2020 Mini-Courses

1. Dancehall Queens: analyzing bodies, power, and resistance through dance

Onisha Etkins (oetkins@g.harvard.edu)

Black women’s bodies have long been the terrain for hegemonic patriarchal power to stomp its heels on and dictate what is or is not acceptable. From the shape of their bodies, the hair on their heads, the way they speak, the way they communicate, the way they live — Black women have long been viewed as a political playground. Dancehall, at its root, reclaims the Black woman’s sexuality. The fact that there’s a category of dancers and singers known as “Dancehall Queens” emphasizes this. Though Dancehall and sex cannot be divorced, Dancehall is not inherently sexual, and with a more nuanced lens one can see the ways that Dancehall Queens actively re-claim authority in sexuality and expression.

Legendary Dancehall queens such as Patra “Queen of the Pack”, Spice, and Lady Saw have all managed to claim voice and space in a heteronormative and masculine music industry. They have sang songs about the “pum pum” and made the woman’s sexual pleasure a focal point, which even today is not the norm in most genres of music. Dancehall cannot be trivialized in the work that it does. Through analyzing Dancehall as a liberatory force, we are called to interrogate our respectability politics, our inclusion of Black women (ALL Black women -- including female, fem-identifying, non-conforming, non-binary, and trans-folks) in our histories, and our definition(s) of reclaiming sexual authority.

This course explores bodies, power, and resistance through the work of Dancehall Queens (DHQs). We will discuss the interplay between power, sexuality, desire, and performance each week by focusing on the lives of particular Dancehall Queens or songs written by DHQs. Two sessions will be dance classes to directly engage students in analysis and knowledge production through movement (no prior dance experience required).

This class is open to the public (Harvard and non-Harvard affiliates).

Max: 20 students.

Monday-Friday, January 13 - 24, 2020 1:00-2:30pm

Location: Barker 316

Sign up here: http://bit.ly/dancehallqueens




2. Fairness and Privacy in Practice: Solving for Big Data’s Big Ethics Problems

Matthew Finney (mfinney@g.harvard.edu)

A growing number of human experiences are driven by machine predictions, impacting everything from the news you see online to whether you’re selected for secondary airport screening. But many applications of the underlying algorithmic tools are imperfect: in the ‘Wild West’ of applied big data analytics, unregulated algorithms that make decisions at scale can unexpectedly violate fairness and privacy at scale.

In this hands-on minicourse, we will bridge gaps between industry and research, policy and technology. After an introduction to legal, ethical, and computer science fundamentals, we will analyze algorithmic decision-making through the interdisciplinary lens of five real-world case studies. Each interactive case will surface the unique perspectives of students and professionals from numerous fields. Our goal: synthesize new ethical and computational approaches that could provide greater fairness and privacy guarantees in algorithmic decision-making.

Note: Enrollment is open to the public but capped at 20 to promote active engagement and discussion in this seminar-style mini-course.

Course Website

2 x 75min sessions per day: Tuesday, 1/21/2020 - Friday 1/24/2020, 2:00pm - 4:30pm

Location: LISE 303





3. The Body as Fragment: Excursions in the History of European Art (1550-1950)

Alejandro Octavio Nodarse (anodarse@fas.harvard.edu) & Alexandra Dennett

This course is a series of exercises in close looking at art within the Harvard Art Museums and Boston Museum of Fine Arts collections. We will move from 16th-century Italy to 20th-century Soviet Russia and engage a wide array of media—print, painting, sculpture, photography, and film. Together, we will explore representations of the fragmented body from relics and religious art to depictions of the human figure by revolutionary avant-garde artists. How do political implications become attached to images? How do science and religion interact in the body? How do different media create the body and build a body of work? (There are no prerequisites for enrollment. The course will, however, be capped at 15 students.)

Sign up here: https://forms.gle/ThcLTLa7FK8D6obb7

Tuesday, January 21: 10:30–12 & 1:30–3. Thursday, January 23: 2:00–5. Friday, January 24: 10:30–1:30.

Location: Tuesday, January 21: Harvard Art Museums Study Center. Thursday, January 23: 485 Broadway, Seminar Room TBD. Friday, January 24: Boston Museum of Fine Arts.





4. Stories of our Planet: Climate Change in Literature, Virtual Reality Film, Games and Art

Nikhita Obeegadoo (nobeegadoo@g.harvard.edu)

Science alone is not sufficient to face climate change. Experts from various disciplines recognize that in order to curb the pollutants – such as plastic and carbon – that are destroying our planet, it is crucial to address the underlying collective behaviors that drive their consumption up in the first place. In this course, we will explore how literature and the arts foster (or not) new understandings and varied experiences of climate change.

Through an analysis of novels, board games, underwater sculptures, film and virtual reality narrative, we will ask: What are the different media and perspectives through which climate change may be narrated today? What are the ethical and moral concerns to be kept in mind while grappling with these questions? Throughout the course, we will be sensitive to questions of capitalism, race, gender, and indigenous perspectives. We will also pay keen attention to how different parts of the world (e.g. the Global South) narrate and foresee their experiences of climate change differently. Niched at the intersection of the environmental humanities and media studies and literature, this course aims to hone participants’ abilities to engage with climate change narratives outside the classroom, and develop humanistic approaches to scientific issues. At the same time, since each class will foreground a particular artistic or literary medium, it will encourage a reflection upon these forms themselves.

No Harvard affiliation or prerequisite background required.

All welcome! 

Jan 14, 15, 22, 23: 10am-12pm. Jan 16, 21: 10am-1pm.

Location: Boylston 335





5. Science on Stage

Anastasia Repouliou (arepouliou@g.harvard.edu)

Theatre can be rigorously precise where science can be demandingly creative, and from combining the two can arise unexpected, delightful properties. In this course, we will explore “science theatre” through 4 interactive sessions involving: (1) reading and analyzing seminal plays of the genre; (2) staging excerpts and discussing design and production elements; (3) creating and playing drama games exploring scientific principles; and (4) writing and workshopping original scenes based on scientific principles.

Enroll @ https://forms.gle/nmTYxim6eSu8C9gF6

Free and open to all members of the Harvard and wider Cambridge community. All course materials will be provided. Enrollment is capped at 16. You can participate in each activity to whichever extent you are comfortable but are encouraged to participate fully. No science- or theatre-related experience is required, although some familiarity with either or both will be useful.

Schedule: Monday, January 13th, 17.00-21.00 Wednesday, January 15th, 17.00-21.00 Monday, January 20th, 17.00-21.00 Wednesday, January 22nd, 17.00-21.00

Location: Agassiz Room, Museum of Comparative Zoology

Draft syllabus @ shorturl.at/iszY5





6. The Materiality of the Ancient Mediterranean

Henry Gruber (hgruber@g.harvard.edu)

In this course, we will take a "hands on" approach to the past by studying the objects and artifacts of the ancient Mediterranean. We will work with archaeological artifacts and build some of or own replicas to try to better understand the material basis for societies that we often only understand through texts and myth.

Monday, Weds, Fr, Jan 12-24; 1:00pm-2:30pm

Location: CGIS S 354

Sign up HERE.





7. Making "Sense" of Our World: The Science of Sensory Systems


When narrating our experiences, we often describe a collection of physical sensations: the volume of music at a party, an amazing view, how cold it gets during winter in Boston, the bitterness of coffee, and the refreshing smell of clean laundry, for example. We relate to the world through our senses; without them, we would be completely isolated. In recent decades, neuroscientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding how the brain processes a near-constant influx of sensory information [1-5]; however, very little of this knowledge is easily accessible to a general audience. This course will introduce students with or without formal scientific training to the mechanisms of human sensory systems – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch – and explore the extraordinary ways in which animals’ senses have evolved to adapt to their environments.

Times: January 13 - 23rd, 2020, M T Th. 6-8 PM.

Location: Northwest Labs (Room 243)

Sign up here: https://forms.gle/eXKQ2YgLAe3SkLp17





8. “Craftivism” in theory and practice: knitting and social activism past and present

Amy Tsang (amytsang@fas.harvard.edu)

Knitting is an ancient craft that has experienced a contemporary resurgence in popularity. Recent years have also seen the emergence of “craftivism,” the use of handicrafts in service of social activism, such as embodied by the iconic “pussyhat,” the symbol of the 2017 Women’s March following the election of President Donald Trump. This interactive course will examine the relationship between handicrafts and social activism from both intellectual and practical perspectives. Lectures and discussions will examine the relationship between crafting and social activism from historical and sociological perspectives, and a limited amount of students will be taught the skills needed to knit basic activist-themed projects in class.

The course’s academic lectures and discussions are free and open to the public and will meet from 10:00-11:00 am on Monday 1/13, Wednesday 1/15, Friday 1/17, Monday 1/20, and Wednesday 1/22.

These lectures will be followed by 5 hands-on lessons from 11:00am-noon with a capped enrollment of 10. Students will be provided with the materials and techniques to make a Pussyhat as well as unconventional “yarn” from repurposed materials (such as plastic bags and old T-shirts). The course requires no prior knowledge of knitting or sociology, and beginners are welcome.

From 10:00am-12:00pm on Friday, 1/24/2019, the entire 6th and final meeting of the class will be a knitting circle open to the public. All are welcome to work on and troubleshoot their knitting projects in each other’s company.

Location: Science Center 309

Contact amytsang@fas.harvard.edu with questions. View the class syllabus here <https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1RfaiPSmcCNk_AtrwZRifOpx5iE6rAWMD>,

and please fill out this form by January 6th, 2020 if you are interested in the class.





9. The Basics of No-Knead Breads

Aakash Ravi (aravi@physics.harvard.edu)

Contrary to popular belief, bread-making can actually be really easy. Flour, water, yeast and salt is all you need!

In this course, students will learn the technique of using high-hydration, pre-risen doughs popularized by Hertzberg and François. This method of preparing bread is extremely forgiving and has many advantages, least of all being that it requires no kneading for gluten development. Preparation time is usually five to ten minutes and just involves thoroughly mixing ingredients by hand.

There is no need to have a starter, proof yeast or worry about dough volume. Finally, the dough is easily stored in the fridge for up to a week, so it makes baking a loaf at any time quite accessible. Students will prepare a variety of no-knead breads from crusty French loaves to bagels and even enriched breads such as brioche.

Sign-up: See QR code on flyer

MWF, 9AM - 12PM 

Location: GSAS Student Center Private Dining Room (Lehman Hall, 1st Floor)





10. Oral Consciousness: Literary Composition in a Non-Literate World

Sheza Atiq (satiq@g.harvard.edu)

What is oral literature and why must we pay close attention to it given the bounds of our modern, written frameworks? What does it mean to produce literature in a culture that is not “literate” or “lettered?” Is it right to think of our literary history through the dichotomies of “literacy/illiteracy” or “oral/written”? This course will seek to answer these questions by taking a deep look at oral consciousness –the internalization of an oral culture where the written text is often subservient to traditions of oral transmission. We shall consider how orality affects the ways in which the oral singer produces literature , how she engages with her tradition, and ultimately, her world. Consulting oral compositions from a variety of traditional settings, the course will be an opportunity to gain exposure to unique literary contexts, various performative strategies, and general theoretical approaches in the field of oral studies.

The course will revolve around six modules relating to different subtopics and/or cultural traditions. In addition to texts, and especially given the significance of performance in oral theory, the course will also include live renditions and audio-visual materials to facilitate our appreciation of the oral composition.

Although the course will engage in a comparative study of oral literature from different traditions, all texts will be presented with accompanying English translations. As such, there are no pre-requisites for this class.

Please use the following link for sign-up: LINK

Dates and Times: Tue 01/14; Wed 01/15; Fri 01/17: 5-7 pm; Mon 01/20; Wed 01/22; Fri 01/24: 5-7pm

Location: TBD






11. Data in the Humanities: An Introduction to Distant Reading and Data Visualization

Jermain Heidelberg (heidelberg@g.harvard.edu) and Robert Roessler (robertroessler@g.harvard.edu)

“Digital money, digital footprint, digital communication, digital archive”. These are only four out of a sheer endless list of phenomena, which via a short supplement have been transplanted from the old world of the analogue in the world of the digital. The humanities, too, have been supplemented. Digital Humanities is the name of this new paradigm, in which close reading has become distant, words and sentences data, archives databases. What, however, is Digital Humanities and why the hype? This course is a highly practical, hands-on introduction to the world of digital humanities through the lens of data visualization. Get to know what’s going on underneath the hood and learn how to code. No background needed – just be curious and eager to learn.

Enroll here: https://forms.gle/W1KoBcdxUgMp6bG66

Monday, Jan 13, 10am-12pm, 1pm-3pm Wednesday, Jan 15, 10am-12pm, 1pm-3pm Thursday, Jan 16, from 4pm (supervised lab session) Tuesday, Jan 21, 10am-12pm, 1pm-3pm Wednesday, Jan 22, 10am-12pm, 1pm-3pm Thursday, Jan 23, from 4pm (supervised lab session)

Location: Barker 211