Unsettled Futures: Global Crisis and Science Fiction
Societies around the globe are now confronting a triple crisis that threatens not only civil order but also the very existence of certain forms of life: (1) financial collapse which increased the awareness of mass inequality, (2) climate change and the ensuing environmental uncertainty, and (3) the rise of ethno-nationalisms which threaten representative democracies. These material and political challenges have been accompanied by a depletion of the cultural resources that enable imagining non-apocalyptic futures. Yet, these crises are not novel. Many groups in the periphery—geographic, economic, and cultural—were and are already living through the uneven distribution of the apocalypse. Science fiction (SF) has emerged as a privileged symbolic field for the expression of hopes and anxieties that drive both culture and tech industries. Whether seen as a form of productive pessimism or liberatory theory, SF from the margins is deployed as a political tool for enacting change in the present.
In this course, we will survey the history of SF as a variable and theoretical orientation constituted through the unfolding of uneven global encounters. We will analyze SF in the Cold War, Anthropocene, decolonization movements, and postcolonial landscapes, reading major works in global SF and science and technology studies (STS) that address the politics of crisis, apocalypse, and global futures. In addition to novels and short stories, lectures will incorporate film, graphic novels, music videos, video games, and other science fiction subgenres.
Is Science Native to Turtle Island: The History of Native Science in North America
Settler sciences and technologies deployed by Europeans colonizing Turtle Island (what settlers called North America) were introduced as weapons of Indigenous termination. From medical violation, to anthropological theft, and industrial pollution, settler sciences objectified and appropriated Indigenous people and lands, and attempted to displace Indigenous knowledge in the pursuit of settler supremacy. Indigenous bodies were cast as victims, objects and sometimes the tools of this project. And yet, as tools and objects, Indigenous peoples took up settler science in a multitude of ways that failed (both purposefully and not) to adhere to the colonizing mission, incorporating Indigenous knowledges, subverting settler science as a source of authority, and positioning science as a site of Indigenous sovereignty. The practice of taking up science as a tool of decolonization has become explicit in recent decades as expressly Native sciences now shape tribal funding, college education, and negotiations with international governing bodies.
This course will trace the history of Native science across different nations and disciplines from the antebellum period when settler sciences were taking shape in civilian institutions to the present when Native science is professionalizing and being codified. We will read primary sources and scientific treatises by Indigenous leaders, activists, and scientists alongside secondary sources in Indigenous science and technology studies (STS), history, and postcolonial and queer theory.
Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies
What does it mean to be a citizen of an Indigenous nation? Why are there laws against selling inauthentic Native American art? Who is two spirit and what obligations and politics does that position and identity entail? Where do we locate tradition and Indigenous peoples in time? In this course, we will address these questions and more, surveying indigeneity as it is constructed and expressed in historical narratives, activism and education, governance and identity, art and literature, science and religion, and gender and sexuality. Knowledge of the Indigenous is a foundational element of the United States. From missionaries documenting Indigenous languages, to sports mascots, DNA testing, and even to New Age spirit quests and sweat lodges, the coherence and legitimacy of this settler colonial empire has demanded expertise in and the appropriation of Indigenous bodies, knowledges, and cultures as a means of continually displacing and erasing them. And yet, that is not the only way to produce knowledge of, by, and with Indigenous people. Indigenous Studies provides a variant way of thinking and learning about indigeneity. The imperative of Indigenous Studies is to understand Indigenous peoples on their own terms and the world on those same terms. In this course we will explore not only questions related to Native America today, but also the various reasons and implications for why we study it.
Critical Indigenous Theory
Intellectual decolonization is not a bounded project. On one hand, it demands a vocabulary of difference and refusal that rejects colonial theories and epistemologies. On the other, it demands that we interrogate our own intellectual and cultural traditions and trauma. Critical Indigenous theory is a tool in those projects, as it offers a corrective and an opening up of both dominant critical theory traditions that violently erase Indigenous bodies and political realities and of Indigenous theory that essentializes difference and replicates oppressive dynamics in our communities. Critical Indigenous theory seeks to understand the structures and relations of power in settler colonialism, nested sovereignty, and culturally specific Indigenous philosophical traditions, like Indigenous studies more broadly, but also questions the key concepts that define Indigenous studies: tradition, sovereignty, authenticity, identity, race, gender, and sexuality. In this course, we will read major works in critical Indigenous theory that address indigeneity as it relates to race, postcolonial theory, feminist and two-spirit critique, alternative political engagement with the settler colonial state, and questions of “colonial unknowing.” We will work on cultivating the reading practices needed to parse dense theoretical texts, and over the course of the semester you will develop a research project on a topic of your choosing that will allow you to take critical Indigenous theories and employ them as analytic tools and lenses.
America: The Nation and its Discontents (Intro American Studies)
"America" has always named something more than a geographical place; being "American" has always been about something more than political citizenship. This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and the nation of the United States. We will focus on the workings of that culture and nation as they both shape and have been shaped by factors such as race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, place, and religion. Over the semester, we will ask critical questions of a wide variety of materials: essays, novels, autobiographies, poems, photographs, films, music, visual art, architecture, urban plans, historical documents and legal texts. We critique notions of American exceptionalism, empire, power, citizenship, labor, borders, inequality, assimilation, aesthetic form, and the role of the U.S. and its products in the world.