Engagements Program

Seeking to understand not only what it means to know the world, but to live in it.

Engagements Program

Spotlight Engagements Courses

Engaging Aesthetics

  • EGMT 1510: The Sound of Physics

    Israel Klich

    EGMT 1510: The Sound of Physics

    Instructed by Israel Klich

    It is perhaps little known (certainly amongst physicists) that Vincenzo Galilei, father of Galileo Galilei, himself the father figure of physics and the scientific method, was an accomplished lute player and composer. Assisted by his son, Vincenzo Galilei, through elaborate experiments, developed one of the earliest physical theories of vibrations and acoustics, later much elaborated by 18th and 19th-century physicists. Vincenzo Galilei also authored "Della musica antica et della moderna", one of the first books on music theory. Thus, the lute, a 16th century ancestor of the modern guitar, has played a crucial role both in modern physics as well as in the development of music! In this class we will explore similarly fascinating connections between music and physics, both historical and conceptual. We will learn about the mathematics and physics of sound from its relation to planetary motion by the ancient Greeks to modern approaches, the production of sound and the psychoacoustic effects associated with it and about concepts of physics from synchronization to symmetry breaking and how they appear within music and explore how they can be creatively represented within music.

  • EGMT 1510: Getting It: Art and Attunement

    Jessica Swoboda

    EGMT 1510: Getting It: Art and Attunement

    Instructed by Jessica Swoboda

    Do you get it? In this course, we will study and analyze what it means to get—or become attuned to—various types of art objects: paintings, movies, music, TV shows, and books. Attunement refers to the experience we have when we fall in love with a movie, feel in sync with a song, or become absorbed in a book. What causes these types of experiences? What are the various factors that shape them? How can experiences of attunement forge different types of relations? We will put different theoretical accounts of attunement—from psychologists and philosophers, literary scholars and art historians, novelists and memoirists—in conversation with examples from our own lives, thinking about how analyzing these moments can them help us better understand ourselves, others, and the world in which we live.

  • EGMT 1510: Feasting! The Culinary Side of Religion

    Philip Tite

    EGMT 1510: Feasting! The Culinary Side of Religion

    Instructed by Philip Tite

    Everyone eats – even the gods! When people eat together, they create commensal moments (“eating at the same table”) of shared experiences and values. Food is a multi-sensory experience – it evokes all of our senses! We see, smell, taste, hear, and touch food. Our aesthetic experiences marinate religion and culture with all our senses; by “consuming religion” people ingest their religious and cultural heritages. This course will nourish us with experiences of creating food, analyzing food and foodways, appreciating the artistic performance of religion through food as both symbolic and literal object as we savor a comparative study of religious traditions. Our focus is global, yet local, with diverse flavor notes allowing us to taste the lived, experiential role that food and foodways play in religious communities. Cooking, presentation, and ritual are all artistic expressions of values, ideologies, and identities.

  • EGMT 1510: Death, Hell, Judgement

    Deborah Parker

    EGMT 1510: Death, Hell, Judgement

    Instructed by Deborah Parker

    This Engagement course will offer a close reading of Dante’s Inferno, the most intricate portrayal of the afterlife ever written. We will explore Dante’s presentation of Hell, its inhabitants, his self-presentation, the relationship between sin and punishment, political division in Dante’s Italy, and the visual material the poem has inspired. Students will learn strategies for analyzing poetic texts, artistic images, and how to compare texts and images. You will learn how Dante imagines hell, characterizes its inhabitants, and portrays the relationship between sin and punishment. The course will help you develop strategies for analyzing literary and artistic works, offer guidelines on how do a close reading of an article, refine writing of papers, and familiarize you with the dynamics of artistic adaptation.

  • EGMT 1510: The Art of Walking

    William Wylie

    EGMT 1510: The Art of Walking

    Instructed by William Wylie

    The history of human beings is a history of walking, of migrations of peoples and cultural exchanges. This course will examine some of the manifestations of walking as a purposeful and creative practice. Rather than a comprehensive history, we will look at specific examples where the act of walking is a conscious choice for artistic, political, religious or environmental objectives. If we think about an act as an aesthetic tool that generates meaning, then the deliberate choice to walk can be seen as an expression that creates value. Each session we will consider the work and activities of individuals or groups who have engaged with and documented the act of intentional walking.

  • EGMT 1510: Sounds of Resistance

    Liza Sapir Flood

    EGMT 1510: Sounds of Resistance

    Instructed by Liza Sapir Flood

    This class explores the aesthetics of resistance in social and political life, emphasizing sound. We will rely on a broad understanding of “resistance,” from street protests to campaign theme songs to Super Bowl performances. Likewise, “sound” will refer primarily to music, but will also include other audible outputs of voices, bodies, and environments. Students will consider how sounds can straddle and influence the intimately connected domains of the aesthetic and the sociopolitical. We will ponder questions such as: how does sound mean? Is sound capable of provoking social change? How do people draw on their own experiences to interpret what they hear? How can the same song or sound inspire some to love and others to hate? Can sound be used as a weapon? How can sound foster inclusivity or exclusivity, or allow individuals to heal, motivate, resist, or change? We will attend public events in the area to enhance our studies. Importantly, students will examine their own engagements with sonic and musical resistance and will complete self-designed projects that allow them to experiment with sound’s capacities to engage in social action.

  • EGMT 1510: The Art of Illness

    Bridget Reilly

    EGMT 1510: The Art of Illness

    Instructed by Bridget Reilly

    We often think of sickness as an embodied event that can be empirically measured and physically treated. But illness also lives in art, and disease is a cultural as well as a biological event. For example, in the nineteenth century, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death that manifested (and still does) in violent symptoms—lung hemorrhages, dramatic weight loss, etc. The disease impacted most communities living and laboring shoulder-to-shoulder in poorly ventilated spaces, like tenements and factories. Yet it was memorialized in novels and paintings as a fashionable illness that struck “saintly” bourgeois women without wrecking their bodies. Indeed, surveying tuberculosis’s appearance in Victorian art, one might conclude that the illness marked the “best” members of society, too good for earthly mire, for membership in the next world, just as its representational grammar reinforced class hierarchies and gendered norms. In this course, we will explore a variety of artistic representations of maladies, disorders, and plagues in order to become acquainted with the cultural lives of illness. We will consider how aesthetic forms mediate bodily experience, and how physical ailment might impact art. As a class we will ask: What aesthetic conventions undergird seemingly “natural” or “pathological” phenomena? How have literature, painting, and performance informed medicine and vice versa? How might artistic depictions of illness inflect our personal, social, and political worlds?

  • EGMT 1510: Aesthetics of Hunger

    Eli Carter

    EGMT 1510: Aesthetics of Hunger

    Instructed by Eli Carter

    Nearly one billion people suffer from hunger. Not surprisingly, depictions of hunger are everywhere: from advertising, fashion, and film to literature, music, and painting. In this course, we will focus on symbolic constructions of “hunger” in a diverse selection of aesthetic objects from the Global South. We will learn to “look” closely, carefully, and critically. We will also consider some of the ways aesthetic objects might challenge or reproduce structures that shape our society and our understanding of hunger. To this end, we will explore such questions as: What constitutes an aesthetic object? How might we look at, contemplate, analyze, and interpret such an object? What and how do the aesthetic objects under consideration contribute to our understanding of the world we live in?

  • EGMT 1510: How to be Creative

    EGMT 1510: How to be Creative

    Instructed by

    What is creativity, and how does it relate to innovation and originality? What does it take to be creative? Is creativity a quality someone is simply born with? Could it be cultivated by anyone by actively engineering certain conditions? This course explores the concept of creativity through multiple disciplinary lenses, including art, psychology, engineering, anthropology, and philosophy. By understanding what happens in our embodied minds when we engage in creative thinking or action, we will be able to identify some ways in which we can consciously prod ourselves towards innovation and originality. We will try our hands at all sorts of challenges, physical or conceptual, to experiment with. Note that while this course is part of the Aesthetics engagement, it is not an art class and applies generally to all disciplines and life.

  • EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of the Everyday

    Lydia Brown

    EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of the Everyday

    Instructed by Lydia Brown

    What are the aesthetic possibilities of a single day? How can the boring, banal, habitual, or ordinary details of everyday life open artists and audiences alike to thought-provoking, puzzling, or even arresting experiences? In this course, we’ll ask together what “aesthetics” and “everyday” could mean as we converse with works of art across various contexts and disciplines, including Kendrick Lamar’s album good kid, m.A.A.d city, Elif Batuman’s novel The Idiot, Clara Peeters’ still-life paintings, and Emily Dickinson’s envelope (and receipt, and scrap-paper) poems. We’ll ask ourselves how to engage with dailyness, mundanity, and forgettable details, pondering too how our own senses of attentiveness and observation color what we consider art at all. Ultimately, we’ll learn why it might matter to be an arbiter of the ordinary, which you’ll practice by contributing to your own working archive of everyday details, writing working definitions of “the everyday,” and crafting a self-designed final project with the support of a small group, which could be an essay, art piece, or presentation.

  • EGMT 1510: Punching Up

    Erik Fredner

    EGMT 1510: Punching Up

    Instructed by Erik Fredner

    Satire makes the powerful feel weak and the weak feel powerful. It points out what we dare not think or know. By showing how absurd power can be, satire suggests that our world can be otherwise. American satire skewers distinctions of race, gender, and class as self-contradictory, yet undeniably real. Satire can be poignant, too: As we all know, laughter sometimes ends in tears. In this course, we read major American satirists writing since the Civil War, including María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Mark Twain, Anita Loos, George Schuyler, Dorothy Parker, Paul Beatty, and Ling Ma. Students will learn about these authors’ texts and their contexts, focusing on how form and content conspire to produce satirical effects. Satire exemplifies both literary writing and the pleasures of reading. It can persuade, provoke, and unsettle us. Víktor Shklovsky famously argues that literature “defamiliarizes” us with the world. Perhaps no genre is more committed to Shklovsky’s sense of defamiliarization than satire.

  • EGMT 1510: The Art of Looking

    Francesca Fiorani

    EGMT 1510: The Art of Looking

    Instructed by Francesca Fiorani

    In this class you will learn tools and strategies to look, understand, enjoy, and write about art--no matter how much or how little you know about art and its histories. You will focus on the first-hand experience of art through selected case studies from different periods and world regions, but you will also spend considerable time actively looking at art in person: in the UVA Art Museums, at Special Collections, around grounds and in Charlottesville. You will learn a handful of core strategies and skills that can help you enhance the experience of looking at art. With these skills, you can encounter any work of art—regardless of media, artist, or period—find some resonance with your own experiences, and discover and reflect on the fundamental pleasure of looking at art.

  • EGMT 1510: The Poetry of Love

    Mehr Farooqi

    EGMT 1510: The Poetry of Love

    Instructed by Mehr Farooqi

    Poetry of Love What is love? How is it articulated? Is love devotion? Is love passion? What are the different forms of love? The object of desire may be human, divine, abstract or ambiguous; its defining trait is its inaccessibility. We will answer some of these questions by turning to the ghazal, a poetic form that has been central to Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish and Urdu traditions since the twelfth century. This course builds on creative and cross-disciplinary knowledge from South Asia and beyond. Knowledge, musicality and performance will be the cornerstones of this aesthetic engagement. We will read some of the best classical Urdu and Persian ghazals in English translation and watch them in performance. We will experience the space between poetry and performance. We may discover ghazals in English. We will explore the different possibilities of interpretation, cultural biases, and worldview that impact ghazal poetry.

  • EGMT 1510: The Monstrous Aesthetic

    Matthew Skwiat

    EGMT 1510: The Monstrous Aesthetic

    Instructed by Matthew Skwiat

    Monsters have and continue to hold a powerful effect on our thoughts and imaginations. Yet, what exactly is a monster? What can they tell us about the society they grew out of and why do they continue to thrive today? Can they be manifestations of ourselves and cultures or are they otherworldly and inhuman? Throughout this Engagements course, we will study the aesthetics of monstrosity and the ways artists and thinkers have envisioned and defined what it is to be a monster throughout human history. We will critically and theoretically study the monster across a number of artistic mediums, from painting and music to fiction and film. Throughout the class, students will encounter a number of different monsters both in class and around Charlottesville, and get a chance to research and present on a monster of their own.

  • EGMT 1510: In Sync

    Jiajun Yan

    EGMT 1510: In Sync

    Instructed by Jiajun Yan

    Have you ever wondered why poetry rhymes? Or why we dance to music? Or why the muted palette of an old master painting looks so beautiful? A sequence of words are lined up and tied together by their congruent sounds; the movements of the body are amplified by the undulating beats; the different shades of aging burnt umber form a harmonious landscape — everything, seemingly unrelated at first, comes together, and generates a moment of being in sync, a moment of beauty. Now, what if we try to bring two very drastically different fields together, that is, math and art, and observe how they can become in sync, how is that possible? How do we do that? How will we feel if we succeed? We will try to address these questions in this course by drawing inspirations from literature, visual arts and mathematics, as well as creating our own examples where math and art come together, exploring and analyzing the implications of aesthetics provided by these examples, how they affect our understanding of beauty and truth. Everyone will be deemed a curious artist from day 1.

  • EGMT 1510: The Art & Politics of Dreaming

    Kevin Duong

    EGMT 1510: The Art & Politics of Dreaming

    Instructed by Kevin Duong

    Dreams have long offered a resource for art and radical politics. At times associated with the voice of the gods, ancestors, nature, or the Fates, dreams have helped critics question their society and its rules. In our modern world enthralled with empiricism or hard-nosed realism, however, dreams can seem trivial, even useless. Why dream when you can work? This class invites students to consider otherwise. We will revisit the art and politics of dreaming by returning to the twentieth century poets, painters, and photographers who took it most seriously: the Surrealists. These men and women did not consider dreams frivolous. They saw in dreams an opportunity to rethink the limits of science and to critique the routines of modern life, especially market exchange, sexual repression, and bureaucracy. Though we will study Surrealist words and images, we will also follow their examples and see where they take us. The class will put together a small multimedia exhibition for the wider public. By engaging in Surrealist activity together, we will try to answer its famous question: “Can’t the dream be used in solving the fundamental problems of life?”

  • EGMT 1510: Strange Sensations

    Paul Dobryden

    EGMT 1510: Strange Sensations

    Instructed by Paul Dobryden

    In this course you will explore the ways that art can make the world seem strange. By manipulating how things look, sound, or feel, art and literature can disturb the familiarity of everyday life and offer new ways of perceiving what one usually takes for granted. Through attention, reflection, and creative work you will become attuned to the possibilities for enjoyment and critical thought offered by art that looks at the world from odd angles.

  • EGMT 1510: Living with Images

    Caleb Hendrickson

    EGMT 1510: Living with Images

    Instructed by Caleb Hendrickson

    It is commonplace, even cliché, to observe that the modern world is awash with images. “There are too many images. Too many cameras,” laments the photographer Robert Frank. “If all moments of life are recorded, then nothing is beautiful.” Is Frank right? Are we smartphone-carrying bipeds so flooded by visual images that we cannot recognize the beauty of life as we live it? Has our immersion in images dulled our moral conscience? Has it distorted our perception of reality? Or, are these worries just another instance of “moral panic” or “technophobia”? After all, images are not new. We have been living with images for millennia, and worrying about them for just as long. In this class, we attempt to gain a critical perspective on our relationship with images. Why do images enthrall us? Why do we occasionally want to reach out and touch them—even kiss them? Why do we sometimes want to smash them? Do we trust images? Should we?

  • EGMT 1510: If Statues Could Speak

    EGMT 1510: If Statues Could Speak

    Instructed by

    The statues on Grounds have stories to tell, but, often, they are buried. In this course, we will experiment with strategies for representing this contextual information using art, design, digital media, and performance. Using these aesthetic means, we will explore the possibilities for creating and critiquing these statues’ meaning for ourselves and for our shared community.

  • EGMT 1510: Art In and Out of Place

    Christa Noel Robbins

    EGMT 1510: Art In and Out of Place

    Instructed by Christa Noel Robbins

    Does it matter where a cultural artifact is encountered? Does moving a work from one place to another alter its value, meaning, or function? From early twentieth-century theories of artistic “autonomy,” which claim that works of “fine art” should maintain their value and significance across time and place, to current legal and policy debates regarding the repatriation of looted objects to their cultures of origin, we will study practical and theoretical approaches to the value of being in and out of place in a global context. We will consider these various theories of place in relation to our immediate surroundings, thinking about the placement and framing of cultural objects and historical sites on Grounds and throughout Charlottesville, as well as visiting several local collections such as the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, and the Fralin Museum of Art.

  • EGMT 1510: Living Labyrinths - how fungi can teach us to be musical

    Michelle Kisliuk

    EGMT 1510: Living Labyrinths - how fungi can teach us to be musical

    Instructed by Michelle Kisliuk

    This Engagement course explores creative intersections between human expressive culture and organic processes, especially emerging understandings of the importance of underground mycelial networks to global ecosystems. We will explore both the social worlds that surround a burgeoning, countercultural citizen science knowledge movement in the West, and the creative practices of indigenous African forest people who have deep cultural understandings of these kinds of processes. With hands-on (and voices and bodies on) we will delve into how fungi can model creative processes, and experience how cultural knowledge of structured improvisation mirror the flexible networks that ceaselessly remodel themselves in the natural world – skills that humans must cultivate to remediate our environmental and social crises. Readings will include: Entangled Lives: How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures (2020) by biologist Merlin Sheldrake, and selections from the writing of poets, anthropologists, naturalists, and other creatives including Gregory Bateson and Robin Wall Kimmerer. Walking outside, as well as listening to and viewing recordings and films and singing together will be part of our curriculum.

  • EGMT 1510: Videogames and Videography

    Andrew Ferguson

    EGMT 1510: Videogames and Videography

    Instructed by Andrew Ferguson

    Recent years have seen vast advances in not only the technological capabilities of videogame systems, but also in the types of stories that such games can tell. In this class, we will explore Kentucky Route Zero, one of the most critically renowned and culturally resonant games of the past decade, and we will capture those explorations in the forms of a weekly play log, a print or digital zine, and a short video essay. Each week we will play through and discuss one of the game’s five Acts, and we will also work between class and the Robertson Media Center on basic skills and techniques for video editing. Our inquiry will conclude with a celebratory screening/exhibition of the class’s video essays and zine art. No prior technical knowledge is assumed or required, though access to a Mac or PC laptop with Steam installed is strongly recommended (it is also available on most contemporary consoles, though the experience changes a bit on each). All other programs besides Kentucky Route Zero itself will be free to download and install.

  • EGMT 1510: Time and Memory in the Arts

    Wendy Smith

    EGMT 1510: Time and Memory in the Arts

    Instructed by Wendy Smith

    We have all experienced a long-forgotten memory suddenly triggered by something seemingly ordinary: a taste, a smell, a song that brings the past rushing back. How do artists, composers, and filmmakers utilize this phenomenon of sudden, involuntary memory to create art? In this course we will ask: How do artworks manipulate the depiction of the passing of time? How reliable are our memories, and does implementing timelines in storytelling make our narratives more or less reliable? In what different ways do both personal and public spaces facilitate the process of remembering? How have artists sought to capture the fleeting nature of time through painting, and how have they sought to freeze time in photography? How does repetition in music incite memory to help structure a four-hour opera? How are words and names used strategically as an efficient way to conjure up memories? Is there such a thing as present time, or is there only past and future?

Empirical & Scientific Engagement

  • EGMT 1520: Making Knowledge

    EGMT 1520: Making Knowledge

    Instructed by

    Since the foundation of the first university in Bologna nearly a thousand years ago, universities have become a quintessential component of Western culture. In this class, we will consider a number of case studies from the rich history of the “University,” considering both how universities use empirical methods to create knowledge and raising empirical questions about concept of the university itself. Questions include: What roles have universities played in different societies? How does the structure of the institution reflect its presumptions? How do universities create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge? What is academic freedom, and why is it considered essential for discovering and telling the truth? And how should we, students and teachers of the twenty-first century, interpret its legacy?

  • EGMT 1520: What a Book Is

    EGMT 1520: What a Book Is

    Instructed by

    Books facilitate learning, circulate ideas, and contain the stories that unite (and divide) societies, yet we often think of them solely in terms of their content and tend to evaluate them based on our own aesthetic preferences. In this course, we will reconsider everything we know about books and approach them as material objects that present quantifiable, observable data, which we can glean using bibliographical methods. These methods involve generating and testing hypotheses about how books are made and used, such as binding practices, printing techniques, and evidence of reader interaction. We will engage with books in a variety of forms—from rare special collections manuscripts to ebooks—and we will question how the physical components of a book work with its contents to create and spread knowledge. Using art, literature, film, and other forms of media, we will interrogate the role and reception of the material book in western society, and we will engage in embodied bookmaking practices (such as bookbinding and printing on a tabletop press) to better understand how these objects are assembled and used as well as how their material elements can be analyzed as forms of data.

  • EGMT 1520: From Language to Data

    Erik Fredner

    EGMT 1520: From Language to Data

    Instructed by Erik Fredner

    People who use a language share its words. Yet the ways we use those shared words are nearly as unique as our fingerprints. Even stranger, our distinctive patterns do not depend upon rare words, but common ones we scarcely think about using: the, a, of, etc. Using data about such words, forensic linguists can identify the author of a document accurately enough to serve as evidence in court. In this course, we study how and why we create data from language. We consider different types of texts, including transcribed speech, social media, and literature. What do we gain when we transform language into data? What do we lose? This course not only engages questions from academic fields like digital humanities and computational linguistics, but also practical questions of everyday life in the twenty-first century. Google became powerful and ubiquitous by transforming language into data. What does understanding that process teach us about how we live today?

  • EGMT 1520: Elicitations - Drawing Things Out

    Ishani Saraf

    EGMT 1520: Elicitations - Drawing Things Out

    Instructed by Ishani Saraf

    This course explores methods of eliciting responses in qualitative empirical research and the significance of the researcher as a fundamental element of that which is being researched. In this course, students will focus on the research experience, the various relations and interactions that emerge between the researcher and the researched, and the fundamental impact of these relations on the knowledge that is gathered and produced. Many forms of empirical inquiry use elicitation to engage communities and places, to generate and collect data, and to uncover evidence of various kinds, and each of these forms frames the aims, content, and techniques of elicitation differently. Drawing on the wide-ranging use of qualitative research in the social sciences, we will frame the research process itself as contingent, dialogical, embodied, and emergent. Students will experiment with different modes of eliciting responses including participant observation, storytelling, silence, listening, interrupting, mediating, and tracing. Students will read, write, experiment, and collaborate to practice elicitation working toward a final multi-modal project. They will learn how to develop various embodied techniques to interrogate and understand the complex worlds of which they are a part, and that are a part of them.

  • EGMT 1520: Use Your Brain

    Jamie Morris

    EGMT 1520: Use Your Brain

    Instructed by Jamie Morris

    The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and the bodies of all non-human vertebrate animals. Even before we could precisely measure functions of the brain, philosophers and scientists created unique theories about the way the brain works and how it supports who we are and what we are capable of doing. Over the past couple of decades, billions of dollars have been invested to understand how the brain functions, how the brain ages, how disorders of the brain occur, and the extent to which brain function can explain how people behave. Yet, even with this vast investment of money and resources, we still know relatively little about the essential mysteries of the brain. Moreover, we still hold fast to naïve myths about brain function that may lead to false and sometimes dangerous understandings about human potential. This course is intended to challenge common assumptions about the brain and illustrate how brain science can play a crucial role in medicine, education, and society.

  • EGMT 1520: Our Neanderthal Future

    Fiona Greenland

    EGMT 1520: Our Neanderthal Future

    Instructed by Fiona Greenland

    What can our archaic ancestors teach us about who we are and where we’re headed? We’ll investigate this question with methods and theories from archaeology and sociology. In the first three weeks, we’ll read Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex and learn the basics of archaeological methods and theories. We will study key findings regarding our ancient ancestors in Africa, Siberia, and central Asia. In the second half of the class, we’ll build a bridge between pre-history and contemporary society with texts including Barbara Adam’s Memory of Futures, Alondra Nelson’s Social Life of DNA, John Robb’s “History in the Body,” and Dan Smail’s Deep History and the Brain. These texts will be the basis for thinking about our ability as a species to cooperate in the face of pandemic, environmental change, and population movements.

  • EGMT 1520: Bones and Burials

    EGMT 1520: Bones and Burials

    Instructed by

    Can the dead speak? What can we learn about the past from bones and burials? In this course, we will examine how (bio)archaeologists gather empirical evidence and make inferences about the past through the analysis of human remains found in archaeological contexts. Bones can reveal many biographical details of an individual’s life including age, sex, diet, migration, health, stature, injuries, or disease. Artifacts and other archaeological data from burial contexts can reveal status, occupation, gender, religion affiliations, or other cultural insights. At a broader scale, mortuary practices and forms of individual or collective commemoration can also allow archaeologists to interpret the values and beliefs of a society. Yet, ethical issues related to the study of human remains are complex and have a deeply troubled history. How can human remains be respectfully analyzed and interpreted in the pursuit of scientific investigation about the past?

  • EGMT 1520: Obviously?

    Thomas Koberda

    EGMT 1520: Obviously?

    Instructed by Thomas Koberda

    All of us have been told that an argument that we have (or someone else has) made is logical, or illogical. What does it mean for an argument to be logical, or for a conclusion to be obvious? We all have intuitions for what is “an obvious consequence” as well as for what “is not obvious”. How do these intuitions come about, and why should my intuitions agree with yours? Even if they do, would they have agreed with those of Aristotle or Confucius or Avicenna, for instance? Why is it that mathematicians can (and do!) have good faith disagreements about the existence of infinity? In this course, we will investigate the cognitive and sociological processes of performing logical deductions for the purposes of creating knowledge and formulating sound proofs. Our goal is to become mindful of and attentive to the details and nuances of what is obvious and what is not, and to investigate how communities of thinkers have conceptualized the obvious throughout history and geography. By the end of this course, we will have gained experience investigating the processes of inference and deduction, and you will have learned: ● To explore varying conceptions of valid inference across intellectual traditions, cultures, and historical periods; ● To appreciate the intrinsic humanness of the intellectual endeavor that is the synthesis of knowledge and the conventional nature of what is obvious, and the fundamentally sociological function of proof and argument; ● To recognize the resulting ambiguities of our intellectualization and conceptualization of the world. During the seven weeks of the course, we will explore a large number of proofs of a particular relatively simple mathematical proposition through student-guided presentations, and we will discuss the underlying assumptions, argument structure, and power to compel. These investigations will be supplemented by readings in the history and philosophy of logic, spanning the ancient, medieval, and modern periods, and including Greek, Islamic, Indian, and Chinese perspectives on logic.

  • EGMT 1520: Embracing the Question Mark

    Olivier Pfister

    EGMT 1520: Embracing the Question Mark

    Instructed by Olivier Pfister

    We’ll engage in solving puzzles and explore how we think about that, with emphasis on everyone’s own personal process, including inevitable errors, rather than on the “correct answer.” No advanced math required! We will learn to recognize the unknown and embrace the question mark, handle our errors, discover what type of thinker we are, and eventually uncover collaborative problem solving.

  • EGMT 1520: Modeling Climate Justice

    Justin McBrien

    EGMT 1520: Modeling Climate Justice

    Instructed by Justin McBrien

    The growing impacts of climate disruption are further reinforcing structural inequities concerning race, gender, class, and indigeneity across the globe. Climate justice places environmental justice in a global perspective, examining how the large-scale impacts of climate change exacerbate inequities at local and regional levels, and how this process in turn combines to affect the global biosphere—a positive feedback loop with only negative consequences. Modeling Climate Justice navigates the intersection of the sciences and humanities in service of climate policy and public action. Central to the science and policy of climate change are models—in order to seek climate justice, we must use science to model what impacts climate may have on communities. This requires two steps: 1) Translating climate models and scientific data into sociological and economic analyses; 2) communicating these analyses to journalists, activists, policymakers, and the public writ large. Thinking through climate justice puts us face to face with the most urgent and complex issues surrounding climate disruption—how does the ecological legacy of imperialism, slavery, and settler colonialism place a disproportionate burden of these impacts on nations of the Global South and marginalized communities in the Global North? What institutions and strategies of global governance are needed to address these issues in a democratic and equitable manner? What are our obligations to the rights of future generations? What is it that we can do now, as individuals and communities, to combat climate injustice? We cannot answer these questions without the science of climate change, but the science of climate change cannot in itself provide a solution. Ensuring climate justice is one of the great interdisciplinary tasks of our generation—everyone has unique knowledge and skills they bring to this problem. It is the hope of this course for students to discover how they feel they can best aid in solving this crisis. We will learn how to effectively model issues of climate justice through exercises in opinion writing, data mapping and analysis, and using basic climate models to inform policy decisions. We will do so by following the downstream process of producing climate information, from the creation of global climate models to its employment in sociological maps and data sets, and finally to its use as tools for public communication and engagement. In the first part of the course, we will focus on how scientific information about climate is produced (such as computer modeling, geochemistry, paleontology)—and how is it translated and used in sociologica modeling, policymaking, and journalism. In the second part, we will focus specifically on how this information can be used to advance causes at the intersection of social justice and climate adaptation, and how it can form public discourse and policy. We will work in collaboration with the UVA Democracy Initiative Environmental Repair Lab and its partnership with climate justice activists in Norfolk, VA. to assist in their efforts to produce the Virginia Climate Atlas.

  • EGMT 1520: Memes on Earth

    Lauren Miller

    EGMT 1520: Memes on Earth

    Instructed by Lauren Miller

    The story of Earth is written in stone. The landscapes on which we walk, those beneath the ocean, and all the rocks and minerals, record Earth’s vast history that can be decoded with geoscience knowledge, analyses, and tools. You will make memes to share with your friends the richness of Earth’s history as will delve into bizarre events of the past 4.56 billion years, such as a times when the planet froze over, bacteria created an oxygen-rich atmosphere that we enjoy, and (non-bird) dinosaurs went extinct. We will explore how to read the archives of Earth’s history and place modern landscapes and Earth changes into a longer-term context beyond what we can glean from anthropological records and modern Earth-observing scientific instruments.

  • EGMT 1520: What's the Matter?

    Jessica Niblo

    EGMT 1520: What's the Matter?

    Instructed by Jessica Niblo

    Everything we can see with our naked eyes is the result of tiny particles that we cannot see doing something complex. The experiences of our daily lives; from the ice cooling your glass of water to the display on our phones, are due to tiny things in nature interacting to create the world around us. What happens when the microscopic traits don’t match the macroscopic behaviors? Are solids, liquids, and gases as simple as we think, or is there a regime in between? Why is light sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle? Does size and shape matter? Do these questions even matter for our daily lives? This class considers how the organization and collective behaviors of small particles gives rise to the world we live in, and wrestles with how we treat ideas when the microscopic and macroscopic worlds do not coincide.

  • EGMT 1520: Exploring Your Genome

    Jessica Connelly

    EGMT 1520: Exploring Your Genome

    Instructed by Jessica Connelly

    What is a genome? What can you do with your genome? How can others use your genome? In this course, you will learn about the human genome, from how it is measured to what information it contains. You will have the opportunity to take a glimpse at your own genetic information and we will discuss the implications of this knowledge. Through this course, you will gain an understanding of the profound role that the human genome plays in your life and your future. The Takeaway (what will you know 5 years from now… My hope for students upon completion of this course is the ability to discuss genetic concepts confidently with their colleagues, to know what can and can’t be done with their genetic information especially as reported by the popular press, and to use this information to guide them in making informed decisions in their own lives in years to come. And along the way, you will become empirically engaged. Our objectives this semester... By the end of this course, you will have glimpsed at the foundation of life and you will: Be able to describe and discuss the human genome and its utility in medicine and life Become curious about the ways in which you and others can use your genome Gain skills that will allow you to think about and interpret genetic data Help others better understand the use of genetic information in their future

  • EGMT 1520: Big Data and History

    Jennie Williams

    EGMT 1520: Big Data and History

    Instructed by Jennie Williams

    This course will introduce you to the concept of "big data as it relates to history and historical memory, specifically using the history of slavery as a lens through which to evaluate data both as a methodology and a product in and of itself. Each week will present a particular question that will encourage us to consider the promises and peris of historical data.

  • EGMT 1520: The Marketplace of Ideas?

    Bo Odom

    EGMT 1520: The Marketplace of Ideas?

    Instructed by Bo Odom

    Why does student tuition for four-year, US colleges keep rising (at rates above inflation)? And where do all those tuition dollars go? Why do some students have to work and take out loans to attend the University of Virginia, when others don’t? What does “need-blind” admissions mean and does the University of Virginia meet full financial need for all students? How do they even calculate that? Does UVA really refer to students as “revenue generating units” (RGUs) in its bond prospectuses? Is it true that UVA’s endowment is largely invested in guns and fossil fuels? Is the university, often idiomatically referred to as the marketplace of ideas, a literal marketplace? In this 7-week empirical engagement, we will tackle the topic of higher education financing and its relationship to the mission of the university. We will draw connections and uncover relationships between the goods universities profess to convey (learning, credentials, social capital, cultural and moral development), their revenue sources (student loans, tuition dollars, state bonds, federal grants, and return on investments), and key costs drivers for higher education, including technology, debt service on construction, maintenance, infrastructure, salaries, lobbying, and (paradoxically) competition. By considering various case studies around the University—athletics, financial aid, construction, and federal grants—we will calculate, together, the dollars and cents that make the university make sense. Last, we’ll consider what it means to study at a public university largely financed by private dollars and how to follow the money to evaluate different narratives about higher education’s purpose, challenges, and burdens.

  • EGMT 1520: "Big Data" is coming for you

    Ken Ono

    EGMT 1520: "Big Data" is coming for you

    Instructed by Ken Ono

    We have entered the era of “Big Data”, where enormous data sets are collected and mined for information. Algorithms identify patterns to make predictions and design “smart” solutions in areas as diverse as banking and finance, law enforcement, marketing, and medicine. Big Data is behind the advertisements that populate social media feeds. Uber uses algorithms to determine and keep up with predicted demand. Despite the best of intentions, the explosion of Big Data in modern life has had insidious consequences (e.g. predictive policing, loan applications, to name a few). Data doesn’t die, and you can’t hide. In this engagements course we will discuss the consequences of allowing algorithms and models to run unchecked, as they can increase social inequity and also be outright wrong. How can we avoid misusing mathematical concepts? How can we avoid being wrong?

  • EGMT 1520: Measuring Discrimination

    John McLaren

    EGMT 1520: Measuring Discrimination

    Instructed by John McLaren

    This course will explore concepts of discrimination and its measurement in hiring, housing, medical care, education, sales, and other areas. Different definitions and types of discrimination will be explored, and the main work will be learning different approaches that have been used to test for and quantify discrimination. Classic case studies such as resume experiments and the blind-audition study for orchestral auditions will be evaluated together with studies that use observational data. In a group project, you will use data from the US Census to frame and test hypotheses regarding labor-market discrimination. Through this class you will… (1) Explore different definitions and types of discrimination. (2) Learn to analyze what kinds of evidence can be useful in identifying discrimination. (3) Identify ways of testing for and measuring discrimination, and scrutinize their usefulness. (4) Explore actual data for signs of discrimination.

  • EGMT 1520: Updates Available!

    Cynthia Tong

    EGMT 1520: Updates Available!

    Instructed by Cynthia Tong

    The world is rapidly changing with new information being pushed to us every day. Our society and the problems within it evolve over time. The outdated conclusion may not apply to today anymore and the current findings may not apply in the future. How do we take advantage of the prior knowledge we preserve? How do we understand the new data we observe especially if they are inconsistent with our prior knowledge? When updates are available, how do we combine the new information with our old data? In this course, we will develop our answers to the motivating questions by learning and understanding the idea of Bayesian methodology. We will explore the dynamic procedure of knowledge processing, how prior knowledge can contribute to our understanding, and how biased prior information may lead us to incorrect conclusions. We will use discussions to identify Bayesian data science issues that we are interested in at different stages of the course, use lectures to learn new concepts and tools, and use engaging activities and games in and outside of the classroom to strengthen our understandings.

  • EGMT 1520: Birds Aren't Real

    Ali Guler

    EGMT 1520: Birds Aren't Real

    Instructed by Ali Guler

    Conspiracy theories are everywhere. In this Empirical Engagement course we'll examine how scientific evidence is gathered, evaluated, and communicated using conspiracy theories as a lens. From the outlandish to the plausible, we'll scrutinize a range of theories and discuss factors that contribute to their spread and acceptance in society. We'll begin by investigating why "Birds Aren't Real".

  • EGMT 1520: On These Grounds - UVA's Spatial History

    Gillet Rosenblith

    EGMT 1520: On These Grounds - UVA's Spatial History

    Instructed by Gillet Rosenblith

    In this course, students will learn to use the empirical methodologies of historians in the context of UVA’s built environment. Each week will include a walking tour of Grounds based on a particular chronological moment and/or theme. We will consider what observations can we make as we move through space? How do these observations underscore or complicate evaluations of different kinds of evidence, including written documents, oral histories, archaeological finds, etc.? Students will leave this course with a better understanding of their home and place of work for the next four years as well as with the skills to engage the empirical tools historians use.

  • EGMT 1520: Where Have All the Babies Gone?

    Len Schoppa

    EGMT 1520: Where Have All the Babies Gone?

    Instructed by Len Schoppa

    Why are people all over the world having fewer babies? In Japan, the population is projected to shrink by one-third by 2100. In the United States, the fertility rate is down to 1.7 (well below the replacement rate of 2.1). In Korea it’s down to 0.8. This empirical engagement class introduces students to empirical research from a wide range of disciplines (including economics, sociology, and biology) that provide partial answers to this question. Along the way, we will learn how all of these disciplines employ similar scientific methods to understand fertility trends while nevertheless highlighting distinct aspects of the problem. While science can tell us a lot about why there are fewer babies, figuring out what we should do about this trend requires us to bring our values into the equation.

  • EGMT 1520: Sounds from the Digital Jungle

    Michele Zaccagnini

    EGMT 1520: Sounds from the Digital Jungle

    Instructed by Michele Zaccagnini

    What is the difference between computers and musical instruments? Can computers be performers or composers? These are pressing questions that cannot be answered in abstract but only with an inside look at music making in the digital age. This course is an exploration of sound, its physical principles, perceptual underpinnings and how it can be understood and manipulated by computers. We will build synthesizers, drum machines, generative musical algorithms, explore randomness and noise while getting a good understanding of the fundamental tools of digital audio.

  • EGMT 1520: In-Consciousness- How We Know Who We Are

    Erin Clabough

    EGMT 1520: In-Consciousness- How We Know Who We Are

    Instructed by Erin Clabough

    This course offers a neuroscience perspective about altered states of consciousness and methods or portals to access them, including meditation, sound and vibration, breathwork, lucid dreaming during sleep states, and the power of intention. This engagements course will challenge assumptions about who you are and provide concrete tools for exploration and movement toward a more conscious awareness of self. What is consciousness? How have humans historically interacted with consciousness states? Why does our current scientific paradigm have a hard time supporting and explaining these phenomena? The experiential nature of this course will explore traditional and new portals to access various states of consciousness and discuss the limits of science in exploring consciousness activities, pulling from ideas in quantum physics, medicine, culture, and religion.

  • EGMT 1520: Can a pill make you happy?

    Kelly Dunham

    EGMT 1520: Can a pill make you happy?

    Instructed by Kelly Dunham

    What is depression? How were antidepressant drugs discovered? How do they affect the brain? Why do they only work for some? Over the past few years, more people are exploring mental health treatments. However, many cannot frame depression or antidepressants in scientific terms in discussions. In this course, we will create an empathetic framework to talk about depression and antidepressants. We will investigate the history of diagnosing depression and examine different classes of antidepressants, how they are alike and different, and current scientific research that suggests how they work in the brain. Students can investigate new therapies, including micro-dosing ketamine. Students will explore and discuss how history, government, sociology, and science overlap. At the end of this course, students will be able to investigate data to develop their unique conclusions on mood-altering drugs and their use in society. Ultimately, students will become skilled with how to discuss mental illness and antidepressants with others and appreciate current scientific research on this important topic.

  • EGMT 1520: His-stery of Science

    Adema Ribic

    EGMT 1520: His-stery of Science

    Instructed by Adema Ribic

    If science is empirical, why does it matter who does it? When we picture a scientist, why are they almost always men? History is packed with accounts of female scientists from ancient Egypt and Greece, and yet… someone says “genius”, and we think Einstein and not Curie (Marie). Through debate teams, this course will examine empirical evidence and historical accounts about how major scientific discoveries were made and who, in fact, made them. Through group discussions, this course will identify historical constraints and barriers to equal access and representation in science. Finally, through creation of new Wikipedia entries about female scientists, this course will actively contribute to reducing the gender gap in Wikipedia’s science biographies.

  • EGMT 1520: Humanizing Mathematics

    Sara Maloni

    EGMT 1520: Humanizing Mathematics

    Instructed by Sara Maloni

    What is Mathematics? What do you think is the purpose of learning Mathematics? What connections do you see between doing Mathematics and being human? Which virtues do you acquire by doing Mathematics? We’ve all heard the phrase “I am not a math person”. Maybe we even used it ourselves. In this class, we will argue that there’s no such thing as “not a math person”: if your brain can process language, it can handle math. We will try to overcome the narrow, but widespread idea of Mathematics as an isolated discipline built on repetitive, dry formulas, and only intended for a small elite group. In other words, we will understand Mathematics differently. To develop our answers to the motivating questions, we will discuss facets of Mathematics that are not always emphasized: the search for beauty, symmetries, and hidden patterns; the aspiration to truth and logic soundness; pure curiosity, exploration, and play. This broader idea of what can constitute Mathematics is much closer to the way that Mathematicians think and shows how Mathematics cultivates virtues essential for human flourishing. We will explore all the human virtues that Mathematics builds and its connections to other fields, such as visual arts, music, literature, architecture, politics, social justice, history, among others. We will have the opportunity to connect to Mathematicians whose work touches other fields, and we will document these newly discovered aspects of Mathematics in a final project and in a diary of our journey together.

Engaging Differences

  • EGMT 1530: Treaties, Power, and Time

    Christian McMillen

    EGMT 1530: Treaties, Power, and Time

    Instructed by Christian McMillen

    Beginning in the 17th century American Indian people have engaged in the act of treaty making with first the British and then the Americans. These treaties are hallmarks of the encounter between radically different peoples; they still have legal power today. How are legal documents negotiated hundreds of years ago, in completely different historical contexts, where the differentials of power constantly shifted, interpreted now?

  • EGMT 1530: Depictions of Difference

    James Seitz

    EGMT 1530: Depictions of Difference

    Instructed by James Seitz

    This course will examine how various writers and performers depict what makes them different. As we’ll learn, depicting our differences involves careful decisions about what to include or exclude, and how to engage our audience. Are we as different as we think we are? How do we respond to differences in others? In what ways do our identities rely on similarity as well as difference? These are some of the questions we’ll explore while reading, viewing, and composing depictions of difference.

  • EGMT 1530: Who Dressed You?

    Marcy Linton

    EGMT 1530: Who Dressed You?

    Instructed by Marcy Linton

    Fashion has been utilized as a tool for common good, moving both culture and the individual toward empowerment, influence, self-identification, and community bonds, but also as a tool of power and privilege to segregate, distinguish, demoralize, and repress human subjects. This course will examine how societal imposed dress codes and self-expression have effects on human responses. In this class, you will... 1. Explore fashion in its richness and complexity, as a mechanism of self-expression. 2. Recognize how fashion has been used to create and challenge social inequities. 3. Consider how expressing our differences through fashion, we develop and experience bias, discrimination, exclusion, or acceptance. 4. Understand how dynamics of fashion can shape how difference works in the world.

  • EGMT 1530: Making Enemies

    Jo Adams

    EGMT 1530: Making Enemies

    Instructed by Jo Adams

    Legend has it that as the French atheist Voltaire lay on his deathbed, a priest urged him to denounce Satan. “Now, now, my good man,” Voltaire responded, “this is no time for making enemies.” But who would have been doing the “making”—Voltaire or Satan? This course explores how and why we create, define, and demonize our enemies on multiple scales: the personal, the political, the national—even the internal. How do we decide who or what deserves our distrust and disdain? What motivates or compels us to make this decision in the first place? Are we hardwired to have biases? What purpose do enemies serve? Do they help us forge identities or friendships? Can having enemies be beneficial to living a meaningful life, or does it just feel good? And what should we do with our enemies once we’ve made them? Love them? Persuade them? Ignore them? We’ll explore these questions through multiple disciplinary perspectives, tackling representations of “the enemy” in literature, fine art, and the media; social psychology research on prejudice, enmity, and popularity; the neuroscience of negative and positive emotions; and secular and religious attitudes toward empathy, communication, and love.

  • EGMT 1530: Sovereignty In a Time of Slavery

    Allison Bigelow

    EGMT 1530: Sovereignty In a Time of Slavery

    Instructed by Allison Bigelow

    As Europeans invaded Africa, Asia, and the Americas between 1492 and the twentieth century – an extended period of colonialism that remains ongoing – they developed sophisticated legal theories, political philosophies, and religious frameworks to justify the unjustifiable taking of others’ lands and lifeways. Many of these theories were written by men whose investments in African and Indigenous slavery gave them the time and space to develop, ironically, universal definitions of human rights. How should we read these texts? What do we learn by studying them alongside Indigenous theories and practices from Turtle Island, Mēxihco Tenōchtitlan, and Michoacán? How can we use lessons from history to shed light on current debates like just warfare and Indigenous data sovereignty? These are the kinds of questions that we will explore together in the next seven weeks. By the end of the class, you will have a more nuanced understanding of Native American governance, European political theory, and the relationship between early modern globalization and our own time.

  • EGMT 1530: Selective Memory

    EGMT 1530: Selective Memory

    Instructed by

    From the Bible to the monuments in Charlottesville, selection determines what is enshrined and what is left behind. Be it through deliberation or by accident, a necessity or an artistic choice, processes of selection elevate certain stories in our collective memory while all but ensuring others are forgotten. In ancient societies, remembering is often considered a virtue, akin to life, connection, and even immortality; while forgetting is associated with demise, death, and decay. But is forgetting really such a bad thing? Is it possible for forgetting to be a positive, formative force? Are memory and forgetting really opposite processes? In this seminar, we will explore the selectivity inherit in memory and the productive potential of forgetting—the ways in which overwriting, erasure, loss, and, at times, recovery drive cultural creativity. By looking at what has been left out, we will observe how forgetting has shaped our past and how choosing what is remembered reveals our priorities and values. We will look at specific case-studies of selective memory and ask: Who gets to tell the story and who decides where it begins? Who determines which voices are included and which are omitted.

  • EGMT 1530: Taboo and Transgression

    Alex Wolfson

    EGMT 1530: Taboo and Transgression

    Instructed by Alex Wolfson

    The idea of something that is too repulsive or too sacred for ordinary life to withstand is one of those slippery ideas that is both very common and yet hard to get a firm of grasp on. Starting in the late 19th-century, the word taboo was used to describe these prohibitions. This concept became a central one for theorists from a wide range of academic disciplines. All kinds of thinkers, from psychoanalysts and anthropologists to philosophers and poets, began to study these prohibitions as a means to formulate their ideas of what separated human civilization from the natural world. This course uses the concept of taboo, and the transgression of these taboos, as a way to pose a series of questions: 1) what kinds of rules and regulations shape the world we live in, 2) how do these prohibitions produce and negotiate human difference, 3) how and why is there inequality in the enforcement of these rules, 4) why are taboos so often attached to sexuality and sexual difference, 5) what dangers, and what possibilities, are inherent within the concept of transgression? We will navigate a wide historical and cultural field to examine how these concepts produce challenges in our communication across cultural boundaries but can also be instrumental in the formation of communities and offer the possibility of new, and perhaps more egalitarian, social arrangements. The course is divided into four sections. Each section is themed, with the intent of building up a shared set of terms and ideas. Our work will be interdisciplinary in nature, both in terms of the academic disciplines of our readings (from psychoanalysis, philosophy, critical race theory, queer theory, anthropology, trans studies, etc.) but also through our engagements with various genres, using fiction, film and the visual arts.

  • EGMT 1530: Solidarity Beyond the Hashtag

    EGMT 1530: Solidarity Beyond the Hashtag

    Instructed by

    This course asks students to consider what it means to commit to issues facing those who are different from yourself, moving beyond simple gestures and feelings of empathy towards complicity and collaboration. This is a question that has been at the heart of some of the most important social movements on the American continent and beyond. In this course, we will consider examples of solidarity movements throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century that attempted to cross boundaries of nation, language, race, ethnicity, and gender. We will look to individual actors in those movements who built their lives around their solidarities, and we will consider the many artistic works –– such as murals, films, posters, and poems –– that these movements inspired. As we ask the question of what it means to act in solidarity, we will also consider the potential pitfalls of these movements, analyzing when solidarity crosses over into meddling, over-identification, and simplistic comparisons.

  • EGMT 1530: Food for Global Feminist Thought

    Francesca Calamita

    EGMT 1530: Food for Global Feminist Thought

    Instructed by Francesca Calamita

    What do global feminism and food have in common? Why are food and gender often interrelated? How does food contribute to politicized discourses on a wide range of bodies and bodily identities? What could eating disorders have in common with the patriarchy? Could food help with escaping social roles and constraints? In this course we will focus on close readings of the symbolic meaning of food across a variety of countries and cultures in in-translation narratives, films, TV series and advertisements – with an emphasis on materials created by women and minorities – addressing broader issues of gender, identity and politics of the body. Reflecting on a variety of cultural products from around the globe helps us to understand the complex role of food and food-related-activities in our life. An intersectional feminist approach will frame class discussions and several sessions on the current issues related to gender and food, such as eating disorders and orthorexia, will be included.

  • EGMT 1530: Town & Gown

    Jalane Schmidt

    EGMT 1530: Town & Gown

    Instructed by Jalane Schmidt

    University towns are dynamic communities where the presence of an institution of higher education can bring benefits of innovation and economic growth. But university towns also have some of the highest rates of income inequality and educational disparity. This Difference Engagement Seminar will focus on instances of the latter and examine the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as a case study. The course will introduce students to their new home town, with particular attention to UVA’s historic role in defining, exacerbating, and trying to mend racial inequality.

  • EGMT 1530: Africa Is Not a Country

    EGMT 1530: Africa Is Not a Country

    Instructed by

    What is “Africa,” and what do we think we know about the African past? The idea of “Africa” holds a powerful constellation of ideas and representations in the Western imaginary that have little to do with the actual history and people who inhabit this vast, diverse continent. In the words of Achille Mbembe: “more than any other region, Africa thus stands out as the supreme receptacle of the West’s obsession with, and circular discourse about, the facts of “absence,” “lack,” and “non-being,” of identity and difference, of negativeness—in short of nothingness.” Mbembe 2001:4). In this course, we will examine colonial and postcolonial approaches to how Africa has been imagined as a place of difference across time and space and critically examine how these ideas continue to circulate in popular culture, media, film, science, literature, and international development. Topics we will focus on include the intellectual legacies of colonialism, poverty and international aid, “ethnic” and “religious” conflict, portrayals of “Africa” in American and European film and media, the looting and marketing of African art, Pan-Africanism, and Afrocentricity.

  • EGMT 1530: Global "Development" - The Great, the Good & the Ugly

    Muhammad Tayyab Safdar

    EGMT 1530: Global "Development" - The Great, the Good & the Ugly

    Instructed by Muhammad Tayyab Safdar

    This course explores the meaning of global ‘development’. What does it mean to be developed, and how did ‘development’ become a universally accepted idea? Are there different views on what it means to be developed, and how do mainstream actors engage with these differences? To answer these questions, we unpack the historical idea of development by comparing the developed to those considered ‘underdeveloped.’ We will explore the context in which this concept of development gained traction and legitimacy and became popular as a hegemonic idea. We will investigate and critique the different models to promote development in developing countries and discuss some of the actors involved. Lastly, we will look at alternate locally grounded conceptions of development and local views on what it means to be developed. We will understand the interaction between these more localised views on development and the mainstream hegemonic global development concept.

  • EGMT 1530: Reading UVA

    EGMT 1530: Reading UVA

    Instructed by

    In this course, we’ll think about how literature works to create concepts of identity and belonging, by reading major U.S. authors connected to our own University. In short and excerpted works by Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, and Rita Dove, we will chart the construction and contestation of categories such as “American,” “Virginian,” “southern,” and “The University of Virginia.” Students will get an introduction to the significance of UVA in U.S. literary history, as well as getting hands-on experience in Special Collections, which houses one of the most important collections of American literature in the world.

  • EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony & Nation

    Lisa Woolfork

    EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony & Nation

    Instructed by Lisa Woolfork

    What do the American Revolution and Black Lives Matter have in common? What happened between the 1776 declaration that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” and the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that the black man had "no rights which the white man was bound to respect?” In what ways can the 1950s era civil rights slogan, “I Am A Man,” be considered a declaration? What’s required to connect Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson or Baltimore to colonial resistance to the king sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance?”[1] As a component of a series of scholarly engagements, this course is committed to cultivating an approach to human differences that can serve as a basis for critical inquiry and civic participation. This course is concerned with the ways in which racial differences shape American history, life, and culture.  In particular, we will frame our questions using the metaphor of the colony and the nation. The prevailing story of America is one of transformation from a colony into one nation, as its people transformed from subjects to citizens. Yet, the transformative properties of American democracy were racially precise: white freedom co-existing with/based upon black subjection. How does racial difference inform our view of America today? How might the American Revolution be considered incomplete? What aspects of our racial divide can be explained by the colony versus nation metaphor? How did/do ethics, science, media and creative expression reflect the idea that our nation is not so “indivisible” after all? These are the type of questions and conflicts that interest this course. Through close reading, shared experience, small group work, and other assignments, this course encourages you to craft, share, and discard your interpretations of the ever-growing collection of cultural narratives and social experiences marked by white supremacy, racial difference and/or bias. [1] The Declaration of Independence.

  • EGMT 1530: Encounter the World Through Collected Objects

    Wendy Smith

    EGMT 1530: Encounter the World Through Collected Objects

    Instructed by Wendy Smith

    This course will examine how objects can be used to shape (or distort) our understanding of other cultures, and how stories about societies, nations, and ethnic groups are formed around collections of objects and artworks. This way of encountering others can illuminate the differences and similarities between cultures and result in a deeper, more tangible connection across humanity that yields greater appreciation and understanding. However, there are also several challenges in this process. Museums are generally how we access objects from cultures and civilizations from around the world. How do museums handle objects that were stolen or looted? How do displays confront or enforce racial stereotypes? What aspects of a society are being highlighted or hidden and how does this change the story being told about them and our engagement with them? How do those in power represent those without power? How do those without power represent themselves? In this course we will learn to distinguish how objects have been used in museum collections, exhibitions, and displays to tell stories about various groups of people. We will learn to detect gaps in what is presented. We will recognize bias in the presentation of objects from other cultures. We will engage with the questions museums are struggling with today: Can we display objects from other cultures without our own cultural bias? How can voices from other cultures be represented in the display of their art/artifacts? What does it mean for these objects to speak for themselves? From paintings, textiles, tribal masks, Chinese vases, and ancient sculptures and sarcophagi to looted menorahs and slave shackles, we will see how objects can tell us about their creators, users, and collectors. We will reflect on how some of our own possessions can reveal aspects of our identity, as well as doing hands-on work to examine how historical objects have been used to tell the story of UVA.

  • EGMT 1530: Planetary Discards

    Ishani Saraf

    EGMT 1530: Planetary Discards

    Instructed by Ishani Saraf

    This course will delve into the commonplace yet complex worlds of the thrown away, and by extension, the excluded, and the marginal. We will explore how processes of discarding are central to making, conceiving, and maintaining difference; how these processes are also central to making the self and identity; and how these processes are particular and historical and entangled in power relations. We will explore habits like going to the bathroom and use-and throw consumption as cultural phenomena; the production and movement of different wastes across the planet and the forces and relations that make them possible; and practices of waste management, protest, art-work, and forensics that encounter, manipulate, and mobilize the material and symbolic properties of different kinds of discards. Students will engage with a number of concepts and methods to explore and analyze these complex worlds of which they are a part, and that are a part of them.

  • EGMT 1530: Talking Trash

    Lean Sweeney

    EGMT 1530: Talking Trash

    Instructed by Lean Sweeney

    How much do we clean and why? How close will we come to filth, grime and refuse, and when? Do we see people and places as “polluted”? Talking Trash asks students to investigate the origins of their own divisions of the world, examining how their classifications of things as disposable informs their politics, identity, behavior and sense of space. We will use our distinct conceptualizations and uses of “trash” to frame our discussions of the categories we create and the notions of difference we produce. Placed within the context of philosophical, anthropological, medical and political treatments of filth and virtue, danger and purity, disposability and preservation, life and afterlife across time and cultures, we will examine the ongoing politics and industries surrounding dumping and sorting; conduct archeological analysis of our own trash; and learn to make art from once discarded refuse.

  • EGMT 1530: The Public University

    EGMT 1530: The Public University

    Instructed by

    This course critically considers the institution of the public university, an educational ideal that dates back to the Enlightenment and continues through to the public and governmental debates of the present. Visions of the public may conjure up universality, yet they also define populations and interests. And there are different perspectives on the role of education, for a full life in the world, for national or other kinds of citizenship, and/or for professionalization. What becomes clear is that the university is both an actual place and an idea, mapped and conceived, and always open to revision. In the spirit of debate, we will engage questions of accessibility, inclusion, place, profit, and politics as we ponder the history of institutions in the United States and all over the world, and differences therein. In a neoliberal moment, can the divide between “the private” and “the public” be maintained, and what are the responsibilities of those who study and work at universities like UVA that self-present with the mission of serving the common good? No less importantly, how is the work inside the university, and its particular mix of humanistic and scientific inquiry, shaped by what lies outside of it? Readings for the course will span philosophy, history, literature and sociology, and students will be encouraged to engage in different forms of research.

  • EGMT 1530: Enacting Difference

    Matthew Skwiat

    EGMT 1530: Enacting Difference

    Instructed by Matthew Skwiat

    This class considers how difference and otherness have been embodied and enacted dramatically, cinematically, and visually across time. We will consider questions like how has otherness been understood throughout history? What ideas, actions, and methodologies have shaped cultural and social understandings of gender, race, and sexuality? How have these representations impacted our world and society? In an attempt to answer and decipher these questions, Enacting Difference turns to the theatrical and visual arts in exploring how otherness in all of its myriad forms has been defined and challenged throughout history. We will focus on how playwrights, directors, and actors have given shape to, subverted, and explored what it means to be different. In the process, this course will consider enactment as both an acting out and perpetuation of gendered, racial, and sexual stereotypes and a reclamation and dismantling of these very same tropes. Throughout the course students will also engage with a number of dramatic and cinematic genres from comedy, satire, and melodrama to musicals and tragedies.

  • Selective Memory

    Rebecca Bultman

    Selective Memory

    Instructed by Rebecca Bultman

    From the Bible to the monuments in Charlottesville, selection determines what is enshrined and what is left behind. Be it through deliberation or by accident, a necessity or an artistic choice, processes of selection elevate certain stories in our collective memory while all but ensuring others are forgotten. In ancient societies, remembering is often considered a virtue, akin to life, connection, and even immortality; while forgetting is associated with demise, death, and decay. But is forgetting really such a bad thing? Is it possible for forgetting to be a positive, formative force? Are memory and forgetting really opposite processes? In this seminar, we will explore the selectivity inherit in memory and the productive potential of forgetting—the ways in which overwriting, erasure, loss, and, at times, recovery drive cultural creativity. By looking at what has been left out, we will observe how forgetting has shaped our past and how choosing what is remembered reveals our priorities and values. We will look at specific case-studies of selective memory and ask: Who gets to tell the story and who decides where it begins? Who determines which voices are included and which are omitted.

  • EGMT 1530: Passages of Hope and Survival

    EGMT 1530: Passages of Hope and Survival

    Instructed by

    This course places contemporary experiences of migration, refuge, and asylum at the heart of critical inquiry. In this light, and motivated by one's Hope for a better future as well as one's mere attempts of Survival, the Passages we'll encounter shall consist not only in geographical and physical journeys, but also in metaphoric and reflective materials. Encompassing both the intellectual and experiential, our own rite of passage will alternate between the seemingly familiar "local" and the remotely located "global" while engaging depictions from within -- as found in documentaries, music, vlogs, letters, and memoirs -- and responses from without -- as manifested in media reports, political platforms, and general discourse. In doing so, and while testing present encounters against our previous notions of identity, belonging, and otherness, we shall constantly strive to recognize, understand and articulate the Differences that asylum, migration, and refuge make in our own, immediate world.

Ethical Engagement

  • EGMT 1540: The Business of Being Born

    Patrice Wright

    EGMT 1540: The Business of Being Born

    Instructed by Patrice Wright

    o This course explores the ethics of assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs) as technological advances and burgeoning world markets expand the possibilities for creating new life. In the course, students will explore four ethical big questions.1) Is reproduction a personal decision, made after one is aware of the ‘birds and the bees’? Or is that decision affected by existing social policies, technological advances, and access to resources? 2) How do technological advancements in fertility treatments perpetuate social inequalities? How does access to assisted reproductive technologies shape the composition of the population? 3) How do people experience fertility and infertility? Is one identity more shameful than the other? 4) What role should the federal government play in oversight of fertility services, and access to ARTs? Enrolled students will pursue these questions over the course of seven weeks and dive into the murky waters of what is “right”, “wrong” or “iffy” but acceptably in the usage of ARTs.

  • EGMT 1540: A History of Religion(s) at UVA

    Janet Spittler

    EGMT 1540: A History of Religion(s) at UVA

    Instructed by Janet Spittler

    Thomas Jefferson famously founded the University of Virginia as a university with “no professor of divinity,” the first university in the USA not to include religious education and the training of ministers as part of its curriculum. Today, the University of Virginia is home to the largest Religious Studies department in the country. In this course, we’ll take an historical look at the presence and absence of both the practice of and study of religion, in its many forms, on UVa’s Grounds, from the beginnings to the present day. We will use this historical exploration to raise ethical questions about religion(s) on Grounds. What roles should religion play at a university that understands itself to be both “great and good”?

  • EGMT 1540: Seven Great Questions

    EGMT 1540: Seven Great Questions

    Instructed by

    What is justice? What is freedom? What is happiness? This is a course for those who have questions about what life is all about, what it means to live well, and how to think critically and creatively about the future. For instance: Is justice getting what you deserve? Has your education freed your mind or hammered you into conformity? If we can use CRISPR to engineer highly intelligent, beautiful people, should we do so? We’ll explore these questions and more.

  • EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    David Walsh

    EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    Instructed by David Walsh

    The world is flat. Vaccines cause autism. Climate change is a hoax. So is coronavirus. The deep state is conspiring against the president. The Mafia assassinated JFK. No, it was the CIA. Or LBJ. Or was it the Soviets and Fidel Castro? No matter what we think we know about politics, culture, or even the basics of science, there is a conspiracy theory to tell us that, actually, that’s all wrong and what “they” want you to think. Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? What makes something a conspiracy theory? How do you recognize a conspiracy theory when you see one and how do you evaluate its claims? Contrary to popular belief, conspiracy theories are not simply the province of the naïve, foolish, or uneducated; we will look at how conspiracy theories serve as a way for people from all walks of life to make sense of a complicated and often baffling world. In this class, we will consider these questions while examining a number of different conspiracy theories in detail, ranging from old classics like the Knights Templar and alien autopsies to new favorites like Pizzagate, QAnon, and whatever 2021 sees fit to throw at us. We will also think about how conspiracy theories are created and disseminated, particularly in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where anyone who claims to know the truth about anything can find others to subscribe to their views. Given the importance and sheer proliferation of conspiracy theories in our world, how should we respond when we encounter them? And, in an age where we can watch new conspiracy theories form quite literally in real time online, what are our ethical obligations toward the conspiracy theories and conspiratorial thinking we see in our own social, political, and cultural lives?

  • EGMT 1540: You Are Who You Meet - The Ethics of Friendship

    Benjamin Bernard

    EGMT 1540: You Are Who You Meet - The Ethics of Friendship

    Instructed by Benjamin Bernard

    This class surveys the ethics of friendship in historical perspective to explore how we make friends and the role they ought to play in shaping who we are and how we live. Consider your own friends: how can a single word encapsulate so many different relationships? What is a friend? What are they for? And how do our friends shape us? The course will survey some interesting answers to those questions from people crafting many different modes of making and staying friends. Friendship is one of the oldest topics in ethics, yet we continue to remake that tradition in new ways as we live through the epochal transformations of the internet age, social media, and a global epidemic. We will consider how these ethical traditions align with your own experiences. Gen Z is often referred to as the most connected generation, but also the loneliest: our class will assess those claims. (Cover image: Eustache Le Sueur, Réunion d’amis, c. 1640, oil on canvas, 136 x 195 cm, Paris, courtesy of the musée du Louvre.)

  • EGMT 1540: Making Medicines Good

    Brooks Pate

    EGMT 1540: Making Medicines Good

    Instructed by Brooks Pate

    Facing the challenge of maintaining prosperity at the end of World War II, America introduced a new system to harness the power of science for the public good. The key idea was using public funds to perform “basic research” in the nation’s universities to create a steady stream of scientific advances for commercialization by private industry. This course explores how the system transformed drug development and the pharmaceutical industry and will grapple with the fundamental question: Does the pharmaceutical industry serve the common good? The US system has generated many amazing success stories for the development of effective medicines to improve public health. The role that drug development played in two global health crises - the emergence of the AIDS in the 1980s and the recent COVID-19 pandemic – will be considered. However, there are also conflicts built into the American model for scientific development that produce ethical issues related to prescription drug approval, access, and use. For example, how does the profit motive of private industry limit or undermine the public good? Recent examples include misleading marketing that encouraged large scale prescribing of opioid pain medication and industry encouragement of doctors to prescribe their medicines for uses that are not FDA approved (known as “off label” uses). There are also ethical issues that arise from relying on a market-based approach to deliver scientific advances in pharmaceutical chemistry to the public. On example is the existence of “orphan drugs” – effective medicines that treat rare diseases but are unavailable because the size of the patient pool cannot support a commercial drug production effort. The course will look at public and private efforts in the Commonwealth of Virginia to meet this challenge in drug access. The most important pragmatic question is: How should the system be changed to deliver increased benefits to society? Current ideas in public policy to improve the efficiency of translating scientific discovery into new medicines and to increase access to effective medicines on a global scale will be discussed.

  • EGMT 1540: Should You Chain Yourself to a Tree?

    Kevin Rose

    EGMT 1540: Should You Chain Yourself to a Tree?

    Instructed by Kevin Rose

    Although recent polling data shows the majority of Americans agreeing that climate change is a “major threat,” there is less agreement on how to actually address the problem. Calls to reduce our individual carbon footprints are commonplace, but so are the responses from climate strikers that responsibility should fall on Big Oil and its allies in DC, making these calls for individuals to focus on their lifestyle choices a form of victim blaming. In this course, we’ll examine these and other competing visions of climate action. In the first half of the class, we’ll look at the history of environmental activism to understand why mainstream environmentalism since the 1980s has focused on individual consumer choice, as opposed to the collective civil disobedience that prevailed in the 1960s and early 1970s. In the second half, we turn to contemporary debates about what must be done—engaging with everyone from the oil execs calling on people to reduce their own carbon footprints to the writer and filmmakers behind a recent, provocative call for people to start learning How to Blow Up a Pipeline.

  • EGMT 1540: The Ethics of Representation

    Laura Goldblatt

    EGMT 1540: The Ethics of Representation

    Instructed by Laura Goldblatt

    How do we represent the nation? What can the images on state-generated media tell us about diversity, equity, and justice? In this Ethical Engagement, we will turn to U.S. postage stamps released during the twentieth century to discuss the relationship between politics and their representation. In doing so, we will consider how figurative renderings of the nation can advance, or stymie, social aims.

  • EGMT 1540: Sci-Fi Ethics

    Eric Hilker

    EGMT 1540: Sci-Fi Ethics

    Instructed by Eric Hilker

    How can entering the divergent worlds of science fiction help us better understand what it means to do the right thing or live a good life? Sci-Fi is a genre of literature that develops important ethical questions, imagines different possibilities for society, and challenges the boundaries of what is human. Doing so, science fiction can help us question what we have taken for granted in our own life and society: What values do we use to navigate moral dilemmas? What stories have shaped our own idea of a good life? How do we encounter others that are not like us? The course is divided into three units with distinct (though overlapping) themes. In the first unit, we consider works of science fiction that pose interesting moral dilemmas. These stories will raise issues of free will and determinism, power differentials and equality, and the ethical value of language. In the second unit, we see how science fiction often tells familiar stories in unfamiliar contexts. Seeing these common narratives (and resistance to them) can help us become responsible for the assumed narratives of our own lives (and perhaps imagine other possibilities). In the third unit we look at works that blur the line between human and non-human—stories of aliens, androids, biotech, and zombies. Here we ask questions about what it means to be human and how we should encounter those who are different.

  • EGMT 1540: Are You a Stoic

    Inger Kuin

    EGMT 1540: Are You a Stoic

    Instructed by Inger Kuin

    How should we deal with setbacks and disappointments? What is the meaning of friendship? And how should humans prepare for death? These kinds of questions are central to the philosophical school called Stoicism, which dates back to ancient Greece but still has many followers today. In this class we will read the writings of some ‘old’ Stoics (Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca), some ‘new’ ones (Ryan Holiday, Nancy Sherman), and of critics of both. Students will explore the Stoic outlook on major themes like freedom, religion, justice, and our relation to our bodies. While doing so, they will formulate their own responses to the Stoics through in-class conversations and individual reflections. Practicing a form of collaborative philosophical inquiry, we will examine how each of us would answer the core question that Stoicism revolves around: how to live a good life?

  • EGMT 1540: Reality Film (v.1)

    Roberto Armengol

    EGMT 1540: Reality Film (v.1)

    Instructed by Roberto Armengol

    Long before there was reality TV, there was documentary film. And the first documentary films were ethnographic — they tried to capture the stories, the behaviors, the cultures, of real people. From the Lumière brothers’ 1895 reels of French workers leaving their manufacturing jobs to Netflix’s 2019 American Factory, we’ll explore some of the most famous, and most controversial, motion pictures about real people. Together, we’ll watch, read, discuss and write (a little bit) about a new film each week. We’ll ask: Is ethical documentary possible? And if so, under what conditions? Broadly speaking, our conversations will address the problem of representation in any form — and maybe even offer some insight on contemporary “reality” shows.

  • EGMT 1540: How Do We Remember?

    EGMT 1540: How Do We Remember?

    Instructed by

    In this ethical engagement we examine and discuss how we use monuments to remember. That is, for what values do we inscribe words in stone and set aside places of veneration? Ours will be a journey that will take us from the ancient world to modernity, from the Capitoline Hill of Rome to the UVA Lawn. Students will have the opportunity to visit and offer their thoughts about locations on grounds, as well as to design a monument of their own.

  • EGMT 1540: This is My Body

    EGMT 1540: This is My Body

    Instructed by

    Too many of us treat our bodies like cars. We fuel ourselves—often as inexpensively as possible—and we take ourselves to get checked out when we’re worried something might be up. But, if for some reason we wake up to find our cars don’t start, we can get a new one, or look for other alternatives. That is not the case when it comes to our bodies. This course invites students to meditate on the fact that we live our lives in bodies—these strange assemblages of flesh, blood, and bones. What limitations does our embodiment set upon us? What possibilities does it create? Through the seven weeks of this course, we will pay attention to the ways the world we live in shapes our bodies and the way we navigate that world. We will think about the ways our bodies are formed particularly given our experiences of gender, race, disability, and trauma. We will not only think about the ways our bodies are shaped, but also what we ought to do with these bodies that we inhabit. We will think about what we owe—if anything—to those who made our bodies in the first place. And we will learn about our obligations to care for our bodies and thereby to care for those around us.

  • EGMT 1540: The Soul at Work

    Tal Brewer

    EGMT 1540: The Soul at Work

    Instructed by Tal Brewer

    What will you do with yourself when you are done with college? If you’re like most people, you’ll spend an enormous proportion of your waking hours at work. When we think of how we might spend these hours, we rarely neglect to consider how much we might hope to make. But we do not always stop to ask just what our work might make of us. This latter question is the guiding topic of this course. We will read and discuss some of the most influential writings that have been penned over the last two centuries about modern forms of work and the cumulative effects they can have on our character, our values, and our relationships with our fellow human beings. Among the questions we will ask are: How much of our time and effort should we devote to paid work? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the kinds of work that you might do, and the work that others have to do that you might live your life? What sorts of power relationships obtain in the workplace, and are these relationships consistent with our equal freedom and dignity, or otherwise conducive to our flourishing? Have we, as a society, arrived at a skewed balance between work and leisure – one that enriches us in material terms while impoverishing us in other important respects? What would it take for work to be just and meaningful, and how might we bring it about that we ourselves and others are able to engage in such work?

  • EGMT 1540: Plastic Everywhere

    Gertrude Fraser

    EGMT 1540: Plastic Everywhere

    Instructed by Gertrude Fraser

    “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.” This line from the 1967 film The Graduate captured 20th century promise surrounding this new class of flexible materials. Derived from the Greek plastikos, to mold or form, plastics freed design from the constraints of natural materials. First derived from and imitating biological materials, then later made from petrochemicals seemingly untethered from nature in manner and form, polymeric materials represented a new kind of freedom and flexibility. Over time, plastics became so prevalent in nearly every aspect of life—food, clothing, shelter, high performance materials, medicine, and devices—that we barely notice them. That is, until recently, when their burgeoning waste and ubiquity have become cause for growing alarm: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Mae West the synched-waisted snapping turtle, dead fish and birds’ bellies swelled with plastic mistaken for food; microparticles in our waterways from personal care products and laundry microfibers, and in the Alps and Arctic snow by air; in our soil, food, bottled water, bodies and more. Additionally, plastic chemicals—certain monomers, additives and solvents—can be toxic, causing endocrine disruption impacting metabolism, brain function, sexual development and fertility, and other diseases. Some communities are impacted more than others, particularly industrial fence-line communities dubbed sacrifice zones or countries flooded with waste. But with plastics detected in remote locations and chemicals accumulating in our bodies, it seems that no one, nowhere is immune. How did this happen? What can we do about it? Is recycling the answer, bans on single use plastic, plastic bags and straws? Or degradable and renewable materials? These questions and more will be explored in Plastic Everywhere. Human intersections with plastic lifecycles will be investigated from individual, community, and global perspectives, across macro, micro and molecular scales. The ethics of extraction and disposability, environmental health and justice, and sustainability and stewardship will be considered.

  • EGMT 1540: Political Myths - Then and Now

    Vasfiye Toprak

    EGMT 1540: Political Myths - Then and Now

    Instructed by Vasfiye Toprak

    Political myths have been associated with authoritarianism, illiberal and populist regimes. Typically understood as political stories used to mobilize populations, political myths are easily dismissed as “false” stories only serving the purpose of political leaders to gain power. This course takes a critical approach to political myths, going beyond whether these stories hold truth value or not, and aims to interrogate why political myths exist and why they appeal to people. In the first part, through a critical analysis of historical and contemporary political myths, we will explore how these stories function as a means of legitimizing power, building national identity, and defining social norms. Through close reading of texts, visual media, and political performances, students will explore the ways in which political myths have existed and still exist in our society. The second part of the course will delve into more ethical questions about political myths serving as a source of one’s notion of what it means to live a good life and to reflect on political myths we hold. We will ask: are political myths only political? The course will focus on different countries, periods, and political regimes such as the founding of the European Union, founding myths of nation-states, the American Dream, the myth of the Aryan race, Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism in Turkey, and political Islam in the Middle East.

  • EGMT 1540: Climate Change and the History of the Future

    Brian Owensby

    EGMT 1540: Climate Change and the History of the Future

    Instructed by Brian Owensby

    Climate change is here. We know beyond doubt that human systems are affecting planetary processes, with consequences spanning generations, centuries, and millennia. Our sense of time is jumbling. We must think about the effects of climate change on the great-great-great-great grandchildren of those alive today, and beyond them, and simultaneously about the immediate suffering hundreds of millions, even billions, as global climate transforms. “Progress” will not save us. And who is “us” anyway, given that present action or inaction will affect humans and nonhumans into the distant future, even as the immediate consequences will fall most heavily on those who have done little or nothing to bring this crisis on? While the risks are clear, we have more questions than answers about how to respond. How can we know that climate change is upon us and yet fail to act with the purpose and speed required to avoid worst effects? What do we make of persistent climate denial? Have we become collectively stupid? What does this say about “rationality?” Are we at a civilizational turning point? Such questions are the stuff of science, economics, and politics. They are also a matter of moral and ethical inquiry. Climatologists can tell us how planetary systems work. Policy makers can propose solutions, or at least approaches. But they do not speak to values, how we think about them and how we consider human and non-human others in the story we are just beginning to tell of climate disruption. This is history on the march. Yet we have no broad consensus on what must be done, by whom, or at what pace, even as every year of delay worsens long-term prospects. Are individual actions pointless? What is it that makes concerted action in the face of existential risk so difficult? While we can accept intellectually that change is upon is, what would it be to accept it emotionally? Is optimism necessary for action? Do we need to become very afraid? Part of the challenge is the scale of things. What do global capitalism, economic growth, the fossil fuel industry, and consumerism have to do with it all? Is “degrowth” or “steady-state economics” an answer? Or are we condemned to more of the same? Is it possible to lead a good life in the era of climate change amidst mass suffering? What would it be to respond compassionately to millions of climate refugees? What about the fact that we are experiencing a sixth mass extinction event? Perhaps we need a different sense of historical time. Do future lives (human and non-human) matter less than our immediate desires? Can we learn to be good ancestors? Does the Anthropocene (the term proposed for a new geological age in which humans shape Earth systems) affect how human societies think about time? Does it help to consider our moment and coming years as the history of the future? This course will ask such questions through the ideas and visions of scientists, historians, journalists, novelists, ethicists, activists, and filmmakers to suggest how important it is that as many of us as possible learn to talk knowledgeably and passionately about what scholars have called “the perfect moral storm.” During our 7 weeks, you will: • Become conversant with climate change as a broad, scientifically-established phenomenon. • Learn about the idea of the Anthropocene as a scientific term with moral, social, and political implications. • Learn the sources and reasons for climate change denial. • Learn to recognize, criticize, and make ethical and political arguments regarding climate change. • Seek points of historical comparison that might speak to the magnitude of the challenge humanity faces. • Consider how people across the planet may experience the reality and threat of climate change very differently, according to race, gender, class, and nationality. • Learn to talk about climate change as an existential challenge. This course will be driven by conversation and will emphasize oral presentation and argumentation. • Think about what “historical time” is in relation to climate change and consider whether “historical consciousness” might be reframed as a way of thinking about Earth-Human (Terran?) history.

  • EGMT 1540: ~decadence~ The Ethics of Excess

    Benjamin Bernard

    EGMT 1540: ~decadence~ The Ethics of Excess

    Instructed by Benjamin Bernard

    Can gluttonous overindulgence—too much of a good thing—really lead to social decay? Does sexual libertinism really lead to civilizational decline, as moralizers have long insisted? If so, how? Are luxury products and even art itself ethical pursuits for some people, if others lack subsistence? How, and under what circumstances, can appearances, ornaments, and extravagances—the fancy and the frivolous—actually be good for us as individuals and as a society? Which desires are virtuous (“it just feels right”) and which ones are vices (“guilty pleasures”)—and how do we tell the difference? This interdisciplinary seminar considers the fraught relationship between ethics (inner virtue) and aesthetics (outward appearances) through the concept of “decadence.” The term refers to seemingly disparate phenomena: the historical period of the fall of Rome; baroque aesthetics; Gilded Age wealth inequality; Revolutionary attitudes towards women’s power; gender deviance and sexual minorities including LGBTQ people; and much more. In each case, cultural commentators have bemoaned corruption and loss. But what, specifically, was supposedly decaying? What can narratives about collapse tell us about those commentators themselves? 2 (Perplexing convergences abound: for instance, what is the significance of the observation that authoritarian dictators and queer dandies can both favor a “decadent,” ornamented style?) To answer such questions, the course examines the concept of “decadence” drawing on methods from intellectual history, literary studies, art criticism, economics, and moral philosophy. Through reading, writing, and discussion, we will become attuned to narratives of historical change (growth and decay) as well as concepts that lie on the juncture of, and thereby challenge, our preconceptions about what is beautiful, what is good, and how the beautiful and the good do or don’t relate to each other. We will spend our time together building in preparation for a final class project that will take the form of a multipolar debate.

  • EGMT 1540: Science and Politics

    EGMT 1540: Science and Politics

    Instructed by

    More often than not, science is intertwined with religion and politics. This course will provide students with an opportunity to study the entanglement of science, religion, and politics, and how they have driven national and international policies. Examples will include Galileo’s affair, Evolution, the Imperial Japanese Army's Unit 731, Nazi Germany's eugenics, the syphilis experiments in Guatemala, and the Manhattan project and nuclear weapons. Truth, reality, ethics and the anthropology of those involved will be examined in several exemplary cases. Books, movies, videos, memoirs, and case studies will be used as course materials. The class is open to scientists and non-scientists alike.

  • EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    Andrew Ferguson

    EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    Instructed by Andrew Ferguson

    The world is flat. Vaccines cause autism. Climate change is a hoax. So is coronavirus. The deep state is conspiring against the president. The Mafia assassinated JFK. No, it was the CIA. Or LBJ. Or was it the Soviets and Fidel Castro? No matter what we think we know about politics, culture, or even the basics of science, there is a conspiracy theory to tell us that, actually, that’s all wrong and what “they” want you to think. Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? What makes something a conspiracy theory? How do you recognize a conspiracy theory when you see one and how do you evaluate its claims? Contrary to popular belief, conspiracy theories are not simply the province of the naïve, foolish, or uneducated; we will look at how conspiracy theories serve as a way for people from all walks of life to make sense of a complicated and often baffling world. In this class, we will consider these questions while examining a number of different conspiracy theories in detail, ranging from old classics like the Knights Templar and alien autopsies to new favorites like Pizzagate, QAnon, and whatever 2021 sees fit to throw at us. We will also think about how conspiracy theories are created and disseminated, particularly in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where anyone who claims to know the truth about anything can find others to subscribe to their views. Given the importance and sheer proliferation of conspiracy theories in our world, how should we respond when we encounter them? And, in an age where we can watch new conspiracy theories form quite literally in real time online, what are our ethical obligations toward the conspiracy theories and conspiratorial thinking we see in our own social, political, and cultural lives?

  • EGMT 1540: Mindful Decision-Making

    Sandra Seidel

    EGMT 1540: Mindful Decision-Making

    Instructed by Sandra Seidel

    Are you interested in increasing your kindness, generosity, and resilience? Living an ethical life of service to others? Building your capacity for attention and focus? Drawing on contemporary mindfulness practices, this engagements class will ask you to think, carefully and mindfully, about how automatic reactions, specific situational circumstances, and bodily states affect your behavior in ways that are consistent or inconsistent with your personal values. Human beings live in relation to one another. Our human interconnectedness suggests that ethical engagement is inevitable and that ignoring conflict and controversy is itself an ethical decision. This course will teach you observe not only the world around you but also yourself in relation to it. And it will challenge you to leverage these new skills to make ethical decisions deliberately and thoughtfully instead of automatically and thoughtlessly. Ultimately, we'll reflect on the meaning of a "good life" informed by a desire to serve others.

  • EGMT 1540: To Be or Not to Be? The Ethics of Existing

    Justin McBrien

    EGMT 1540: To Be or Not to Be? The Ethics of Existing

    Instructed by Justin McBrien

    To Be or Not to Be? The majority of people through history have answered that question—at least for themselves—in the affirmative. Yet the question of not-being subtlety shapes our practices of being alive. On the one hand is the question of “no longer existing”—whether a life should be removed from existence—encompassing problems such as suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty, and species extinction. On the other hand, is the question of “never existing”— whether a life should be brought into existence—encompassing topics such as population control, abortion, eco-anti-natalism, and gene editing technologies like CRISPR. How does power intervene through cultural and legal frameworks to determine who and what should not exist in the world? Who should have the right to decide when a life—human or animal—should begin or end? Is procreation an unavoidably selfish act? We will interrogate our own ethics of existing through sources ranging from Supreme Court cases, psychological studies, existentialist literature, dystopian cinema, and feminist social reproduction theory.

  • EGMT 1540: The Ideology of Slavery: A Cautionary Tale

    EGMT 1540: The Ideology of Slavery: A Cautionary Tale

    Instructed by

    White Virginians enslaved people of African descent from 1619 to 1865. During that time, they constructed social, legal, and economic structures that protected and strengthened enslavement. In the process they destroyed families and lives and damaged cultures and societies. Today we look back and wonder: how could they sleep at night? And how could people like Thomas Jefferson, who made ethically sound contributions to the nation’s founding, also freely choose to engage in a practice that was so deeply unethical? Finally, how did the ideology that justified slaveholding continue to affect American life even after slavery itself was abolished? This course will explore how ideology shapes the actions of people and communities in the past and today. As we examine the twists and turns of slaveholders’ ideological justifications for their actions, we will apply that understanding of the role of ideology to the political, economic, and social issues important to students today. Students will be required to select an issue that is resonant for them and use the course to dig into the ideological assumptions behind multiple sides of that issue. This course is applied history; a cautionary tale about the ways in which individuals and communities justify their oppression of others. It challenges students to critically examine the ideological arguments around them.

  • EGMT 1540: Do We Still Have Faith In Democracy?

    Bruce Williams

    EGMT 1540: Do We Still Have Faith In Democracy?

    Instructed by Bruce Williams

    *Note: Since this class satifies both EGMT 1530 (Differences) and EGMT 1540 (Ethics), students must enroll in both Fall Session 1 and Fall Session 2 quarters. Democracy is currently face daunting challenges in the U.S. and around the world.  Authoritarian leaders and populist parties have undermined democratic values across the globe, including Brazil, Hungary, Algeria, Poland, and the United States.  In the U.S., there are attempts to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. Practices of gerrymandering and unethical campaign finance undermine citizen’s interests in representative government. In Charlottesville, especially in the wake of events of August 2017, questions have been raised about the responsiveness of local government to the needs of its citizens and the city’s failure to protect the safety of those who protested against the actions of self-admitted racist and fascist groups. In the midst of these challenges, do we still have faith in democracy and, if so, why?  Must we have faith in democracy in order for it to succeed?   What do we mean by faith?  How might the resources of democracy itself (its ideas and its practices) help societies respond to these crises? This course examines the character of democracy: What is a democracy and what distinguishes it from other forms of governments? What are the practices of democracy and the role of education in preparation for democratic participation?  What does it mean to be a citizen of a democracy and who counts as a citizen? What are the challenges and opportunities of pluralism (religious, cultural, racial, political) to the life of democracy? A major goal of the class is to prepare students to connect questions about democracy to the different settings they will encounter in their years at UVA, from the classroom to the many social and political situations they negotiate. In addition to reading assignments and short papers, students will be required to move out of the classroom and select, observe and reflect upon a real-life instance of democratic politics in action (e.g., city council meetings, school board meetings, and so forth).     

  • EGMT 1540: God Told Me To

    Creighton Coleman

    EGMT 1540: God Told Me To

    Instructed by Creighton Coleman

    This course raises enduring questions about religion and tolerance in democratic societies. Historically, a wide range of political actors, from anti-slavery abolitionists to insurrectionists on January 6th, have named divine inspiration as their motivation for political decisions. Often religious traditions guide how these figures speak and interpret their own divine calling. What, though, does it mean to share life with someone who is appealing to supernatural experience when you do not share that experience? Drawing on historical examples where experience of the divine directly motivated political action, students will consider what it means to live with radical religious difference. Students will apply and become familiar with multiple theoretical lenses such as tolerance, strict exclusion of religion from politics, and communitarian proposals. As an engagement in ethics, this course ultimately invites students to consider: In a democratic society, what does it mean to live well with others? What should we expect from others and what are we willing to give in return?

  • EGMT 1540: The Data Ethics of Tiktok

    Aynne Kokas

    EGMT 1540: The Data Ethics of Tiktok

    Instructed by Aynne Kokas

    Using the case of TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, students will examine urgent ethical questions about social media, technology, and privacy globally. The course explores the international consequences of US-based companies and the US government having ignored data regulation in favor of the explosive and unchecked growth of Silicon Valley. It explores how China is emerging as the major shaper of global information and technology governance, in part through the United States' lack of attention to internet policy. Finally, The course invites students to identify ways to mitigate ethical, economic, and security issues resulting from the data trade between the US and China.

  • EGMT 1540: Enforcement

    Alex Wolfson

    EGMT 1540: Enforcement

    Instructed by Alex Wolfson

    This class examines the concept of ‘enforcement’ from different perspectives and from various disciplines, genres, and media. From parents enforcing household rules, to the legitimacy of the police, we will ask how conflicting ideas of enforcement alter and determine the way we think about issues such as regulation, agency, and power. We will examine whether all possible social arrangements include an element of enforcement? If they do, what does that say about human social relations? If not, what would a society without enforcement look like? Is enforcement something to be overcome, or a necessary aspect of human social existence? The class will begin with an examination of various philosophical accounts of discipline and punishment, as well as historical analyses and cultural artifacts—from contemporary issues such as face-mask regulations to more long-standing issues such as the enforcement of norms through popular culture. Using this shared background, we will engage ethical questions that concern race, gender, and sexuality. We will be guided by questions concerning different theories of ‘enforcement’ as a concept, in order to examine, in a concrete way, the social and political experience of enforcement in the world today. We will, for example, use our theoretical readings to develop explorative projects concerning different elements of enforcement in the ever-changing political landscape of our contemporary era.

  • EGMT 1540: The Way We Play

    Caleb Hendrickson

    EGMT 1540: The Way We Play

    Instructed by Caleb Hendrickson

    One of the first things we learn to do as children is play. We all come from play. Yet, we tend to think of play as trivial, frivolous, and sometimes bad. In this class, we take play seriously (though not too seriously, of course). The way we play, whether in serious or silly ways, shapes our worlds and ourselves. How has play formed you? How do you play now, as a student at UVA? Do we in modern society work too much and play too little (or vice versa)? Or, is play an element of everything we do – including work, religion, politics, education. If this is the case, then it would seem important that we learn how to play well, if we wish to lead good and fulfilling lives. How do we learn to play well? How can play go wrong? In this class, we will explore play by doing, by playing games, playing roles, and playacting. Throughout the class, we will reconsider the idea that play is inherently frivolous or without purpose. Students should come ready to play, reflect, and discover.

  • EGMT 1540: The Traveler's Dilemma

    Erin Eaker

    EGMT 1540: The Traveler's Dilemma

    Instructed by Erin Eaker

    #vanlife, study abroad, cruises, wildlife safaris, voluntourism, eco-tourism, wellness retreats… For many people travel is an essential part of a life well-lived. In this class, we’ll explore why and how people travel, the role of travel in the ethically good life, and the ethical complexity of different forms of leisure travel—particularly in the context of ecological crisis and global inequality. Students will be encouraged to develop their own personal ethos of travel.

  • EGMT 1510: Punching Up

    Erik Fredner

    EGMT 1510: Punching Up

    Instructed by Erik Fredner

    Satire makes the powerful feel weak and the weak feel powerful. It points out what we dare not think or know. By showing how absurd power can be, satire suggests that our world can be otherwise. American satire skewers distinctions of race, gender, and class as self-contradictory, yet undeniably real. Satire can be poignant, too: As we all know, laughter sometimes ends in tears. In this course, we read major American satirists writing since the Civil War, including María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Mark Twain, Anita Loos, George Schuyler, Dorothy Parker, Paul Beatty, and Ling Ma. Students will learn about these authors’ texts and their contexts, focusing on how form and content conspire to produce satirical effects. Satire exemplifies both literary writing and the pleasures of reading. It can persuade, provoke, and unsettle us. Víktor Shklovsky famously argues that literature “defamiliarizes” us with the world. Perhaps no genre is more committed to Shklovsky’s sense of defamiliarization than satire.

  • EGMT 1510: If Statues Could Speak

    EGMT 1510: If Statues Could Speak

    Instructed by

    The statues on Grounds have stories to tell, but, often, they are buried. In this course, we will experiment with strategies for representing this contextual information using art, design, digital media, and performance. Using these aesthetic means, we will explore the possibilities for creating and critiquing these statues’ meaning for ourselves and for our shared community.

  • EGMT 1510: The Art & Politics of Dreaming

    Kevin Duong

    EGMT 1510: The Art & Politics of Dreaming

    Instructed by Kevin Duong

    Dreams have long offered a resource for art and radical politics. At times associated with the voice of the gods, ancestors, nature, or the Fates, dreams have helped critics question their society and its rules. In our modern world enthralled with empiricism or hard-nosed realism, however, dreams can seem trivial, even useless. Why dream when you can work? This class invites students to consider otherwise. We will revisit the art and politics of dreaming by returning to the twentieth century poets, painters, and photographers who took it most seriously: the Surrealists. These men and women did not consider dreams frivolous. They saw in dreams an opportunity to rethink the limits of science and to critique the routines of modern life, especially market exchange, sexual repression, and bureaucracy. Though we will study Surrealist words and images, we will also follow their examples and see where they take us. The class will put together a small multimedia exhibition for the wider public. By engaging in Surrealist activity together, we will try to answer its famous question: “Can’t the dream be used in solving the fundamental problems of life?”

  • EGMT 1510: The Art of Walking

    William Wylie

    EGMT 1510: The Art of Walking

    Instructed by William Wylie

    The history of human beings is a history of walking, of migrations of peoples and cultural exchanges. This course will examine some of the manifestations of walking as a purposeful and creative practice. Rather than a comprehensive history, we will look at specific examples where the act of walking is a conscious choice for artistic, political, religious or environmental objectives. If we think about an act as an aesthetic tool that generates meaning, then the deliberate choice to walk can be seen as an expression that creates value. Each session we will consider the work and activities of individuals or groups who have engaged with and documented the act of intentional walking.

  • EGMT 1510: Videogames and Videography

    Andrew Ferguson

    EGMT 1510: Videogames and Videography

    Instructed by Andrew Ferguson

    Recent years have seen vast advances in not only the technological capabilities of videogame systems, but also in the types of stories that such games can tell. In this class, we will explore Kentucky Route Zero, one of the most critically renowned and culturally resonant games of the past decade, and we will capture those explorations in the forms of a weekly play log, a print or digital zine, and a short video essay. Each week we will play through and discuss one of the game’s five Acts, and we will also work between class and the Robertson Media Center on basic skills and techniques for video editing. Our inquiry will conclude with a celebratory screening/exhibition of the class’s video essays and zine art. No prior technical knowledge is assumed or required, though access to a Mac or PC laptop with Steam installed is strongly recommended (it is also available on most contemporary consoles, though the experience changes a bit on each). All other programs besides Kentucky Route Zero itself will be free to download and install.

  • EGMT 1510: Time and Memory in the Arts

    Wendy Smith

    EGMT 1510: Time and Memory in the Arts

    Instructed by Wendy Smith

    We have all experienced a long-forgotten memory suddenly triggered by something seemingly ordinary: a taste, a smell, a song that brings the past rushing back. How do artists, composers, and filmmakers utilize this phenomenon of sudden, involuntary memory to create art? In this course we will ask: How do artworks manipulate the depiction of the passing of time? How reliable are our memories, and does implementing timelines in storytelling make our narratives more or less reliable? In what different ways do both personal and public spaces facilitate the process of remembering? How have artists sought to capture the fleeting nature of time through painting, and how have they sought to freeze time in photography? How does repetition in music incite memory to help structure a four-hour opera? How are words and names used strategically as an efficient way to conjure up memories? Is there such a thing as present time, or is there only past and future?

  • EGMT 1510: Art In and Out of Place

    Christa Noel Robbins

    EGMT 1510: Art In and Out of Place

    Instructed by Christa Noel Robbins

    Does it matter where a cultural artifact is encountered? Does moving a work from one place to another alter its value, meaning, or function? From early twentieth-century theories of artistic “autonomy,” which claim that works of “fine art” should maintain their value and significance across time and place, to current legal and policy debates regarding the repatriation of looted objects to their cultures of origin, we will study practical and theoretical approaches to the value of being in and out of place in a global context. We will consider these various theories of place in relation to our immediate surroundings, thinking about the placement and framing of cultural objects and historical sites on Grounds and throughout Charlottesville, as well as visiting several local collections such as the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, and the Fralin Museum of Art.

  • EGMT 1510: How to be Creative

    EGMT 1510: How to be Creative

    Instructed by

    What is creativity, and how does it relate to innovation and originality? What does it take to be creative? Is creativity a quality someone is simply born with? Could it be cultivated by anyone by actively engineering certain conditions? This course explores the concept of creativity through multiple disciplinary lenses, including art, psychology, engineering, anthropology, and philosophy. By understanding what happens in our embodied minds when we engage in creative thinking or action, we will be able to identify some ways in which we can consciously prod ourselves towards innovation and originality. We will try our hands at all sorts of challenges, physical or conceptual, to experiment with. Note that while this course is part of the Aesthetics engagement, it is not an art class and applies generally to all disciplines and life.

  • EGMT 1510: Aesthetics of Hunger

    Eli Carter

    EGMT 1510: Aesthetics of Hunger

    Instructed by Eli Carter

    Nearly one billion people suffer from hunger. Not surprisingly, depictions of hunger are everywhere: from advertising, fashion, and film to literature, music, and painting. In this course, we will focus on symbolic constructions of “hunger” in a diverse selection of aesthetic objects from the Global South. We will learn to “look” closely, carefully, and critically. We will also consider some of the ways aesthetic objects might challenge or reproduce structures that shape our society and our understanding of hunger. To this end, we will explore such questions as: What constitutes an aesthetic object? How might we look at, contemplate, analyze, and interpret such an object? What and how do the aesthetic objects under consideration contribute to our understanding of the world we live in?

  • EGMT 1510: Death, Hell, Judgement

    Deborah Parker

    EGMT 1510: Death, Hell, Judgement

    Instructed by Deborah Parker

    This Engagement course will offer a close reading of Dante’s Inferno, the most intricate portrayal of the afterlife ever written. We will explore Dante’s presentation of Hell, its inhabitants, his self-presentation, the relationship between sin and punishment, political division in Dante’s Italy, and the visual material the poem has inspired. Students will learn strategies for analyzing poetic texts, artistic images, and how to compare texts and images. You will learn how Dante imagines hell, characterizes its inhabitants, and portrays the relationship between sin and punishment. The course will help you develop strategies for analyzing literary and artistic works, offer guidelines on how do a close reading of an article, refine writing of papers, and familiarize you with the dynamics of artistic adaptation.

  • EGMT 1510: Getting It: Art and Attunement

    Jessica Swoboda

    EGMT 1510: Getting It: Art and Attunement

    Instructed by Jessica Swoboda

    Do you get it? In this course, we will study and analyze what it means to get—or become attuned to—various types of art objects: paintings, movies, music, TV shows, and books. Attunement refers to the experience we have when we fall in love with a movie, feel in sync with a song, or become absorbed in a book. What causes these types of experiences? What are the various factors that shape them? How can experiences of attunement forge different types of relations? We will put different theoretical accounts of attunement—from psychologists and philosophers, literary scholars and art historians, novelists and memoirists—in conversation with examples from our own lives, thinking about how analyzing these moments can them help us better understand ourselves, others, and the world in which we live.

  • EGMT 1510: Strange Sensations

    Paul Dobryden

    EGMT 1510: Strange Sensations

    Instructed by Paul Dobryden

    In this course you will explore the ways that art can make the world seem strange. By manipulating how things look, sound, or feel, art and literature can disturb the familiarity of everyday life and offer new ways of perceiving what one usually takes for granted. Through attention, reflection, and creative work you will become attuned to the possibilities for enjoyment and critical thought offered by art that looks at the world from odd angles.

  • EGMT 1510: The Monstrous Aesthetic

    Matthew Skwiat

    EGMT 1510: The Monstrous Aesthetic

    Instructed by Matthew Skwiat

    Monsters have and continue to hold a powerful effect on our thoughts and imaginations. Yet, what exactly is a monster? What can they tell us about the society they grew out of and why do they continue to thrive today? Can they be manifestations of ourselves and cultures or are they otherworldly and inhuman? Throughout this Engagements course, we will study the aesthetics of monstrosity and the ways artists and thinkers have envisioned and defined what it is to be a monster throughout human history. We will critically and theoretically study the monster across a number of artistic mediums, from painting and music to fiction and film. Throughout the class, students will encounter a number of different monsters both in class and around Charlottesville, and get a chance to research and present on a monster of their own.

  • EGMT 1510: Living Labyrinths - how fungi can teach us to be musical

    Michelle Kisliuk

    EGMT 1510: Living Labyrinths - how fungi can teach us to be musical

    Instructed by Michelle Kisliuk

    This Engagement course explores creative intersections between human expressive culture and organic processes, especially emerging understandings of the importance of underground mycelial networks to global ecosystems. We will explore both the social worlds that surround a burgeoning, countercultural citizen science knowledge movement in the West, and the creative practices of indigenous African forest people who have deep cultural understandings of these kinds of processes. With hands-on (and voices and bodies on) we will delve into how fungi can model creative processes, and experience how cultural knowledge of structured improvisation mirror the flexible networks that ceaselessly remodel themselves in the natural world – skills that humans must cultivate to remediate our environmental and social crises. Readings will include: Entangled Lives: How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures (2020) by biologist Merlin Sheldrake, and selections from the writing of poets, anthropologists, naturalists, and other creatives including Gregory Bateson and Robin Wall Kimmerer. Walking outside, as well as listening to and viewing recordings and films and singing together will be part of our curriculum.

  • EGMT 1510: Feasting! The Culinary Side of Religion

    Philip Tite

    EGMT 1510: Feasting! The Culinary Side of Religion

    Instructed by Philip Tite

    Everyone eats – even the gods! When people eat together, they create commensal moments (“eating at the same table”) of shared experiences and values. Food is a multi-sensory experience – it evokes all of our senses! We see, smell, taste, hear, and touch food. Our aesthetic experiences marinate religion and culture with all our senses; by “consuming religion” people ingest their religious and cultural heritages. This course will nourish us with experiences of creating food, analyzing food and foodways, appreciating the artistic performance of religion through food as both symbolic and literal object as we savor a comparative study of religious traditions. Our focus is global, yet local, with diverse flavor notes allowing us to taste the lived, experiential role that food and foodways play in religious communities. Cooking, presentation, and ritual are all artistic expressions of values, ideologies, and identities.

  • EGMT 1510: Sounds of Resistance

    Liza Sapir Flood

    EGMT 1510: Sounds of Resistance

    Instructed by Liza Sapir Flood

    This class explores the aesthetics of resistance in social and political life, emphasizing sound. We will rely on a broad understanding of “resistance,” from street protests to campaign theme songs to Super Bowl performances. Likewise, “sound” will refer primarily to music, but will also include other audible outputs of voices, bodies, and environments. Students will consider how sounds can straddle and influence the intimately connected domains of the aesthetic and the sociopolitical. We will ponder questions such as: how does sound mean? Is sound capable of provoking social change? How do people draw on their own experiences to interpret what they hear? How can the same song or sound inspire some to love and others to hate? Can sound be used as a weapon? How can sound foster inclusivity or exclusivity, or allow individuals to heal, motivate, resist, or change? We will attend public events in the area to enhance our studies. Importantly, students will examine their own engagements with sonic and musical resistance and will complete self-designed projects that allow them to experiment with sound’s capacities to engage in social action.

  • EGMT 1510: In Sync

    Jiajun Yan

    EGMT 1510: In Sync

    Instructed by Jiajun Yan

    Have you ever wondered why poetry rhymes? Or why we dance to music? Or why the muted palette of an old master painting looks so beautiful? A sequence of words are lined up and tied together by their congruent sounds; the movements of the body are amplified by the undulating beats; the different shades of aging burnt umber form a harmonious landscape — everything, seemingly unrelated at first, comes together, and generates a moment of being in sync, a moment of beauty. Now, what if we try to bring two very drastically different fields together, that is, math and art, and observe how they can become in sync, how is that possible? How do we do that? How will we feel if we succeed? We will try to address these questions in this course by drawing inspirations from literature, visual arts and mathematics, as well as creating our own examples where math and art come together, exploring and analyzing the implications of aesthetics provided by these examples, how they affect our understanding of beauty and truth. Everyone will be deemed a curious artist from day 1.

  • EGMT 1510: The Art of Illness

    Bridget Reilly

    EGMT 1510: The Art of Illness

    Instructed by Bridget Reilly

    We often think of sickness as an embodied event that can be empirically measured and physically treated. But illness also lives in art, and disease is a cultural as well as a biological event. For example, in the nineteenth century, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death that manifested (and still does) in violent symptoms—lung hemorrhages, dramatic weight loss, etc. The disease impacted most communities living and laboring shoulder-to-shoulder in poorly ventilated spaces, like tenements and factories. Yet it was memorialized in novels and paintings as a fashionable illness that struck “saintly” bourgeois women without wrecking their bodies. Indeed, surveying tuberculosis’s appearance in Victorian art, one might conclude that the illness marked the “best” members of society, too good for earthly mire, for membership in the next world, just as its representational grammar reinforced class hierarchies and gendered norms. In this course, we will explore a variety of artistic representations of maladies, disorders, and plagues in order to become acquainted with the cultural lives of illness. We will consider how aesthetic forms mediate bodily experience, and how physical ailment might impact art. As a class we will ask: What aesthetic conventions undergird seemingly “natural” or “pathological” phenomena? How have literature, painting, and performance informed medicine and vice versa? How might artistic depictions of illness inflect our personal, social, and political worlds?

  • EGMT 1510: Living with Images

    Caleb Hendrickson

    EGMT 1510: Living with Images

    Instructed by Caleb Hendrickson

    It is commonplace, even cliché, to observe that the modern world is awash with images. “There are too many images. Too many cameras,” laments the photographer Robert Frank. “If all moments of life are recorded, then nothing is beautiful.” Is Frank right? Are we smartphone-carrying bipeds so flooded by visual images that we cannot recognize the beauty of life as we live it? Has our immersion in images dulled our moral conscience? Has it distorted our perception of reality? Or, are these worries just another instance of “moral panic” or “technophobia”? After all, images are not new. We have been living with images for millennia, and worrying about them for just as long. In this class, we attempt to gain a critical perspective on our relationship with images. Why do images enthrall us? Why do we occasionally want to reach out and touch them—even kiss them? Why do we sometimes want to smash them? Do we trust images? Should we?

  • EGMT 1510: The Art of Looking

    Francesca Fiorani

    EGMT 1510: The Art of Looking

    Instructed by Francesca Fiorani

    In this class you will learn tools and strategies to look, understand, enjoy, and write about art--no matter how much or how little you know about art and its histories. You will focus on the first-hand experience of art through selected case studies from different periods and world regions, but you will also spend considerable time actively looking at art in person: in the UVA Art Museums, at Special Collections, around grounds and in Charlottesville. You will learn a handful of core strategies and skills that can help you enhance the experience of looking at art. With these skills, you can encounter any work of art—regardless of media, artist, or period—find some resonance with your own experiences, and discover and reflect on the fundamental pleasure of looking at art.

  • EGMT 1510: The Poetry of Love

    Mehr Farooqi

    EGMT 1510: The Poetry of Love

    Instructed by Mehr Farooqi

    Poetry of Love What is love? How is it articulated? Is love devotion? Is love passion? What are the different forms of love? The object of desire may be human, divine, abstract or ambiguous; its defining trait is its inaccessibility. We will answer some of these questions by turning to the ghazal, a poetic form that has been central to Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish and Urdu traditions since the twelfth century. This course builds on creative and cross-disciplinary knowledge from South Asia and beyond. Knowledge, musicality and performance will be the cornerstones of this aesthetic engagement. We will read some of the best classical Urdu and Persian ghazals in English translation and watch them in performance. We will experience the space between poetry and performance. We may discover ghazals in English. We will explore the different possibilities of interpretation, cultural biases, and worldview that impact ghazal poetry.

  • EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of the Everyday

    Lydia Brown

    EGMT 1510: The Aesthetics of the Everyday

    Instructed by Lydia Brown

    What are the aesthetic possibilities of a single day? How can the boring, banal, habitual, or ordinary details of everyday life open artists and audiences alike to thought-provoking, puzzling, or even arresting experiences? In this course, we’ll ask together what “aesthetics” and “everyday” could mean as we converse with works of art across various contexts and disciplines, including Kendrick Lamar’s album good kid, m.A.A.d city, Elif Batuman’s novel The Idiot, Clara Peeters’ still-life paintings, and Emily Dickinson’s envelope (and receipt, and scrap-paper) poems. We’ll ask ourselves how to engage with dailyness, mundanity, and forgettable details, pondering too how our own senses of attentiveness and observation color what we consider art at all. Ultimately, we’ll learn why it might matter to be an arbiter of the ordinary, which you’ll practice by contributing to your own working archive of everyday details, writing working definitions of “the everyday,” and crafting a self-designed final project with the support of a small group, which could be an essay, art piece, or presentation.

  • EGMT 1510: The Sound of Physics

    Israel Klich

    EGMT 1510: The Sound of Physics

    Instructed by Israel Klich

    It is perhaps little known (certainly amongst physicists) that Vincenzo Galilei, father of Galileo Galilei, himself the father figure of physics and the scientific method, was an accomplished lute player and composer. Assisted by his son, Vincenzo Galilei, through elaborate experiments, developed one of the earliest physical theories of vibrations and acoustics, later much elaborated by 18th and 19th-century physicists. Vincenzo Galilei also authored "Della musica antica et della moderna", one of the first books on music theory. Thus, the lute, a 16th century ancestor of the modern guitar, has played a crucial role both in modern physics as well as in the development of music! In this class we will explore similarly fascinating connections between music and physics, both historical and conceptual. We will learn about the mathematics and physics of sound from its relation to planetary motion by the ancient Greeks to modern approaches, the production of sound and the psychoacoustic effects associated with it and about concepts of physics from synchronization to symmetry breaking and how they appear within music and explore how they can be creatively represented within music.

  • EGMT 1520: Memes on Earth

    Lauren Miller

    EGMT 1520: Memes on Earth

    Instructed by Lauren Miller

    The story of Earth is written in stone. The landscapes on which we walk, those beneath the ocean, and all the rocks and minerals, record Earth’s vast history that can be decoded with geoscience knowledge, analyses, and tools. You will make memes to share with your friends the richness of Earth’s history as will delve into bizarre events of the past 4.56 billion years, such as a times when the planet froze over, bacteria created an oxygen-rich atmosphere that we enjoy, and (non-bird) dinosaurs went extinct. We will explore how to read the archives of Earth’s history and place modern landscapes and Earth changes into a longer-term context beyond what we can glean from anthropological records and modern Earth-observing scientific instruments.

  • EGMT 1520: Updates Available!

    Cynthia Tong

    EGMT 1520: Updates Available!

    Instructed by Cynthia Tong

    The world is rapidly changing with new information being pushed to us every day. Our society and the problems within it evolve over time. The outdated conclusion may not apply to today anymore and the current findings may not apply in the future. How do we take advantage of the prior knowledge we preserve? How do we understand the new data we observe especially if they are inconsistent with our prior knowledge? When updates are available, how do we combine the new information with our old data? In this course, we will develop our answers to the motivating questions by learning and understanding the idea of Bayesian methodology. We will explore the dynamic procedure of knowledge processing, how prior knowledge can contribute to our understanding, and how biased prior information may lead us to incorrect conclusions. We will use discussions to identify Bayesian data science issues that we are interested in at different stages of the course, use lectures to learn new concepts and tools, and use engaging activities and games in and outside of the classroom to strengthen our understandings.

  • EGMT 1520: On These Grounds - UVA's Spatial History

    Gillet Rosenblith

    EGMT 1520: On These Grounds - UVA's Spatial History

    Instructed by Gillet Rosenblith

    In this course, students will learn to use the empirical methodologies of historians in the context of UVA’s built environment. Each week will include a walking tour of Grounds based on a particular chronological moment and/or theme. We will consider what observations can we make as we move through space? How do these observations underscore or complicate evaluations of different kinds of evidence, including written documents, oral histories, archaeological finds, etc.? Students will leave this course with a better understanding of their home and place of work for the next four years as well as with the skills to engage the empirical tools historians use.

  • EGMT 1520: "Big Data" is coming for you

    Ken Ono

    EGMT 1520: "Big Data" is coming for you

    Instructed by Ken Ono

    We have entered the era of “Big Data”, where enormous data sets are collected and mined for information. Algorithms identify patterns to make predictions and design “smart” solutions in areas as diverse as banking and finance, law enforcement, marketing, and medicine. Big Data is behind the advertisements that populate social media feeds. Uber uses algorithms to determine and keep up with predicted demand. Despite the best of intentions, the explosion of Big Data in modern life has had insidious consequences (e.g. predictive policing, loan applications, to name a few). Data doesn’t die, and you can’t hide. In this engagements course we will discuss the consequences of allowing algorithms and models to run unchecked, as they can increase social inequity and also be outright wrong. How can we avoid misusing mathematical concepts? How can we avoid being wrong?

  • EGMT 1520: Humanizing Mathematics

    Sara Maloni

    EGMT 1520: Humanizing Mathematics

    Instructed by Sara Maloni

    What is Mathematics? What do you think is the purpose of learning Mathematics? What connections do you see between doing Mathematics and being human? Which virtues do you acquire by doing Mathematics? We’ve all heard the phrase “I am not a math person”. Maybe we even used it ourselves. In this class, we will argue that there’s no such thing as “not a math person”: if your brain can process language, it can handle math. We will try to overcome the narrow, but widespread idea of Mathematics as an isolated discipline built on repetitive, dry formulas, and only intended for a small elite group. In other words, we will understand Mathematics differently. To develop our answers to the motivating questions, we will discuss facets of Mathematics that are not always emphasized: the search for beauty, symmetries, and hidden patterns; the aspiration to truth and logic soundness; pure curiosity, exploration, and play. This broader idea of what can constitute Mathematics is much closer to the way that Mathematicians think and shows how Mathematics cultivates virtues essential for human flourishing. We will explore all the human virtues that Mathematics builds and its connections to other fields, such as visual arts, music, literature, architecture, politics, social justice, history, among others. We will have the opportunity to connect to Mathematicians whose work touches other fields, and we will document these newly discovered aspects of Mathematics in a final project and in a diary of our journey together.

  • EGMT 1520: Making Knowledge

    EGMT 1520: Making Knowledge

    Instructed by

    Since the foundation of the first university in Bologna nearly a thousand years ago, universities have become a quintessential component of Western culture. In this class, we will consider a number of case studies from the rich history of the “University,” considering both how universities use empirical methods to create knowledge and raising empirical questions about concept of the university itself. Questions include: What roles have universities played in different societies? How does the structure of the institution reflect its presumptions? How do universities create, preserve, and disseminate knowledge? What is academic freedom, and why is it considered essential for discovering and telling the truth? And how should we, students and teachers of the twenty-first century, interpret its legacy?

  • EGMT 1520: Birds Aren't Real

    Ali Guler

    EGMT 1520: Birds Aren't Real

    Instructed by Ali Guler

    Conspiracy theories are everywhere. In this Empirical Engagement course we'll examine how scientific evidence is gathered, evaluated, and communicated using conspiracy theories as a lens. From the outlandish to the plausible, we'll scrutinize a range of theories and discuss factors that contribute to their spread and acceptance in society. We'll begin by investigating why "Birds Aren't Real".

  • EGMT 1520: Big Data and History

    Jennie Williams

    EGMT 1520: Big Data and History

    Instructed by Jennie Williams

    This course will introduce you to the concept of "big data as it relates to history and historical memory, specifically using the history of slavery as a lens through which to evaluate data both as a methodology and a product in and of itself. Each week will present a particular question that will encourage us to consider the promises and peris of historical data.

  • EGMT 1520: What's the Matter?

    Jessica Niblo

    EGMT 1520: What's the Matter?

    Instructed by Jessica Niblo

    Everything we can see with our naked eyes is the result of tiny particles that we cannot see doing something complex. The experiences of our daily lives; from the ice cooling your glass of water to the display on our phones, are due to tiny things in nature interacting to create the world around us. What happens when the microscopic traits don’t match the macroscopic behaviors? Are solids, liquids, and gases as simple as we think, or is there a regime in between? Why is light sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle? Does size and shape matter? Do these questions even matter for our daily lives? This class considers how the organization and collective behaviors of small particles gives rise to the world we live in, and wrestles with how we treat ideas when the microscopic and macroscopic worlds do not coincide.

  • EGMT 1520: Our Neanderthal Future

    Fiona Greenland

    EGMT 1520: Our Neanderthal Future

    Instructed by Fiona Greenland

    What can our archaic ancestors teach us about who we are and where we’re headed? We’ll investigate this question with methods and theories from archaeology and sociology. In the first three weeks, we’ll read Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex and learn the basics of archaeological methods and theories. We will study key findings regarding our ancient ancestors in Africa, Siberia, and central Asia. In the second half of the class, we’ll build a bridge between pre-history and contemporary society with texts including Barbara Adam’s Memory of Futures, Alondra Nelson’s Social Life of DNA, John Robb’s “History in the Body,” and Dan Smail’s Deep History and the Brain. These texts will be the basis for thinking about our ability as a species to cooperate in the face of pandemic, environmental change, and population movements.

  • EGMT 1520: Exploring Your Genome

    Jessica Connelly

    EGMT 1520: Exploring Your Genome

    Instructed by Jessica Connelly

    What is a genome? What can you do with your genome? How can others use your genome? In this course, you will learn about the human genome, from how it is measured to what information it contains. You will have the opportunity to take a glimpse at your own genetic information and we will discuss the implications of this knowledge. Through this course, you will gain an understanding of the profound role that the human genome plays in your life and your future. The Takeaway (what will you know 5 years from now… My hope for students upon completion of this course is the ability to discuss genetic concepts confidently with their colleagues, to know what can and can’t be done with their genetic information especially as reported by the popular press, and to use this information to guide them in making informed decisions in their own lives in years to come. And along the way, you will become empirically engaged. Our objectives this semester... By the end of this course, you will have glimpsed at the foundation of life and you will: Be able to describe and discuss the human genome and its utility in medicine and life Become curious about the ways in which you and others can use your genome Gain skills that will allow you to think about and interpret genetic data Help others better understand the use of genetic information in their future

  • EGMT 1520: Modeling Climate Justice

    Justin McBrien

    EGMT 1520: Modeling Climate Justice

    Instructed by Justin McBrien

    The growing impacts of climate disruption are further reinforcing structural inequities concerning race, gender, class, and indigeneity across the globe. Climate justice places environmental justice in a global perspective, examining how the large-scale impacts of climate change exacerbate inequities at local and regional levels, and how this process in turn combines to affect the global biosphere—a positive feedback loop with only negative consequences. Modeling Climate Justice navigates the intersection of the sciences and humanities in service of climate policy and public action. Central to the science and policy of climate change are models—in order to seek climate justice, we must use science to model what impacts climate may have on communities. This requires two steps: 1) Translating climate models and scientific data into sociological and economic analyses; 2) communicating these analyses to journalists, activists, policymakers, and the public writ large. Thinking through climate justice puts us face to face with the most urgent and complex issues surrounding climate disruption—how does the ecological legacy of imperialism, slavery, and settler colonialism place a disproportionate burden of these impacts on nations of the Global South and marginalized communities in the Global North? What institutions and strategies of global governance are needed to address these issues in a democratic and equitable manner? What are our obligations to the rights of future generations? What is it that we can do now, as individuals and communities, to combat climate injustice? We cannot answer these questions without the science of climate change, but the science of climate change cannot in itself provide a solution. Ensuring climate justice is one of the great interdisciplinary tasks of our generation—everyone has unique knowledge and skills they bring to this problem. It is the hope of this course for students to discover how they feel they can best aid in solving this crisis. We will learn how to effectively model issues of climate justice through exercises in opinion writing, data mapping and analysis, and using basic climate models to inform policy decisions. We will do so by following the downstream process of producing climate information, from the creation of global climate models to its employment in sociological maps and data sets, and finally to its use as tools for public communication and engagement. In the first part of the course, we will focus on how scientific information about climate is produced (such as computer modeling, geochemistry, paleontology)—and how is it translated and used in sociologica modeling, policymaking, and journalism. In the second part, we will focus specifically on how this information can be used to advance causes at the intersection of social justice and climate adaptation, and how it can form public discourse and policy. We will work in collaboration with the UVA Democracy Initiative Environmental Repair Lab and its partnership with climate justice activists in Norfolk, VA. to assist in their efforts to produce the Virginia Climate Atlas.

  • EGMT 1520: Measuring Discrimination

    John McLaren

    EGMT 1520: Measuring Discrimination

    Instructed by John McLaren

    This course will explore concepts of discrimination and its measurement in hiring, housing, medical care, education, sales, and other areas. Different definitions and types of discrimination will be explored, and the main work will be learning different approaches that have been used to test for and quantify discrimination. Classic case studies such as resume experiments and the blind-audition study for orchestral auditions will be evaluated together with studies that use observational data. In a group project, you will use data from the US Census to frame and test hypotheses regarding labor-market discrimination. Through this class you will… (1) Explore different definitions and types of discrimination. (2) Learn to analyze what kinds of evidence can be useful in identifying discrimination. (3) Identify ways of testing for and measuring discrimination, and scrutinize their usefulness. (4) Explore actual data for signs of discrimination.

  • EGMT 1520: Obviously?

    Thomas Koberda

    EGMT 1520: Obviously?

    Instructed by Thomas Koberda

    All of us have been told that an argument that we have (or someone else has) made is logical, or illogical. What does it mean for an argument to be logical, or for a conclusion to be obvious? We all have intuitions for what is “an obvious consequence” as well as for what “is not obvious”. How do these intuitions come about, and why should my intuitions agree with yours? Even if they do, would they have agreed with those of Aristotle or Confucius or Avicenna, for instance? Why is it that mathematicians can (and do!) have good faith disagreements about the existence of infinity? In this course, we will investigate the cognitive and sociological processes of performing logical deductions for the purposes of creating knowledge and formulating sound proofs. Our goal is to become mindful of and attentive to the details and nuances of what is obvious and what is not, and to investigate how communities of thinkers have conceptualized the obvious throughout history and geography. By the end of this course, we will have gained experience investigating the processes of inference and deduction, and you will have learned: ● To explore varying conceptions of valid inference across intellectual traditions, cultures, and historical periods; ● To appreciate the intrinsic humanness of the intellectual endeavor that is the synthesis of knowledge and the conventional nature of what is obvious, and the fundamentally sociological function of proof and argument; ● To recognize the resulting ambiguities of our intellectualization and conceptualization of the world. During the seven weeks of the course, we will explore a large number of proofs of a particular relatively simple mathematical proposition through student-guided presentations, and we will discuss the underlying assumptions, argument structure, and power to compel. These investigations will be supplemented by readings in the history and philosophy of logic, spanning the ancient, medieval, and modern periods, and including Greek, Islamic, Indian, and Chinese perspectives on logic.

  • EGMT 1520: In-Consciousness- How We Know Who We Are

    Erin Clabough

    EGMT 1520: In-Consciousness- How We Know Who We Are

    Instructed by Erin Clabough

    This course offers a neuroscience perspective about altered states of consciousness and methods or portals to access them, including meditation, sound and vibration, breathwork, lucid dreaming during sleep states, and the power of intention. This engagements course will challenge assumptions about who you are and provide concrete tools for exploration and movement toward a more conscious awareness of self. What is consciousness? How have humans historically interacted with consciousness states? Why does our current scientific paradigm have a hard time supporting and explaining these phenomena? The experiential nature of this course will explore traditional and new portals to access various states of consciousness and discuss the limits of science in exploring consciousness activities, pulling from ideas in quantum physics, medicine, culture, and religion.

  • EGMT 1520: Can a pill make you happy?

    Kelly Dunham

    EGMT 1520: Can a pill make you happy?

    Instructed by Kelly Dunham

    What is depression? How were antidepressant drugs discovered? How do they affect the brain? Why do they only work for some? Over the past few years, more people are exploring mental health treatments. However, many cannot frame depression or antidepressants in scientific terms in discussions. In this course, we will create an empathetic framework to talk about depression and antidepressants. We will investigate the history of diagnosing depression and examine different classes of antidepressants, how they are alike and different, and current scientific research that suggests how they work in the brain. Students can investigate new therapies, including micro-dosing ketamine. Students will explore and discuss how history, government, sociology, and science overlap. At the end of this course, students will be able to investigate data to develop their unique conclusions on mood-altering drugs and their use in society. Ultimately, students will become skilled with how to discuss mental illness and antidepressants with others and appreciate current scientific research on this important topic.

  • EGMT 1520: Bones and Burials

    EGMT 1520: Bones and Burials

    Instructed by

    Can the dead speak? What can we learn about the past from bones and burials? In this course, we will examine how (bio)archaeologists gather empirical evidence and make inferences about the past through the analysis of human remains found in archaeological contexts. Bones can reveal many biographical details of an individual’s life including age, sex, diet, migration, health, stature, injuries, or disease. Artifacts and other archaeological data from burial contexts can reveal status, occupation, gender, religion affiliations, or other cultural insights. At a broader scale, mortuary practices and forms of individual or collective commemoration can also allow archaeologists to interpret the values and beliefs of a society. Yet, ethical issues related to the study of human remains are complex and have a deeply troubled history. How can human remains be respectfully analyzed and interpreted in the pursuit of scientific investigation about the past?

  • EGMT 1520: Elicitations - Drawing Things Out

    Ishani Saraf

    EGMT 1520: Elicitations - Drawing Things Out

    Instructed by Ishani Saraf

    This course explores methods of eliciting responses in qualitative empirical research and the significance of the researcher as a fundamental element of that which is being researched. In this course, students will focus on the research experience, the various relations and interactions that emerge between the researcher and the researched, and the fundamental impact of these relations on the knowledge that is gathered and produced. Many forms of empirical inquiry use elicitation to engage communities and places, to generate and collect data, and to uncover evidence of various kinds, and each of these forms frames the aims, content, and techniques of elicitation differently. Drawing on the wide-ranging use of qualitative research in the social sciences, we will frame the research process itself as contingent, dialogical, embodied, and emergent. Students will experiment with different modes of eliciting responses including participant observation, storytelling, silence, listening, interrupting, mediating, and tracing. Students will read, write, experiment, and collaborate to practice elicitation working toward a final multi-modal project. They will learn how to develop various embodied techniques to interrogate and understand the complex worlds of which they are a part, and that are a part of them.

  • EGMT 1520: His-stery of Science

    Adema Ribic

    EGMT 1520: His-stery of Science

    Instructed by Adema Ribic

    If science is empirical, why does it matter who does it? When we picture a scientist, why are they almost always men? History is packed with accounts of female scientists from ancient Egypt and Greece, and yet… someone says “genius”, and we think Einstein and not Curie (Marie). Through debate teams, this course will examine empirical evidence and historical accounts about how major scientific discoveries were made and who, in fact, made them. Through group discussions, this course will identify historical constraints and barriers to equal access and representation in science. Finally, through creation of new Wikipedia entries about female scientists, this course will actively contribute to reducing the gender gap in Wikipedia’s science biographies.

  • EGMT 1520: Embracing the Question Mark

    Olivier Pfister

    EGMT 1520: Embracing the Question Mark

    Instructed by Olivier Pfister

    We’ll engage in solving puzzles and explore how we think about that, with emphasis on everyone’s own personal process, including inevitable errors, rather than on the “correct answer.” No advanced math required! We will learn to recognize the unknown and embrace the question mark, handle our errors, discover what type of thinker we are, and eventually uncover collaborative problem solving.

  • EGMT 1520: Where Have All the Babies Gone?

    Len Schoppa

    EGMT 1520: Where Have All the Babies Gone?

    Instructed by Len Schoppa

    Why are people all over the world having fewer babies? In Japan, the population is projected to shrink by one-third by 2100. In the United States, the fertility rate is down to 1.7 (well below the replacement rate of 2.1). In Korea it’s down to 0.8. This empirical engagement class introduces students to empirical research from a wide range of disciplines (including economics, sociology, and biology) that provide partial answers to this question. Along the way, we will learn how all of these disciplines employ similar scientific methods to understand fertility trends while nevertheless highlighting distinct aspects of the problem. While science can tell us a lot about why there are fewer babies, figuring out what we should do about this trend requires us to bring our values into the equation.

  • EGMT 1520: The Marketplace of Ideas?

    Bo Odom

    EGMT 1520: The Marketplace of Ideas?

    Instructed by Bo Odom

    Why does student tuition for four-year, US colleges keep rising (at rates above inflation)? And where do all those tuition dollars go? Why do some students have to work and take out loans to attend the University of Virginia, when others don’t? What does “need-blind” admissions mean and does the University of Virginia meet full financial need for all students? How do they even calculate that? Does UVA really refer to students as “revenue generating units” (RGUs) in its bond prospectuses? Is it true that UVA’s endowment is largely invested in guns and fossil fuels? Is the university, often idiomatically referred to as the marketplace of ideas, a literal marketplace? In this 7-week empirical engagement, we will tackle the topic of higher education financing and its relationship to the mission of the university. We will draw connections and uncover relationships between the goods universities profess to convey (learning, credentials, social capital, cultural and moral development), their revenue sources (student loans, tuition dollars, state bonds, federal grants, and return on investments), and key costs drivers for higher education, including technology, debt service on construction, maintenance, infrastructure, salaries, lobbying, and (paradoxically) competition. By considering various case studies around the University—athletics, financial aid, construction, and federal grants—we will calculate, together, the dollars and cents that make the university make sense. Last, we’ll consider what it means to study at a public university largely financed by private dollars and how to follow the money to evaluate different narratives about higher education’s purpose, challenges, and burdens.

  • EGMT 1520: What a Book Is

    EGMT 1520: What a Book Is

    Instructed by

    Books facilitate learning, circulate ideas, and contain the stories that unite (and divide) societies, yet we often think of them solely in terms of their content and tend to evaluate them based on our own aesthetic preferences. In this course, we will reconsider everything we know about books and approach them as material objects that present quantifiable, observable data, which we can glean using bibliographical methods. These methods involve generating and testing hypotheses about how books are made and used, such as binding practices, printing techniques, and evidence of reader interaction. We will engage with books in a variety of forms—from rare special collections manuscripts to ebooks—and we will question how the physical components of a book work with its contents to create and spread knowledge. Using art, literature, film, and other forms of media, we will interrogate the role and reception of the material book in western society, and we will engage in embodied bookmaking practices (such as bookbinding and printing on a tabletop press) to better understand how these objects are assembled and used as well as how their material elements can be analyzed as forms of data.

  • EGMT 1520: From Language to Data

    Erik Fredner

    EGMT 1520: From Language to Data

    Instructed by Erik Fredner

    People who use a language share its words. Yet the ways we use those shared words are nearly as unique as our fingerprints. Even stranger, our distinctive patterns do not depend upon rare words, but common ones we scarcely think about using: the, a, of, etc. Using data about such words, forensic linguists can identify the author of a document accurately enough to serve as evidence in court. In this course, we study how and why we create data from language. We consider different types of texts, including transcribed speech, social media, and literature. What do we gain when we transform language into data? What do we lose? This course not only engages questions from academic fields like digital humanities and computational linguistics, but also practical questions of everyday life in the twenty-first century. Google became powerful and ubiquitous by transforming language into data. What does understanding that process teach us about how we live today?

  • EGMT 1520: Use Your Brain

    Jamie Morris

    EGMT 1520: Use Your Brain

    Instructed by Jamie Morris

    The brain is the most complex organ in the human body and the bodies of all non-human vertebrate animals. Even before we could precisely measure functions of the brain, philosophers and scientists created unique theories about the way the brain works and how it supports who we are and what we are capable of doing. Over the past couple of decades, billions of dollars have been invested to understand how the brain functions, how the brain ages, how disorders of the brain occur, and the extent to which brain function can explain how people behave. Yet, even with this vast investment of money and resources, we still know relatively little about the essential mysteries of the brain. Moreover, we still hold fast to naïve myths about brain function that may lead to false and sometimes dangerous understandings about human potential. This course is intended to challenge common assumptions about the brain and illustrate how brain science can play a crucial role in medicine, education, and society.

  • EGMT 1520: Sounds from the Digital Jungle

    Michele Zaccagnini

    EGMT 1520: Sounds from the Digital Jungle

    Instructed by Michele Zaccagnini

    What is the difference between computers and musical instruments? Can computers be performers or composers? These are pressing questions that cannot be answered in abstract but only with an inside look at music making in the digital age. This course is an exploration of sound, its physical principles, perceptual underpinnings and how it can be understood and manipulated by computers. We will build synthesizers, drum machines, generative musical algorithms, explore randomness and noise while getting a good understanding of the fundamental tools of digital audio.

  • EGMT 1530: Solidarity Beyond the Hashtag

    EGMT 1530: Solidarity Beyond the Hashtag

    Instructed by

    This course asks students to consider what it means to commit to issues facing those who are different from yourself, moving beyond simple gestures and feelings of empathy towards complicity and collaboration. This is a question that has been at the heart of some of the most important social movements on the American continent and beyond. In this course, we will consider examples of solidarity movements throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century that attempted to cross boundaries of nation, language, race, ethnicity, and gender. We will look to individual actors in those movements who built their lives around their solidarities, and we will consider the many artistic works –– such as murals, films, posters, and poems –– that these movements inspired. As we ask the question of what it means to act in solidarity, we will also consider the potential pitfalls of these movements, analyzing when solidarity crosses over into meddling, over-identification, and simplistic comparisons.

  • EGMT 1530: Sovereignty In a Time of Slavery

    Allison Bigelow

    EGMT 1530: Sovereignty In a Time of Slavery

    Instructed by Allison Bigelow

    As Europeans invaded Africa, Asia, and the Americas between 1492 and the twentieth century – an extended period of colonialism that remains ongoing – they developed sophisticated legal theories, political philosophies, and religious frameworks to justify the unjustifiable taking of others’ lands and lifeways. Many of these theories were written by men whose investments in African and Indigenous slavery gave them the time and space to develop, ironically, universal definitions of human rights. How should we read these texts? What do we learn by studying them alongside Indigenous theories and practices from Turtle Island, Mēxihco Tenōchtitlan, and Michoacán? How can we use lessons from history to shed light on current debates like just warfare and Indigenous data sovereignty? These are the kinds of questions that we will explore together in the next seven weeks. By the end of the class, you will have a more nuanced understanding of Native American governance, European political theory, and the relationship between early modern globalization and our own time.

  • EGMT 1530: The Public University

    EGMT 1530: The Public University

    Instructed by

    This course critically considers the institution of the public university, an educational ideal that dates back to the Enlightenment and continues through to the public and governmental debates of the present. Visions of the public may conjure up universality, yet they also define populations and interests. And there are different perspectives on the role of education, for a full life in the world, for national or other kinds of citizenship, and/or for professionalization. What becomes clear is that the university is both an actual place and an idea, mapped and conceived, and always open to revision. In the spirit of debate, we will engage questions of accessibility, inclusion, place, profit, and politics as we ponder the history of institutions in the United States and all over the world, and differences therein. In a neoliberal moment, can the divide between “the private” and “the public” be maintained, and what are the responsibilities of those who study and work at universities like UVA that self-present with the mission of serving the common good? No less importantly, how is the work inside the university, and its particular mix of humanistic and scientific inquiry, shaped by what lies outside of it? Readings for the course will span philosophy, history, literature and sociology, and students will be encouraged to engage in different forms of research.

  • EGMT 1530: Taboo and Transgression

    Alex Wolfson

    EGMT 1530: Taboo and Transgression

    Instructed by Alex Wolfson

    The idea of something that is too repulsive or too sacred for ordinary life to withstand is one of those slippery ideas that is both very common and yet hard to get a firm of grasp on. Starting in the late 19th-century, the word taboo was used to describe these prohibitions. This concept became a central one for theorists from a wide range of academic disciplines. All kinds of thinkers, from psychoanalysts and anthropologists to philosophers and poets, began to study these prohibitions as a means to formulate their ideas of what separated human civilization from the natural world. This course uses the concept of taboo, and the transgression of these taboos, as a way to pose a series of questions: 1) what kinds of rules and regulations shape the world we live in, 2) how do these prohibitions produce and negotiate human difference, 3) how and why is there inequality in the enforcement of these rules, 4) why are taboos so often attached to sexuality and sexual difference, 5) what dangers, and what possibilities, are inherent within the concept of transgression? We will navigate a wide historical and cultural field to examine how these concepts produce challenges in our communication across cultural boundaries but can also be instrumental in the formation of communities and offer the possibility of new, and perhaps more egalitarian, social arrangements. The course is divided into four sections. Each section is themed, with the intent of building up a shared set of terms and ideas. Our work will be interdisciplinary in nature, both in terms of the academic disciplines of our readings (from psychoanalysis, philosophy, critical race theory, queer theory, anthropology, trans studies, etc.) but also through our engagements with various genres, using fiction, film and the visual arts.

  • EGMT 1530: Encounter the World Through Collected Objects

    Wendy Smith

    EGMT 1530: Encounter the World Through Collected Objects

    Instructed by Wendy Smith

    This course will examine how objects can be used to shape (or distort) our understanding of other cultures, and how stories about societies, nations, and ethnic groups are formed around collections of objects and artworks. This way of encountering others can illuminate the differences and similarities between cultures and result in a deeper, more tangible connection across humanity that yields greater appreciation and understanding. However, there are also several challenges in this process. Museums are generally how we access objects from cultures and civilizations from around the world. How do museums handle objects that were stolen or looted? How do displays confront or enforce racial stereotypes? What aspects of a society are being highlighted or hidden and how does this change the story being told about them and our engagement with them? How do those in power represent those without power? How do those without power represent themselves? In this course we will learn to distinguish how objects have been used in museum collections, exhibitions, and displays to tell stories about various groups of people. We will learn to detect gaps in what is presented. We will recognize bias in the presentation of objects from other cultures. We will engage with the questions museums are struggling with today: Can we display objects from other cultures without our own cultural bias? How can voices from other cultures be represented in the display of their art/artifacts? What does it mean for these objects to speak for themselves? From paintings, textiles, tribal masks, Chinese vases, and ancient sculptures and sarcophagi to looted menorahs and slave shackles, we will see how objects can tell us about their creators, users, and collectors. We will reflect on how some of our own possessions can reveal aspects of our identity, as well as doing hands-on work to examine how historical objects have been used to tell the story of UVA.

  • EGMT 1530: Reading UVA

    EGMT 1530: Reading UVA

    Instructed by

    In this course, we’ll think about how literature works to create concepts of identity and belonging, by reading major U.S. authors connected to our own University. In short and excerpted works by Thomas Jefferson, Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, and Rita Dove, we will chart the construction and contestation of categories such as “American,” “Virginian,” “southern,” and “The University of Virginia.” Students will get an introduction to the significance of UVA in U.S. literary history, as well as getting hands-on experience in Special Collections, which houses one of the most important collections of American literature in the world.

  • EGMT 1530: Selective Memory

    EGMT 1530: Selective Memory

    Instructed by

    From the Bible to the monuments in Charlottesville, selection determines what is enshrined and what is left behind. Be it through deliberation or by accident, a necessity or an artistic choice, processes of selection elevate certain stories in our collective memory while all but ensuring others are forgotten. In ancient societies, remembering is often considered a virtue, akin to life, connection, and even immortality; while forgetting is associated with demise, death, and decay. But is forgetting really such a bad thing? Is it possible for forgetting to be a positive, formative force? Are memory and forgetting really opposite processes? In this seminar, we will explore the selectivity inherit in memory and the productive potential of forgetting—the ways in which overwriting, erasure, loss, and, at times, recovery drive cultural creativity. By looking at what has been left out, we will observe how forgetting has shaped our past and how choosing what is remembered reveals our priorities and values. We will look at specific case-studies of selective memory and ask: Who gets to tell the story and who decides where it begins? Who determines which voices are included and which are omitted.

  • EGMT 1530: Planetary Discards

    Ishani Saraf

    EGMT 1530: Planetary Discards

    Instructed by Ishani Saraf

    This course will delve into the commonplace yet complex worlds of the thrown away, and by extension, the excluded, and the marginal. We will explore how processes of discarding are central to making, conceiving, and maintaining difference; how these processes are also central to making the self and identity; and how these processes are particular and historical and entangled in power relations. We will explore habits like going to the bathroom and use-and throw consumption as cultural phenomena; the production and movement of different wastes across the planet and the forces and relations that make them possible; and practices of waste management, protest, art-work, and forensics that encounter, manipulate, and mobilize the material and symbolic properties of different kinds of discards. Students will engage with a number of concepts and methods to explore and analyze these complex worlds of which they are a part, and that are a part of them.

  • EGMT 1530: Global "Development" - The Great, the Good & the Ugly

    Muhammad Tayyab Safdar

    EGMT 1530: Global "Development" - The Great, the Good & the Ugly

    Instructed by Muhammad Tayyab Safdar

    This course explores the meaning of global ‘development’. What does it mean to be developed, and how did ‘development’ become a universally accepted idea? Are there different views on what it means to be developed, and how do mainstream actors engage with these differences? To answer these questions, we unpack the historical idea of development by comparing the developed to those considered ‘underdeveloped.’ We will explore the context in which this concept of development gained traction and legitimacy and became popular as a hegemonic idea. We will investigate and critique the different models to promote development in developing countries and discuss some of the actors involved. Lastly, we will look at alternate locally grounded conceptions of development and local views on what it means to be developed. We will understand the interaction between these more localised views on development and the mainstream hegemonic global development concept.

  • EGMT 1530: Africa Is Not a Country

    EGMT 1530: Africa Is Not a Country

    Instructed by

    What is “Africa,” and what do we think we know about the African past? The idea of “Africa” holds a powerful constellation of ideas and representations in the Western imaginary that have little to do with the actual history and people who inhabit this vast, diverse continent. In the words of Achille Mbembe: “more than any other region, Africa thus stands out as the supreme receptacle of the West’s obsession with, and circular discourse about, the facts of “absence,” “lack,” and “non-being,” of identity and difference, of negativeness—in short of nothingness.” Mbembe 2001:4). In this course, we will examine colonial and postcolonial approaches to how Africa has been imagined as a place of difference across time and space and critically examine how these ideas continue to circulate in popular culture, media, film, science, literature, and international development. Topics we will focus on include the intellectual legacies of colonialism, poverty and international aid, “ethnic” and “religious” conflict, portrayals of “Africa” in American and European film and media, the looting and marketing of African art, Pan-Africanism, and Afrocentricity.

  • EGMT 1530: Town & Gown

    Jalane Schmidt

    EGMT 1530: Town & Gown

    Instructed by Jalane Schmidt

    University towns are dynamic communities where the presence of an institution of higher education can bring benefits of innovation and economic growth. But university towns also have some of the highest rates of income inequality and educational disparity. This Difference Engagement Seminar will focus on instances of the latter and examine the University of Virginia in Charlottesville as a case study. The course will introduce students to their new home town, with particular attention to UVA’s historic role in defining, exacerbating, and trying to mend racial inequality.

  • EGMT 1530: Depictions of Difference

    James Seitz

    EGMT 1530: Depictions of Difference

    Instructed by James Seitz

    This course will examine how various writers and performers depict what makes them different. As we’ll learn, depicting our differences involves careful decisions about what to include or exclude, and how to engage our audience. Are we as different as we think we are? How do we respond to differences in others? In what ways do our identities rely on similarity as well as difference? These are some of the questions we’ll explore while reading, viewing, and composing depictions of difference.

  • EGMT 1530: Who Dressed You?

    Marcy Linton

    EGMT 1530: Who Dressed You?

    Instructed by Marcy Linton

    Fashion has been utilized as a tool for common good, moving both culture and the individual toward empowerment, influence, self-identification, and community bonds, but also as a tool of power and privilege to segregate, distinguish, demoralize, and repress human subjects. This course will examine how societal imposed dress codes and self-expression have effects on human responses. In this class, you will... 1. Explore fashion in its richness and complexity, as a mechanism of self-expression. 2. Recognize how fashion has been used to create and challenge social inequities. 3. Consider how expressing our differences through fashion, we develop and experience bias, discrimination, exclusion, or acceptance. 4. Understand how dynamics of fashion can shape how difference works in the world.

  • EGMT 1530: Making Enemies

    Jo Adams

    EGMT 1530: Making Enemies

    Instructed by Jo Adams

    Legend has it that as the French atheist Voltaire lay on his deathbed, a priest urged him to denounce Satan. “Now, now, my good man,” Voltaire responded, “this is no time for making enemies.” But who would have been doing the “making”—Voltaire or Satan? This course explores how and why we create, define, and demonize our enemies on multiple scales: the personal, the political, the national—even the internal. How do we decide who or what deserves our distrust and disdain? What motivates or compels us to make this decision in the first place? Are we hardwired to have biases? What purpose do enemies serve? Do they help us forge identities or friendships? Can having enemies be beneficial to living a meaningful life, or does it just feel good? And what should we do with our enemies once we’ve made them? Love them? Persuade them? Ignore them? We’ll explore these questions through multiple disciplinary perspectives, tackling representations of “the enemy” in literature, fine art, and the media; social psychology research on prejudice, enmity, and popularity; the neuroscience of negative and positive emotions; and secular and religious attitudes toward empathy, communication, and love.

  • EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony & Nation

    Lisa Woolfork

    EGMT 1530: Race, Racism, Colony & Nation

    Instructed by Lisa Woolfork

    What do the American Revolution and Black Lives Matter have in common? What happened between the 1776 declaration that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” and the 1857 Supreme Court ruling that the black man had "no rights which the white man was bound to respect?” In what ways can the 1950s era civil rights slogan, “I Am A Man,” be considered a declaration? What’s required to connect Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson or Baltimore to colonial resistance to the king sending “swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance?”[1] As a component of a series of scholarly engagements, this course is committed to cultivating an approach to human differences that can serve as a basis for critical inquiry and civic participation. This course is concerned with the ways in which racial differences shape American history, life, and culture.  In particular, we will frame our questions using the metaphor of the colony and the nation. The prevailing story of America is one of transformation from a colony into one nation, as its people transformed from subjects to citizens. Yet, the transformative properties of American democracy were racially precise: white freedom co-existing with/based upon black subjection. How does racial difference inform our view of America today? How might the American Revolution be considered incomplete? What aspects of our racial divide can be explained by the colony versus nation metaphor? How did/do ethics, science, media and creative expression reflect the idea that our nation is not so “indivisible” after all? These are the type of questions and conflicts that interest this course. Through close reading, shared experience, small group work, and other assignments, this course encourages you to craft, share, and discard your interpretations of the ever-growing collection of cultural narratives and social experiences marked by white supremacy, racial difference and/or bias. [1] The Declaration of Independence.

  • EGMT 1530: Treaties, Power, and Time

    Christian McMillen

    EGMT 1530: Treaties, Power, and Time

    Instructed by Christian McMillen

    Beginning in the 17th century American Indian people have engaged in the act of treaty making with first the British and then the Americans. These treaties are hallmarks of the encounter between radically different peoples; they still have legal power today. How are legal documents negotiated hundreds of years ago, in completely different historical contexts, where the differentials of power constantly shifted, interpreted now?

  • EGMT 1530: Passages of Hope and Survival

    EGMT 1530: Passages of Hope and Survival

    Instructed by

    This course places contemporary experiences of migration, refuge, and asylum at the heart of critical inquiry. In this light, and motivated by one's Hope for a better future as well as one's mere attempts of Survival, the Passages we'll encounter shall consist not only in geographical and physical journeys, but also in metaphoric and reflective materials. Encompassing both the intellectual and experiential, our own rite of passage will alternate between the seemingly familiar "local" and the remotely located "global" while engaging depictions from within -- as found in documentaries, music, vlogs, letters, and memoirs -- and responses from without -- as manifested in media reports, political platforms, and general discourse. In doing so, and while testing present encounters against our previous notions of identity, belonging, and otherness, we shall constantly strive to recognize, understand and articulate the Differences that asylum, migration, and refuge make in our own, immediate world.

  • EGMT 1530: Food for Global Feminist Thought

    Francesca Calamita

    EGMT 1530: Food for Global Feminist Thought

    Instructed by Francesca Calamita

    What do global feminism and food have in common? Why are food and gender often interrelated? How does food contribute to politicized discourses on a wide range of bodies and bodily identities? What could eating disorders have in common with the patriarchy? Could food help with escaping social roles and constraints? In this course we will focus on close readings of the symbolic meaning of food across a variety of countries and cultures in in-translation narratives, films, TV series and advertisements – with an emphasis on materials created by women and minorities – addressing broader issues of gender, identity and politics of the body. Reflecting on a variety of cultural products from around the globe helps us to understand the complex role of food and food-related-activities in our life. An intersectional feminist approach will frame class discussions and several sessions on the current issues related to gender and food, such as eating disorders and orthorexia, will be included.

  • EGMT 1530: Talking Trash

    Lean Sweeney

    EGMT 1530: Talking Trash

    Instructed by Lean Sweeney

    How much do we clean and why? How close will we come to filth, grime and refuse, and when? Do we see people and places as “polluted”? Talking Trash asks students to investigate the origins of their own divisions of the world, examining how their classifications of things as disposable informs their politics, identity, behavior and sense of space. We will use our distinct conceptualizations and uses of “trash” to frame our discussions of the categories we create and the notions of difference we produce. Placed within the context of philosophical, anthropological, medical and political treatments of filth and virtue, danger and purity, disposability and preservation, life and afterlife across time and cultures, we will examine the ongoing politics and industries surrounding dumping and sorting; conduct archeological analysis of our own trash; and learn to make art from once discarded refuse.

  • EGMT 1530: Enacting Difference

    Matthew Skwiat

    EGMT 1530: Enacting Difference

    Instructed by Matthew Skwiat

    This class considers how difference and otherness have been embodied and enacted dramatically, cinematically, and visually across time. We will consider questions like how has otherness been understood throughout history? What ideas, actions, and methodologies have shaped cultural and social understandings of gender, race, and sexuality? How have these representations impacted our world and society? In an attempt to answer and decipher these questions, Enacting Difference turns to the theatrical and visual arts in exploring how otherness in all of its myriad forms has been defined and challenged throughout history. We will focus on how playwrights, directors, and actors have given shape to, subverted, and explored what it means to be different. In the process, this course will consider enactment as both an acting out and perpetuation of gendered, racial, and sexual stereotypes and a reclamation and dismantling of these very same tropes. Throughout the course students will also engage with a number of dramatic and cinematic genres from comedy, satire, and melodrama to musicals and tragedies.

  • Selective Memory

    Rebecca Bultman

    Selective Memory

    Instructed by Rebecca Bultman

    From the Bible to the monuments in Charlottesville, selection determines what is enshrined and what is left behind. Be it through deliberation or by accident, a necessity or an artistic choice, processes of selection elevate certain stories in our collective memory while all but ensuring others are forgotten. In ancient societies, remembering is often considered a virtue, akin to life, connection, and even immortality; while forgetting is associated with demise, death, and decay. But is forgetting really such a bad thing? Is it possible for forgetting to be a positive, formative force? Are memory and forgetting really opposite processes? In this seminar, we will explore the selectivity inherit in memory and the productive potential of forgetting—the ways in which overwriting, erasure, loss, and, at times, recovery drive cultural creativity. By looking at what has been left out, we will observe how forgetting has shaped our past and how choosing what is remembered reveals our priorities and values. We will look at specific case-studies of selective memory and ask: Who gets to tell the story and who decides where it begins? Who determines which voices are included and which are omitted.

  • EGMT 1540: Reality Film (v.1)

    Roberto Armengol

    EGMT 1540: Reality Film (v.1)

    Instructed by Roberto Armengol

    Long before there was reality TV, there was documentary film. And the first documentary films were ethnographic — they tried to capture the stories, the behaviors, the cultures, of real people. From the Lumière brothers’ 1895 reels of French workers leaving their manufacturing jobs to Netflix’s 2019 American Factory, we’ll explore some of the most famous, and most controversial, motion pictures about real people. Together, we’ll watch, read, discuss and write (a little bit) about a new film each week. We’ll ask: Is ethical documentary possible? And if so, under what conditions? Broadly speaking, our conversations will address the problem of representation in any form — and maybe even offer some insight on contemporary “reality” shows.

  • EGMT 1540: Mindful Decision-Making

    Sandra Seidel

    EGMT 1540: Mindful Decision-Making

    Instructed by Sandra Seidel

    Are you interested in increasing your kindness, generosity, and resilience? Living an ethical life of service to others? Building your capacity for attention and focus? Drawing on contemporary mindfulness practices, this engagements class will ask you to think, carefully and mindfully, about how automatic reactions, specific situational circumstances, and bodily states affect your behavior in ways that are consistent or inconsistent with your personal values. Human beings live in relation to one another. Our human interconnectedness suggests that ethical engagement is inevitable and that ignoring conflict and controversy is itself an ethical decision. This course will teach you observe not only the world around you but also yourself in relation to it. And it will challenge you to leverage these new skills to make ethical decisions deliberately and thoughtfully instead of automatically and thoughtlessly. Ultimately, we'll reflect on the meaning of a "good life" informed by a desire to serve others.

  • EGMT 1540: This is My Body

    EGMT 1540: This is My Body

    Instructed by

    Too many of us treat our bodies like cars. We fuel ourselves—often as inexpensively as possible—and we take ourselves to get checked out when we’re worried something might be up. But, if for some reason we wake up to find our cars don’t start, we can get a new one, or look for other alternatives. That is not the case when it comes to our bodies. This course invites students to meditate on the fact that we live our lives in bodies—these strange assemblages of flesh, blood, and bones. What limitations does our embodiment set upon us? What possibilities does it create? Through the seven weeks of this course, we will pay attention to the ways the world we live in shapes our bodies and the way we navigate that world. We will think about the ways our bodies are formed particularly given our experiences of gender, race, disability, and trauma. We will not only think about the ways our bodies are shaped, but also what we ought to do with these bodies that we inhabit. We will think about what we owe—if anything—to those who made our bodies in the first place. And we will learn about our obligations to care for our bodies and thereby to care for those around us.

  • EGMT 1540: Should You Chain Yourself to a Tree?

    Kevin Rose

    EGMT 1540: Should You Chain Yourself to a Tree?

    Instructed by Kevin Rose

    Although recent polling data shows the majority of Americans agreeing that climate change is a “major threat,” there is less agreement on how to actually address the problem. Calls to reduce our individual carbon footprints are commonplace, but so are the responses from climate strikers that responsibility should fall on Big Oil and its allies in DC, making these calls for individuals to focus on their lifestyle choices a form of victim blaming. In this course, we’ll examine these and other competing visions of climate action. In the first half of the class, we’ll look at the history of environmental activism to understand why mainstream environmentalism since the 1980s has focused on individual consumer choice, as opposed to the collective civil disobedience that prevailed in the 1960s and early 1970s. In the second half, we turn to contemporary debates about what must be done—engaging with everyone from the oil execs calling on people to reduce their own carbon footprints to the writer and filmmakers behind a recent, provocative call for people to start learning How to Blow Up a Pipeline.

  • EGMT 1540: Science and Politics

    EGMT 1540: Science and Politics

    Instructed by

    More often than not, science is intertwined with religion and politics. This course will provide students with an opportunity to study the entanglement of science, religion, and politics, and how they have driven national and international policies. Examples will include Galileo’s affair, Evolution, the Imperial Japanese Army's Unit 731, Nazi Germany's eugenics, the syphilis experiments in Guatemala, and the Manhattan project and nuclear weapons. Truth, reality, ethics and the anthropology of those involved will be examined in several exemplary cases. Books, movies, videos, memoirs, and case studies will be used as course materials. The class is open to scientists and non-scientists alike.

  • EGMT 1540: The Ethics of Representation

    Laura Goldblatt

    EGMT 1540: The Ethics of Representation

    Instructed by Laura Goldblatt

    How do we represent the nation? What can the images on state-generated media tell us about diversity, equity, and justice? In this Ethical Engagement, we will turn to U.S. postage stamps released during the twentieth century to discuss the relationship between politics and their representation. In doing so, we will consider how figurative renderings of the nation can advance, or stymie, social aims.

  • EGMT 1540: A History of Religion(s) at UVA

    Janet Spittler

    EGMT 1540: A History of Religion(s) at UVA

    Instructed by Janet Spittler

    Thomas Jefferson famously founded the University of Virginia as a university with “no professor of divinity,” the first university in the USA not to include religious education and the training of ministers as part of its curriculum. Today, the University of Virginia is home to the largest Religious Studies department in the country. In this course, we’ll take an historical look at the presence and absence of both the practice of and study of religion, in its many forms, on UVa’s Grounds, from the beginnings to the present day. We will use this historical exploration to raise ethical questions about religion(s) on Grounds. What roles should religion play at a university that understands itself to be both “great and good”?

  • EGMT 1540: The Data Ethics of Tiktok

    Aynne Kokas

    EGMT 1540: The Data Ethics of Tiktok

    Instructed by Aynne Kokas

    Using the case of TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, students will examine urgent ethical questions about social media, technology, and privacy globally. The course explores the international consequences of US-based companies and the US government having ignored data regulation in favor of the explosive and unchecked growth of Silicon Valley. It explores how China is emerging as the major shaper of global information and technology governance, in part through the United States' lack of attention to internet policy. Finally, The course invites students to identify ways to mitigate ethical, economic, and security issues resulting from the data trade between the US and China.

  • EGMT 1540: The Traveler's Dilemma

    Erin Eaker

    EGMT 1540: The Traveler's Dilemma

    Instructed by Erin Eaker

    #vanlife, study abroad, cruises, wildlife safaris, voluntourism, eco-tourism, wellness retreats… For many people travel is an essential part of a life well-lived. In this class, we’ll explore why and how people travel, the role of travel in the ethically good life, and the ethical complexity of different forms of leisure travel—particularly in the context of ecological crisis and global inequality. Students will be encouraged to develop their own personal ethos of travel.

  • EGMT 1540: The Soul at Work

    Tal Brewer

    EGMT 1540: The Soul at Work

    Instructed by Tal Brewer

    What will you do with yourself when you are done with college? If you’re like most people, you’ll spend an enormous proportion of your waking hours at work. When we think of how we might spend these hours, we rarely neglect to consider how much we might hope to make. But we do not always stop to ask just what our work might make of us. This latter question is the guiding topic of this course. We will read and discuss some of the most influential writings that have been penned over the last two centuries about modern forms of work and the cumulative effects they can have on our character, our values, and our relationships with our fellow human beings. Among the questions we will ask are: How much of our time and effort should we devote to paid work? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the kinds of work that you might do, and the work that others have to do that you might live your life? What sorts of power relationships obtain in the workplace, and are these relationships consistent with our equal freedom and dignity, or otherwise conducive to our flourishing? Have we, as a society, arrived at a skewed balance between work and leisure – one that enriches us in material terms while impoverishing us in other important respects? What would it take for work to be just and meaningful, and how might we bring it about that we ourselves and others are able to engage in such work?

  • EGMT 1540: How Do We Remember?

    EGMT 1540: How Do We Remember?

    Instructed by

    In this ethical engagement we examine and discuss how we use monuments to remember. That is, for what values do we inscribe words in stone and set aside places of veneration? Ours will be a journey that will take us from the ancient world to modernity, from the Capitoline Hill of Rome to the UVA Lawn. Students will have the opportunity to visit and offer their thoughts about locations on grounds, as well as to design a monument of their own.

  • EGMT 1540: Enforcement

    Alex Wolfson

    EGMT 1540: Enforcement

    Instructed by Alex Wolfson

    This class examines the concept of ‘enforcement’ from different perspectives and from various disciplines, genres, and media. From parents enforcing household rules, to the legitimacy of the police, we will ask how conflicting ideas of enforcement alter and determine the way we think about issues such as regulation, agency, and power. We will examine whether all possible social arrangements include an element of enforcement? If they do, what does that say about human social relations? If not, what would a society without enforcement look like? Is enforcement something to be overcome, or a necessary aspect of human social existence? The class will begin with an examination of various philosophical accounts of discipline and punishment, as well as historical analyses and cultural artifacts—from contemporary issues such as face-mask regulations to more long-standing issues such as the enforcement of norms through popular culture. Using this shared background, we will engage ethical questions that concern race, gender, and sexuality. We will be guided by questions concerning different theories of ‘enforcement’ as a concept, in order to examine, in a concrete way, the social and political experience of enforcement in the world today. We will, for example, use our theoretical readings to develop explorative projects concerning different elements of enforcement in the ever-changing political landscape of our contemporary era.

  • EGMT 1540: Plastic Everywhere

    Gertrude Fraser

    EGMT 1540: Plastic Everywhere

    Instructed by Gertrude Fraser

    “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.” This line from the 1967 film The Graduate captured 20th century promise surrounding this new class of flexible materials. Derived from the Greek plastikos, to mold or form, plastics freed design from the constraints of natural materials. First derived from and imitating biological materials, then later made from petrochemicals seemingly untethered from nature in manner and form, polymeric materials represented a new kind of freedom and flexibility. Over time, plastics became so prevalent in nearly every aspect of life—food, clothing, shelter, high performance materials, medicine, and devices—that we barely notice them. That is, until recently, when their burgeoning waste and ubiquity have become cause for growing alarm: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Mae West the synched-waisted snapping turtle, dead fish and birds’ bellies swelled with plastic mistaken for food; microparticles in our waterways from personal care products and laundry microfibers, and in the Alps and Arctic snow by air; in our soil, food, bottled water, bodies and more. Additionally, plastic chemicals—certain monomers, additives and solvents—can be toxic, causing endocrine disruption impacting metabolism, brain function, sexual development and fertility, and other diseases. Some communities are impacted more than others, particularly industrial fence-line communities dubbed sacrifice zones or countries flooded with waste. But with plastics detected in remote locations and chemicals accumulating in our bodies, it seems that no one, nowhere is immune. How did this happen? What can we do about it? Is recycling the answer, bans on single use plastic, plastic bags and straws? Or degradable and renewable materials? These questions and more will be explored in Plastic Everywhere. Human intersections with plastic lifecycles will be investigated from individual, community, and global perspectives, across macro, micro and molecular scales. The ethics of extraction and disposability, environmental health and justice, and sustainability and stewardship will be considered.

  • EGMT 1540: You Are Who You Meet - The Ethics of Friendship

    Benjamin Bernard

    EGMT 1540: You Are Who You Meet - The Ethics of Friendship

    Instructed by Benjamin Bernard

    This class surveys the ethics of friendship in historical perspective to explore how we make friends and the role they ought to play in shaping who we are and how we live. Consider your own friends: how can a single word encapsulate so many different relationships? What is a friend? What are they for? And how do our friends shape us? The course will survey some interesting answers to those questions from people crafting many different modes of making and staying friends. Friendship is one of the oldest topics in ethics, yet we continue to remake that tradition in new ways as we live through the epochal transformations of the internet age, social media, and a global epidemic. We will consider how these ethical traditions align with your own experiences. Gen Z is often referred to as the most connected generation, but also the loneliest: our class will assess those claims. (Cover image: Eustache Le Sueur, Réunion d’amis, c. 1640, oil on canvas, 136 x 195 cm, Paris, courtesy of the musée du Louvre.)

  • EGMT 1540: God Told Me To

    Creighton Coleman

    EGMT 1540: God Told Me To

    Instructed by Creighton Coleman

    This course raises enduring questions about religion and tolerance in democratic societies. Historically, a wide range of political actors, from anti-slavery abolitionists to insurrectionists on January 6th, have named divine inspiration as their motivation for political decisions. Often religious traditions guide how these figures speak and interpret their own divine calling. What, though, does it mean to share life with someone who is appealing to supernatural experience when you do not share that experience? Drawing on historical examples where experience of the divine directly motivated political action, students will consider what it means to live with radical religious difference. Students will apply and become familiar with multiple theoretical lenses such as tolerance, strict exclusion of religion from politics, and communitarian proposals. As an engagement in ethics, this course ultimately invites students to consider: In a democratic society, what does it mean to live well with others? What should we expect from others and what are we willing to give in return?

  • EGMT 1540: Making Medicines Good

    Brooks Pate

    EGMT 1540: Making Medicines Good

    Instructed by Brooks Pate

    Facing the challenge of maintaining prosperity at the end of World War II, America introduced a new system to harness the power of science for the public good. The key idea was using public funds to perform “basic research” in the nation’s universities to create a steady stream of scientific advances for commercialization by private industry. This course explores how the system transformed drug development and the pharmaceutical industry and will grapple with the fundamental question: Does the pharmaceutical industry serve the common good? The US system has generated many amazing success stories for the development of effective medicines to improve public health. The role that drug development played in two global health crises - the emergence of the AIDS in the 1980s and the recent COVID-19 pandemic – will be considered. However, there are also conflicts built into the American model for scientific development that produce ethical issues related to prescription drug approval, access, and use. For example, how does the profit motive of private industry limit or undermine the public good? Recent examples include misleading marketing that encouraged large scale prescribing of opioid pain medication and industry encouragement of doctors to prescribe their medicines for uses that are not FDA approved (known as “off label” uses). There are also ethical issues that arise from relying on a market-based approach to deliver scientific advances in pharmaceutical chemistry to the public. On example is the existence of “orphan drugs” – effective medicines that treat rare diseases but are unavailable because the size of the patient pool cannot support a commercial drug production effort. The course will look at public and private efforts in the Commonwealth of Virginia to meet this challenge in drug access. The most important pragmatic question is: How should the system be changed to deliver increased benefits to society? Current ideas in public policy to improve the efficiency of translating scientific discovery into new medicines and to increase access to effective medicines on a global scale will be discussed.

  • EGMT 1540: To Be or Not to Be? The Ethics of Existing

    Justin McBrien

    EGMT 1540: To Be or Not to Be? The Ethics of Existing

    Instructed by Justin McBrien

    To Be or Not to Be? The majority of people through history have answered that question—at least for themselves—in the affirmative. Yet the question of not-being subtlety shapes our practices of being alive. On the one hand is the question of “no longer existing”—whether a life should be removed from existence—encompassing problems such as suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty, and species extinction. On the other hand, is the question of “never existing”— whether a life should be brought into existence—encompassing topics such as population control, abortion, eco-anti-natalism, and gene editing technologies like CRISPR. How does power intervene through cultural and legal frameworks to determine who and what should not exist in the world? Who should have the right to decide when a life—human or animal—should begin or end? Is procreation an unavoidably selfish act? We will interrogate our own ethics of existing through sources ranging from Supreme Court cases, psychological studies, existentialist literature, dystopian cinema, and feminist social reproduction theory.

  • EGMT 1540: ~decadence~ The Ethics of Excess

    Benjamin Bernard

    EGMT 1540: ~decadence~ The Ethics of Excess

    Instructed by Benjamin Bernard

    Can gluttonous overindulgence—too much of a good thing—really lead to social decay? Does sexual libertinism really lead to civilizational decline, as moralizers have long insisted? If so, how? Are luxury products and even art itself ethical pursuits for some people, if others lack subsistence? How, and under what circumstances, can appearances, ornaments, and extravagances—the fancy and the frivolous—actually be good for us as individuals and as a society? Which desires are virtuous (“it just feels right”) and which ones are vices (“guilty pleasures”)—and how do we tell the difference? This interdisciplinary seminar considers the fraught relationship between ethics (inner virtue) and aesthetics (outward appearances) through the concept of “decadence.” The term refers to seemingly disparate phenomena: the historical period of the fall of Rome; baroque aesthetics; Gilded Age wealth inequality; Revolutionary attitudes towards women’s power; gender deviance and sexual minorities including LGBTQ people; and much more. In each case, cultural commentators have bemoaned corruption and loss. But what, specifically, was supposedly decaying? What can narratives about collapse tell us about those commentators themselves? 2 (Perplexing convergences abound: for instance, what is the significance of the observation that authoritarian dictators and queer dandies can both favor a “decadent,” ornamented style?) To answer such questions, the course examines the concept of “decadence” drawing on methods from intellectual history, literary studies, art criticism, economics, and moral philosophy. Through reading, writing, and discussion, we will become attuned to narratives of historical change (growth and decay) as well as concepts that lie on the juncture of, and thereby challenge, our preconceptions about what is beautiful, what is good, and how the beautiful and the good do or don’t relate to each other. We will spend our time together building in preparation for a final class project that will take the form of a multipolar debate.

  • EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    Andrew Ferguson

    EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    Instructed by Andrew Ferguson

    The world is flat. Vaccines cause autism. Climate change is a hoax. So is coronavirus. The deep state is conspiring against the president. The Mafia assassinated JFK. No, it was the CIA. Or LBJ. Or was it the Soviets and Fidel Castro? No matter what we think we know about politics, culture, or even the basics of science, there is a conspiracy theory to tell us that, actually, that’s all wrong and what “they” want you to think. Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? What makes something a conspiracy theory? How do you recognize a conspiracy theory when you see one and how do you evaluate its claims? Contrary to popular belief, conspiracy theories are not simply the province of the naïve, foolish, or uneducated; we will look at how conspiracy theories serve as a way for people from all walks of life to make sense of a complicated and often baffling world. In this class, we will consider these questions while examining a number of different conspiracy theories in detail, ranging from old classics like the Knights Templar and alien autopsies to new favorites like Pizzagate, QAnon, and whatever 2021 sees fit to throw at us. We will also think about how conspiracy theories are created and disseminated, particularly in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where anyone who claims to know the truth about anything can find others to subscribe to their views. Given the importance and sheer proliferation of conspiracy theories in our world, how should we respond when we encounter them? And, in an age where we can watch new conspiracy theories form quite literally in real time online, what are our ethical obligations toward the conspiracy theories and conspiratorial thinking we see in our own social, political, and cultural lives?

  • EGMT 1540: Political Myths - Then and Now

    Vasfiye Toprak

    EGMT 1540: Political Myths - Then and Now

    Instructed by Vasfiye Toprak

    Political myths have been associated with authoritarianism, illiberal and populist regimes. Typically understood as political stories used to mobilize populations, political myths are easily dismissed as “false” stories only serving the purpose of political leaders to gain power. This course takes a critical approach to political myths, going beyond whether these stories hold truth value or not, and aims to interrogate why political myths exist and why they appeal to people. In the first part, through a critical analysis of historical and contemporary political myths, we will explore how these stories function as a means of legitimizing power, building national identity, and defining social norms. Through close reading of texts, visual media, and political performances, students will explore the ways in which political myths have existed and still exist in our society. The second part of the course will delve into more ethical questions about political myths serving as a source of one’s notion of what it means to live a good life and to reflect on political myths we hold. We will ask: are political myths only political? The course will focus on different countries, periods, and political regimes such as the founding of the European Union, founding myths of nation-states, the American Dream, the myth of the Aryan race, Erdogan’s neo-Ottomanism in Turkey, and political Islam in the Middle East.

  • EGMT 1540: The Way We Play

    Caleb Hendrickson

    EGMT 1540: The Way We Play

    Instructed by Caleb Hendrickson

    One of the first things we learn to do as children is play. We all come from play. Yet, we tend to think of play as trivial, frivolous, and sometimes bad. In this class, we take play seriously (though not too seriously, of course). The way we play, whether in serious or silly ways, shapes our worlds and ourselves. How has play formed you? How do you play now, as a student at UVA? Do we in modern society work too much and play too little (or vice versa)? Or, is play an element of everything we do – including work, religion, politics, education. If this is the case, then it would seem important that we learn how to play well, if we wish to lead good and fulfilling lives. How do we learn to play well? How can play go wrong? In this class, we will explore play by doing, by playing games, playing roles, and playacting. Throughout the class, we will reconsider the idea that play is inherently frivolous or without purpose. Students should come ready to play, reflect, and discover.

  • EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    David Walsh

    EGMT 1540: Paranoia, Conspiracies, & Fake News

    Instructed by David Walsh

    The world is flat. Vaccines cause autism. Climate change is a hoax. So is coronavirus. The deep state is conspiring against the president. The Mafia assassinated JFK. No, it was the CIA. Or LBJ. Or was it the Soviets and Fidel Castro? No matter what we think we know about politics, culture, or even the basics of science, there is a conspiracy theory to tell us that, actually, that’s all wrong and what “they” want you to think. Why do people believe in conspiracy theories? What makes something a conspiracy theory? How do you recognize a conspiracy theory when you see one and how do you evaluate its claims? Contrary to popular belief, conspiracy theories are not simply the province of the naïve, foolish, or uneducated; we will look at how conspiracy theories serve as a way for people from all walks of life to make sense of a complicated and often baffling world. In this class, we will consider these questions while examining a number of different conspiracy theories in detail, ranging from old classics like the Knights Templar and alien autopsies to new favorites like Pizzagate, QAnon, and whatever 2021 sees fit to throw at us. We will also think about how conspiracy theories are created and disseminated, particularly in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where anyone who claims to know the truth about anything can find others to subscribe to their views. Given the importance and sheer proliferation of conspiracy theories in our world, how should we respond when we encounter them? And, in an age where we can watch new conspiracy theories form quite literally in real time online, what are our ethical obligations toward the conspiracy theories and conspiratorial thinking we see in our own social, political, and cultural lives?

  • EGMT 1540: Climate Change and the History of the Future

    Brian Owensby

    EGMT 1540: Climate Change and the History of the Future

    Instructed by Brian Owensby

    Climate change is here. We know beyond doubt that human systems are affecting planetary processes, with consequences spanning generations, centuries, and millennia. Our sense of time is jumbling. We must think about the effects of climate change on the great-great-great-great grandchildren of those alive today, and beyond them, and simultaneously about the immediate suffering hundreds of millions, even billions, as global climate transforms. “Progress” will not save us. And who is “us” anyway, given that present action or inaction will affect humans and nonhumans into the distant future, even as the immediate consequences will fall most heavily on those who have done little or nothing to bring this crisis on? While the risks are clear, we have more questions than answers about how to respond. How can we know that climate change is upon us and yet fail to act with the purpose and speed required to avoid worst effects? What do we make of persistent climate denial? Have we become collectively stupid? What does this say about “rationality?” Are we at a civilizational turning point? Such questions are the stuff of science, economics, and politics. They are also a matter of moral and ethical inquiry. Climatologists can tell us how planetary systems work. Policy makers can propose solutions, or at least approaches. But they do not speak to values, how we think about them and how we consider human and non-human others in the story we are just beginning to tell of climate disruption. This is history on the march. Yet we have no broad consensus on what must be done, by whom, or at what pace, even as every year of delay worsens long-term prospects. Are individual actions pointless? What is it that makes concerted action in the face of existential risk so difficult? While we can accept intellectually that change is upon is, what would it be to accept it emotionally? Is optimism necessary for action? Do we need to become very afraid? Part of the challenge is the scale of things. What do global capitalism, economic growth, the fossil fuel industry, and consumerism have to do with it all? Is “degrowth” or “steady-state economics” an answer? Or are we condemned to more of the same? Is it possible to lead a good life in the era of climate change amidst mass suffering? What would it be to respond compassionately to millions of climate refugees? What about the fact that we are experiencing a sixth mass extinction event? Perhaps we need a different sense of historical time. Do future lives (human and non-human) matter less than our immediate desires? Can we learn to be good ancestors? Does the Anthropocene (the term proposed for a new geological age in which humans shape Earth systems) affect how human societies think about time? Does it help to consider our moment and coming years as the history of the future? This course will ask such questions through the ideas and visions of scientists, historians, journalists, novelists, ethicists, activists, and filmmakers to suggest how important it is that as many of us as possible learn to talk knowledgeably and passionately about what scholars have called “the perfect moral storm.” During our 7 weeks, you will: • Become conversant with climate change as a broad, scientifically-established phenomenon. • Learn about the idea of the Anthropocene as a scientific term with moral, social, and political implications. • Learn the sources and reasons for climate change denial. • Learn to recognize, criticize, and make ethical and political arguments regarding climate change. • Seek points of historical comparison that might speak to the magnitude of the challenge humanity faces. • Consider how people across the planet may experience the reality and threat of climate change very differently, according to race, gender, class, and nationality. • Learn to talk about climate change as an existential challenge. This course will be driven by conversation and will emphasize oral presentation and argumentation. • Think about what “historical time” is in relation to climate change and consider whether “historical consciousness” might be reframed as a way of thinking about Earth-Human (Terran?) history.

  • EGMT 1540: The Ideology of Slavery: A Cautionary Tale

    EGMT 1540: The Ideology of Slavery: A Cautionary Tale

    Instructed by

    White Virginians enslaved people of African descent from 1619 to 1865. During that time, they constructed social, legal, and economic structures that protected and strengthened enslavement. In the process they destroyed families and lives and damaged cultures and societies. Today we look back and wonder: how could they sleep at night? And how could people like Thomas Jefferson, who made ethically sound contributions to the nation’s founding, also freely choose to engage in a practice that was so deeply unethical? Finally, how did the ideology that justified slaveholding continue to affect American life even after slavery itself was abolished? This course will explore how ideology shapes the actions of people and communities in the past and today. As we examine the twists and turns of slaveholders’ ideological justifications for their actions, we will apply that understanding of the role of ideology to the political, economic, and social issues important to students today. Students will be required to select an issue that is resonant for them and use the course to dig into the ideological assumptions behind multiple sides of that issue. This course is applied history; a cautionary tale about the ways in which individuals and communities justify their oppression of others. It challenges students to critically examine the ideological arguments around them.

  • EGMT 1540: Are You a Stoic

    Inger Kuin

    EGMT 1540: Are You a Stoic

    Instructed by Inger Kuin

    How should we deal with setbacks and disappointments? What is the meaning of friendship? And how should humans prepare for death? These kinds of questions are central to the philosophical school called Stoicism, which dates back to ancient Greece but still has many followers today. In this class we will read the writings of some ‘old’ Stoics (Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca), some ‘new’ ones (Ryan Holiday, Nancy Sherman), and of critics of both. Students will explore the Stoic outlook on major themes like freedom, religion, justice, and our relation to our bodies. While doing so, they will formulate their own responses to the Stoics through in-class conversations and individual reflections. Practicing a form of collaborative philosophical inquiry, we will examine how each of us would answer the core question that Stoicism revolves around: how to live a good life?

  • EGMT 1540: Do We Still Have Faith In Democracy?

    Bruce Williams

    EGMT 1540: Do We Still Have Faith In Democracy?

    Instructed by Bruce Williams

    *Note: Since this class satifies both EGMT 1530 (Differences) and EGMT 1540 (Ethics), students must enroll in both Fall Session 1 and Fall Session 2 quarters. Democracy is currently face daunting challenges in the U.S. and around the world.  Authoritarian leaders and populist parties have undermined democratic values across the globe, including Brazil, Hungary, Algeria, Poland, and the United States.  In the U.S., there are attempts to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. Practices of gerrymandering and unethical campaign finance undermine citizen’s interests in representative government. In Charlottesville, especially in the wake of events of August 2017, questions have been raised about the responsiveness of local government to the needs of its citizens and the city’s failure to protect the safety of those who protested against the actions of self-admitted racist and fascist groups. In the midst of these challenges, do we still have faith in democracy and, if so, why?  Must we have faith in democracy in order for it to succeed?   What do we mean by faith?  How might the resources of democracy itself (its ideas and its practices) help societies respond to these crises? This course examines the character of democracy: What is a democracy and what distinguishes it from other forms of governments? What are the practices of democracy and the role of education in preparation for democratic participation?  What does it mean to be a citizen of a democracy and who counts as a citizen? What are the challenges and opportunities of pluralism (religious, cultural, racial, political) to the life of democracy? A major goal of the class is to prepare students to connect questions about democracy to the different settings they will encounter in their years at UVA, from the classroom to the many social and political situations they negotiate. In addition to reading assignments and short papers, students will be required to move out of the classroom and select, observe and reflect upon a real-life instance of democratic politics in action (e.g., city council meetings, school board meetings, and so forth).     

  • EGMT 1540: Seven Great Questions

    EGMT 1540: Seven Great Questions

    Instructed by

    What is justice? What is freedom? What is happiness? This is a course for those who have questions about what life is all about, what it means to live well, and how to think critically and creatively about the future. For instance: Is justice getting what you deserve? Has your education freed your mind or hammered you into conformity? If we can use CRISPR to engineer highly intelligent, beautiful people, should we do so? We’ll explore these questions and more.

  • EGMT 1540: Sci-Fi Ethics

    Eric Hilker

    EGMT 1540: Sci-Fi Ethics

    Instructed by Eric Hilker

    How can entering the divergent worlds of science fiction help us better understand what it means to do the right thing or live a good life? Sci-Fi is a genre of literature that develops important ethical questions, imagines different possibilities for society, and challenges the boundaries of what is human. Doing so, science fiction can help us question what we have taken for granted in our own life and society: What values do we use to navigate moral dilemmas? What stories have shaped our own idea of a good life? How do we encounter others that are not like us? The course is divided into three units with distinct (though overlapping) themes. In the first unit, we consider works of science fiction that pose interesting moral dilemmas. These stories will raise issues of free will and determinism, power differentials and equality, and the ethical value of language. In the second unit, we see how science fiction often tells familiar stories in unfamiliar contexts. Seeing these common narratives (and resistance to them) can help us become responsible for the assumed narratives of our own lives (and perhaps imagine other possibilities). In the third unit we look at works that blur the line between human and non-human—stories of aliens, androids, biotech, and zombies. Here we ask questions about what it means to be human and how we should encounter those who are different.

  • EGMT 1540: The Business of Being Born

    Patrice Wright

    EGMT 1540: The Business of Being Born

    Instructed by Patrice Wright

    o This course explores the ethics of assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs) as technological advances and burgeoning world markets expand the possibilities for creating new life. In the course, students will explore four ethical big questions.1) Is reproduction a personal decision, made after one is aware of the ‘birds and the bees’? Or is that decision affected by existing social policies, technological advances, and access to resources? 2) How do technological advancements in fertility treatments perpetuate social inequalities? How does access to assisted reproductive technologies shape the composition of the population? 3) How do people experience fertility and infertility? Is one identity more shameful than the other? 4) What role should the federal government play in oversight of fertility services, and access to ARTs? Enrolled students will pursue these questions over the course of seven weeks and dive into the murky waters of what is “right”, “wrong” or “iffy” but acceptably in the usage of ARTs.

Want to know more about the Engagements?

We’ve created the perfect primer for incoming students as they think about The Engagements and the first-year experience.