation, coded signification, and representation. 

     

    Section 002 (Plough) | Tu Th 8:00 a.m. – 9:20 a.m.
    Methods of Sociolinguistic Research

    Methods of Sociolinguistic Research is a general survey course of sociolinguistics and sociolinguistic research methodologies. Combining lecture, seminar, and fieldwork, the course introduces students to generating original data through ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and written questionnaires. Quantitative and qualitative approaches are covered. Readings include sociolinguistic studies on different world languages. Throughout the course, the advantages and disadvantages of different methods are critically examined with attention to the relationship between sociolinguistic phenomena and the selection of a particular research methodology. Specific topics include language variation, language attitudes, and identities.

     

    Section 003 (Banzhaf) | Tu Th 10:20 a.m. – 11:40 a.m.
    The Origin of Language(s) and Culture(s)

    We will explore the origin, evolution, and characteristics of language(s) and culture(s) from a general linguistic and anthropological perspective with the help of other disciplines. Questions we will ponder are: What is a language? Why did the capacity for language evolve in the first place? What are the forces that govern language change? Do languages flavor how we think about the world around us? What can the study of human migration tell us about the evolution of language families? What differentiates evolved languages from constructed languages, like Esperanto, Elvish, or Klingon? What are the specifics of languages like sign-, whistling-, clicking-, and body language? Some languages are tonal, some aren’t. Some have scripts, some don’t. What kinds of script are there? What are possible reasons and their cultural consequences? To examine this jungle of questions in depth, we will apply a modified framework borrowed from animal behavior studies. In addition to these questions, the course will be driven by interests that students bring to the course. We will also welcome several visitors as representatives of different languages. As a final project, our class will create a digital map of possible language evolution paths.

     

    RCAH391-Independent Study

    Section 750 (Delgado,V) | (Arranged)
    Program on Sustainability in Costa Rica

    More information at:
    http://rcah.msu.edu/student-life/study-abroad-away/rcah-program-sustaina...

     

    RCAH395-Special Topics in the Arts & Humanities

    Section 750 (Delgado,V) | (Arranged)
    Program on Sustainability in Costa Rica

    More information at:
    http://rcah.msu.edu/student-life/study-abroad-away/rcah-program-sustaina...

     

    RCAH492-Senior Seminar

    Section 001 (Scales) | M W 10:20 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.
    Who Owns Culture?: Cultural Property and Creativity in the Twenty-First Century

    In this course we will examine the legal, ethical, and cultural stakes related to current international conversations about intellectual property and cultural property and how these conversations will effect what Lawrence Lessig has called the “nature and future of creativity.”  In studying these issues we will ask such basic questions as:  What is the relationship between shared cultural knowledge and individual creativity?  Is it possible (or desirable) for a social group to “own” and “control” their cultural practices. Is there an inherent value for society in a “cultural commons,” and if so, how do we balance the ownership “rights” of individuals with those of larger communities?  These conversations are vital and immediate for RCAH students who are planning careers within the North American “creative economy.”  As such, the most important outcome of this course will be the development of some very real and tangible possible policy recommendations, research papers, or creative works that confront these issues in meaningful and socially helpful ways.

     

    Section 002 (Esquith) | M W 3:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.
    When Words Lose Their Meaning

    Thucydides described the civil war in Corcyra in 427 BCE in his History of Peloponnesian Wars this way:

    “Irrational boldness was considered as manly loyalty to one’s partisans; prudent delay as specious cowardice, moderation as a disguise for unmanliness, and a well-rounded intelligence as a disqualification for action.” (3.82.4)

    Today, for some in the U.S., manliness is a coveted license to harass and assault women, others cling to it as a symbol of benign patriarchal responsibility, and still others reject it as a sexist anachronism. For some, “Make America Great Again” means generating greater economic power, while for others it is a thinly veiled threat to block refugees and purge the nation of its racial and ethnic diversity.

    In this seminar, first we’ll ask how we got into this fix. How has political language been degraded into a series of impulsive tweets?  How has power outgrown even the imperfect democratic institutions and norms that once held it somewhat in check? How have we learned to idolize superpower and demonize the other? To paraphrase Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, how have we learned to stop worrying and love the bomb?

    Second, what new forms of radical participation are afforded by social media, and what new dangers do these technologies create? To answer this question, we’ll consider some of the more promising moments in which democratic participation occurred, including recent protest movements in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

    Among the authors we’ll be reading are Sheldon S. Wolin, Zeynep Tufekci, and David Graeber.