Fall 2019 Course Offerings

SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities: Energy

(Also COML 2750, ENGL 2950, GOVT 2755)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 18 students.
Karen Pinkus.
T/R: 11:40am – 12:55pm

This seminar offers an introduction to the humanities by exploring the historical, cultural, social and political stakes of the Society for the Humanities annual focal theme. Students will consider novels, films, short stories and historical texts as they explore the theme in dialogue with literature, cinema, art, media, and philosophy. Guest speakers, including Cornell faculty and Society Fellows, will present from different disciplines and points of view. Students will make field trips to local sites relevant to the theme, and visit Cornell special collections and archives. Students enrolled in this seminar will have the opportunity to participate in additional programming related to the Society’s theme and the Humanities Scholars Program for undergraduate humanities research. For more information, visit https://societyhumanities.as.cornell.edu/humanities-scholars.

Topic for 2019-2020: Energy

Humans are all “children of the sun,” as Alfred Crosby notes. We are energetic beings and we consume energy (with various consequences, some that threaten our very existence). Yet for the most part “energy” has been a subject for scientists. Some social sciences and policy makers have also considered energy production, distribution and consumption as crucial to global geopolitics and economy. But it is only recently that the humanities has begun to study this phenomenon, interweaving a variety of issues from human evolution to history; from the arts to literature; from slavery to racial (in)justice to the very question of what it means to be human.  This course has two main goals: 1) To introduce students to the humanities, broadly speaking: methods, ideas, possibilities for thought and practice in literature, history, philosophy, art history, critical theory, anthropology, media studies; 2)  To focus on the question of energy in various senses. We will move back and forth between these two aims. We will engage with scholars at the Society for the Humanities. We will make site visits to Cornell’s Combined heat and cooling plant and to the Cornell solar farm and hydropower facility and to the Kroch Rare Book and Manuscripts Library. We will view films (including Duncan Jones’s Moon and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will be Blood). We will read several novels (Upton Sinclair’s Oil! and Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl) as well as short stories, historical accounts of fossil fuels and philosophical essays on the nature of energy. We will also consider art works that engage with energy. This course is open to all students who are curious about thinking energy as a complex problem and it is being offered (for the first time) in conjunction with a new initiative at Cornell for Humanities Scholars.

SHUM 4638/6638 Zombies of the Anthropocene: Climate Change in the Cultural Imagination

(also ENGL 4968)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Mary Grace Albanese.
M: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

In the 21st century, zombies are king. From the success of the Walking Dead, to the feeding frenzy of post-apocalyptic films like 28 Weeks Later to the tongue-in-cheek coupling of zombies with Jane Austen, flesh eaters have taken over the world. But these monsters are much more than pop culture fluff. This class will consider how zombies serve as a symptom of and metaphor for anthropogenic climate change. Indeed, both phenomena challenge traditional humanistic assumptions about the division between the natural and unnatural world; the human and nonhuman; the spiritual and secular; and philosophies of agency, personhood, and embodiment.

We will ask questions such as: does the zombie apocalypse reflect our deepest fears or darkest fantasies, and what does this ambiguity tell us about U.S. attitudes towards energy consumption, international cooperation on climate change, and the romance of the individual? Why have zombie metaphors permeated discussions of recent anthropogenic catastrophes, including Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Irma, and Maria? How do Afro-Caribbean spiritual energies and folkloric traditions of the zombi register the afterlives of slavery? How does the female zombie interrupt discourses of reproduction, sexual consumption, and bodily autonomy? And can these raced and gendered zombies offer us alternative models of political and ecological subjectivity?

As mass-scale climate disaster appears ever nearer, the zombie becomes less a fantasy, and more a heuristic for understanding our seemingly new and startlingly monstrous world. Drawing from novels, films, TV shows, comic books, anthropology, political theory, climate science, and governmental reports, this interdisciplinary class will ponder how zombies – and, by extension, we, as planetary citizens - move, think, and feed.

Mary Grace Albanese’s work centers on the transnational Americas in the long 19th-century. Her book project, Prophetic Power: Haiti, the United States and Black Women's Spiritual Labor reveals how African American women, including Marie Laveau, Sojourner Truth, Maria Stewart, and Pauline Hopkins drew on Afro-Caribbean spiritual energies to reclaim their right to their own bodies, minds, and kinship structures. Articles from this project, and others, appear or are forthcoming in American LiteratureESQ, and J19. She has also written reviews and short essays for Critical InquiryAmerican Literary HistorySX SalonCallaloo, and Common-Place, among other venues. Mary Grace is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University (SUNY). She received her PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2017 and was a visiting doctoral student at Sciences Po, Paris from 2015-2016.

SHUM 4639/6639 Global Currents: (Im)mobility and Multi-Sited Ethnography

(also ANTHR 4139/7139, MUSIC 4239/6239)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Catherine M. Appert.
T: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

Ever-increasing global interconnection drives some of the most pressing political and ethical questions of our time. This seminar, then, centers on two intersecting areas of inquiry. The first deals with the nature of global movements: how people, ideas, arts, and capital move through the world. Rather than approaching processes like imperial expansion, diaspora, and transnationalism as consecutive stages of global interconnection, what would it look like to take into account how various global currents overlap with, energize, and inform other movements—from colonialism, to global capitalism, to forced migration, immigration, tourism, and transnationalism? Engaging postcolonial theory and scholarship on contemporary migration and transnationalism, we will interrogate the idea of borders and nations as well as those categories—like diaspora—that surpass or circumvent them. The second area of inquiry involves questioning how and why we might study these processes ethnographically. Do ethnographic methods offer a particularly compelling way to make sense of power-laden human relations as they operate across time, space, and cultural difference? We will consider the potential and limitations of multi-sited and global ethnography, and question the possibility of an activist ethnography of global interconnection.

Catherine M. Appert, assistant professor in the Department of Music, holds a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology with a graduate certificate in Women's Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her book, In Hip Hop Time: Music, Memory, and Social Change in Urban Senegal was published in 2018 on Oxford University Press. Appert’s research on hip hop and reggae in Senegal, The Gambia, and West African immigrant communities explores questions of globalization, migration, and diaspora, the ethnographic study of musical genre, popular music and gender, and the intersections of music and memory. Her work has been supported by Fulbright, the American Council for Learned Societies with the Mellon Foundation, the UCLA International Institute, the Cornell Humanities Council, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, and the President’s Council of Cornell Women. Appert’s articles appear in AfricaEthnomusicology, and New Literary History, and have garnered several awards, including the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Waterman Prize for popular music research and an honorable mention for its Marcia Herndon prize for work on sexuality and gender.

SHUM 4640/6640 Racial Ecologies of Transpacific Nuclearism

(also AAS 4640, AMST 4640, COML 4640, FGSS 4641/6641)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Yu-Fang Cho.
R: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

This course examines contemporary literary and cultural memory work that mediates the emergence of nuclear energy in Asia and the Pacific after World War Two as a transpacific settler colonial and racial institution and discourse.  Building on current environmental humanities scholarship on the nuclear Pacific, this course foregrounds racial ecologies as well as women of color and queer of color critique as key methods to analyses of geo-cultural politics of transpacific nuclear modernity, from nuclear energy’s genealogy to its afterlives in America’s Asia and the Pacific.  In examining the historical, political economic, and cultural contexts of the establishment and development of transpacific nuclear-industrial complex, this course seeks to develop queer ecological borderlands as a critical method to analyze how colonialisms intersect with global capitalism to expand current environmental humanities paradigms with insights from feminist and queer critiques of settler colonialism and racial capitalism.  

Yu-Fang Cho is Associate Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and co-coordinator of Asian/Asian American Studies at Miami University.  She is the author of Uncoupling American Empire: Cultural Politics of Deviance and Unequal Difference, 1890–1910 (SUNY, 2013) and the co-editor of the 2017 special issue of American Quarterly, “The Chinese Factor: Reorienting Global Imaginaries in American Studies.” Her research articles have appeared in American QuarterlyTransnational American Studies, AmerasiaJournal of Asian American StudiesMeridiansComparative Literature and Culture, among others, and in edited collections, including Racial Ecologies (Washington UP, 2018). She has received fellowships from Bancroft Library, the Huntington Library, the Pacific Rim Research Program at the University of California, the Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, Miami University’s Humanities Center, and the National Research Institute of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Taiwan.  Her current project examines how post-Fukushima transpacific literary and cultural production mediates the genealogy of the post-WWII ideological shift of nuclear power from a death-making weapon to a technology of good life.  Portions of the manuscript have been published in Amerasia (2015), Cultural Studies (2018), and Racial Ecologies (Washington UP, 2018).

SHUM 4641/6641 Technologies of Power in Latin American “Dirty Wars”

(also HIST 4641/6641, ROMS 4641/6641, STS 4641/6641)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Willie Hiatt.
M: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

This seminar explores Latin American political violence since the 1970s through the theme of “Energy.” Students will focus on the role technology played in internal conflicts called “Dirty Wars,” in which the state employed extrajudicial violence and other extreme measures to halt leftist or communist “subversion.” These often disproportionate responses by police, military, and paramilitary groups left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead around the region. Reports from large-scale investigations called truth commissions, first-person testimonies, fiction, and films underscored the nefarious ways that actors on both sides of these conflicts employed technology—electrical torture using cattle prods and other everyday devices, the destruction of high-tension electrical towers to cause blackouts and widespread chaos, foreign-made weapons and vehicles, and attacks on and seizures of radio and TV stations and newspapers. The seminar emphasizes the history of technology in human rights violations more broadly, from the 1994 Rwandan genocide to the United States’ own responses to extremism after 9/11.

Willie Hiatt is an Associate Professor of History at Long Island University, Post Campus. His research interrogates how people use, understand, and engage technology to construct modern identities and historical narratives. His book, The Rarified Air of the Modern: Airplanes and Technological Modernity in the Andes (Oxford University Press, 2016), is a social and cultural history that examines how diverse groups mobilized aviation to sustain, challenge, and reconfigure power imbalances and shape history-making beyond the North Atlantic. His new research is a large oral history project examining how Peruvians experienced widespread electrical blackouts after Maoist insurgents dynamited high-tension towers during the Shining Path revolutionary movement (1980-2000). A third area of research focuses on the highland Peruvian city of Cuzco, long viewed as the repository of an authentic national identity rooted in pre-Columbian history and traditions. The intimate connection between research and teaching, seen particularly in his Peru travel course, informs his pedagogy and allows him to explicitly discuss and model historical writing and argumentation in the classroom.

SHUM 4642/6642 Energetic Expression, Manic Defense, Psychotic Foreclosure: Psychoanalytic and Literary Portraits

(also COML 4642, ENGL 4962)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Erin Soros.
T: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

When Sigmund Freud formulated his theories of mental energy, he drew direct inspiration from the first law of thermodynamics, as if we were each our own universe, compelled to keep our internal energy constant. How does this borrowing enable us to conceive of the energy humans possess? How is psychic energy constituted and developed, cathected or dissipated, saved or shared? And why does such energy often make us suffer? In this course we read foundational psychoanalytic texts, focusing on conceptions of the energy of the psyche— sources and functions, paths and pathologies. Key concepts include: the ego and the id, the life drives and death drives, mourning, melancholia, repression, manic defenses, alpha and beta elements, foreclosure, the symbolic, the imaginary, the real. But together we will do more than develop our vocabularies: we will attend to the texture, one might say the linguistic energy, of the psychoanalytic texts themselves, exploring not just what the theorists say but how they say it. We will also analyze literary works that reflect or reconfigure the psychoanalytic conceptions, examining how psychoanalysis provides tools for intricate literary understanding, and attending to the theories in the literature as we investigate what is literary in the theory. Ultimately we will be examining—through collective dialogue and private reading—the energetic fiber of our own minds, our constitutions and possibilities, our limits and breaking points. These investigations will be, then, both intellectual and intimate, both troubling and reparative.

Erin Soros is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University where she is researching psychoanalytic conceptions of psychic energy and psychosis as a response to trauma.  She has published fiction and nonfiction in international anthologies and journals, including Short Fiction, The Iowa Review, The Indiana Review, Exile Literary Quarterly, Geist, Prism, West Coast LineFiddlehead and enRoute, and her stories have been produced for the CBC and BBC as winners of the CBC Literary Award and the Commonwealth Award for the Short Story.  Her academic articles weaving psychoanalysis, philosophy and autobiographical narrative have appeared in such journals as differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural StudiesThe Journal of Intercultural StudiesThe Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, and The Canadian Journal of Women and the Law.  New work has appeared in Literatures of Madness, published by Palgrave Macmillan, and in Women and the Psychosocial Construction of Madness, Lexington Press. Soros has been a visiting writer at four universities, most recently as the Harper-Wood fellow at St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge, a position that funded travel to learn from Inuvialuit oral history in Canada’s Western Arctic.  She was also a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto where she researched correspondences and tensions between Indigenous and settler understandings of the mind.  She has received a Fulbright Award, the Governor General’s Gold Medal, and two teaching awards, including Columbia University’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching.

SHUM 6308 Atmospheric Pressures: Climate Imaginaries and Migration in the Caribbean

(Also ARCH 6308, ARCH 6408, COML 6369)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to successful applicants.
Tao DuFour and Natalie Melas.
R: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

This seminar explores the significance of climate imaginaries for forms of urban and hinterland migration and mobility in the Caribbean as these relate to colonial and postcolonial histories, and in contemporary contexts defined by the urgencies of environmental hazards. Taking “climate” in a wider sense, the seminar situates climate imaginaries – as mediated through literature, film, landscapes, and spatial forms – as intersubjective horizons within which understandings of climate change and the experience of its effects are enmeshed. 

For postcolonial Caribbean thinkers the horizon of the natural world is at the same time constitutive of a form of historicity. Édouard Glissant proposes a non-foundational postcolonial Caribbean imaginary in which the archipelago is a “multi-relation” where “this sea is here within us with its load of islands finally discovered.” The seminar is particularly concerned to explore relations between the more tangible effects of climate on urban, infrastructural, and ecological landscapes in the Caribbean and intersubjective experiences of climate as mediated through literary and mytho-poetic forms: from historical accounts of climate as ‘catastrophe’ – the effects of hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes on insular urbanities – to climate as a more general, atmospheric horizon in the constitution of Caribbean worlds. Guyanese writer Wilson Harris frames the urban environmental question as an ontological one: “Cities have come to nestle in branches of clay or stone in valleys or mountains. […] Their hope is born of the life of imagination’s tree in which sculptor and painter and architect and carpenter and mystic sensitize and re-sensitize themselves to rhythms and pulses orchestrated through being and apparent non-being.” Thematically, the seminar draws on the work of anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, interpreting the industrialized-urbanized ecological territory in terms of “capitalist ruination” which, nonetheless, holds possibilities for other modes of environmentality and subject formation, as the hazards effected by climate change fundamentally disrupt and transform the very urbanity constituted through colonial and later resource extractive appropriations.

The seminar will explore the migratory effects of climate imaginaries in the Caribbean from a variety of perspectives: mytho-poetic senses of migration such as interspecific morphoses – the becoming animal, plant or ‘spirit’ of the human – and the persistence of Amerindian horizons; the historicity of forcible deportations (slavery, indenture, etc.) as forms of colonial violence; the ecological constitution of the region as migratory formation; urban-hinterland and inter-island migration as a consequence of environmental hazards and catastrophes; rural-urban migration and the expansion and planning of cities as a function of modernizing and industrializing processes; and migration as a metaphorical schema in the generative constitution and literary and artistic articulation of Caribbean world-horizons.

The seminar will be structured along thematic lines, including: philosophies of relation and postcolonial theory; the anthropology of ‘nature’; phenomenologies of the ‘natural’ world and corporeity; philosophies of ‘atmosphere’; political ecology and feminist environmental theories; landscape theory; theories of urbanization and philosophies of territory. In exploring these themes, we will consider the Caribbean’s multiple linguistic and creole contexts, including those of Trinidad & Tobago, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Cuba and Guyana.

Call for Applications:

The Fall 2019 Expanded Practice Seminar, “Atmospheric Pressures: Climate Imaginaries and Migration in the Caribbean,” is an innovative traveling seminar for graduate students in the humanities and design disciplines. Expanded Practice Seminars are offered under the auspices of Cornell University’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Collaborative Studies in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities grant and are organized by the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the Society for the Humanities.

Selected students receive a $1,500 stipend and a funded, week-long travel program to Trinidad in Fall 2019.

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the Expanded Practice Seminar, a wide range of skills and backgrounds are welcome. Advanced undergraduate students may apply, but preference will be given to students in their first three years of graduate study. Applications require a recent CV and a 500 – 700-word statement of interest describing your background interest in the seminar topic. No letters of recommendation are required. Questions should be directed to Rebecca Elliott (re255@cornell.edu).

Applications must be submitted via http://urbanismseminars.cornell.edu/apply by June 15, 2019.