History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences


  • 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.

  • Jennifer Prewitt-Freilino | concentration coordinator

    “An HPSS concentration takes advantage of the multidisciplinary nature of our department, offering students an opportunity to organize their HPSS and Liberal Arts elective requirements around a substantive theme, which they approach from a number of disciplinary angles. Although we work from a core set of common themes, each student’s concentration is individually tailored to their interests. This encourages exploration around motivating concerns and promotes the discovery of connections across disciplines.”

  • Concentration Tracks

    Each concentrator shapes an individual course of study around one of the department’s 10 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. American Studies
      • Study of one or more of the regions of the Americas (North America, the Caribbean, Central America and South America), including economics, government, history, politics and popular culture.
    2. Asian Studies
      • Study of one or more of the regions of Asia (East, Southeast, South and parts of Islamic Asia), including aesthetics, culture, history, philosophy, politics, religion and society
    3. Belief Systems
      • Study of how cultures and societies throughout history have developed world views through religious beliefs, philosophical traditions and folkways.
    4. Environmental Studies
      • Study of human-nature relationships, past and present, including the history and impact of science and technology; the effects of cities, suburbs and rural worlds on the environment; and the ways in which art and design can contribute to more sustainable and just socio-ecological futures.
    5. European Studies
      • Study of one or more regions of Europe (the entire continent or specific European nations and states such as Rome, Germany, Britain), including economics, history, philosophy, politics, society, state-building and warfare.
    6. Gender, Sexuality and Race
      • 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.
    7. Media and Cultural Studies
      • 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.
    8. Politics and Policy
      • Study of social and political issues worldwide and the various methods that shape understanding of such issues, including empirical research, ethnography, moral philosophy, political science, legal theory and social theory.
    9. Scientific Inquiry
      • Emphasizes the importance of education in the natural sciences for artists and designers and of understanding science in society and the influence of scientific method and experimental practice across the disciplines. Helps 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.
    10. The Self in Society
      • Study of how people perceive, construct, manipulate and maintain views of themselves and the world around them, and how physical and social environments shape people’s identities, motivations, feelings, beliefs and behavior.
  • Undergraduate Curriculum Requirements (24 credits)

    1. Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences (1 course / 3 credits)
    2. Track-specific courses (5 courses / 15 credits)
    3. Two additional track-specific HPSS or other related courses (2 courses / 6 credits)