Global Cultures

Students choose from one of five Liberal Studies courses featuring the regions of Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America. These courses introduce aspects of one particular region’s cultural development to help students understand societies that have long histories and enormous diversity within themselves—societies and cultures that intersect across the globe.  “Culture” is broadly defined as including, but not being limited to, the historical, philosophical, artistic, political, and social dimensions of the region. Course materials stress primary over secondary sources and may include multimedia. In their first year, students choose from one of the Global Cultures courses described below. 

African Cultures
This course is an introduction to modern African history and culture. The configurations and problems of modern African society are examined in the context of, and as a product of, a rich history and tradition. The social, political, economic, and intellectual dimensions of African life are approached through a wide variety of readings from the disciplines of history, political science, anthropology, and literature.

Middle Eastern Cultures
This is a general, inter-disciplinary introduction to the societies, cultures, politics and history of the contemporary Middle East and Islamic North Africa. Texts on sociological, historical and political topics, as well as artistic expressions, films and literary works, may be utilized to examine the region's rich historical legacy and current complexity. Topics may include the historical and cultural relations between the Middle East and the West and the impact of historical, economic, and political change on the region's cultures, societies and contemporary problems.

East Asian Cultures
This course surveys the civilizations of Japan and China, concentrating on their last 200 years and their position in today’s world. Each country’s unique culture and civilization provides the backdrop against which modern events are viewed. Major topics include the imperialist conquests of the 19th century, the nationalist movements and revolutions of the 20th century, and the impact of modernization on traditional Asian societies.

South Asian Cultures
This course examines the historical and cultural roots of political and social change in 19th- and 20th-century South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal). The course explores the complex interaction of ancient traditions, colonialism, and independence movements. It also examines a number of post-independence issues such as development and modernization, hierarchy and democracy, and continuing religious strife.

Latin American Cultures
This course examines major literary texts in the context of political and social change in post-independence Latin America. Genres including the novel, the essay, and poetry are read in light of the emerging nations’ quest to consolidate their identities vis-à-vis Spain, Europe, and 20th-century United States. The course explores how Latin American texts address the challenges of establishing viable politics across class and racial divides; the transition from monocultural and agricultural economies to industrialization and mass urbanization; responses to economic and ideological neocolonialism; the opportunities and crises created by integration into a global economy; the impact of the global media; and the struggle for civil rights.

Advanced Global Cultures

Students take an Advanced Global Cultures course in either fall or spring semester at their global sites.  These courses, which concern a wide variety of topics, connect the site experience with wider regional, national, or global phenomena; for instance, a student in Paris might choose a course on France and Islam, while a student at Buenos Aires might choose one on Latin American cinema.  Students take an two-semester experiential learning sequence to immerse them in the current and historical character of the site; as a component of the class, they pursue an independent internship or equivalent with an on-site faculty director and work online with a GLS faculty member and students with similar interests from different sites to craft an independent research project, an important preparation for the senior thesis.  Junior year also features foreign language courses in each term, and electives geared toward the particular academic emphases and geographic advantages of the site.  Students thus attain a thorough working knowledge of the historical and contemporary culture and society of the site at which they study.

Updated on 09/17/2013