Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)


Spring 2024 courses focusing on human rights and humanitarian issues for undergraduate students

AFRI 1060G: Black Radical Tradition - Gabriel Regalado

This advanced seminar in Africana philosophy will explore the contours of insurgent forms of Africana social and political philosophy. With a temporal focus on the twentieth century, we will concern ourselves with explicating the dominant themes, theoretical orentations, and methodological understandings that in/form constructions and articulations of the varities of Africana feminism/womanism, black nationalism, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Pan-Africanism, and radical democracy.

AFRI 1090: Black Freedom Struggle Since 1945 - Francoise Hamlin

Lecture course that examines the extended history of the mass civil rights movement in the U.S. Starting at World War II, we consider the roles of the courts, the federal and state governments, organizations, local communities, individuals and various activist strategies in the ongoing struggle for African American equality, focusing on African American agency, particularly in the South, but also in Boston, Mass. Sources include photographs, documentaries, movies, letters, speeches, autobiographies, and secondary readings.

ANTH 1601: Reimagining Climate Change - Myles Lennon

We know what causes climate change and we know what to do about it—yet it seems we only keep making it worse. Our climate stalemate suggests we need to look critically at the dominant responses to climate change so as to identify: why they have become commonsensical yet ineffectual or unrealizable; and why other responses remain silenced or unexplored. Such a lens impels us to reconsider silver-bullet “solutions” while creating space for views marginalized by exploitative, racist, patriarchal, and anthropocentric systems. Toward these ends, this course will prepare students to reconceptualize climate change and reimagine our responses to it.

AMST 1900T: Disability: History, Theory, and Bodily Difference - Debbie Weinstein

This seminar explores the history of disability across cultural, legal, medical, and political dimensions of American life. We will consider the changing meanings of disability, the history of disability activism and communities, representations of disabilities, and the relationship between technology and the body. We will also discuss the intersections between disability and other categories of difference such as gender, race, and sexuality.

EDUC 0620: Cradle of Inequality: The Role of Families, Schools, and Neighborhoods - David Rangel

In this Sophomore Seminar, we will examine contours of inequality that begin in early childhood and accumulate over time, with particular focus on issues of race, class, and gender. Moreover, we will examine how these factors matter in early childhood and the role of families, schools, and neighborhoods in shaping, ameliorating, and propagating larger inequalities. Through our reading and active discussion, we will develop answers to questions that motivate much inquiry into inequality: Who gets what, and why?

EDUC 1680: Histories of Race and Education in the United States - John Palella

Students in this course will explore the interconnections between race and education throughout the history of the United States. Students will investigate 1) how race and racism have shaped education policy and practice throughout American history; 2) the development of white supremacy, anti-Black racism, and other forms of systemic racism within schools; 3) the ways in which BIPOC parents, teachers, students, and reformers have engaged in antiracist activism both within and through educational contexts. Students will complete a final project that helps answer the essential question: how can these histories help promote antiracist educational reform in America today?

EEPS 1720: Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning - Karianne Bergen

Explore recent work that leverages machine learning (ML) as a tool for tackling climate change, with a focus on climate science and climate adaptation. We will discuss how modern machine learning can be used to assess, understand and respond to projected climate extremes, natural disasters, and environmental change. The target audience for this course is advanced undergraduate students or graduate students who are interested in using ML and AI to address high-impact global issues. Students will read and discuss recent research papers on ML for Climate and complete an original project as a member of a multidisciplinary team. Climate themes may include: Climate models and predictions; Extreme weather and natural disasters; Farms and forests; Oceans and marine ecosystems; Climate misinformation. Machine learning topics may include: Physics-informed learning and emulators; Explainable AI; Uncertainty quantification; Image super-resolution; Graph neural networks, Policy optimization.

ENVS 0150: Climate Futures and Just Transitions - J. Timmons Roberts

The just transition is a foundational concept for labor-environmentalism and it has generated a range of productive debates between labor, feminist, environmental justice, indigenous forces and other actors about the possibilities, genuine dilemmas and trade-offs that confront all attempts to think through the challenge of decarbonization. Following the incorporation of the term “just transition” into the preamble to the Paris Agreement in 2015 at COP 21, it has also taken on a further life of its own in the international climate space as many leading climate NGOs, business elites and international unions articulate their commitment to decarbonization through the language of just transitions. This course seeks to build a reconstructive environmental sociology of the just transition, incorporating debates from political ecology, energy/technology studies, critical art and design studies and the climate social sciences.

ENVS 0705: Equity and the Environment: Movements, Scholarship, Solutions - Mindi Schneider

This course will explore how the environment is inseparable from raced, classed, and gendered structures of power. Focusing primarily on the environmental justice (EJ) movement, we will examine how structural inequality gives form to our experiences with the environment, our conceptions of the environment, and our efforts to improve our environments. Drawing from a range of disciplinary scholarship, journalism, public commentary, and videos, this course aims to elucidate how marginalized groups have mobilized to address differential exposure to pollution and waste, climate change, “the wilderness,” pipelines, slums, environmental population control measures, and fossil fuel extraction, among many other topics.

ENVS 1233: Underground Studies: Extractivism and Decolonization in the Americas/Abiayala - Regina Pressly

In times of the environmental crisis, one of the most important things humans should do is to reflect on how and why we got here. How did we allow our waters to be contaminated? Why did we destroy forests? Why do we understand ourselves as superior to other living beings? To answer these questions, we will think of the environmental degradation of Abiayala (the Guna word the Americas) from the point of view of artists, documentarians, and writers that think about different underground spaces and engage with questions of ecofeminism and extractivism. We will consider the environmental effects of mines, industry, ecological manipulation, and even science. And we will engage with the work of Indigenous peoples, Latinx, women, and others with anti-colonial perspectives, such as Emil Keme, Macarena Gómez Barris, Maricela Guerrero, Yásnaya Aguilar Gil, Natalie Diaz, among others.

ETHN 0090A: The Border/La Frontera

We will examine the historical formation, contemporary reality and popular representation of the U.S.-Mexico border from a bilingual (English-Spanish), multicultural (U.S., Mexican, and Latino), and transnational perspective within the framework of globalization. We will explore the construction of border communities, lives and identities on both sides of the international divide, and pay particular attention to the movement of peoples in both directions. We will read materials, watch films, and conduct class discussions in English and Spanish. Comfort and reasonable proficiency in Spanish is required, but native command is not necessary.

ETHN 1750L: Latina Feminisms - Leticia Alvarado

This course will serve as a focused and rigorous exploration of Latina feminist cultural production. Our analysis driven seminar discussions will include critical consideration of novels, short stories, film, and performance and visual art largely by an about Latina women. Their work will address topics that include: gendered expectations, non-normative sexuality, race hierarchies, labor, reproductive justice, and gendered violence. Together we will query how cultural objects come to function as salient social and political texts in order to ascertain the contributions and challenges that Latina feminists bring to dominant discourses of race, gender, sexuality, and nationalism, among others.

GNSS 1300: Gender-Based Violence Prevention - Sarah Gamble

This course will introduce students to core concepts in understanding and preventing gender-based violence (GBV). GBV is violence that either targets people because of their perceived/actual gender identity (cis women, transgender people, non-binary people and others) or disproportionately impacts people with minoritized gender identities. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to GBV prevention, grounded in public health but drawing on scholarship from gender and sexuality studies and related fields (social work, legal studies, and others). It does this as a means of both broadening and critiquing the way public health frames GBV. This CBLR-designated course requires students to participate in a team project grounded in community: teams will conduct community-based qualitative research and give a presentation on gender-based violence in the college population that will fill a knowledge gap at a community agency.

GPHP 2300: Social Determinants of Health/Equity in Public Health - Jennifer Nazareno

There is mounting support for a social determinants of health approach across the world, from global, sociopolitical commitment to within-country action. In this course, students will examine the inequitable conditions in which people are born, live, work and age and how these conditions are propelled by inequities in power, money, and resources. Students will analyze structural, political, economic factors as well as how resource distribution decisions made outside the health sector contribute to health inequities. In the course, students will also explore innovative ways to reduce health disparities and work toward achieving health equity.

HIST 1080: Humanitarianism and Conflict in Africa - Jennifer Johnson

This course focuses on the major issues and debates concerning humanitarianism and international intervention in 20th century Africa. It will explore the history of humanitarianism and the many challenges that arise when governments and institutions intervene in a conflict. Then students will investigate specific sites of conflict in Africa (ranging from Nigeria, Somalia, Rwanda, Sudan, and Western Sahara) and analyze different models of intervention and aid. These case studies will expose students to pivotal events in African history and equip them with a critical vocabulary with which to assess contemporary conflicts.

HIST 1081: Environmental Injustice and Justice in African History - Nancy Jacobs

This course considers the exercise of human power in more-than-human realms in the African past. Most understandings of environmental justice have to do with modern industrial pollution and regulation, but environment and power–both oppressive and liberatory–have been tightly intertwined throughout world history. This course tracks environmental injustice and justice, broadly defined, on the African continent from ancient times through the present. Topics include: foraging, animal domestication, cultivation, mineral technologies, extractivist production, game hunting, peasant production, settler colonialism, disease and medicine, industrialization, urbanization, conservation, recreation, and climate emergencies. Across different time periods, in every region, in different political systems and economies, we will seek out the politics of environmental access, privation, and risk. No previous knowledge of African history is expected.

HIST 1969A: Israel-Palestine: Lands and Peoples I - Omer Bartov

The Holocaust largely destroyed the centuries-long Jewish civilization in Europe. For Zionism, originating in late nineteenth-century antisemitism and East-Central European ethno-territorial nationalism, the “final solution” proved the need for a Jewish-majority state in Palestine. Yet the majority of the population in Eretz Israel was Palestinian. The creation of Israel in 1948 was the outcome of a bitter war with the local Arab population and the surrounding states, in the course of which most of the Palestinians were expelled or fled, facilitating the establishment of a Jewish-majority state. The seminar will discuss the fraught question of the two traumatic events of the Holocaust and the Nakba (the expulsion of 1948), and propose that we can both better understand these events, and begin the long path to reconciliation, by applying the tools of empathetic first-person history.

HIST 1977I: Gender, Race, and Medicine in the Americas - Daniel Rodriguez

This seminar explores the gendered and racial histories of disease and medicine in nineteenth and twentieth century Latin America and the United States. From the dark history of obstetrics and slavery in the antebellum U.S. South to twentieth-century efforts to curb venereal disease in revolutionary Mexico or U.S.-occupied Puerto Rico, to debates over HIV policy in Cuba and Brazil—together we will explore how modern medicine has shaped both race and gender in the Americas. Topics we will explore include environmental health and the body; infant mortality; the medicalization of birth; and the colonial/imperial history of new reproductive technologies.

IAPA 0210: Life and Politics on the US-Mexico Border - Ieva Jusionyte

This course focuses on the US-Mexico border as the anchor point in the relationship between the two countries. Once seen as a frontier to be conquered and incorporated into the nation, today the border region is portrayed as a site of multiple crises and a security threat. This rhetoric has profoundly reshaped everyday life in the borderlands. Understanding the role of the US-Mexico border in contemporary political and social life requires examining it through various scales: local, regional, national, and global. The course draws on history, anthropology, and other disciplines to trace the history of central issues surrounding the border today, from migration to drug trafficking to climate change, delves into cross-border ties and forms of solidarity, and ends with an invitation to imagine different futures for the border region.

IAPA 1500B: Investigating Modes of Social Change - Martha Rosenberg

This course examines the range of approaches to making social change through democratic institutions and processes in the U.S. These approaches-- direct service, community organizing, policy/politics, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and research/scholarship-- have different value systems, methodologies, strengths and limitations. There’s no one “right” approach, and the modes often intersect in ways that can be mutually reinforcing or counterproductive. The course will be valuable to students interested in being involved in social change during their time at Brown and in their future careers.

IAPA 1702C: Inequality and Social Mobility in America - Anya Bassett

Income and wealth inequality in America are at their highest levels in a century. Historically, one reason Americans have been thought to tolerate inequality is that we tend to believe that our society is a mobile one, where people can easily move from one social class to another. But in recent years, inequality and stagnant social mobility have been associated with increasing social and political distrust and unrest. In this junior seminar, we will examine the economic and political, and ideological factors that have contributed to this historical moment, learn about how Americans experience living in an unequal society, and consider the future of equality and social mobility in the United States. How should our society be shaped, and what are our obligations as members of that society?

IAPA 1702D: Beyond Refugeehood: Politics of mobility, border regimes, and humanitarianism - Foroogh Farhang

While the history of human migration is arguably as long as the history of humanity, Refugeehood—as a global problem that needs to be tackled in a systematic manner—is a rather recent phenomenon. This course examines the categorization of refugees, the reasons behind and shortcomings that result from a top-down definition of displacement. Through an on-the-ground and ethnographic engagement with displaced communities worldwide, we interrogate analytical distinctions between legal and illegal categories of asylum seekers and migrants, internally displaced and refugees. Rather than treating refugeehood as an imminent crisis, we examine how the language of crisis shapes migration in the era of global capitalism. This course has relevance for students interested in international legal frameworks, human rights and humanitarianism, national laws and citizenship status, climate migration, and border studies.

IAPA 1801F: Prison Abolition as Policy - John Eason

We collaborate with the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center and Office Racial and Equity Research for a collaborative research experience where we will be briefed on a major policy issue that they are working on and create several blogs, Tik-Toks, or a research report. Across each medium, you will provide policy recommendations on an issue of importance to their mission and work. We tackle a central problem in criminal legal system reform: prison abolition. Our work will be presented to the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization that provides data and evidence to help advance upward mobility and equity. A trusted source for changemakers who seek to strengthen decision-making, create inclusive economic growth, and improve the well-being of families and communities. For more than 50 years, Urban has delivered facts that inspire solutions.

IAPA 1804M: Overcoming Threats to Human Security - David Polatty

This course provides students with a comprehensive introduction to exploring challenges and opportunities related to global challenges from both a human and national security perspective – with a special focus on putting people and communities, as opposed to national interests, at the center of attention. Students will gain a deep understanding of key issues including humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters, and the impacts of climate change, food and water security, urbanization, mass migration, and infectious disease/pandemics on vulnerable people around the world.

ENVS 0705: Equity and the Environment: Movements, Scholarship, Solutions - Mindi Schneider

This course will explore how the environment is inseparable from raced, classed, and gendered structures of power. Focusing primarily on the environmental justice (EJ) movement, we will examine how structural inequality gives form to our experiences with the environment, our conceptions of the environment, and our efforts to improve our environments. Drawing from a range of disciplinary scholarship, journalism, public commentary, and videos, this course aims to elucidate how marginalized groups have mobilized to address differential exposure to pollution and waste, climate change, “the wilderness,” pipelines, slums, environmental population control measures, and fossil fuel extraction, among many other topics.