Course Archive: IAS 401

Joanne Melish
IAS 401: Social Justice in America

IAS 401 “Social Justice in America” is an interdisciplinary course that will explore how and why ordinary Americans from time to time have organized themselves to challenge particular aspects of the powerful political, economic, and social systems and interests that structure and govern American society. Students will examine the origins, dynamics, and consequences of selected American social movements for racial justice, economic justice, gender equity, and peace.

The kinds of questions students will explore include the following:

  • What constitutes a social movement? How are movements for radical social change different from movements for liberal reform?
  • What were the social, economic, and cultural roots of the specific movements under study?
  • How are social movements organized? What motivates individuals to join? How are objectives and values defined (and contested)? What are their strategies and tactics?  What is the role of the media?
  • What are some of the ways the state responds to social movements (repression, infiltration, co-optation, capitulation, distraction, etc.)?
  • Do social movements have a “natural” life cycle? What causes them to decline? How do counter movements arise?

Students will explore a variety of perspectives on these questions through course readings and discussion; guest lectures by scholars, commentators, and participants in the social movements under study; and a variety of other media including films, music, literature, and history.

Pearl James
IAS 401: Modern War in American Society

True war stories are hard to tell, hard to write, and hard to read.  We will spend this semester reading war narratives (fictional and nonfiction) and watching war films from the modern wars that have shaped American society: the world wars, Vietnam, and the current "forever" war.  We will consider what makes a war story "true," whether war can be beautiful, and what difference the media makes. How is war framed, and why does it matter?  We will grapple with a fundamental contradiction: although the main purpose and outcome of war is injuring, most descriptions of war make injury invisible.  Why and how is injury hidden?  What place does injury have in American war stories?  How do war stories influence us to consent to or protest against war?  The course's goal is to make its participants more savvy readers of the war stories and images we see every day.  Readings and viewings include: The Things They Carried, The Deer Hunter, a poster exhibit at the UK Art Museum, Johnny Got His Gun, and many others. 

Professor Alan Nadel
IAS 401: American Film and Cold War Culture

 This course will take a detailed look at over a dozen American films, including On the Waterfront, Singin’ in the Rain, Niagara, No Way Out, Sunset Boulevard, The Ten Commandments, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and North by Northwest, in the context of the major political and social issues of American Cold War culture. These include McCarthyism, the Korean War, “brainwashing,” the babyboom, desegregation of schools, sexual mores, and gender roles.