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Readings in New Materialism
Christine L. Marran
Recently scholars in a range of disciplines including media and literary studies have developed methods to account for the material world and material dependencies. In this class we will examine how and why these theories constitute a critical turn in philosophy and cultural criticism.
New materialist modes that we will address include agential realism, OOO, speculative realism, among others. Students will develop an understanding of the principal theories and discourses of new materialism and consider how material agencies have been accommodated in these media and literary theories. It will become clear that scholars from a range of disciplines have developed theoretical models in order to consider the more-than-human world. For the purposes of the course, these approaches are grouped under the concept of “new materialism,” but they vary in their approach to materiality and agency of the more-than-human world.
We will use course materials to see how we might incorporate new materialist perspective in our own research and writing. Required readings will be in English, but students are encouraged to consider the relevance of these methodological approaches to their research agenda and primary materials. Authors to be read include but are not limited to Alaimo, Barad, Bennett, Bryant, Harman, Meillassoux, Parikka, Shaviro, Stengers, among others. We will discuss these materials while analyzing a range of representational forms and technological modes.
This course heeds historian Coll Thrush’s call to reframe the city through Indigenous experience. The course begins with histories that center the metropole as an Indigenous space. We will follow decolonial guides to cityscapes that unearth the multi-layered cultural geographies created by sovereign and autonomous Indigenous people and their diasporas. We will examine Indigenous people’s active engagement with urban life and how this engagement has led to a resurgence of Intertribal identities. We will look at policy and planning practices as exclusionary tactics that marginalized Indigenous people and explore Indigenous-led initiatives demanding urban land justice and rights to the city. The course relies on a variety of texts—histories, art, novels, films, poems, maps, ethnographies, and digital stories—and spans the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. Through case studies, this course engages with decolonial narratives and praxis that acknowledge and reclaim Indigenous histories and rights to the city.
This class explores anthropological approaches to urban life. On one hand, the course examines the ontological nature of the city by looking into the relation between cities and their environment, and asking whether and how people differentiate "urban" and 'non-urban" spaces. It uncovers the social practices and behaviors that define urban life; urban-rural distinctions; the material and ecological processes that constitute cities; and popular representations of city and/or countryside. On the other hand, the course investigates the spatial and social divisions of the city, seeking to understand the historical struggles and ongoing processes that both draw together and differentiate the people of an urban environment. It studies how cities influence political decision-making, contributing to the uneven distribution of power and resources. It considers: industrialization; urban class conflict; gendered and racialized spaces; and suburbanization. Both of these approaches will also critically consider the city as a social object that we encounter and learn about through our engagement with kinds of media, such as novels and film. Hence, reading for the class will include literature from the social sciences and humanities, as well as critical works of fiction.
Students will engage with these broader anthropological issues through an investigation of several global cities, especially Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Paris, Mexico City, Brasilia, and New Delhi. The class mixes lecture, discussion, and guided research. Lectures will introduce the history of urbanism and urban anthropology. Discussions will critically evaluate the readings, and offer insights and examples to better understand them. By participating in a guided research project, students will uncover hidden aspects of their own city, using ethnography or archaeology to shed light on the urban environment, social struggles over space, or other themes.
Socioeconomic/political forces that impact migrant farmworkers. Effects of the laws and policies on everyday life. Theoretical assumptions/strategies of unions and advocacy groups. Role/power of consumer. How consuming cheap food occurs at expense of farmworkers.
Kyungsoo Yoo (Professor, Dept. of Soil, Water, and Climate)
Lectures are online. Class meets once per week for discussion (50 min.). This course examines scientific and historical foundations of land uses and associated sustainability issues in different cultures or countries. This course thus takes a bottom-up approach to global land use and its sustainability. Class materials are sourced from multiple disciplines including soil science, ecology, geology, anthropology, and history. Graduate students can take the course as SOIL5593 directed study. ESPM3051 satisfies global perspective liberal education theme.
The overarching theme of the course is the role of artistic/humanistic ways of knowing as tools for making sense and meaning in the face of "grand challenges." Our culture tends to privilege science, and to isolate it from the "purposive" disciplines--arts and humanities--that help humanity ask and answer difficult questions about what should be done about our grand challenges. In this course, we will examine climate change science, with a particular focus on how climate change is expected to affect key ecological systems such as forests and farms and resources for vital biodiversity such as pollinators. We will study the work of artists who have responded to climate change science through their artistic practice to make sense and meaning of climate change. Finally, students create collaborative public art projects that will become part of local community festivals/events late in the semester.
This is a Grand Challenge Curriculum course.
HIST8122 Public Histories: Environmental Justice and Public Memory
Susan D. Jones, email@example.com
Recent historiography of the “new materialism” and the “more-than-human” turn; posthumanism and material culture; entangling methods from history and the natural sciences and critiques of this move; and the stability/instability of “things” in Asian, European, and American historical context. Case studies include: late-premodern and modern human/nonhuman bodies and disease (animals, traces, vectors); material culture of the “Anthropocene;” things and state-building (Namibia’s “Red Line”);” reimagining “third nature” by tracing matsutake mushrooms (globally); ancient DNA and plague.
Biology dominates the landscape of contemporary scientific research, and yet "biology" consists of a variety of different disciplinary approaches: from protein biochemistry to field ecology, from developmental biology to evolutionary genetics. Many philosophical issues can be found in the concepts and practices of life science researchers from these different disciplines. What is the structure of evolutionary theory? What is a gene? What are the units of selection? What is an individual? What counts as a "cause"? What is the relationship between evolution and development? Are all biological phenomena reducible to genes or molecules? What are adaptations, and how do we identify them? What is an ecological niche? Is there a progressive trend in the history of life? Is there such a thing as 'human nature'?
This course is an introduction to these and other related issues in the biological sciences with an emphasis on their diversity and heterogeneity. It is designed for advanced undergraduates with an interest in conceptual questions and debates in biology that are manifested across a variety of majors (e.g., Animal Science; Anthropology; Biochemistry; Biology, Society and Environment; Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Chemistry; Ecology, Evolution and Behavior; Genetics, Cell Biology and Development; Microbiology; Neuroscience; Physiology; Plant Biology; Psychology). Some of these issues will appear familiar from previous coursework or opportunities, whereas new issues will be intriguing because of their similarities and differences with those that have been encountered in other contexts.
prereq: Courses in [philosophy or biology] or instr consent
GCC 3027/5027 (Power Systems Journey: Making the Invisible Visible and Actionable), with Paul Imbertson and Jonee Kulman Brigham
An energy revolution is underway, and needs to accelerate to support climate and economic goals. But the general citizenry does not understand our current energy systems, particularly the seemingly invisible phenomena of electricity, and its generation, distribution, and use. Technical knowledge is only half the solution, however. It is through human decisions and behaviors that technical solutions get applied and adopted, and the importance of communication and storytelling is being recognized for its relevance to making change. How can science literacy and behavior-motivating engagement and storytelling be combined to help make systemic change? This course explores the integration of science-based environmental education, with art-led, place-based exploration of landscapes and creative map-making to address this challenge. How do we make electricity visible, understandable, and interesting -- so we can engage citizens in energy conservation with basic literacy about the electric power system so that they can be informed voters, policy advocates, and consumers. In this class, you will take on this challenge, first learning about the electric power systems you use, their cultural and technical history, systems thinking, design thinking, and prior examples of communication and education efforts. With this foundation, you will then apply your learning to create a public education project delivered via online GIS Story maps that use a combination of data, art, and story to help others understand, and act on the power journey we are all on. All will share the common exploration of power systems through field trips, and contribute to a multi-faceted story of power, presented in a group map and individual GIS Story maps. No prior knowledge of GIS story maps or electricity issues is needed. The study of power systems can be a model for learning and communicating about other topics that explore the interaction of technology and society toward sustainability. **NOTE: Environmental Humanities Students encouraged to come. Final projects can be creative works, historical studies, or other ways humanities can shed light on understanding our electric grid. See more at http://gcc.umn.edu/gcc-courses/gcc-30275027
GER 3651/5651 (Environmental Thinking: Green Culture, German Literature, and Global Debates), with Charlotte Melin
Known as the country of poets and thinkers, Germany today has a reputation for leading in environmental innovation. But how did that happen? This course (taught in English, with assignments in German for students who know the language) looks at how sustainability became mainstream in Europe. We will explore how literary and non-fiction writing, film, and the arts shaped German environmental thinking. Public concern about environmental issues is driving social, political, and cultural change in German-speaking countries—Green party successes, renewable energy initiatives, and cradle-to-cradle design have deep historical roots. Romantic writers found inspiration in nature and German scientists pioneered principles of ecology. However, after 1945, nationalistic glorification of nature was suspect, due to the legacy of National Socialism. This course explores how the involvement of writers and other public intellectuals in critiquing the past changed attitudes to revive environmentalism. Frequent comparisons will be made with global developments and the U.S. Our starting point will be Faust (by Goethe) and a contemporary novel by Daniel Kehlmann about the early scientist Alexander von Humboldt. Other works will include a novella about the Chernobyl, a comic book, and examples in other media. Assignments include an extended simulation project related to renewable energy; graduate students will be asked to pursue additional research.
HSCI 3244/5244 (Nature's History: Science, Humans, and the Environment) with Susan D. Jones
This course examines the history of environmental ideas, sustainability, conservation history; critique of the human impact on nature; empire and power in the Anthropocene; how the science of ecology has developed; and history of modern environmental movements around the globe.
LAW 5062/6062 [Non-Law students register as 5062] (Energy Law) with Alexandra Klass
This course provides an introduction to U.S. energy law. The first portion of the course introduces the nation’s primary sources of energy: coal, oil, biofuels, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear, wind, solar, and geothermal energy. In doing so, it explores the physical, market, and legal structures within which these energy sources are extracted, transported, and converted into energy. The second portion of the course turns to the two major sectors of our energy economy—electricity and transportation—and the full range of federal and state regulation of each sector. The third portion of the course explores case studies of hot topics in energy law and policy that highlight the complex transitions taking place in the energy system. These topics include electric grid modernization, electric vehicles, risks and benefits associated with hydraulic fracturing and deepwater drilling for oil and gas, and the continued role of nuclear energy. In addition to traditional textbook reading and class discussion, the course will include industry, government, and nonprofit guest speaker presentations. Grading will be based on a final exam given at the end of the semester as well as class discussion and weekly written postings on the Canvas site for the course.
If you will be teaching a graduate course that you wish to publicize among members of the EHI, please share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.