Humanities and Global Challenges

Courses that explore important global issues through the lens of a specific discipline in the humanities. Each course focuses on a particular issue/challenge and course content assists students in understanding key disciplinary knowledge and approaches that provide insight into the issue. Students explore ways to productively think about and address the issue. These courses help students increase their understanding of complex global issues, develop knowledge of the humanities as they relate to global issues, explore approaches to and solutions for global issues, develop skills and confidence in applying knowledge to complex issues, and improve writing and research skills. Global Challenges courses include students from a variety of disciplines, promoting interdisciplinary conversation and understanding. This course requires a major paper or project, as well as a reflective assignment where students are asked to synthesize their overall learning as it relates to the global issue being studied. Community-based learning is encouraged but not required.  

Sample Sections

Dystopian Literature and (Dis)Orderly Desires: Absurd Dreams and Global Nightmares

Faculty: Robert Aguirre

The global challenge this course explores, through dystopian literature, is how desires for social order, and the globalizing philosophies underlying those desires, result in hegemonic forms of social control achievable only through the imposition of ideologies of perfection. Dystopian literature imagines grim worlds where plurality and co-existence are sacrificed for the hegemonic establishment of social harmony. Students will engage and critique these literary landscapes to analyze and assess how global dreams can become global nightmares.

Empires and Utopias: Freedom and Justice in the African World

Faculty: Saheed Adejumobi

Empires are often associated with power, and utopia with impossible visions. What are the global challenges created by legacies of modern imperialism? How are these reflected in unequal contemporary political and economic relations? We will explore how African Diaspora intellectual history has engaged with inequality in the discourse of justice. Under the rubric of empire and utopia, we will explore how freedom and justice, and philosophical and material progress are encoded in African Diaspora narratives.

Rebels and Outsiders: Race, Reproduction and Sexual "Deviance"

Faculty: Jessica Johnson

Historically, US culture has labeled its “others” as “unnatural,” “deviant,” and “criminal.” Medical and social science, as well as the U.S. legal system, have supported these oppressive perspectives producing complex systems of entitlement for certain groups of people and disentitlement for other groups. “Rebels and Outsiders” will examine these cultural productions of “normalcy” in relation to the ongoing challenge of identity formation and the nation. At the same time, this course will concern itself with the connections between U.S. national upheaval and the global, as we examine how the 1780s, the 1890s, 1950s and 2010s are all moments of intensive global change where the U.S. intensifies its imperialism and colonialism with respect to other cultures and nations. Through the methods of history, gender and sexuality studies, literary studies, and philosophy, the processes of “othering” within U.S. culture that concern us will be examined as moments of intense nativism and ethnocentrism.

Memory and Violence: Historical Effect and the Remembrance of Suffering

Faculty: Jerome Veith

This course explores the nature of contemporary global violence through a philosophical lens. It mobilizes the concept of historical effect, developed by the German thinker Hans-Georg Gadamer, to assess our present-day situatedness within an ongoing era of conflict, suffering, and trauma. In taking account of our historical inheritance of conflict, this assessment will involve analyzing both the overt narratives and tacit assumptions that frame our conception of violence.