History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences


  • Fall 2014


    From an anthropological, cross-cultural perspective this course will focus on the ways genders are distinguished, constructed, and valued in different societies. Although gender categories often draw on perceptions of anatomical and physiological differences among bodies, these perceptions are mediated by cultural categories, meanings, and beliefs. We will consider the notion of gender as a multidimensional category of personhood that encompasses distinct patterns of social differences, such as the Zuni berdache and the treatment of intersexed people. In terms of gender diversity and social change across the globe, we will explore beliefs and practices linked to the formulation of genders in various societies and address the question of what it means to be human. The course consists of lectures, class discussions of the readings, and films. Requirements include several short analytical papers, two short essay quizzes, and a final project.


    Jerusalem has earned a special eminence among the famed ancient cities of the world. Its sanctity to Jews, Christians, and Moslems has made the city a focus of discussions and controversies regarding the evolving and changing identifies throughout its long urban history. Early and recent studies and discoveries, as well as old and new theories with a special emphasis on the Roman, Byzantine, and Early Islamic periods (ca. 63 BCE - 1099 CE) will be examined in the seminar. A particular focus will be placed on how to identify ethnicity, religious identity, and gender in the archaeological record. Though politics and religion have often biased related scholarship and the way excavations and their interpretations have been presented to the public, the goal of the seminar is to understand and examine various opinions and viewpoints. This seminar will consist of regular meetings, with illustrated lectures, student presentations, and discussions. In addition to the presentations, weekly reading assignments, a mid-term exam, and a final term paper will be required.
    Also offered as HAVC C729. Register in the course for which credit is desired


    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.


    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


    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


    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.


    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


    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).


    We live amid a world of signs without which we could scarcely communicate or find our way through life. The theory of signs, or semiotics, seeks to understand the nature of signs as vehicles of meaning in our perceptions and messages we send and receive in our spoken, textual, and visual communications. This course moves from the analysis of signs and communication to a critical examination of the extension of semiotics to the surface and hidden meanings of dreams, handwriting, literary and art works. At each step, we will endeavor to test the theories "in practice," to carefully evaluate their merits and limitations. Through this, semiotics will emerge as a humanistic discipline that underwrites our critical and creative understanding of the world as well as funds our creative efforts to make the world anew. Problem-based, discussion and lecture oriented with quizzes, practice-assignments, and short papers.


    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.
    Course Level: Sophomore and Above


    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.


    The course will examine ways that many media, especially film, respond to the great social forces of their time and their culture. Some films, and other creative expressions, reflect an inherent endorsement or criticism of the politics contemporary to them. We will examine social critics' roles in some of the influential movements of the West in the 20th century--the Russian Revolution, German Nazism, the New Deal, World War Two, the Cold War and Third World Liberation movements. Requirements include readings and screenings from each of the eras covered, written assignments and exams, and participation in class discussions. In addition to three hours of class each week, there will be evening film screenings.


    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


    Europe: 1750-1950. This is an introductory survey history course with special attention given to: the Enlightenment; the French Revolution; the Industrial Revolution; the bourgeoisification and masculinization of public culture; liberalism and Marxism; national unification; imperialism; total war; and fascist and communist dictatorships. Midterms, quizzes, and final. Lectures with discussions and student led topic discussions with papers.
    Sophomore and above


    Through readings in the field of global and American environmental history and in-class discussions, this course examines the relationship between human societies and the natural environment over time. We will examine how various societies incorporated the natural environment into their social, political, and religious systems and how those systems affected the environment. How did people of the past use, abuse and think about nature? How were their lives and aspirations affected by changes in the natural environment and by large-scale environmental events such as climate change.
    Sophomore and above


    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


    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.


    Socrates described philosophy as an intellectual preparation for death. He recognized that how we react to, think about, and cope with finality tells us a great deal of what we think about the core of our existence. Philosophers have been divided between a "bald scenario" that death is nothing but the end of our material existence to which we are limited, and the more reassuring view that death is a door to another personal plane of existence. Death is nothing vs. death is everything. We will examine these phenomena from philosophical points of view through reflection primarily on philosophical works but will include religious sources and literary works. While philosophers have primarily focused understandably on the individual confronting death, we will constantly place these questions and their answers within interpersonal and social spheres of consideration. We will focus on: What is Death? The role of death in the meaning of life; personal survival in various scenarios; ethical issues surrounding suicide, euthanasia, and other voluntary ending of life. We will look at a few of the social practices surrounding death and examine their meaning and functionality. Intensive reading, writing, and participation in seminar format.
    Sophomore and above


    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<


    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.


    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.


    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.


    This course explores Italian art from ca. 1350 to 1600 within a ritual framework. A ritual can be defined as a codified, solemn, event that occurs within specific temporal and spatial cadres upon occasions such as marriage, birth, death, a ruler's visit to a city ('entry'), a calamity, or a feast day. Rituals work through the display of symbolic objects [here understood as 'images'] such as statues, reliquaries, paintings, elaborate costumes, or flags for which the role of artists was primordial. The power of images resides in their ritual use: colorful paraphernalia and sacred objects flaunted in city-wide processions could ward off the plague, honor a local saint, and turn princely entries or funerals into successful events. Through their symbolic and artistic components, rituals create authority, assert identity, define social status, and maintain order in society. We will study the extant objects themselves as visual evidence for such phenomena as well as representations (in the form of paintings and prints) of ceremonies, spectacles, processions, or ritual domestic settings. We will analyze art through inter-disciplinary methodologies: material culture, anthropology, social history, and iconography. Learning about artistic conventions and traditions will guide us to evaluate to what extent works of art manipulate reality in a 're-presentation' - rather than provide a mere illustration.
    Also offered as HAVC C503. Register in the course for which credit is desired.


    Genocide and mass violence have been present throughout human history, but escalated in scope and scale during the 20th Century. Due to changing social, economic, and environmental pressures, the risk that genocidal violence will continue to affect people around the globe on an ongoing basis is great. This course is a critical examination of the history, causes, and consequences of genocide and related behavior. Drawing on theory and research in psychology and allied disciplines, students will explore definitions and legal issues, prediction, intervention, aftermath, and the factors that tend to promote or inhibit incidents of mass violence.
    Sophomore and above
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for all undergraduates


    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.


    Section 01
    Anthropologists have used a number of techniques to document "other" cultures - the course will explore visual documentation techniques, from early explorers' drawing to contemporary filmmakers. Research tools and methods will be evaluated from several points of view, including the artistic, the anthropological, and the ethical.
    Section 02
    This course surveys the history of American technology from the Colonial period to the present taking a thematic approach that emphasizes social, economic and cultural impacts of technological change on American society. Themes include but are not limited to: Inventors and Invention, Power, Transportation, Communication, Technology and Management, Technology in the Home, Technology and Art, and Technology and Time. Evaluation includes two short papers, a project resulting in an 8 page paper and in-class presentation, and two tests.

    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.


    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.


    This course looks at how gender intersects with other forms of hierarchy and structures of power in Asian societies, with a particular focus on women. It is an introduction to both anthropological approaches to gender and to women's position in Asian societies. We will look at women in relation to religion; to family, marriage, and kinship structures; to household and national economies; and to various forms of political power. We will read about China, Japan, and Korea, among other Asian societies. The course will require a significant amount of reading and writing.
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for all undergraduates.

    Wintersession 2015


    Abnormal Psychology will introduce students to clinical presentations of psychopathology that may occur throughout human development. Specific psychological disorders will be examined from various theoretical frameworks, including psychological, biological, and sociocultural perspectives. The historical context of abnormal behavior will be explored, and current knowledge regarding etiology and treatment will be reviewed.


    This introductory course on Buddhism covers its three major traditions in order to introduce students to the internal diversity of this religion. It will be organized around the theme of the ideal of self-fashioning as represented by this religion's founder and central figure, the Buddha. To do so, it will begin by examining Buddhist theories on reality and human character. Then, it will explore how these theories inform Buddhist practices and lived experiences as found in various cultural and social contexts. The readings for this course will be primary sources, works of scholarship, and first-person ethnographies. Overall, this course is designed to teach students how to think according to an order of ideas and how to read and interpret narratives in order to practice thinking with metaphors and allegories as well as to practice examining human religiousness.


    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.


    Natural and man-made environmental disasters dominate the news - flooding, earthquakes, climate change, water pollution and more. Some can be predicted, some can be avoided, and some can be mitigated. But how? In this course, we will explore how the natural world works, and how this working is evident in some of the most pressing environmental issues of today. Learn why you might not want to invest in that beachfront property, how the Burma cyclone was like hurricane Katrina, and whether it's wise to place a swimming pool on that scenic overlook. No prior science background is required.


    In most advanced cultures of the world, the passion for sports has reached into many and unexpected aspects of society. As participants or observers, we all, at one time or another, recognize the power of sports as spectacle, distraction or metaphor. This course will examine the evolution of sport from competition among individual athletes in the ancient world through the rise of team sports in the 19th and 20th centuries. It will then consider the influence of sports on language, politics, gender identity, art and architecture, literature, media, and apparel, among others. Sports inevitably have an interrelation with class, race, and nationalism; and they have developed their own myth & ritual & hagiography, aesthetics, economy, cult of celebrity and statistical idiom. There will be readings, assigned papers, classroom presentations, an exam and field trips to local sports events.


    This course uses food as an entry point to deepen our understanding of the history and complexities of globalization. Food production, distribution and marketing systems often cross borders and oceans. Consumers' very bodies are implicated in transnational flows of not only food, but also of the chemical inputs used to grow crops in extensive, market-oriented production. Commercial agriculture and the food processing industry frequently depend on low-paid immigrant labor. In globalization, traditional diets morph, foods take on new cultural significance, and bodies change in response to altered eating habits. At the same time, struggle over food availability, production and consumption have become key sites of contestation in various parts of the world, as movements for food sovereignty, "slow food," "localvorism," fair trade, and organic production grow in visibility and number. Using a range of primary and secondary sources, including visits to local grocery stores, farmers' markets, and farms, we will explore how the food we eat links us to the world beyond our borders.

    Global Climate Justice: Social Change in A WARMING WORLD

    Climate change presents a problem of historic complexity, scale and injustice. It exacerbates inequalities between nations and social groups as its impacts are experienced worst and first by those least responsible for causing the problem. What movements for social change are underway in this context? What are the possibilities for transformative social action? What role can we play in catalyzing new solutions? Through readings, writing, film, field trips and engaged creative projects, this course explores the social science dimensions of climate change on a global scale, and seeks to re-imagine possibilities for social change in a warming world.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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 2015


    This course invites students to engage as researchers and creative artists with the Woonasquatucket River, and with the people who live and work in its proximity and speak about it. 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 upon the state: the massive industrialization it powered in the 19th century and the pollution these industries created; the abandonment and repurposing of the mill buildings in the 20th century and the transformation of industrial communities; and the efforts at environmental and social reclamation of the river in the 21st century. This course will approach the river through the stories of its history. 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 begin gathering 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 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. The course will be run as a hybrid seminar/studio, and taught jointly by a professor of Anthropology and a professor of Poetry. How to collect, and how to 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, with substantial out of class work expected.
    This course may be taken for either HPSS or LAS credit. Specify your preference when obtaining permission to register.


    What constitutes the aesthetic values of objects? Do they consist of what affects our sensory experience? Is beauty only skin deep? Are aesthetic preference and judgment only a matter of personal taste; hence there is no disputing about taste? What happens to the aesthetic value of an object if we discover ethically problematic facts associated with it? What if the object's creation, maintenance, and afterlife cause serious environmental harm, compromise the health of living organisms including humans, or involve various forms of social injustice? Do these facts affect the aesthetic value of the object? Should they?

    This course explores these questions that are becoming increasingly pressing today, as more problematic dimensions of artifacts continue to be exposed, while the aesthetic appeal of objects, in addition to their functional and economic values, compels our interactions with them. We hope to develop an informed, responsible and critical attitude toward the aesthetics of artifacts both as creators/designers and as citizens/consumers.
    Sophomore and above
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for undergraduates


    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.


    This course examines how human activity impacts the animal world, how animals impact us, and how both are affected by the health of the environment. We may find it convenient to think of humans as living in one sphere while plants and animals occupy another, but it's not that simple. All creatures share the same basic needs for air, water, shelter, food, space, and companionship - and we compete for these resources. In order to maintain the balance necessary for healthy ecosystems, it's essential that we understand how one species impacts another. Using a series of examples, we'll explore these connections, beginning with simpler animals and ecosystems, and moving up to more complex ones. Topics covered include coral bleaching, the extinction of frogs, the use of DDT to control malaria, why dolphins strand, the future of polar bears - and more. We'll also study the potential solutions to these problems.


    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.


    Philosophy after Alexander the Great differed from what had gone before. Gone with Alexander were the small, self-governing communities in which each citizen had a place and a role to play. Secure in such communities, citizens had begun to philosophize in a disinterested search for knowledge. The conquests of Alexander brought into being a world-empire extending from Greece to India, Egypt to Kazakhstan. There were not citizens of this empire but unconnected and atomistic subjects of a foreign bureaucracy whose lives had been uprooted from all vital community. In such circumstances, people began to look to philosophy for answers to new questions: questions about their place in the world and the meaning of their lives. This course will examine the alternative communities that philosophy after Alexander offered to a vast, disenfranchised, and multi-ethnic population, preparing the ground for the new world-religions of Christianity and Islam that were to follow.


    Most scientists agree that Earth is a place of constant environmental change. Much less obvious is what the changes we see around us mean in terms of human impacts and future conditions. This is partly because Earth's changes are viewed through the varying lenses of biology, ecology, evolution, oceanography, climatology, and geology. This course surveys the scientific methods and knowledge that underlie and unify these disciplinary perspectives on environmental change. Emphasis is on changes in Earth's climate and oceans, with ecology providing the primary point of reference. Course time is divided between lectures and group discussions, the latter being motivated by readings, observational exercises, and field trips. Scientific background is not required but critical thinking and participation are essential.


    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.


    This course is designed to explore the relationship between sacred "texts" (including those that have been transmitted verbally for generations) and the images that are associated with them and/or inspired artists in their traditional contexts. We will look at the cultural context of sacred narratives in such communities as the Kwakwaka, the Hopi, the Maya and other Mexican communities, the Dogon, Australian traditional aboriginal groups, and other Pacific communities, time permitting. Topics will include sacred texts and landscape, sacred narratives and the notion of a person, sacred texts and contemporary arts, and other related topics. The course will require a final research project.
    Also offered as HAVC C504. Register in the course for which credit is desired.


    In this course, students will be asked to analyze their experiences as workers and consumers, evaluating the impact of organizational forms and industry structure. Drawing from history, philosophy and economics, the course will explore how social entrepreneurs have built cooperative enterprises that differ from other conventional enterprises. Topics explored include the history of the cooperative movement, economic analysis of worker cooperatives, governance structures of cooperatives, the legal framework of cooperatives, cooperatives and sustainability, and the implications of cooperative enterprises for capitalist ideology. The final project requires students to work together in small teams to develop a practical business plan for a cooperative enterprise that builds upon their own interests and expertise.
    Sophomore and above
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for undergraduates


    Through a survey of history's great pandemics this course addresses, from an historical perspective, humanity's response to the appearance and spread of epidemic diseases. While the biological aspects surrounding the contraction and spread of epidemic diseases will be discussed, this course will concern itself primarily with the transnational, environmental, and technological factors that have promoted and sustained regional or world-wide outbreaks of epidemic disease. Specific topics addressed in this course include: the connection between climatic or environmental conditions and the spread of disease; displacement, migration, and disease; and the development and evolution of medical institutions, quarantines, and public health systems.
    Sophomore and above
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for undergraduates


    Philosophy, the quest for wisdom, seeks answers to life's deepest and most enduring questions. How should we live? What is the truth? What is real? What and who are we in a universe of things unlike ourselves? At its core, philosophy is a discursive, argumentative probing that pokes at our fundamental assumptions about the world. The philosophical mind, of course, welcomes the challenge. In addition to philosophers raising these questions, fiction has been a vehicle for raising these issues and challenging the status quo mindset of its readers. Science fiction in particular, has long been occupied with questions regarding man's place in the universe and the limits and potentials of science. While such philosophical probity rarely makes for great television viewing, there are a few shows, such as Star Trek, The X-Files and others, that are distinguished by their consistent philosophical texts in conjunction with the study and discussion of selected episodes from these extraordinary television series. Participation, several short papers and group presentations are required.


    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.


    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.
    Course Level: Sophomore and above


    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


    In this course we will screen and examine narrative, interpretive films that expressly depict a historical event, personality or situation. We will be expressly concerned with ways in which the film can be studied as a historical text and the use of nationalism, mythology or political ideologies in the construction of a particular historical moment. Films to be viewed include: Glory, Potemkin, October Sky, and Nixon.


    Section 01
    Anthropologists have used a number of techniques to document "other" cultures - the course will explore visual documentation techniques, from early explorers' drawing to contemporary filmmakers. Research tools and methods will be evaluated from several points of view, including the artistic, the anthropological, and the ethical.
    Section 02
    This course surveys the history of American technology from the Colonial period to the present taking a thematic approach that emphasizes social, economic and cultural impacts of technological change on American society. Themes include but are not limited to: Inventors and Invention, Power, Transportation, Communication, Technology and Management, Technology in the Home, Technology and Art, and Technology and Time. Evaluation includes two short papers, a project resulting in an 8 page paper and in-class presentation, and two tests.

    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.


    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. 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 and plant), from diverse habitat types, and their ecological patterns and processes with regard to urbanization. We will also conduct some 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.


    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.


    In this course students will engage with theoretical, historical and literary text, film and photography in order to explore the geography of global commodity chains. By focusing on key commodities and analyzing their individual production processes, students will be encouraged to ask a more specific set of questions, notably: What is our stuff made of? Where is it made? Who makes it? And how does it get to us? In the second part of the class, students will analyze where stuff goes, or the geography of waste. In the fields of art and design, this conversation often centers on how to build or make a sustainable future. However, this course will suggest that it is imperative for artists and designers to critically reflect on what is meant by stainability in order to avoid being complicit in the myth produced by narratives of "green capitalism".


    The goal of this course is not to determine what is good for the health of workers or consumers, but rather to equip students to critically examine accepted notions of what is considered "healthy" by identifying and understanding the assumptions, values, and historical contexts that underlie those notions. We focus on consumers and workers to explore how ideas about health have been central to questions of identity, power and justice. We will begin a consideration of early twentieth century questions about workers safety and the emergence of a "therapeutic ethos" encouraging middle class to promote their own health through the consumer experiences. From there, we will ask how ideas about health figured in the development of consumer culture and the labor movement, emphasizing conflicts and solidarity between workers and consumers, the role of science and regulation in defining health, and the multiple and varied roots of anxieties about health. Finally, we'll examine the post-1970 period, examining workers and consumer responses to chemical production and pollution, sweatshop labor, and the so-called "obesity epidemic." Throughout, we will explore how notions of health intersect with ideas about personal responsibility and self control, identity formation, and collective practices of citizenship and activism.
    Sophomore and Above
    HPSS S101 is a prerequisite for undergraduates