Academic Courses

This course focuses on rhetorics of black freedom in the 20th century United States. Materials and discussion will emphasize social movements across the “long” civil rights period: from labor and legal activism in the interwar years, through civil rights’ “classical phase,” to articulations of Black Power. Throughout, students will develop skills in archival analysis: applying concepts from rhetorical theory and cultural studies to the study of source materials. This class is perfect for students who are interested in social movements and the process of political change, and/or want to explore the connections between the civil rights period and prior or subsequent struggles for black freedom.
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No other class will talk about Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick and the confederate flag at the same time! Sport captures the minds and money of billions of people every day, the Olympics, World Cup Soccer, American College Football, and Little League World Series. Television, radio, cell phones, internet keep us updated on the latest scores, highlights and goings on of our favorite and least favorite athletic personalities. Using Anthropological frameworks sport will be examined comparing the impact of sporting and social institutions in the Black Diaspora, African, the Caribbean, Indigenous communities and the South Pacific. This course serves to introduce students to the significance and centrality of sport in understanding and interpreting social life through the discipline of Anthropology. Sport will be critically examined through major anthropological categories of race, class, ethnicity, gender and power. We will be using sport as the focal point with which to examine varying attitudes, institutions and social dynamics. This course will demonstrate to students how sport figures into the shaping of our worldview and structuring of social institutions. No prior experience with sport or anthropology is required.
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Representations of “primitive” culture and life are ubiquitous in popular culture. Often harmless, and regularly humorous, the imagery of cave-dwelling, stone-age humans struggling with the limits of technology reveals much about modern predicaments. At the same time, the very notion of “primitive” invokes a relative hierarchy of value against which individuals and societies are ranked, evaluated, and often judged. In most every case, these portrayals are inaccurate. This course explores the nature of complexity and the construction of the primitive, the portrayal of them in popular culture, print media, and film, and the archaeology of information about the past. This is an exploration of science, perception, and the history of anthropology and archaeology. Students will evaluate current and historic representations of “primitive” people and culture through the lens of contemporary research, evidence, and interpretation. There is no other course like this. This is an opportunity to gain compassion for ourselves and for others through a better understanding of humanity. We do this by learning about the human condition through a combination of observations of contemporary pop-culture, careful observations of what living people do today, about how people everywhere evolved and continue to evolve, and about our capacities for shaping the future. This class will be of interest to any student who wants to explore a holistic view of humanity - culturally and biologically - through time and space. The content and presentation are both suitable for students with no prior experience in anthropology as well as graduating seniors already steeped in anthropology, archaeology, psychology, sociology, human health, or history.
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CINEMA AND REVOLUTION is a new course that explores the connections between Black Power era cinema and the Third Cinema Movement – a political film movement, complete with manifestos, guns, and a transformative, on-the-ground role for filmmaking in the revolution. It shows how films were used alongside weaponry and ideology as part of revolutionary movements. It also brings together seemingly disparate political movements - Latin American Marxism with Black Power, and shows how they were engaged in interconnected cultural and political demands. In the course, we’ll explore a wide range of Third Cinema films, mostly from Latin American countries engaged in anti-colonial and class warfare; and consider their influence on the first wave of black independent cinema in the U.S. after World War II. These U.S. films were only loosely connected to specific political movements but nonetheless had real impact on Black Power activists and the general viewing public – and, importantly, reconceived key arguments about decolonization and liberation elaborated in Third Cinema in relation to the problems of American racism. This course is suitable for anyone interested in: film; black American or Latin American culture; Marxism; revolution; the relationship between media and politics; 1960s and 70s global culture; or theories of decolonialism.
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As the world becomes a global village, we come into contact with people different from us in their values, cultural traditions and life styles. This course introduces students to diverse values, cultures and traditions in communities and countries around the globe. Students will read literature, watch award-winning movies and documentaries, attend intercultural events and listen to a guest speaker. The course covers a wide range of regions such as Japan, Nepal, Afghanistan, China and Palestine. The topics range from the metamorphosis of Japan from a society modeled on Confucian teachings into a modern society, transformation of Nepalese cultures int the face of modernization, the true story of a young Palestinian woman's determination to seek education resulting from her pen pal correspondence with her peer in a Western country, and the life story of a Chinese couple living through two political systems. At the end of the semester, students will have the opportunity to design and create posters to reflect their newly found cross-cultural competency. The instructor will engage the students in a variety of learning styles. In addition to assigned readings. students will participate in discussions and debates, hands on activities and small group projects. The course is an upper-level communication course. It will fulfill the requirements of a communication major. Students of other majors can take this course an elective for their undergraduate degree completion.
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Cultures of the Pacific engages with diversity and real-world issues like: environmental refugees from rising sea levels and sinking islands; discrimination; inequality; pollution; international mining and exploitation of resources; indigenous rights; language endangerment; heritage preservation; environmental sustainability; conflict and peace-making; politics; ritual; and creativity. Join the course, be a part of engaging in change and a new future! This course explores the wide Pacific Ocean and the people living there, including the Hawaiians, Fijians, Papua New Guineans, and the many humans who have peopled the world across the geographical expanse from Southern China to Africa. Traveling by boat these early migrants and explorers brought cultural and linguistic change to one of the most environmental varied places on earth. Any student who is interested in changing the dynamics of our world in relation to diversity, environmental sustainability, and human migration will benefit from this course. This course counts toward the Specific Geographic Region requirement for students admitted as of fall 2018.
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Digital Studio: Video is an advanced course designed for students to intensely experiment with the moving digital image in an art context. Students will explore the concepts and skills involved in working with digital video - from pre to post-production. Throughout the term they will be expected to research contemporary filmmakers and artists, work collaboratively in small and large groups, and undertake a self-designed project during the final weeks of the term.
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The course is led by Jeff Slack of the Pittsburgh architecture and preservation firm Pfaffmann + Associates and will include presentations by over a dozen experts in various fields, including architects, engineers, preservationists, archivists and specialists in the building trades who are completing a $6M restoration and renovation of the building. Students will explore in-depth the history, significance, building materials and construction methods of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. Using this National Register landmark in Pittsburgh's East End as the primary site for the course, HAA 1921 will introduce students to the proper techniques for researching and documenting historic buildings and developing plans for proper long-term care. This hands-on fieldwork course emphasizes learning directly from the historic building—how was it built? how has it changed? what issues threaten it? Students will investigate similar buildings in Pittsburgh to understand their preservation challenges and will conduct original research and become proficient in the history and treatment of one of the many materials used to create this 1930s masterpiece.
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Explore the economics of crime, organized crime, and conflict. We will start by understanding the theoretical framework which puts a criminal's decision-making process into the context of a cost-benefit analysis. Then, we will explore a range of applied topics such as the impact of terrorism on GDP, the origins and consequences of Mexican cartels, and the effect of Italian Mafia on local communities. The class will also provide an introduction to ArcGIS spatial analysis software. We will use this tool to study real-world crime data. This is a great opportunity to work with real world data on an important current issue. Any student interested in learning the facts about crime and its impact on the economy will benefit from this course.
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Sound analysis remains an understudied aspect of most film courses. In this course, we will learn how to listen to films to analyze the role of sound in producing meaning; learn the tools of audio analysis; and discuss sound experimentation in films in the context of the history of film sound. We will also consider sound in international films and debates over practices such as dubbing. Assignments will include short response papers, some audio exercises, film clip analyses, and an exam. Becoming a conscious listener of sound in films enriches your experience of movies and also helps you think about sound in your own audio and video projects. We will be doing several sound exercises and students will have flexibility in choosing some of these exercises. The class is good for anyone working on audio or video projects, but also anyone interested in developing a critical approach to understanding the role of sound in cinema and moving images.
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Not only will you learn historical facts about linguistics, you will learn the methods and tools of the field. For example, we will discuss how the Comparative Method works and how it was considered a major scientific breakthrough in the 19th century, which allowed linguists to reconstruct Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor language of many European languages. The Comparative Method has since been applied to the reconstruction of other language families across the world. This course focuses on historical linguistics, a subfield of linguistics focused on language change. We will begin by discussing sound change, analogical change, and lexical borrowing, which will lay groundwork for the Comparative Method (for reconstructing proto-languages) and internal reconstruction (for reconstructing earlier stages of a language). Other topics to be discussed will include linguistic classification, other types of linguistic change (morphological, semantic, lexical, syntactic), contact-induced change, and models of language change. Depending on student interest, other topics may include distant relationships, linguistic prehistory, writing and philology, and quantitative approaches. Anyone with an interest in the history of languages will benefit from taking this class, regardless of whether you are a major or a non-major in linguistics. Studetns with a serious interest in the topic who have not taken both prerequisites may enroll with instructor permission, but some background in linguistics is still expected.
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In this course we will study the histories of Islamic architecture by examining the architecture that was produced from the seventh through the twenty-first centuries in many parts of the world, including the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, India, Central Asia, and North America. While there is an understandable emphasis on the early history of Islamic architecture, we will also explore modern and contemporary Islamic architecture. Focal points of study will include the development of the mosque, the spread and transformation of Islamic architecture, cultural interaction with the ‘west’, and the impact of colonialism, nationalism, and the contemporary condition. Students admitted to Pitt as of fall 2018 may use this course to fulfill the Arts, Historical Analysis, or Cross-Cultural Awareness General Education Requirement.
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In an era of Alt-Right and growing neo-Nazi movements, this course takes us to the past to understand our present. We will rely on the films and other primary sources of the Third Reich to understand the conditions in Germany and what motivated the Germans to make the choices they did. We will examine anti-Semitism, racism, gender and sexuality, mass culture, the cult of the leader, propaganda, and more. Through films and artifacts from the Third Reich, students get exposed to what the average German experienced are asked to consider their own contemporary culture and experiences. The class is good for students at all levels. It offers a unique approach to the Third Reich and its legacies. It explores what motivated the common citizen and the perpetrators. It meets requirements for: Film and Media Studies major (National Cinema area); the West European Studies Certificate; the Russian and East European Studies Certificate; and the Global Studies Certificate. This course counts toward the Diversity and Historical Analysis requirements for students admitted as of fall 2018.
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Rhetorical Criticism takes students on a journey through the history, methods, and practice of modern rhetorical criticism. By journey’s end, you’ll be able to (1) describe contemporary rhetorical methods for analyzing messages that try to influence and persuade; (2) apply these methods to visual, aural, and tactile artifacts; (3) and produce clear, compelling essays that showcase your newly honed rhetorical criticism skills. Students will write and revise essays, contribute to guided peer consultations and small and large group discussions, and present one short proposal for an original research project. There are no exams. Not only will you come away with greater appreciation for the subtle ways everyday artifacts try to influence; you’ll also learn tools to explain these subtleties to your friends, family, and others, and be better prepared to critically accept or resist. Rhetorical Criticism is perfect for any student who wants to know more about how contemporary images, music, tweets, advertising, buildings, speeches, and more work to influence you and others—to make people feel, think, and act.
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This class examines sensation, perception, and meaning making as elements of social life. It extends questions of representation and interpretation beyond the study of language to examine how culture organizes, and is organized by, the objects that surround us. Drawing on recent work in anthropology and industrial design this course investigates four interrelated questions: How are value and meaning assigned to objects? How does culture shape sensory perception? How are styles defined, interpreted and changed over time? How do landscapes, infrastructure, and architecture shape possibilities for thought and action? As well as reading a range of scholarly works, the course will allow you to experiment with methods through which ethnographers and designers seek to document and interpret the social life of material things: cartooning, photography, interviewing and focus groups. Assignments for the course include short reading responses, a photo essay, and a short paper. The course has a problem centered approach, which us to balance discussions of assigned readings with the application of concepts and methods to objects and problems in the immediate world. We move beyond essay writing to explore drawing, photography, touch, and other modes of sensory engagement as part of academic practice. This course is ideal for first year students interested in learning more about anthropology and linguistics or for students interested in learning ethnographic methods.
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