Spring 2024 Course Offerings

SHUM 4683/6683 Disturbing Settlement - Engaged

(also AMST 4683/66823 ANTHR 4183/7183)
Spring. 3 credits. 
Amiel Bize
Mondays 2-4:30pm

In this community-engaged design studio, participants will work with community organizations to research and land use and imagine more ecologically and socially just land futures. Instructor approval is required (request via email – abm252@cornell.edu) but the fall semester course (SHUM 4682) is no longer a pre-requisite. 

Project description:

Cornell University owns around 17,000 acres of land in New York State—how might we use this property to reimagine land?

Building on conversations around Indigenous dispossession and reparations, as well as discussions about Ivy League real estate holdings and their impact on host communities, this design studio aims to reimagine Cornell’s landholdings. What could Cornell’s land be, if it were dedicated to a more just future—ecologically, socially, and economically? 

Studio participants will work with community partners to research Cornell’s local landholdings and to imagine a different future for them. The community partners Khuba International and Gayogo̱hó:nǫˀ Learning Project are organizations that view land and ecology as central to community justice and liberation, and in so doing, ask us to think beyond existing models of land tenure and use. Taking inspiration from these organizations use of and/or imaginations for land and justice, we will use their work as a lens through which to create speculative futures for Cornell land. 

Studio participants will work in small groups to conduct research on Cornell landholdings and reimagine them with the support of the community partners. Research will take the form of interviews, primary and secondary source investigation, and participation in community partner activities. On the basis of this research and the insights it generates, groups will develop ideas for alternative futures.  While thinking at the landscape scale, students will work at the human scale and generate projects that may take the form of an art installation, a performative intervention (audio walk, walking tour, performance), or speculative device. With the support of architect and designer Rosa Weinberg, we will develop these ideas through an iterative process of ideation, presentation, and feedback; and community partners as well as Cornell faculty will participate in the critique process.  

Taught by Amiel Bize, with support from Rosa Weinberg. Instructor approval required for registration: send a brief email to abm252@cornell.edu expressing interest and noting relevant coursework or research.

SHUM 4688/6688 Trans Studies at a Crossroads

(also ASRC 4688/6688, FGSS 4688/6688)
Spring. 3 credits. 
Kadji Amin
Tuesdays 2-4:30pm

The field of Trans Studies is at a crossroads. Due to conditions of transphobia both within and outside of the academy, fundamental intellectual problems and glaring gaps in research have long remained unaddressed. However, exponentially increased interest in Trans Studies and the creation of several new postdoctoral fellowships and tenure-track positions now herald an amelioration of the under-resourced institutional conditions under which the field has long languished. Trans Studies now stands poised to confront fundamental research problems and in doing so, to choose a way forward for the field. This seminar will proceed by centering underthought dilemmas in the field. It will treat students as equal partners, asking them to think creatively about how future scholarship might carry the field past its stuck points. 

The opening unit will demonstrate how first transsexuality, then transgender identity have proven useful to the institutionalization of a new idea of gender as a fixed, internal identity in the West. With this essential background in mind, we will then go on to study fissures and contradictions within the field. These fissures take the form of failed crossings between incommensurable positions. We will examine: the vexed relation between queer theory and Trans Studies, between the field’s analytic of “transing” and its originary focus on transgender people, between the specific violence faced by Black trans women and the possibility that Blackness itself might be para-ontologically trans; between turns to historical materialism and to new materialism, between understandings of gendered selfhood in the West and in the non-West; and between transmasculine and transfeminine experiences and heuristics. The seminar proposes such failed crossings as generative sites in which future scholarship might take root. 

SHUM 4689/6689 Sex, Gender, and the Natural World in Medieval Culture

(also ENGL 4989, FGSS 4689/6689, MEDVL 4689/6689)
Spring. 3 credits. 
Emma Elizabeth Campbell
Tuesdays 11:15am-1:45pm

This class considers what the study of pre-modern engagements with ‘natural’ concepts of sex and gender might contribute to today’s questions about gender, sexuality, and identity at a moment when such questions are urgent and often contested. Focusing on the relationship between concepts of the (human and non-human) natural world and ideas about sex-gender plurality in pre-modernity, it asks: How might crossing pre-modern conceptions of sex and gender with those of our contemporary moment reveal new ways of approaching cultural objects from the past? And what can pre-modern sources tell us about the histories behind the sex-gender variance of the natural world today? 

The project of this course will be 1) to introduce students to contemporary ideas on human and non-human sex-gender diversity 2) to review developments that have occurred over several decades in historiographical approaches to such diversity 3) to explore the relevance of these trends for the study of pre-modern cultures. To this end, we will be reading theoretical work on sex-gender variance among humans and non-humans alongside historiographical scholarship that foregrounds questions of gender and sexuality, particularly in the medieval and early modern periods. We will equally consider historical case studies comprised of medieval visual and textual materials studied in digital copies and in English translations. The purpose of the case studies will be to focus on larger questions of method, including the political stakes of thinking with the past. Students will be encouraged to work through the issues of interpretation that such sources raise in dialogue with the approaches they have encountered in the scholarly literature, and to explore issues relevant to their own work. The case studies will also provide opportunities to reflect on the broader implications of questions of approach for today’s histories of sex-gender diversity—including those that have yet to be written. 

SHUM 4690/6690 Borders, Frontiers, and Walls in Global History

(also HIST 4690/6690)
Spring. 3 credits. 
Cristina Florea
Thursdays 2-4:30pm

The course aims not only to provide students with a bird’s eye view of the field of borderlands history, but also to offer students first-hand experience with comparative and transnational history. In the course, students will engage with a variety of themes in borderlands history, such as: how states legitimize themselves and establish authority, how communities experiences places and spaces, how imperialism manifests itself at the frontier, and what kinds of challenges border regions pose not only to modern governance practices, but also to various ideologies grounded in modern notions of territoriality (for instance, nationalism). Students will become familiar with recent historiography in the field of borderland history and gain a better understanding of this field as a whole. They will learn how historians write from a comparative and transnational perspective, and what advantages and challenges writing and thinking about non-national spaces presents. 


SHUM 4691/6691 Crossing the Apocalypse

(also CLASS 4691/6691, JWST 4695/6695, MEDVL, 4691/6691, NES 4695/6695, RELST 4691/6691)
Spring. 3 credits.
Kim Haines-Eitzen
Thursdays 11:15-1:45

The cultural critic and poet Frederick Buell has argued that “Apocalypse is the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal.” This course takes as its starting point the power of the apocalyptic imagination in the past and in the present. Together, we will ask questions about how apocalyptic works; what kinds of texts and at what points in history does the apocalyptic worldview seem to most potent? Our attention will focus in particular on the sensory and the environmental dimensions of apocalyptic literature. And then to larger impacts of apocalyptic—political, religious, emotional, philosophical. In particular, we will ask how we cross through/from an era of destruction and devastation to one of hope and possibility? When we see the signs of endings all around us, can we move forward with courage and creativity? The course explores ancient Jewish and Christian formulations of the apocalypse—the end of days, the day of judgment, the cataclysmic destruction—as found in biblical and apocryphal texts, later interpretations, and the stories of martyrs, rabbis, and saints. These are texts and stories that speak simultaneously of destruction and hope, judgment and possibility. The stories are sensational and dynamic; they are in many ways the predecessors to contemporary apocalyptic films: dramatic, symbolic, riveting. Our readings will range from ancient apocalyptic texts, including the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation, to medieval apocalyptic treatises, contemporary films, and modern treatments of apocalypse, environment, and future possibilities. Throughout, our goal will be to understand how apocalypse is a kind of crossroads—a time of change, adaptation, and possibility.