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Difference, Justice, and the Common Good

core curriculum

New Cultural Diversity Core Courses

These new and updated courses, drawn from different departments across the university, offer new ways for students to fulfill the Cultural Diversity Core requirement. All of these classes focus on themes of difference, justice, and the common good. Faculty teaching these courses are currently participating in a series of preparatory workshops to discuss and debate the meanings of difference, justice, and the common good, to collaborate on their syllabi, and to develop strategies for engaging students in the classroom.

In 2017, taking our differences seriously and striving for common ground embody the spirit of a liberal arts university in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition. The world’s diversity is real, and the pursuit of fairness and shared fulfillment is more urgent than ever. Students are encouraged to take these classes. Read more about them below, and contact core@bc.edu with any questions.

  * = 75-minute class


Race, Disease, and Disparities (BIOL2240)

David Burgess, Biology
T Th 12:00 p.m.*

This course will focus on issues of race and health in America and address the question: “Is race a biological construct?” Underrepresented minorities face huge health disparities in America, and we will also address the question: “Is there a biological basis for differing health disparities in different diseases among different races?” The course will cover the issues of health and training in the sciences for underrepresented minorities in the United States and current policy initiatives to address these disparities. Discussions will cover such issues as: the current health and science educational disparities in the sciences for minorities; current initiatives aimed at closing the disparity gaps as proposed by government agencies, non-profit organizations, scientific societies, and philanthropies; and why these issues are of general importance to science and society. The biologic, social and cultural dietary causes of diseases leading to health disparities will be considered.
 



Scribbling Women and Suffragettes: Human Rights and American Women’s Writing (ENGL4010)

Lori Harrison-Kahan, English
M W F 2:00 p.m.

This course focuses on American women writers who engaged questions of difference and justice and played pivotal roles in social reform, ranging from movements for women’s and indigenous rights to abolitionism and labor activism. How did nineteenth-century women use print culture as a forum for political debate and a means of democratic participation prior to the Nineteenth Amendment? How did women writers work within the sentimental tradition and contribute to new developments in science fiction, literary journalism, and realism? Authors include Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Jacobs, Maria Ruiz de Burton, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Zitkala-Sa, and Sarah Winnemucca.
 



Black & Popular: Speculative Fictions by Black Writers (ENGL2470 / AADS2470)

Rhonda Frederick, English & African and African Diaspora Studies
T Th 9:00 a.m.*

This course asks: what do discussions of contemporary social issues look like when depicted in popular literatures written by writers of African descent? What is the benefit of fictionalizing these issues in genre literatures? Students address these questions by examining the forms of "speculative fictions" (specifically thriller, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/detective) as well as urban romance to determine how each represents concerns of 20th/21st century black peoples in the US, Canada, Jamaica, and Martinique. Our focus on these genres' explorations of race, class, culture, incest, social engineering, and intimate relationships is complemented by socio-historical studies of these issues and countries.
 



Gender and Sexuality in African American History (HIST4484 / AADS3340)

Martin Summers, History & African and African Diaspora Studies
M W 3:00 p.m.*

This course examines the intersections of gender and sexuality as both categories of identity and modes of power in the shaping of the historical experiences of African Americans. Through readings and lecture, we will explore three broad and interconnecting themes: how cultural understandings of race have impacted cultural understandings of gender and sexuality (and vice versa); how dominant cultural notions of gender and sexuality have underpinned relations of power between blacks and whites; and how gender and sexuality have shaped relationships within African American communities.
 



Race, Rights, and the Law (HIST4552)

Alan Rogers, History
T Th 1:30 p.m.*

This course is organized around a question recently raised by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor: What role should the long dark history and the contemporary reality of racism in the United States play in the Court’s decision making? Students will explore the checkered relationship between race, rights - both civil and criminal - and the law, beginning with slavery and culminating with the so-called Ferguson effect. Students will read, discuss and write about major Court decisions, look behind the law for evidence of cultural and political bias, and note how American politicians and jurists have "played the race card."
 



Unheard Voices: Philosophy at the Crossroads of Identity (PHIL4454)

Cherie McGill, Philosophy
M W F 2:00 p.m.

What is a just society? What responsibility does each of us have to contribute to a common good? This course starts from the idea that answering these questions requires hearing the voices of those typically unheard, and recognizing the interlocking systems that construct our world. We will attempt to hear voices typically not heard, identify the forces that converge to make voices heard or unheard, and understand the roles that each of us play as silenced and silencer. We will attempt to discern a way forward to a more just society — a way forward that begins from where we are.
 



What is Racism? (PHIL3344)

Jorge L. A. Garcia, Philosophy
M W 12:00 p.m.*

The course will examine philosophical approaches to the questions: In what does racism consists? What are some of its principal types? What grounds its injustice and connection to a society's common good?
 



Dilemmas of Unity and Diversity in American Politics and Society (POLI2302)

R. Shep Melnick and Peter Skerry, Political Science
M W 3:00 p.m.
*

Both politicians and professors speak of diversity as an unqualified good that Americans must continually strive to achieve. Yet what exactly do we mean by "diversity"? Along what dimensions - racial, social class, cultural, phenotypical, religious, ideological - do we define diversity? More to the point, are there any limits such that the merits of diversity or presumed merits) diminish once certain levels of diversity are achieved.
 



Deviance and Social Control (SOCY1030)

Stephen Pfohl, Sociology
T Th 10:30 a.m.
*

This course explores the social construction of boundaries between the "normal" and the so-called "deviant." It examines the struggle between powerful forms of social control and what these exclude, silence, or marginalize. Of particular concern is the relationship between dominant forms of religious, legal, and medical social control and gendered, racialized and global economic structures of power. The course provides an in-depth historical analysis of theoretical perspectives used to explain, study and control deviance, as well as ethical-political inquiry into such matters as religious excess, crime, madness, corporate and governmental wrong-doing, and sexual subcultures that resist dominant social norms.
 



Catholicism & Social Responsibility (THEO3557)

Kristin Heyer, Theology
T Th 12:00 p.m.*

This course explores the tradition of Catholic social thought and in its theoretical and lived forms. It probes the theological and moral foundations of social responsibility and the relationships between the church and civil society. It investigates the implications of the tradition’s core commitments (including human rights, solidarity, the option for the poor, liberation, the common good) for contemporary questions of justice. It attends to the ways structural inequalities and harmful ideologies impact the course’s applied ethics topics (e.g., racialized violence, migration, labor rights, and food justice). Finally it considers growing edges of the tradition in need of development.
 



Race, Freedom, and the Bible in America (THEO2800)

Yonder Gillihan and Joel Kemp, Theology
M W 3:00 p.m.* and Friday discussion group (F 2; F 4)

Discourse about American identity, purpose, and ethics has drawn on Scripture for its themes, terms, and claims to authority, from the nation's political genesis as a refuge for English Puritans to its current incarnation as "secular sanctuary" of ethnic and religious pluralism. This team-taught course surveys uses of the Bible and other "American Scriptures" in discourse on race and civil rights, focusing on its use by political opponents. Assigned readings, essays, and discussions will survey specific meanings that scriptures have acquired at critical historical moments, and what the multiplication of interpreters, methods, and meanings implies for prospects for unity.