Liberal Studies Seminars

Each year, Duke GLS offers a wide array of Liberal Studies (LS) Seminars developed exclusively for its students, including the GLS core course.  Students in the program also can take graduate courses (500-level and higher) from across campus.  For further details about course grades and requirements, see the RegistrationDegree Requirements or Academic Policies pages.  

LS 780-32 - Human Rights Futures
Fall 2020
Thursdays, 7:00-9:30 pm
Room TBA
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This class will establish some of the foundations and histories of human rights, then take an in-depth look at the challenges that face us as a world community. This includes using a human rights lens to think about refugees and asylum-seekers; climate change; genetic engineering; privacy; the right to truth; and international humanitarian law. This class is interdisciplinary and discussion-based. We will be examining real-life cases from around the world and including the United States. Readings will include materials prepared by philosophers, historians, activists, lawyers, documentarians, anthropologists, and journalists, among others. 

Students will prepare one midterm paper and a final presentation on an issue chosen in consultation with the instructor. Since this is a seminar, attendance and participation are mandatory. 

The development and initial offering of this new course in the Fall of 2020 was supported through the generosity of GLS alumna Lottie Applewhite.

Robin Kirk is the Faculty Co-Chair of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute and is a founding member of the Pauli Murray Project, an initiative of the center that seeks to use the legacy of this Durham daughter to examine the region’s past of slavery, segregation and continuing economic inequality. An author and human rights advocate, Kirk is a lecturer in the Department of Cultural Anthropology and directs the Human Rights Certificate. Kirk has written three books, including More Terrible Than Death: Massacres, Drugs and America’s War in Colombia (Public Affairs) and The Monkey’s Paw: New Chronicles from Peru (University of Massachusetts Press). She is a co-editor of The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Duke University) and co edits Duke University Press’s “World Readers” series. An essayist and award-winning poet, she has published widely on issues as diverse as the Andes, torture, the politics of memory, family life and pop culture. Her essay on Belfast, “City of Walls,” is included in the Best American Travel Writing anthology of 2012 (Mariner Books). Kirk authored, co-authored and edited over twelve reports for Human Rights Watch, all available on-line. In the 1980s, Kirk reported for U.S. media from Peru, where she covered the war between the government and the Shining Path. She continues to write for US media, and has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Sojourners, The American Scholar, the Raleigh News and Observer, the Boston Globe, the Durham Herald Sun and other media.

Laurie Mauger
LS 760-35 - Science in the Public Eye
Fall 2020
Tuesdays, 7:00-9:30 pm
Room TBA
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Understanding the role of science in everyday life is a critical aspect of modern society. Science is often discussed through social media, news outlets, and politics without details of the underlying concepts. “Science in the Public Eye” is designed to give all students taking it a broad introduction to fundamental scientific concepts, expose them to the natural world, and make them a more informed citizen. In this course, students will investigate topics that are often discussed through these platforms. We will explore the science behind the topic, popular opinions, and discuss misconceptions. We will focus on topics ranging from vaccinations, disease epidemics, genetically modified organisms, and antibiotic resistance to the Endangered Species Act and climate change. Our main goal through our classroom discussions will be to focus on effective communication of the topic. 

Each week we will read and discuss scientific and nonscientific readings on the assigned topic. We will compare and contrast the readings and discuss misconceptions that the general public might get from only reading nonscientific articles. Students will work individually or in pairs to lead one of the weekly discussions. Students will also research a recent topic in the news and prepare a 5-7 minute presentation on the topic. In addition, students will work in groups to prepare an educational video or other form of scientific communication (podcast, infographic, newspaper column, etc.) geared towards any age group about a topic related to the course. 

The development and initial offering of this new course in the Fall of 2020 was supported through the generosity of GLS alumna Lottie Applewhite.

Laurie Mauger is a Lecturer in the Department of Biology. She received her Ph.D. in 2010 from Drexel University on population genetics and conservation of American crocodiles in Costa Rica. Since graduating, her research has focused on involving undergraduate students in research on projects focusing on population genetics of crocodiles, caterpillars, ringtail cats, and ants. Today, Dr. Mauger focuses mainly on pedagogical research investigating the impact of course-based research projects on student learning and attitude towards science and nature. She has published 5 scientific papers and is working with students to submit several more. Dr. Mauger has taught a variety undergraduate level courses on genetics, evolution, general biology, conservation biology at institutions such as Princeton University, Drexel University, and Southern University and a graduate level course in population genetics at Cedar Crest College. She joined the faculty at Duke in 2018.

About Laurie Mauger

Laurie Mauger is a Lecturer in the Department of Biology. She received her Ph.D. in 2010 from Drexel University on population genetics and conservation of American crocodiles in Costa Rica. Since graduating, her research has focused on involving undergraduate students in research on projects focusing on population genetics of crocodiles, caterpillars, ringtail cats, and ants. Today, Dr.


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Humanity is on the move.  Climate refugees, exiles of war, economic migrants, expatriates seeking new opportunities, along with others compelled to flee their current circumstances and look for a new life, are moving across borders comprise a chaotic movement en masse in greater numbers than ever in the history of humanity.  Combine these movers with the billions of religious pilgrims, adventure travelers, and tourists, and we find ourselves in a chaotic world of migrations in every direction.  How to make sense of it?  What does this world of travel tell us about our future?

In this course, we will seek to make sense of all the movements in which we find ourselves and others.  Readings on pilgrimage will intermingle with memoirs and essays on travel, writings and films on the act of walking, and readings and explorations of refugees, immigrant life, and border crossings.  We will seek to understand this means for humanity and for us personally.

We will place ourselves in this mix of movers as we consider our impact on the world.  We will consider related questions, such as: How should we think of places and identities in a world in motion?  Are there ethical means of travel in this age of climate change and political upheaval?  How does travel and an act as simple as an afternoon walk resemble the pattern of a human life?  How does a labyrinth give us a glimpse into the meaning of movement in larger contexts?  What can pilgrimage mean for non-traditional participants on a religious journey? How do we make sense of our place in a world where refugees are knocking at our door asking to be let in to American safety?  What of border walls and their meaning for our collective human future?  And more!

We will explore such readings as:

  • Ian Reader’s Pilgrimage: A Very Short Introduction
  • Selection from three books by Rebecca Solnit: A Book of Migrations, A Field Guide to Getting Lost and Wanderlust
  • Henry David Thoreau’s Walking
  • Frederic Gros’s: A Philosophy of Walking
  • Duncan Minshall’s While Wandering: A Walking Companion
  • Suketo Mehta’s This Land is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto
  • John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath
  • Sonia Nozario’s Enrique’s Journey
  • John F. Kennedy’s A Nation of Immigrants
  • Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
  • Timothy Egan’s A Pilgrimage to Eternity
  • Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera
  • Valeria Luiselli’s  Lost Children Archive
  • Charles Thompson’s Border Odyssey: Travels Along the US/Mexico Divide
  • And more.

In addition to readings, we will watch and discuss such films such as Estevez’s The Way, Herzog’s Pilgrimage, Apted’s 63 Up, and the classic, Wizard of Oz, among others.  

This course should appeal to anyone interested in current affairs, especially those reflecting on the meaning of life, whether backwards or forwards; those considering the meanings and ramifications of travel; global citizens hoping to live ethically in a world of the displaced; humanists concerned about climate change and movement; and generally anyone who has ever walked and, with Thoreau, wanted to reflect on what it means “to saunter.” Hint: the root word signifies walking is a holy undertaking.

Seminar format.  Participation mandatory.  Applied studies of pilgrimages, work with immigrants, and travel encouraged.  No prerequisites.  Meant to appeal to all GLS students.

The development and initial offering of this new course in the Spring of 2021 was supported through the generosity of GLS alumna Lottie Applewhite.

Charles D. Thompson, Jr. is Professor of the Practice of Cultural Anthropology and Documentary Studies at Duke University. A common thread through his work is a deep concern for people doing their all to have a voice in our agricultural systems.

Thompson holds a Ph.D. in religion and culture from UNC-Chapel Hill, with concentrations in cultural studies and Latin American studies. He also holds an M.S. degree in Agricultural Education from NC A&T State University. His particular interests include farmworkers, immigration, agriculture, and Appalachian Studies. His methodology includes oral history, ethnographic writing, documentary filmmaking, and collaborative community activism.

A former farmer, Thompson remains concerned about laborers within our food system. He has written and made films about small farmers and farmworkers. He is an advisory board member of Student Action with Farmworkers, the Duke Campus Farm, and other food and agricultural initiatives.

Thompson is author or editor of six books. His latest (2015) is, Border Odyssey: Traveling the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He also wrote Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World. He is also editor, with Melinda Wiggins, of The Human Cost of Food: Farmworker Lives, Labor, and Advocacy.

Thompson is the producer/director of five documentary films, including Faces of Time (2015), Brother Towns/ Pueblos Hermanos (2010), We Shall Not Be Moved (2008), and The Guestworker (2007). His latest film, in collaboration with the organization, Farm Aid, is entitled, Homeplace Under Fire (2016).

Spring 2021
Tuesdays, 7:00-9:30 PM
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Our current pandemic is, for many, revealing critical failures and design flaws in the foundational systems that guide our daily functioning. These revelations open problem spaces for entrepreneurial thinkers and tinkerers to ask What new techniques and technologies might we design in light of our current context? How might we think through the pandemic as we move through it?

In this class, we will approach the world as creative designers and intentional inventors. We will take as our premise that Today is the beginning of Tomorrow, and we will work together to deliberately redesign that Tomorrow. A local entrepreneur has called our quarantine period a “Pause” but that feels a missed opportunity for those of us ready to break and remake the world. Novelist Arundhati Roy in April wrote in the Financial Times that “the pandemic is a portal” and Hala Alyan reminds us that “this is not a rehearsal”. If the pandemic were a portal, one that we are not rehearsing but are actively performing, what would we want when we emerge on the other side?
There are new social techniques already emerging: foot taps are replacing handshakes, facemasks are becoming fashion statements, and mutual aid networks are devising new forms of community and mutuality. There are also new technologies, both simple and sophisticated, that are being deployed to remake our world: basic plastic parts are being added to crosswalk buttons in Milan to transform them to knee-operated mechanisms, robots are being used to enforce social distancing in Singapore. What else can we (re)create?
If today were the start of a new world - and please pretend this here with me for a moment - how might we reimagine industries, cultural practices and global networks? Each of you will choose your own topics of exploration (what will you remake?) and your own forms of research transmission (how are you delivering your research or prototype?). Throughout the course, we’ll cover a wide range both. If you are coming to the class with a research topic already in mind, fabulous, let’s cultivate that and manifest both research and research transmissions together.
As we explore topics and transmissions (inputs and outputs), we’ll be reading philosophers, economists, novelists, feminists, educators, artists and entrepreneurs.

Together we’ll explore these questions:

  • How do our things, spaces, artifacts, environments design us?
  • How has the pandemic, and let’s think broadly here, (re)designed our spaces, things artifacts, environments, actions, reactions, and interactions? 
  • How can we use speculative research to redesign the world?
  • How can we call on a wide variety of knowledges to inform our practice?
  • How can speculative fiction provide a model for future ways of living and/or ways of dreaming futures?

The development and initial offering of this new course in the Spring of 2021 was supported through the generosity of GLS alumna Lottie Applewhite.

Amanda Starling Gould is the Senior Program Coordinator, for Educational Programs & Digital Humanities, at the Duke University John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. She administers the FHI’s Story+ Interdisciplinary Humanities Research program, consults on digital humanities projects and innovative pedagogical interventions for FHI’s Humanities Labs and Digital Humanities Initiative, and collaborates with partners across Duke (and beyond) to design creative – and sometimes remote – research and storytelling experiences.She also co-teaches a course on failure, empathy, embodiment, and resilience called “Learning to Fail” for Duke University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative with Dr. Aaron Dinin, and leads a faculty/staff/community reading group on Mindful Pedagogy and Practice. Past teaching and research work investigated global environmental health communication, digital media, global environmental humanities, environmental justice, EcoCritical DH, sustainable humanities scholarship, embodied media(ted) experiences, and the narrative, performative, and artistic aspects of the health humanities. To read more about Dr. Starling Gould's research, see her website
Thomas Brothers
LS 770-05
Fall 2021
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Mary Duke Biddle 069
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This course explores musical experience according to three different dimensions: first, music as a social phenomenon, second as an emotional one, and finally as transcendental (aka ineffable, spiritual, sublime, holy). Examples are drawn from African-American music in New Orleans, popular music, jazz, Bach and Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and the Romantics, sacred music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, John Coltrane, and Gospel.


Each of us already has a sense of music as a social phenomenon.  We like a certain kind of music, in part, is because it helps define our peer group, social class, and self-identity as a rebellious person, a conformist, and so on.  All music is socially conceived, but some kinds of music invest heavily in this project.  Many genres of African-American music, for example, are designed to bring people together in a participatory way.  The inquiry extends to the use of music as a way to energize ideologies.


Most people are also aware of their own emotional experience of music, but it is possible to go further.  We have been taught how to articulate emotions in socialized ways, and this can be observed musically. Musical gestures correspond with feelings. This section of the course includes readings on emotions, neuroscience and music. 


It is challenging to talk about music as a transcendental phenomenon, but that does not invalidate the experience.  For the nineteenth-century Romantics, music was the queen of the arts because of its ability to transport listeners into ethereal realms.  African-American churches rely on music to do the same thing as they try to connect with the Holy Spirit.  We may separate the themes of social, emotional and transcendental for analytical purposes, but in the end they are closely connected. This is demonstrated by another African-American example: the participatory music-making of nineteenth-century slaves was primarily social at the same time that it was intensely emotional and also transcendental, the latter indicated by the name of the great body of music that emerged—the Spirituals.

About Thomas Brothers

GLS Advisory Committee Term: 2019-2022

Thomas Brothers is Professor of Music.  He joined the faculty at Duke in 1991 after completing his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.  He has published three books on Louis Armstrong, most recently Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism (W.W. Norton, 2014).  In addition to African American music, Professor Brothers also teaches music of the medieval and renaissance periods.  Currently he is writing a book on The Beatles.


LS 760 - 38
Fall 2021
Thursdays, 6-9 PM
GLS House, 2114 Campus Drive
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Instructor: Chris Sims, Documentary Studies

Students will be introduced to strategies for conducting documentary fieldwork and archival research with a variety of tools and mediums, including photography, film/video, audio, narrative writing, and poetry. A major focus will be on identifying and analyzing the ethical and aesthetic considerations related to representing and exhibiting the lives and stories of others, and/or ourselves.

We will plumb the depths and range of documentary expression with assigned materials that include thought pieces (reflections written by practitioners on process, context, dilemmas, and/or mistakes), reviews/critiques, as well actual documentaries. All assigned materials—readings and links to podcasts and videos—will be made available on Sakai.

We will begin our exploration by considering why documentary stories are important, what makes a compelling story, and how various media forms are employed by documentary artists. Subsequently, our discussions will address questions fundamental to any documentary form concerning issues such as point of view, representation, reciprocity, truth, editing, and ethics. Hands- on activities, interspersed throughout the semester, will allow students to engage with documentary forms and questions.

Students will propose, research, and carry-out a creative documentary project for the course, which will be work-shopped during class sessions. Possible outcomes could include a podcast, photo series, video piece, drawings, or narrative non-fiction essay.

Equipment is not provided, but students will be advised about a range of readily-available tools (smart phones and apps) and low or no-cost approaches that could be used. No previous experience or technical skills required; project formats are flexible.

The following are major pedagogical goals for the course:

  • Identify and address the complexities involved in representing others.
  • Contextualize documentary work historically and comparatively.
  • Understand the present-day call from BIPOC documentarians for accountability and culture shift in the documentary field
  • Learn about documentary studies at Duke University.
  • Engage with a variety of genres of documentary work.
  • Identify biases within—as well as voices and themes traditionally missing from—the documentary field.
  • Synthesize knowledge from readings, screenings, and speakers.
  • Reflect on how documentary practices inform and inspire social change.
  • Imagine new uses and forms of documentary work based on an understanding of the evolution of documentary forms.
  • Understand major ethical dilemmas involved in doing and exhibiting documentary work.
Susan Thorne
LS 780-01 (2489)
Summer 2021
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm EDT
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Recent reckonings with race remind us that as Faulkner famously put it, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”[1]  This course engages the history of inequality from the vantage point of the family, one of the most influential sites at which the past is imprinted on the future.  The family plays a key role in  the intergenerational transfer of wealth as well as the transmission of identities and values from which difference is culturally constructed.  The study of family history is itself an important site at which historic inequalities are reproduced as well as contested.  Genealogy as embraced in the United States during the second half of the 19th century advanced deeply racialized claims to national belonging and respectability that have had enduring  consequences.  In organizations like the Daughters of the American Revolution, founded in 1890, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, founded in 1894, elite white women used genealogical descent to  recast legitimate political authority and citizenship itself in terms that reinforced the political hegemony of White Anglo Saxon native born Protestant men over their foreign-born and formerly enslaved counterparts.

Family history is no longer the preserve of leisured patrician whites.  The expansion and desegregation of public education and archives alike, along with the digitization of source material, sophisticated search engines and powerful data bases have made it possible to learn a lot more about all sorts of people than simply the ancestral lineages of the 1%.  There is now an impressive body of scholarship devoted to locating the histories of particular families in deeply researched historical contexts, resulting in more detailed understandings of how privilege and opportunity have been preserved as well as  challenged at specific times and places. There are still vast inequalities in preservation and access to source material, but the insights being gleaned from more critical approaches to family history are many and profound.  And the transformative potential of family reckonings with inequality is even more transformative when the family in question is one’s own.

Course assignments:

Scholarly literature:

We will be reading scholarly accounts of race-making and resistance at the local level.

Linda Gordon, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction

We will also sample scholarly accounts of race-making or resistance in their own or other’s family history. 

Edward Ball, Slaves in the family

Kendra Taira Field, Growing up with the country

Christine Steeler, “Critical Family History:  An Introduction” special issue Genealogy 4/2 (2020) 64.  [MDPI Scholarly Open Access Publishing]

Diane Kenaston, Geneaology and Anti-Racism:  A Resource for White People


Students will research their own family history utilizing the burgeoning digital source base available on-line.

Christine Steeler, “Critical Family History:  An Introduction” special issue Genealogy 4/2 (2020) 64.  [MDPI Scholarly Open Access Publishing] and

Diane Kenaston, Geneaology and Anti-Racism:  A Resource for White People

Our Black Ancestry:

Coming to the Table:  genealogy guide

And/or students will conduct research on race relations in a particular neighborhood, town, or county to which they have some personal connection.

Writing assignments

Students will submit 1-2 page reactions to scholarly readings on the designated Sakai forum 2 days before class meets and respond to their classmates’ posts the following day. 

Students will create a blog on which to record their local/family research findings.  For inspiration see  Robyn Smith, Reclaiming Kin, Kay Strickland,  Shoots, Roots and Leaves




[1] Requiem for a Nun (NY:  Random House, 1951), p. 92. 

About Susan Thorne

GLS Advisory Committee Term: 2019-2022

Susan Thorne, Associate Professor of History, teaches courses on the social history of Britain and the British Empire, and on the history of European expansion more generally. She is currently working on Charles Dickens’ influence on Anglo American “ways of seeing” the children of the urban poor.  The Dickensian Affect:  Reckonings with Reform in Early Victorian Southwark (in progress) juxtaposes Dickens’s representation of criminal poverty and urban childhood in his most popular novel, Oliver Twist (1837-8) to archival accounts generated by the poor law’s reform during the 1830s and hungry ‘40s. 

Amy Laura Hall
LS 770-01 (2488)
Summer 2021
Wednesdays, 5:00 - 8:00 pm EDT
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Two comedic themes during the Pandemic of 2020 have been time and memory, and the discombobulation of both. In this seminar, we will read words and images recalling time, told in different forms. For publishing purposes, an item needs a “genre.” The items for this class may be convened under the genre “memoir,” in the form of essays, poems, drawings, and more conventional storytelling. Readings may include: James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son (1955); Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream (1949); Larry McMurtry’s In a Narrow Grave (1968); Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals (1980); Patricia Polacco’s My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (1994); James McBride’s The Color of Water (1995); Jerry Stiller’s Married to Laughter (2000); Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006); Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant (2014); and Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s A Fifty-Year Silence (2015). Weekly (2-3 pp. double-spacing, 10-11 point font) close reading from the assigned text. Papers due at time of class. Participation is 40% of your grade; papers, 60%. Listening attentively to your neighbor is as important as speech for your participation grade.

About Amy Laura Hall
Divinity School

GLS Advisory Committee Term: 2018-2021

Amy Laura Hall is the author of four books: Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love, Conceiving Parenthood: The Protestant Spirit of Biotechnological Reproduction, Writing Home with Love: Politics for Neighbors and Naysayers, and Laughing at the Devil: Seeing the World with Julian of Norwich. She has also written numerous scholarly articles in theological and biomedical ethics. Her new essay on Kierkegaard and love will appear in The T&T Clark Companion to the Theology of Kierkegaard, to be published by Bloomsbury T&T Clark. Her book Laughing at the Devil was chosen for the 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book and as a focus lecture for the Chautauqua Institution in June, 2019. She continues work on a longer research project on masculinity and gender anxiety in mainstream, white evangelicalism.

Professor Hall has served on the steering committee of the Genome Ethics, Law, and Policy Center, the Bioethics Task Force of the United Methodist Church, and as consultant on bioethics to the World Council of Churches. She has served on the steering committee of the Genome Ethics, Law, and Policy Center and as a faculty member for the Focus Program of the Institute on Genome Sciences and Policy. She served as a faculty adviser with the Duke Center for Civic Engagement and as a faculty advisor for the NCCU-Duke Program in African, African American & Diaspora Studies. She currently teaches with and serves on the faculty advisory board for Graduate Liberal Studies and serves as a core faculty member of the Focus Program in Global Health. Hall serves as an elder in the Rio Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Susan Thorne
LS 780-70
Summer 2020
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
*Being taught on-line
Begins Wednesday, May 20 - Ends Wednesday, July 22
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For most of the past five hundred years, the overwhelming majority of the global population was governed by one of the major imperial powers (Ottoman, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, English, Hapsburg, and Russian/Soviet as well as the Chinese and Japanese Empires).   It was not until after the Second World War that the sun began to set on this age of empire, when anticolonial movements secured national independence and the nation state became the preeminent form of governance.  The long-standing impact of imperial governance on historical developments throughout the (formerly) colonized world is widely acknowledged.    Less recognized are the reciprocal effects of empire on the imperial home front.  Many of the technological, economic, cultural, and political attributes in which the developed world has taken a racialized pride were in fact products of the colonial encounter.  The economic “revolutions” of the 17th and 18th centuries (commercial, financial, industrial and consumer), political democratization—the inclusion of white workers and eventually women in the political nation-- in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the “tribal” warfare that nearly destroyed Europe between 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, were all profoundly shaped by the colonial contexts in which national and international events unfolded. 


Europe did not simply export “western civilization”, for good or ill, to the colonized world. This course will explore the connections through which a global modernity has emerged: connections between past and present, between colonized and colonizer, between underdeveloped and developed nations, between the West and the Rest.  Our method of inquiry is necessarily transnational and implicitly comparative.  It is also interdisciplinary.  We will be examining the colonial past and postcolonial present from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives: in addition to imperial, economic, military and social history, these include journalism, economics, international relations, law, medicine, anthropology, literary criticism, cultural studies, sexuality and gender studies, and public policy.


Requirements:  extensive reading, weekly reaction papers, and an independent research project.

About Susan Thorne

GLS Advisory Committee Term: 2019-2022

Susan Thorne, Associate Professor of History, teaches courses on the social history of Britain and the British Empire, and on the history of European expansion more generally. She is currently working on Charles Dickens’ influence on Anglo American “ways of seeing” the children of the urban poor.  The Dickensian Affect:  Reckonings with Reform in Early Victorian Southwark (in progress) juxtaposes Dickens’s representation of criminal poverty and urban childhood in his most popular novel, Oliver Twist (1837-8) to archival accounts generated by the poor law’s reform during the 1830s and hungry ‘40s. 

Deborah T. Gold
LS 780-57
Summer 2020
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
*Being taught on-line
Begins *Monday, May 11 - Ends Monday, July 20 (no class on May 25)
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The purpose of this course is to better understand the processes and outcomes of death and dying. The US and other developed countries have become death phobic and have avoided interactions around death and dying. Both death and dying are culturally bound and strongly influenced by religious beliefs, we will take a interdisciplinary approach to our examination of these phenomena (including sociological, psychological, religious, biomedical, and social psychological). This will help us better understand how and where people die, multiple beliefs about life after death, and what drives the American population to experience anxiety and fear about death and dying more than any other culture in the world.


The course includes an overview of the biological process of dying and biomedical definitions of death, the social and psychological aspects of death and dying in modern American culture, death and dying as multicultural phenomena, the clinical issues around death and dying, and the management of those issues in an aging society.


Requirements include four short response papers, an oral presentation, and a final research paper.

About Deborah T. Gold
Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Sociology, Psychology & Neuroscience

Deborah T. Gold is Professor of Medical Sociology in the Departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Sociology, and Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University Medical Center, where she is also a Senior Fellow of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Professor Gold received her B.A. in English and Latin from the University of Illinois, her M.Ed. in Reading from National Louis University, and her Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University. Her primary research interests are in the psychological and social consequences of chronic disease in the elderly.  She has done seminal research on osteoporosis and its impact on quality of life.  She has also studied the psychosocial impact of breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, syncope, head and neck cancer, Paget’s disease of bone, and dementia in older adults. Her current research examines compliance and persistence with medications for older adults with chronic illnesses.