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Relevant Courses

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The goal of the themed Year on Democracies is for the entire Smith community to engage in programming that catalyzes or deepens our understanding of what democracies mean.

Relevant Courses: Democracy Across the Curriculum

Smith’s curriculum includes the examination of democracies from many disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. In some courses, democracy is the main focus; in others, it is one of several areas of interest. Several of these courses will be planning outside events together, and bring their classes together for them. Whether central or peripheral, democracy receives attention in the courses listed here, and many students may find powerful intersections in their course plans because of this common attention. We encourage all students to take advantage of this curricular presence during the themed year on democracies.

Course Number Course Title Professor Description
ARS 277 Woodcut Printmaking Lindsey Clark-Ryan In its capacity to create and distribute multiples, printmaking is often called a democratic medium. As a technology and a fine art medium, print has the capacity to live up to or deliberately avoid that moniker.
ARS 272 Intaglio Printmaking Lindsey Clark-Ryan In its capacity to create and distribute multiples, printmaking is often called a democratic medium. As a technology and a fine art medium, print has the capacity to live up to or deliberately avoid that moniker.
CHI 353 Epidemics and Their Controversies in China and Beyond Lu Yu This course is designed to help students deepen their understanding of China’s culture and society through the controversies and debates surrounding epidemics, COVID-19 in particular, while developing their Chinese language skills in the process.
CSC/SDS 109 Communicating with Data Jordan Crouser We discuss topics of data democratization, and how data-driven communication has influenced and been influenced by democratic processes.
CSC 325 Seminar: Responsible Computing Alicia Grubb How technology policies impact citizens of democratic and non-democratic societies (and vice versa). To what extent should the internet be democratic.
ECO 280 Economic Research Methods Susan Sayre This course focuses heavily on the mechanics of data wrangling for analysis. The data examples come from a wide variety of topics and can potentially be connected with another course that looks at democracy-related data. Possibilities could include voting data, campaign finance/donations, government spending data and more.
ECO 375 The Theory and Practice of Central Banking Roisin O’Sullivan In this research-oriented seminar course, a key topic we address is the issue of Central Bank Independence. Why have so many countries opted to give independence from the political process to such potentially powerful economic policy-making institutions? How might legislative goal setting and mechanisms of ongoing accountability help cultivate an appropriate role for independent central banks in the context of a democratic society?
EDC 232 The American Middle and High School Rosetta Marantz Cohen As a course on the history and current structures of secondary eduction, EDC 232 necessarily grapples with the many ways democratic principles are both advanced and undermined in American high schools. If we see schools as potential crucibles for perfecting democracy, how must they change to fit that mission?
EGR 390 Special Topics: Sustainable Materials R Koh This course is about engineering materials—what do they need to be able to do, what are the design decisions that connect a need to a solution and how are those choices driven? How sustainable are they, how do we know and what innovations seek to improve sustainability? At 2-3 instances during the class, we will investigate the role of governments in the extraction and fabrication of engineered things. In cases where engineering materials are sourced in ways that are extractive and/or exploitative, what is the role of governments? How does the public participate in those choices? Democracy enters the picture here when we consider who has a say, and how, in how things are made.
EGR 388 Photovoltaic and Fuel Cell System Design Denise McKahn This course applies fundamental science to the design of photovoltaic and fuel cell systems. We discuss a number of different renewable energy conversion strategies and introduce ways in which these systems are hybridized to meet the electrical demand of a client. During the Year on Democracies, a course module will introduce and explore the ways in which renewable energy power systems are deployed in different democratic and non-democratic governance structures. We will examine incentive structures, who develops them and who benefits from them.
ENG 112 Reading Contemporary Poetry Matt Donovan A number of the visiting poets we’ll be reading write work that would be directly relevant to the democracies theme. In particular, Tiana Clark (visiting Conkling poet) writes work that interrogates race in America, as well as our history of slavery; Jenny Johnson writes about queer identity; and the most recent work by our visiting poet Chet’la Sebree interrogates race, desire and the self in America.
ENG 231 Inventing America: Nation, Race, Freedom Richard Millington The course mainly covers earlier 19th Century American literature and devotes considerable attention to way American writers imagined the new nation, envisioned democracy and challenged betrayals of those founding democratic principles—most dramatically via the issue of slavery but also via explorations of what authentic freedom might look like. Key writers in this stream of the course include Cooper (race and the American founding), Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs (slave narratives), Thoreau (the internal constituents of freedom) and Whitman (what are the imaginative requirements of democratic citizenship?).
ENV 311 Environmental Integration III: Interpreting and Communicating Information Susan Sayre We spend a lot of time in this course talking about communication during the policy process. The focus tends to be on the United States. We don't talk about elections very often, but we talk a lot about the incentives facing elected politicians and also spend time talking about stakeholder negotiation.
ESS 200 Sport: In Search of the American Dream Erica Tibbetts We cover the socio/cultural/political history of sport in the United States, including the overlap between sport and national/international politics, protests and civil rights movements.
FMS 247 American Cinema & Culture from the Depression to the Sixties Alex Keller The course will reorient many readings, screenings and discussions to allow for a consideration of how the notion of U.S. democracy is represented, discussed, debated and understood through Classical Hollywood cinema 1930–1970, in relation to developments in history, culture and politics.
FYS 121 Political Stages: Intersections Between Theatre and the Challenges to Democracy Ellen Kaplan This course addresses some of the challenges and questions that concern us all, including: Are elections the cornerstone of democracy? What do first amendments freedoms mean in the digital age? Is our democracy more fragile than we thought, and does the upsurge of populism, nationalism, and authoritarianism, threaten the foundations of democracy? What might a humane democracy might look like? What is “radical democracy”? Is democracy possible? We examine central issues of our present, precarious moment, with units on Democracy and the Constitution, Racism, Social Trauma, Populism, Migration, War and Genocide. We will read critical texts and contemporary plays that explore these issues, with students developing short, original theatre pieces that respond to the material. This is a writing-intensive course in which students produce analytical essays, op-eds (public-facing writing), and creative work. We will bring Heidi Schrek to campus to screen and talk about her Tony Award winning play, What the Constitution Means to Me.
FYS 142 Reacting to the Past Joshua Birk Democracies (Athens in the 5th century BCE and Greenwich village in the 1910s)will be a central component of two of the three modules of the course.
FYS 170 #BlackLivesMatterEverywhere: Ethnographies & Theories on the African Diaspora Paul Joseph López Oro This interdisciplinary course disrupts liberal notions of U.S. democracy and democratic nation-states throughout the Americas with a theoretical grounding of Black Lives Matter as a global and local social movement led by and for Black folks in the face state-sancioned anti-Black violence.
GER 231 Topics in German Cinema: Weimar Cinema Joel Westerdale This course looks at the development of cinema style and technology in the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). Couched between the Kaiserreich (1871-1918) and the Third Reich (1933-1945), the Weimar Republic was Germany’s first sustained foray into democracy. The struggles and tensions of this worthy (yet ultimately doomed) attempt to overcome autocracy manifest themselves in the films of the era.
GER 350 01 GER 350 German Language and Media Judith Keyler-Mayer The course is on Media in Germany, media ethics, freedom of the press. This semester (Fall 21) , we will be closely following the fall elections in Germany.
GOV 201 American Constitutional Interpretation Alice Hearst Constitutional structure: theories of democracy are at the heart of the class.
GOV 244 Foreign Policy of the United States Brent Durbin This course considers U.S. foreign policy as the (possible) outcome of democratic processes, and also addresses the history of American Exceptionalism and democracy promotion through international engagement.
GOV 272 Conceptualizing Democracy Erin Pineda This is a course in democratic theory.
GOV/SDS 338 Research Seminar Political Networks Scott LaCombe This course focuses on the complex interdependencies in politics that structure how our democracy function. How do relationships between congress members structure the way in which they can compromise on legislation? How do donor networks influence the role of money in politics? We address some of the fundamental pieces of how a democracy is organized, with an emphasis on the policy making process.
HI 255 Art and Politics in the Era of Fascism Ernest Benz Movements and thinkers of the 1900s analyzing, criticizing and practicing democracy.
IDP 133 Critical Perspectives on Collaborative Leadership Erin Cohn The course encourages students to reframe leadership as a collaborative act. We examine histories and theories of leadership and explore/practice collaborative behaviors. We frame that discussion within a framework of attending to scales of focus from the self to the team to larger systems (and dip a toe into systems thinking as leadership practice).
PSY 375 Research Seminar in Political Psychology Lauren Duncan In this colloquium we study the psychology of leaders, followers, and political participation.
SPN 200 (2 sections) Intermediate Spanish Melissa Belmonte On a unit on the Puerto Rican diaspora and stories of Latin American immigrants in the United States, the class will gain an increased understanding (through various texts, discussion and writing) about Puerto Rico as a democracy as well as immigrant experiences in the U.S.
SPN 252 Spanish Colonialism in Africa Ibtissam Bouachrine This course explores the intersection of colonialism and democracy.
SPN 299 Teaching Romance Languages: Theories and Techniques on Second Language Acquisition Simone Gugliotta This course aims to help students who want to teach languages to look at schools as multicultural and democratic centers. The special focus is also on understanding local, national and international multilingual communities as well as theories, methods, bilingualism and heritage language studies. Expore essays of critical educators: Paulo Freire (Brazil), Lorenzo Milani (Italy), Celestin Freinet (France) and Leonela Relys (Cuba) to learn about their insights on liberation pedagogy and on language and literacy as democratic instruments of empowerment.
SPN 375 ARTivism: Staging Political Memories Maria Estela Harretche This course aims to enhance deeper understanding of repression, censorship and other forms of violence as they have made themselves felt in societies subject to dictatorship within the Spanish-speaking world. The objective is to give voice to that which has been silenced. Through multiple artistic means, visual and performing arts, including theatre and music, we will reenact a past whose struggles remain unresolved, in order better to explain a conflicted present in today’s Spain and Latin America, following their respective return to democracy.
SWG 222 Gender, Law and Policy Carrie N. Baker The class centers on how women and people of color have gained rights to participate in democracy (voting, jury duty) as well as equality rights over time, but how there are many battles still to be won. We discuss Constitutional ideas of equality as well as statutory rights. We also cover the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. We reflect on the connections between equality and democracy.
SWG 241 White Supremacy in the Age of Trump Loretta J. Ross The global rise of neo-fascism is a threat to liberal democracies worldwide. The American public does not recognize the dangers extant in our system that threaten our democratic norms and standards, like the attacks on the media, voting rights and liberal education. This course examines the conditions in the U.S. that led to the Trump hostile takeover of the Republican Party and why his continuing engagement with the white supremacist/neo-fascist movement in the U.S. poses grave risks for undermining our democratic principles.
Course Number Course Title Professor Description
AFR 399 Black Latin Americas: Movements, Politics, and Cultures Paul Joseph López Oro The course begins with a discussion of cultural hierarchy, deriving from Lawrence Levine’s classic book Highbrow/Lowbrow, and uses popular culture as a vehicle for thinking about how “the popular” offers a sort of challenge to more exclusionary ideas of cultural value. It also stresses how popular culture—in theater, film, television and music—is itself enmeshed in power relations, such that marginalized groups are both subjected to the power of dominant pop cultural representations and able to exert agency through devising alternate forms of self-representation.
AMS 235 American Popular Culture Steve Waksman The course begins with a discussion of cultural hierarchy, deriving from Lawrence Levine’s classic book Highbrow/Lowbrow, and uses popular culture as a vehicle for thinking about how “the popular” offers a sort of challenge to more exclusionary ideas of cultural value. It also stresses how popular culture—in theater, film, television and music—is itself enmeshed in power relations, such that marginalized groups are both subjected to the power of dominant pop cultural representations and able to exert agency through devising alternate forms of self-representation.
DAN 171 Dance History: Political Bodies from Stage to Page Lester Tome The course decenters dance history through consideration of race, gender and sexuality vis-à-vis inclusion and marginalization in the body politic. In particular, the course underscores the contributions of African American artists to dance in the US. It analyzes dance history in connection to political ideologies and pays attention to the embodiment of politics in dance in the contexts of Reconstruction, the Jim Crow era, first-wave feminism, avant-gardism, Nazism, the Civil Rights movement, the Counterculture movement and the AIDS crisis, among other historical events. Discussions of political agency and democratic participation are a major theme of the course.
DAN/THE 212 Collective Creation: Movement and Devised Theatre Miguel Alejandro Castillo U.S. theatre director Peter Sellars articulates his thoughts on the connection between performance and democracy in a way that illustrates motivations behind teaching this course this following spring. Sellars says, “The important thing about Greek theatre is theatre as part of government, theatre as part of a democracy, theatre as one of the primary cornerstone institutions of democracy. Trying to give citizens both the information they need to vote in a way that has some depth of perception and at the same time has them hear voices they don't normally hear.” Beyond the intrinsic connection between democracy and dance/theatre performances, the course will be based on a form called Devised Theatre, which is a highly collaborative form in which the classical hierarchies of theatre organization are contested in order to cultivate a communal voice. In a way devised theatre seeks to foster a culture of social organization that amplifies the voices and concerns of the collective. The capacity to organize, create and dialogue is foundational to democracy and this course aims to practice and develop such capacities.
DAN 339 01 Movement, Ecology, and Performance in the Smith Landscape Chris Aiken, Angie Hauser Movement, Ecology, and Performance examines some of the layers of experience, history, and stories of the land we know as Smith College. Focusing on the layers of phenology (the study of cyclic phenomena of climate, plant life, and animal life), Indigenous anthropology, geology, hydrology and landscape design, we create movement and performance practices throughout the land, trees, water, and air. The goal of this course is to consider how learning about the history, culture and science of the landscape can shape the ways in which we make creative choices through dance making. We will challenge the traditional ways of making site-specific dance to include a perspective where at times the land is the figure and the dancer is the ground, as opposed to always having the human presence be the figure. We will imagine a democracy where the land has a say in how we govern ourselves and live our lives. This course provides a laboratory for ensemble collaboration that seeks to interrogate the relationship between the individual and the collective, considering the relationship between individual freedom and collective responsibility, both to one another, other beings, and the land itself. It considers how the European settlers' concept of freedom was based on the freedom from governmental control and the ability to pursue their own happiness regardless of its effects on the land or Indigenous people. Through the course we will seek to reimagine democracy to include a long-time perspective (at minimum 7 generations), restitution to Indigenous cultures and peoples, addressing climate change, and the more than human populations on earth.
DAN 377sa 01 Topics in Advanced Studies in History and Aesthetics—Salsa in Theory and Practice Lester Tome The course considers the history of salsa in connection to political participation and cultural representation in Latin America and among Latinos in the US. For example, it discusses salsa in the context of the Cuban Revolution and movements of the left in Venezuela and Colombia. It also contextualizes salsa within the US Civil Rights movements, Puerto Rican transnationalism and migration in the California borderland. The very format of this hybrid course (in which seminars and studio classes alternate weekly) democratizes the production of knowledge through teaching and learning that bridge logos and body.
EAL 253 01 Korean Cinema: Cinema and the Masses Irhe Sohn This survey course of Korean film history introduces the cinematic representations of mass society, the formation of national, ethnic, and gendered audiences as a political entity, and the development of the media as an embodiment of the democratic society. In the Year on Democracies, significant portions of class discussions will particularly revolve around the role of cinema and media in South Korea's democratization from the 1950s to the 2000s.
ENG 112 01 Reading Contemporary Poetry Matt Donovan Although we're still finalizing the spring 2022 visiting poet schedule, we already have two poets scheduled that will align with the democracies theme. Leila Chatti (April 5) is a Tunisian-American dual citizen, and writes about being a Muslim in America. Reginald Dwane Betts (April 19), a formerly incarcerated person, writes about race and the failures of America’s prison systems.
ENG 296 Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop: Fiction and the Public Sphere Carole DeSanti In the context of generating creative work in class, we will address the challenges of diversifying and democratizing the public environment for our work, strategies used by authors and publishers to bring creative work forward, and engaging readers in challenging times. Literary ethics, cultural and class identities, literary and societal taboos, and historical and current issues of access will be core concepts discussed in the workshop.
GER 231 Topics in German Cinema: Nazi Media Joel Westerdale This course explores how an autocratic regime employs film, radio, press, etc., to decidedly anti-democratic ends. We begin with the collapse of Germany's first sustained foray into democracy, the Weimar Republic, in 1933, and examine how the Nazi media dictatorship helps to create a populace ready to relinquish all for the state and its leader.
GOV 200 American Government Scott LaCombe We discuss how American democracy was designed, evaluate its components overtime (with an emphasis on the slow increase in civil rights protections), and compare alternative models for how to design democratic institutions.
GOV 202 Rights and Liberties Alice Hearst The course covers a variety of issues arising under the Bill of Rights in the US. We will discuss voting rights, privacy rights, property rights, rights of the accused and first amendment rights, all of which intimately implicate issues of democracy.
GOV 217 Race and the Problem of American Citizenship Erin Pineda This course is a colloquium focusing on US citizenship and its constitution through regimes of enslavement, colonial conquest and immigration, producing unequal citizenship and “white democracy.”
GOV 221 European Politics Mlada Bukovansky It studies the various forms democratic government may take (i.e. different electoral systems, different types of party systems, the different relationships between executive and legislative branches, variation in degrees of independence of the judiciary, etc.), and current challenges to democratic governance in Europe.
GOV 252 International Organizations Mlada Bukovansky We spend a good deal of time on the United Nations and the extent to which democratic norms are (or are not) salient in that organization.
MES 219 Histories of Arab Feminisms Susanna Ferguson In Unit III, we consider questions about women, suffrage, and democratic politics in the Arab world (four weeks).
POR/WLT 212 Author, Authority, Authoritarianism: Writing and Resistance in the Portuguese-Speaking World Malcolm McNee This course explores variations on the theme of resistance, including resistance to dictatorship, coloniality, patriarchy, and racism, but also ambivalent postures of resistance toward the authority assumed within particular forms and deployments of expertise and knowledge. Reading and discussing translated writing by Machado de Assis, Carolina Maria de Jesus, and Clarice Lispector (Brazil), Mia Couto (Mozambique), Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida (Angola/Portugal) and José Saramago (Portugal), we will consider historical context, ways in which works resonate with current discussions of democracy and democratization, literature and fictionality as sites of resistance, and the often fraught dynamics between authorship and authority.
POR 381fw Multiple Lenses of Marginality: New Brazilian Filmmaking by Women Marguerite Harrison This course addresses issues of gender, social class, and racial biases by focusing on marginalized and/or peripheral subjects. It will also incorporate sociopolitical topics centered on citizenship and inclusivity. In including established directors alongside younger ones, this course will also tackle the democratization of filmmaking itself. This course will be taught in Portuguese.
REL 293 Social Justice, Spirituality, and the American Radical Tradition David Howlett This course explores how American spiritual communities have produced radical social change and alternative political visions for the future. Topics include 19th-century Black prophets and abolitionism; Spiritualists and women’s suffrage; Latinx Catholics and labor activism; Black churches, Jewish liberals and the Civil Rights movement; Native traditionalists and the Red Power movement; Mormon feminists and the ERA; radical Catholics and the anti-nuclear movement; the new religious left and LGBTQ rights; practitioners of green spirituality and the climate crisis; and spiritual-but-not-religious folks and the Black Lives Matter movement.
SPN 220 Contemporary Cultures in the Spanish Speaking World Silvia Berger Two films and one reading deal with issues of fascism and dictatorship. The discussion is geared towards defining and contrasting authoritarian versus democratic rule.
SPN 246jl Through the Jewish Lens: A Latin American Story Silvia Berger Several units deal with 1) dictatorship in Latin America, 2) European fascism and migration, 3) the Holocaust. Every one of these units engages students in discussions about how democratic societies would have approached specific challenges.
SPN 337 Difference Ibtissam Bouachrine This course explores the negotiations of difference and democracy.
SWG 150 Introduction to the Study of Women and Gender Carrie N. Baker This course centers on systems of inequality and privilege in the US and globally, focusing in particular on gender, sex, sexuality, class, race, disability and nationality. This class explores how everyone can participate fully in society, and how we can create a fair and just society. These issues are critical to a successful democracy with full participation of everyone.
SWG 241 White Supremacy in the Age of Trump Loretta J. Ross This course examines threats to democracy presented by the formal and informal white supremacist movement in America. It also offers an opportunity to explore various pro-democracy strategies for defending democracy and human rights.
SWG 271 Reproductive Justice Carrie N. Baker The class addresses the U.S. history of reproductive oppression and women’s resistance through campaigns for reproductive justice, including bodily sovereignty and community self-determination.
THE 213 American Theatre Kiki Gounaridou The study of American Theatre is inextricably linked with American identity, and especially with American identity as fashioned by American democracy, including Native American, Hispanic and Latinx, Asian American, Black, female and queer identities. In this class, we read American plays, from the 18th to the 21st centuries, and discuss them as aspects of the history of the multiple cultural identities operating within American democracy.



The Smith Reads selection for fall 2021, Exit West, a best-selling novel by Mohsin Hamid, was chosen to align with the Year on Democracies theme. Learn more about the book and the Smith Reads program for all new entering students, including first-years, Ada Comstock Scholars, and visiting and transfer students.