Course Offerings at Brown

Course Offerings for Brown students

This is a partial list of courses for Brown students in the current academic year related in some way to crime, punishment, prisons, incarceration, or the criminal justice system. A link to courses offered in previous years in at the bottom of the page. Please email [email protected] for additions or corrections.

Fall 2019

AFRI 1030 Contesting the Carceral State

This course introduces students to the study of crime and justice through Black, feminist, queer and prison abolitionist frameworks, with a particular focus on narratives by people of African descent in the U.S. since 1965.

AFRI 1920 Health Inequality in Historical Perspective

Seminar takes a historical perspective to explore causes of health inequality in the US. Draws on studies from the 19th century-present. Examines socio–political and economic context of health/disease, focusing on how race, class, and gender shape the experience of health, disease causality, and public health responses. Includes health consequences of immigration, incarceration, race-based medicine, the Chicago heatwave, and Katrina.

ECON 1370 Race and Inequality in the United States

We examine racial inequality in the United States, focusing on economic, political, social and historical aspects. Topics include urban poverty, employment discrimination, crime and the criminal justice system, affirmative action, immigration, and low wage labor markets. Black/white relations in the US are the principle but not exclusive concern.

GRMN 0750F Historical Crime Fiction

There is almost no time period that has not been covered by historical crime fiction. From ancient Egypt and Rome to 18th century China, historical crime fiction has complemented and contested our knowledge of history. In this seminar, we will do some extensive time travel and explore how crime fiction explores the past and challenges our understanding of bygone times. Readings of texts by Ellis Peters, Umberto Eco, Peter Tremayne, Lindsey Davis, Alan Gordon, Robert van Gulik, Laura Rowland, among others.

HIST 0150C Locked Up: A Global History of Prison and Captivity

A long history lies behind the millions of men and women locked up today as prisoners, captives and hostages. Beginning in antiquity and ending in the present, this course draws on materials from a variety of cultures across the world to explore incarceration's centuries-old past. In examining the experience and meaning of imprisonment, whether as judicial punishment, political repression, or the fallout of war, the class will ask fundamental questions about liberty as well. History 150 courses introduce students to methods of historical analysis, interpretation and argumentation. 

POBS 1601M Migrants, Political Activism and the Racialization of Labor

Histories of white nationalism in US law and discourse to criminalize, marginalize and racialize migrant progressive politics and labor activities are explored through first-hand and secondary sources, discussions and site visits. Migrants challenging limitations on civic rights as a result of fluid and contradictory intersections of racial and ethnic categorizations are examined through a primary case example of Portuguese-speaking workers in North America over the 20th century from Europe, Atlantic Islands and Africa. Topics include socialist and communist labor movement; anti-immigrant laws; industrial capitalism’s exploitation of migrant workers and role in racial marginalization; migrant agency and action for change. In English

POLS 1500 The International Law and Politics of Human Rights

Introduces students to the law and politics of international human rights; examines the construction of an international human rights regime and its influence on international politics. Will survey the actors and organizations involved in the promotion of human rights around the globe, as well as the obstacles. Will review competing conceptions of human rights, whether human rights are universal, problems of enforcement, and the role of human rights in foreign policy. Major topics include civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; genocide, torture, women's rights, humanitarian intervention, and the international criminal court.

RUSS 0320E Crime and Punishment through Literature

The seminar will explore how texts of different epochs and cultures, ranging from Ancient to Modern and from drama to poem, novel, and film treat the issues of transgression, punishment, justice, and forgiveness. We will examine each text both in terms of its artistic merit and its place within its cultural and historical milieu.

SOC 1116 Criminal Courts and the Law in an Era of Mass Incarceration

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to America’s criminal court system and all its institutional stakeholders. We will examine America’s criminal court system from myriad of different perspectives: courts as organizations, courts as social arrangements of professionals, courts as providers of social services and courts as consumer institutions – providing the experience of justice to victims, witnesses, defendants and jurors. We will focus on state courts as well as the federal system.


Spring 2020

AFRI 0830 How Structural Racism Works

This lecture course is an exploration of structural racism: the normalized and legitimized range of policies, practices, and attitudes that routinely produce cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. With a special focus on African-Americans in the post Civil Rights Era, we will explore how structural racism “works” intersectionally and in compounded ways in housing, criminal justice, education, employment, and media. We will also consider cultural, political and social challenges to structural racism as well as the the role and impact of colorblind ideology and behavioralism as dominant countervailing explanations for racial disparities.

ECON 1070 Race, Crime, and Punishment in America

This new course will use the perspectives of economics to examine the causes and consequences of high levels of incarceration in the United States, especially as it relates to the social disadvantage of African Americans. Quantitative analysis will be used sparingly, and Principles of economics (Econ 0110) will be a prerequisite. Students will be evaluated based on three short writing assignments. Issues examined include: racial disparities in punishment; the impact of crime on communities; policing and race relations in American cities; stereotypes and the economics of crime; the governing of prisons and the limits of punishment.

ENGL 1160F Reporting Crime and Justice

Crime and justice stories are people stories. The drama of everyday life is played out every day in courtrooms. This advanced journalism course will get students into the courtrooms, case files and archives of Rhode Island's judicial system and into committee hearings at the State House where they will report on stories that incorporate drama, tension, and narrative storytelling.

HIAA 1182 Spaces and Institutions of Modernity

This undergraduate seminar will explore canonical and emerging theories of modernity as they intersect with our understanding of space and the role of the built environment and designed objects within it. The seminar will be organized as a series of case studies of the iconic sites and institutions of modernity (the metropolis, the world's fair, the museum, the prison) as well as others that have also come to exemplify it (the ship, the plantation, the railroad, the colony). Class time will include analysis of primary documents and field trips to local sites.

HIST 0285A Modern Genocide and Other Crimes against Humanity

This lecture course explores genocide and other crimes against humanity across the world during the 20th century. We will discuss the origins of modern genocide in the transition to modernity and subsequent conceptualizations of this phenomenon; review examples of colonial, imperial, racial, communist, anti-communist, and post-colonial genocides; discuss war crimes and other mass crimes perpetrated by authoritarian regimes; and consider policies of mass deportation and ethnic cleansing. This course will conclude with a discussion of attempts by the international community to prevent and punish genocide along with various ways in which genocide has been commemorated or denied.

INTL 1030 - Policing, Imprisonment, and War: US Foreign Policy and the Carceral State

The U.S. has been at war for most of its history, incarcerates more people per capita than any country on earth, and operates the largest criminal transport and immigration detention systems in the world. Mounting death tolls, police militarization, and the transfer of torture techniques from overseas prisons raise questions about the human costs of ongoing war, while social movements have sparked renewed concern over racism in policing and the criminal legal system. This course seeks to understand causes and consequences of these two most pressing social and political issues of our time: mass incarceration and war, at home and abroad.

PHP 1820 Designing Education for Better Prisoner and Community Health

This course will provide the needed background and context for understanding the multiple issues and challenges facing prisoners and the national justice and health systems that impact their fate. In addition to contextual background, students in this course will attain the knowledge and skills needed to develop a final practical, real world health communication/ intervention project that addresses one or more health literacy challenges facing people who are incarcerated.

SOC 2030 Social Stratification, Inequality and Mobility

This course provides an introduction to contemporary literature on social stratification, social mobility, inequality in the United States, abroad, based on research articles and books. We focus on theories, data, methods, facts about categorical dimensions of inequality (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation); core dimensions of stratification systems (income, earnings and wealth distributions; poverty; education; the intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status; social mobility); social institutions that govern social stratification (families, schools, labor markets, and the justice system); key inequalities that stem from stratification systems (e.g., health). This is a reading course, not a research seminar..


Link to Brown courses offered in previous years.