Honors First Year Inquiry Series

Fall 2017

HONR 1310-01
The Politics of the Islamic Veil

Times: Mon, Wed / 2:50pm-4:30pm
CRN: 16397
NU Path Attributes: DD, ER

Liz Bucar, Department of Philosophy & Religion

This course explores why the Islamic veil today is so “pregnant with meanings” and how this impacts the lives of not only Muslim women who cover, but also of those who do not. In the course, we will explore how colonialism, nationalism, and Islamic movements have affected the Islamic veil. We will raise questions about whether veiling affects educational and employment opportunities for Muslim women. We will begin to understand that the veil can be both a symbol of cultural identity and a fashion statement. As a result, we will have a better understanding of the basic gendered categories central to Islamic thought and practice, major themes in the role of gender in Islam, and the distinctive gendered religious practices that are part of Islamic public practice. Our work will be framed by the comparative interpretation of Islamic religious literary texts in light of their historical contexts and distinguishing differences over time in different social and cultural contexts. Our goal will include an appraisal of Islam as a cultural system in its temporal and geographic contexts and a critical appreciative understanding of culture, religion, and people who may be different from ourselves.

HONR 1310-02
Angels and Demons: Studying Violence in the 21st Century

Times: Tue, Fri / 1:35pm-3:15pm
NU Path Attributes: SI

Gordana Rabrenovic, Department of Sociology & Anthropology

How does the concept of borders influence our understanding of violence in the 21st century? The idea of borders is often used to discuss conflict around land boundaries. These conflicts are often bloody, prolonged and characterized by interpersonal and intergroup violence. However, ethnic, racial and economic disparities — both within and between nations — tend to exasperate territorial conflicts and create new tensions. Political and environmental crises further complicate our understanding of what causes conflict and how best to address it. This course will employ the concept of borders to analyze various examples of contemporary violence. We will start by exploring several global border conflicts, such as Israel-Palestine, the Balkans and Northern Ireland. Then, we will expand on the idea of borders and use it to frame our discussion of issues such as urban riots, which are fought block by block by gangs intent on securing dominance over particular neighborhoods. Finally, we will push the concept of borders even further to discuss domestic violence. As we explore these instances of conflict, we will also examine innovative ways to intervene, reduce and even prevent violence. Examples will range from Boston to the global arena.

HONR 1310-03
Me Tarzan, You Jane! The Uses of Language in Literature: Linguistic Reality or Linguistic Fiction?

Time: Tue, Fri / 9:50am-11:30am
NU Path Attribute: DD, ND

Heather Littlefield, Linguistics Program

The acquisition and use of language is part of what makes us human: it helps us share information with one another, keep one another company and serves as the foundation for social relationships. Storytellers often use linguistic phenomena to develop or enhance their plots and their characters. Famous fictional characters like Burrough’s Tarzan and Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster learn language as an essential part of their growth and development, and others like Twain’s Huck Finn and Jim are famous for their dialects. But how accurately are these linguistic phenomena portrayed in literature? In this course we will draw on current linguistic theory and cognitive science to explore the veracity of authors’ portrayals of a variety of linguistic contexts, and the effects of those portrayals on plot and character development.

HONR 1310-04
Dealing with Drugs: Global and Local Implications of Legal and Illegal Substances

Times: Mon, Thu / 11:45am-1:25pm
NU Path Attribute: DD, SI

Ineke Marshall, Department of Sociology & Anthropology/School of Criminology & Criminal Justice

The focus of this course is on mind-altering (psychotropic) drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, prescription painkillers, and synthetic party drugs. Using insights and readings from history, public policy, public health, sociology of deviance, international studies and criminology, we will explore why mind-altering substances occupy such a contested position in many societies. We will further examine different varieties of drug control policies at the international, national as well as local levels and the impact of these policies on drug production and consumption, public health, and crime and the criminal justice. The core of the class is based on readings and discussions around a variety of topics related to (illegal) drugs. We will also draw from guest speakers and/or visits to local agencies. The final class project consists of small groups working together on library research as well as local field research.

HONR 1310-05
Historical Novels and the Romance of History

Times: Mon, Thu / 11:45am-1:15pm
CRN: 17567
NU Path Attributes: EI, IC, WI

Marina Leslie, Department of English

Travel through time and visit the empire of Alexander the Great through the eyes of his Persian slave, Bagoas. Visit the court of King Henry VIII as Catherine Howard, his fifth queen. See early colonial America from the perspective of a Native American woman and a free black man. Contemporary historical novels allow us to explore other places and times through the experiences of those most often erased from history. For example, the story lines described above put at their center the experience of queer (Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy), female (Ford Maddox Ford’s The Fifth Queen), and racial (Toni Morrison’s The Mercy) “others,” giving them agency and a voice. The class will engage these and other historical novels through both critical and creative writing assignments. To supplement our readings and critical analyses of these and other acclaimed 20th- and 21st-century novelists, we will visit area archives such as the Boston Public Library’s Rare Book collection and the Massachusetts Historical Society to uncover rare documents that can serve as fragments for our own imaginative narratives. In the end we will garner an appreciation of a truly interdisciplinary art form as thinkers, critics, and creative writers.

HONR 1310-06
Twentieth-Century Espionage

Times: Mon, Wed, Thurs / 10:30am-11:35am

Jeffrey Burds, Department of History

Using case studies, documents, literature and film, we will explore the world history of spies in the twentieth century. Themes include the Great Game (Anglo-Russian-French-German rivalries in Central Asia and the Near East); World War I (Mata Hari, Alfred Redl); the Russian Revolution; the interwar era; World War II; and the Cold War. Each student will be expected to develop a semester project based on a 20-minute class presentation and a short semester paper (10-15 pages).

HONR 1310-07
Unraveling the Russian Enigma

Times: Mon, Wed / 2:50pm-4:30pm
CRN: 17724

Harlow Robinson, Department of History

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once famously described Russia as “a riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma.” Today no less than in the past, Putin’s Russia continues to fascinate, perplex and infuriate outsiders, including Americans. In this seminar we will attempt to understand why Russia—and the Russians—behave they way they do. Reading works of history, historical fiction and memoir, we will examine how history and culture have helped to shape the Russian world-view–a contradictory combination of arrogance and inferiority. We will also analyze selected Russian and Hollywood films to gain a better understanding of national stereotypes and how they are created and perpetuated. Guest lecturers will be invited, including a Russian Orthodox priest, an American businessman who has worked in Russia, and others TBA. Fundamentally interdisciplinary in both texts employed and the pedagogical approach, the course is designed for students from all disciplines. Students will be encouraged to explore relevant issues in their own major areas of study.

HONR 1310-08
The North of Ireland: Colonialism, Armed Conflict and Peace with Justice

Times: Mon, Wed / 2:50pm-4:30pm
NU Path Attribute: DD

Michael MacDonald, Northeastern University Honors Program

On January 30, 1972, British soldiers’ released 108 rounds of live ammunition, killing 14 unarmed citizens (7 teenagers) who were peacefully marching for civil rights. The day is remembered as “Bloody Sunday.” On June 15, 2010, the British government released The Saville Report, acknowledging that British soldiers’ actions were “unjustified and unjustifiable.” While this is just one of many truth inquiries sought by people in the North of Ireland today, the families of Bloody Sunday’s victims were elated that their loved ones – long labeled IRA “terrorists” by an earlier British Army report – were vindicated. To many, though, this is about something bigger, as one survivor attested: Just as the civil rights movement of 40 years ago was part of something huge happening all over the world, so the repression that came upon us was the same as is suffered by ordinary people everywhere who dare to stand up against injustice. Sharpeville. Grozny. Tiananmen Square. Darfur, Fallujah, Gaza. Let our truth stand as their truth too. — Tony Doherty (son of slain Civil Rights marcher on Bloody Sunday)   This course will examine the ongoing quest for a “peace with justice” in the north of Ireland. We will look at the history of violence in this particular locale — in its various forms, whether paramilitary or state violence; physical or economic violence; the violence of discrimination; or, more recently, youth “anti social” violence – with an eye on the implications this particular conflict and the ongoing peace process may have for other places of conflict (globally, or even locally, e.g. youth gang violence and quests for peace with justice on Boston’s streets). How is the conflict in the north of Ireland related to the history of struggle in South Africa? How were Civil Rights activists in The North influenced by the American Civil Rights movement? How might the ongoing peace process provide lessons for Israel/Palestine? How might the developments in American urban youth work to prevent violence and promote access and opportunity provide lessons to “post-conflict” cities like Belfast, which have seen a new type of conflict manifesting among its young people in the form of what is called “anti social behavior?”   We will discuss all of this, while reading memoir, histories, poetry, and articles, as well as watching films about the conflict in the north of Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement, and the subsequent ongoing peace process.

HONR 1310-09
Drones, Clones & Driverless Cars: The Social Impact of Disruptive New Technologies

Times: Mon, Wed, Thu / 10:30am-11:35 am
CRN: 18054

Dennis Shaughnessy, Entrepreneurship & Innovation

This seminar provides students with the opportunity to explore the disruptive impact of new technologies on society. This is not a technical seminar, but rather an interdisciplinary one focused on how major advances in technology lead to social change. The latest technology breakthroughs–from drones to clones, bitcoins to AI and robots–are often collectively referred to as “the fourth industrial revolution”. When fully adopted, these technologies will impact how we learn, work, play, organize, manage, prosper and engage with others. Will the future be all that we hope for?

HONR 1310-10
Creative Storytelling for Social Engagement

Times: Mon, Thu / 11:45am-1:25pm
NU Path Attribute: EI

Nancy Kindelan, Department of Theatre

This interdisciplinary, immersive, and experiential seminar focuses on the development of a contemporary Living Newspaper play.

What is the Living Newspaper?—It was a documentary form of theatre with unique production values that originated during the Great Depression under the auspices of the Federal Theatre Project as a way to accommodate thousands of unemployed journalists and theatre artists. This form of theatre used current events to inform and engage audiences to think deeply about our relationship to self, others, and the world—past, present, and future.

What is unique about this seminar?
You will be given a chance to explore the Living Newspaper from its original 1930s form to new types of documentary plays and productions representing both the United States and Europe that seek new theatrical methods to inform and encourage social change.
You will investigate a current topic of your choice, research your subject, work with a mentor, and engage in the process of creating a Living Newspaper play.
Through participating in the journalistic process of researching, interviewing, and reporting the facts, composing effective dramatic narrative that clearly conveys the play’s world (its story, characters, ideas), as well as selecting stage-worthy images and employing innovative theatrical staging techniques, you will create a contemporary Living Newspaper that expresses your views of today’s social issues.

HONR 1310-11
New Money

Times: Mon, Wed, Thurs / 10:30am-11:35am
CRN: 18347

Abhi Shelat, College of Computer & Information Science

This course will explore the past and future role of money in society. How did the concept arise? Can we define properties that money provides in a modern economy? Most of the course will focus on new techniques from the area of cryptocurrencies. We will study the mechanisms for how cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum work.

The course is entirely self-contained and requires only basic high-school math. Students interested in the future of money and how it will impact society, business and government will learn how these new currencies work.

HONR 1310-12
Math, Magic, Puzzles, & Games

Times: Mon, Thurs / 11:45am-1:25pm
NU Path Attribute: EI

Stanley Eigen, Department of Mathematics

This is a Service-Learning, Honors Course. The course will go into depth on the mathematics behind some classic magic tricks, puzzles and games. Mathematical topics may include, but are not limited to, Combinatorics, graph theory, group theory, number theory, topology, dynamics, binary arithmetic and coding theory. Connections will be made to a wider range of areas. For example, some magic tricks connect to DNA analysis and coding theory. Some puzzles connect to logic and ethical dilemmas. Some games connect to social skills and economics.

Students will be organized into teams of 4-5 students (though sizes and number of groups will vary depending upon the number of students and the number of Service-Learning partners). Each group will prepare 3 presentations – tentatively one on magic tricks, one on puzzles, and one on games. Particular topics and mathematical level will depend upon the interests of the students and the needs of the Service Learning Partners.

Each presentation should be prepared in detail and practiced in class before meeting with service partners. This includes preparing handouts, activities and supplemental material for the teachers involved.
Students are expected to help critique each other and may ”borrow” material from other groups. To this end, the groups will not prepare their presentations in the same order. Credit is given if you can reflect on and improve your material for the next group to use.

HONR 1310-13
Of Princes and Utopias: The Foundations of Modern Political Thought

CRN: 18544
Times: Mon, Wed / 2:50pm-4:30pm
NU Path Attribute: TBD

Robert Cross, Department of History

Is there such a thing as an ideal society, and if so, of what does it consist? What form of government is the most just, and is it achievable in the real world? Are the qualities of a good leader the same as those of a good person? Indeed, are human beings by nature fundamentally good, evil, or somewhere in between? People have been asking these sorts of questions since they first began to write things down, and the answers they have come up with have continued to inform countless debates about society, government, and the human condition to this very day.

This course will focus on a selection of the Western tradition’s key thinkers, taking an in-depth look at some of the most influential works in the history of political thought, from ancient Greece through seventeenth-century Europe. Along the way, we will follow two simultaneous paths: one literary/philosophical, and one historical. You will have the opportunity here to read, consider, and discuss a number of history’s great books. But you will also come to understand how these works fit in their historical and cultural context. It is not enough simply to read Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, More’s Utopia, or Machiavelli’s Prince. These texts need to be considered in dialogue with one another, and in the light of subsequent thinkers who read them, adapted them, borrowed from them, copied them, and ultimately established them as the foundation of a “canon” of thought that has been passed down to us over the years. Recent decades have brought a re-evaluation of this canon, questioning its merit in general as well as the makeup of its particulars. And this will be a part of our continuing dialogue and analysis. As will the artistic, philosophical, and multicultural milieux that helped develop these ideas, as well as those that developed from them – extending beyond the traditional relationship with the text, to include occasional use of film, music, and one of our real local jewels: the Museum of Fine Art.

HONR 1310-14
Climate Change & Society

CRN: 18545
Times: Mon, Wed / 2:50pm-4:30pm
NU Path Attribute: TBD

Sharon Harlan, Department of Sociology & Anthropology

This interdisciplinary course relates human drivers, impacts, and responses to changes in weather and climate. The course uses perspectives from sociology, anthropology, and environmental justice to understand the challenges that people, communities, and nations are facing today and are likely to experience later in this century. Because climate change is a complex problem, we also draw upon research by historians, archaeologists, geographers, and climate scientists. Students will apply their new knowledge to a final project on climate change in Boston.

Four major topics will be addressed:

  1. Dramatic climatic changes that have had profound consequences for human societies in the past and point toward potential problems in the future;
  2. Ways that people in different times and places know and justify their understandings of climate and the human role in causing climate change
  3. Inequalities in human risks and responses to weather disasters and more gradual changes in temperature, precipitation, and melting ice, and sea level rise
  4. Climate injustices in decisions and policies that affect people who are alive today and future generations who will live in future climates.

HONR 1310-16
The Global 1968: Protest, Politics, and Pop in a Violent Decade

CRN: 18596
Times: Mon, Thurs / 11:45am-1:20pm
NU Path Attribute: TBD

Timothy Brown, Department of History

From Occupy Wall Street, to the Arab Spring, to Black Lives Matter, we live in an age of protest. Fifty years ago, the uprisings of the “global 1968” rocked the world. Young people from London to Tokyo, from Chicago to Prague, from Mexico City to Paris protested the war in Vietnam, fought for rights for women, minorities, and the poor, and tried to imagine a new world beyond capitalism and Communism. What do the events of five decades ago have to teach us today? What was the “global 1968”? What did it mean then, and what does it mean now? How did popular culture influence radical politics and visa versa? Examining 1960s rebellions in America, Europe, and across the Global South, using a rich variety of scholarly and contemporary texts—books, flyers, films, music—students in this course will seek to answer these questions. Offered against the backdrop of various exciting 50th-year anniversary events planned by Northe astern and Harvard Universities, this course will allow students to better understand our own time while learning about a critical moment in the recent history of America and the world.