When Cultures Collide: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies
Coming to terms with diversity in an increasingly multicultural world has become one of the most pressing public policy projects for liberal democracies in the early 21st century. One way to come to terms with diversity is to try to understand the scope and limits of toleration for variety at different national sites where immigration from foreign lands has complicated the cultural landscape. This seminar examines a series of legal and moral questions about the proper response to norm conflict between mainstream populations and cultural minority groups (including old and new immigrants), with special reference to court cases that have arisen in the recent history of the United States.
Philosophy of History: Narrative & Explanation
This lecture-discussion course will focus on the nature of historical explanation and the role of narrative in providing an understanding of historical events. Among the figures considered are Gibbon, Kant, Humboldt, Ranke, Collingwood, Acton, Fraudel, Furet, Hempel, Danto. (B) (III)
Religion, Medicine, and the Experience of Illness
This course introduces students to both the dynamic relationship between religion and medicine and the role of religion as it relates to the experience of illness. Through a survey of a broad selection of religious traditions, textual genres, and case studies, students will evaluate how religion offers a pliable explanatory system (through myths, symbols, rituals, etc.) to address questions of causation, coping, and curing vis-à-vis illness. The historical relationship between religions and medical systems has been fascinatingly complex. We will encounter examples where religion and medicine work in tandem as complementary explanatory systems, e.g., with devotion to holy figures such as Saint Jude. We will also discuss what happens when religion usurps the explanatory role of medicine, e.g., when the activity of spirits becomes the diagnostic explanation for a medical condition such as epilepsy. Drawing upon literature from art history, medical anthropology, sociology, history, and theology, this course surveys the impressive variety of responses to illness both across religious traditions and within those traditions. Prior knowledge of religious studies and/or medical history is not required for the course.
Coming of Age: Youth Cultures in Postcolonial India
In this course, we will gain a deeper understanding of how certain key moments in postcolonial India-from student protests to an economic transition to globalization, from rise of Bollywood to the omnipresence of social media-have shaped the youth of the country and how young people in turn have been at the forefront of some of the major events and have created history on their own terms. We will ask-if youth is a construct like gender and caste then how was it constructed over the last seventy years? We will keep two guiding questions in mind-who all are considered to be the youth in postcolonial India? And-what are the lived experiences of young people during this time? The ever changing, seemingly arbitrary, and conflicting definitions of youth in government reports, commercial advertisements, or popular culture demands a thorough analysis of this category inside out. We will take an inter-disciplinary approach and examine how the identity of being young intersects with other identities such as class, ethnicity, linguistic abilities and so on. By identifying the constitutive elements of being part of the young generation in a young nation such as India, we will challenge any homogeneous perception of "the youth" and read young people's experiences in their own contexts. Focusing on youth culture in South Asia will help us think critically about youth culture studies where the Global South remains underrepresented.
The Role of Science in U.S. Education Reform
How should science inform the improvement of education? Can education be studied scientifically? These questions have haunted American education research since its 19th century beginnings. In this course, Lagemann’s history of U.S. education research, An Elusive Science, will serve as a central orienting text, and students will read primary sources by the figures it describes: Dewey, James, Thorndike, Coleman, Tyler, and more. The course will end with a consideration of contemporary topics such as research-practice partnerships and design research. In taking on the case of American education research, students will confront and discuss the entanglements of epistemology and history, measurement and social organization, knowledge and authority.
The Scientist in the Nineteenth-Century Imagination
The nineteenth century saw both the professionalization of science and the specialization of its practitioners. In this age of “human empire” produced by industrialization, new technologies offered humanity unprecedented dominion over the natural world, and the “scientist,” a term coined in 1834, marked the advent of the idea of a vocation dedicated to that mastery. Moreover, by the end of the century, the natural philosophers and polymaths of earlier ages had given way to chemists, physicists, biologists, and statisticians, whose scope of study was necessarily both deeper and narrower. These developments produced a new social and political positioning for the scientist – an expert, an authority, a wielder of power. This class explores how nineteenth-century fiction writers, from Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe to Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle, engaged with these emerging and transforming conceptualizations of the scientist figure. We will pair our literary explorations with non-fiction readings texts by thinkers and scientists such as Humphry Davy, Karl Pearson, Claude Bernard, William Whewell, and Max Weber (“Science as Vocation”) about what the scientist should be and science should do. Additionally, we’ll consider how this literary genealogy influences both our fictional portrayal of science to this day as well as our perceptions of it – from our contemporary distrust of expertise to our fear of the scientist playing god. This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/.
Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Morality
Morality is essential for societal functioning and central to human flourishing. People across all cultures seem to have the same sense about morality. They simply know what morality is, often without being able to concretely define what exactly it means to label something as a moral kind. But when one tries to more precisely and scientifically define what morality is, things become less clear and more complex. As we’ll see in the class, the field of morality is incredibly dynamic, and characterized more by competing theories and perspectives than by scientific consensus. Some research has worked deductively, starting with a theoretical definition (like the moral foundation theory) to generate hypotheses. Other research has taken a more inductive approach, starting with lay people’s perception of morality.
The past decades have seen an explosion of theoretical empirical research in the study of morality. Amongst the most exciting and novel findings and theories, evolutionary biologists and anthropologists have shown that morality has evolved to facilitate cooperation and social interactions. Developmental psychologists came up with ingenious paradigms, demonstrating that some elements underpinning morality are in place much earlier than we thought in preverbal infants. Social psychologists and behavioral economists examine the relative roles of emotion and reasoning, as well as how social situations affect moral or amoral behavior. Social neuroscientists are mapping brain mechanisms implicated in moral decision-making. The lesson from all this new knowledge is clear: human moral cognition and behavior cannot be separated from biology, its development, culture and social context. This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/.
The History of Capitalism in India
This discussion-based, seminar-style course explores the trajectory of capitalism in India from the late colonial period to the present. How should we understand colonial India’s place in the global history of capitalism? What was the relationship between postcolonial economic planning and changing class politics in the decades after independence in 1947? Finally, has India begun to converge upon a global paradigm of neoliberalism since the 1980s? As part of this course, we will read classic texts of Indian political economy, analyzing how both the theory and practice of capitalism in the region challenge Western-centered histories. This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/.
Christianity and Slavery in America, 1619-1865
This seminar will examine the relationship between Christian thought and the practice of slavery as they evolved historically, especially in the context of European enslavement of peoples of African descent in the colonies of British North America and in the antebellum South. Emphasis will be placed on the ways in which Christianity functioned as an ideological justification of the institution of slavery and an amelioration of practices deemed abusive within slave societies. The following questions will be addressed in some form: Why did some Christians oppose slavery at a specific time and in a particular historical context? In other words, why did slavery become a moral problem for an influential though minority segment of the United States by the early 19th century? What was the process by which and why did white evangelical Christians, especially in the South, become the most prominent defenders of slavery as it was increasingly confined to the South? What were some of the consequences of debates about slavery in regard to efforts to engage broader social reform? What role did race play in the historical development of slavery? How did people of African descent shape and practice Christianity in British North America and the Southern States of the United States? Although our focus is on what became the United States of America, we also linger on discussions about the broader international dimensions of slavery and slavery's importance in the development of the Americas. This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/.
Britain in the Age of Steam, 1783–1914
In the Victorian era, Britain rose to global dominance by pioneering a new fossil-fuel economy. This course explores the profound impact of coal and steam on every aspect of Victorian society, from politics and religion to industrial capitalism and the pursuit of empire. Such historical investigation also serves a second purpose by helping us see our own fossil-fuel economy with fresh eyes through direct comparison with Victorian energy use. Assignments include short essays based on energy "field work" and explorations in past and present material culture. This course fulfills the elective requirement for a new MAPSS concentration on the Formation of Knowledge https://sifk.uchicago.edu/mapss/.