This research seminar explores identity and diversity in North America from the perspectives of social history (the stories of peoples’ lives) and popular culture (cultural forms and expressions familiar to most, like Hollywood film). It begins in the late 19th century with the ‘Indian wars,’ and ends in the 21st with the rise of Trumpism. Race, at the center of American life and identity, is at the heart of the class. The notion that popular culture shapes daily life steers the course. For example, associations of crime with race seen on ‘the’ news reinforce the idea that racial groups are inherently criminal. That popular culture also empowers is seen, heard and experienced in memoir, fiction and artistic expressions i.e., music, film, photography and activist art, like posters of protest calling for ‘we the people’ across the globe to resist attacks on humanity. The first part of the semester studies race by focusing on i.e., African and Native-American peoples within contexts of crime and punishment, work and leisure, and sickness and health. Other topics include housing and foodways. In the second half students research a topic of choice. Throughout the course we explore the presence of the past and imagine future possibilities.
- Teacher: Nancy Mykoff