History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences

Concentration

  • Liberal Arts Concentrations

    In addition to declaring a studio major and completing the required 42 Liberal Arts credits needed to graduate, all RISD students have the option of choosing a concentration in one of three Liberal Arts departments: History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC); History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences (HPSS); or Literary Arts and Studies (LAS).

  • Undergraduate HPSS Concentration

    In History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences faculty teach and conduct research in a broad range of humanities and social sciences fields. All courses in the department emphasize critical thinking and the development of writing and research skills. Undergraduate students who wish to complement their studio major with an in-depth study in a field supported by the department's curriculum may elect to pursue a concentration in HPSS. The concentration can be completed as part of a typical 4- or 5-year degree program and is open to all RISD BFA candidates. Such study enables students to fully explore the department's course offerings while fulfilling Liberal Arts requirements in a way that is most meaningful to them. Working across the disciplines of HPSS requires intellectual curiosity, excellent communication skills and the ability to bring together disparate methods and approaches. Such qualities are essential to both the creative work of artists and designers and for growth and success in everyday life.

  • Learning Outcomes

    Concentrators are able to:

    • approach issues critically, reflectively and with regard for cultural and historical context

    • formulate informed, logically coherent arguments 

    • communicate orally in articulate, informed and persuasive ways

    • write clear, accurate and grammatical prose

    • explain the parameters and content of the core disciplines studied

    • interpret current theories, methodologies and debates

    • utilize standard research and bibliographic tools

    • construct and defend arguments relating to the core disciplines

    • identify and critique arguments within related scholarly literature

  • Concentration Tracks

    Each concentrator shapes an individual course of study around one of the department’s nine established tracks, which build on faculty teaching and research strengths and represent a key intersection of one or more of the core disciplines in HPSS.

    1. Belief Systems
      • Description: Study of how cultures and societies throughout history have developed worldviews through religious beliefs, philosophical traditions, and folkways.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Belief Systems (five HPSS; two from any department).
       
    2. Environmental Studies
      • We encourage students with an interest in this area to consider the Nature, Culture, and Sustainability Studies (NCSS) Concentration.
      • Description: Study of human-nature relationships, past and present, including the role of science and technology, the impacts of cities, suburbs and rural worlds on the environment, and the ways in which art, design and creativity can contribute toward more sustainable and just socio-ecological futures.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Environmental Studies (five HPSS or relevant LAEL; two from any department).
       
    3. Gender, Sexuality, and Race
      • Description: Study of the socio-cultural, legal/ethical, historical, anthropological, psychological, political, and sociological aspects of social identity worldwide, with a particular focus on gender, sexual orientation, and race.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Gender, Sexuality, and Race. Typically, the preponderance of these courses will be taken in HPSS, with relevant non-HPSS courses subject to the approval of the HPSS Concentration Coordinator.
       
    4. Global Processes
      • Description: A consideration of cultures, economies, and societies globally, with particular attention to systems and flows of people, information, capital, products, imagery, and ideas; i.e. to the relationships, connections, and disconnections of the globalized world.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Global Processes (five HPSS; two from any department).
       
    5. Media, Technology, and Cultural Studies
      • Description: Study of the relationships between communications, politics, and culture, past and present, including the rise and role of culture industries, theories of production, reception, and influence; and theoretical debates about culture and society from anthropology, media studies, sociology, and psychology.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Media and Cultural Studies. Typically, the preponderance of these courses will be taken in HPSS, with relevant non-HPSS courses subject to the approval of the HPSS Concentration Coordinator.
       
    6. Mind, Self, and Behavior
      • Description: Study of how people perceive, construct, manipulate, and maintain views of themselves and the world around them, and how philosophical principles, physical and social environments, as well as biological factors inform us about people’s identities, motivations, feelings, beliefs, and behavior.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Mind, Self, and Behavior (five HPSS or relevant LAEL; two from any department).
       
    7. Politics and Policy
      • Description: Study of social and political issues, worldwide, and the various methods that shape understanding of such issues, including empirical research, legal theory, political analysis, and social theory and practices.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Politics and Policy (five HPSS; two from any department).
       
    8. Regional Studies
      • Description: The in-depth study of a region with a focus on histories, cultures, societies, philosophies, religions, aesthetics, political developments, and institutions.

        Examples of the regions where students could concentrate their studies include The Americas (including North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America), Europe and Russia, The Middle East and Africa, Asia (East, Southeast, South, and Islamic Asia), The Atlantic World and/or The Mediterranean Sea.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses exploring their specified region in depth. Typically, the preponderance of these courses will be taken in HPSS, with relevant non-HPSS courses subject to the approval of the HPSS Concentration Coordinator.
       
    9. Scientific Inquiry
      • Description: Study of the physical and natural sciences, with an emphasis on the importance of understanding science in society, and the influence of the scientific method and experimental practice across the disciplines. This concentration is designed to help students develop a broad range of science-literacies and explore the potential contribution of the sciences and of scientific method to critical making and critical thinking.
      • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Scientific Inquiry (five HPSS or relevant LAEL; two from any department).
       
  • Lindsay French | concentration coordinator

    "HPSS concentrations are organized around areas of topical interest and – like the department itself – are deliberately multidisciplinary. We encourage students to explore issues of particular concern to them through classes in the humanities and a variety of social sciences. They build a foundation in HPSS that supports informed and thoughtful social engagement through art and design."