History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

Courses

  • Fall 2015

    AFRICAN ARTS & CULTURE: SELECTED TOPICS

    The course offers an introduction to the arts of several sub-Saharan African communities. We will explore the creative process and the context of specific African traditions as well as the impact of the African diaspora on the arts of other communities, particularly in the Caribbean.
    Also offered as HPSS C519. Register in the course for which credit is desired.

    AFRICAN ARTS & CULTURES: SELECTED TOPICS

    The course offers an introduction to the arts of several sub-Saharan African communities. We will explore the creative process and the context of specific African traditions as well as the impact of the African diaspora on the arts of other communities, particularly in the Caribbean.
    Also offered as HAVC C519. Register in the course for which credit is desired.

    ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE WESTERN MIND

    The Greek historian Thucydides wrote that knowing the past is useful for understanding the present because, so long as human nature remains the same, things that happened once "will recur in similar or comparable ways." The Greeks of the 6th century BCE began a systematic, critical inquiry aimed at making sense of the world around us and within us. This "Greek Enlightenment" was as revolutionary and had as far-reaching consequences as the subsequent European Enlightenment. We will examine history's first tumultuous passage from religious myth to scientific theory and philosophical argument. Readings will be drawn from Hesiod, the philosophers before Socrates, Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, Greek poets, dramatists, and historians.

    ART AND CULTURES OF ANCIENT MESOAMERICA

    The art and architecture of ancient Mexico as well as that of selected neighboring areas, will be examined against the background of the growth of complex cultural systems. The course will consist of readings and lectures including the presentation of visual materials dealing with ancient Mesoamerica (a culture area), and the archaeological and historical research which sheds light on its development. Museum visits to RISD and Brown will allow us to become familiar with real pre-Columbian art and artifacts for a closer association to ancient cultures that produced them.
    Also offered as HAVC C735. Register in the course for which credit is desired

    ARTS OF AMERICAS AND PACIFIC

    This course is designed to acquaint students with a variety of non-Western aesthetic expressions in the Americas and the Pacific. The course will explore the indigenous contexts, both contemporary and historical, in which these art forms are or were created and function. We will look at the art and its context in selected communities of the American northwest coast such as the Inuit, Kwakiutl and Haida, the Southwest of the US, such as the Hopi and Navajo, and parts of Australia, Papua-New Guinea and some of the Pacific islands.
    Also offered at HAVC C726. Register in the course for which credit is desired

    CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: DEEP ROOTS

    This course looks at contemporary issue in mainland Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar/Burma) in the context of geography, history, religion, culture, economy, war and its aftermath. Many of the issues challenging contemporary Southeast Asian societies (economic transformation, environmental degradation, ethnic and religious conflict, political gridlock, and the varied and complex legacies of war) are familiar to other societies around the world. But understanding these issues in their historical, regional, and local contexts, and exploring the cultural efflorescence and change that is accompanying these social transformations, will be the focus of this course. The course offers a multi-disciplinary introduction to contemporary Mainland Southeast Asia, informed by an anthropological sensibility. Reading, writing, viewing, discussing, and individual research and presentation all have a place in the class.

    CREATIVE ECONOMIES, CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS, CREATIVE PLACES

    The role of place is central to the creative economy: industries emerge from geographic clusters, entrepreneurs improve their chances by relocating to innovative regions, and governments often pursue creative economies as a development strategy. But what makes a place 'creative'? How do creative economies contribute to regional development? And what roles should creative entrepreneurs play in our cities? This course examines the geographies of creativity: the political economy of creative industries, and the spatial characteristics of knowledge, innovation, and learning. The seminar considers scholarship on entrepreneurship, industrial and post-industrial development, the global economy of creative/design industries, and debates over 'creative cities' and 'learning regions'. The conversations and assignments focus on the potential for creative professionals and creative industries to contribute to community and economic development.

    ECOLOGY: MICROBES TO MANATEES

    What do we know about the environment, and how do we know it? This course will combine field trips and ecology experiments with lectures and readings to explore the natural world and humanity's interaction with it. We will study the principles of ecology and how natural systems work, and look critically at pressing environmental problems such as climate change, global loss of biodiversity, and explosive human population growth.

    EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY

    Evolution is the process by which living organisms change over generations of time. This course examines how evolution occurs through natural selection, mutation, and genetic drift, beginning with the search for the origin of species (speciation) by artist-naturalists Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace, and Henry Bates. Their observations of animal diversity (species variation, island geography, and mimicry) provided evidence for common descent within the animal kingdom, and led to the development of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Studies of the fossil record paleontology yielded more evidence. Eventually, the genetic basis of evolution was explained by Gregor Mendel's discovery of heritable traits, later named genes. Today, studies of evolution continue on a molecular scale with DNA and RNA (genomics) and proteins (protenomics). Students will be graded based upon responses to study questions, participation during class discussion, performance on two written exams and a project on scientific visualization.

    FORMS OF HUMANITY

    "Humanity" has a double sense: it is the quality of being human, while it also implies a global collectivity that might transcend cultural, political, and other differences. Through the lens of ethics and aesthetics, we will examine notions of humanity specific to the contemporary political, economic, and cultural context of globalization. Taking "The Family of Man," the 1955 photo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, as our point of departure, we would study the forms and narratives that have shaped our understandings of humanity in the half-century since, as we consider ostensibly objective and large-scale processes through the subjective frames of human art, experience, and feeling. In particular, the course would ask how contemporary phenomena such as migration, financialization of the globe, and near-permanent war have affected more traditional conceptions of what it means to be a human being. How, for example, ought we to imagine proximity and distance, the familiar and the foreign? What might human freedom, life, dignity, and agency mean in a world that often renders them irrelevant even as it professes them as its core values? As we develop answers, students will practice analyzing the present moment with tools from political theory, literary theory, human-rights activism, and critical studies of globalization, along with literary fiction, photography, and film.
    Also offered as LAS-C364. Register in the course for which credit is desired.

    GEOGRAPHIES OF STUFF

    Where does our stuff come from? And where does it go when we throw it away? This course explores the geography of commodities: the networks, mobilities, and infrastructures of commodity production and consumption. It introduces students to geographical political economy, by analyzing geographies of global production, consumption, and waste; theories of commodification, labor, and value; and case studies of particular forms of stuff like consumer goods, energy, and food. The lectures and assignments will evaluate how the global geographies of production might be remade in order to design more sustainable materials, and to build more equitable industries. In particular, this course will debate the role of artists and designers in 'green capitalism'.

    HISTORY OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST

    This course surveys the history of the modern Middle East (1800-present) and is designed to help students contextualize and understand political, economic, and social developments in the contemporary Middle East. Composed of a mix of lectures and discussions, this course begins with a series of foundational lectures on important events and themes in Middle Eastern history prior to 1800 (such as the emergence of three monotheistic religions in the Middle East - Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and the rise, formation, and expansion of Islamic States in the early-modern period such as the Ottoman and Safavid/Persian Empires). Moving quickly into the modern period, this course focuses in equal measure on the Arab Middle East, Iran, and Turkey. The historical roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict are also addressed.
    Sophomore and above
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for undergraduates

    INTRODUCTION TO INSECT MORPHOLOGY AND ECOLOGY

    Has the unfathomable diversity of insects ever fascinated you, but left you wondering where to begin? This is a basic course in entomology for the natural historian and artist. All orders of Class Insecta will be introduced, with both field and lab components whenever possible. Basic insect morphology and ecology will be covered for most orders, with opportunities for artistic rendition and use of both live and dead specimens as models. Students will learn basic insect anatomy and taxonomy for the identification of insects to order-level. Elements of insect ecology will infiltrate everything we look at, in both the field and the lab. Emphasis will be placed on the major orders (beetles, flies, butterflies/moths, etc.); the minor orders will be covered to varying degrees, but this can be adjusted according to the class consensus. Coursework will include field collecting trips, observation and drawing of specimens using a microscope, identification quizzes, and a course project that will emphasize the creation of materials for educational outreach. Additionally, students will finish with their own curated insect collection identified to order-level (or beyond, if student desires).

    JAPANESE AESTHETIC TRADITION

    Despite the sudden and rapid Westernization during the latter part of 19th century, Japan has maintained its rich artistic and aesthetic traditions. Many arts with long history are still practiced and appreciated today, such as calligraphy, haiku, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, garden, martial arts, Noh theater, and Kabuki theater. More importantly, long-held aesthetic sensibilities regarding nature, human relationships, and life are still embodied in ordinary affairs today, such as cooking, packaging, etiquette, and designing of everyday objects and environments.
    This course examines such legacies of traditional Japanese aesthetics by focusing on texts and arts before Westernization began and their cultural and historical context. In particular, we will explore how Japanese aesthetics is inseparable from ethical and existential considerations.
    (Please note that this course should not be taken by those who have already taken WS course on "Traditional Japanese Aesthetics," as there is a substantial overlap of the course content.)
    Sophomore and above

    MIND AND LANGUAGE

    This course will introduce students to a variety of topics related to the nature of mind and the nature of language. We'll explore such questions as: What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Is there a conscious and an unconscious mind? Is it possible for a computer or robot to have a mind? Can animals think? What are the important characteristics of human language? Are human languages importantly different from animal communication systems? How do children acquire language? Are there important differences between male and female speech? Readings will come from both the philosophical and the psychological literature.
    Sophomore and Above

    NCSS CORE SEMINAR

    This course provides an inter-disciplinary but comprehensive introduction to key issues in Nature-Culture-Sustainability studies. It will provide an in-depth engagement with sustainable material use exploring the "five kingdoms" of nature, the "five core principles of sustainability" and "the five flows through the built environment". The course will also address Biometics, Ecological Economics, Environmental Health and Wonder as well as providing in depth discussion of existing real world projects involving the use of sustainable materials. Attempts will be made to arm students with an effective understanding of how they can apply principles of sustainability to their future studies and careers. This course will lay the foundation for the NCSS Concentration students as they pursue their major degree as well as their participation in the NCSS Concentration. The course format will be lecture/seminar with occasional guest lectures.

    Also offered as IDISC 2403. Register in the course for which credit is desired.
    Course Level: Sophomore, Junior

    NCSS CORE SEMINAR

    This course provides an inter-disciplinary but comprehensive introduction to key issues in Nature-Culture-Sustainability studies. It will provide an in-depth engagement with sustainable material use exploring the "five kingdoms" of nature, the "five core principles of sustainability" and "the five flows through the built environment". The course will also address Biomimetics, Ecological Economics, Environmental Health and Wonder as well as providing indepth discussion of existing real world projects involving the use of sustainable materials. Attempts will be made to arm students with an effective understanding of how they can apply principles of sustainability to their future studies and careers. This course will lay the foundation for the NCSS Concentration students as they pursue their major degree as well as their participation in the NCSS Concentration. The course format will be lecture/seminar with occasional guest lectures.

    Also offered as HPSS S564. Register in the course for which credit is desired.
    Course Level: Sophomore, Junior

    NEUROETHICS

    In this course we will examine many of the ethical, social and philosophical issues raised by ongoing developments in the brain sciences. With improved understanding of how the brain works comes new powers for understanding, monitoring, and manipulating human cognitive, emotional and behavioral functioning; such new powers have potentially profound implications for the law, social policy, clinical practice, and personal experience. Topics to be covered will include: moral judgment and decision making, freedom of the will, moral and legal responsibility, use of psychopharmacology for enhancement of mood and cognition, the neural basis of pro-social and anti-social behavior, neuroimaging and privacy, the use of neuroimaging data in courts of law (e.g., to assess truth-telling and the accuracy of memory), brain injury and brain death, the development of neurotechnologies, and the importance of ethical and social guidelines.

    PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

    Religion has long been a part of human life. Prehistoric burials include utensils and companions (sacrifice) for life in another world. Early writings pray for divine intercession or advise how to win divine favor. Are beliefs such as these in survival after death and in supernatural beings reasonable? Philosophy of religion asks this of these beliefs and others: Is belief based on experience (mysticism) and not argument reasonable? Can the divine be proved to exist by argument, or proved not to exist (or care) by the prevalence of suffering? Does the supernatural intervene in nature (miracles)? These and other questions will be examined through reading classic and contemporary writings, lectures, discussion, and student presentations.

    SEM: ISTANBUL HISTORY & FICTION

    Drawing upon literary works to reconstruct and imagine urban life, this course focuses on the historical development of Istanbul - the capital city of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years and the largest and most important city in the Republic of Turkey today. Economic, social, and cultural institutions, forms of entertainment, and communal relations that enriched daily life in Istanbul are addressed. This look at the pleasures of the city is counterbalanced by an examination of the vicissitudes of violence, disease, and natural disasters which ravaged the residents of Istanbul across the Ottoman centuries. The last part of the class addresses the transformation and modernization of Istanbul in the nineteenth century and its place in the Republic of Turkey in the twentieth century.
    Sophomore and above
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for undergradutes

    SEM: OPEN SEMINAR IN HPSS

    This experimental course offers students the opportunity to seriously explore some topic or question in history, philosophy, or one of the social sciences, which has a bearing on their degree project. Students will be guided through the process of formulating a research project, identifying the relevant literature, critically reading that literature, and working out how the HPSS material (content and/or methodology) can deepen and enrich their studio practice. We'll look at some artists and designers who have made these sorts of connections and but spend most of the time in discussion of student work. Coursework will be tailored to the needs of individual participants. To obtain permission to register for the course, send an email to the instructor with the following information: your name, major, year in school (junior, senior, graduate student), and a description of (a) your studio degree project, as you currently conceive of it, and (b) the area, topic, or question in history, philosophy, or the social sciences that you want to explore.
    Open to juniors, seniors, 5th year, and graduate students.

    SEM: PSYCHOLOGY OF EVIL

    Evil has long been a topic of study for theologians and philosophers, but has only recently been studied by psychologists. Although evil is an inherently subjective topic, we will attempt to take an objective, scientific approach to understanding why people engage in evil behavior. Thus, we will begin by attempting to suspend the notion that we can divide the world into good and evil, and instead understand the situational and psychological factors that could lead anyone to harm others. Specifically, we will focus on classic psychological studies that show how everyday people can be led to act in deplorable ways by manipulating the situational circumstances. We will also discuss how inter-group processes can lead to conflict and large scale acts of violence like war and genocide. Finally, we will study the nature of the psychopathic personality in order to better understand those individuals who feel no guilt or remorse for harming others (e.g., brutal dictators and serial killers). This is a very interactive class and will require you to contribute in discussion and prepare an in-depth presentation on an area of your own interest related to the psychology of evil.

    SEM: REFUGEES, MIGRANTS, DISPLACED PEOPLE

    This course looks at key issues relating to migration, displacement and refugeeism in the world today. It frames these issues in terms of the factors which force movements and restrict the movement of people across national boundaries. It considers both the causes and consequences of such movements in relation to legal, political, economic, social and cultural factors. It looks at the images of citizen, nation and state that are constructed through the regulation of national boundaries, and compares these with the goals, identities and cultural processes of the people who move or are across regulated borders. In working out how to think about people who live at the edge of conventional social science categories we will reconsider such basic concepts as ethnicity, identity, nation, culture and homeland.
    Sophomore and above<

    SEM: THE THIRD REICH

    This semester will focus on the origins, nature, impacts, and experiences of Germany and Europe during the short but tumultuous Third Reich. Topics to be plumbed include: World War I, the collapse of Weimar; the Nazi rise to power; Hitler, the man and his role; the Nazi economy and foreign policy; the origins and course of World War II; antisemitism and the Holocaust. Lecture and discussion. Readings are probing, advanced, and fairly numerous.

    SEMINAR: LOOT

    Loot? will study the history and analysis of the destruction of archaeological remains and cultural heritage by grave robbers, collectors, and museums. Why are the Elgin Marbles in London, and not on the Acropolis? Why do there seem to be as many mummies in France as there are in Egypt? asks Sharon Waxman in her book Loot (2008). This seminar will examine the changing role of antiquities in the post-imperialist world, and access the moral and ethical questions raised by archaeologists, curators, collectors and lawyers regarding the plunder of ancient sites to feed an international art market. We will also review legal standards regarding cultural properties (1970 UNESCO Convention, 1991 NAGPRA, and 1995 Unidroit Convention) and how they have impacted the protection of ancient archaeological sites, forced the return of many art treasures and lesser artifacts, and become big headaches for everyone involved in the preservation of cultural heritage.

    SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY

    Have you ever wondered how social situations guide how we think about and act toward others, what determines who we love and who we hate, how we form attitudes about our own and others behavior, what determines whether we will help or hurt others, or how we construct knowledge about the self? If so, social psychology addresses these questions and many more. Social psychology is the science of how others influence the way people think, feel, and act. The aim of this course is to familiarize you with current and classic research and theory in social psychology, help you to develop critical thinking skills about social-psychological phenomena, and stimulate you to think about the implications of social-psychological research for everyday living.

    SOCIOLOGY OF DESIGN

    Technological change is often presented as a 'neutral' and 'dis-interested' set of processes that occur outside social, political and cultural processes rather than 'impacting' on 'society' and 'nature'. Much recent work in the sociology of technology has sought to contest this model suggesting that scientific and technological discourses are socially mediated in all kinds of power-laden ways. In this course, we will explore the contribution sociology can make to understanding the ongoing and dramatic changes occurring in the collision of technology, design, society and nature. We will begin by examining some central theoretical frameworks of technology studies variously inspired by the work of Marx and Heidegger, Foucault and Bookchin, Lash/Urry and Sennett; Latour and Haraway. We will move on to consider how these frameworks and related sociological literatures on consumption, commodification and the aesthetization of daily life might allow us to open up discussions about the sociology and politics of design. Finally, we will explore the history, culture and politics of various post-war, technology - inspired social movements from 'hackivism', 'sustainable design' and 'trans-humanism' which all share a commitment to re-designing social life and nature. Of central interest here will be to consider the relations between technology, design, citizenship and democracy and to reflect on the extent to which processes of technological change and design might be rendered more accountable, sustainable and reflexive.

    THE PHILOSOPHY OF FOOD

    The issues related to food and eating have been receiving much attention lately in our society and beyond, in response to growing concerns over our health and the environment. However, until recently, Western philosophy did not include those food-related issues in its discourse. In this course we will address a number of philosophical issues related to food and eating. (1) Why were food-related issues neglected in Western philosophy? What are some of the consequences of such neglect? What is the role of food and eating in other philosophical traditions? (2) What are some of the moral, political, and environmental issues involved in the production, distribution, and consumption of food? For example, is there anything morally problematic about meat-eating? Do we have an ethical duty to feed the hungry in our society and other parts of the world? Is any form of the state's paternalistic intervention in people's eating habits an undue infringement on individual freedom? What are the environmental costs of today's industrial farming, fishing, and global trade, what are some of the alternatives to reduce such costs, and are the alternatives successful? Are there any problems regarding genetically modified organisms as a food source? (3) Some regard certain forms of cooking as art, but can food be art? What are the aesthetic dimensions of food and eating? Can there be a standard of taste regarding food, or is it simply "a matter of taste"? (4) Finally, what is the role of cooking and eating in a good life? Does food simply provide nourishment for our physical survival, or can it enrich our lives in other ways? Through studying a variety of materials and films, we will explore these and other issues related to food.

    TOPICS IN PHYSICS

    Advanced and basic topics in the physical sciences are explored in this class. An overview of space-time and the expanding universe is followed by topics in: light quantum, the atom, and quantum physics. Other topics include wave-particle duality, gravity, time, black holes, and the special and general theories of relativity. Then we examine the unification of physics through the emerging result of (super) string theory which in spite of the incompatibility between general relativity and quantum mechanics harmoniously unites (and also requires) these conflicting theories. The already non-intuitive dimensions of space-time beautifully expand in the quantum geometry of string theory.

    TOPICS: HISTORY, PHILOSOPHY, & THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

    Topics in History, Philospohy, and the Social Sciences is an introductory course in which students are encouraged to develop the skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing that are common to the disciplines represented in the Department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS). Sections focus on the topics typically addressed within the department's disciplines; through discussion about key texts and issues, students are introduced to important disciplinary methodologies and controversies. All sections have frequent writing assignments, which, combined with substantial feedback from HPSS faculty, afford students the opportunity to develop the strategies and techniques of effective writing.
    Required for graduation for all undergraduates, including transfers. There are no waivers for HPSS-S101 except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent college course.
    NOTE: S101-16 FOR TRANSFERS AND UPPERCLASSMEN ONLY
    Freshmen registration instructors and course descriptions can be found on the Registrar website: www.risd.edu/registrar

    Wintersession 2016

    THE ETHICS, LOGISTICS, AND ART OF COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

    This course addresses the challenges and rewards of working as artists and designers in communities that are unfamiliar to us. Drawing on the traditions of both ethnography and social practice in art, we will consider how to approach new communities and contexts, how people unfamiliar with our practice might regard our work, and how to find areas of intersection where we can work in a way that is productive for all of us. This course will be structured around individual field projects, and is particularly appropriate for students either planning or already engaged in a community project of their own. It will involve considerable reading. reflection, and writing about these field projects.
    Permission of Instructor Required
    Sophomore and above

    CINEMATIC REPRESENTATION OF THE VIETNAM WAR

    Most young people have developed their perspectives on the Vietnam War primarily through the medium of film. We will examine several of the most popular movies about America's longest war, such as "Apocalypse Now," "Platoon," and "Full Metal Jacket." We will explore in particular the following questions. What is the relationship between the history presented in Vietnam War films and the history of the era as presented by professional historians? How might these films shape popular understandings of the war? How might these films act as cultural artifacts offering insight into American political discourse at the time of their production? Assignments will include reading, discussion, and written reactions to the films. You will need no particular background in history, film, or cultural studies to learn from and enjoy this course.

    ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS AND DESIGN SOLUTIONS

    The goals of this course are threefold: (1) to explain how the natural world works, and how humans physically change and are changed by some of its processes, (2) To emphasize how society understands, evaluates and confronts the dangers posed by these natural processes and (3) To encourage students to view the unique sets of problems caused by flooding, earthquakes, tsunami, climate change and other earth functions as challenges demanding intelligent and creative solutions that they are equipped to deliver. Case studies of recent natural disasters and design solutions will be discussed, and students own creativity and concepts for potential design solutions will be employed. No prior science background is required.

    FEMINIST THEORY AND ACTIVISM

    Some complain that feminist theory is "too academic," that it has no ties to social justice or activism. On the other hand, there are those in the academy who accuse gender/women's studies of not being sufficiently academic, of not being intellectually rigorous. With those two stereotypes in mind, we will read a variety of feminist theorists, some generally thought of as "academic," and some generally seen as "activist." Can academic theory be useful to political and social activists? Can activism inform academic theorizing? With those questions in mind, we will look particularly at feminist theories and activism as they seek to counter, contextualize, and respond to war and other manifestations of violence; theories and activism around reproductive rights and justice; theories and activism addressing environmental justice and ecofeminism; and theories and activism around bodies and their relationships to the other issues we will examine. Throughout the course, we will keep in mind art's place within feminist theory and activism.

    INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE

    The course will examine why indigenous knowledge systems have been portrayed as more effective ways of addressing pressing environmental challenges: sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity conservation, energy, sustainable agriculture, and the negative effects of globalization. We will demonstrate how art and design can make visible the often marginalized knowledge systems and practices of indigenous communities.
    Open to Undergraduates only.

    MIND, BRAIN, & BEHAVIOR: AN INTRODUCTION TO COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE

    This course will address questions of how psychological and cognitive functions are produced by the brain. The field of cognitive neuroscience aims to link the mind, the brain and behavior by trying to understand the biological nature of human thought and behavior. In this introductory course we will discuss several topics including: How is the brain built and how well can it rewire itself? How can we measure the living brain? What functions do various parts of the brain support? In particular we will discuss the neural underpinnings of perception, attention, memory, language, executive function, emotion, social cognition, and decision-making.

    MUSICAL THEATRE AS SOCIAL COMMENTARY

    This course will examine the ways in which musical theatre from ancient Greece to the 21st century has addressed issues of contemporary social significance. We will consider the political and cultural landscapes of 5th century BCE Athens, 19th century England, and 20th century United States. Students will read and discuss works from each period within its surrounding social context. In addition to dramatic texts, readings will include historical surveys of musical theatre and of the three periods. Students will be expected to produce two 3 to 5 page essays synthesizing the social issue about which a playwright/composer wrote with the resulting dramatic work; a mid-semester exam and a final project. Class meetings will include lecture, discussion and presentations. There will be a two-day field trip to New York to see musical plays and meet with theatre professionals. Lab fee covers theatre tickets, travel to and accommodation in New York.
    Sophomore and above

    OPTICS & MAKING HOLOGRAMS

    This Wintersession seminar has a focus on making holograms with lasers and on understanding the physics that makes holograms and lasers work. Ideas from familiar phenomena help us see the connections between everyday life and the abstract ideas of physics. This non-mathematical presentation of optics leads us to an appreciation of the logic and beauty behind the behavior of light. Starting with the fundamental properties of light, we pass through the geometric optics of reflection and refraction, and the wave optics of interference and diffraction to the clarity of particle waves, lasers, holography, and special relativity.

    SCIENCE & SOCIAL CONTROVERSY

    In this course we will examine the institution of science and its relations to the social context in which it is embedded. The idea of "value free science" has been appropriately abandoned as a false ideal. In its wake there have arisen a number of questions concerning how social and moral values ought to play a role in determining the directions of scientific research, the conduct of such research, and the application of research findings to social problems. In addition to examining such topics as scientific objectivity, scientific authority, sources of bias in science, and the social accountability of scientists, we will discuss several case studies including controversies over race and IQ, the safety and efficacy of psychiatric medications, the human genome project, and research concerning gender differences. The course will consist of discussion of assigned readings, several short writing assignments, and a group research project and presentation.

    THE MEANING OF LIFE

    The question, "What is the meaning of life?" is unclear in large measure because the word "meaning" is ambiguous. The various ways "meaning" can be construed, both objectively and subjectively, in everyday life and in the philosophical arena will be explored. Literature, film, and philosophical texts will be used as vehicles to illuminate how reflection, experience, and transitions through life's stages influence assignment of value to one's existence.

    THE SOCIOLOGY OF BUSINESS, ORGANIZATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

    While many tend to think about bureaucracies in emotionally charged terms (for example, Kafka and Orwell) or treat them with sarcastic derision (e.g., Parkinson), bureaucratic organizations are specific social structures possessing well-defined characteristics and following certain logic of behavior and development. They are present in government and business, as well as non-government organizations. Individual entrepreneurs and small businesses have to deal with bureaucracies to survive and thrive. This course will tell you how to behave around bureaucratic organizations. There are four major themes: organizational behavior, organizational boundaries, organizational environment, and interaction between organizations. Each theme will be looked at from the point of view of various types of bureaucracies: government, private, and non-profit. We will have a specific discussion of social entrepreneurship and its ability to navigate bureaucratic structures. Special attention will be paid to interaction between government and private bureaucracies. The course relies on a combination of lectures and in-class discussion. Students will be asked to write four short papers based on case studies and present them in class. There will be a final exam.

    TRADITIONAL JAPANESE AESTHETIC

    Since the process of Westernization began in Japan during the mid-19th century, Japanese culture has been going through dramatic transformations. However, in the midst of high-tech industry, skyscrapers, and McDonald's, the traditional Japanese sensibilities which were formed before Westernization still dominate many aspects of people's lives. This course investigates those traditional Japanese aesthetic tastes which are considered "uniquely" or "truly" Japanese. Emphasis will be on classical literary texts, traditional art forms and Zen texts.

    Spring 2016

    AMERICAN LABOR HISTORY

    This reading, writing, lecture and discussion format class examines the development of a working class cultures in North American/the United States from the colonial period through to the present. The course examines the experiences of the diverse cultures and ideologies of working people from the late 16th century onward. The various labor systems that arose during this time period include indentured servitude, slaves, artisanal and handicraft production as well as the development of labor organizations and national and international trade unions, labor parties and benevolent organizations. Issues of race, gender and ethnicity are discussed within the context of work and culture throughout the semester. Learning goals include not only tracing the history described above but gaining an appreciation for the role of labor in shaping American society, the significances of the Union movement in labor legislation and the relevancy of the study of labor history to work today.
    Sophomore and above

    COMBAT & CULTURE: WAR IN PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS

    War is endemic to human civilization. To some it has been an opportunity for glory, to many more a source of horror. What are some of the ideas and ideals that have precipitated wars? How has the way it has been experienced by both combatants and noncombatants changed over time? What are the legacies of war? War and culture have had a defining influence on each other, most evident in art, language, literature, popular culture, design, and constructs of virtue. This course will examine current wars through the lens of past wars, notably the Spanish-American War and World War One, touching on such topics as nationalism, terrorism, liberation movements, and the cultures that inspired them. Through required readings, individual research and writing, and classroom discussion, students will examine some of the experiences, impacts and artifacts of war through the cultural manifestations that attend them. There will be a field trip to a local military historic site.

    CONCEPTS IN MATHEMATICS

    Mathematicians are artists of the imagination. This course is an exploration of their abstract conceptual systems which have almost inadvertently yielded spectacularly successful real world results. It also looks at suggested artistic modes of thought and strategies of artistic exploration. Discussions will include imagination as a valid perception of the world (a sixth sense); high orders of infinity; abstraction, idealization and reality; the geometry of vision, other non-Euclidean geometries and the relation of these geometries to our universe. Regular attendance, some assignments and outside reading are required.

    CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IN ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY

    In this course we will examine a number of controversies over various scientific, clinical, and social practices concerning mental illness. Topics include: classification and diagnosis (e.g, Is mental illness a myth?, Can mental health professionals distinguish normality from abnormality?, Is psychiatric classification useful?, Is there a gender bias in psychiatric classification?), the character of specific psychiatric conditions (e.g., alcoholism, depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), treatment issues (e.g., the psychotropic medication of young children, electroconvulsive therapy, suicide prevention), and social issues (e.g., the insanity defense, involuntary commitment, the duty to warn.)
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for undergraduates admitted to RISD in 2008 or after.

    GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE

    Most scientists agree that humanity is changing Earth's environment and consuming natural resources at rates that are unsustainable. These changes are more problematic or immediate for some regions or socioeconomic groups than others. An understanding of the causes, magnitude, geography and time scales of environmental change prepares us to consider socially just and sustainable solutions, whether through design, analysis, communication, expression, or governance. This course will focus on perceptions of environmental change arising from the so-called natural sciences: ecology, evolutionary biology, geology, oceanography, climatology. Smaller portions of the course will consider environmental justice and the social consequences of histrionics in both climate activism and denialism. Course time will be divided between lectures and group discussions, the latter being motivated by readings, observational exercises, and local field trips. Scientific background is not required but critical thinking and participation are essential.

    HUMAN ANATOMY: FORM AND FUNCTION

    This course examines the form and function of the human body, with a focus on the musculoskeletal system and surface form. Each week, we will cover a different area of the body, working our way through the trunk and limbs to the neck and head. For each area, we will first consider the anatomical structure, including the bones, muscles, nerves, arteries and veins. We will then study the function, including movement, systems and processes. Each area will be further explored through common injuries and syndromes with an anatomical basis, which are illustrative of function through dysfunction. We will discuss treatments with an anatomical basis, including typical surgical approaches and procedures, and the design of prosthetics. Through this course, we will demystify and develop an appreciation for the wondrous complexity of the human body and its role in art and design.

    INVESTIGATING THE BOTANICAL WORLD

    Plants shape much of the natural world around us. They influence climate and provide organisms with food, shelter and housing. This course will be an introduction to the vascular plant kingdom; its variety, classification, biology, and ecology. Through careful observation and illustration of live and herbarium specimens, students will gain an understanding of plant forms, structure, and reproduction. Field trips will facilitate the observation of plants in natural community assemblages, and will aid in students? understanding of similarities among plant families, as well as their adaptations to environmental conditions. Students will learn the Latin and English names of common species and learn to identify these plants through recognition of their unique morphological traits, as well as through the use of dichotomous keys. Students will learn the importance of documentation for study and scientific record keeping and will create mounted specimens of plant species for the use of all students at the RISD Nature Lab.

    LEADERSHIP OF SOCIAL CHANGE

    Reflecting on historical and contemporary models of leadership, this course is designed to engage an active dialogue with the ways that collective social problems are both enabled and addressed by leaders. It also examines individual leadership potential by exploring how personal affinities can be focused and developed into effective strategies for solving problems, advancing ideas, and making change. Finally, it considers ethics, especially looking at the ways leadership can solve human problems. While primarily focused on public issues, this course will consider leadership in all economic spheres, and will look at the ways artists and designers practice leadership. In addition to reading, classroom discussion, and writing assignments, students will complete a community-based project in Providence.

    MIND AND LANGUAGE

    This course will introduce students to a variety of topics related to the nature of mind and the nature of language. We'll explore such questions as: What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Is there a conscious and an unconscious mind? Is it possible for a computer or robot to have a mind? Can animals think? What are the important characteristics of human language? Are human languages importantly different from animal communication systems? How do children acquire language? Are there important differences between male and female speech? Readings will come from both the philosophical and the psychological literature.
    Sophomore and Above

    NCSS CORE SEMINAR

    This course provides an inter-disciplinary but comprehensive introduction to key issues in Nature-Culture-Sustainability studies. It will provide an in-depth engagement with sustainable material use exploring the "five kingdoms" of nature, the "five core principles of sustainability" and "the five flows through the built environment". The course will also address Biometics, Ecological Economics, Environmental Health and Wonder as well as providing in depth discussion of existing real world projects involving the use of sustainable materials. Attempts will be made to arm students with an effective understanding of how they can apply principles of sustainability to their future studies and careers. This course will lay the foundation for the NCSS Concentration students as they pursue their major degree as well as their participation in the NCSS Concentration. The course format will be lecture/seminar with occasional guest lectures.

    Also offered as IDISC 2403. Register in the course for which credit is desired.
    Course Level: Sophomore, Junior

    NCSS CORE SEMINAR

    This course provides an inter-disciplinary but comprehensive introduction to key issues in Nature-Culture-Sustainability studies. It will provide an in-depth engagement with sustainable material use exploring the "five kingdoms" of nature, the "five core principles of sustainability" and "the five flows through the built environment". The course will also address Biomimetics, Ecological Economics, Environmental Health and Wonder as well as providing indepth discussion of existing real world projects involving the use of sustainable materials. Attempts will be made to arm students with an effective understanding of how they can apply principles of sustainability to their future studies and careers. This course will lay the foundation for the NCSS Concentration students as they pursue their major degree as well as their participation in the NCSS Concentration. The course format will be lecture/seminar with occasional guest lectures.

    Also offered as HPSS S564. Register in the course for which credit is desired.
    Course Level: Sophomore, Junior

    RETHINKING GREEN URBANISM

    As over half the world's population has come to live in cities, urbanization has moved to the center of the environmental debate. This course will provide an interdisciplinary reflection on the past, present and future of ecological urbanism. Co-taught between a liberal arts and an architecture professor, (but open to all majors) the course will attempt to interrogate the ways in which green urban design has been conceptualized to date. It will interrogate the limits of present conceptions and it will explore cutting edge contemporary debates around the future of the green urban project.
    Also offered as ARCH 1519. Register in the course for which credit is desired.
    Sophomore and above
    Permission of Instructor Required

    SEM: GENDER & THE MEDIA

    Representations of gender in film, television, music, print media, and advertisements serve to inform us about the gendered system in which we live. In addition to serving as a reflection of a given society's traditional gender roles and norms, mainstream media forms also shape the gender system by actively promoting specific gender stereotypes and ideals. By discussing scholarly literature and analyzing media representations of gender, we will try to understand how these media representations play a role in gender socialization, the political and economic status of men and women, our day to day interactions with others, and even our self-views. In addition to media that edifies traditional views of gender, we will also consider media that attempts to subvert the traditional gender system and promote alternative views of gender and sexuality.

    SEM: IN CONVERSATION: PHOTOGRAPHY, PHILOSOPHY, AND CULTURAL STUDIES

    This course introduces students to thinking about photography from the perspectives of analytic philosophy and cultural/visual studies through reading, writing, discussing, and making pictures. Active engagement in class discussion, a research and writing project, as well as other, shorter writings that focus on analysis of the classroom texts will be required. Topics will include: photography and/as art, the relation of photography to "reality" and truth; the semiotics of photography; the role that photography plays in historical and modern conceptualizations of race; the uses of photography as an aid to memory, recollection, and remembrance; the ethical implications of looking and taking photographs; and the relationship between image and text in photography. This course may be taken for either HPSS or LAS credit. Register into the course for which credit is desired. Register in LAS-C367 for LAS credit.
    Sophomore and above

    SEM: SOCIAL GEOGRAPHIES OF ART, DESIGN, AND COMMUNITY PRACTICE

    In this seminar, we will take a social geographical approach to investigating a growing trend toward the merging of art and design - and the aestheticization of everyday life - with the social, economic, political and environmental interests of global capitalism. Additionally, we will explore forces within contemporary art, design and community practice that are resisting these trends; examples include a collaborative project involving artists, scientists, landscape designers and many thousands of citizens in "the production of capital" for soil remediation; the design of gaming that specifically draws on measured and predicted effects of climate change; a performance piece that draws equally from local knowledge, public health and medical expertise; and several art and/or design works, focused on justice, that take place on local/regional levels but intervene in larger global processes. Learning and applying concepts and methodologies of social geography (the study of social relations within specific spaces and places) to these conditions will help us gain the insight and understanding needed to evaluate the roles that art, design and community practice have and will continue to play in contemporary societies.

    SEM: STORIES OF A LIVING RIVER

    This course invites students to engage as researchers and creative artists with the Woonasquatucket River, and with the people in its watershed. At RISD we see the Woonasquatucket just before it reaches the sea. But if we turn and follow the river upstream, under the Providence Place Mall, through Valley and Olneyville, to its source in North Smithfield, we begin to recognize the impact the river has had on the state, through massive industrialization in the 19th century to current efforts at environmental and social reclamation. In this course we will study the river through story. First, we will research the Woonasquatucket and its watershed, investigating the history, economy, politics, culture, and ecology of the region. Second, we will focus on Oral History, and learn the basics of interviewing and audio recording. We will gather stories from people whose lives have been entwined with the river, paying particular attention to the expressivity of the human voice, and environmental sounds. Students will be introduced to a range of contemporary work on sound and voice in poetry. Finally, students will organize and present their work, and collaborate on a collective project of public interest. How to collect and represent will remain ethical and aesthetic questions throughout. Teaching and learning methods will include assigned readings and discussion; print, web and field research; field recording, audio recording and editing; guest speakers; and production/publication. We will meet once a week for 3 hours, mostly on campus but several times in the field. When we meet off-campus, travel may take up to an hour each way, in addition to class, and students should plan accordingly. The course will be taught jointly by an anthropologist and a poet.
    This course may be taken for either HPSS or LAS credit. Specify your preference when obtaining permission to register.

    SEM: THE FUTURE BY DESIGN

    This seminar provides a critical introduction to the history and sociology of design futurism and design utopianism. Utopianism and futurism - for better and for worse - have been discourses central to the evolution of modern design and indeed modern society. Through interrogations of critical moments in design history, engagement with debates in contemporary social theory and the use of case studies, this course will seek to explore the diverse roles that futurism and utopia play in contemporary society. We will consider how design utopianism and design futurism has played and continues to play a crucial role in attempts to legitimize and contest consumer capitalism.
    Sophomore and above

    SEM: THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE: FROM PETER THE GREAT TO PUTIN

    This course is designed to introduce students to the history of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. The themes addressed in this course include: the historical processes of imperial formation, transformation, and collapse; the spatial and environmental dimension in imperial Russian and Soviet history; the incorporation and assimilation of multi-ethnic and multi-confessional groups into the Russian empire: Islam in Russia; reform, modernization, and westernization; migration and human mobility; nationalism and pan-Slavism; and political violence and revolution. The question of Russian national identity, both historically and today, will be an over-arching theme of this course. From a methodological perspective, the themes and topics addressed in this course are designed to help students contextualize contemporary economic, political, and social developments in the Russian Federation. The reading and discussion of historically-based works of literature within the context of the Russian history will help elucidate and humanize the various themes developed in the course.
    Sophomore and above

    SEM: WITNESS TREE PROJECT

    Witness trees, as designated by the National Park Service, are long-standing trees that have "witnessed" key events, trends, and people in history. In this joint studio/liberal arts course, students have the unique opportunity to study and work with a fallen witness tree, shipped to RISD from a national historic site. The course will involve three components: 1) a field trip to the tree's site at the beginning of the semester; 2) classroom-based exploration of American history, memory, landscape, and material culture; and 3) studio-based building of a series of objects from the tree's wood, in response to both the site and students' classroom study. Overall, the course will explore both how material artifacts shape historical understanding and how historical knowledge can create meaningful design.
    Must also register for FURN 2451.
    Students will receive 3 credits in Furniture and 3 credits in HPSS, for a total of 6 credits.
    A single fee of $100.00 will be charged for your concurrent registration
    Permission of Instructor required

    THEORIES OF CAPITALISM

    Capitalist systems have been lauded for their innovative capacity and excoriated for their exploitative practices. This seminar will critically evaluate major perspectives in the debate, to understand how capitalist forms of economy function and why they lead to particular development outcomes. This is based on an examination of major theoretical concepts in political economy: concepts like crisis, ideology, innovation, the market, and value. We will examine major schools of thought through scholarly and literary texts: from classical debates surrounding figures like Adam Smith and Karl Marx to contemporary scholarship on post-industrial and advanced manufacturing economies, social entrepreneurship, green capitalism, and potential post-capitalist futures. The seminar will evaluate the evolving role of creative practice and entrepreneurship in and beyond capitalism.

    TOPICS: HISTORY, PHILOSOPHY, & THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

    Topics in History, Philospohy, and the Social Sciences is an introductory course in which students are encouraged to develop the skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing that are common to the disciplines represented in the Department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS). Sections focus on the topics typically addressed within the department's disciplines; through discussion about key texts and issues, students are introduced to important disciplinary methodologies and controversies. All sections have frequent writing assignments, which, combined with substantial feedback from HPSS faculty, afford students the opportunity to develop the strategies and techniques of effective writing.
    Required for graduation for all undergraduates, including transfers. There are no waivers for HPSS-S101 except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent college course.
    NOTE: S101-16 FOR TRANSFERS AND UPPERCLASSMEN ONLY
    Freshmen registration instructors and course descriptions can be found on the Registrar website: www.risd.edu/registrar

    URBAN ECOLOGY: HOW WILDLIFE INTERACTS WITH URBANIZING LANDSCAPE

    We frequently hear about animal (and plant) species that become common nuisances in urban areas, and we hear about how natural habitat loss leads to the disappearance of other species-not to mention the emergence of new diseases. This course will approach the area of urban ecology from a natural science perspective. We will learn about a broad variety of North American organisms (vertebrate, invertebrate, plant and pathogen), from diverse habitat types, and their ecological patterns and processes with regard to urbanization. We will also conduct field experiments to evaluate certain patterns in our greater Providence landscape for ourselves. Ultimately, how do urban wildlife patterns affect the lives of our species, Homo sapiens? Coursework will include frequent readings, outdoor field trips, observational chronicling and group discussions.

    VISUAL PERCEPTION

    In this course we will examine some prominent psychological theories of color, form, depth, and motion perception. As much as possible, we will experience specific examples of visual processes through a number of in class experiments. The roles of learning, memory, imagination, and other cognitive processes will be explored.

    VISUALIZING THE NATURAL SCIENCES

    This 6-credit course invites undergraduate and graduate students to improve their skills in communicating and illustrating science. The general topic is changing biodiversity, how humans impact plants, animals, and their environment. Examples will be presented from around the world, as well as from Rhode Island. Through a series of exercises, students will practice analyzing and interpreting scientific information in order to both understand and present it. The science content will be delivered through lectures, visits to research labs, and to a nearby nature sanctuary. The course is designed to introduce students to relevant scientific concepts and challenge them to use their art to make these ideas more concrete and meaningful. In some cases, the goal may be to educate; in others, it may be to raise awareness, stimulate debate, or entertain. Students will explore the use of different media, including 2-D, 3-D animated, and interactive modes. They will also target differentcaudiences and venues, including: general interest or editorial publications, art for public spaces including galleries, educational and peer- to-peer science materials. Class work includes assigned reading, several minor projects, an exam, and a comprehensive final project. Students will choose a recent research study on the topic of human impacts on biodiversity for the subject of their final project, which is a written paper combined with original artwork designed for a public space or public interaction.
    The Departments of Illustration and History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences will teach the course collaboratively.
    Students must register for both LAEL 3912 and ILLUS 3912.