Truth with Curlicues: Comedy and Culture
In April 2014, the now defunct @ColbertReport account (run by Comedy Central) tweeted, "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." The tweet stemmed from a segment of The Colbert Report during which the host, comedian Stephen Colbert, critiqued Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for refusing to change the name of his NFL team, despite outrage from indigenous communities, instead opting to develop The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation "to address the challenges that plague the Native American community." In response to the tweet, Asian American activist Suey Park devised #CancelColbert to "critique white liberals who use forms of racial humor to mock more blatant forms of racism." In support of Park, Dr. Brittney Cooper claims, "We never get to tell the harmed group what the proper response to racial injury should be for them." Conversely, the staff at the Indian Country Today Media Network argued that Park's tweets "drowned out the Native voice." This, however, is just one example of the debates that ensue regarding the function and impact of comedy, especially when it is entrenched in discourses about race, gender, sexuality, and other social markers. This course, then, will provide a space for students to engage and participate in conversations that are concerned with comedy, including stand-up, situation comedies, film, and other forms, as a contentious and contradictory space with resisitive, generative, and problematic qualities.
Traditional Medicine of the Southwest: Culture and Chemistry
Native American and Latina/o communities in the Southwest have utilized the various plant materials available in the region for alleviating their physical and spiritual ailments. From the mundane use of ubiquitous herbs to treat stomachaches to the more exceptional use of psychoactive plants for spiritual purposes, communities in the Southwest have created a knowledge base and a cultural practice focused on the utilization of plant materials for medicinal purposes. The goal of this course is to allow students to make connections between the cultural significance and the chemical efficacy of these medicinal practices. We explore and research several of the medicinal practices of these communities, and quantify the active components of these substances using simple laboratory techniques. In the process, students will come to better understand the culture and chemistry of traditional medicine of the Southwest.
Living on the Edge: Risk, Danger, and Decision-making
In general, people are terrible decision makers, but adolescents are simultaneously the best and the worst when it comes to risk-taking. In this course we will discover the way the brain processes information across development, while simultaneously investigating economic theories of choice under uncertainty. By simulating real-life scenarios such as the stock market and games of chance, in conjunction with developing a theoretical framework around the decision making process, we will learn the influence of developmental stage, social context, and preferences on adolescent choices.
BRING THE NOISE! : Music and verbal arts for empowerment and protest
In this course we explore verbal art as social action, focusing on the ways in which music and spoken word serve as tools for protest and cultural empowerment. We will engage with an intercultural-multi regional mix of independent music and spoken word artists whose work explicitly addresses contemporary sociopolitical issues. Using their audio and video recordings as the springboard, we will dive further into the present day realities they reflect.