This course is an introduction to the field of environmental history. What can our environment tell us about our past? How have natural resources shaped patterns of human life in different regions of the world? What meanings have people attached to nature and how have those attitudes shaped their cultural and political lives? We will analyze the ecological context of human existence, with the understanding that the environment is an agent and a presence in human history.
By studying the evolution of people’s responses to “natural disasters,” this course helps students understand the politics of environmental change. The course begins by developing a conceptual vocabulary drawn from the interdisciplinary field of “disaster studies.” We then explore the governmental, economic, and social contexts and institutional responses to several catastrophic events -- such as volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and fires -- to discover how they reshaped laws, public policy, and urban development.
This is not a traditional course about Native Americans in North America. In this course, we will move beyond categorizing Native peoples, their cultural beliefs and practices, and historical experiences according to familiar anthropological categories (e.g., “prehistory” and “band, tribe, chiefdom, state”). Instead, you are encouraged to question conventional assumptions and stereotypes about and depictions of indigenous peoples and cultures of North America.
This course emphasizes the interconnectedness between people and nature. We will be concerned with people’s perceptions of and interactions with their physical and biological surroundings, and the various linkages between biological and cultural worlds. The goals of the class are to expose you to a broader understanding of the role of culture in sustaining the diversity of plant and animal life and also reveal the variety of choices involved in our human-environmental interactions.
This course explores how gender shapes our understanding and interactions with the environment. We will analyze how we construct and maintain particular views of gender and sexuality, and examine how our identifications produce, change, and maintain particular environments within both Western and non-Western worlds. Within this class, we will shift between 1) discussions of philosophical and theoretical debates that underlie feminist environmental thinking and practice, and 2) examinations of tangible struggles over environment and gender within historical and geographical contexts.
Food is not only important as nutrition, but as a symbol of identity, a marker of status, a sealer of alliances and an item of social and economic currency. This course examines the myriad uses, meanings and impacts of food cross-culturally. This contributes to the mission of the department, giving students an in-depth view of one of the basic aspects of human cultures. Students will come away with a more thoughtful and nuanced view of their own societal practices, as well as those of many others.