'DEIS Impact College Course Catalog [PDF]

For more information on these courses: check the course listings at brandeis.edu/registrar

'DEIS Impact College

Attendees sat in on open sessions of courses taught by faculty representing a range of disciplines but one common goal: grounding college students' passion for changing the world in solid theory. 

2017 Summaries

Location: All classes were held in the Shapiro Campus Center Multipurpose Room.

Thursday, February 2:

Participants at the event
Photo by The Justice

10:00-10:50 a.m. Celebrity Status and Social Justice: A Double-Edged Sword, an open session of SOC 156b, Sociology of Celebrity, with Michael Strand

Read the article and see photo in The Justice. 

11:00-11:50 a.m. Consumption as a Political or Ethical Activity, an open session of SOC 150b, Culture of Consumption, with Laura Miller

Professor Laura Miller lecturing at the eventAt its heart social justice is about fairness for and by the collective. Consumption is typically thought of as an individual act, but it always takes place in a social context and has social impacts that go beyond the individual. Consumption can be a way of expressing moral commitments; this is what we call ethical or political consumption. Using consumer goods to make political statements can be very complex, and there may be unintended consequences as far as who benefits and who does not. Consumption as activism dismantles barriers between political life and everyday life. Boycotts are an example of political consumption, like the tea boycott that became a way of showing political loyalty during the time of the American Revolution. Consumer goods can be expressions of national identity and a rejection of values that are viewed as foreign. Ethical consumption aligns our ethical and philosophical beliefs with our decisions to consume in a particular way, such as buying hybrid cars, buying US made goods, buying only from independent stores etc.
Dzintra Lacis (Library Services) contributed to this report.

12:00-12:50 p.m. Contemporary Theatre and the Theory of Bio-Power, an open session of ENG 170b, Contemporary Theatre and Performance: Between Rights and the Post-Human, with Tom King

The professor sitting and talking at the eventThe play "Ruined" by Lynn Nottage, set in the conflict torn Democratic Republic of Congo, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for drama and was presented by the Brandeis Players on campus in November of 2015. A closer look at the play examines the development of technologies that improve the living conditions and wealth of some, but hinges on the kill-ability of others -- an investment in the death or forced displacement of another population.  Many U.S. consumers, for example, enhance their lives with smart phones and other electronics that depend on coltan, which is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has helped to finance conflict in the region; control over these minerals provides the background for the rape and mutilation of the women represented in Nottage's play. The term biopower, coined by  Michel Foucalt, addresses the ways in which nation-states attempt to foster the life -- the economic well-being, the standard of living, the possibility of individual self-actualization -- of their populations. But the fostering of the life of the national population is underwritten by the "exception," those that Hannah Arendt analyzed as the stateless and the refugee, and those whose disallowed lives, in Foucault's terms, are necessary for the fostering of the population of the dominant nation-states.

1:00-1:50 p.m. Stories Maps Tell and Stories Withheld, an open session of LALS 144b, Mapping Latino Boston, with Laura Brown

The professor lecturing at the event with a Powerpoint slideWhile maps are often thought of as objective representations of the natural world, they are actually subjective texts, with narratives and perspectives. The mapmaker's priorities and intentions determine which data is included, how phenomena are converted into spreadsheet data and coordinates, and how data is rendered visually through code. By choosing how to present spatial data, maps both reproduce phenomena and also simultaneously create them. Even the simple problem of projecting a three-dimensional earth onto a two-dimensional map, with the resulting distortion of the poles, is an example of this process. In today's climate of "truth," "alternative facts," and "lies," mapreaders should think critically about information presented in maps.

2:00-3:20 p.m. Strange Fruit: Lynching in History and Memory, an open session of AAAS 156a, #BlackLivesMatter: The Struggle of Civil Rights from Reconstruction to the Present, with Chad Williams

The professor lecturing at the eventThe title of the lecture, "Strange Fruit," refers to the poem written by Abel Meeropol protesting the lynching of African-Americans. Chad Williams opened the lecture with haunting images of lynching accompanied by the powerful vocals of Billie Holiday performing the poem set to music. Professor Williams explained the connection to the Blues as “a powerful expression of black life, in all its horror; it speaks to black survival and black resistance.” 

Lynching, which emerged after the Reconstruction era in the U.S., was a means for white people to maintain social control over blacks, to prevent economic and political competition from blacks, and to create a community bond of whiteness in the form of lynching “events.” In addition, photography was used to document, disseminate and advertise lynching events in particularly disturbing ways, such as a family postcard with images of lynching at a community barbecue. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an outspoken freedom fighter and journalist, was a leader in the crusade against lynching, using her newspaper to mobilize public opinion.  

More recently, in 2005, 80 out of 100 senators passed a resolution apologizing for the failure of the Senate to pass anti-lynching legislation. Williams posed questions for group discussion about the Senate resolution: Is this apology important? Does it absolve Congress of any further responsibility to address the history of lynching and anti-black radical violence?
Carla Underwood (Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences) and Deborah Wieder, Marilyn Denton and Cathy Mallen (Office of Communications) contributed to this report.

3:30-4:50 p.m. The Intersection of Race, Law and Power, an open session of ENG 141b, Critical Race Theory, with Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman

Powerpoint slides at the eventInterest convergence refers to the concept of the alignment of interests of the dominant group and subordinate group in a society. When the interests of both groups converge, widespread social change happens. For example, the civil rights movement was successful partly because America was losing face in the international arena during the Cold War because of human rights abuses at home. If civil rights reform were motivated by love or justice, it would have happened sooner. A video of a conversation between authors Phillip Lopate and Kiese Laymon, unpacking lessons from James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time," illustrates the challenges of intersectionality -- interlocking systems of oppression. The title of Baldwin's book comes from the "spiritual" song called "Mary Don't You Weep," referring to this line: "God gave Noah the rainbow sign: no more water but fire next time."

5:00-6:20 p.m. Ethical Dimensions of Big Data and Business Analytics, an open session of BUS 211f, Analyzing Big Data, with Rob Carver

The professor lecturing at the event“Privacy is the right to be left alone – the most comprehensive of rights, the right most valued by the people,” wrote Louis D. Brandeis himself in Dissent, Olmstead vs. US in 1928. However, data mining raise ethical issues. The group examined "How Target Figured Out a Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did" and other examples of big data in action. Some feel that these practices are simply providing better customer service, and are no different from market segmentation – advertising certain products on websites based on the viewers' interests. But others feel that such practices transcend the consumer consent offered, bordering on unethical as well as “creepy.” These practices may also put data security at risk, with the corresponding risk of identity theft and intrusion if information lands in the wrong hands. Technology is moving quickly, but the law less quickly.

Friday, February 3:

9:30-10:50 a.m. Responses to Social Injustice in Women's Popular Cinema: The Case of "Marie Antoinette," an open session of FILM 114a, Genre, Gender, and Women's Filmmaking, with Mary Harrod

Participants at the eventDuring the open session for Professor Mary Harrod’s “Genre, Gender and Women’s Filmmaking” class, three students led a class discussion on the 2006 SoFia Coppola film, “Marie Antoinette.”  A short clip of the movie was played in which Marie Antoinette and her husband, Louis XVI’s marriage consummation problem is discussed. Though this is ordinarily a very private matter between husband and wife, in their case the marriage had enormous political implications for the solidifying of the Franco-Austrian alliance, with producing an heir as a critical component. (It took them eight years to produce an heir.) Though the movie is not historically accurate, being more historiography than history, one student in the class remarked, “it is interesting how she did everything she was supposed to do and tried to do things correctly, but she still gets blamed for everything.” The film, set in the 1700's, was compared to female rite-of-passage films set in contemporary times. 
Carla Underwood (Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences) contributed to this report.

11:00 a.m.-12:20 p.m. The Perils of Struggle: Post-Liberation Politics in Africa, an open session of AAAS 162a, Assassination: A History of 20th Century Africa, with Carina Ray

The professor lecturing at the eventThis session of "Assassination: A History of 20th Century Africa" used Sara Dorman's article "Post-Liberation Politics in Africa: Examining the Political Legacy of Struggle" as a point of departure to explore how liberation movements-turned-governing parties adapted to their new roles in power. One consequence of the contest for and later seizure of power by progressive forces like the MPLA in Angola and FRELIMO in Mozambique was that assassination emerged as a strategy of late colonial and neo-colonial rule designed to thwart freedom. Yet, not every assassination occurred in the context of armed liberation struggle, which points to its pervasiveness as a tool to counteract revolutionary movements, whether armed or simply ideological.