Past Courses

The Cogut Institute fosters curricular innovation at Brown University through such programs as the faculty fellowship, the postdoctoral fellowship, the Collaborative Humanities Initiative, and the Humanities Initiative Scholars. The Institute also regular hosts US and international visiting faculty. Courses offered by the Institute regularly contribute to Brown University's cross-disciplinary curricular programs, for example "Writing-Designated Courses" and "Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning" (now "DIAP Courses: Race, Gender, Inequality" as of Fall 2018). A sample roster of courses is available below for Fall 2017 and Spring 2018. Additional information about Collaborative Humanities Seminars is available here. (A full catalog of past courses is forthcoming.)

Fall 2017

HMAN 0900B | Fake: A History of the Inauthentic
Felipe Rojas, Faculty Fellow
What is a fake? Are “fake” and “authentic” absolute and antithetical categories? Who gets to decide what is authentic? Greek statues, Chinese bronzes, Maya glyphs—what gets faked and why? Have fakes always existed? Galileo’s moons, a centaur’s skeleton, Buddhas bearing swastikas—are all fakes the same? If not, how are they different? Why do people make fakes? Who wins? Who loses? This course revolves around the history of the inauthentic through a diachronic exploration of art objects and other forms of material culture. We will range widely in time and space, focusing primarily on the pre-modern. (Brown University Curricular Program: First-Year Seminar)

HMAN 1971S | Introduction to iPhone/iPad Moviemaking Using 3-D and 4K Comparisons
Theodore Bogosian, Visiting Faculty
Mobile Devices are democratizing movie-making by lowering barriers to entry, enabling students to become full-fledged members of the film industry virtually overnight. This pioneering course provides the basic tools for students to create and distribute no- and low-budget live-action motion pictures with professional production values utilizing only their personal smartphones. Students will acquire the skills to plan, capture and edit short motion pictures through hands-on instruction and experimentation with low-cost accessories, including selfie-sticks, lens adapters, directional microphones and iPhone apps like Filmic Pro, Vizzywig and iMovie. Limited to junior, senior and graduate students.

HMAN 1972X | Kubrick's Work: A study of his Feature Films, Documentaries, and Photography
Richard Rambuss, Faculty Fellow
Seminar on the whole of Kubrick’s oeuvre as an artist: his feature films, his documentaries, and his photography for Look magazine. We’ll start with his sci-fi masterpiece 2001, and then take up Kubrick’s early noirs (Day of the Fight; Killer’s Kiss; The Killing); his sex films (Lolita; A Clockwork Orange; Eyes Wide Shut); and his war films (Paths of Glory; Dr. Strangelove; Full Metal Jacket). Topics include: film adaptation (most of Kubrick’s films are derived from novels); film genre; men and masculinity in extremis; technophilia and technophobia; Kubrick’s reputed misogyny and misanthropy; the aesthetics of violence; and sex on film.

HMAN 1972Y | Indigenous Peoples and American Law
Nathaniel Berman (Religious Studies)
The European colonial empires and their successor states in the Americas all developed bodies of law concerned with the indigenous peoples who preceded them. In the United States, this body of law is generally still known as “American Indian Law” or, more recently, “Federal Indian Law.” It emerged out of colonial-era juristic thinking and was adapted and transformed after the U.S. gained independence from Britain. This seminar will study both the history and structure of this body of law. It will also seek to uncover the ways the technical legal materials embody deep-rooted cultural presuppositions about indigenous peoples. (Brown University Curricular Program: Writing-Designated Course)

HMAN 2400B | Trans/Passing, In Theory (see Collaborative Humanities Seminars)

HMAN 2400D | Potential History of Photography: Collaboration (see Collaborative Humanities Seminars)

HMAN 2400E | What Was Europe? (see Collaborative Humanities Seminars)
Co-taught by Peter Szendy, Humanities Initiative Scholar

HMAN 2970A | Politics Beyond the Human
Sharon Krause, Faculty Fellow
Investigates the politics of the relationship between people and the earth; examines the environmental consequences of this relationship as it currently exists, as well as its impact on human justice and freedom; and explores alternative political imaginaries and institutional forms that include the non-human and evaluates their implications for sustainability, justice, and freedom. In considering the political relationship between human beings and the earth, we examine (and problematize) core political concepts including justice, freedom, agency, sovereignty, democracy, liberalism, rights, representation, and the political. Readings reflect a great diversity of normative commitments and methodological approaches.

HMAN 2971C | Decolonial Methodology: Pedagogy for a New Era of Dissent and Resistance
Françoise Vergès, Visiting Faculty
The seminar will focus on the ways to develop and nurture a decolonial methodology that is intersectional, anti-racist, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. The aim is to produce a space of trust that allows debating hard questions and challenging our own assumptions, and encouraging collective thinking and cooperative learning.

HMAN 2971D | Caring for the Truth
Adi Ophir, Visiting Faculty
The seminar offers a close reading of two series of lectures Michel Foucault gave in 1983–1984. Turning to classical Greek authors Foucault sought to understand how certain forms of care for the truth became central to regimes of power and forms of government, but also to regimes of individuals’ self-formation. Proceeding along three axes we will follow the main themes in Foucault’s text, read independently some of his primary texts, and use his interpretive analytics to probe into “the truth wars” of the present, reflecting on the way we are – or wish to be – positioned in relation to them.

Courses taught by postdoctoral fellows affiliated with the Cogut Institute for the Humanities

ANTH 0880 | Sound and Symbols: Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
Lynnette Arnold, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
his introduction to the study of language and culture considers how language not only reflects social reality but also creates it. We'll examine specific cases of broad current relevance, in the process learning how an analytical anthropological approach to language use lays bare its often hidden power. We'll consider how language creates and reinforces social inequality and difference, how language promotes and resists globalization, and how language is used creatively in performance, literature, film, advertising, and mass media. We will also consider how language does important social work in specific contexts, such as classrooms, courtrooms, medical settings, and political campaigns. (Brown University Curricular Program: Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning)

RELS 0415 | Ancient Christian Culture
Dora Ivanišević, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
How did the Jesus movement that originated in a backwater of the Roman Empire become the Empire’s dominant religion? What was it like to be a Christian in a world full of religions, cults and philosophical traditions, and of diverse social and cultural identities? An introduction to the history of early Christianity, and to the ancient Christian culture through the exploration of selected topics by means of textual, material and epigraphic evidence. Topics include: multiple Christianities; literacy and orality; visual culture; the episcopal authority; wealth and poverty; asceticism and monasticism; hagiography and the cult of saints; sacred landscape and pilgrimage; women, gender; burial.

ENGL 0511G | Introduction to Native and Indigenous Literatures
Theresa Warburton, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
This course will familiarize students with the study of Native and Indigenous literatures in North America. Focusing on a range of genres, geographic locations, and historical moments, students can expect to acquire both a working knowledge of the history of Native literatures in English and a critical methodological approach to the study of American literature.

HMAN 1972N / HIST 1979K | The Indian Ocean World
Ketaki Pant, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Oceans cover two-thirds of the surface of the earth. They are the world’s great connectors. Rather than political boundaries of empire and nation-state, this course focuses on an enduring geography of water as the central shaper of history. Drawing together the history of three continents this course explores the Indian Ocean world as a major arena of political, economic and cultural contact during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As we map the contours of this history we study how race, gender and sexuality were shaped across the Indian Ocean. Major topics include Islam, imperialism, indentured labor migration, liberalism and anti-colonialism. HISTGlobal

HMAN 1972W / AFRI 1050V | Rhythm and Resistance
Ryan Mann-Hamilton, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
This course will investigate the crucial cultural and political contributions of the African Diaspora in the formation of the contemporary Americas through an analysis of the rhythms they have produced in different national settings. We will use these rhythms as a guide to understand the peoples, places and conditions under which they were created and sustained. Through classroom discussion and historical and music-analysis students will understand the relationship of these rhythms to larger issues like nationalism, migration, colonialism, globalization, the politics of sexuality, gender and race and to understand the different meanings and practices of resistance. (Brown University Curricular Program: Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning)

HMAN 1973A / AFRI 1060Z | Race, Sexuality, and Mental Disability History
Nic Ramos, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
This seminar investigates the fraught entanglement of mental disability with race and homosexuality beginning with late 19th-Century ideas of scientific racism and the invention of the homosexual body in African American communities. By tracking changes in Psychiatry and Psychology through the 1960s and 1970s, the course examines the impact of the Civil Rights and Gay Rights movements on sustaining contemporary mental health diagnosis of "gender dysphoria" associated with Trans people. The course will further examine several approaches to queer, trans, and gay history from the fields of color critique, black feminism, and disability studies. (Brown University Curricular Program: Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning)

HMAN 1973B / POLS 1824N | Feminist Theory for a Heated Planet
Claire Brault, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
The ecological crises—the “sixth extinction,” “global warming,” “the eruption of Gaia”—have forced many humans to challenge contingent boundaries drawn in more or less compelling ways in the Western world. Dualisms opposing nature to culture, the human and the nonhuman, the natural and the technological, the feminine and the masculine, seem more destabilized than ever. When geologists came up with a new epoch called the “Anthropocene,” feminist theory was well equipped to problematize this allegedly omnipotent “anthropos.” Reciprocally, queer, post-colonial, and feminist theories have re-thought the never so normative, hardly stable, greatly unknown, nature of nature. (Brown University Curricular Program: Writing-Designated Course)

HMAN 1973C / MCM 1203U | East Asian Cinemas in a Global Frame
Hongwei Thorn Chen, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
Arguably, cinema has political value because it manipulates the texture of our collective imaginations, shaping how the world, races, nations and regions appear before globally differentiated audiences. By analyzing films from Hollywood, the PRC, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, this course charts how “East Asia” emerged cinematically as a textured cultural and geopolitical entity within the framework of a broader global circulation of images. Topics covered include Hollywood Orientalisms, Japanese Empire, postsocialist China, and New Korean Cinema. (Brown University Curricular Program: Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning)

HMAN1973D / HIPS 1371B | Sports and Culture in Latin America
Luis Miguel Estrada Orozco, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
Sports in Latin America are big, and in some cases huge, and their significance goes way beyond pure entertainment. They are a contemporary theater of sorts where underlying social tensions are relived and sometimes exacerbated. This course studies soccer, boxing, baseball and lesser-known sports (e.g., ultramarathons and women’s wrestling) in relation to Latin American national narratives, politics, race, and gender. Using tools of sociology and anthropology, among others disciplines, we will study the representation of and discourse about sports in cinema, literature, television, and other media.

Spring 2018

HMAN 0800A | The Humanities in Context: Literature, Media, Critique
Damien Mahiet, Cogut Institute Staff
The humanities attend to questions that shape individual and collective life. Literatures, media, music, and performing arts inform reflections on issues that are either pressing (justice, the environment) or constitutive of an experience (of art or medicine, for example). Does humanity have a shared heritage? Should we feel alike in the face of art? Does one have obligations toward strangers? Does history compel us to act a certain way? Whose responsibility is the planet? What identities can one choose? Should one aspire to posthuman life? Drawing from various disciplines, this seminar pursues not one, but multiple takes on these questions. (Brown University Curricular Program: Writing-Designated Course)

HMAN 1970K | Law and Religion
Nathaniel Berman (Religious Studies)
In an arguably "post-secular" age, conflicts over the relationship between religion and law have moved to the forefront of international debate. In our multicultural/globalized world, such conflicts often provoke contestation over the very possibility of universal definitions of either "religion" or "law," let alone their proper relationship. Our interdisciplinary inquiries on these questions will include concrete legal disputes in domestic/international courts; theoretical debates over the construction of "religion" in fields such as anthropology, religious studies, and philosophy; historiographical controversies about the relationship between "secularization" and sovereignty, particularly in light of the legacy of colonialism. Limited to juniors, seniors, and graduate students. (Brown University Curricular Program: Writing-Designated Course)

HMAN1971S | Introduction to iPhone/iPad Moviemaking Using 3-D and 360VR Comparisons
Theodore Bogosian, Visiting Faculty
Mobile devices are democratizing movie-making by lowering barriers to entry, enabling students to become full-fledged members of the film industry virtually overnight. This pioneering course provides the basic tools for students to create and distribute no- and low-budget live-action motion pictures with professional production values utilizing only their personal smartphones. Students will acquire the skills to plan, capture and edit short motion pictures through hands-on instruction and experimentation with low-cost accessories, including selfie-sticks, lens adapters, directional microphones and iPhone apps like Filmic Pro, Vizzywig and iMovie. Limited to junior, senior and graduate students.

HMAN 1971U | Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism
Nathaniel Berman (Religious Studies)
In the 12th and 13th centuries, new ways of approaching Judaism sprung up in France and Spain that would come to be known as “kabbalah.” New approaches included aspirations for mystical illumination, elaborate mythological narratives, and human history. Kabbalists radically and self-consciously departed from conventional understandings of Judaism, particularly those of medieval Aristotelian philosophers like Maimonides. They claimed to find their mythological, mystical worldviews in traditional texts, from the Bible through rabbinic writings. This course introduces students to kabbalah’s founding period, focuses on primary texts in translation, especially the Zohar, the magnum opus of classical kabbalah. No prior background necessary.

HMAN 1972Z | The Cultural Significance of Copyright
Marc Perlman, Faculty Fellow
Modern copyright law derives from 17th-Century European state practices of monopoly and censorship. Adapting to new technologies, it spread throughout the world; by the late 19th-century, it was established as an international regime. Copyright law thus developed under the pressure of technological change, as well as of evolving business models (from publishing to broadcasting to the Web). In this course, we will study the history, theory, and sociology of intellectual-property law, along with the technological, industrial, and artistic developments that conditioned it.

HMAN 2400A | Politics and Literature (see Collaborative Humanities Seminars)
Co-taught by Amanda Anderson, Cogut Institute Director

HMAN 2400F | Scales of Historiography (see Collaborative Humanities Seminars)
Co-taught by Tamara Chin, Faculty Fellow, and Rebecca Nedostup, Faculty Fellow

HMAN 2971B | Kant and Mendelssohn
Paul Guyer, Humanities Initiative Scholar
An examination of the intimately intertwined intellectual careers of Immanuel Kant and Moses Mendelssohn. Topics will include their approaches to philosophy; their metaphysics, including attitudes towards proofs of the existence of God and immortality; their aesthetics; and their positions on religion and religious liberty. Readings from a wide range of sources, including Mendelssohn's Philosophical Writings, Jerusalem, and Morning Hours, and Kant's Critiques, Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, and Metaphysics of Morals.

HMAN 2971E | Kinds of Others
Adi Ophir, Visiting Faculty
Multiple "Others," from the ancient barbaria to the contemporary and queer, from the abnormal to the colonial subject, from the Jew to the black have been widely studied in the humanities and social sciences. The seminar addresses this proliferation of others and explore the role of the Other in the economy of the self, the religious community, or the nation. We will experiment with different principles for classifying this variety of kinds of others and modes of othering. The typological approach will guide a double survey: of philosophical conceptions of otherness, and of modes of constructing kinds of others.

Courses taught by postdoctoral fellows affiliated with the Cogut Institute for the Humanities

AFRI 0550 African American Health Activism from Emancipation to AIDS
Nic Ramos, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
The course examines African American activism and social movements. It pays close attention to how history, geography, and political economy impact access to providers, health institutions, and services by race, class, gender, and sexuality. The course will develop a sense of how African American activists crafted responses to different historical crises by the demands they made for resources tied to concepts of health, well-being, and humanity.

ANTH 0805 | Language and Migration
Lynnette Arnold, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
This course is part of the Engaged Scholars Program and provides a forum to explore the interconnections between language and migration. We will examine talk about migration – in the form of immigration policy and media representations – as well as talk in contexts of migration including experiences such as border crossing, settlement, and schooling. Given the current context of increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric and an escalation of immigration enforcement, this course raises the timely and important question of how experiences of migration and the politics of mobility are shaped by language. Our investigation will combine engaged anthropological approaches with linguistic anthropological theories and methods.

HISP 0750B | The Latin American Diaspora in the US
Luiz Miguel Estrada Orozco, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
Designed to bridge academic learning about Hispanic/Latino culture and volunteer work in agencies serving Hispanics in Providence. Readings, films, and guest presentations focus on issues of concern to these groups. Spanish language learning occurs in the classroom and the community, where students have the opportunity to enrich and test course content. Prerequisite: HISP 0600 or placement: SAT II scores of over 750, 5 in AP Literature or 651 and over in the Brown Placement Exam.

HMAN 1971R / SCSO 1701C | The First Scientific Americans: Exploring Nature in Latin America, 1500–1800
Iris Montero Sobrevilla, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Who were the “first scientists” in the Americas?, what exactly do we mean by “science” in this context?, and what has amounted to “America” in the past? Focusing on present-day Latin America, this seminar analyzes the links between the exploration of the New World and scientific discovery in the early modern period. We will explore issues of primacy (why have both empires and scientists cared about “arriving first”); the nature of science (what kind of knowledge has been considered “scientific” in different periods); and locality in knowledge production (was there something special about the New World in fostering scientific thinking).

HMAN 1972M / POLS 1185 | Environmental Political Thought
Claire Brault, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
In our context of ecological crises, Environmental Political Theory (or Ecosophy) has boomed, attesting of the need for new concepts with which to think our unprecedented situation. Ecosophers think of nuclear energy, GMOs, climate change, the 6th extinction, etc, in terms of responsibility toward future generations, “de-growth,” sustainability, the anthropocene, Gaia, etc. This course will survey some major schools of thought within Ecosophy, highlighting the diversity of the environmentalist movement. We will focus on one common thread weaving eclectic ecosophical currents and concepts: the question of humans’ relationship to the nonhuman.

HMAN 1973E / CLAS 1120V | The Age of Constantine: The Roman Empire in Transition
Dora Ivanišević, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
The reign of Constantine the Great (306-337) and his dynasty heralded a period of remarkable/rapid change in the Roman Empire. Christianity became the sole imperially sponsored religion; the split between Western and Eastern halves of the Empire gradually became permanent and irrevocable; consequently new ways of thinking and writing about the Roman world, past and future, developed. Focusing on generous selections of primary source material in translation and current scholarship, we will explore the history, literature, and culture of Constantinian Empire in order to highlight the role of Constantine and his successors in the evolution of the late Roman Mediterranean.

HMAN 1973F / HIST 1979D | Ruined History: Visual and Material Culture in South Asia
Ketaki Pant, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
What do art, architecture and material culture reveal about South Asia’s history? This course explores the significance of images, objects, architecture and other forms of material and visual culture to South Asian societies as well as their transformation during the 19th and 20th centuries under pressure from British colonial rule. We will consider how shifts in the meanings of architectural sites (like temples), images and material objects under colonial rule animated political and religious conflict in South Asia between 1880 and 1947. Topics include nationalist cartography; Hindu-Muslim violence around temples and mosques; public performance and anti-colonial activism. (Curricular Program: Writing-Designated Course)

HMAN 1973G / HISP 1331A | Writing Animals in the Iberian Atlantic
Iris Montero Sobrevilla, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
From the naturalists of antiquity to the indigenous storytellers of the Americas, the description of the world has always prominently featured the creatures that have most mystified humankind: animals. These have inspired all kinds of stories, from erudite studies covering symbolism, behavior and taxonomy to foundational myths expressed in visual and oral form. This course analyses animal narratives–from peninsular Medieval bestiaries to the testimonies of transnational bilingual writers–to center animals and their relationship to their human counterparts, and the way the human-non human divide has been defined through the ages one story at a time.

HMAN 1973H / ETHN 1750H | Water is Life/New Currents in the Study of Land, Water and Indigeneity
Theresa Warburton, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Emanating from the work of water protectors at Standing Rock, the phrase "Mni Wiconi" or "Water is Life" became shorthand to express the centrality of water to questions of justice and sovereignty. In this course, we'll explore how activists and scholars are working against colonialism, imperialism, and militarism through an engagement with the concept of water. We'll explore the gendered, racialized, and sexualized dimensions of water in terms of global politics, economy and social movements, looking from the Marshall Islands to Indian Country to Flint, MI in order to explore the myriad ways that water literally and figuratively shapes our worlds. 

HMAN 1973I / MCM 1505J | Oppositional Cinemas
Hongwei Thorn Chen, Postdoctoral Fellow in International Humanities
This seminar explores the ways in which cinema is mobilized in the service of “opposition,” that is critique, revolution, resistance, and the invention of alternative pleasures. It asks how films and their spectatorship become matters of political urgency. The arc of our screening itinerary moves at a deliberate pace from the historical avant-garde’s interest in the revolutionary potential of cinema as a new industrial medium to an examination of the themes of realism, gender, race, geopolitics and temporality. Discussions and readings will emphasize close reading, theoretical concerns, and historical contexts of production, distribution and exhibition. (Brown University Curricular Program: Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning).