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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Spring 2013

HUM 595A

Decoding the Landscape: A Microseminar with Dolores Hayden & Anne Whiston Spirn

1 CR (C/NC)

Instructors: Kim England (Geography), Lynne Manzo (Landscape Architecture), and Margaret O'Mara (History)

Course Meeting Dates and Times:

  • April 29, 9:20 - 11:00 AM, Communications 202
  • May 6, 9:20 - 11:00 AM, Communications 202
  • May 7, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Kane 120
    Lecture by Dolores Hayden, "Green Fields and Growth Machines: Building American Suburbs, 1820-2000"
  • May 13, 9:20 - 11:00 AM, Communications 202
  • May 14, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Kane 120
    Lecture by Anne Whiston Spirn, "Restoring Mill Creek: Reflections on 26 Years of Action Research in an Inner-City Neighborhood"

Time Schedule

This microseminar extends the inquiries of the Now Urbanism Sawyer Seminar by engaging with two of the most important critical thinkers about space and place, nature and infrastructure, and the role of design in the 20th century: Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture, Urbanism, and American Studies at Yale University, and Anne Whiston Spirn, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT. Both will visit the UW in May 2013 as guests for the Walker-Ames lecture series.

Dolores Hayden is the author of Building Suburbia, A Field Guide to Sprawl, and several other award-winning books about the history of American landscapes and the politics of place. Anne Whiston Spirn is an ecological planner, landscape architect, photographer and author, whose work explores relationships between people and place. The microseminar will explore how these two scholar-practitioners have re-shaped our understanding of urban landscapes by challenging how we see and interpret built environments, decoding the landscape from inner city to outer suburbia. Central to its inquiries will be the role of alternative lenses, including but not limited to feminist theories and sustainable design, in redefining understandings of the urban landscape.

In the work of Hayden, we will explore her research on the development of suburban environments and the challenges of sprawl and how they have transformed the American landscape over the last two centuries. In the work of Spirn, we will explore the West Philadelphia Project in the context of her research on how we design places that are functional, sustainable, meaningful, and artful, strengthening the human relationships with both the natural and the built. In the work of both scholars, we will consider the position of public scholarship as well as its role in offering alternative ways of seeing, reading, and decoding the landscape.

Sponsored by the UW Graduate School Walker Ames Lectures, Simpson Center, Departments of Geography, History and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Landscape Architecture in the College of Built Environments


HUM 595B

Who Knows What and Why that Matters: Activism, Collaboration and Struggle in the Global South

1 CR (C/NC)

Instructors: Anu Taranath (English), K.R. Mallesha (Administrative Officer, Environment Support Group, Bangalore, India), and Bhargavi Rao (Trustee, Envirvonment Support Group, Bangalore, India)

Course Meeting Dates and Times:

  • May 14, 9:30 - 11:30 AM, Communications 202
  • May 16, 9:30 - 11:30 AM, Communications 202
  • May 21, 9:30 - 11:30 AM, Communications 202
  • May 23, 9:30 - 11:30 AM, Communications 202

Time Schedule

Working for social change most anywhere in the world, and especially in the Global South, necessitates a complex dance between varying and conflicting actors, agents, and agendas. We know there are politics associated with who knows what and how, and this seminar provides an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the transnational and global forces at play.

A progressive NGO that works across sectors for social and environmental justice regionally, Environment Support Group (ESG) has developed international respect and networks for its campaigns that include litigation, research, advocacy, and educational training. By engaging with ESG’s Rao and Mallesha, this seminar foregrounds grassroots struggles in India. We will learn about forests and lakes, urban density and transportation. Using these themes as case-studies, we will better understand the ways that transnational and global forces affect people’s lives, and how the politics of knowledge are embedded in these issues.

While one can wax theoretical regarding partnerships, solidarity and activism, this seminar will ground us in real-world life issues and struggles. Our work in this seminar will encourage participants to reflect on the different ways we all know and why that matters, both within and beyond the academy.

In addition to the seminar sessions, participants should plan to attend the public lecture and forum that will be arranged with Mallesha and Rao. Details forthcoming.

Add code required for enrollment. Students wishing to participate should address a 1-2 paragraph statement of interest to Anu Taranath at, by or before March 29, 2013.


HUM 597A

Defining Democracy, Ancient and Modern: A Microseminar with Josiah Ober

1 CR (C/NC)

Instructors: Deborah Kamen (Classics) and Jean Roberts (Philosophy)

Course Meeting Dates and Times:

  • Tuesday, April 9, 3:30-5:20 pm, Communications 202
  • Tuesday, April 16, 7:00-8:30 pm, Kane 110 (Katz Lecture)
  • Wednesday, April 17, 3:30-5:20 pm, Communications 202 (Katz research colloquium)
  • Thursday, April 18, 3:30-5:20 pm, Communications 202
  • Tuesday, April 23, 3:30-5:20 pm, Communications 202

Time Schedule

Democracy is generally recognized to be a “good thing,” but what exactly is democracy and what makes it good? How did the ancient Greeks—the inventors of democracy—define this concept, and what value did they believe it had? What lessons can contemporary theorists and citizens of democratic societies draw from this ancient perspective?

Held in conjunction with Josiah Ober’s Katz Lectureship, this microseminar will approach these questions from a number of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. In order to gain a fuller understanding of the meaning and utility of democracy, participants will study antiquity and modernity comparatively and applying the lessons drawn from scholarship to contemporary democracies. The microseminar will appeal to students of Classics, Philosophy, History, and Political Science as well as those studying emerging democracies through International Studies or Public Affairs.

Josiah Ober (Classics and Political Science, Stanford University) is a leading theorist of democracy, deliberation, political dissent, and institutional design, whose teaching and research links ancient Greek history and philosophy with modern political theory and practice. Author of such books as Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens (2008), Ober looks to the democracy of ancient Athens to explore political issues of the present and reimagine forms of democratic engagement.


HUM 597B

Diaspora, Storytelling, and Imperial Formations

1 CR (C/NC)

Instructors: Rick Bonus (American Ethnic Studies), Chandan Reddy (English), Ileana Rodriguez-Silva (History), Laurie Sears (History)

Course Meeting Dates and Times:

  • Friday, May 3, 4:00 - 6:00 PM, Communications 202
  • Friday, May 24, 4:00 - 6:00 PM, Thomson 317
  • Monday, June 10, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Communications 202 (Workshop)
  • Tuesday, June 11, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM, Communications 202 (Workshop)

Time Schedule

This microseminar frames an international invitational workshop entitled, “The Politics of Storytelling in Island Imperial Formations,” to be held at the University of Washington, June 10-11, 2013. This project seeks to build a distinct theoretical language about the form and function of storytelling in the historical creation and recreation of modern island formations across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. The microseminar will provide opportunities to prepare for the workshop by examining multidisciplinary and intersecting frameworks, theories, methodologies, and approaches to studies of diaspora, storytelling, and imperial formation.

Storytelling has been productively theorized by Walter Benjamin in his essay on the disappearance of storytellers in interwar Europe. Drawing upon decades of work on storytelling in the non-European world, we seek to interrogate Benjamin’s thought-provoking essay by looking at intersections of storytelling, psychoanalysis as a transnational discourse of those same interwar years, and the textual communities that storytelling produces in various parts of Asia, the Caribbean, and Asian America. How do forms of storytelling intersect with national dreams and desires in the age of empire? How do stories move across borders, become reconfigured, and serve the interests of power and capital?

Readings will include essays written by Walter Benjamin, Chandan Reddy, Laurie Sears, Nayan Shah, Rick Bonus, and Aihwa Ong, among others. Successful completion of the course requires completing assigned readings, actively attending and participating in seminar discussions and the workshop, and writing a brief reflection paper.