English 481-0-20 Studies in Literary Theory and Criticism - Racial Ecologies
How does contemporary Ethnic American literature contend with environmental crises such as rising sea levels, desertification, and loss of biodiversity? How do minority writers represent the asymmetrical effects of toxic exposure, crumbling infrastructure, and resource extraction? How might we think of race itself as ecologically constituted? To begin answering these questions, this graduate seminar will survey African American, Native American, Asian American, and Latinx novels, short stories, poetry, and film that explore the differential effects of what Anna Tsing calls "blasted landscapes" on minoritized populations. Concurrently, we will articulate an ecological approach to race, i.e., an interdisciplinary methodology drawing from critical race theory, Ethnic Studies, environmental studies, and posthumanism. Rather than seeing racial justice as a secondary concern to environmental crises, our discussions will highlight how race is always fundamentally imbricated in ecology. This unorthodox approach to racial representation will also push us towards formulations of comparative racialization, as we consider, for example, ecological entanglements of U.S. imperialism in Asia and Latin America. Finally, we will examine how art and literature imagine possibilities for minority resilience and flourishing. The class will pressure critical terms and paradigms such as representation, ethics, ecology, environment, risk, nature, and infrastructure.
This course is motivated by the assumption that knowledge and technology have become central to the social, cultural, political, and material organization of modern societies. The fundamental goal of the course is to develop intellectual tools to understand not merely the social organization of knowledge, science, and technology but also the technoscientific dimensions of social life. Although much of the course content concerns science and technology, the theoretical and analytical frameworks developed in this course are intended to apply to any domain involving knowledge, expertise, technologies, or formalized techniques. How might sociology as a field of study benefit from closer engagement both with epistemic concerns and with the material aspects of our technosocial world? We will examine: why we believe what we believe (the politics of knowledge production, circulation, and reception); the impact and uptake of technologies and the assessment of technological risks; the character of life in expert-driven “knowledge societies”; the resolution of conflicts around knowledge and technology (and the use of knowledge and technology in conflict resolution); the encounters between and across different knowledge systems, ways of knowing, and epistemic cultures, both locally and globally; the use of technologies to tell us “who we are” and “where we belong”; the social and technological reproduction of inequalities, including those related to social class, race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, location in global hierarchies, etc.; the relations between activists and experts, and the tensions between expertise and democracy; the roles of social movements when intervening in debates about knowledge, science, and technology, as well as the use of knowledge and technology by social movements; and the nature of governance in technologically sophisticated societies—including the character of collective decision-making about knowledge and technology, as well as the uses of knowledge and technology to arrive at such decisions. A lot (but not all) of the course content focuses on the United States, though we will try whenever possible to place developments in a global context and we will benefit from comparative and postcolonial approaches to STS. While much of the scholarship we will consider is broadly sociological, some of it is drawn from other fields, and part of the goal of the course is to suggest the interdisciplinary character of STS. Students from other disciplines are welcome.