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Global Challenges: Diversity




Admissions requirements

There are no admission requirements – this is a compulsory 1st year course.


Human variation is fascinating: we have infinite ways to imagine, organize, and express ourselves. Given this multiplicity, how do we begin to understand diversity? We might say it includes how we know and understand the world, and the way we interact and make claims in that world. Diversity includes how societies divide themselves and relate to others. It concerns moral consequences, political logics, and scientific rationales. And it pertains to the practices and spaces where difference matters. This course is a holistic introduction to how the humanities and social sciences have approached such topics. It examines diversity’s experiential, epistemological, institutional, and ethical aspects.

How do societies express divergence and distinction? What is the relationship between individual experience, cultural expression, political economy, and institutional structure? How are disparities constructed, naturalized, negotiated, and contested? When, historically and politically, do dissimilarities become visible and similarities become invisible? To address such questions, this course introduces students to defining aspects of human difference.

The course organizes this inquiry comparatively across time and space. It uses an interpretive approach, emphasizing how we see and narrate our world, its meaning and significance. Course topics marshal the concepts and methods of anthropology, history, literature, sociology, and journalism. The readings highlight their contributions towards understanding the overarching theme of social variation.

Course objectives

Skills: Students will gain proficiency in general humanistic and social science analysis. They will learn the vocabulary, techniques, and styles of fields including anthropology, sociology, history, literature, and journalism. An emphasis on debate and discussion will improve confidence in verbal argumentation, and the capacity to assess what is convincing and coherent in intellectual dialogue. Throughout the course, students will write weekly reflections, as part of a course portfolio, to hone their reading comprehension and individual interpretation. A final paper will improve interdisciplinary synthesis and non-instrumental analysis.

Knowledge: This course gives students a comparative and interdisciplinary introduction to the experiential, epistemological, institutional, and ethical patterning of social difference. Students will understand how the convergence of political conceptions, historical patterns, representational forms, and cultural logics bears on social variation.


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Two weekly meetings between Weeks 1 and 7 comprise the course contact between instructors and students. In the first meeting each week, a plenary lecture and instructors’ panel will contextualize and elaborate the assigned material. The second meeting, a smaller seminar, will involve intensive analysis of course texts and weekly topics. This discussion will be bolstered by student reflections posted before the seminars, and used by instructors to orient discussion.


  • In-class participation – 10% – Ongoing

  • Midterm Exam – 25% – Week 4

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

  • Final Paper (2500 words) – 30% - Week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week 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.


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


Dr. Ajay Gandhi (