Shared Passages

The Shared Passages Program is a curricular thread that integrates features of the K-Plan. Required in the first, sophomore, and senior years, Shared Passages courses provide a developmental, pedagogical, and intellectual arc to the liberal arts experience and create a "backbone" to an effective, flexible liberal arts education in which the whole is greater than the sum of its component parts.

First-Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars constitute the gateway to the K-Plan and to college life for entering students and serve as the foundation of the Shared Passages Program. Offered in the fall quarter, these Seminars are designed to orient students to college-level learning practices, with particular emphasis on critical thinking, writing, speaking, information literacy, and intercultural engagement.

First-Year seminars

SEMN105FYS: Music and FreedomThis course will interrogate the complex yet tantalizing relationship between music and freedom. What does freedom in music mean? Is liberation found in lyrics that express a challenge to oppression? Can transcendence be summoned from sound and improvisation? Are artists emancipated when they follow their own voice at the expense of profit and even their own fans? Has freedom been extinguished from music and replaced with a cheap illusion, as Theodor Adorno believed? On our search for answers, we'll talk about protest, politics, aesthetics, film, identity, spirituality, and other topics as we seek a richer, more critical understanding of the sounds and songs that allow us to feel free.
SEMN110FYS: What's the Universe All About?Is the universe infinite? Is there life elsewhere in the universe? How did the universe begin? How did our moon form? When will our Sun die out? In this course you will write and talk about our current understanding and lack of understanding of the biggest questions about the universe and the things in it such as galaxies, stars, black holes and our own solar system. The focus will be on what we know and how we know it, and on how to communicate this information to a variety of different audiences such as children, people with no scientific background, people from different cultures, and your fellow students. We will also explore to what degree culture informs what questions we ask and how we think about them.
SEMN115FYS: New World Order?The seminar will study recent analyses of the New World Order in the context of theories of "modernization" and "globalization." It will examine the culture of the investment bankers who are the New Order's main architects, the ideology of "neoliberalism" that is its blueprint, and the New World as lived by some of the two billion people in shantytowns, bidonvilles, and favelas in the global South. Students will write brief review-style essays, a theoretical analysis of "globalization," and a case study of a country or region, or of a key element of globalization.
SEMN116FYS: Odysseys Ancient and ModernThe theme of the Odyssey - the man who voyages out and must find a way to return home - is one that has pervaded all of Western culture. Even Homer's earliest imitators (such as Vergil) have used the cunning hero, who cleverly escapes from monsters and the perils of the Underworld, finally to be restored to his family. In this class we will explore this theme by considering fictional and non-fictional tales of adventure and homecoming, thinking about how leaving home and going back is represented in literature and our own lives. We will start with Homer's Odyssey, but then move beyond that, examining how authors rework Homer's tale for modern contexts and locales beyond the Mediterranean. Our texts will include memoirs by Primo Levi, novels like Bharati Mukherjee's Jasmine and films such as O Brother Where Art Thou and Le Mepris.
SEMN117FYS: We too are Americans"We are all Americans" -- a look via fiction, film, and other readings at those who contribute to our communal life in this country and how they are excluded from the definition of "being American": Hispanic, African-American, Muslim, and Asian. Through class discussion, a variety of writing assignments, and class presentations, students will consider aspects of American identity more deeply.
SEMN120FYS: Stranger in Strange Land: HomelandOne of the central questions concerning humanists and Jewish studies scholars in particular is how literature imagines homelands. This course will show, the problem of the homeland also allows us to explore issues of identity, nationalism, belonging, exile and remembrance. To explore these issues, this course will explore the problem of homelands from a variety of different cultural traditions. As such, we will analyze Ovid's Metamorphoses, selections from the Hebrew Bible, The Arabian Nights, short stories and essays by Jorge Luis Borges as well as films by Victor Fleming, and Louis Malle. All texts will be read in translation. This course is designed as a writing intensive discussion seminar. In addition to honing their oral argumentation skills, written assignments and in-class activities will permit students to practice how to propose a valuable academic question, develop a claim, answering that question and how to distinguish between summary and analysis. Furthermore, through frequent journal writing assignments and other kinds of reflective writing, students will have the opportunity to reflect upon their entry into K College in a structured manner.
SEMN125FYS: Telling Queer StoriesThis course analyzes the history of various queer social movements and the stories that people have constructed about them. More specifically, the class interrogates a number of queer movements that have taken shape in the last fifty years, and compares how documentary filmmakers and literary authors have sought to represent these struggles for justice and greater equality. The course begins by looking at the rebellions at the Stonewall Inn and Compton's Cafeteria in the 1960s, and looks at how these uprisings paved the path for the modern LGBT movement in the United States. We will then move on to the queer activism that arose in response AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s and then look at the same-sex marriage movement of the early twenty-first century, asking how the radicalism of the former transformed into the assimilationist politics of the latter. Finally, we will end with the emphatically intersectional approach undertaken by Black Lives Matter movement and its queer-identified founders. Throughout our course discussion and across several writing assignments, we will use these movements and the various texts that have narratively represented them to learn about the history of queer people and to envision our own roles in making a more just future.
SEMN129FYS: Medieval Crusade and JihadIn a world where conflict seems apocalyptic and struggles between religious groups over contested territory, the only hope is travel through time. This course examines the crusading and jihadist movements of the middle ages so that students can better understand how religious change and social anxiety culminated in massive and complicated movements to contest territories of major cultural significance. The first half of the course will survey the history of the crusade and jihadist movements of the long twelfth century (c.1050-1250), culminating in an independent research project. The second half of the course utilizes a (prototype) student-driven role-playing exercise to engage with the lived realities of crusaders at a pivotal period in the history of crusading.
SEMN130FYS: Religion and the U.S. PresidencyFrom George Washington to Barack Obama, U.S. presidents have invoked God at key junctures of their times in office. Irrespective of their personal beliefs, presidents have found religious language to be indispensable for summoning a shared past, making sense of the present, and crafting a vision for the nation's future. In this course we will analyze presidents' writing and speeches, examine their relationships with religious leaders, and assess the ways they deployed religious symbolism. We will learn to identify the ways that the presidency has both shaped and been shaped by religious discourse, develop our capacity to interpret political rhetoric, and analyze the role of religious discourse in the 2016 election cycle and beyond.
SEMN131FYS: Encoded: Rock & Roll to RapWhat do rock and roll and rap "mean"?-culturally, musically, and personally? How has popular music reflected and shaped American life? What role does race play? Why do the blues of Robert Johnson cast such a long shadow? Why was Elvis considered safer than Big Mama Thornton? What does Marvin Gaye say about "What's goin' on?" What gender issues do Little Richard, the Supremes, Tina Turner, and Bikini Kill raise? What's the message of punk-and funk? Is heavy metal dangerous? How have Jay-Z and other rappers found their voices-and helped us find ours? We will consider how music comforts, angers, and delights us, and how it expresses our deepest thoughts and feelings. This course is for people who love music and are fascinated by how it works in contemporary American culture.
SEMN132FYS: Paradigm ShiftsIn 1962 Thomas Kuhn proposed a daring new way to understand science. Kuhn thought of science not as a rational, steady, accumulation of knowledge but rather as "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions" in which "one conceptual world view is replaced by another." Today The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has sold over one million copies, has been translated into sixteen languages, and is regarded as one of the most influential works of history and philosophy in the twentieth century. It continues to influence scientists, economists, historians, sociologists and philosophers. We will read this exciting treatise and ask if Kuhn's ideas can be helpful in understanding ourselves and the changes in our world view as a "paradigm shifts." We will also try to detect signs of paradigm shift in such areas as American race relations, education and the Internet, and popular music.
SEMN133FYS: Drama Usa: Against the Current
SEMN135FYS: Cultivating Community
SEMN136FYS: Crossing Borders: Autism and Other Ways of KnowingFor the past ten years, the diagnosis of and attention to autism has grown exponentially. More public awareness and debate, however, does not guarantee a more complex understanding. In this class, we will explore autobiographies, essays, clinical studies, and films about or by those with autism or Asperger's in order to gain an informed understanding of this widely-diagnosed spectrum disorder. We will move outside the borders of the class to see students within AI (autistic-impaired) classrooms and participate in service-learning work in the Kalamazoo community. For this work, groups of students will be matched and spend time with a person on the spectrum and his or her family. In an effort to understand this way of knowing, we will consider how expectations about communication and social relationships "impair" and/or enhance an ability to live in a "neurodiverse" world. If you have a reason for wishing to take this seminar (i.e., if you have a sibling with autism, worked with or befriended someone on the spectrum, etc.), please contact Bruce Mills at as soon as possible. Though it will not guarantee a place in the class, this contact will enable us to consider specific interests or circumstances more closely. Academic service-learning combines classroom study with real world experience, allowing students to apply what they are learning to everyday life in a way that addresses community-identified needs.
SEMN137FYS: Co-Authoring Your Life: Writing Your Self in the Context of OthersThe autonomous, self-made individual is a powerful American myth. But no person is entirely self-made; all of us are embedded in various families and communities and ideologies, and we also find ourselves marked by cultural conditions such as our race, class, religion, gender and sexual orientation, all of which influence who we are in various ways. The clash between the desire for autonomy and the shaping power of these social conditions makes the process of coming up with an identity extremely difficult and complex. How can we maintain a sense of autonomy while acknowledging influences? How can we be ourselves while learning from others? How do we write our own lives when so many other hands seem to hold, or to want to hold, the pen with us? Through novels, stories, autobiographies, essays and films, this course will explore different situations in which people struggle to form identities under intense "co-authoring" pressures. You will write analytical essays about the texts of others and personal essays about yourself.
SEMN139FYS: Our Shakespeares, OurselvesCultures often retell stories from the past as a way of thinking through the present: perhaps because using already existing material makes it easier to explore difficult issues, perhaps because we feel the need to "talk back" to the writers who have so deeply inflected our culture. In this course, we'll be focusing on how modern cultures have reworked Shakespeare's plays into a 1950's sci-fi film, an MTV inspired movie, Afro-Caribbean drama, rock and rap music, and a Julia Stiles movie set in the Deep South. In exploring how Shakespeare has been adapted to these radically different contexts, we'll also be exploring the difficult issues these adaptations focus on--race, gender, sexuality, colonialism and class. What a culture does with Shakespeare's plays can tell you a lot about that culture; so we'll be asking a number of questions: Why is Shakespeare so popular in the United States today? What does he mean to us? What are we doing with his plays and why? What do our adaptations of his work tell us about our own views about racism or sexism in America, for example?
SEMN140FYS: Religion & EmpireThis course explores the role of religion in the expansion of political regimes such as the British Empire of the 17th through 20th centuries and the contemporary United States. We also examine the shifts that religions undergo as political regimes shift, as we saw the crystallization of Muslim and Hindu identities during the period of partition in India during the 1940s. Finally, we look closely at the ways in which political reformers have utilized religion as a resource to catalyze political resistance to empires, primarily in the work of Mahatma Gandhi. Authors we read include Arundhati Roy, Bapsi Sidwa, and Amitav Ghosh.
SEMN141FYS: One in ThreeDiagnosis and treatment of cancer provides an unintended journey for one in three individuals in developed countries. While cancer is not a modern disease, cases of cancer have risen in modern times. Is that due to environmental changes or population changes? How can we know? What is cancer and what have we known about it in history? What is the psychological and financial impact of cancer? How does this differ in various parts of the world? How is cancer used as an analogy in literature, film, and speech? Through reading and analysis of short reviews, newspaper articles, books, and book chapters this course will examine different aspects of cancer as a disease, modern affliction, and personal or political cause. Other readings will explore the experiences of cancer survivors in biographies and autobiographies. Students will also interview a local cancer survivor and prepare a mini-biography.
SEMN144FYS: It's a Free CountryIn the U.S., freedom is perhaps our oldest and most consistently claimed political value. We have long prided ourselves on being "the land of the free." Yet when it comes to defining exactly what we mean by freedom, to whom and over what areas of life it pertains, and how it is best weighed against other values such as security and equality, there is widespread disagreement. In this course we will address questions surrounding the concept of freedom in the U.S. through a contextualized examination of political thought. We will begin with contestations over the meaning of freedom in Revolutionary America and move toward debates surrounding what we mean by freedom in the U.S. today.
SEMN145FYS: CreativityThe psychology of creativity is as complex and mysterious as it is intriguing. Creativity is expressed in many forms. Whether choreographing a dance, composing a poem or piece of music, launching a new advertising campaign, or making a breakthrough at the frontiers of science, some form of creative thinking is involved. In this seminar, we will examine how creativity is expressed in art, music, dance, film, science, and invention. Classic and contemporary theorists' ideas and rich research findings will provide materials for discussions, essays, and a symposium exploring creativity around the world. Students will also apply imagination and creative problem-solving skills to a variety of puzzles and projects. This seminar will challenge your assumptions about the nature of creativity and expand your horizons as we explore the richness and diversity of creative expression. A good choice for anyone who has a real passion for the arts or sciences, and enjoys an intellectual challenge!
SEMN146FYS: Africa and GlobalizationGlobalization is viewed differently by scholars and policy practitioners. Humanists and Social Scientists agree that globalization is the precipitous movement of people, goods, free market and capital flows among countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's experience with globalization started in the 13th century. Since the 1990s, diasporan Africans have largely influenced public policy through tools of globalization. What is the direct impact of this phenomenon on Africa's economic development? What is the effect of globalization on the socio-cultural lives of Africans in the 21st century? This course addresses these questions and seeks to explore the influence of tools of globalization, such as communication equipment, automobile, computer services, transnational corporations (TNCs), among others in African societies. We will use primary and secondary sources, such as newspaper articles, government records, UN reports, journal articles and scholarly monographs to probe the above questions.
SEMN149FYS: The Best of IntentionsIt has been said that culture is to people what water is to fish; that is, it's an invisible medium through which we glide without even being aware of it - until we take a dip in someone else's pond, or someone hops into ours! Or, worse, when one finds oneself metaphorically gasping for breath as does "a fish out of water." In this course, we'll arrive at a working definition of culture, and see how cultural and psychological mindsets can keep us from really seeing people who are not like us. Looking at encounters among Europeans, Africans, Asians, and those from the Middle East, we'll see how even good intentions can cause cultural train wrecks, and how misperceptions can lead humans to treat one another in inhumane ways. Venues for study will include academic texts, essays, literature and films.
SEMN150FYS: Monsters!We will examine the figure of the monster, a wildly popular creature in literature and media. What can it actually mean to be labeled a monster? How does the construction of monstrosity help us in positing counter-claims of normativity, and where do these claims in turn find their origins? While stories and tales of monsters date back to the virtual beginnings of human history, this course will focus on the critical nexus of Enlightenment, technology, and body aesthetics as seen through the rise of Modernity. To that end, we will begin by critically examining the discourse on Enlightenment articulated by Moses Mendelssohn and Immanuel Kant, and later engaged again by Michel Foucault. This course aims to teach a variety of approaches to reading literature and media, so texts will include fiction by Shelley (Frankenstein) and Kafka (The Metamorphosis); poetry by Goethe and music by Schubert (Erlkonig); film by Murnau (Nosferatu) and Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will); and critical theory by Marie-Helene Huet and the Frankfurt School.
SEMN152FYS: Roots in the EarthEven in the most densely populated cities, we are connected to nature. As essayist John Burroughs wrote, "We are rooted to the air through our lungs and to the soil through our stomachs." In this seminar we'll examine our relationship with the natural world. What belief systems have influenced human interactions with nature throughout history and across cultures? Is our current relationship to nature serving us as individuals and as members of a global community or could we envision new relationships that might be both more sustainable and more satisfying? We'll grapple with how the answers to these questions affect our responses to environmental problems such as climate change, pollution, and dwindling biodiversity. Readings include Bill McKibben's American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau and Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. This course will ask students to reflect on their own experiences with nature as they engage in a service learning project in collaboration with Kalamazoo College's Lillian Anderson Arboretum.
SEMN154FYS: Who Are the Samurai?On a dark, chilly night in the city of Edo, Japan in 1703, 46 men broke into the home of a government official and murdered him. The story of these men, best known as the 47 ronin (and yes, you read the number correctly), has been retold countless times since that night. Outlaws to some and heroes to many, the 47 ronin have often been lauded as exemplars of true samurai. But what exactly is a "true samurai"? When you think of the samurai, what do you imagine? Is the image you have in mind the product of fact or fiction, or perhaps a little of both? Did you know, for instance, that the samurai included both women and children? Since most people are not familiar with the history of Japan's famous warriors, in this seminar we will begin by drawing from a variety of sources to explore how this warrior class-men, women, and children-lived, and how they have been viewed both within and outside Japan. We will combine our historical examinations of the emergence, evolution, demise, and reinvention of the samurai with analyses of representations of "samurai" in literature, film, sports, and business in order to gain a better sense of who the samurai are, how they have been portrayed, and why the samurai-and especially the 47 ronin -have become such an enduring and popular symbol of Japan.
SEMN155FYS: The New World OrderIn 1991 President George Bush (Sr.) announced the emergence of a "New World Order." "Communism" had collapsed and almost overnight the world became a single capitalist system. Globalization then accelerated, with light-speed communication through the internet, intensified flows of goods around the planet, and the outsourcing of work to low-wage countries - accompanied by rapidly increasing inequality and concentration of wealth, and the swelling of slums in megacities. The seminar will study recent analyses of the New World Order in the context of theories of "modernization" and "globalization." Then we will examine the culture of the investment bankers who are its main architects and the ideology of "neoliberalism" that is their blueprint, and read studies of an American city that jobs left, a Mexican city where jobs arrived, and a slum in Mumbai. Students will write brief review-style essays, a theoretical analysis of "globalization," and a case study of the region in which they are likely to study abroad
SEMN156FYS: Almost HumanWe will explore what it means to be human, by first looking at fictional accounts of those that are "almost human," namely--robots. Karel Capek, considered to be the greatest Czech author of the first half of the twentieth century, was the first to use the word "robot," which appears in the title of his play "R.U.R." (Rossum's Universal Robots). Capek explores a host of philosophical and social issues in this play and his short stories and essays. Fast forward to the 1960's, and we have Philip Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which explores similar issues. This story is the basis for the 1982 movie Blade Runner. Today, robots are fast becoming more common, and a host of contemporary movies explore the relationships between humans and `artificial' life. Other readings will discuss a variety of relevant philosophical issues, the cognitive differences between humans and other animals, and the role of culture. Our goal is to explore the essence of being human. Is it love, empathy, free will, emotion, consciousness, intelligence, or something else? Or maybe there is no essence!
SEMN158Fys-Humans and Other AnimalsThis course will look at just a few of the many facets of animal-human interaction. Many societies have long assumed and enforced the singularity of the human being, placing our species in a position of superiority, and all others at our disposal. However the uniqueness of humans is an idea that has long existed intension with phenomena and discourses that complicate and enrich our coexistence with other animal species. The course will include historical and literary perspectives with which students would already have some familiarity. The class will also look at modernization and industrialization to focus on problems and challenges (habitat "management," factory farming and fisheries, and research test subjects). The last section will consider how animal-human interactions are proposing new disciplinary intersections: the limits of consciousness and cognition in animals and humans; interspecies communication; new moral debates on the treatment of other animals; and new spaces for co-operation.
SEMN159FYS: History RepeatsThis course will explore the recent resurgence of the 19th century in novelistic adaptations and fictionalized biographies of the 21st century. Crucial to this course will be an understanding of major literary texts and authors of the 19th century, which will allow for an investigation as to why the 19th century serves as a vital literary inspiration for the 21st century, specifically how these textual re-imaginings might provide a particular insight into the contemporary national moment. Why does the 19th century continue to persist? What fuels this return to the past? Is this resurgence merely a nostalgic literary trend, or does it reveal a larger significance, both for American literature as a field of study, as well as for an American nation-space we presume to be so markedly different from that of the 19th century. This course begins with "The Emancipation Proclamation," one of the formative historical texts that shaped and defined the U.S., and will be read in tandem with Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. In many ways, these texts introduce the main thematic trajectory for this course: the Civil War and slavery. As such, we will also read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain's satire of antebellum southern society which focuses on Huck's journey to "free" a slave, and Jon Clinch's Finn, told from the perspective of Huck's father, Pap. Likewise, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women finds the March women at home, waiting for their patriarch, Mr. March, to return from his role in aiding the Union's war efforts; while that novel only presents letters about Mr. March's activities, Geraldine Brooks's March presents Mr. March's story, those never relayed in his letters home. In addition to reading these novels, we will also investigate the socio-political underpinnings of race and "freedom" in the 21st century, specifically how the social and political spectrum of both terms function in the contemporary U.S.
SEMN160FYS: Visions of the EndPlague and hellfire; crumbling cities and avenging angels; a heavenly kingdom, golden and eternal-these apocalyptic images are among the most stirring moments in the Bible. They have inspired countless works of art with their devastating portrayal of the world's end. They have also maintained a constant, pervasive influence on theology, philosophy, political theory, and popular culture. In this seminar, we will carefully read the biblical apocalypses and consider how these foundational texts have been interpreted by Jewish and Christian theologians over the years. We will then explore a range of literary works such as Spenser's Faerie Queene and the Poetic Edda which deliberately mimic the style of the biblical apocalypse. And finally we will turn to some contemporary "post-apocalyptic" works such as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Cormac McCarthy's The Road in order to reflect on how current events and anxieties have radically transformed our modern visions of the end.
SEMN161FYS: An Awfully Big AdventureThe seminar will consider narratives of childhood and its end in a range of texts, from the films The Wizard of Oz and Pan's Labyrinth to the novels Peter Pan, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Bluest Eye to the graphic novels Stitches, Fun Home, and American Born Chinese. The course will provide a range of writing opportunities, from brief memoir to a research project. We will look back-at the mythic landscape of the students' own childhoods-and forward-to the transformational potential of their four years at Kalamazoo College.
SEMN164FYS: Building KalamazooThe city of Kalamazoo serves as the textbook for this seminar, as we survey the built environment of the 20th century via the architecture of this post-industrial Midwest city. Beginning with turn-of-the-century Victorian-era homes and ending with Kalamazoo College's dramatic new building, the Studio Gang-designed Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Building Kalamazoo surveys this dynamic period through site visits, primary readings, and individual research. Throughout, the seminar will seek to understand how site and space have shaped diverse experiences of a rapidly changing modern world.
SEMN165FYS: Stalin & the Art of FearFrom the 1920s until his death in 1953, Joseph Stalin wielded an extraordinary amount of control over the newly-created Soviet state. He interpreted the proper implementation of Socialist economic policy, he silenced his critics with unimaginable savagery, and he took an especially keen interest in dictating the terms by which art should be made. To whom does art belong? What was it like to create art in an atmosphere of censorship? Could artists -- like poet Anna Akhmatova or composer Dmitri Shostakovich, for example -- navigate these treacherous waters without sacrificing their creativity and artistic integrity? We will examine these and related questions through reading memoir, fiction, and historical accounts of the time; watching films; and closely listening to the music that spoke to and reflected this tumultuous time.
SEMN166FYS: Closet NegotiationsLet's face it: no matter who we are or what our orientation is, our sexuality is a process of negotiation. Aside from the questions of what we're doing (or not) and with whom, defining our sexual identity is one of the most fundamental ways that we engage with other people and the world. In this seminar, we will be focusing specifically on the negotiation that is "coming-out of the closet" by analyzing a number of novels and films that represent the experience of declaring oneself to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer in variety of historical and cultural contexts. By looking at sexuality and its intersections with other identity categories, including gender, race, religion, class, age, and nationality, we will interrogate what "coming out" means and examine the extent to which public visibility makes a GLBTQ person "free." In addition to a reader of critical essays and historical documents, our texts will include: Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sarah Waters's Tipping the Velvet, Jeanette Winterson's Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby, and Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy. Films will include: Pariah, Beginners, and Outrage.
SEMN167FYS: The Immigration DebatePeople often say they are either for or against greater levels of immigration. But immigration is a broad concept. In simply saying "yay" or "nay" we neglect to address a lot of important, nuanced questions. This course examines some of these questions. What is the difference between a regular immigrant and an asylum seeker or refugee? Do we owe different kinds of treatment to individuals in these categories? What happens when someone is attempting to immigrate but is stopped in international waters? How do concerns of "internal" equality and the preservation of culture impact immigration? Is it permissible for wealthy countries to actively encourage doctors and nurses from poor countries to immigrate-even though this will lead to a shortfall of skilled healthcare workers in poorer countries? What tensions are created by the conflict between social and global justice as applied to immigration? We will investigate these questions and many more through readings in political philosophy, documentaries and short films (all documentaries and short films will be screened outside of class).
SEMN168FYS: Salem Possessed: the Salem Witch Trials and Their LegaciesIn 1692, the people of Salem, Massachusetts grew terrified when a small group of girls accused an enslaved woman, an impoverished woman, and a scandalous woman of bewitching them. Ultimately, twenty men and women were hung or pressed to death with stones and over a hundred others found themselves imprisoned. Historians have long considered the Salem Witch Trials a pivotal moment in American history. Countless works have offered countless reasons for the strange happenings in Salem, trying to explain why a small community in Colonial America would succumb to witchcraft hysteria long after it had died down in Europe. The Salem Witch Trials have haunted American culture. Starting in the nineteenth century and continuing into the present, writers and artists have grappled with the various meanings of the witch hunts and the persecution of innocent persons, seeing connections between "the furies of fanaticism and paranoia" of 1692 and their own time. Most famously, Arthur Miller in The Crucible used the trials to examine the persecution of alleged Communists in the 1950s. This course will examine and seek to understand the events of 1692 and the subsequent legacies of the trials in American culture through the actual documents from the trials, the writings of historians, and the imaginative works of novelists, playwrights, poets, and film makers.
SEMN169FYS: Civil Disobedience & ReligionIn 1849, Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?" In this class we will look at how these words have impacted various religious leaders in the 20th century. We will be reading selections from Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez and Oscar Romero, and watching movies and documentaries based on their lives. Using primary documents, media and secondary sources, we will examine their social, religious, political and economic worlds, the changes they inspired, their failures, and their local/global impact. A significant task of this class will entail keeping up with current events and tracking how people locally, nationally and globally are resisting capitalism, protesting various inequities and struggling for justice (as you start your career at Kalamazoo College). What can we learn about how social justice works and happens? What are the reasons for resistance against capitalism, the state or an empire? Is it better to work for small changes over time or go for whole-sale revolution? Is peaceful protest and non-violence the best method for achieving justice?
SEMN170FYS: The GeishaThis seminar will look at the figure of the Japanese geisha and the various ways she has been and continues to be imagined. We will ask such questions as why the figure of the geisha has been so fascinating to the West and what that tells us about constructions of gender as well as of the East as "other." We will read Memoirs of a Geisha, watch Madame Butterfly and M Butterfly, and delve into the complicated interpretations of this mesmerizing figure.
SEMN171FYS: Social Bee-ingsHoneybees and humans are supremely social. But what does it mean to be social? Why are some species social while others are solitary? Do social group members work for the common good or to fulfill selfish interests? Perhaps they can do both, but what happens when these goals conflict - how is social order maintained? We will explore the origins and maintenance of social living across the animal kingdom and ask to what extent human societies represent larger scale models of other animal societies -- insects and non-human primates in particular -- and to what extent humans are unique. We will explore the political, economic, biological, cultural, sociological and philosophical elements of social life through a variety of media and genres. In doing so, we will inevitably explore the human condition.
SEMN172FYS: Life with Two Languages
SEMN173FYS: Migration, Community, & SelfGoing to college and immigrating to a new country have much in common. Moving to a new place presents many challenges. The immigrant (or first-year student) can experience loneliness and displacement, a yearning for home, and bewilderment at his/her new surroundings. Yet, a new environment also offers opportunities for personal growth that force immigrants to reconcile "Old" with "New." Through reading, writing, and discussion, students will seek to relate their own "migration" to Kalamazoo College to the experiences of European Jews moving to the United States. Along the way, the class will explore many of the universal questions raised by relocation. What motivates people to pick up their lives and move to a new place, and what happens to them when they arrive? How does the migration experience shape their view of the world they left behind and their view of their new environment? How do immigrants construct communities for themselves? Do women and men experience migration in similar or different ways? Finally, how does moving to a new place shape one's sense of self? We will explore these questions using historical and cultural sources, fiction, and film.
SEMN174FYS: Heart of MathematicsHave you ever wondered how something so abstract as mathematics manages to find such concrete application in the world? Or why so many people have such strong feelings about something that seems so feeling-less? Did you once love mathematics and do you now wish for a return to that happy state? Or have you always loved mathematics and do you now want to know what it really is? Have you ever wondered how new mathematics is discovered? Or the role that gender, culture, and class might have something to do with it? If questions like these are on your mind, consider choosing this seminar. We will explore some of the central ideas of mathematics as we read portions of the book, Heart of Mathematics, by Ed Burger and Mike Starbird. We will consider how gender affects perceptions of truth in mathematical discovery as we read David Auburn's Pulitzer-Prize-winning play Proof. We will think about the role that intellectual discipline plays in helping an under-prepared college freshman grow into academic excellence, as we read portions of Ron Suskind's A Hope in the Unseen. The only prerequisites for this course are an open and curious mind and a willingness to put aside any preconceived notions about what mathematics is (or is not.)
SEMN175FYS: Who Gets to Do Science?We all think science is "the truth." But is it really objective? How do women and people of color BRING SOMETHING to science that it needs? How has science treated these populations? In this seminar, we will discuss some of the major scientific contributions of these groups, and will discuss how our changing definitions of science often exclude these populations, and the implications this may have on our futures. For instance, if certain groups of people are excluded, how might this affect medical research, or software development? We will examine what roles that stereotypes, standardized tests (such as IQ tests and SATs), and science education play in dissuading children in these groups from pursuing scientific fields of study.
SEMN176FYS: Managing Across CulturesSuppose you have an opportunity to live and work (study) in a foreign culture, what will you need to know in order to get along and be effective? How will the locals think and act? How will you feel and react? How will you resolve a conflict, or negotiate a favorable outcome? What will you do if you need to give a presentation? What if you had a leadership role, how will you motivate your team? How will you manage team members that are different from you? Will you one day be an effective global citizen and, perhaps, a global manager? This seminar explores your assumptions about the best way to think and behave as we learn about ourselves and about others from different backgrounds. A good choice for anyone who has an interest in living and working abroad.
SEMN177FYS: Changing Our MindsWhat do miasma, hysteria, slavery, and eugenics have in common? And, what caused people to view these phenomena, and others we will encounter, in a new light? Together we will explore what causes humans, individually and collectively, to change their notions about how the world works and then use their new mindsets to shape how they perceive their world. Through our exploration - by reading, watching, discussing, and writing about works including How We Learn, The Ghost Map, "Hysteria," Blink, "Amazing Grace," Bury the Chains, and various readings about "improving" humans - we will develop a clearer and deeper understanding of what causes us to change our minds.
SEMN178FYS: Nutrition Trends & IdeasThis seminar will examine how our food supply has become increasingly industrialized, and in the real sense has become a factory food distribution system, usurping history, tradition, and cultural foodways. Although this has had an effect on health in the very broadest sense of the word, this course by design is neither a health survey nor a nutrition science course. Rather, it is an attempt to learn about eating from history, culture and tradition. We will explore local movements and strategies for escaping the conventional American food system - the resurgence of farmers' markets, the rise of the organic movement, and the renaissance of local agriculture in the country - that has made it possible to step outside this system. This course is designed for international students whose first language is not English.
SEMN179FYS: What's Out There?How did the ancient Greeks and Romans map their world? What did they imagine the earth looked like? What was the center of the world? What were the ends of the earth? What lay beyond them? In this course, we will travel to the limits of the ancient imagination through works such as Homer's Odyssey and Herodotus' Histories. We will discover how ancient Mediterranean societies understood the geography of their world and the people and creatures that inhabited its most distant corners, such as headless Blemmyes and one-footed Skiapods. While Roman emperors sought to control the known world, Roman authors imagined and described what lay beyond. From Silk Road trade routes to Sub-Saharan African ports, and from a descent into hell to a trip to the Moon, this course explores issues of culture, geography, and the unknown in the ancient Mediterranean world. Through such an exploration, we will also consider how ideas of geography and cultural difference have changed over time, and how our own society constructs geographic boundaries and imagines the final frontier.
SEMN180FYS: Reading the CityBy bringing a diverse array of people together into common spaces, cities offer countless opportunities to create different forms of community and provide access to an incredible amount of cultural experiences and resources. At the same time, cities can also be impersonal, intimidating, and difficult to navigate, and their structures frequently exacerbate already devastating inequalities based on race, class, gender and sexuality. These contradictions are inherent to the way city spaces have been designed and organized-where a privileged few live in the luxury and wealth while others must subsist in appalling conditions of poverty. In this course, we will explore how these dynamics have played out in London, Los Angeles, and the two major cities nearest to Kalamazoo: Detroit and Chicago. We will begin by comparing London and Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century, and look at how migration patterns, urban development and public policy shaped what we have come to know as "the modern city." In the second half of the quarter, we will turn to contemporary Los Angeles and Detroit, and interrogate how these structures have been perpetuated and resisted around key flashpoints of crisis. To do so, we will read work by poets and fiction writers alongside sociologists and historians, travel to a number of important sites in Detroit and Chicago themselves, and use critical writing assignments to bring these two experiences together.
SEMN181FYS: The Paradox of Human Desire: Philosophy and Psychoanalysis
SEMN182FYS: Representing Difference From the French Revolution to Jazz-Age PIn this seminar we will examine representations of a highly unstable category-race-in a highly unstable context: France, from the French Revolution to after WWI. Alternate forms of government-monarchical, imperial, republican-warred with one another in this period, crises and scandals followed in quick succession, and France both lost and gained colonial territories. In the midst of this change and uncertainty, perceptions of race (often entwined with other forms of classification, whether ethnicity, nationality, class or gender) played an important role in determining who had access to the ideals enshrined by the French Revolution: "liberty, equality, fraternity." We will focus on visual representation as a particularly powerful force in shaping these perceptions, given the association of race and analogous classifications with physical appearance. Studying a selection of objects ranging from paintings and photographs to furniture and film, we will work toward a nuanced understanding of the interaction of race and French visual culture in this period.
SEMN183FYS: Fur, Feathers, Scales, and Skin: Animals and SocietyHuman-Animal Studies (HAS, also known as "anthrozoology") is the study of interactions and relationships between human and non-human animals. It asks: what can we humans learn about ourselves from our relationships with non-human animals? What does the way we think about and treat other animals reveal about who we are? In this seminar we will explore our daily interactions with animals and animal products and how these interactions shape societies. We will discover what belief systems we have in the moral and ethical treatment of animals, and whether our current relationship to non-human animals is serving us well as individuals and as members of a global community. Through readings, discussions, and writings, we will explore these questions through issues such as animals as pets, animals as food, animals as entertainment, the human/animal bond, violence against humans and animals, and the value of animals in society.
SEMN184FYS: Slang A Discussion of Informal EnglishSlang is the ever-changing use of informal language that is reflective of culture and society. Though slang is most common in spoken language, modern dictionaries have long embraced slang and recorded its usage. Notable examples include the Oxford English Dictionary new entries of 'vape,' 'selfie,' and 'GIF.' In this class, we will discuss, research, and write about the informal use of slang and its role in social interactions as well as what slang represents in the lives of English speakers. We will trace American slang from its separation from British English up until the current age and identify the purpose of slang in a community of speakers. An important distinction will be made regarding the environment of informal and formal language and how English speakers navigate the cultural requirements of spoken and written language in academic settings. Through readings, videos, discussion, and writing, we will explore the fun and function of slang. This course is designed for students whose native language is not English.
SEMN185FYS: Becoming Ourselves Becoming Ourselves: the Process of Developing IdentitiesWestern philosophy famously set the task of philosophical thought in the dictum to "know thyself." While this would appear at first blush to be the simplest of all tasks (for what could we possibly know better than ourselves?), it turns out to be a task wrought with challenges as self-reflection often serves as the "blind spot" of our knowledge of ourselves, and the world that we inhabit. To what extent do we define ourselves and to what extent is our identity a product of how others define us? We will look to a variety of readings in the history of philosophy that address the central issues that inform who we are, such as our conceptions of what friendship is (Aristotle/ Cicero), what love is (Plato/ Socrates), how we order and define our values (Nietzsche), and more. Then, we will look to the ways in which our identities are formed socially, turning to theories of class, race, gender, and sexuality that express the multi-faceted ways that our self-definition confronts the society in which we live.
SEMN186FYS: Peace and HarmonyThe Chinese philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism were founded during an era of political strife and social unrest. Thus, the philosophers, such as Confucius, Mencius, Laozi and Zhuangzi, concerned themselves with, more than anything else, peace and harmony of the human world. They have left a cultural legacy for the Chinese people and their philosophies have deeply influenced human history in general. More importantly, they have provided a useful reference for the modern generation in our planning and pursuit for a meaningful life. In this seminar the Confucian and Daoist texts and relevant articles are used as the basic materials to initiate discussions. The topics we will discuss and write about include self-cultivation, human relationship, nature and naturalness, ideas of being and becoming, the power and limitations of human intelligence, the difference between uniformity and harmony, value systems and moral judgments, and social and political issues that concern us. The goals of this seminar are to achieve a better understanding of our own humanity and aspiration, and to more efficiently express our ideas and communicate with others.
SEMN187First-Year Seminar: Dread Goddesses, Heroes, and the Ancient CosmosOn the surface, much ancient myth seems to strip female characters of agency and enslave their narratives (as much as their bodies) to those of male heroes and gods. But a second glance reveals powerful females "rewriting" the male cosmos in dramatic ways: the Sumerian goddess Inanna steals all of the powers of heaven; Pandora and Eve propagate the Fall of man; Helen uses magical painkillers to facilitate storytelling in Homer's Odyssey; Clytaemestra "outmans" all of the men in Aeschylus' Agamemnon and orchestrates exceptional bloodshed; Earth herself arranges for violent dynastic succession; more recently, in George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), Imperator Furiosa brings Immortal Joe's reign to its knees and potentially "overwrites" Max as the main hero. In terms of literary history, too, the Lesbian poet Sappho (re)shaped the canon and became complicit in the gender instability of later male poetic voices. So what is the connection of gender and sexuality to mythic narrative? To mortal identity? To cosmology and the environment? How do gender and class coincide in the ancient literary mind? Gender and sanity? Gender and genre? Alongside selections from ancient texts, students will consider some modern gender theory, watch Mad Max: Fury Road, and assess the gendered critical response to it. Students will examine how gender and sexuality "move" mythic narrative and disrupt its language; more importantly, they will reflect on how the same factors complicate-and enrich-the ways in which they narrate their own lives, even to themselves.
SEMN231/ANSO 232Nature & Society: Intro Pol. EcologyThis course will introduce students to the sub-discipline of political ecology, a field broadly concerned with the relationships between nature and social power. In other words, this course will focus on developing an understanding of how social relations and politico-economic systems produce environmental problems, structure access to natural resources, the resulting struggles over 'nature' and how and in whose interests these may or may not be resolved.Because the field is broad, the course has been structured into themes that we will explore each week.
SEMN432Steal Like an ArtistThe aim of this senior capstone is to create a space in which artists across disciplines may collaboratively and individually prepare for life beyond the balance of safety and creative tension embodied in the studio, rehearsal space, and workshops central to their K education. What happens to the artist's creative life once set free from the structure and discipline of apprenticeship? Through self-designed projects, service-learning partnerships with local makers, lively discussion and reflective writing, we'll thoughtfully consider, define, and begin practicing what is required to sustain a joyful creative life beyond K.

Sophomore Seminars

The sophomore seminar is the second component of the Shared Passages and comes at a critical moment of challenge and opportunity in students' journeys through the K Plan. They provide a vital link between students' entry to the K experience and their other landmark K experiences - advanced work in the major, study abroad, and a SIP.

Sophomore seminars

SEMN202Who Is 'the other'?This seminar will focus on how we create and label others in our societies. Students will explore the various ways in which this occurs and along what lines: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic circumstances, and others. The reading of the seminar will be novels from across global cultures and our own: South Africa, Australia, India, and others. There will also be theoretical readings on the creation of others, including "whiteness". The work of the course will consist of student discussions of the novels and readings, presentations by students on the background of the various readings, student journals on their readings and own reflections on otherness, and papers of analysis and reflection on the readings.Prerequisite: Sophomores only.
SEMN/CLAS203Romans R Us: Identity & EmpireYoung men and women who came of age during the heyday of the Roman Empire in the second century CE faced many of the same challenges now confronting Kalamazoo College sophomores as they prepare for study abroad: how can you best harness the transformative potential of international, experiential education to become productive citizens and leaders in a global, multicultural world? What theoretical foundations can help you negotiate issues of self-definition and representation that emerge from encounters with cultural diversity? How will performing rites of passage into adulthood on a world stage, while learning new dialogues of national, ethnic, class, gender and sexual politics, affect your own sense of public and private identity? This course is designed to interrogate the impact of international education on personal identity by fostering reflective connections between the lived reality of 21st-century American students and their academic study of the Classical past.Prerequisite: Sophomores only.
SEMN/ARTX204Drawing Today: Uncommon VisionsDrawing Today introduces current themes in drawing and provides an innovative approach to basic skill development required to produce images in a contemporary context. Students will read and discuss issues related to art and visual culture from around the world. Class time will be divided between discussion of important issues in contemporary art and hands on drawing instruction. Homework will include daily readings and weekly drawing projects that will allow students the opportunity to reflect upon theory and their assumptions of what drawing is and who it is that produces it. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ARTX205/RELG 201Religious Art and Material CultureThis course explores the relationship between religion and art. The arts, whether in the form of painting, sculpture, architecture or kitsch, are often vehicles for religious devotion and expression. At the same time, devotion to a divine figure has inspired some of the world's most beautiful pieces of art. Religion and art form a symbiotic relationship which can simultaneously be in tension and/or cohesive. Looking at various primary and secondary sources from a variety of religious traditions, we explore this tension and cohesion, which can be a window into larger societal and cultural issues. Given that we live in a mechanical age, special attention will be paid to the material production of religious kitsch and the place of religious art in the market. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ARTX206Ceramics: World PotteryWorld Pottery is a hands-on studio course with significant research and reflection components. Class time will be used to introduce students to a variety of clay bodies and clay-forming techniques from historical and regional perspectives (wheel-throwing will not be taught). Creative assignments ask students to consider and critique the role of cultural exchange and image appropriation within historical ceramics and in their own creative work. Projects will also investigate the roles of different types of pottery within contemporary American society, as a point of reference and departure. Each student will propose, execute, and present a research project. Lectures, critiques, and discussions will focus on individual and societal assumptions about pottery. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN207Infection: Global Health & Social JusticeThis course is first and foremost a Shared Passage Seminar. As a sophomore level writing class,it will build upon the First-Year Seminar goals. Through readings and discussions, the class will explore the world of infectious agents and the use of antibiotics as they affect global health. By studying current and historical cases of infections, we will try to address the spread, containment and eradication of select infectious agents. With each of the cases we study, we will discuss race, genes, and human history, through the lens of social justice.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL208Food and Travel WritingIn this writing-intensive class we will study the possibilities of journalism and creative nonfiction through the various forms of food writing and its relationship to place. Through reading and writing, we will explore food as sustenance, as a route through memory, as a reflection of culture and place, as both personal and public, and as history and politics. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: ENGL-105 or ENGL-107 and Sophomores Only.
SEMN209/POLS 231Politics of Rights and ImmigrationAccording to the UN Charter of Fundamental Rights, one has a fundamental right to leave one's country of origin (1948, Article 13), yet there is no corresponding right to enter another country. This sophomore seminar considers the consequence of this tension with attention to normative questions of who should be allowed entry to and citizenship within (other) states. In addition, we explore the empirical complexities that inform and result from these judgments. This seminar privileges states, laws (domestic and international) and actual policy over the last sixty years, with particular attention to North America and Western Europe - key destinations for migrants and thus crucial laboratories to investigate the myths, realities, policies and consequences of immigration. At a time when there are growing pressures for increased immigration in Western Europe (e.g., most recently the Arab Spring), we conclude by noting recent developments within the European Union to harmonize asylum and immigration policies. We ask - what are the ethical challenges and what might the future look like?Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/PHIL209Philosophy of ScienceThe course sets out three tasks. Our first task is to acquire and develop distinctly philosophical skills: e.g. reading persuasive essays, analyzing concepts, understanding arguments, criticizing our own views and the views of others, and writing persuasively in a clear and concise manner. Our second task is to examine the most important philosophical questions asked about science: e.g. What is science(as opposed to art, religion, or myth)? What is a scientific theory, and how does theory function in science? What is a scientific explanation, and what is the function of explanation in science? Should we believe in the reality of objects referred to in scientific theories (like quarks and bosons)? Our third task is to critically evaluate science as a distinctive type of culture - a culture of self-critical knowledge formation - that demands participants to move from mere consumers of knowledge to being producers and developers of knowledge: e.g. How does scientific culture demarcate itself from other types of culture? How does it progress historically? What type of discipline does it demand from its adherents? How does it interconnect theory and community practices? What are its values and goals?
SEMN210/MUSC 207Listening Across CulturesWhat does it mean to be a knowledgeable music listener? An expert listener? A native listener? Hip hop has its "heads," French opera had claqueurs, and Syrian tarab has the sammi'a (expert listeners), but is the act of listening the same across cultures, or is there something to the local perception of music that goes beyond style and genre? Questioning the adage that "Music is the universal language," this course will examine how people assign meaning and power to music. Analyzing music from around the world, we will attune our ears to the ways in which people across cultural borders conceptualize music, sound and the act of listening. No music reading or basic theory knowledge is required. Prerequisite: Sophomores only
SEMN211Crossing Cultures: How It WorksWe are generally unaware of ourselves as cultural beings until our own cultural values and practices "clash" with someone else's. By studying various aspects of Intercultural Communication, by reading books and seeing films about intercultural encounters, by learning techniques for observing and interpreting other cultures, and, finally, by reflecting on these experiences, we can better understand culture and anticipate how our own cultural products and behaviors might be perceived by members of other cultures - whether abroad or at home. Sophomores Only.
SEMN/RELG213Christianity & the FamilyThis course critically addresses contemporary debates about the centrality of the family in Christian teaching through a historical and cross-cultural survey. What is the relationship between Christianity and the various approaches to kinship and family in different cultures in different historical contexts? Where did our contemporary ideas about the family come from and what are Christians saying about new forms of kinship? From the Bible to present day debates about divorce, sex, and same sex marriage, Christians have never embraced a single understanding of the family, but rather have been influenced by broader cultural shifts in how kinship is donePrerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ARTX214Framing DifferenceThis course will combine research and studio components, split more or less evenly. The research topic, broadly painted, will be fine art documentary practices, grounded with an entry-level hands-on studio component (using both film and digital photography). There are two motivations for this course: to give students creative control of photographic tools (technical, formal, conceptual) prior to their leaving for study away, but also to explore the issues and ethics of photographic documentary practice. While the broad research topic is documentary practice (theory/tradition), this course will place particular emphasis on the ethics of photographing outside of one's own group. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/PHIL215Human Rights & International LawPeople often invoke human rights and international law in the course of debate. However, these are highly contested concepts. This course introduces some theoretical clarity with respect to their conceptual grounding, history and contemporary practice. Our primary focus will be on different philosophical theories of human rights, with secondary attention to international human rights law. We start with an orientation on human rights practice and try to move past some of the so-called "challenges" to human rights. This is followed by a look at the main contemporary approaches for conceptualizing human rights: the basic human-interest approach, the capabilities approach and the newer "political" approach (among others). We will spend a few weeks on various debates within the human rights literature as well: Whether there is such a thing as "group rights", whether and how there is a distinction between civil and political human rights on the one hand versus social and economic human rights on the other, when human rights violations might trigger external, international intervention, etc. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/CLAS216Making History?We will examine various cinematic interpretations of the ancient Romans. Students will explore the historical, social and cultural differences between ancient and modern accounts of Roman history and examine our modern desire for "watching" the ancient world. Readings by Roman writers and secondary source material will be paired with film screenings. Special attention will be given to why we retell some stories (i.e. Cleopatra), as well as to the way that this form of "Roman history" encourages us to visit difficult cultural topics, such as political imperialism, slavery, sex and gender difference, and racism.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL217World Indigenous Literatures: The People and the LandA selective study of the literary traditions and contemporary texts of indigenous peoples around the world, focusing on indigenous communities in regions where Kalamazoo College students study and with a particular emphasis on texts that explore the complex relationships between indigenous communities and the land they claim as their own. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL219Magical RealismMagical realism is a genre that combines elements of the fantastic with realism often in order to imagine utopias or resist restrictive aspects of society. This course will examine the genre, interrogate its relationship to other genres of fantasy, and consider the relationship between the aesthetic patterns of the genre and its potential for social advocacy. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/CHIN220Chinese Food CultureChinese culture is among the most food-conscious ones. Through China's long history, food has always been a means of communication, a symbol of good life, and at the same time a target of criticism for its indulgence and improper distribution. Additionally, it has been a provision for healthcare, and a rich resource of linguistic expressions and literary allusions and metaphors. These will be the topics of the seminar, which should be a meaningful and effective pathway to the core of Chinese life and philosophy. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN223The Inward Journey: the Science, Practice, and History of MeditationThis seminar will explore the meditative experience from historical, experiential, and biological perspectives. Meditation-the cultivation of a state of thoughtless awareness that can generate profound peace and inner transformation-has deep historical roots and plays a role in many cultures and religions. Modern neuroscience has made great strides in understanding the meditative experience and documenting the physical and neurochemical changes that result from meditation. Students in this course will undertake a personal journey of active practice of meditation, primarily from Buddhist perspectives. This experience will be underpinned with study of the neuroscience and practical health benefits of meditation. Finally students will delve into the historical, cultural, and religious dimensions of meditation. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only.
SEMN/ENGL227Opium & the Making of the Modern WorldThis course traces the social and literary history of opium across the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. In addition to exploring the drug as a trope of the "exotic East," this course also understands opium as an important catalyst of imperial development and global domination. Analyzing autobiography, poetry, and fiction, the course focuses on depictions of travel and circulation to understand how opium has activated anxieties about gender, sexuality, and race over the last two centuries and to recognize how the illicit drug trade continues to shape current patterns of diasporic movement and global exchange.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN230/RELG 202Same Sex, Gender, and ReligionThis sophomore seminar explores the intersection of religions, same-sex affection/love/relations, and the category of gender. At the most basic level we examine what different religions have to say about sexuality, in particular, non-heterosexualities. We look at the role that gender plays in these constructions of these sexualities, and we return to our starting point to analyze the role of religions in these constructions of gender and same-sex sexualities, affections, love, and/or relations. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN231/ANSO 232Nature & Society: Intro Pol. EcologyThis course will introduce students to the sub-discipline of political ecology, a field broadly concerned with the relationships between nature and social power. In other words, this course will focus on developing an understanding of how social relations and politico-economic systems produce environmental problems, structure access to natural resources, the resulting struggles over 'nature' and how and in whose interests these may or may not be resolved.Because the field is broad, the course has been structured into themes that we will explore each week.Prerequisite: Sophomores only.
SEMN232/HIST 233Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Mediterranean WorldThis course examines social, cultural, political, and economic interactions among the cultures of the Mediterranean World between 500 C.E and 1500 C.E. Rather than offering a chronological overview, this course explores multiple perspectives on cross-cultural contact, conflict, and exchange. We examine specific geographic areas of contact - the Crusader States, medieval Iberia - as well as more fleeting encounters through travel and trade.
SEMN/ANSO233Capitalisms and SocialismsThis course will look at different political and economic systems around the world and across times. Ideological debates tend to idealize and simplify the notions of capitalism and socialism, thus ignoring the fact that neither of those systems exists in the vacuum of its "pure" theoretical form. We will explore various elements of capitalist and socialist systems and how these elements mix together in different countries. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN234/HIST 236End of Christendom: Piety, Ritual, and Religious Upheaval in the Sixteenth CenturyThis course examines the complex social, cultural, religious, and political repercussions of religious reform over the course of the long sixteenth century, from the earliest glimmers of discontent among Hussites and Lollards to the violent wars of religion that characterized the seventeenth century. Topics include lay piety and religious ritual, the reform of daily life, confessional antagonism, print culture and propaganda. Primary sources on this topic are plentiful, and we pay particular attention to the exceptionally rich visual sources of this period. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/HIST235Traders & Travelers in Early EuropeIn this course, we examine the narratives of traders, travelers and pilgrims in Early Europe (c. 800 BCE - 1400 CE) in order to better understand the ways in which the peoples of Europe understood other regions and the peoples that inhabited them. In doing so, we explore ideas about geography, boundaries, cultural differences, stereotypes, and the construction of identities (both internal and external to societies). These explorations help expose us to the ways in which we might construt similar kinds of knowledge in contemporary societies by providing us with a reflection point in earlier European cultures.
SEMN238Culture and Psychology of Arab-Muslim SocietiesThis course provides an introduction to Arab-Muslim societies and cultures. It draws on readings from multiple disciplines to cover social structure and family organization in tribal, village, and urban communities, core value systems associated with the etiquettes of honor-and-modesty and with the beliefs and practices of Islam, and influences on psychological development through the life-span. It also will examine the processes of "modernization" and "underdevelopment," the conflict between Westernization and authentic "tradition," the "Islamic revival," and the crisis of identity experienced by youth.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ECON240Economics for Global TravelersThis Sophomore Seminar examines how economics can contribute to a better understanding of the world and our place in it. We will look at differences, similarities, and linkages among the economies of various nations. We will study flow of money, products, people, technologies, and ideas across national borders. The approach will be non-technical with an emphasis on understanding economic ideas. We will spend more time writing and discussing than on models or equations. Does not count towards economics or business major. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN241/GERM 202Reading European Cities: Istanbul, Vienna, BerlinThis course addresses the questions of how we may understand a culture by learning to "read" its cities. Texts range from maps, histories, architecture, theories of urbanism and urban ecology, to films, documentaries, memoirs, and music - an array of genres that highlights the status of the modern city as both a physical place and an imaginary construct. The broad aim of course is to provide students with conceptual tools for "reading" a city as well as a new culture critically, and thus to facilitate their intercultural competency. Berlin, Vienna, and Istanbul will serve as case studies for the practice of interpreting urban narratives, and the course will culminate with student research projects and presentations on the cities in which they plan to study abroad, or a city of their choice. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/JAPN242Contested HistoryThis course will examine two major sites of contested history: the controversies surrounding the proposed exhibit of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian and those related to Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines the war dead in Tokyo Japan. Our goal is not to arrive at a definitive judgment on any of these events or sites, whether on political, military, or ethical grounds. Instead, we will interrogate various perspectives, placing them in the context in which they operated and critically analyzing their argumentation. By doing so, we will achieve not only a complex view of the events and sites but of the frames of understanding through which people -- participants and witnesses, scholars, politicians -- arrive at their conclusions. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ANSO255You Are What You Eat: Food and Identity In a Global PerspectiveThe goal of this course is to examine the social, symbolic, and political-economic roles of what and how we eat. While eating is essential to our survival, we rarely pay attention to what we eat and why. We will look at the significance of food and eating with particular attention to how people define themselves differently through their foodways. We will also study food's role in maintaining economic and social relations, cultural conceptions of health, and religion. Finally, the class examines the complex economic and political changes in food systems and the persistence of food's role as an expression of identity, social and ethnic markers. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN256/MUSC 205Music and IdentityMusic serves multiple roles: a force for social transformation, a flag of resistance, a proclamation of cultural identity, a catalyst for expressing emotion, an avenue to experiencing the sacred. Students will look at identity through the lens of contemporary and traditional American music and will consider how race, ethnicity, age, gender, national identity, and other factors express themselves in and are shaped by music. The ability to read music or understand basic music theory is not required; a love of music and an interest in American culture are essential. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL264Global ShakespearesShakespeare is the most translated, adapted, performed, and published Western Author. Just what this means to Western and non-Western cultures is at the heart of this course. What does it mean to think of Shakespeare as a colonizing force? What additional ways are there to see the influence of his works? Many cultures have written back to Shakespeare, addressing race, sexuality, gender, and religion from their own cultural perspectives. What do exchanges between differently empowered cultures produce and reproduce? We'll tackle such questions as we read works by Shakespeare and literary/film adaptations from around the globe. And, closer to home, how do different communities in the United States receive and write back to Shakespeare? How do issues of race and class, especially, affect access to Shakespeare? A service learning project with the Intensive Learning Center of the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home will allow your students there, and our class, to consider those questions. As we work with these students to write their own adaptations of Othello, we'll all consider how writing back to Shakespeare might be a good way to empower students to question the assumptions his plays make. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/THEA265First TheatresThis sophomore seminar will survey the "first theatres" of many different areas of the pre-modern world -- including the Abydos Passion Play of ancient Egypt, Yoruba ritual, ancient Greek & Rome, Japanese Noh Theatre, early Chinese music drama, Sanskrit theatre of India, and European Medieval theatre. Through research, discussion, and critical thinking exercises, students will be encouraged to view performance as an intercultural and continually developing phenomenon in both art and daily life. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/RELG/HIST268Jews on FilmIt will examine themes in Jewish history and culture as expressed through the medium of film. Through readings, lectures, and class discussions, students will explore issues such as assimilation and acculturation, anti-Semitism, group cohesion, interfaith relations, Zionism, and the Holocaust. We will consider questions, such as: How are Jewish characters portrayed on film? Which elements of these portrayals change over time, and which remain constant? How do these cultural statements speak to the historical contexts that produced them? What choices do filmmakers make regarding the depiction of Jewish life, and how do those choices influence perceptions of Jews in particular, or minorities generally?Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/AFST/HIST271Nelson Mandela & the Anti-Apartheid MovementThere are times when specific people, places and moments in history capture the imagination of the world. This occurs when that specificity speaks volumes to the human condition and offers lessons that we all sense are important. Such has been the case with Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid movement. This course will use Mandela and the evolution of, and struggle against, apartheid as a window into some of the 20th century's most complex issues. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN274/AFST 275African ChristianityThis course explores the complex and disparate trends of Christianity in Africa since the first century C. E. It highlights Africa's role in the development and growth of Christianity as a global religion. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/HIST287What If: Alternate PastsThis is a class about what might have been. Taking history itself as an object of analysis, this seminar will ask us to reconsider how we understand the past by thinking and acting in counterfactual ways. We will explore debates for and against counterfactualism and examine diverse counterfactual writings. We will also experience counterfactualism by participating in two role-playing activities, one set in a critical moment of reform in 19th century Korea, and the other set in Japan in the months before Pearl Harbor. As we seek to achieve the goals associated with specific roles, we will gain insights on the contingent, complex, and often messy reality of the past.Prerequisite: Sophomores only
SEMN/ANSO292Development and DispossessionThis course takes a critical approach to the study of development, focusing particular attention on the displacement and dispossession of local populations. Using contemporary case studies, we examine how neoliberal policies and practices play out in various development sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure, and the extractive industry, in both rural and urban spaces in the U.S. and around the world. Prerequisite: Sophomores only.
SEMN/ENGL295Poetic JusticeThis course will examine the treatment of law and political order in historically and culturally varied literary texts as part of a broader consideration of the relationship between art and social justice. We will explore how literature addresses "questions that matter," including personal ethics, the purposes and manners of criminal punishment, and racial and gender equality. Students will consider how literary texts, like legal texts, have the power to influence politics and society. Readings will include such texts as Antigone, The Faerie Queene, The Merchant of Venice, Kafka's The Trial, Philip K. Dick's Minority Report, and Shirley Jackson's The Lottery.
SEMN295Principles of Civic EngagementThis course for sophomore Civic Engagement Scholars and other sophomores with experience in service-learning will enhance their skills, knowledge and attitudes as effective social justice leaders and deepen their understanding of the processes and outcomes of critical service-learning as a tool for social change. Students will explore the structures, history, and intersections among the social justice issues that our programs address -educational and heath equity; immigrant rights; mass incarceration; reproductive rights; sustainability and food justice; and others - and will trace connections from the local to the global. Students will expand and apply the learning they derive from working with communities by examining the rationale for and best practices in experiential education and higher education initiatives to link personal and political commitments, public action, and democracy. They will study, design and lead structured reflection, a key component of community engagement for social justice.

Senior Seminars

Senior Seminars are the culmination of the Shared Passages Program. Disciplinary senior seminars integrate students' experiences inside and outside a particular major, while the interdisciplinary senior seminars listed below provide a liberal arts capstone experience, allowing students from a variety of majors to apply diverse aspects of their Kalamazoo College education to an interesting topic or problem.

Senior seminars

SEMN/ENVS401Energy & Environmental Policy WorldwideNational patterns of energy use and approaches to environmental policy vary over a wide range around the World. A grand experiment, with unfortunate consequences, is being conducted before us, as some large nations pollute with reckless abandon, and largely ignore environmental issues, while others, mostly in Europe, have made significant changes in behavior, seemingly to everyone's benefit. Who should pay for all this? Should the United Nations intervene on the big polluters? What policy should the U.S. follow? An intelligent discussion of these issues needs input from the fields of Science, Political Science, and Economics, and is also informed by international experiences. The course is designed to bring together viewpoints from several different majors, and personal perspectives gained through international experiences are also valuable. Possible careers involving environmental science, engineering and politics/policy will be discussed. Personal environmental impact and various choices/options will also be discussed. Prerequisite: At least three courses in either natural science, economics, or political science, with a major in one preferred.
SEMN/POLS406Male Violence Against Women: Movements & BacklashThis course focuses on male violence against and sexual exploitation of women. Students will examine the historical development of these related issues that feminism identifies as central (prostitution, pornography, sexual harassment, rape and battery). More specifically, we will explore how the story of that oppression and the efforts taken against it have been continuously ignored and/or undermined. Students will, for example, consider the ways in which the feminist fight against "male violence" is currently referred to as "domestic" or "gender" violence. Those working to end rape are portrayed as anti-sex while those who have survived it are said to have merely had a sexual experience they later regretted. Additionally, feminists fighting against pornography are depicted as "pro-censorship," prostitution is defended as an "occupational alternative," and rape-genocide now offers an artistic backdrop for the telling of a 'love story' between a soldier and his captive. Such topics are up for lively discussion in this senior capstone.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN407The Quest for Happiness: Living the Good and Gracious LifeThis course will draw on Psychological principles to explore how people can make their lives more fulfilling and meaningful. The course will focus on discussion and development of important life skills, including gratitude, resilience, and optimism, that are important for emotional well-being. Course assignments and discussions will emphasize reflection about one's own experiences at K as well as one's own goals for life post-graduation. Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN408Slow Farming: Resilient, Just, and Joyful Agriculture In this senior capstone course, students will explore solutions to problems created by our current food systems. We will critically examine recent movements in organic, local, and sustainable agriculture and discuss how we might each personally engage in transforming our individual, institutional, community, and political relationships with food and farming. This course includes a practicum in "slow farming" at Harvest of Joy Farm, LLC. Students should attend an informational meeting or speak individually with Professor Amy Newday prior to enrolling in this course.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN/POLS410From Social Movements to Non-ProfitsWe will compare and contrast the politics of "social movements" across different countries and in the context of "globalization". We open with an overview concerning the decline of traditional mass based political institutions (e.g., parties and unions) and consider the rise of alternative forms of political expression - including movements and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). After focusing on contemporary debates about movements (e.g., the efficacy of social movements for positive social change) we will reflect on the often-vibrant debates that occur within them (e.g., priorities, identities, alliances, strategies, funding and institutionalization). Prerequisite: Senior Standing
SEMN432Steal Like an ArtistThe aim of this senior capstone is to create a space in which artists across disciplines may collaboratively and individually prepare for life beyond the balance of safety and creative tension embodied in the studio, rehearsal space, and workshops central to their K education. What happens to the artist's creative life once set free from the structure and discipline of apprenticeship? Through self-designed projects, service-learning partnerships with local makers, lively discussion and reflective writing, we'll thoughtfully consider, define, and begin practicing what is required to sustain a joyful creative life beyond K.Prerequisite: Seniors only
SEMN/ENGL495Building the Archive: Baldwin & His LegacyIn February of 1960, James Baldwin delivered an address, "In Search of a Majority," at Stetson Chapel which he later included in his collection of essays, Nobody Knows my Name. This seminar will approach this visit (and Baldwin) as a site of analysis. As an actual event, the occasion left artifacts (correspondence, publicity, newspaper accounts, published essay). The event also can be read within the legacy of other Civil Rights era visitors to the college, including Charles V. Hamilton (co-author of Black Power: The Politics of Liberation) and others. Moreover, as a writer who addressed national and international identity, racial politics (personal and cultural), and sexuality, Baldwin's various writings remain relevant even as they locate themselves within particular historical moments. Through close attention to Baldwin and his milieu, this course will invite students to engage their own experiences and disciplinary knowledge in their reading, writing, and archival research. Students will also document (in film and transcript) oral histories of participants in the Civil Rights period as part of their course work. This course is designated as a Senior Seminar for the 2015-2016 academic year. Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN/JAPN495Thinking About Nature, East and WestThis course is designed to be the senior seminar for the East Asian Studies major and also a Senior seminar course for other seniors. We will look at how the West (mostly the US) and Asian cultures have thought about nature and the human-nature relationship. Prerequisite: Seniors only
SEMN496S.P.A.C.E.A senior-level service-learning course that explores the relationship between art and activism, social justice, community and/or civic engagement. Students from both art AND non-art disciplines/majors will work together in small groups similar to mini "think tanks" to develop ideas for interdisciplinary artworks and/or events that could be created with community partners. Project design is primarily theoretical--groups will draft (as their final product) a formal proposal and/or project grant based on their project concept. Among the questions students will investigate during the term are: How can art facilitate our experiences in public and private spaces? Who has access to a space? How do we share space and interact within it? Class and project workspace is housed off-campus in the Park Trades Center. Professional skills such as responsible partnering, grant seeking/writing, and project design will also be covered. This course is a Shared Passages Senior Capstone.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Special Topic Senior CapstoneSenior Shared Passages Capstone special topics course. Topics will vary from course to course. SEMN-499 courses may be added to the curriculum throughout the year.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Cultivating KommunityThis is a student-generated Shared Passages Senior Capstone. The topic and substance of the course has been selected by a group of interested students after significant planning and deliberation. Prerequisite: Seniors Only and Instructor Permission
SEMN499Social Justice & the American CityThis class undertakes a critical examination of American city spaces, using Chicago, Detroit, and Kalamazoo as its key cities. Placing literary texts alongside works of history, sociology, and urban studies, the course investigates how race and class structures shaped the formation of Chicago in the early twentieth century and how the undergird the multiple issues facing contemporary Detroit. Throughout, the class examines how artists, musicians, writers, and activists have responded to social inequalities and worked for social justice. These readings will provide the raw materials for helping students use the course as a working laboratory and studio, in which they undertake self-led projects of creative and critical intervention. in so doing, students will not only theorize their relationships to and within these urban spaces, but become both informed scholars and active agents of social change.Prerequisite: Seniors only
SEMN499Being...While acknowledging the magnitude of the task, over time and across cultures, participants in this Senior Capstone will explore many endings to the title of the course and the means by which those ends can be attained. Though not limited to a short list of possible endings (and ends?) - such as aware, human, responsible, in transition, of use, green, a community, present, or good enough - explorations will be prescribed by time available and who is participating in the course. That said, two parts of being aware will entail learning to identify common bird songs and trees in our local environs. And, being situated at a threshold, this course will include the Janus-like endeavors of reflecting on experiences and anticipating possible futures that will become part of narratives explored.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Historical Reading on FergusonThis course draws students into a critical engagement with police violence in the United States and the mounting resistance to it. Sparked by killings in Ferguson Missouri, many people are questioning how, why and to what extent such violence occurs. While the professor suggests readings, students will select texts, articles and blogs for the class and will lead discussions. Students will do reflections on how their liberal arts education at K has prepared them to take on this topic and how their education and this seminar might impact their life choices after graduation. Among other assignments, students will also write their own booklet on "a contemporary history of the police." The areas of research for this project will be decided upon, framed, developed and written by the students.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Exploring Stigma: Verbal & Visual NarrativesSocial stigma exists. It may be associated with perceptions toward mental illness, HIV/AIDS, socioeconomic status, gender identity, body image, race and religion. Engaging their own experiences and disciplinary knowledge, students from all majors will be invited to explore the existence of stigma in their lives-on campus and in their communities. Stories help humanize issues and are invaluable as educational and awareness-raising tools across multiple sectors and disciplines. Through the creation of multimedia digital stories, and utilizing art-therapy-based approaches, students will build a narrative of self and others relating to discovered stigmas. Reading works of psychology, art therapy, and sociology; viewing multimedia artwork; and interacting with community members, students will examine how the digital story plays a role in social justice and in eliminating stigma.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Crafting a Life: Living the Liberal ArtsThis course is based on the liberal arts idea of educating the whole person. It will help students define and refine a contextual understanding of their own identity, a direction based on values, purpose and passion, and a personal philosophy upon which they can build a life. It will seek to explore and support integration of students' social, emotional, physical, cultural and ethical development and consider psychological well-being, the value of a rich and thoughtful interior life, articulated core beliefs, social engagement and openness to the unexpected as elements of a well-considered life plan.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Digital Passages: Personal & Public NarrativesDigital storytelling stands out for its directness of emotional expression and voice. In this course, students will help bring to life the reality of their individual experiences-past, present, and conceivable future-through digital storytelling of various means. Students will reflect on their lives prior to college as well as what they've experienced while in school. They will look inward, but also outward, since students at Kalamazoo College have developed strong interests in a field of study and/or causes of social justice. We will look to see how their personal experiences have coalesced to influence their deep interest in a discipline-possibly interwoven with a practice of a being a socially constructive human being. Stories will begin with personal, factual evidence that grows outward-from the specific to the universal. Students then will make small pieces that relate their story using image and text or video and sound (utilizing easily accessible tools). The works may range from straight reportage to the experimental, from non-fiction to the allegorical. Their creative works will be designed primarily for, and dissemination through, social media. By imparting their story to an audience, it is hoped they will make meaningful connections between themselves and others.Prerequisite: Seniors only.