Fall 2022 First-Year Seminars

Fall 2022 First-Year Seminars

89S Series Seminars: First-Year Students Only

First Year Seminars all bear the 89S number (e.g., History 89S). Taught by our leading faculty, these signature classes enroll no more than 18 first-year students per section, allowing our students to engage closely with faculty, with each other, and with ideas at the heart of the seminars.

80S Series Seminars: All Undergraduates

In addition to the 89S seminars available only to enrolled first-year students, several departments offer seminars bearing a number in the 80s that are introductory courses appropriate for first-year students but also open to enrollment to upper-division students.

Faculty interested in teaching a first-year seminar should review the Guidelines for Teaching First-Year Seminars and contact Program Director Denise Comer for more information.


First-Year Seminars Connected to the
"What Now?" Network of First-Year Seminars

This first grouping of seminars are part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars. What Now? courses contain a shared “wellness lab,” offering opportunities to engage with faculty and students in other participating seminars. Register for this .5-credit component of the program by adding Ethics 189 to your schedule. Scroll down for the full range of first-year seminars offered during Fall 2022.

What Now? Love & Justice (CZ, CCI, EI)

The notion of a holistic justice—that a threat to justice is a threat to justice everywhere—is well known, but to ask the Tina Turner question: What’s love got to do with it? The course aims to introduce students to some of the leading thinkers who discuss themes dealing with love and justice from diverse traditions and backgrounds. Through engagement with writing and artifacts from contemporary and historical social movements as well as sacred texts from multiple religious traditions, we will explore the linkages between "love" and "justice" across time and cultural space. In the process, we will recover an understanding of dimensions of both concepts that are often missing from contemporary discourse, offering insights into why treating the problems of our contemporary world as straightforwardly economic or political might not be enough. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Omid Safi
Omid Safi, Ph.D. (Duke University) is a Professor of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies. His teaching and research focus on Islamic mysticism, contemporary Islam, and liberationist traditions that link together love and justice.

What Now? Natural History of Civilization (NS, EI)

Natural History of Civilization follows the example of “Guns Germs and Steel” in applying a natural science perspective to the study of human history. To understand human nature it may be important to recognize those elements of our cultures that are imposed on us by the principles of ecology and our interactions with the natural world. Mark Bertness has famously added cooperation and self-assembly to join the processes of competition and predation in shaping our civilization. Examples include the domestication of olives in regions where humans are lactose intolerant, and cooperation enforced by the once universal practice of public executions. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Clifford Cunningham
Cliff Cunningham, Ph.D. (Yale University), is a Full Professor of Biology, one of the pioneers of using DNA to discover the “Family Tree” of animals. His interests include the “Trans-Arctic Invasion” of Pacific marine animals into the North Atlantic after the first opening of the Bering Strait. He likes to promote scientific synthesis and sing 70’s style folk music. 


What Now? How Hospitals Work (CCI, EI, SS)

This course examines the everyday work of hospitals as a lens onto society, politics, and culture, from the standpoints of the medical humanities, medical anthropology, history, and literature. Global case studies will ground several key questions: How do different forms of healthcare work -- doctoring, nursing, and others -- reflect and produce social difference? When patients get admitted to the hospital, what power relationships develop? How do hospitals and cities develop symbiotic relationships? How are hospitals sites for the production of race, gender, and other forms of difference? And ultimately, through close attention to the work hospitals do, how might we better understand them as a core social institution? Case studies from different cultural and geographical contexts inform our exploration of the relationships between hospitals and social life, including hospitals operating during the Iraq War, in Southern Africa in the context of HIV/AIDS, in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and in New York during the first wave of Covid-19. The course will focus on the lives that make up hospitals -- providers, patients, and families -- and the labor that they all do, differently. Assessments are designed to reflect and build specific skills, including: Reading, via Reading notes; Discussing, via Class participation; Writing, via writing assignments; Researching, via a mini-research project, and Translating, via an op-ed that addresses course insights for the public and policymakers. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Harris Solomon
Harris Solomon, Ph.D. (Brown University) is the Fred W. Shaffer Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology. His teaching and research focus on medical anthropology, including the dynamic relations between medicine and everyday social and political life.


What Now? Education as Liberation: Ethics, Organizing, and Equity

How do communities, schools, and neighborhoods organize for social change? How do individuals organize their own commitments and energies to change themselves and the world around them? This course examines education as a component of collective liberation in the contemporary United States through themes of ethics, community organizing, and educational equity. It will introduce central philosophical and practical approaches to political organizing, help students develop skills in understanding and critiquing school segregation and resegregation in the US, and enable students to locate their own commitments, callings, and aptitudes within a variety of liberative accounts of social change. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Adam Hollowell
Adam Hollowell, Ph.D. (University of Edinburgh) serves as Senior Research Associate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Faculty Director of the Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Scholarship Program. His teaching and research focus broadly on ethics, religion, race, and public policy. 


Education and (Un)Happiness: The Promises and Risks of Elite Higher Education (CCI, EI, CZ)

Does getting more education lead to greater happiness? Given how much time, energy, and money are invested in getting into college, and especially top-tier schools, one might think going to college is the golden ticket to a happy life. But is it? If so, what do we make of the increasing rates of depression and anxiety among college students, including those at elite schools? If not, why do people work so hard to get into and through college? In what ways—if any—should college contribute to students’ happiness? In this course, we’ll explore the relationship between education and happiness, specifically in the context of elite undergraduate education in the United States. From Aristotle to the Dalai Lama, philosophers and spiritual leaders across the ages have noted that human beings are ultimately after happiness. Every choice we make is aimed towards this end. Education, then, is pursued to achieve happiness, but how exactly are they related? To get at this question, we’ll consider what “education” and “happiness” mean; examine whether the purposes, practices, and philosophies that have shaped American undergraduate education align with what promotes happiness; and look at the experiences of college students today, particularly at elite institutions, to examine the question in concrete terms. Finally, throughout the course, you’ll learn practical ways to pursue your education in ways that support your happiness. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Katherine Jo
Katherine Jo, Ph.D. (University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign), is the Director of Program Development and Design for the Purpose Project at Duke at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Her teaching and research focus on the role of liberal education in human flourishing and the place of religion and faith in higher education. 


What Now? Long, Strange Trips: The Grateful Dead & American Cultural Change (CZ, EI)

“We're like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.” Jerry Garcia. Few musical acts have ever reached the level of cultural awareness and impact as the Grateful Dead, and perhaps none has enjoyed such ardent devotion for so long. The story of the Grateful Dead offers a lens through which to view not only the tumult of the 1960s counterculture movement but also to understand broader political and historical forces in the United States.  In other words, the Grateful Dead and their history and music will form the backbone for the class, but this will be used to shed light on social upheaval, identity and shared experience, how ideas endure, and the sometimes-murky search for collective meaning. Using a mix of scholarly and biographical accounts, this course will offer students a multidimensional and interdisciplinary examination of how ideas form, inspire, intimidate, and ultimately stand the test of time. We will also explore the significance of how ideas can go from the margins to the mainstream through notions of authenticity and cooptation. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor Eric Mlyn
Eric Mlyn, Ph.D. (University of Minnesota), is a Lecturer in the Sanford School of Public Policy and Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Kenan Institute for Ethics. His research and teaching interests include civic engagement and social change.


What Now? How to Think in an Age of Political Polarization (EI, W, CZ)

Americans today live in a time of deep political polarization, cultural tribalism, and self- segregation. Those with whom we have deep disagreements, assuming we interact with them at all, are often viewed as not just wrong but as irrational, immoral, even contemptible. What are the causes and costs of these trends? What remedies might exist? Are there habits of mind that we might cultivate to build better citizens and a healthier democracy? Topics include the politics of higher education, self-censorship, and cancel culture. Discussions of controversial political issues. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Matthew Young
Matthew Young (Ph.D. UNC-Chapel Hill) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. He studies the relationship between political theology and the practice of toleration. His teaching and research interests span the fields of theology, just war theory, toleration, law, virtue ethics, and PPE. 


What Now? Privacy and Its Meanings for a Connected Life Well-lived (CZ, EI, STS)

Privacy matters in our everyday lives – whether we are online, using social media, at home or out in public; when we are communicating, protesting, working, learning, and interacting with others in a spectrum of social and political contexts. Healthcare also implicates substantial privacy interests - in the context of pandemic responsive technologies, reproductive care, and mental health apps. In this class, we will explore various dimensions of privacy – control over personal information, confidentiality, dignity and respect, autonomy, practical obscurity, anonymity, secrecy, solitude, trust, the right to be let alone, sexual privacy, intellectual privacy, and freedom from surveillance. We will study privacy as an individual right and as a social value. Privacy matters – even if you think you have nothing to hide. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Jolynn Dellinger
Jolynn Dellinger, J.D. (Duke Law School) is the Stephen and Janet Bear Visiting Lecturer and a Kenan Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Her research and teaching interests include privacy, ethics, and ethical tech. 


What Now? Introduction to Critical Animal Studies (CZ, SS, EI)

Some scientists contend that the Earth has entered a new geological age in which human actions and effects are the dominant force shaping the planet, a so-called "anthropocene." Such a planet offers diminishing possibilities for other creatures to live beyond the influence of Homo sapiens. How do animals fit into human societies when human society is now so inescapable? Do animals still exert agency and shape how we live? And how can humans maintain ethical relationships to nonhuman critters? Can we share landscapes and ecosystems, much less an entire planet? This course explores these questions, surveying different approaches to the critical study of animals from the humanities as well as the natural, environmental, and social sciences. We will pursue these questions through scientific papers, philosophical essays, literature, films, and experiential learning activities. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Gabriel Rosenberg
Gabriel N. Rosenberg, Ph.D. (Brown University) is an Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and History. His research and teaching interests include the historical and contemporary linkages among gender, sexuality, and the global food system and spaces of agricultural production as important sites for the constitution and governance of intimacy – intimacy both between and among humans, animals, and plants. 


What Now? Sex around the World (SS, CCI, EI)

The US Supreme Court just reversed Roe v. Wade, a decision that has sent shock waves throughout the globe. In this course, we will begin by studying the impetus for this reversal, considering the implications that such a decision has for the relationship between the body, erotics, and sexuality throughout the globe. From this standpoint, we will discuss the ways in which reproductive justice has historically been related to race, empire, and sexuality. We will consider the relationship between sexual desires, acts, pleasures, and dangers in various areas of the modern world, suggesting that these are ultimately connected to colonial attempts to control the bodies of all people, but particularly colonized and enslaved women and men. We will analyze a variety of institutions that seek to instill an ethics of sexual pleasure and danger, including the family, religion, law, sex work, and pornography. To engage in such an analysis, we will examine film, literature, legal texts, and other historical sources. In the end we will debate ways to “funk the erotic,” to challenge the status quo by enacting a different set of erotic principles. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Peter Sigal
Peter Sigal, Ph.D. (University of California, Los Angeles), is a Professor of History. His research and teaching interests center around the relationships between gender, sexuality, and colonialism. 


What Now? Serious Play (CZ, EI)

The core disciplines in universities have historically devoted themselves to the study of ‘serious’ things: the origins and nature of the physical universe, the structure of the human mind and the explanation of behavior, the history of civilizations and the foundations of law, the regulation of the economy, the question of the existence of deities, and myriad questions about, literally, life and death. Even when scholars enquired about leisure activities, they tended to focus on the serious ones: drama not humor, ballet not sports, classical music not folk or improvised music, harmony not rhythm, games for childhood development not for fun. In short, until very recently, serious enquiry has almost always looked down on anything involving play or playfulness. This course, in contrast, will be a serious enquiry into the nature and value of play, playfulness, games, sports, humor, magic, and the things that make popular culture pop. As a serious enquiry, the course will also serve as an introduction to philosophical analysis, logical argumentation, critical reasoning, and scientific method. Readings will range from the works of Greek and Chinese philosophers in the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, to Netflix stand-up comedy specials, and the latest theories of neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, and video-game designers. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Wayne John Norman
Wayne Norman, Ph.D. (University of London/United Kingdom) is the Mike and Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics in the Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Department of Philosophy at Duke University. He specializes in business ethics and political philosophy: his work in business ethics includes critical evaluations of stakeholder theory, corporate citizenship, corporate social responsibility, the so-called “triple bottom line”, and conflicts of interest; and his work in political philosophy includes nationalism, citizenship, constitutionalism, federalism, secession, and multiculturalism.


What Now? Game Theory and Democracy (QS, STS)

What is democracy? Using preferential ballots in elections is a natural idea since it allows voters to express a 1st choice, a 2nd choice, a 3rd choice, etc. on each ballot, thereby collecting more information from each voter and creating the potential for an outcome which better represents the voters. However, there are many ways to determine the winner of a preferential ballot election, and each “preferential ballot vote counting method” has its own game theory, both for the candidates and the voters, some better and some worse, and often very different from the game theory of the single vote ballot. In this course, we’ll use game theory and mathematics to study these questions. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Hubert Bray
Hubert L. Bray, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is a Professor of Mathematics and Physics. His teaching and research interests include geometric analysis, general relativity, and theoretical astrophysics. His interests include black holes, dark matter, and the curvature of spacetime.


The seminars listed above are part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars. What Now? courses contain a shared “wellness lab,” offering opportunities to engage with faculty and students in other participating seminars. Register for this .5-credit component of the program by adding Ethics 189 to your schedule. Scroll down for the full range of first-year seminars offered Fall 2022. 


The Archaeology of Death: Ritual and Social Structure in the Ancient World (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI)

This course studies the material culture linked to funerary practices and traditions in the ancient world (Egypt, Greece and Rome), although we will also review a series of select cases studies from other regions and periods for comparison. Traces of funerary rituals and commemorative monuments do not simply provide evidence about ancient ideas of the underworld, but also general information about ways of understanding memory and ancestry in Antiquity that illuminate in different ways how we think about the world of the dead today. If death is what makes us all equal, who gets to be remembered, how and where, provides insights about power, social structures and different types of identities or social personas (according to gender, age or occupation, for example). Therefore, the course also aims to get a better understanding of the role of the dead in the world of the living. In addition, it includes hands-on activities with artifacts from ancient funerary contexts at the Nasher Museum and field trips local cemeteries in Durham.
Professor: Alicia Jiménez
Alicia Jiménez, Ph.D. (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), is Assistant Professor of Classical Studies. Her research and teaching interests include archaeological theory and Roman visual and material culture, specifically in the western and central Mediterranean in the period 218 BCE-200 CE.


The Ancient Mind (

Understanding who we are now demands understanding where we came from. The study of the ancient mind is thus one of the most challenging and fascinating research activities regarding homo sapiens and human society. This kind of study requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves different disciplines and research backgrounds relevant to understanding how ancient minds thought about the world. This can be possible with a new dialogue between neuroscience and the humanities that, in particular, connects the study of art and material culture with cultural models, cultural patterns, and the evolution of the brain. This course seeks to open new perspectives in the study of the past and in the interpretation of the ancient and modern mind by approaching research questions at the intersection of the brain sciences, humanities, archaeology, anthropology, art, philosophy, aesthetics, and visual studies.
Professor: Maurizio Forte
Maurizio Forte, Ph.D. (La Sapienza University of Rome, Italy), is the William and Sue Gross Professor of Classical Studies and a Professor of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies. His research and teaching interests include digital archaeology, Etruscan and Pre-Roman archaeology, classical archaeology, and neuro-archaeology.


Politics on Camera (CCI, STS, SS)

What role have camera technologies played in political struggles across the globe, both now and historically? How have digital visualization technologies and platforms altered political theaters? How have smartphones changed the ways we live and experience politics? This course studies the interplay between cameras and politics within communities across the globe, beginning in the late 19th century and concluding in the digital present. We will be particularly attentive to the ways that camera technologies have been employed in violent and protest contexts as instruments of activism, witnessing, and/or surveillance. We will pair interdisciplinary theoretical readings on visuality, technology and society with a set of international case studies—e.g. #BlackLivesMatter, the Syrian civil war, the U.S. drone program, the Israeli military occupation. The course will work closely with primary visual documents, including feature and documentary film and photography, social media, maps and drone imaging. Short papers and in-class exams will assess students’ comprehension of course material and contemporary case studies. 
Professor: Rebecca Stein
Rebecca Stein, Ph.D. (Stanford University), is an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology.
Her research and teaching interests include digital and media culture; legacies of colonialism and violence; Middle East culture and politics.


GERMAN 89S / ENGLISH 89S / GENDER, SEXUALITY & FEMINIST STUDIES 89S Monstrous Births: Coming to Life in Science and Literature of the 19th century (CCI, EI, ALP)

Monster novels like Frankenstein were part of a larger European fascination with the origins of life in the long nineteenth century, as people asked what life consists of and how it comes to be. This class will explore scientific research from the period and will read literature obsessed with artificial life and strange births. We will ask: What did these authors and scientists think of the power of nature to create? the power of human imagination? the meaning of genius? the connection between gender and various kinds of creative abilities? How have these ideas influenced the present? We will investigate the differences and intersections between scientific and literary questions and practices, and will ask how each discipline wishes to define itself with respect to society and to truth. We will also trace similarities between the anxieties of this earlier period and contemporary concerns with AI, cyborgs, reproductive technology, and the limits of the human. Texts include: Goethe, Blake, ETA Hoffmann, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Haraway, Hayles, films, and more.
Professor: Stefani Engelstein
Stefani Engelstein, Ph.D. (University of Chicago) is Professor of German Studies and Gender, Feminist, and Sexuality Studies. Her research and teaching interests include the ways Europeans have understood and classified themselves and others in knowledge-systems that span the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, particularly from 1750-1915, but with an eye on current repercussions. Such categories include race, sex, language family, religion, and species. 


Climate Change: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions (Codes Forthcoming)

Climate change is one of the defining challenges facing humanity today. The goal of this first-year seminar is to develop a comprehensive and integrated view of contemporary climate change. The first half of the course will examine our current understanding of the science of climate change, and explore the potential societal consequences of a changing climate. The second half of the course will focus on potential solutions, with a focus on technological, political, and social challenges that will have to be overcome to mitigate and adapt to climate change. More broadly, the course seeks to develop intellectual, academic, and learning skills by engaging students in active inquiry, critical analysis, and discussion of competing ideas.
Professor: Prasad Kasibhatla
Prasad Kasibhatla, Ph.D. (University of Kentucky), is Professor of Environmental Chemistry. The overarching theme of his research is to develop a fundamental and quantitative understanding of the factors that determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere. He is particularly interested in delineating natural and anthropogenic impacts on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and in exploring the potential for these impacts to affect natural ecosystems. His research involves the use of numerical models in conjunction with remote and in situ measurements of atmospheric composition.


Medicine & Health in French Literature (CCI, FL, ALP)

An exploration of diverse cultures and philosophies of medicine, health, and disability studies through French and Francophone literature, culture, and arts in modernity. How does Aminata Sow Fall's depiction of the work strike of disabled alms seekers in Dakar's allow readers to compare spiritual "economies" to global NGO's definitions of public hygiene? Or how can we problematize the parameters and nature of embodiment through Surrealist sculpture, collage, film, and contemporaneous psychoanalytic and psychological developments? We will study Caribbean philosophical discourses of the production of life itself, including the model of autopoiesis, as a foundation for comparative analysis of medical systems and scientific epistemes through Foucault, Firmin, Latour, Haraway, and others. Students will problematize the dividing line between poverty and health through sources as varied as Hugo's "Les Misérables" and journalistic stories of Haiti's cholera epidemic. Theorizations of "structural competency" in medicine, feminism, and performance in health will inform our readings of Colette's depiction of an abused wife's conquest of her independence through acrobatics, and of Ben Jelloun's depiction of the shifting sands of gender. A substantial portion of the course will also problematize discourses, research, and treatments of trauma in both humanities and global health contexts.
Professor: Deborah Jenson
Deborah Jenson, Ph.D. (Harvard University) is a Professor of Romance Studies. Her research and teaching interests include “long 19th-century” French and Caribbean literature and culture, cognitive literary studies, and health humanities.


Weird Selves: The Problem of the "I" (ALP, CCI, EI)

We hear a great deal, especially in educational contexts, about the need to become or to act like our “best selves.” But what does this turn of phrase actually imply? Are there really multiple versions of ourselves, from which we can be trained to choose? Are we always irreducibly multiple even when we are at our best and most true? And what might we learn, instead, by examining our other, worse selves? Beginning with the dictum “know thyself”—inscribed at the entrance to the oracle of Delphi, and hence also, at the origins of western thought—the conundrum of selfhood has remained at the forefront of all attempts to imagine a better world. It is still alive and well today, in philosophy as in biology, in psychology as in AI. This course will investigate a broad swath of historical and contemporary forays into the realm of malfunctioning, multiple, mad, ecstatic, discontinuous, hybrid, or otherwise unself-like selves, from literature and film to philosophy and computer science, in an effort to probe the limits of what we can know, and learn, about ourselves.
Professor: Sarah Pourciau
Sarah Pourciau, Ph.D. (Princeton University) is Assistant Professor of German Studies. Her research and teaching interests include the intersections of philosophy and literature, with an emphasis on 19th and 20th century German and Austrian culture, the history of theology, literary theory and aesthetics, gender theory, opera, and the history of science and math.


Race and Power in the Renaissance World (CCI, CZ)

How does power handle difference? How does history remember “Otherness”? And what occurs when unique cultures attempt to interpret one another? This course ventures into the Renaissance past (ca. 1300–1700) to interrogate these and other related questions, exploring how the histories and mythologies of race, difference, and diplomacy were constructed, fictionalized, and disseminated in early modern European encounters with the Atlantic and Pacific world. The course’s two interlocking terms—race and power—will frame our witnessing of the early modern mind at play in imagining the prospects and precarities associated with unknown lands and “discovered” peoples. Pairing an Italian textual concentration with examples from French and Spanish traditions, we will study how Renaissance thinkers, travelers, and translators came to know and represent the world around them. The histories of expansionism, colonization, science, and slavery will inform our readings and visual analysis of the relationship between forms of power and vehicles of influence.
Professor: Kathleen Driscoll
Kathleen Driscoll, Ph.D. (University of California, Berkeley) is Assistant Professor of Romance Studies (effective July 1, 2022). Her research and teaching interests include the literary, social, and political histories of early modern Italy and Europe; issues of gender and women’s studies; and the history of music and the performing arts.


German and Jewish: Creativity, Conflict, and Continuity (CCI, R, ALP, CZ)

In this seminar, students will explore the history of Jews in Germany, from the medieval period to the present. Topics examined will include the Crusades, the emergence of Ashkenazi Judaism, distinctive German Jewish forms of mysticism, the development of Yiddish, the origins of Reform Judaism, the Holocaust, Jewish life in post-Holocaust Germany, and the newly emergent connections between right-wing movements in Germany and in the US. As an Archives Alive course hosted by the Rubenstein Library, this seminar will make weekly use of archival holdings unique to Duke and stress the skills and importance of such research for the study of the remote and recent past, and set students up for highly original and creative research throughout their time at Duke.
Professor: Laura Lieber
Laura Lieber, Ph.D. (University of Chicago) is a Professor of Religious Studies. Her research and teaching interests include both early Judaism, as it emerged in the Greco-Roman world, and the history of those ancient traditions as they continued to shape Jewish life and history, and Jewish encounters with non-Jews, through the millennia, as well as the history of Reform.


Hot Topics in Health

Overview of the components of health and wellness (e.g., nutrition, exercise, sexual health, etc.), with more specific topics/current trends or issues being explored within each component.  Emphasis will be on information, resources, and skills to help students achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle, as well as an understanding of the broader health issues facing our current society.
Professor: Janis Hampton
Janis Hampton, M.A. (UNC–Greensboro), is Assistant Professor in the Practice of Health, Wellness and Physical Education. Her fields of teaching and research interest center on developing awareness of health and fitness issues for the general population as well as young adults.


The Platform Society (R, STS)

This course examines the rise, operation, and impact of digital platforms across many different aspects of economic, political, and cultural life; including news, transportation, health care, commerce, and entertainment. This course will introduce students to:

  • The basic economics of digital platforms and the process of platformization
  • The history of their development
  • The technological changes that facilitated their development
  • The regulation and policy decisions that contributed to their development

This course examines how and why digital platforms have achieved such dominant positions in so many different sectors, as well as the economic, political, and cultural impact of this dominance. This course will also pay particular attention to the political and cultural implications and effects of digital platforms, addressing concepts such as the long tail, monoculture, filter bubbles, and techlash. Finally, this course will also consider the wide range of policy issues raised by digital platforms, including antitrust concerns, data privacy/security concerns, cultural diversity concerns, and concerns around gatekeeping, speech, and democracy. Various approaches to platform governance will be discussed and evaluated.
Professor: Philip Napoli

Philip Napoli, Ph.D. (Northwestern University) is the James R. Shepley Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and the Director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. His research and teaching interests focus on media institutions and media regulation and policy, and he has provided formal and informal expert testimony on these topics to government bodies such as the U.S. Senate, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Congressional Research Service.


Diversity in Psychology (CCI, W, SS)

We live in a world that is increasingly diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and other factors. This course will examine the psychological science of diversity by considering two angles. First, we will consider diversity research regarding the "target" and examine studies on the psychological and social consequences of being part of a stigmatized group. Second, we will investigate the role a "perceiver" plays through learning about research regarding people’s views of diversity and reactions to discrimination and inequality. Various methods, research populations, approaches to research, and areas of psychology will be covered to serve as an introduction to diversity in psychology as a whole.
Professor: Sarah Gaither
Sarah Gaither, Ph.D. (Tufts University), is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. Her teaching and research interests focus on how individuals’ social identities and experiences across the lifespan motivate their social perceptions and behaviors particularly in diverse settings.


Beyond Reason: Empathy and Identity (SS, NS, R, W)

Leadership in the knowledge-based economy and globally interconnected world of the 21st century requires that students develop their abilities to constructively engage ethnic, religious, and political differences and generate and apply knowledge in the service of society. The premise is that developing the capacity for critical reasoning is necessary but not sufficient. It is also necessary to develop a personal epistemology that is, beliefs about knowledge and its justification, and the capacities of empathy that is, the ability to understand and share the feelings, perspectives, intentions, and mental states of another person, and identity, the integrated experience of oneself as a unique individual that includes one's goals, values, and commitments. This seminar takes a developmental science approach to synthesizing and applying the knowledge and understandings generated across the biological and social sciences and humanities about the nature, development, and enhancement of personal epistemology, empathy, and identity. Seminar discussions focus on selected readings and Ted Talks. Students continue the discussion and dialogue between sessions through postings to the seminar discussion board. As a writing course, the focus is on both learning-to-write and writing-to-learn through feedback and revision.  Students write three, 3-8 page, synthesis/reflection papers based on the assigned readings and a 15-20 page research review paper on a topic of their choice. In individual meetings with the instructor, feedback is provided on the rough drafts of each paper and students submit revised papers as their final product. Grade is based on the quality of papers and participation in class discussion. Each synthesis/reflection paper accounts for 15% of the grade, the research paper accounts for 40%; and class participation accounts for 15%.
Professor: Robert J. Thompson, Jr.
Robert J. Thompson, Jr., Ph.D. (University of North Dakota), is Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. His research interests include how biological and psychosocial processes act together in human development; the adaptation of children and their families to developmental problems and chronic illnesses, including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis; and the assessment of teaching and learning in higher education.


Extraordinary Americas: Zombies, Witches and Curses (CCI, ALP)

What is the difference between reality and magic or reality and legend? What if magic were conceived of as an accepted part of reality? This course allows students to question the origins of essential myths through some of the most legendary accounts of the supernatural in 20th- and 21st-century literature of the Americas. We will be focusing on work from renowned Latino and Latin American voices, as students will engage in discussion and critical thinking on what constitutes the fantastic, the magical real, the uncanny, the marvelous real, or the spiritual, from the colonial to the neoliberal eras. Course requirements include short response papers, a midterm, a presentation, and a final essay.
Professor: Sarah Quesada
Sarah Margarita Quesada, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is an Assistant Professor of Romance Studies. Her teaching and research literatures of the Global South, specifically Latinx, Latin American and African literatures.


Race/Sex/Brazilian History and Sociology (CCI, CZ)

This interdisciplinary course will examine the historical development and connections between race, sex, and gender in shaping Brazilian racial relations from slavery to the present day. We will explore the role of sex, deviance, and the body in shaping national identity and how Brazil is viewed from the outside. This course will include readings from anthropology, history, sociology, and literature as well film. Topics to be explored include slavery and colonialism, miscegenation, sexual tourism, prostitution, plastic surgery, and lesbian, gay, and transgender identities. Conducted in English.
Professor: Lamonte Aidoo
Lamonte Aidoo, Ph.D. (Brown University), is an Assistant Professor of Portuguese Studies. He teaches courses on 19th-20th century Brazilian literature, Afro-Brazilian cultural studies, comparative Brazilian and inter-American racial formations, the confluence of sexuality and national identity. His research interests include slavery and abolition in the Americas, miscegenation, comparative trans-Atlantic studies (Anglophone, Francophone, Hispanic, Lusophone).


How to be Happy (SS)

This course will examine recent discoveries in the scientific study of happiness, and place the idea of happiness within historical and cultural context. The course will integrate findings from sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology and the natural sciences (neuroscience, biology, behavioral genetics) to explore questions about happiness. We will discuss how happiness is defined and measured, and whether and why some individuals and cultures experience more happiness than others. Most importantly, we will try to translate this literature into an understanding that can help class members have more meaningful, happier lives.
Professor: Lynn Smith-Lovin
Lynn Smith-Lovin, Ph.D. (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is the Robert L. Wilson Professor of Sociology. She studies emotion, identity, and action, and is interested in the question of how identities affect social interaction.


Public Art: Monuments, Murals, Graffiti and More (ALP, CCI)

Monuments, murals, posters, sculptures, and graffiti. Street performances, gardens, and new media platforms. These artistic expressions happen outside museums and galleries. This course invites students to debate them in the context of the shared history of public art across the Americas. How and why do artists venture out of the safe spaces of art institutions like museums? Who funds that art? Who permits or censors it? In this seminar, students explore the role of public art in political and grassroots movements, and in the stories told about our past. They evaluate radically different responses to public art, from uproar and scandal to its disappearance into the background of everyday life. What communities invite art into their shared spaces? What kind of communities might it produce? In addition to landmark works from across the American continent (North, Central, and South), we look closely at those nearby: on campus and in Durham. Local murals and monuments give texture to these big ideas, and area leaders in the arts offer their hands-on experiences. In order to think about the 2020 global pandemic and economic crisis, the course begins with the 1929 stock market crash and the landmark public art projects during the Great Depression that followed; it concludes with a joint investigation into current public art projects in response to the COVID-19 crises.
Professor: Esther Gabara
Esther Gabara, Ph.D. (Stanford University) is Associate Professor of Romance Studies. Her teaching and research interests include art, literature, and visual culture from modern and contemporary Latin America, especially the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, theories and practices of non-mainstream modernisms, and representations of race and gender.