Frenemies: Humans and Animals

The nature of the human-animal relationship is complex, pervasive, and paradoxical.  Over the course of human history, we have domesticated, exploited, and protected species — we love dogs, eat pigs, and despise rats. In dissecting this relationship, we will examine environmental issues, race, culture, sexuality, gender, and concepts of selfhood. By the end of the […]

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What’s It Worth? How We Determine Value

How do we, as individuals and societies, determine the value of things, services, and experiences? Questions like the value of a national park, a child well-educated, or a life prematurely lost are central to both government policy and individual commitments. Through careful reading, critical discussion, short integrative essays, and interactions with local organizations involved in […]

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Coming to Terms with Past Violence

Embedded in the fabric of every national narrative is the attempt to understand past violence. Words like reconciliation, reckoning, justice, impunity, accountability, and forgiveness all have distinct connotations depending on their specific national context and the actors who employ them. In this course, we analyze localized forms of interpreting violence through regional case studies from […]

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Plasticity: Shaping The Brain

The great discovery of neuroscience is that the brain is fundamentally characterized by “plasticity”—a radically open-ended potential for both creative and destructive difference. But now that plasticity has been discovered, why do we so often continue to ignore or diminish our fundamental capacity for radicle change and fail to embrace natural and cultural differences? And […]

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Obesity & Dementia: A Vicious Cycle

Obesity and cognitive dementia are currently among the most pernicious threats to human health and quality of life.  Despite many years of research at enormous financial cost, understanding of the causes of both disorders is limited and preventative and treatment interventions have been largely unsuccessful. Integrating scientific, medical, and social perspectives, students will explore the […]

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Antisemitism: Enduring Hatred

Hatred of the Jewish people and Judaism appeared in antiquity and continues to this very day.  The phenomenon puzzles scholars, pundits, politicians, Jews, and people around the world.  We will study this complex problem, focusing on specific episodes of this hatred in the past and present, emphasizing its long history in the U.S.  We will read different genres of literature—history (secondary and primary sources), fiction, and nonfiction—as we grapple with the multifarious […]

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