Fall 2023 First-Year Seminars

Fall 2023 First-Year Seminars

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 2023.


What Now? Black France: La France Noir (ALP, CZ, CCI)

People of African descent have played crucial roles in the making of France as a modern republic. In this course, we will study the contributions made by people who self-identify or are identified as Black, to the shaping of French cultural and political identity. How has the Black diaspora in France impacted ideas of nation? How have Black writers, artists, and intellectuals made and unmade notions of French identity and citizenship? How have definitions of blackness, race, and belonging changed or remained the same throughout France’s political history? We will examine these questions through literature and film from the 18th century to our contemporary moment. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Annette Joseph-Gabriel
Annette Joseph-Gabriel, Ph.D. (Vanderbilt University) is an Associate Professor of Romance Studies who works at the intersection of French and Afro-diasporic culture, literature, and politics. Her research and teaching interests include race, gender, and citizenship in France; the Caribbean, and Africa; Black women’s writings; anticolonial activism; and slavery in the French Atlantic. Her work centers the voices and experiences of Black women thinkers and activists and shows how their contributions can offer us new ways to think about contemporary cultural and political questions.


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

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 and (Un)happiness: The Promises and Risks of Elite Higher Education (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 at 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 scholarship explore the role of liberal education in human flourishing and ways to cultivate meaning, purpose, and character in higher education.


What Now? Finding Yourself, Your Voice and Your Community (While Being Resilient and Well) (SS, CCI, EI)

College students have expressed outrage when their schools have invited controversial speakers to campus. Colleges justify these speakers as contributing to a free exchange of ideas while preparing students for the “real world.” At the same time, colleges encourage students to develop resilience, focusing on well-being, and prioritizing physical and emotional health. Can institutional goals related to speech and well-being be reconciled with your expectations and values? What does it mean to have a voice within a community? This class will provide an opportunity to answer these questions, decide what really matters to you and position you to make better choices while at Duke and beyond. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Sue Wasiolek
Sue Wasiolek, LLM (Duke), EdD (University of Pennsylvania), is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Program in Education.  Although she has an interest in all aspects of higher education, Sue particularly enjoys teaching education law, discussing free speech and intellectual discourse, researching college sports and engaging in practices to promote resilience and well-being.  


What Now? "Singing the Same Song": A Global Perspective on the Experience of Illness (SS, CCI, EI)

When I go to see my diabetes doctor, I feel that he and I are singing the same song.” This comment from a South African man battling chronic illness underlines the wonderful potential of the patient-provider relationship. We will be using the doctor-patient relationship and experience as a lens to understand place of illness and empathy in the human. We will explore concepts of culture and global health. How does culture affect all of us? What is global health, and how do our beliefs affect this entire discipline? Along the way, we will all be learning about ourselves, how it feels to express and receive empathy, and how the simple act of being curious make us better people. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Neil Prose
Neil Prose, M.D. (New York University) is a Professor of Dermatology, Pediatrics and Global Health, and a Research Professor of Global Health. His research and teaching interests include pediatric dermatology, care for skin disease in developing countries, and provider-patient communication.


What Now? Imagining Social Justice: Artistic and Somatic Strategies (ALP, EI)

This course asks students to work backwards from radical imaginings of new future realities toward their own definitions of social justice and ways they can lead activist lives. How do our conceptions of justice change if we are able to imagine outside the constraints of our current reality? How does our movement in the world change with shifting understandings about where we want to go? What do artistic and somatic strategies offer to create those openings? Through artistic and dialogical processes students will develop personal understandings of the meaning of social justice, identify and deepen their fields of concerns, and design and implement creative direct actions. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professors: Michael Klien and Brooks Emanuel

Michael Klien, Ph.D. (University of Edinburgh), is a Professor of the Practice of Dance. His research, teaching, and artistic interests include politically engaged choreography, performance, and dance.

Brooks Emanuel, J.D. (New York University), MFA (Duke University). His research, teaching, and artistic interests focus on connections among dance, embodiment, critical theory, and social justice action.


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

Students will study the relationship between sexual desires, acts, pleasures and dangers in various areas of the world throughout human history. We will examine hunter and gatherer societies, early modern urban communities, modern rural villages, and postmodern globalized societies. We will compare different regions and time periods in order to consider the effects of discourses and desires related to sexual behaviors and subjectivities. We will particularly discuss the importance of colonialism in the development of the modern concept of sexuality. We will analyze a variety of institutions that seek to instill an ethics of sexual pleasure and danger, including the family, religion, law, ethnography, sex work, and pornography. 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? Durham Drift: Maps and Performance (ALP, CCI)

This seminar's topic is an embodied exploration of space and creative research through map-making, walking, and performance. This course is constructed around a series of drifts through Durham as a site of inquiry in which student will wander or “get lost” in the city through playful strategies borrowed from key avant-garde movements. Using a series of short narrative, we will use basic data and mapmaking tools to map other cities (both real and imagined) onto Durham to activate the student’s imagination toward embodied writing and storytelling. Within the frame of performance, students will be introduced to a curation of basic physical acting and improvisational techniques that deconstruct the body’s relationship to space and time. The classroom will be transformed into a laboratory where we will (re)map Durham onto the space devising an experimental performance installation as our final project. Part of the What Now? network of first-year seminars.
Professor: Johann R. Montozzi-Wood
Johann Montozzi-Wood (he/she/they/we), MFA (Columbia College Chicago), is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Theater Studies. Their research and teaching interests include Lineages of Devised/Experimental Theater and Performance, Embodiment, Psychogeography, and Critical Intersections of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Class.


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 2023. 


Why Art?: At the Intersection of Human Minds, Cultures and Societies (ALP, CCI)

“Why art” is one of the biggest questions in the history of the human being and particularly in the evolution of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Is art a genetic, cultural or biocultural human attitude? When and how does it start and co-evolve in human societies? What is it? How do we recognize artifacts and artists? Do we need art? This course discussed all these and other questions according to an anthropological and cognitive perspective. Art in caves, art in the earliest tools but also in the classical world, in the Giotto’s, Magritte’s and Van Gogh’s minds, art and authenticity in the digital era. It will be a long trip in the in the complexity of art and artistic performances. The relationships/affordances among art and mind, minds and artifacts, art and space, material culture and societies will be studied also in conjunction with the last experiments in neuroscience and cognitive sciences.
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.


Body Size in Biology: Size Matters (NS)

The body size of an organism, be it microbe or mammoth, affects every aspect of its life:  its body form, where it lives, how it moves and makes a living, and how (through evolutionary history) it came to be the way it is.  Why can’t ants be gigantic?  Will anyone ever see a mammal the size of a pea? What can we predict about the life of an organism simply from knowing how big it is?  Through readings, discussion, and small projects, we will examine case studies that illuminate general principles about the role of size in biology.
Professor: V. Louise Roth
V. Louise Roth, Ph.D. (Yale University) is a Professor of Biology with a secondary appointment in Evolutionary Anthropology. Her most recent courses have focused on the biology of mammals, biology of bone, and macroevolution. Her research has focused on evolutionary morphology and phylogeny in mammals, and on the functional and ecological implications of evolutionary changes in growth and body size.


Genetics in The News: How Gene Research Is Changing Our View of The World (NS)

Our understanding of life on earth is expanding through new genetic technologies. Breakthroughs in a wide array of life science fields, ranging from medicine to conservation biology, are often featured in news articles. We will assess how accurately the science journalists are representing advances in genetic research by comparing recent news articles with the research papers on which they are based. No prior experience in genetics is necessary, and the class will start with background lectures and reading material to make sure everyone is prepared. Students will have the opportunity to find and present news articles on genetic topics that interest them, and this effort will culminate in a final project where each student will compare and contrast a news article of their choice with its source research paper.
Professor: Amy Bejsovec

Amy Bejsovec, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin-Madison) is an Associate Professor of Biology. Her research and teaching interests include the genetic control of embryonic development, cell to cell signaling pathways that generate body pattern, and the genetics and molecular biology of cancer.

Under Surveillance: Your Life as Data (CZ, SS, CCI, EI)

Surveillance has emerged as fact of everyday life around the world. This course introduces students to the history of surveillance studies; post-911 regimes of surveillance; surveillance in popular culture, biometrics, facial recognition technologies, and data mining. Case studies will be drawn from the U.S. Mexico border, Amazon warehouses, food delivery drivers in China, protest movements in Hong Kong and Black Lives Matter. Finally, the course will examine movements for digital sovereignty, algorithmic transparency, and abolitionist calls for the end of racial profiling and predictive policing.
Professor: Ralph Litzinger

Ralph Litzinger, Ph.D. (University of Washington), is an Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology. His research and teaching interests include the culture and politics of ethnicity, nationalism, and post-socialism in China, Marxist nationality theory in China, ethnic politics in the post-Cold War global order, gender and ethnic representation, and ethnographic film, photography, and popular culture.

Social Documentary Photography (ALP, R)

In this seminar course, first-year students will have the opportunity to explore the field of documentary arts at Duke University. Through individual and group fieldwork and archival projects, students will engage with the lives, experiences, and histories of local communities, and develop creatives works for public audiences. We will prioritize fieldwork methods that engender mutual respect, in-depth understanding, and original interpretations, while learning about issues connected to ethics, accountability, and civic responsibility in documentary work. Themes for the Fall 2023 seminars will include a focus on (a) how documentarians are addressing the climate crisis locally and globally, and (b) cultural identity and race relations in North Carolina. The class will primarily be working in the mediums of still photography (analog and digital) as well as audio podcasting.
Professor Christopher Sims
Christopher Sims (M.F.A, Maryland Institute College of Art), is the Undergraduate Education Director at the Center for Documentary Studies and an Associate Professor of the Practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy. His recent exhibitions include shows at SF Camerawork, Cambridge University, the Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art, and the North Carolina Museum of Art. His project on Guantanamo Bay was featured in The Washington Post, the BBC World Service, Roll Call, and Flavorwire. He was selected as the recipient of the Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers in 2010, chosen as one of the "new Superstars of Southern Art" by the Oxford American magazine in 2012, awarded the Arte Laguna Prize in Photographic Art in 2015, and named an Archie Green Fellow at the U.S. Library of Congress in 2017.

Migration Memoirs (ALP, CCI)

Migration, whether voluntary or forced, planned or unexpected, whether prompted by war, violence, political instability, economic pressures, or, more positively, a passion for discovering new places, has been an enduring feature of the human experience since the dawn of history. Stories of migration can describe suffering, loss, and grief, or, alternately, joy and hope for the future. Sometimes, they describe both. Migration takes many forms: refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, long-term travelers, international students, nomadic peoples and, more recently, digital nomads, can all be classified as migrants. Similarly, migration paths vary from easy and fun – such as when digital nomads board a plane for dream destinations – to traumatically turbulent – such as when refugees, in desperation, board unsafe vessels to cross the Mediterranean or Caribbean Seas, or wait for days to cross the Ukrainian-Polish border. In this class, we will explore migration memoirs: the stories written by the migrants themselves as they recount their experience. We will consider a range of migration contexts and geographical and cultural settings, as well as different storytelling formats, including memoirs written by acclaimed authors, and personal stories collected from everyday immigrants. Some themes that we will explore include loss, grief, and trauma, language barriers and multilingualism, discrimination, self-discovery and the remaking of identities, belonging, and memory.
Professor: Dominika Marta Baran
Dominika Marta Baran, Ph.D. (Harvard University), is an Associate Professor of English. Her teaching and research interests include language, identity, and migration, as well as language, gender, and sexuality.


Climate Change: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions (NS, STS)

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.


Gender and Science (SS, STS)

This seminar provides an overview of research that puts science and scientists themselves under the lens to be studied in relation to gender, sexuality, race, and colonialism. We consider questions such as: How does inequality affect scientific practice and knowledge? Do colonial, racist, or sexist contexts matter for the science produced? Does the identity of the scientist matter? In addition to scientific papers, our readings center on an interdisciplinary field known as Feminist Science Studies, that draws on sociological, ethnographic, historical and literary approaches to science. We also consider how scientists themselves are creating feminist and decolonial approaches to their research. This course is designed for those interested in combining feminist and other social justice perspectives with careers in STEM as well as students curious about feminist humanities and social-science approaches in general. As a seminar, classes will focus on discussions of readings and participation is required as well as some regular written work.
Professor: Ara Wilson
Ara Wilson, Ph.D. (City University of New York), is an Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies. Her research and teaching interests include the feminist study of globalization and queer political economy (QPE), Science & Technology Studies (STS) approaches with materialist theories, and empirical research, especially ethnographically informed depictions of life under global capitalism.


Monsters, Vampires, and Ghosts: Supernatural Horror in Film and Literature (ALP, CCI)

Why do we experience pleasure in reading horror stories? How can we interpret these fantasies of terror? Why do we keep dreaming about unexpected and incomprehensible threats to our lives? In this course, we will examine a wide array of texts and films that combine elements of the supernatural with the feelings of dread and anxiety in order to investigate what tales about monsters, ghosts, doubles and imaginary enemies within our very selves can teach us about the human psyche, history and aesthetics. We will interpret the readings and the films in their historical context and will compare diverse approaches including genre theory, biographical, media-historical, political, and psychoanalytic perspectives. Readings include Stoker, Hoffmann, Lovecraft, Kafka, Wilde, and others.
Professor: Mert Bahadir Reisoğlu
Mert Bahadır Reisoğlu, Ph.D. (New York University), is an Assistant Professor of German Studies. His research and teaching interests include Turkish German Studies, media theory and history, and 20th- and 21st-century literature, film and theater.


You, Me, and the Machine: Philosophy and the Idea of AI (CZ, STS)

The idea of artificial or machine intelligence raises fundamental epistemological questions about the nature of mind and mental activities. What does it mean to claim that a machine thinks and understands? After a brief introduction to current conceptions of artificial intelligence, we will read seminal articles and excerpts from classical thinkers with the idea that, in better understanding some epistemological puzzles about artificial intelligence, we will better understand puzzles about our knowledge of others, and ultimately knowledge of ourselves. Topics may include: symbolic and connectionist AI, strong and weak AI, the computational theory of mind, intentionality, mental content, embodied cognition, functionalism, behaviorism, consciousness, and self-knowledge. Authors may include: Descartes, Turing, Searle, Dennett, Putnam, Strawson, Nagel, Dreyfus, Kant, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein. Students will also gain familiarity and practice with philosophy as an activity by interpreting, evaluating, and constructing arguments. No background in computer science is expected.
Professor: Henry Pickford
Henry Pickford, Ph.D. (Yale University), is Professor of German Studies and Philosophy. His research interests focus on modern philosophy from Kant to Critical Theory, and literature in German and Russian. Before his graduate studies he worked as an artificial intelligence software engineer.


U.S. History in Fact and Fiction (CZ, CCI, EI, R)

Through works of history, fiction, film, and memoir, this course will explore themes—family, displacement, violence, and memory that cut across US history and human experience more broadly. We will try to tease out the various strands of culture, class, geography, and identity that shape US history. Even more, we will analyze how writers—historians and otherwise—draw on the entangled past to make sense of the world. As a final assignment, students will produce their own piece of historical writing, rooted in original research.
Professor: Adriane Lentz-Smith
Adriane Lentz-Smith, Ph.D. (Yale University), is an Associate Professor of History. Her research and teaching interests lie in African American history, twentieth-century United States History, and the history of the US & the World. She is also interested in how African Americans engaged the world in the age of Cold War civil rights, and how their participation in the project of US state and empire set the horizons of their freedom struggles.


Banned Books (ALP, CZ, CCI, EI)

When are books considered too dangerous to read? This course explores this question by reading across a wide range of banned texts, from George Orwell’s 1984 to Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye to the most censored text in the US in 2022, Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer. Our aim is to understand the potency attributed to literature as a form of political influence and social instruction. By the end of the term, students will have a broader understanding of the role that literature—and by extension the humanities as a whole—has played in political struggles over cultural representation, historical memory, identity, and democratic debate.
Professor: Robyn Wiegman
Robyn Wiegman, Ph.D. (American University), is a Professor of the Programs in Literature and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. Her research and teaching interests include feminist theory, queer theory, American Studies, critical race theory, and film and media studies.


Game Theory and Democracy (SS, QS)

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.
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.


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.


From Quarks to the Cosmos (NS)

The quest to understand the ultimate laws of nature is an ancient one. The roots of our investigations reach back to the first philosophers. At its heart, we seek to answer: what are the basic building blocks of the observed universe, how do they interact and what is the nature of the space that contains them? Remarkably, the physics of the smallest things we know is also tied to universe cosmology, the largest distances and structures we can measure. The beautiful theories describing this physics are the culmination of generations of scientists and are strikingly predictive. However, today’s picture is far from complete. Over 95% of the universe seems to be made of matter or energy we cannot explain. The universe is expanding at faster rates, creating even more of itself as a function of time. On top of all of this, our world unaccountably seems to exist solely of matter and not anti-matter. How did we come to understand these things about the universe and how are we addressing remaining questions? We will use lectures, discussions, readings, quantitative mathematical problem solving, frequent presentations by students, problem sets and projects to learn some history and basics of astronomy, modern particle physics and cosmology. We will pay attention to the instruments and measurements people have used to infer what we know and how and why people came to accept results. Students will study a topic of their choice in further depth with a final project and presentation.
Professor: Christopher Walter
Christopher Walter, Ph.D. (California Institute of Technology), is a Professor of Physics. His research and teaching interests include particle physics and cosmology.


Behind the Headlines: Why We Get the News We Do, and How Best to Consume It (EI, W)

This course is designed to make students more discerning, intelligent, sophisticated and, when appropriate, skeptical consumers of the news. Using the daily and weekly news as our material, we’ll talk about the full range of issues and dynamics that determine the news we get and how it’s shaped and presented, emphasizing that the news is so much more – and so much more complicated – than the delivery of information. It reflects the values of a given news organization and its staff. It reflects business strategies and career concerns. It’s driven, yes, by what’s deemed important, but it’s also driven by what promises to go viral, what flatters journalists’ vanity, what keeps them in line with or a step ahead of colleagues and rivals in a competitive business. It’s as influenced by its audience as by its architects. Students will consider the ascendance of brand, the influence of social media, the tyranny of the bottom line, the herd impulse and more as they come to understand the news they get in a smarter way, one that mingles credulity and skepticism in the most constructive measures. Our starting point will be the news coming at us during our course; from there, we’ll widen our focus to consider relevant past examples and historical trends.
Professor: Frank Bruni
Frank Bruni, M.S. (Columbia University) is the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy. He joined the Duke faculty in 2021 after more than 25 years on the staff of The New York Times, where his various roles included White House correspondent, Rome bureau chief, chief restaurant critic and, most recently, Op-Ed columnist.


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. 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.


Brazil, Race, Sex, and the Body (ALP, CCI)

Brazil is commonly understood as an example of a “racially democratic” nation, but as scholars have recently shown, racism permeates all aspects of Brazilian society. This course examines the development of the theorization of race, racial identity and race relations in contemporary Brazil, and will explore very closely the role of sex, and sexuality in the construction of race relations. We will attend to questions such as: how is desire racialized? How is racial difference produced through sex as a material practice and what is the function of sex in racial (self)formation? How do we reconcile questions of pleasure and desire and the structures of power and national identity? The approach of the course will be interdisciplinary, drawing upon works from literature, music, film, anthropology and history. Topics will include colonialism and enslavement, abolition, nationalism, social activism, and popular culture. We will also consider how Brazilian social relations differ from or conform to other racialized patterns in other nation-states in the Americas. Particular attention will be placed on the impact of the interrelationship between race, gender, class, and nation on the lives of black Brazilians. 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, W)

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.