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Signature Courses

Our World: Social Justice and the Environment


The Global Ecological Imagination
01:195:220 (4 credits) Core: CCD, AHo  Professor Jorge T. Marcone, Spanish and Portuguese,
Comparative Literature

The mainstream media and popular culture represent indigenous and aboriginal communities as models for reimagining our own relationship with nature. Yet, these stories can’t help but be melancholic: the damages brought by modernization seem to be unstoppable; progress is always desirable even if it disappoints us; and indigenous and aboriginal cultures apparently have no choice but to adapt or to protect their way of life by heroic means.

In this course we will explore this conundrum from below. How are indigenous/aboriginal peoples impacted by planetary and local environmental changes? How are they reacting to them? And how are their lives changed by their own responses and activism? We will focus on feature films, documentaries, fictions, and testimonies produced by indigenous or aboriginal intellectuals, or by authors in close collaboration with such communities. Their stories take place in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, Peru, and South Africa. We will learn about the conflict but also the confluence between traditional aboriginal and indigenous beliefs of the human and the nonhuman, on the one hand, and modern economic development, scientific knowledge, and Western environmentalism, on the other.

This course is particularly recommended for students who intend to pursue majors or minors in African, Latin American, or South Asian studies; anthropology; cinema studies; communication; comparative literature; economics; English; environmental studies; geography; journalism and media studies; political science; religion; Spanish and Portuguese; and sociology. Students from all schools and disciplines are welcome to sign up for this course. This course carries credit toward the comparative literature major and minor, and the environmental studies minor. The Global Ecological Imagination can be used to meet the Core Curriculum goals in Contemporary Challenges [CCD] and Arts and Humanities [AHo].