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2017-2018 Kaplan Scholars Courses

Fall 2017

Genocide, Resistance, and Resurgence: Native Peoples of the Americas

In this course, we will traverse the Americas to ask a series of big questions that resonate across national boundaries: What does it mean to be Indigenous? What is genocide, and can Native American communities recover from such trauma and loss? What role might tradition, literature, and art play in healing? Can Indigenous and settler-colonial societies ever reconcile? What does it mean to be an “American,” and how have Native people, past and present, shaped that identity? To answer these questions, we will move from the ancient past to present-day political struggles. We will draw upon a variety of tools, ranging from archaeology to literature and law. Throughout the course, we will analyze persistent myths, reframe colonialism as a set of ongoing processes, account for differing outcomes, and reflect upon our interrelationships with the forces that have shaped nations and communities throughout North and South America, including here at Northwestern. Finally, our work will extend beyond the classroom, including field trips to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Newberry Library, and the American Indian Center of Chicago.


Doug Kiel (History and Humanities) is a citizen of the Oneida Nation and studies and teaches Native American history, with particular interests in the Great Lakes region and twentieth century Indigenous nation rebuilding. His current book project, Unsettling Territory: Oneida Indian Resurgence and Anti-Sovereignty Backlash, examines how the Oneida Nation’s leaders strengthened the community’s capacity to shape their own future by envisioning, deliberating, and enacting a dramatic reversal of fortune during the twentieth century. Doug is a co-editor (with James F. Brooks) of “Indigenous Midwests,” a special issue of Middle West Review.

Laura León Llerena (Spanish & Portuguese) specializes in colonial Latin American studies. She teaches courses on the discursive articulation of indigenous identities; native Andean Empire narratives; myths and cautionary tales about the unknown in Spanish and Portuguese colonial America; and contemporary representations of colonial Latin America. Her scholarly interests extend to early modern literature and history of Spain, Portugal and the New World, translation studies, postcolonial studies, religion studies, and the ethnography of writing. Laura’s research has been awarded a John Carter Brown Fellowship and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/Volkswagen Stiftung Fellowship.

Mary Weismantel (Anthropology) is a cultural anthropologist who writes about indigeneity in the Americas, with a focus on Andean South America (Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia). Her writing currently engages new materialisms, decoloniality, and temporality, as well as [trans]gender, sexualities, and ontologies of the nonhuman. Mary teaches about race and racism, Latin America, and ethnographic methods and writing. Her current work concerns the ontologies and temporalities of ancient Pre-Columbian objects in twenty-first century places including museums and World Heritage sites, as well as in a proliferation of online avatars.

Winter 2018

"Who do you think you are?!"

What is a self? Is it something we are born with, or something we become in response to our surroundings? Do we have more than one self? Is a woman's self different from a man's? Is a black or brown self different from a white one? A queer self different from a straight self? What happens when our own sense of self is threatened? How does our internal sense of self differ from, or depend on, others' perception of us? Can we ever truly know the "authentic self" of another person?

This course will pose and begin to answer such questions, ranging widely over time, sampling the ways in which philosophers, playwrights, theologians, psychologists, neuroscientists, and others have grappled with issues of authenticity, falsehood, transparency, deception, and power. We will consider matters of essentialism (is selfhood innate? are we born to be particular kinds of people?); epistemology (how do we know--or can we know--who someone really is?); performance (are we different people depending on the roles we play? can we distinguish a person's actions from his/her identity?); and discourse (is selfhood best understood as an effect of culture? what kinds of power allow a person or an institution to shape another person's self?). Through close attention to readings, documents, films, performances, and experiments, the course will challenge our assumptions about what we mean when we pronounce "I am."

Assigned texts will include:
John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)
John Guare, Six Degrees of Separation (1990)
Jennie Livingston, dir. Paris is Burning (1991)
Lolita Chakrabarti, Red Velvet (2012)
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (2006)
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues (1998)
Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority (1974)
Han Kang, The Vegetarian (2007)
Renee Engeln, Beauty Sick (2017) excerpts
Spike Jonze, dir. Her (2013)
Eric Bennett, A Big Enough Lie (2015)


Renee Engeln is a body image researcher and Professor of Instruction in Psychology. Her research focuses on issues surrounding women’s body images, with a particular emphasis on cultural practices that create or enforce the frequently contentious relationships women have with their bodies. She has won numerous teaching awards at both Northwestern and Loyola University and has presented her research on fat talk, objectification, and media images of women to a variety of academic and professional groups around the U.S. She is author of Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women (Harper, 2017).

Kasey Evans is a scholar of English Renaissance literature who teaches in the English Department and in the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Her current research combines psychoanalysis and religious history to examine scenes of resurrection in Renaissance texts. She is the author of Colonial Virtue: The Mobility of Temperance in Renaissance Texts (University of Toronto Press, 2012), and a recipient of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award.

Lane Fenrich is a social and cultural historian of the modern United States and teaches in both the History department and in Gender and Sexuality Studies. His research focuses especially on the period since the Second World War and he is at work on a book entitled Fear of Spying: Learning to be Normal in America's Queerest Decade. He is a winner of the Weinberg College Distinguished Teaching Award and the Charles Deering McCormick university-wide teaching award.

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