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Undergraduate Courses

Fall 2022

Principles of Blockchains
Blockchains are decentralized digital trust engines that are the underlying technology behind Web3, a loosely defined denotation of the Internet architecture in the years to come, including decentralization of the platform economy of the modern Internet (Web2). In this course, we conduct a full-stack study of blockchains, viewing them as a whole integrated computer system involving networking, incentives, consensus, data structures, cryptography and memory management. The course uses the Bitcoin architecture as a basis to construct the foundational design and algorithmic principles of blockchains.
Instructors: Pramod Viswanath
Special Topics in Data and Information Science: Safety-Critical Robotic Systems
The course covers the mathematical foundations of dynamical system safety analysis and modern algorithmic approaches for robotic decision making in safety-critical contexts. The focus is on safe robot learning, multiagent systems, and interaction with humans, paying special attention to uncertainty and the reality gap between mathematical models and the physical world.
Instructors: Jaime Fernandez Fisac
Wounded Beauty
This course studies the entanglement between ideas of personhood and the history of ideas about beauty. How does beauty make and unmake persons -socially, legally and culturally- at the intersection of race, gender and aesthetics? Let us move beyond the good versus bad binary that dominates discussions of beauty to focus instead on how beauty in literature and culture have contributed to the conceptualization of modern, western personhood and its inverse (the inhuman, the inanimate, the object). We will trace beauty and its disruptions in the arenas of literature, visual culture, global capitalism, politics, law, science and technology.
Instructors: Anne Cheng
Conspiracy in America
How do we analyze conspiracy narratives and conspiratorial thinking at a moment when the government spies on its citizens and profitable technology companies have turned surveillance itself into an economic necessity? Under what historical, political, and economic conditions do conspiracies proliferate? In this course we analyze conspiracies, paranoia, rumors, and the contemporary economies of dis/information and post-facts. Course material will be drawn from American history, from the 19th century to the present, and will include manifestos, films, novels, online fora, and theoretical texts in psychoanalysis, narrative theory and politics.
Instructors: Zahid Chaudhary
Black Dramatists in the English-Speaking World
The language of a play intermingles thought and dramatic action to epitomize an unreconciled social conflict, intended to manifest within and between human bodies in real time. What have English-language dramatists of African descent identified as the central conflicts of their plays? How have their relationships to race, power, and colonial structures influenced their works? In what ways have they shaped, subverted, and advanced theatrical forms? This course will survey plays written by Black playwrights in the 20th and 21st C. We will explore dramatic works of writers from Africa, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Instructors: Nathan Davis
African-American Literature: Sites of Memory: Black Archives in Theory and Practice
Silences, blind spots, absences: institutional archives are often characterized by what they stifle, obscure, or lack. So what kind of work is done by Black archives, which do not take their institutional presence for granted and often take shape in extra-institutional sites? In this survey of Black archival thought, we identify the practices that writers, artists, and scholars have used to create their own sites of memory and meaning-making. Through discussion and Special Collections workshops, we investigate how Black archives urge a rethinking of our ethical, epistemological, and affective relations to historical and documentary evidence.
Instructors: Kinohi Nishikawa, Autumn Womack
Sex, Gender, and Desire in Francophone Africa
This course examines the complex role of gender and sexuality in Francophone Africa's literature and visual cultures. Framed primarily by postcolonial criticism, we will explore how Francophone African writers, filmmakers, and artists treat historical and contemporary issues connected to women and marginal sexualities' experiences, and how they appropriate vernacular/conventional modes of writing and filmmaking in their works. By reading critical writings alongside the novels and films, we will explore questions such as: How stories shape our understanding of gender roles? From whose perspective are they told? What do they exclude/repress?
Instructors: André Benhaïm, Saadia El Karfi
Slavery and Capitalism
The course will examine the place of plantation slavery in the development of capitalist modernity. We will focus on two classic texts: Eric Williams' Capitalism and Slavery, and CLR James' history of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins. We will also discuss in this context Marx's critique of capitalist slavery in Capital, and its importance for the tradition of Caribbean critique. Also to be considered are the writings of Toussaint Louverture, Henry Christophe, and Aimé and Suzanne Césaire as they develop original critiques of slavery, colonialism, and Antillean capitalism.
Instructors: F. Nick Nesbitt
Media, Sex, and the Racialized Body
This course explores the recent intellectual history of media, sex, and the racialized body. We will analyze the representation of the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in film, advertisements, the fashion industry, reality TV, animation, and music videos. This course will also closely examine the predominance of White heteronormativity in film, the representation of gender in K-pop and K-dramas, and the hypersexualization of Blackness and Latinidad in Blaxploitation films and telenovelas.
Instructors: Dannelle Gutarra Cordero
The Racialization of Beauty
This course explores the intellectual history of the racialization of beauty. We will begin by analyzing how the history of Atlantic slavery and scientific racism set precedents for the contemporary dominant conceptualization of beauty in the body, art, and nature. Students will then concentrate on the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in beauty pageants, advertising, and the plastic surgery industry. This course will also closely examine racialized fat phobia, the racial politics of hair, transnational colorism, and racialized exploitation in beauty service work.
Instructors: Dannelle Gutarra Cordero

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