I have taught a wide range of course, at all levels, to students at Wesleyan University, Hunter College, Columbia University, and New York University. Click below for more info about my courses and please feel free to reach out for syllabi- I’m happy to share.
Death and Dying at the End of the World
4 sections, most recently Fall 2022, Wesleyan University
Death looms large over life. The digital has given people unprecedented access to global media focused on death and dying, from far-flung calamities killing thousands to gofundme pages for your friends’ cancer treatments. In an age of data-enabled prediction and preemption, death is capricious and untimely, remaining stubbornly resistant to scientific and philosophical certainty, despite ever more complex systems for death management. Death is an industry that takes advantage of the need for rituals and symbols to make meaning of the unthinkable. And yet, circulating discourses of ecological and political catastrophe have proliferated thoughts of genocide, extinction, and planetary death. Thus, we read speculative fiction and philosophy to grapple with the social and political impact of mass horror, especially ecological disaster. In this course we look at contemporary encounters with death and dying at a variety of scales, from the search for death’s meaning/a meaningful death, to understanding death as a public feeling and inspiration for political imagination.
Notable guests and collaborators
Marne Lucas & Olivia Hartvig
Student work and research
Bored in the House: Work, Leisure, and the Domestic Mundane
1 section, mostly recently Fall 2021, Wesleyan University
At the beginning of the Covid epidemic, Detroit rapper Curtis Roach released an instant classic on TikTok, a fifteen second ditty capturing the zeitgeist of the coming wave of domestic isolation: “Okay I’m bored in the house, and I’m in the house bored.” The recent waves of mass quarantine, both forced and quasi-voluntary, have crystallized our focus on the domestic, and its attendant crises. More than ever, we must confront the vanishing material and psychic separations between work and leisure, the badly needed reimagining of public and private not anchored in a spectral domestic privacy, and the foundational dynamics of class, race, sexuality, gender, capacity, and institutionalized violence that structure where we can live, work and play.
I also hope to use this course as an exercise in boredom praxis. I want us to do a bit of thinking about what we do when we are bored, and why, and for us to try to sit with and direct our boredom in gently experimental ways. This also extends to critically thinking about how we do work in this class, and our techniques and tactics of maintaining leisure time in academia.
Student work and research
The Social Life of Data
2 sections, most recently Fall 2020, Wesleyan University
All over the world, actions, feelings, and thoughts are becoming data. Divining future desires and anxieties, promiscuous digital networks collect and collate a wide variety of everyday data, marking populations as risky or profitable. Participation in these networks is frequently mandatory in order to access a wide-variety of political, social, and economic opportunities¾ even if you manage to delete your account or withdraw from these networks, your activity on digital systems leaves ghostly activity traces or zombie profiles waiting to come back to life. The rise of these data systems offers profound sociological and philosophical challenges to how we understand social life, power, control, memory, conscious thought, and even the nature of humanity and the environment.
This course engages with the impact of data infrastructures and digital technologies in a non-deterministic fashion, which is to say that technical systems and structures, while powerful, do not fully determine social possibility. Focusing on historical, established, and emergent data systems, we look to understand technology as a field of affordance and prohibition, with feelings, thoughts, and politics dynamically interacting with rapidly modulating standards, norms, and methods. Course themes address a variety of theoretical topics that have been central to the social study of science and technology, including the efficacy of critique in encountering information processing systems.
Introduction to Sociology
18 sections, most recently Fall 2022, Wesleyan University and Hunter College
The core of the sociological project is the recognition that social life and interaction is profoundly powerful. Driving the habits, norms, roles, ideologies, and feelings of everyday life are complex systems and intricate social structures that shape the self, social groups, and society. In this course you get an introduction to the ideas, concepts and themes motivating both current and historical sociological thought and research. We will focus on different ways of both doing sociology and understanding the social, as well as both explore and complicate sociological orthodoxy. Emphasis will be placed on developing a “sociological imagination” in which to critically engage the connections between everyday life and large-scale, structural forces.
Sexuality and Society
1 section, most recently Spring 2018, Columbia University
This course critically encounters sexuality as one of the key productive forces of social life, one long entangled with religious, medical, legal, political, and commercial discourses and institutions. Rather than seeing desire and identity as a natural and ahistorical reflection of biological forces, in this course we denaturalize taken-for-granted feelings and ideologies, showing the social contingency of sex, kinship and embodiment. As such, this course frames human sexuality as both reflective of and a driving force in social and political conflicts both historically and in the contemporary moment. More than just an orientation, sexuality is a system of unequal power and privilege, an expansive classification structure, and a source of pleasure and control intimately intersecting with systems of race, class, gender and nationality. In the first half of this course, we focus on five dominant (and overlapping) historical frameworks for understanding sexuality: as a reflection of the body and mind, as an agent of control via the state and capital, and as a categorization and classification system. In part two we look at four special topics framing contemporary discourse on sex and sexuality.
Media and Identity
1 section, most recently Fall 2016, New York University
This course will explore the relationship between mediated communication and the formation of identity, broadly conceived as a “sense of self” that is both social and personal. We will look at a shifting media landscape that represents social groups, modulates public feelings and proliferates new infrastructures for interaction and engagement. This course highlights modes of difference such as race, sexuality, gender, class and nationality as central to our mediated understanding of the self, and speaks to a contemporary media landscape increasingly oriented to engagement. It is therefore organized around the mediated activities of our everyday lives: watching, playing, shopping, etc.
Art in Modern Society
1 section, most recently Spring 2015, Hunter College
What is the value of art? Sociologists have primarily analyzed art as a cultural practice that can offer insights about the larger society. In this view art becomes a reflection of the material and/or symbolic conditions of our world, an artifact that gives clues to the functioning of a social structure. Many artists however, would bristle at the suggestion that their work is simply a reflection of society, and would question if sociologists have taken art objects, texts and performances seriously.
This course is broken into two sections. In the first we will consider the sociology of art in modern society. Looking at a broad variety of popular and fine art we will consider the engagement of the social sciences with creative production. This will be a largely theoretical discussion of various frameworks for understanding the power and function of art and culture in 20th and 21st centuries. The second half of the class will analyze the techniques and technologies of the arts to think critically about sociological production. How might we rethink authorship, interpretation and critique, especially in the context of emergent media technologies and disciplinary restructuring?
Sex and Gender
4 sections, most recently Fall 2014, Hunter College
This course is an introduction to the sociology of sex, gender and sexuality, focusing particularly on issues of power and identity. While this course will focus on sex, gender and sexuality as deeply social phenomena, our approach to these topics and our readings will be interdisciplinary, looking at texts from the natural sciences and humanities as well as the social sciences. We will critically interrogate the idea of gender/sex as a “role” and seek to understand the ways it is much more than that: an everyday doing, a system of unequal power and privilege, an expansive medical and legal classification structure and a embodied and discursive history of relations. Thus gender, sex and sexuality are not self-contained categories, and we will spend significant time looking at intersections with race, class and nationality.
Courses in Development
The Radical Politics of Friendship: Collectives, Communes, Community and Collaboration
Death & Dying at the End of the World expansion to 2 semester course