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Global Challenges: Diversity




Admissions requirements

None, this is a compulsory Year 1 course.


This course examines the social and political dimensions of human difference. Given the multiplicity of multiplicity – the infinite variety of social conception, organization, and expression – how should we analyze the broad theme of diversity? We might say that it encompasses how we know and understand the world, and the ways we interact and make claims in that world. More specifically, it includes how societies segment and stratify themselves; the moral, political, and scientific underpinnings of such discrepancies; and the practices and performances by which difference is reproduced.

How do societies perpetuate divergence and distinction? How are disparities constructed, negotiated, and contested? When, historically and politically, do dissimilarities become visible and similarities become invisible? How do ideas of normalcy and alterity, conformity and aberration, gain currency in everyday life? To address such questions, this course introduces students to defining aspects of difference across time and space.

We organize our inquiry through an interpretive approach to comparative themes. These topics are approached via the concepts, methods, and forms of fields including anthropology, history, literature, and journalism. By introducing students to canonical ideas and representative texts, this course introduces students to the specific theme of human variation as well as the more general grammar and techniques of the humanities and social sciences.

Course themes include the recourse to social enclosure, purity, and wholeness, as found in symbolic ritual, bureaucratic procedures, aesthetic practices, and physical tactics. We examine the privileged affiliation to insiders as well as fearful demarcation of outsiders. We further study the interstitial space of actual existing diversity in much of the world. Negotiation between human varieties usually unfolds more complexly than via familiar frames of total incorporation, definitive displacement, or complete submission. Forms of tactical accommodation, of permeable belonging, that pattern a proximity of difference, are a focus here. This course also looks at ideas of representation: how knowledge conditions presence, and empathy undergirds understanding. Finally, this course discusses forms of social creation and regeneration – of mutuality, hospitality, and inclusion – that emerge across time and space.

Course objectives

This course introduces students to the experiential, epistemological, institutional, and ethical patterning of diversity. Students will gain knowledge of specific humanistic themes and become proficient in social science analysis. They will compare and assess the competing vocabulary, techniques, and styles of fields including anthropology, history, literature, and journalism.

Different learning objectives are matched to specific course assessments. First, an emphasis on debate in the plenary class, and on discussion in the seminar class, will improve student confidence in public speaking, and in convincingly and coherently engaging in intellectual argumentation. Second, by engaging with texts of various types, including novels, critical non-fiction, and academic articles, and writing a midterm exam, students will demonstrate their critical comprehension skills. Third, throughout the course, students will write brief weekly reflections, and submit them at course-end as part of a portfolio; this will enhance their interpretative capacities. A final course paper will give students an opportunity to improve their synthesis and argumentation in a written essay format.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Two weekly meetings between Weeks 1 and 7 comprise the course contact between instructors and students. In the first meeting per week, a plenary lecture will contextualize and elaborate the assigned material. To foster an appreciation of the thematic dimensions, and to encourage a dynamic rhythm and open dialogue, each plenary includes a student and faculty-led debate. The second meeting each week will be comprised of intensive and smaller-scale analysis of course texts and specific topics. This discussion will be bolstered by weekly student postings to the course Blackboard site 24 hours before the seminars, and used by instructors to orient discussion.


  • In-class participation – 10% – Ongoing

  • Midterm Exam – 20% – Week 4

  • Course Portfolio (6 weekly postings and a summary reflection) – 35% -- Week 7

  • Final Paper (2500 words) – 35% Week 8


There will be a Blackboard site for this course and students will be enrolled before the start of classes. The Blackboard site serves as a repository for course updates, to download relevant readings, and to submit student reflections and their final paper.

Reading list

There is one mandatory course text for students to purchase. It is a novel by the German novelist Jenny Erpenbeck, titled, in its English version, Go, Went, Gone (New York: New Directions, 2017. Susan Bernofsky, translator. ISBN: 978-0-8112-2594-6). Instructors and students will collectively read this novel as the course progresses. We will weave our reading of Erpenbeck’s novel into discussions of other course texts (to be found on the course Blackboard site).


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Ajay Gandhi (