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Global Engagement Seminars

Current seminars*

India in Transition: Contrast, Complexity, Creativity

Nalini Bhushan (Philosophy), Charles Staelin (Economics)

India is a land of contrasts. Modern cities and industries based on the very latest technologies sit side by side with rural areas that have changed little over the past centuries. Urban cultures exude modernity and mobility while rural cultures hold to tradition and caste. Gender roles are in flux. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow. In this seminar we will examine how India and Indians deal with these contradictions, both philosophically and economically. Do Hindu and Buddhist notions of suffering provide a justification for these contrasts or a path for reconciling them? Can India adopt modernity while still maintaining its cultural and religious identity? Is social and economic inequality concomitant with development? In this seminar we will look critically at these questions through readings, lectures and direct experience. We will visit both urban and rural areas in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, including Chennai, Puducherry, Auroville, Kodaikanal, Madurai, Periyar and Kochi, and talk with those who are themselves struggling with these questions and their solution.

We welcome applications from students in all years and majors. Priority will be given to students with some exposure to South Asia through their coursework in areas such as sociology, anthropology, religion, philosophy, economics, microfinance, women and transgender issues, government, the environmental sciences, or traditional and modern arts and craft. All work will be in English, but students will learn enough conversational Tamil to be able to interact in markets or on the street. The course is followed by a required internship in South India for a minimum of one month. Enrollment limited to 10. (E) {H/S} 5 credits.

The Gender Politics of Participatory Democracy and Development (Kenya)

Katwiwa Mule (Comparative Literature), Lucy W. Mule (Education and Child Study)

With the exception of the unsuccessful 1982 attempted military coup and the violence following the disputed outcome of the 2007/2008 elections, Kenya is usually held up as a model of economic, democratic and social stability in Africa. This acclaim, however, belies a more complicated, gendered narrative that led to a massive repudiation of the male-dominated one-party system in 2002. The pioneering role of women candidates in the 2002 revolution (dubbed the second liberation), and the ascendancy to power of the National Rainbow Coalition Government - a coalition headed by a woman who would go on to lose the presidential vote but remain head of the ruling coalition - provided an opportunity for reimagining of gender equity.

This course provides a critical assessment of how gender politics have emerged and developed in Kenya. We will examine how issues of nationalism and nation-building and the second and third waves of democratization and governance have impacted gender equity by addressing the following questions: How have women's movements in Kenya since independence contributed to, or inhibited, gender equity? How have gendered nationalist state-building ideologies created deep fissures and pressures for gender- sensitive development? In what ways have women engaged with institutions of governance in Kenya? How have women leaders, for example, attempted to reverse the pernicious effects of gender-blind social protection policies mandated by multilateral partners?

Focusing on political participation, popular democracy, gender-based parliamentary representation, and state feminism, we will also seek to understand ways in which women have created new political spaces of empowerment, as well as the limits of such spaces.

This course, based in Nairobi, will involve attendance at lectures provided by GES faculty directors, female leaders and activists, and faculty from Kenyatta University (Department of Gender Studies) and the University of Nairobi (Institute of Development Studies). There will also be home-stays with women parliamentarians, senators, and activists. Following the seminar, the League of Kenya Women Voters will facilitate students’ placement in internships with local organizations focused on issues of women and development.

Costs & Fees

The cost for the program will be announced soon. The cost includes airfare, lodging, local transportation, site visits, and a food stipend. Students may use their International Praxis funding ($3,500). Additional support is available based on need as determined by Student Financial Services.

More Information

Questions about the application process should be directed to the Lewis Global Studies Center at global@smith.edu. Questions about the course content should be directed to the faculty instructors.

* These seminars are planned for 2015. This information is subject to change.
Pre-seminar: spring semester 2015
On site seminar: summer 2015
Internship or service-learning: summer 2015