In the spring 2017 seminars, students continue to hone critical thinking and writing abilities, while designing and carrying out significant research projects under the direction of their faculty instructors.
Spring 2017 CSP Courses
CSP 50. CHINA IN A CHANGING WORLD: FROM THE OPIUM WAR TO POST-MAO REFORMS.
This course studies China’s cultural, political and social development in a global setting from the early 19th century to the present. It delves briefly into China’s historical background prior to its opening to the Western world forced by Britain in the Opium War, before exploring the profound changes brought by globalization. Western influences in China, from Christianity to Marxism, will be examined with a focus on key events such as the Taiping Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion, Xinhai Revolution, May 4th Movement, Communist Revolution, and China’s recent rise as a global power. Students will gain a unique perspective from which to understand the consequences and impact of globalization on our rapidly changing world.
Xiao-huang Yin (American Studies)
CSP 51. RACE AND POPULAR CULTURE.
This course uses popular culture as a lens to explore the shifting connotations and political significance of American racial ideologies. Grounding what we call “culture” in political, economic, and social contexts, we will ask: what can an examination of such popular forms as fashion, music, sports, and film reveal about the social construction of race and ethnicity in the United States? Focusing on moments when certain popular fads, cultural practices, political performances or media spectacles became lightning rods for the expression of national anxieties about race and ethnicity, we will examine the ways these episodes reflected and, at times, challenged the prevailing social order. The course will be organized around case studies from the early nineteenth century to the present, including the rise and fall of the African Theater Company in New York, the public responses to heavyweight champions Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali, the significance of the Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots, and the hysteria surrounding hip hop in the 1980s.
Erica Ball (American Studies)
CSP 52. ANIMALS & SOCIETY.
What is the role of animals in your life? How and why do you decide who to nurture and who to eat? This course explores the intimate and changing relationship between human and non-human animals, including an examination of how we conceptualize animals: as companions, food, workers, representatives of self, and more; the rights - or lack thereof - of animals; our animal industries: factory farming, shelters & rescues, animal workers, entertainment, fighting, races, hunting, medical research, and more; boundaries between human and non-human animals; violence against animals, both individualized and institutionalized; animals as a concept: and the social construction of the difference between human and non-human animals.
Terri Anderson (Sociology)
CSP 53. GENDERS.
Market researchers claim your generation is more gender fluid and “queer” than previous generations. Despite increased visibility of transgender, trans*, gender queer, non-binary, bi-gender, and agender, identities in popular culture, the US Census uses only two, mutually exclusive, gender categories: male or female. Given current political struggles over access to public restrooms, safety, and healthcare, this course asks, what does it mean to be counted? We'll take a critical, inquiry-based approach to the social construction of gender in its personal, political, and economic contexts. The course is organized as a class-wide research project that involves a reflexive essay about your own gender identity, structured interviews with peers, and the design of a survey that investigates the range of gender identities at Oxy. Through this research process, you will gain experience in analytical writing about different kinds of social data (qualitative and quantitative), be introduced to some basic principles of survey design and data analysis, and critically evaluate the problems and significance of quantifying human identity and experience.
Jacob Alden Sargent (Center for Digital Liberal Arts)
CSP 54. CITIZEN SCIENCE: CROWDSOURCING SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY.
Citizen science, or crowdsourced science, is a collaboration between scientists and members of the general public to collect and provide access to data for scientific research. Recent advances in mobile technology and computing have allowed citizen scientists to make substantial contributions to scientific research at an unprecedented scale. In this course, we will trace the history of public participation in science and explore how these collaborations between professional researchers and the public have impacted scientific research, the scientific community, and public perceptions of science. Over the course of the semester, students will critically evaluate and directly engage in citizen science by participating in a variety of citizen-science projects, analyzing open datasets, and conducting an original research project.
Jessica Blickley (Center for Digital Liberal Arts)
CSP 55. MODERATION.
Conflicts related to group identity or opinion are all around us. Warring religious groups, segregation in housing, income inequality, as well as policies on climate change, immigration, guns, and marriage are all examples of groups in opposition. This course explores the dynamic nature of group formation and dissolution by focusing on individual beliefs. In particular, we will look at how individuals and social structures adapt in order to achieve moderation in the face of conflict. Drawing upon evidence collected through collaborative projects, you will use sociological, economic, and cognitive theories to pose critical questions about group integrity and personal adaptation. Working with your peers, you will then examine these questions using computer models and produce a final research project. No programming experience is required, but we will introduce tools for simulating social dynamic processes that you will be able to apply to other social and ecological phenomena. By studying what structural forces bind us together, you will come away from the course with a toolkit of quantitative and qualitative strategies to address conflict in new situations.
Kalin Agrawal (Center for Digital Liberal Arts)
CSP 56. THE RUSSIAN EXPERIENCE.
The Russian Experience focuses on the enigma and riddle known as “Rus”, “Russia”, “The Russian Empire”, “The Soviet Union” and “The Russian Federation”. This strange land has been a combination of great extremes: West and East, blinding poverty and dazzling wealth, great talent and shocking brutality. The course focuses on the period of Russia's explosion onto the world stage both politically and artistically, beginning with the reign of Alexander I, the Napoleonic Wars and the Decembrist Revolt, and following the development of Russian society and the Russian/Soviet State through the 19th and 20th Centuries, up to the current post-Soviet Russian Federation. There will be equal emphasis on internal politics, the arts, and international relations.
This is a 4-unit course with two linked seminar sections.
Walt Richmond (Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture)
CSP 57. WEIMAR ON THE PACIFIC: GERMAN EXILE CULTURE IN LOS ANGELES.
Taught in English. After Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, Los Angeles became an unlikely cultural sanctuary for thousands of German artists and intellectuals who fled the Nazi regime. Many of these German expatriates ultimately settled in the U.S., where – simultaneously attracted and alienated by their new surroundings – they made a significant impact on American culture. During their years in exile, they would produce a substantial body of major works, in which Weimar Germany and its culture – with its mix of 18th-century classicism and 20th-century modernism – served as a key reference point. This seminar will explore German Exile Culture in Los Angeles, spanning film (Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder), architecture (Richard Neutra, Rudolf Schindler), literature (Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger), and philosophy (Adorno, Horkheimer). Based on the aesthetic and conceptual specificities of cultural phenomena, class discussions will focus on the relations between art and politics, modernist and mass culture, art and capitalism, culture and democracy.
Bryan Klausmeyer (Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture)
CSP 58. ART IN THE ARROYO: BOHEMIAN CULTURES OF NORTHEAST L.A.
This course will consider a variety of sources from history, sociology, and the arts to explore the origins of L.A.’s original artistic and creative culture in the Arroyo Seco and its contemporary reemergence in the Northeast L.A. art scene. At the turn of the twentieth century, a celebrated and irreverent “Arroyo Culture” of Arts and Crafts architects, designers, printers, and writers came to prominence in Southern California and across the Southwest and the nation. Yet that Northeast Los Angeles artistic bohemia dissipated by mid-century through freeway construction, disinvestment, and white flight. Gradually, the cultures of the Arroyo region dropped out of the larger consciousness. In this class, we will trace the hidden history of the individual makers and arts collectives that flourished even during these years of obscurity, along with the rise of a new, distinctively Latino expressive culture that would break back into the metropolitan consciousness by the 1970s. Faced with new challenges of gentrification and the continually changing cultures of Northeast LA, we will also explore how the Arroyo region continues to shape our contemporary artistic and bohemian creative culture in twenty-first century Los Angeles. In the process, we will connect students with heritage and arts organizations to do field interviews and archival research. History and sociology studies of bohemia and neo-bohemia will help contextualize our explorations of the role of the arts in defining regional identity and as factors in economic development and community life.
Jem Axelrod (History) and Jan Lin (Sociology)
CSP 59. FROM THE PHONOGRAPH TO AUTO-TUNE: EXPLORING THE CULTURES OF REORDED MUSIC.
Writing in 1906, the American composer John Phillip Sousa expressed grave concerns about what he termed the "menace of mechanical music." According to Sousa, the advent of devices like the player piano and the phonograph threatened to remove "the human skill, intelligence, and soul" from music and reduce it to little more than "a mathematical system of megaphones, wheels, cogs, disks, and cylinders." More than a century later, musicians and audiences today have embraced musical technology in ways that would have been inconceivable in Sousa's time. How did the introduction of such technologies transform musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century? And how has the subsequent development of new musical technologies changed the way people both produce and listen to music? Through the examination of a diverse range of literature, films, archival materials, and sound recordings, this course will explore the complex and continually evolving relationship between music and technology -- from the primitive phonograph introduced by Thomas Edison in 1877 to vibrant culture of digital sampling, MP3s, and Auto-Tune of the present day.
Edmond Johnson (Music)
CSP 60. BLACK PARIS: DIASPORIC CONNECTIONS IN THE CITY OF LIGHT.
During the first part of the 20th century Paris was an international hub of intellectual and creative activity. For black Americans, in particular, Paris held the promise of “liberty, equality, and (interracial) fraternity.” There they established connections with African and Caribbean thinkers resulting in an explosion of cultural production that would influence French culture and transform the future of people of African descent. This course will examine black internationalism as experienced in Paris during the Interwar period and the decade following World War II, focusing on themes such as Pan-Africanism, the Harlem Renaissance New Negro, the Jazz Age, and Negritude. Readings will include works by and about figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Aimé Césaire, and Léopold Senghor.
Lauren Brown (Core Program)
CSP 61. RACIAL CROSSINGS IN 20TH CENTURY HOLLYWOOD FILMS.
This course uses Hollywood film from the silent era to the end of the 20 th century to examine changing American attitudes to racial crossings of all kinds. The focus of our class discussions will be on how these films have created, shaped, or broken images of the raced other in America. With the films as our starting point for discussion and analysis, we will explore Hollywood presentations of passing for white, interracial romance, and mixed race characters. As a second semester course in the Cultural Studies Program, the development and exercise of critical thinking and writing skills will be central to all class assignments.
Adrienne Tien (American Studies)
CSP 62. REPRESENTING L.A.: IMAGINED SPACES, LIVING PLACES.
As a major U.S. city that grew in importance during a time of increasing globalization, Los Angeles occupies a unique position within the cultural imagination. This course will explore how the unique geographical and cultural space of Los Angeles has contributed to ways in which the city has been imagined and represented in literature and film. In our explorations, we will consider how L.A.’s roots, migrating populations, shifting community boundaries, and multiple forms of power shape imaginings and lived realities of the city. How do various representations reflect – and diverge from – living communities within Los Angeles? How are the city and its communities shaped by national and global forces? How has Los Angeles as a destination city for migrants shaped the ways it is imagined? How do we reconcile the dueling representations of L.A. as both utopia and dystopia? Over the course of the semester, we will examine a broad range of film and literature that will guide our discussion of these and other questions, interrogating what it means to live in the city of Los Angeles. In addition, the course will include a community-based research project on gentrification in the Highland Park neighborhood by campus.
Donna Maeda (Critical Theory and Social Justice)
CSP 63. MAKING ECONOMIC SENSE.
This course provides a broad and interdisciplinary introduction to free market economics. It evaluates the ethical implications of market economy including income inequality, poverty, private property and democracy and explores the additive concept of social efficiency to the economic analysis of redistribution.
Daron Djerdjian (Economics)
CSP 64. MONSTERS: IMAGINING RACE, NATION AND CLASS.
We often think of popular culture as a kind of distraction; we watch films or read novels to escape the real world and its problems. What would be the point of studying "monsters" in literature and film if the books and movies exist only to allow us to escape reality? This course will begin by rejecting these assumptions. By looking at the history of the concept of the monster and by looking at those particular modern monsters, such as Frankenstein's monster and Dracula, we can see the ways in which anxieties about the purity and impurity of race and nation, about who belongs and who doesn't belong to a community, about those who cannot or will not assimilate and thus threaten the body in which they have no place are explored in greater detail than anywhere else. We will ask why race is foregrounded in the contemporary zombie film (a genre which has its origins in the former slave colony of Haiti) and what reality is captured in one its most important conventions, the "necessary" killing of children. We may discover that these forms of popular culture reveal what is most disturbing and dangerous about the societies that produce them, not least our own.
In addition to novels and films, we will read Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Foucault and Agamben.
Warren Montag (English)
CSP 65. NARRATIVES BY AND ABOUT MUSLIMS.
How is Islam perceived, understood, and labeled by Muslims and non-Muslims? How is it experienced, lived, and practiced or not by its followers? The course examines diverse narratives associated with Islam in fiction, non-fiction, and films set in the 20th and 21st centuries in different parts of the world--Europe (the Balkans, France), the Middle East (Egypt, Lebanon, Irak) North and West Africa (Morocco, Senegal) and North America. Special attention is given to the cultural, political, and historical contexts of the works studied.
Hanan Elsayed (French)
CSP 66. “FROM ZORRO TO J. LO”: THE HISTORY OF LATINA/O REPRESENTATION IN U.S. FILM AND TELEVISION.
This seminar examines how Latina/os have been represented in U.S. film and television since the early twentieth century and how these images have changed over time in response to social and political change. Particular emphasis will be given to themes of class, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity as we deconstruct the stereotypes of Latin lovers, bandits, vixens, maids, gangsters, and immigrants. We will also consider how Latina/o self-representation and anti-stereotyping have subverted and resisted these images. Attention to transnational political contexts as well as theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches for cultural analysis will ground class discussions and research projects.
Alexandra Puerto (History)
CSP 67. MUSIC AND TRANCE: HOW MUSIC INFLUENCES THE ECSTATIC STATE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.
This course explores the relationship between music and consciousness in different world cultures with the intention of developing an understanding of the role that music plays in ecstatic experiences. Through a survey of various cultures, we will delve into various dimensions of how music operates in culture as an intrinsic part of altered states of consciousness in the human quest for a spiritual connection. This course draws on ethnomusicology, psychology, anthropology, music therapy, dance ethnology, and religious studies. Emphasis will placed upon developing excellent writing skills, research skills, and critical thinking in order to produce a strong and cogent final research paper.
G. Simeon Pillich (Music)
CSP 68. BEING GOOD AND DOING GOOD: MORAL PHILOSOPHY MEETS EMPIRICAL PSYCHOLOGY.
Did you know that if you find a dime in a phone booth you are much more likely to help someone in need? That it might be better to make important decisions in your life based, not on your careful reflection on the matter, but on your gut feelings? In this course we will investigate cutting-edge research in psychology that upends deeply held convictions about our moral behavior. We will examine the implications that this research has in our moral landscape by examining the contributions that different contemporary philosophers have made to this body of research. In the last part of the course we will reflect on how this research can help us understand and address some pressing social justice issues in the Eagle Rock community in particular and the LA area in general.
Santiago Mejia (Philosophy)
CSP 69. DEBATING CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IN SEXUALITY.
This course introduces four theoretical perspectives on sexuality: biological (sexuality is a matter of sexual bodies and chemistry), psychological (sexuality is a matter of mental states and processes), social constructionist (sexuality is a cultural and historical product), and conflict (sexuality is a contested arena in which different groups vie for power). With these perspectives in mind, we explore four broad questions: How should we regulate sexual behavior? What is sexual consent? Who's responsible for the fact that sex makes babies? And, what is good sex?
Caroline Heldman (Politics)
CSP 70. DEMOCRATIC PUBLICS.
In Democracy in America, Tocqueville gives a picture of the people who governed themselves in America as self-important, anti-intellectual, racist religious zealots who were mostly driven by self-interest with little concern for the public’s interest. Yet, Tocqueville also claimed that when these vile individuals constituted a public in the New England townships with the aim of carrying out public business, the virtues of American democracy were made manifest. This course will take as a starting point Tocqueville’s insight about the secret of a nascent American democracy – the New England’s townships, a particular kind of democratic public that unleashes the virtue of democracy through the natural vice of its people – to examine the possibility of democratic publics in restoring American democracy in the twenty-first century. The class will be devoted to reading political and philosophical texts that suggest that the shape and function of our public spheres, counter-publics, and political spaces are essential for the preservation of democracy. There will also be a community-based component of the class that requires students to critically engage and actually participate in a democratic public in Los Angeles.
Ainsley LeSure (Politics)
CSP 71. EXISTENTIALISM.
Existentialism is a philosophy that grapples with the problem of human freedom and moral choice in a world that often seems devoid of transcendental meaning or purpose. In this course we will read literary and philosophical texts from the French, German, Hispanic, and Russian existentialist traditions, and will explore the structures and possibilities of consciousness, knowledge, desire, imagination, aesthetics, ethics, and political commitment. Authors studied will include Albert Camus, Fydor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, Eduardo Mallea, Ernesto Sábato, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Leo Tolstoy.
Robert Ellis (Spanish)
The courses listed below allow students to earn 1-unit of credit while learning about mathematics and science (CSP 96), the culture of Los Angeles (CSP 98), or the arts (CSP 99). CSP 98 and 99 can be taken by all Occidental students, while CSP 96 is only open to first-year students.
Please note: These 1-unit courses do not fulfill the first-year CSP seminar requirement.
CSP 96. EXPERIENCING MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE
This course is designed to expose students to mathematics and science, to broaden their awareness of the research questions asked in those disciplines, and to introduce skills and ideas scientifically shown to improve persistence in college, especially in science and math majors. Students may acquire one semester unit of credit for attending eight on-campus events during a semester. Certain seminars and class meetings will be mandatory; students will select additional events from a list of events provided each year by the instructor. A short two-page paper is due on the last day of class.
This course is graded CR/NC only and will not meet specific Major/Minor or Core requirements. Students may take this course twice, for a maximum of two units being applied toward graduation. Prerequisite: open only to first year frosh.
CSP 98. EXPERIENCING LOS ANGELES CULTURES.
This course is designed to expose students to some of the many cultures of Los Angeles, a vibrant microcosm of the "complex, interdependent, pluralistic world" of the 21st century described in Occidental College's mission statement. Students may acquire one semester unit of credit for participating in five off-campus "cultural encounters" during a semester. Students will select these events from a list compiled each year by the Core Program or they may propose their own experiences for approval. A short two-page paper is due on the last day of class.
This course is graded CR/NC only and will not meet specific Major/Minor or Core requirements. Students may take this course twice, for a maximum of two units being applied toward graduation.
CSP 99. EXPERIENCING THE ARTS.
This course is designed to expose students to the arts, to broaden their cultural horizons, and to instill in them a desire to expand their knowledge of and attention to the arts. In addition, the course is designed to prepare students for life-long learning, for engaging in their communities, and for having the basis for further exploration in the field of the arts. Students may acquire one semester unit of credit for attending eight on-campus events during a semester. Students will select these events from a list of events compiled each year by the Arts Committee; at least two of the events attended must combine an arts presentation with a lecture or discussion by the artist or a faculty member. A short two-page paper is due on the last day of class.
This course is graded CR/NC only and will not meet specific Major/Minor or Core requirements. Students may take this course twice, for a maximum of two units being applied toward graduation.
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