Cultural Landscapes: Introduction to Sustainability and Justice
Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and Spring 2015 quarters
How do different cultures, communities, classes, genders and other groups experience and utilize landscapes differently? How do peoples’ stories or histories converge or conflict in relationship to any given place? What are communities doing to build a more just and sustainable future? How do we read power relations in the landscape?
Studying “cultural landscapes” means looking at how the land bears the imprint of generations of human cultures. We will learn to read landscapes as primary sources of information about culture, community identity and the relationship between humans and their environment.
This program will focus on how the transformations of landscapes are linked to struggles for sustainability and justice. In the exploration of these questions, we will explore the foundations of cultural, environmental, documentary and sustainability studies. Selected topics in sustainability studies will be introduced, including the study of complex systems, climate change, human population, environmental justice, energy and species extinction. We will look at the role the media plays in shaping our understanding of people, places and resources. We will also learn how people in diverse political, economic and social situations are working to create just and sustainable communities, as we observe, analyze and engage with communities involved in these efforts.
We will examine the histories of expansion, colonization, globalization and migration in the Middle East, the American West and the U.S./Mexico border region during fall quarter. In winter, we will examine specific contested landscapes through international case studies of Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Egypt Venezuela and Brazil. The centerpiece of spring quarter will be learning about landscapes of sustainability and justice through active engagement with the communities here in South Puget Sound.
Each quarter, students will get hands-on field experience in the landscapes and cultures of the Pacific Northwest, through multiple field trips lasting between one and three days. We’ll focus on the importance of regional river systems like the Columbia, Elwha and Duwamish Rivers and we’ll examine the controversies and struggles that different communities and cultures have engaged in regarding their use. We may also visit Mount Rainier, Whidbey Island and the cities of Seattle, Centralia, Shelton and Olympia. Students will learn skills in field observation through the use of field journals, descriptive writing and photography. Students will have the option to develop a practice of photography that reflects on what they have learned to see in the landscape and makes visible some of the contested histories and cultures of the places we are coming to know. Finally, students will gain skills in expository writing and analysis of cultural texts, including literature and films that explore the relationships of communities to their environments and how their identity is influenced by their sense of place.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day