Social Sciences/History

Food As Culture: An Oakland Redux

Instructor: Katherine Anania
OAK / SSHIS-300 / 15 sessions
Prerequisite: Intro to the Arts, Writing 1
July 14–August 14, Mon./Wed./Thurs., 2-5 p.m.

In addition to being necessary for survival, food is part of a number of interdependent systems: water, transportation, labor, gender, politics, and aesthetics. The Bay Area is an important site of convergence for these systems, particularly the rapidly gentrifying East Bay. This course will use texts from several disciplines to examine the fundamentally cultural questions underlying the production and consumption of food, and to consider food as a constructor of contemporary space and identity. We will focus on our immediate environment, the city of Oakland, which has become both a haven and a battleground for food policy, to try and visualize ethics through the experience of eating. The course will conclude with a speculative "group dinner" performance that concretizes some of these concepts.

This course satisfies a Social Sciences/History requirement.

Apocalyptic Modernity

Instructor: Ignacio Valero
SF / PHCRT-200 / PHCRT-300 /SSHIS-200 / SSHIS-300 / DIVSM-300 (pending approval)
15 sessions
Prerequisite: Writing 1 and Introduction to the Arts
July 14-August 14, Mon./Wed./Thurs., 6:45–9:45 p.m.

There is a popular Bizarro cartoon in which a Mayan sculptor, showing the calendar disk to his priest-king, says: “I only had enough room to go up to 2012.” The playful royal responds: “Ha! That’ll freak somebody out someday.” Well, 2012 came and went, but so much is freaking us out now that the end of the world is the least of our worries -- or is it? An Oakland preacher, Harold Camping, swore that the end was coming on May 21, 2011, at 6 p.m., while Google shows 2.5 billion search results for “end of the world.” Then, there was the Y2K scare, the interminable ‘end of days’ apocalypses throughout the centuries, and still no end in sight. Around 1635, Bishop Ussher (and Sir James Lightfoot) suggested the world had been created at 9 a.m. October 3, 4000 B.C. According to his literalist biblical calculations, Adam and Eve had been evicted from Paradise on November 10 of the same year—a very short paradisiac bliss indeed!

Why this continued fascination with the end of times -- chasing ever growing apocalyptic vampires, cyborgs, and zombies? It is “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism,” say F. Jameson and S. Žižek. The bank and the mega-church have replaced the temple but not the hope of transmuting lead into gold. The biotech (blue? red?) pill comes with promises of extended life without pain. Prayer seems to cure cancer. And the universe looks ever more magical in the scribbles of the modern cosmologists, Hollywood, and the digital screens of the virtual.

Is history cyclical, linear and/or non-linear, enchanted and/or disenchanted? Sacred and/or Secular? Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Cathay, Peru and Mesoamerica as well as Siberia and the humid forests were already asking these questions millennia ago. For some answers, we travel with shamans, alchemists, rabbis, mullahs, and priests, as well as philosophers, scientists, magicians, artists, designers, and charlatans, in search of the elusive Philosopher’s Stone, Paradise, and the Elixir of Life. We weave through some historical, intellectual, environmental, political, economic, technological, religious, pop social media, and multicultural threads, implicit and intertwined in the notions of Apocalypse, Modernity, and Hybridity, and contrast them with American Exceptionalism and Manifest Destiny, which seem to be suffused with a strong dose of Nostalgia for a Lost Golden Age that still might be reconstructed. Films and Visual analysis support the course readings and discussions.

Due to its interdisciplinary nature, this course fulfills a 200- or 300-level Philosophy & Critical Theory, 200- or 300-level Social Sciences/History, Diversity Studies Seminar (pending approval), or H&S Elective.