Geography 24, Section 1

What Does it Mean to be Modern? (1 unit, P/NP)

Professor Michael Watts
Wednesday 12:00-1:00, 575 McCone Hall, Class number: 46738

What does it mean to be modern, or live in a modern society? What distinguishes the modern from the non-modern? How might we think about words like modernity, modernization and modernism? To what do they refer and what are their origins? This seminar will explore these questions by reading some key texts by a variety of intellectuals and thinkers who have explored the various and complex meanings of being modern and the fundamental contours of modern life. We shall read works by Karl Marx, Hanna Arendt, Charles Baudelaire, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber and others who help us explore what stands at the heart of modernity and being modern. We will also attend exhibits and performances on campus and discuss modernism as it is expressed in the visual and performing arts.

Instructor Bio

Michael Watts is Class of '63 Professor of Geography and Development Studies. A Guggenheim Fellow in 2003, he served as the Director of the Institute of International Studies from 1994-2004. His research has addressed a number of development issues, especially food and energy security, rural development, and land reform in Africa, South Asia and Vietnam. Over the last twenty years he has written extensively on the oil industry in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. Watts has served as a consultant to the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and a number of NGOs and foundations. Watts is currently the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Social Science Research Council and serves on a number of Boards of non-profit organizations including the Pacific Institute.

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Bright, eclectic and motivated students with any background or interest who have an interest in exploring challenging ideas and in reading a wide variety of materials, often of a philosophical orientation. Admission to the on-campus arts events included in this course will be provided at no cost to students.