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(401) 277 – 4908
Mailing Address: ISE, 2 College Street, Providence RI 02903-2784

Academic Year of 2018-2019


Intercultural Courses Offered in LGBTQ, Gender, Women Studies, Culture, and Spirituality

Please note: this is not a complete list of classes offered by RISD. Please refer to the academic course catalog for a complete list of course offerings. 




Wintersession 2018

Credits: 3.00

This course will focus on the history of self-portraiture and modes of self-identity from the vantage point of feminism, queer theory, and of post-modernist critiques of the so-called author function. We will look closely at self-portraits by artists ranging from Rembrandt van Rijn to Cindy Sherman, and from Albrecht Durer to David Wojnarowicz. Students will be asked to write about artists' self-portraits and also construct their own written and visual autobiographies. We will read memoirs by artists, as well as essays by Barthes, Foucault, and Krauss.



Credits: 3.00

In European and American art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, women were often presented in extreme ways: either as blood-thirsty creatures from Greek mythology, as Salome obsessed with the decapitation of a lover, as poison flowers and vamps; or as personifications of love and virtue, household angels, noble virgins dying out of self-sacrifice. The literature and, later, cinema supported this dichotomy that can be still traced in contemporary culture. In this course we will analyze the images of blessed and cursed women in Western art of the last two centuries.


A Kosmider
Credits: 3.00

Since the early Hollywood years, films have played a major role in the way American mainstream culture inscribes queerness: the many and diverse queer communities, identities, and experiences. This course begins with an examination of earlier representations of queerness in Hollywood films, tracing queer cinematic images throughout the early 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. We will screen queer films such as Nazimova's Salome (1922)and The Killing of Sister George (1968) to analyze their representations of queer identity and examine what they signify to us today. Our examination of queer film will address the following questions: What is gay or lesbian film? What is a queer film? What are the ways in which the discourses of race, gender, and sexuality are interrelated and deployed? The latter half of the course also will examine selected films and documentaries from the new emerging queer cinema and a selection of film shorts that are currently running in queer film festivals.



G Cohee
Credits: 3.00

For much of its history, feminism has revolved around and centered on the gendered body, whether in terms of the body contextualized within time, space, and culture; in terms of the mind and body as oppositional forces; in terms of health, reproduction, or representation; or in terms of the body as part of or outside "nature." This course will examine feminist relationships to the gendered body in terms of various social and historical locations, as well as in relationship to dis/ability, queerness, reproduction, and the "natural" and built environment.



J Poland
Credits: 3.00

In this course we will examine the institution of science and its relations to the social context in which it is embedded. The idea of "value free science" has been appropriately abandoned as a false ideal. In its wake there have arisen a number of questions concerning how social and moral values ought to play a role in determining the directions of scientific research, the conduct of such research, and the application of research findings to social problems. In addition to examining such topics as scientific objectivity, scientific authority, sources of bias in science, and the social accountability of scientists, we will discuss several case studies including controversies over race and IQ, the safety and efficacy of psychiatric medications, the human genome project, and research concerning gender differences. The course will consist of discussion of assigned readings, several short writing assignments, and a group research project and presentation.

Spring Semester 2018



J Borgatti
Credits: 3.00

This course will examine the different legacies of American and British artists of African descent, and how their respective histories have affected their art in the post-modern/post-colonial worlds of the United States and the United Kingdom-how their arts overlap and problematize issues of identity, equity, social justice, and political relationships.



A Schafer
Credits: 3.00

This course will introduce students to the highlights of traditional Islamic artisanal technologies. We will begin with a critical discussion of fundamental concepts and terminology in Islamic culture and history, as well as the contemporary theoretical positioning of craft. This is followed by a more in-depth look at three important artisanal mediums in history and today: textiles, architectural ceramics, and the paper arts. Throughout the semester, we will draw upon visual and textual source material through in class discussions, artists' talks, and visits to campus studios and collections in the museum. In this course, students will attain confidence in recognizing, describing, and interpreting Islamic art and architecture with a trained eye and a critical mind. The course is divided into three modules: "The Social Life of Islamic Textiles", "The Impact of Globalization on the Fez zillij tileworks", and "The Paper Arts of Calligraphy, Maps and the Illuminated Manuscript".



Winifred Lambrecht
Credits: 3.00

This course is designed to explore the relationship between sacred “texts” (including those that have been transmitted verbally for generations) and the images that are associated with them and/or inspired artists in their traditional contexts. We will look at the cultural context of sacred narratives in such communities as the Kwakwaka, the Hopi, the Maya and other Mexican communities, the Dogon, Australian traditional aboriginal groups, and other Pacific communities, time permitting. Topics will include sacred texts and landscape, sacred narratives and the notion of a person, sacred texts and contemporary arts, and other related topics. The course will require a final research project.
Also offered as HPSS C504. Register in the course for which credit is desired.



E Debs
Credits: 3.00

Far from home, dreaming of the future, and focused on planting roots, Rhode Island's vibrant African community celebrates culture and place through storytelling, traditional foods, and urban agriculture. In this course, RISD students, drawn from all corners of the globe, will use design and narrative to understand and make visible African foodways, and equally to share their own heritage and traditions. RISD's Interior Architecture Department will partner with the African Alliance of RI (AARI) and Sankofa Committee to help showcase this dynamic but less seen demographic to the wider community. 

Information will be shared and gathered through a "Living Library" for listening, telling, and sharing: Additionally, students will tour the urban gardens and work with AARI and Sankofa to catalog African specialty produce and create designs that enhance the process within the African community, and also to introduce and assimilate them into the larger population. Students will design and install an exhibition that reflects the information gathered and developed over the course of the semester. The students and the partners will celebrate their joint activities with a community harvest feast as part of the exhibition. 



P Hocking
Credits: 3.00

Reflecting on historical and contemporary models of leadership, this course is designed to engage an active dialogue with the ways that collective social problems are both enabled and addressed by leaders. It also examines individual leadership potential by exploring how personal affinities can be focused and developed into effective strategies for solving problems, advancing ideas, and making change. Finally, it considers ethics, especially looking at the ways leadership can solve human problems. While primarily focused on public issues, this course will consider leadership in all economic spheres, and will look at the ways artists and designers practice leadership. In addition to reading, classroom discussion, and writing assignments, students will complete a community-based project in Providence. 



Michael Fink
Credits: 3.00

Modern Jewish literary form and content developed from the 19th-century emancipation with its socialist, Zionist, and romantic options. We move from these roots to the satiric and elegiac voice of contemporary America. Authors studied will include Sholom Aleichem, Isaac Singer, Elie Wiesel, Bernard Malamud.



A Akporiaye
Credits: 3.00

The study of international politics assumes gender neutrality, which tends to render women invisible in the global political economy order. In this course, we question the assumption that international politics should be gender neutral, deconstruct the role of gender in the field, and view the role of gender in transformative global change. Particularly, we employ a gendered and intersectional lens to study global and domestic political and economic processes.



R Cook
Credits: 3.00

This course provides an examination of the tangible and intangible intersections of the history of enslavement, trafficking, rebellion, power and the creation of race in America. Students will investigate primary source documents, oral histories, little known narratives, prints, sculptures and the local built environment for evidence of this nation's collective slave trading past. Along the way we will explore both the peculiar and the familiar in search of our own reflections in the lives of distant others. 



C Ford
Credits: 3.00

The course will examine why indigenous knowledge systems have been portrayed as more effective ways of addressing pressing environmental challenges: sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity conservation, energy, sustainable agriculture, and the negative effects of globalization. We will demonstrate how art and design can make visible the often marginalized knowledge systems and practices of indigenous communities.


A Schneidhorst
Credits: 3.00

Recently, political commentators have referred to increased secularization in the West to explain, in part, contemporary political polarization in the United States and elsewhere. And yet, since 1945, there is also historic evidence that the interplay between religion practice and secular culture has been a wellspring of creativity and secular liberation. Students in this class will critically examine the historical interaction between the religious and secular, and how the shift from private reflection to public action, has introduced faith and religion beliefs into medical practices, alternative family dynamics and community formation, cooking and diet, the Counter Culture's search for meaning, and has served as a revolutionary force in the Vietnam war and U.S. involvement in Central America. Course readings and media will also reveal the significance of the secular spirituality as part of the creative process in music, dance, poetry, and other forms of artistic expression.


J Tirado-Alcaraz
Credits: 3.00

This course is intended to provide the students with a general overview of the complexities of three major social problems: poverty, inequality, and social mobility. The course is divided in three sections. The first part explores the different notions associated with poverty and inequality. In the second part, we focus on the United States. By looking at America's history, with race and ethnicity as central elements, students will better understand how our perspective has been shaped in regards to who should be considered poor, and what should be the role of government in addressing this issue. Finally, in section three we make a comparative analysis by looking at differences across groups in terms of race and ethnicity. 


J Knight
Credits: 3.00

This is a seminar course on East Asian gender identity from ancient times to the present. Employing the rubrics of Gender History and Cultural Studies, we will examine the ways in which Chinese, Japanese, and Korean conceptions of "masculine" and "feminine" have evolved in relation to a myriad of political and economic forces, as well as through the self-directed endeavors of people in this area to discover and express their "true" selves. After first going over the conceptual and social underpinnings of traditional East Asian gender roles via close readings of representative primary sources, the remainder of the course will engage recent scholarship to uncover how these roles have developed in the modern and contemporary eras. Particular emphasis will be placed on how national conceptions of gender identity are formed within a broader environment of transnational cultural consumption. The course will conclude with student presentations on a self-selected research topic.


A Taborska
Credits: 3.00

The course will examine how female painters, photographers, performance artists and film directors use their bodies and elements of their biographies to build their art upon. We will read interviews with them and analyses of their work, watch documentary films, study self-portraits in painting and photography. We will try to define the special attraction and therapeutic role autobiographic art has for women. Among the artists discussed will be: Claude Cahun, Cindy Sherman, Ana Mendieta, Faith Ringgold, Marina Abramovic, Shirin Neshat, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Maya Deren, Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Agnes Varda, and Francesca Woodman. Students will do weekly readings; write weekly papers, as well as a final paper about a chosen artist. Active participation in class discussions is required. 


J Lee
Credits: 3.00

This course examines the history of photographic portraiture since the "invention" of the medium in the 1830s up to the present day. Particular attention is given to exploring the ways that identity is created, reinforced, or deconstructed through the limits and capacity of photography. How does photography transform the way identity is constructed through imagery in the early years of its history? How has photography shaped the formation of subjectivity in portraiture? In what ways does photography challenge or reinforce cultural and political hegemony by "representing" a person? How have digital photography and social media transformed the ways that an identity is constructed and shared by others? To answer these questions, examples of photo portraiture, from vernacular to artistic modes and spanning the globe, will be assessed. Each class will focus on theoretical debates on identity and subjectivity in relation to the given topic, with an interdisciplinary approach incorporating art history, cultural studies, critical theory, memory studies, postcolonial theory, and area studies. Student research will be presented as a final presentation and paper.


M Finch
Credits: 3.00

This course explores the relationship between narrative and national constructions in the literature and film produced by a variety of American authors during the 20th and 21st centuries. We will analyze texts from various authors in light of shifting paradigms in American thought, politics, and expressive culture. Our primary investigation is twofold: (1) to understand pervasive themes in U.S. literature, including the in/commensurability of American democracy and its continued exclusionism, (2) to become conversant with theories of nationalism, sexuality, gender, race and class. As we pursue our inquiry, we will examine the historical, political, economic, and ideological factors that have created and shaped the narratives of Americans of different "backgrounds."


S Sevcik
Credits: 3.00

This seminar explores roles women have played in wars for independence and democracy across the Global South. As the Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo depicts in his iconic film, The Battle of Algiers (1966), some women fought alongside men carrying bombs in the fight for freedom from French imperialism in Algeria. However, more often, women have forged their own paths parallel to men enacting complex forms of resistance through art, mobilizing domesticity, and protest. Using women's participation in Algerian independence in the 1950s as our starting point, we will engage with women who resist the reductive fantasy of the bomb-carrying female freedom fighter throughout world. Figures under our investigative lens will include Assia Djebar who illustrates women playing new roles outside of the home in Algeria; women who led the peacemaking process in Liberia to bring Africa's first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to power; and Lina Ben Mhenni who used social media in Tunisia to show the world injustice taking place under a repressive regime in 2010. Alongside these memoirs, literary texts, historical documents, and films by and about women at war, we will develop a critical vocabulary of women at work reading theorists that include Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, and Judith Butler. Over the course of the semester, we will put these voices in conversation with one another in order to reconstruct alternative histories of resisting oppression in the Global South and beyond. 


P Barbeito
Credits: 3.00

Richard Wright (an author whose influence loomed large throughout the Realist period) expressed his admiration for what he called "fighting with words: using words as weapons." Throughout this course we will examine the variety of ways in which writers of the Realist period used their writing as a "weapon" to protest against the racism they saw as endemic to white American society and as a means of linking the African-American struggle for equality with other forms of political struggle occurring worldwide. Marked by a focus on urban realism, the role of the environment in the shaping of the individual, and a close interrelation of literature and politics, the Realist novel revealed the ways in which African Americans were denied the "American Dream" and, in James Baldwin's words, provided a new language with which to express the African American experience. Authors include Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Anne Petry, Chester Himes, Ralph Ellison and Gwendolyn Brooks.


G Masciarotte
Credits: 3.00

This course will explore Chinese Cinema as a national cinema and as a transnational cinema in both its popular and classic forms; however, the term 'Chinese' has been and is still a debated term among the very populations that lay claim to it, i.e., mainland Chinese, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Chinese diaspora, the People's Republic. These debates make the study of Chinese film a study of how to categorize or know film itself. In other words, exploring Chinese film in a Western critical arena within the hegemony of Western film studies begs theoretical questions about the very dominant and commonplace terms and perspectives used to examine all film in the 21st century, i.e, What are these films showing us? What are we looking for? What do we see? Investigating these theoretical quandaries will also be a part of this course. We will survey representative films produced before 1949, during the shift from of the cultural capital from Yan'an to Shanghai 1950-1964, during the Cultural Revolution (1964-1986), and during its emergence as the premier transnational cinema (late-1980s to 2000s). We will also consider the particular film genres and film schools of Chinese cinema. Students will be responsible for reading critical and theoretical essays, viewing all required films, writing analytical papers on assigned topics, and presenting one oral sequence analysis.