New Course: CHUM302–Black Speculative Fictions and the Anthropocene

Black Speculative Fictions and the Anthropocene

(Thurs., 1:20-4:10pm, CFH 106)

CHUM 302 (AFAM 312; E&ES 125; FGSS 301)

SR non-major: 8 JR non-major: 7 SO: 0 FR: X

The genre of black speculative fiction–in the form of literature, art, music, and theory–provides a generative framework through which to (re)think understandings of race, gender, sexuality, class, the body, disability, citizenship, and the human. Often couched as taking place in the “future,” black speculative fictions also engage the past and critique the present. This makes the genre a critical resource for addressing the Anthropocene. The term “Anthropocene” first emerged from the discipline of geology in 2000. Scientists proposed that Earth had entered a new epoch (following the Holocene) in which “humans” had become geological forces, impacting the planet itself. However, the term Anthropocene raises numerous questions. What does it mean to think about the human at the level of a “species”? What constitutes evidence of the Anthropocene and when did it begin? Who is responsible for the Anthropocene’s attendant catastrophes, which include earthquakes, altered ocean waters, and massive storms? Does the Anthropocene overemphasize the human and thus downplay other interspecies and human-nonhuman, animate-inanimate relations? Or does it demand a (potentially fruitful) reconceptualization of the human? Further, how does artificial intelligence complicate definitions of the human and, by extension, of the Anthropocene? Centering the work of black speculative thinkers and placing it in conversation with scientific studies ranging from marine biology and geology to cybernetics, this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the Anthropocene that endeavors to (re)conceptualize the human, ecological relations, and Earth itself. Texts engaged will include: novels, art, music, theory, and scientific studies.

Major Readings:

Select primary sources: Octavia Butler, DAWN; N. K. Jemisin, THE FIFTH SEASON; Samuel Delany, STARS IN MY POCKET LIKE GRAINS OF SAND; Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and Halley Wegryn Gross, WESTWORLD; Sun Ra, SPACE IS THE PLACE; Bina48; Wangechi Mutu; Ellen Gallagher; Janelle Monae; Grace Jones; Drexciya
Select secondary sources:
Joni Adamson et al., eds., KEYWORDS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
Alexander Weheliye, HABEAS VISCUS: RACIALIZING ASSEMBLAGES, BIOPOLITICS, AND BLACK FEMINIST THEORIES OF THE HUMAN
Alexis Pauline Gumbs, M ARCHIVE: AFTER THE END OF THE WORLD
Anna Tsing et al., eds., ARTS OF LIVING ON A DAMAGED PLANET

New Course: HIST291/FGSS296–Gender and History

A great new History course was added over the summer: “Gender and History: Women Working, the U.S. and Global Capitalism since 1900” (described below and in the attached flyer), which also satisfies the requirements for the FGSS gateway.

Because it was added to WesMaps during the summer after frosh had registered, many seats are available for frosh and sophomores.

The instructor, Aimee Loiselle, is a PhD student from the University of Connecticut’s History Dept. who is finishing a dissertation this year titled: “Creating Norma Rae: The Erasure of Puerto Rican Needleworkers & Southern Labor Activists in the Making of a Neoliberal Icon.” Aimee will be sharing her research with faculty and students this fall; more details will be forthcoming. Her email so you have it if you or your students have questions is: aloiselle@wesleyan.edu.

HIST 291/FGSS 269

Gender and History: Women Working, the U.S. and Global Capitalism since 1900

TuesThur 1:20-2:50, PAC 422

This seminar will introduce students to histories of gender and sexuality in the context of women’s paid work, the U.S., and global capitalism since 1900. In this perspective, “U.S.” does not denote only the geographic, bordered United States, but also a political, economic, and cultural hub for currents of transnational capital and labor. While women have always worked, ideas about “woman’s work” shift across race, class, region, and time. Feminist historians have examined the dynamics between gender, work, and labor activism, and the ways that women earning wages in turn change notions of gender, sexuality, and the body. Yet recent histories of capitalism too often ignore women’s history, gender analysis, and sexualities.

We will discuss influential theories in the field of gender and sexuality studies and how they apply to the writing of such history. All students interested in gender as a category of historical analysis for their scholarly work in any field, as well as prospective history and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies majors, will benefit from this course.

Important questions push beyond a simplistic gender binary division of work, labor, or class to ask: how do gender, race, and class impact sex work; how do notions of femininity obscure the significant role of women workers in U.S. imperialism; what happens to ideas of gender, sexuality, and race when women join currents of migrating workers; what are perceptions of the “right work” for women’s bodies and how do these change across other categories like race, class, and size; what has the “feminization” of paid work with the rise of service industries meant for men and masculinity in different regions? This course seeks to reinforce recent scholarly attention to the connections between workers, labor, and economic and social structures through the study of women, gender, and sexuality.

New CSPL Courses!!

CSPL 206 Group Psychology in Politics:  Local, State, and National Perspectives with Dan Drew, Mayor of Middletown

1:20-4:10pm

This course is an introduction to the use of group dynamics to understand the deep personal and systems-level issues at play in the body politic. This framework is applicable at the local, state, national, and international levels. Often, if not most of the time,these issues play an outsized role in any public policy initiative, debate, vote, action, deliberation, and discourse – though they are rarely acknowledged. This class will examine group dynamics as it is practiced in the field of organizational development (OD), a branch of organizational psychology used to implement cultural changes across social systems. The application of OD to politics is not widespread, but its tools are useful in understanding the dynamics in political situations and in the understanding of how power is exercised. The course will introduce concepts in open systems theory and will introduce three models to “hold the data” in our case studies: the Burke-Litwin Model, BART, and GRPI.

CSPL 225 Critical Design Fictions with Barbara Adams

MW 2:50-4:10pm

Design fiction involves the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. Through practices of estrangement and defamiliarization, and through the use of carefully chosen design methods, this course experiments with the creation of provocative scenarios and imaginative artifacts that can help us envision different ways of inhabiting the world. The choices made by designers are ultimately choices about the kind of world in which we want to live–expressions of our dreams, fantasies, desires, and fears. As an integrated mode of thought and action, design is intrinsically social and deeply political. In conversation with science fiction, queer and feminist theories, indigenous discourses, drag and other performative interventions, this course explores speculative and critical approaches to design as catalysts for imagining alternate presents and possible futures. We examine a number of environmental and social issues related to climate change, incarceration, gender and reproductive rights, surveillance, emerging technologies, and labor.

CSPL 239 Startup Incubator: The Art and Science of Launching Your Idea with Makaela Kingsley

M 1:20-4:20pm

The Startup Incubator is a one-semester, experiential learning program designed to teach and enable student entrepreneurs to develop sustainable business models from their ideas.

Students are an ambitious, committed, and diverse group of individuals from all classes and majors who are passionate about developing successful solutions to challenges; identify as entrepreneurs, disruptors and thought leaders; and have the tenacity, work ethic and ability to succeed. All participating students will have a promising business idea and will take the course with the intention of launching or running their own venture.

Student Incubator students actively participate in one cohort meeting a week: most are “classes” that take the form of lectures or workshops, and some are “practice days” that provide time to practice theories and methods necessary for success.  Students also dedicate 10+ additional hours per week to assignments, self-directed work, customer discovery, networking and mentoring sessions.

This course will feel like a combination of a college class and a rigorous startup incubator program. Success is a student using theories learned in class to validate their ideas by developing and accurately testing business assumptions, identifying and researching their target market, and pivoting to develop a sustainable business model.

By enrolling, students make a commitment to themselves, the instructor, and the other members of the class.

CSPL 250 An Introduction to Data Journalism with Stephen Busemeyer

W 7:10-10pm

This course is designed to familiarize students with the basic principles and tools of data journalism and to provide a wider understanding of the role of basic data analysis in society. To that end, the course will focus on developing a solid familiarity with basic data analysis and visualization software. It will also focus on developing the tools of journalism: retrieving public data, interviewing people and databases, and the basic principles of journalistic writing. By the end of the course, students will be able to analyze data, identify stories within the data, and create a news story complete with data visualizations of publishable quality–a skill transferable to many fields and disciplines. Both online and traditional print platforms will be covered.

CSPL 250P “It’s a Mess”: An Academic and Practical Look at Digital Media in the Late 2010’s with Lily Herman ‘16

R 7:10-10pm

Hot mess. Dumpster fire. Steaming turd pile. Commentators, journalists, and the public have all used these terms to describe the state of American digital media in 2018. While the profession of journalism is more noble in this era than in previous decades, the world of media creation and consumption is far more complicated than ever before. For young people hoping to get their start in the world of digital media in the late 2010s, catching a break is even harder.

The purpose of this class is twofold: It will introduce students to the larger issues spanning digital media–from a lack of diversity and inclusion to problems with monetization and “Fake News”–while also giving them the chance to walk through what it’s actually like to pitch, write, and edit for an internet publication. Students will have the opportunity to write for a class blog using strategies that the digital media world uses today, and they’ll spend time giving and receiving feedback on writing.

CSPL 315 Policy and War through Film with Robert Cassidy

M 1:20-4:10pm

This course explores how America’s policies and wars interact with culture and identity. It combines films and readings to gain a deeper understanding of film as an artifact of culture, war, and identity. The course begins with a discussion of key foundational works to frame a common understanding about strategy, war, and American strategic culture. It then combines film viewings and critical scholarship to discover how the interpretations of America’s wars through film shape American citizens’ perceptions of war and their military. The films, readings, and seminar discussions will help students develop a better understanding of the differences between the realities and the perceptions of policy and war. This course lies at the intersection of international relations, history, and conflict studies. Participation in this course will increase the students’ understanding of how U.S. policy, war, culture, and identity interact. It will also sharpen critical thinking and writing.

CSPL 330 Policy and Strategy in War and Peace with Robert Cassidy

T 1:20-4:10pm

This course explores how the relations, relationships, and discourse between senior national civilian and military leaders influence the development and execution of policy and strategy in war and peace. In theory, the purpose of war is to achieve a political end that sees a better peace. In practice, the nature of war is to serve itself if it is not influenced and constrained by continuous discourse and analysis associated with good civil-military relations between senior leaders. This course begins with discussion of the key foundational works to build a common understanding. It then explores how civil-military interaction influenced strategy in war and peace for each decade from the Vietnam War to the present. The readings and seminar discussions also examine how the outcomes of wars influenced civil-military relations and the subsequent peace or wars. This course lies at the intersection of international relations, history, and conflict studies. Students will gain greater understanding of how U.S. policy makers, strategy, and war interact, while honing their critical thinking and writing skills.