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Possible Electives


This list is just a partial sample of courses; to view full course offerings, please visit the websites for the doctoral, master’s, and certificate programs at the Graduate Center. Please also visit the MALS website to view the Spring 2019 course schedule.
Please note that courses included in this list are subject to change; please contact the program or faculty members involved for additional details.

FSCP 81000 - Television Without Borders: Transnational Perspectives on the Prestige Serial Drama from the Global North

Tuesday, 6:30-10:00 PM, Prof. Giancarlo Lombardi 


Television has enjoyed a creative resurgence in the US, virtually depleting and replacing the once thriving independent film industry. At the same time, the advent of digital platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime has facilitated the local distribution of foreign serial drama, granting access to productions that were once imagined as strictly bound to a national target of viewers. In Europe, the merger of BSkyB, Sky Italia, and Sky Deutschland has led to the restructuring of a media conglomerate that promoted the simultaneous airing of prestige European serial drama across several countries, including the US. The global launch of Netflix has not only led to increasing worldwide distribution of American serial drama, but also to the company’s growing investment in the creation of local original series, to be distributed simultaneously all over the world.


This course proposes a comparative approach to television drama, through the specific study of prestige serial drama, namely TV series usually connoted by high production values, naturalistic performance style, narrative complexity, stylistic integrity, and committed viewer engagement.  Our investigation will be guided by the narratological concerns raised by Jason Mittell in Complex Television, and inflected by the application of theoretical tenets until now largely associated with the study of comparative literature. While maintaining its firm footing in the specific critical tools associated to the study of television, this course grafts onto the study of television questions raised in Pascale Casanova’s World Republic of Letters, investigating serial drama in its global positioning and in its nationalistic investments, identifying its national aesthetics and its political dependencies, its loci of assimilation and its forms of rebellion against dominant paradigms dictated by Hollywood. Pierre Bourdieu’s understanding of power and capital in his study of sites of force(s) and struggle(s) in the field of cultural production, Benedict Anderson’s definition of imagined communities, and Arjun Appadurai’s investigation of imagination as social force in identity creation will all contribute to our reading of a diverse group of television series, analyzed through questions of genre, themes, and format. For the purpose of limiting what is already an incredibly vast field of inquiry, comedies will not be taken into consideration.


Series discussed in this course will include Cleverman (Australia), 13 Commandments and Public Enemy (Belgium),  Pure (Canada), 1864, The Rain, and Ride Upon the Storm (Denmark), Les Revenants and Churchmen (France), Dark (Germany), Srugim and Fauda (Israel), Gomorra, Suburra, The Thirteenth Apostle, and The Miracle (Italy), The Young Pope (Italy-US), Top of the Lake (New Zealand), Mammon (Norway), Night and Day (Spain), Jördskott (Sweden), Broken, Fortitude, and The State (UK), The Handmaid’s Tale, True Detective, The Sinner, Westworld, American Gods, Preacher, The Path, The Leftovers (US).


IDS 81630 - Mediating Race: Technology, Performance, Politics, and Aesthetics in Popular Culture

Wednesday, 2:00 - 4:00 PM, Profs. Cathy N. Davidson and Racquel Gates 


What does it mean to be “cool,” to be “fierce,” or to “slay”? This course focuses on technologies, techniques, performance, and style (including fashion) as components contributing to our ideas, representations, conventions, and stereotypes of race. More specifically, this course asks how cinematic and media aesthetics have contributed to how we identify and “read” blackness in popular media. Rather than treat film, television, and new media as straightforward reflections of social realities, this course will analyze how the media established, and continues to shape, our understandings of what blackness “looks” like. This course asks how popular culture has created the aesthetic vocabulary for how media consumers “read” blackness in all of its various incarnations.


This is an ideal course for anyone in the humanities and social sciences, for those interested in traditional and new media, and for anyone looking for sophisticated, critical, and original approaches to issues of race, racism, and representation in American popular culture.  In addition, the course will be using a number of active learning pedagogical techniques that will both make this a lively “workshop” of ideas to which every student will contribute and will offer anyone who is teaching, at any level, a new set of methods, activities, and ideas about active learning and the teaching of controversial, difficult, and complicated subject matter.


IDS 81640 - Afrofuturism—Race and Science Fiction

Wednesday, 11:45 AM – 1:45 PM, Profs. Jonathan Gray and Joy Sanchez-Taylor


In 1994 Mark Dery defined Afrofuturism as “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the contexts of twentieth-century technoculture,” locating its origins in the early work of Samuel Delany (and O. Butler? and Sun Ra?). Our seminar takes Dery’s definition as a point of departure to examine the fiction, films, graphic narratives and music videos produced in the sub-genre of Afrofuturism. Because Afrofuturist expression runs the gamut from literary (science) fiction to popular music, it is incumbent for graduate students interested in African American and Africana literature and culture, American Studies, popular culture studies, and science fiction and fantasy to engage in the necessarily interdisciplinary inquiry that Afrofuturism demands. Indeed, the question of Afro-futurity informs recent creative work (Junot Diaz’s “Monstro,” HBO’s Westworld) and technical innovation (Black Twitter) that would seem to fall outside of an Afrofuturist paradigm. Thus, our exploration of this topic will problematize our understandings of speculative fiction (also known as science fiction or sci-fi), question how the imbrication of technology into our lives transforms human subjectivity, and survey literary theory to arrive at an understanding of how Afrofuturism has developed since the mid-20th century and how it promises to propagate itself into the future.

This course is grounded in student participation. Students in the course will thoroughly investigate primary and secondary sources on Afrofuturism and will play an active role in the course by taking turns as facilitators of class discussions and through the completion of a class project with a digital humanities component.


IDS 81650 - Critical Race Scholarship: Theories and Pedagogies

Thursday, 11:45 AM -1:45 PM, Profs. Michelle Billies and Soniya Munshi


In this interdisciplinary course, graduate students will engage with critical race scholarship to build from and integrate this scholarship into their own research and pedagogy. Readings will span an expansive array of critical race theories and methods. Scholarly traditions will include transnational and diasporic feminisms; Black geographies and Caribbean philosophies; indigenous studies and critical ethnic studies; critical whiteness studies; queer studies; disability studies; activist scholarship; and, literature addressing pedagogical approaches in these areas. Students will use course readings to craft a writing project useful in their research or teaching. They may deepen an understanding of a particular theorist or body of work; rewrite the philosophical or theoretical underpinning of their research; create a course, syllabi and/or set of teaching plans; collaborate with another student to generate theory or a team-taught course; examine internalized dominance or internalized racism and its relationship to their scholarly work or teaching; or another project they propose. Students will be invited to contribute a reading to the syllabus.


Contemporary challenges in the academy and society at large confirm the crucial need for intellectual engagement with critical theories of race and intersectionality that address systemic, historic racism. This graduate course is a means of proliferating knowledge and critiques of race in and out of the academy while developing strategies for furthering this work in the undergraduate classroom.  The pedagogical approach will foster open discussion of personal relationships to the readings as well as experiences of race and ethnicity.

IDS 81660 - Reading and Speaking Race

Monday, 4:15-6:15 PM, Profs. Juan Battle and Sigmund Shipp


This course will provide students with a deeper understanding of contemporary academic and public discourses surrounding race and ethnicity. Grounded in a sociological approach, students will read key social scientific texts on the meaning of race from both historical and contemporary perspectives. This class is different than a traditional race and ethnicity graduate course because it asks students to not only understand academic discussions of race and ethnicity but also work to make these complex arguments accessible to wider audiences. With journalists and publics becoming increasingly interested in nuanced discourse about the influence of race in the Post-Obama era, the class presents a unique opportunity to help emergent scholars hone their voices and analysis.

The contemporary political environment necessitates a language and nuance that helps articulate an increasingly diverse yet still unequal world. Weekly discussions will be facilitated by rotating members of the class. Students in the course will be expected to develop three written products: 1) an op-ed targeted at a major news publication such at the New York Times or a national news publication; 2) an article for Contexts magazine, The Conversation or a similarly public facing publication; and 3) a book review for an academic publication. The course will draw primarily from two texts: Beyond Black and White: A Reader on Contemporary Race Relations edited by Zulema Valdez and Going Public: A Guide for Social Scientists by Arlene Stein and Jessie Daniels. We plan to incorporate guest speakers who specialize in public facing work including a journalist, an editor from public facing publication, and academic with high profile success engaging publics.


MUS 83200 - The Social Life of Music Technologies

Tuesday, 2:00 - 5:00 PM, Prof. Eliot Bates

This class provides an introduction to the “technology studies” wing of the field of science & technology studies (STS). It also provides an introduction to the study of music technologies, which includes (but is not limited to) musical instruments, recording technologies and recorded media formats. Thus, this class will demonstrate how STS theories and methods and a broader interdisciplinary interest in material culture studies can be applied to the study of musical topics, and how music-related technologies are an ideal case study for STS and contribute to it a nuanced consideration of interfaces and aesthetics.

   The class is organized into five streams:

1. Theorizing technology: perspectives from STS

Here, we will study several ways which STS scholars have theorized technology and human-technological interaction. We will begin with actor-network theory (Latour, Law, Mol), explore the social construction of technology (Pinch, Bijker), continue to the “scripts” concept (Akrich), survey the sub-field of user studies (Oudshoorn), then consider feminist technoscience approaches (Haraway, Barad). Throughout, we will pay close attention to how “the social” is conceptualized, and where “agency” is situated. Are technologies part of society or external to it? What are the implications of asserting that non-human objects have agency?

2. Organology and the technologies of musical instruments

This stream aims to survey the different approaches that have been taken towards studying instruments, ranging from “classic” organology and museum-curatorial studies (e.g. The Galpin Society, American Music Instrument Society), to ethnomusicological approaches, to the more recent movement towards “critical” organology which brings together STS approaches with material culture studies and musicological inquiry. One topic of particular interest is keyboard instruments, as the pipe organ, piano, and analog synthesizer represent three related yet strikingly different social-musical-technical assemblages.

3. Audio recording: technologies, labor and production

Starting with the birth of phonography in the 19th century, this stream analyzes the intersection between technologies (e.g. microphones, mixing consoles, digital audio workstations) and labor practices that happen within the field of production, broadly conceived.  Of particular interest will be the similarities and differences in how specific technologies are used in different sociocultural contexts and for different styles of music/sound production, and how different production milieus give rise to differences in the professions engaged with technological use. The focus here will be on the ethnography of technologies and technological use.

4. Recorded media

While production labor typically results in the creation of media, once created media have a sociotechnical life of their own. We will employ a material culture and media studies framework to understand various recorded media formats (e.g. cylinder, vinyl, CD, mp3) as technologies, and to understand the social aspects of consumer playback technologies too.

5. Ecologies and economies: the ethics of music/sound technology

Finally, music technology requires a considerable amount of natural resources and a massive infrastructure to create it. Within the past few years scholars have begun analyzing the environmental and economic ramifications of these technologies, whether in relation to the trafficking in endangered hardwoods for guitars and violins (Dawe, Allen) or the afterlife of discarded vinyl records (Devine, Straw). Building upon the economic anthropological work of Alf Hornborg, we will critique the fetish nature of audio technologies in relation to the resource and labor implications in the sites where the raw materials are sourced.


This class does not require prior specialist music knowledge, and is open to students across the GC at the MA and PhD levels.


FSCP 81000 - Film History III

Thursday, 11:45 AM -2:45 PM, Prof. Marc Dolan


FSCP 81000 - Cinemas of the Global South  

Monday, 2:00 - 6:00 PM, Prof. Jerry Carlson


Sex and Singlemothers in Medieval France

Monday, 2:00 - 4:00 PM, Prof. Sara McDougall


It is hard to imagine anything other than terrible consequences for a woman pregnant from illicit sex living in medieval France. That said, both literary sources and documents of legal practice suggest many possible outcomes, including a less than tragic fate for the child and also for the mother. Christian doctrine condemned illicit sex, and operated with a double standard that often excused men while punishing women, but there was also an insistence on mercy and charity, and on the value of the life of an infant. Honor mattered enough to justify murder for some, but in other cases the preservation of honor by discretion and secrecy might also have led to different responses.

This course will examine ideas about and portrayals of women contending with out-of-wedlock pregnancy in a wide range of different kinds of French sources, from mystery plays and miracle stories to romance, from law codes and royal pardons to sermons and chronicles, fabliaux and farce, and prescriptive texts including hospital foundations, conduct literature, and gynecological treatises.

This course will be taught in English, with texts available in French and in translation.


PHIL 76100 - The Philosophy of W. E. B. Du Bois 

Monday, 4:15 – 6:15 PM, Prof. Mills


Few American intellectuals of any race have surpassed the achievements of W.E.B Du Bois, who over a long (1868-1963) and remarkably productive activist and scholarly life made invaluable contributions across a wide variety of fields. Long recognized as black America’s towering thinker, he has only recently begun to get his due from the mainstream “white” academy, in disciplines ranging from sociology and history to literature and international relations theory (IR). In this course, we will look specifically at his pioneering role in helping to establish Africana Philosophy as a distinctive oppositional philosophical worldview in Western modernity. 


PHIL 77600 - Classics in the Philosophy of Art 

Tuesday, 11:45 AM – 1:45 PM, Profs. Carroll and Pappas


This course comprises close readings of classics in the history of the philosophy of art in the Western tradition, beginning with Plato and extending to the early twentieth century.  Some figures to be explored include Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, and others.  There are no prerequisites for the course. The course requirement is a final paper.


PHIL 76200 - From Schopenhauer to Freud (via Nietzsche): Depth Psychology and Philosophy

Thursday, 4:15 – 6:15 PM, Prof. Chopra 


In this class, we will explore the often-remarked on connections and resonances between the works of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Freud--all of whom have been, at one point or the other, anointed founders of depth psychology for their explorations of the unconscious. We will do this by reading both original works and some selections drawn from the fast-growing literature--philosophical and psychological--that explores these connections.  


PHIL 76600 (59225) - Philosophy of Psychopathology

Wednesday, 9:30-11:30 AM, Prof. Greenwood

In this course we will conduct a critical conceptual (but empirically informed) exploration of the history, theory, and philosophy (or metaphysics if you like) of psychological disorders. We will consider the general question of what constitutes a psychological disorder (reviewing phenomenological, neurological, social constructionist, latent variable, network, dysfunction and distress accounts) and examine contemporary theoretical accounts of individual psychological disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, paraphilia, addiction, dissociative disorder, autism, psychopathy, and personality disorder (if time permits, we will also consider PTSD and bodily identity disorder), and their implications for agent autonomy, moral and legal responsibility, personal identity and social psychology. We will also explore evolutionary psychological explanations of psychological disorders, the possibility of genuine cultural and historical variance in psychological disorders, and the nature of placebo effects and their role in the evaluation of forms of psychological therapy.

P SC 82601- Power, Resistance, Identity, and Social Movements (PRISM) 
Tuesday, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Prof. Ruth O'Brien

This course focuses on individual forms of socially constructed identity (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, and humanness or bodies), intersectional forms of identity (e.g., gender and bodies), and collective forms of identity (e.g., citizen, worker or labor, and anarchist collectives or horizontal non-state civil movements, referred to as social movements in American politics).  It explores how these identities affect power and resistance, as understood by social theorists and contemporary philosophers such as Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, and Judith Butler, who in turn draw upon Gilles Deleuze, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, Michel Foucault, Antonio Gramsci, Karl Marx, and G. W. F. Hegel, among others.

It applies how the intersection of epistemology/ontology can be applied to the politics of social movements today.  It looks at how social theory helps social movements strategize.  It manifests Ideas in Action and (Re)Action.

This course is cross-listed with Urban Education, American Studies, and International Studies, and it is especially pertinent for M.A. students in Political Science, because it offers theories and then applications to help students exploring writing an M.A. thesis or capstone project.  

Several social movements will be explored as case studies.  First, we will consider the worldwide struggle to end political and social violence against women (including #MeTooism), and if/how it is having global impact. We will examine, for example, the Combahee River Collective -- an organization of Black feminists who attained international reach by coining the term “identity politics” -- and assess the movement’s global impact, as seen for instance in “Women’s Internationalism against Global Patriarchy,” by Dilar Dirik (and PM Press).  

Second, we will consider American school desegregation in urban education as a precursor to income inequality under neoliberalism -- or, put more simply: How white flight meant the Democrats abandoned one of their main constituencies during and after the Great Society.  This is a historical case study from the 1970s.

Third, we will compare American and global counterinsurgency (right-wing vigilantism), juxtaposing liberal and illiberal states and civil societies, showing how it has increased violence against women and children in the United States (intimate-partner violence) and worldwide as a means of shutting up women, from honor killings to what I call neotribalism.  This is contemporary, though more emphasis is placed on the juxtaposition between the United States and Europe.

Each social movement, whether left or right -- insurgency or counterinsurgency, horizontal or vertical -- navigates juxtapositions that can save or harm or have a boomerang effect.  Students write position outlines (not papers) and turn in a short topic paper exploring their own interest in social movements and how to apply social or political theory or thought.

This seminar is an American Politics course that helps students prepare for Social Movements, Political Parties and Interest Groups in the Elections and Behaviors literature in the field of American Politics. It also helps students in American Political Thought since social movements and interest groups are vehicles of change that influence governance from the outside, whereas political parties reside both in and outside the government.  All these vehicles of change influence public discourse (or the creation of epistemology/ontology or public-private opinion) -- what many call cultures, epistemes, beliefs, values, traditions, and ideologies.  For this reason, it is useful for students in American Political Thought (APT) and American Political Development (APD).
Pedagogy: Position-paper pedagogy 
Requirements: 3 blogs -- Idea Impact Strategy Position Papers (Wordpress page or blog size) and short paper.

U ED 71100 - Critical University Studies with a Special Emphasis on CUNY
Wednesday, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, Professor Brier

This doctoral seminar on Critical University Studies (CUS), offered in the Urban Education program, will explore the role of higher education, especially public universities, at the intersection of issues of race, class, gender, culture, political economy, and politics. CUS is a relatively new field of interdisciplinary inquiry, growing out of theoretical developments in the fields of Cultural Studies and Critical Legal Studies and focused on the critical examination of the institutional structures, ideologies, histories, and changing curricular forms and methods of scholarly inquiry in public higher education in the United States and beyond. It analyzes the neoliberal attacks over the past three decades on public universities by politicians and business interests and the oppositional responses of college faculty, staff and undergraduate and graduate students and the larger communities they serve to the savage funding cuts and ideological and intellectual critiques faced by public higher education systems around the country. We will read deeply in recent and landmark literature on CUS and seminar members will conduct scholarly research and writing on a relevant CUS topic or area of interest. The seminar sessions will include presentations by several GC and outside presenters active in the CUS field. The seminar is open to all GC PhD students in social science and humanities disciplines, as well as MALS and other Master’s students interested in exploring the changing nature and role of higher education in contemporary society. The course will be taught by Professor Stephen Brier of the PhD program in Urban Education and a faculty member in the MALS and M.A. in Digital Humanities programs and the certificate programs in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy and American Studies.

MUS 88400 - “Music & Society in Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican, and New York Latin Cultures”
Tuesday, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM, Professor Peter Manuel
This seminar explores the music cultures of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and their diasporic communities in New York and elsewhere.  Genres covered will include Afro-Cuban and Afro-Puerto Rican traditional musics, décima-based genres, 19th-century contradanza and danza styles, commercial popular dance musics (including, e.g., merengue, bachata, Cuban son, and the pan-regional genres salsa and reggaeton), and early-twentieth-century Cuban art musics. Dynamics of race, gender, creolization, and diasporic interactions will be recurring themes.  The course will address both socio-musical and formal aspects of music, although students lacking background in music analysis will also be accommodated.  Grades will be based on a term paper, an analysis assignment (or equivalent substitute), individual class reports on readings and/or other materials, and class notes. While many readings will be on Blackboard, we will also be reading much of Robin Moore's Music & Revolution: Cultural Change in Socialist Cuba, of his Nationalizing Blackness: Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920-1940, and substantial portions of Ned Sublette’s Cuba and its Music.