2021W WRDS 150A Topics – Term 2

WRDS 150A is offered in a wide variety of topics from departments and instructors across UBC.

Course topics and descriptions are subject to change depending on the instructor and their availability. Below is the schedule for the upcoming 2021-2022 Term 1 winter session.

Mon, Wed, Fri Course Schedule

Course Topics Descriptions

Below are course descriptions for each topic, as well as instructor and scheduling information.

Instructor: Andrew Connolly

Sections:  361, 371

It’s hard to get away from celebrity news. Whether it’s Kanye’s political stunts in the White House, Ariana Grande’s public split with Pete Davidson, Demi Lovato’s struggles with addiction, or Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leaving the royal family and moving to Canada, our lives seem saturated with information about the famous. To read an endless supply of commentary, analysis, and gossip about celebrities, all you need is an internet connection. So why do scholars study celebrities? What do academics do differently?

In this course we will look at articles about celebrities written by academic scholars. They ask questions like: Why do people develop attachments to celebrities? Why do celebrities share so much about their lives? Why do companies hire celebrities to endorse their products? Do celebrities actually have an impact on the way we think and talk about sex, gender, and race? What kind of impact do celebrities have on politics? These questions are framed by the disciplines that the scholars work in, including cultural studies, sociology, economics, gender studies, and media studies. Each of these disciplines has its own methods and conventions. In other words, a particular discipline influences what scholars ask questions about, how they phrase the questions, how they answer the questions, and how they present their findings. As a result, this course will not only introduce you to the academic study of celebrities, it will also introduce you to the various disciplinary approaches to research and writing in the arts and humanities.

Part of this introduction will be training you to participate in scholarly discourse. You will learn how to do scholarly research: how to find the information you are looking for, how to understand it, and how to evaluate it. You will also learn how to write and present your findings in a way that engages with scholars in a particular discipline or disciplines. In addition to instruction in the classroom, you will have multiple written assignments that will give you a chance to experiment with different aspects of academic research and writing, and receive attentive feedback on your work. This training will help prepare you to succeed in your academic career.

Instructor:  Stephen Dadugblor

Sections: 312, 332

The proliferation of digital technologies has enabled the generation, storage, and processing of data on unprecedented scales, with implications for our social and political lives. In this course, we will focus on social networking sites as an example of such technologies to examine how they shape citizens’ participation in politics and democratic processes. We will discuss key concerns regarding the practice of politics and democracy today: digital activism, fake news, misinformation/disinformation, and demagoguery, among others. We will read research by scholars across multiple disciplines who study the connection between social networking sites and political participation across cultures. As we discuss these scholarly articles, we will gain familiarity with knowledge-making in the disciplines, learn scholarly conventions of academic discourse communities, and participate effectively as apprentice members.

Instructor:  Kirby Manià

Sections:  322, 331

This course focuses on scholarly discourse published on the topic of environmental justice (EJ). It will consider discursive practices ranging from critical race theory, ecofeminism, social movement theory, media studies, geography, sociology, political ecology, and economics. Emerging as a movement in the early 1980s in the United States, EJ – now considered a global movement and a matter of global concern – recognizes the unfair distribution of environmental hazards on marginalized populations. Studies have shown that environmental harms disproportionately affect vulnerable social groups (which includes, but is not limited to, people of colour, indigenous communities, immigrants, women, minority groups, low-income communities, and climate refugees). EJ scholars research and monitor cases of socially produced environmental injustice and critically evaluate how multi-scalar policy decisions (such as neoliberal reform) continue to affect at-risk communities. EJ scholarship examines the social mobilization potential of communities against the uneven distribution of environmental hazards (or the lack of the fair distribution of environmental resources), and also considers how grassroots activists – in their campaign for greater recognition and participation in decision-making processes – hold governments and corporations accountable in their calls for justice. We will be tracing a number of scholarly conversations around the globalization of the Environmental Justice Movement (EJM) – looking at literature from the US, Canada, and other parts of the world – whilst discussing terms like environmental racism, climate justice, intersectionality, ecological debt, degrowth, food sovereignty, hydric justice, and environmentalism of the poor.

The course’s discursive approach invites students to engage with scholarly conversations and published research across a range of disciplinary perspectives. The course will entail writing about these research perspectives as well as producing research of your own.

Instructor: Katie Fitzpatrick

Section:  313,
taught online - details at bottom of web page

Section:  352

Today, we often hear that “privacy is dead.” Some blame growing surveillance by governments and by Silicon Valley tech companies, while others blame an increasingly confessional culture, characterized by constant “over-sharing” on social media or on reality television. In this course, we will read scholarly articles from disciplines like law, anthropology, and psychology in order to gain a wider perspective on contemporary privacy. We will consider, for example, the privacy rights of poor mothers, RCMP surveillance of Indigenous movements, and the privacy implications of COVID tracing. In addition to reading and analyzing these articles, students will join the scholarly conversation by producing their own original research on privacy and surveillance.

Instructor:  Tom Bittner

Sections: 353

One interesting fact about human behaviour is that a person can know that it is best for her to do something and yet be unable to get herself to do it. This fact has been investigated in a variety of ways by scholars in psychology, philosophy, and sociology. We will examine the different approaches that are taken to the study of this phenomenon. What kinds of questions are interesting to researchers in these different disciplines? How do their research methods serve the production of knowledge in the scholarly tradition? Students will use what they learn about this tradition of inquiry to conduct their own research on a topic related to self-control.

Instructor: Diane Burgess

Sections: 321, 341, 351

From hashtag activism to meme communities to micro-celebrity influencers, social media networks have transformed our daily interactions, impacting how we gather and disseminate information. By definition, social media are both information conduits and networking technologies. Social media platforms (e.g.: Twitter, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok) facilitate content sharing — fostering connections, community formation, and virtual patterns of influence. At the same time, social media have altered the public sphere, challenging journalistic norms and impacting potential forms of political engagement. Drawing examples from media studies, marketing, journalism, and political science, this section of WRDS 150 explores how scholars approach the qualities of social media networks, their uses and their users.

Instructor: Jonathan Otto

Sections: 311, 323

In this section of WRDS 150 we will explore the world of academic research and writing by engaging with the concept of sustainability. Scholars from diverse research disciplines have used the concept of sustainability to guide their studies of present and future ecological wellbeing. Moreover, actors from inter-governmental, governmental, non-governmental, and private sector organizations have used the concept to motivate the development of policies and business practices that they identify as having a positive environmental impact. Many definitions of sustainability and what counts as ecological wellbeing have emerged from this scholarly and non-scholarly work, as have critiques of mainstream and western thinking about these terms. In this course, we will begin to participate in scholarly conversations about ecological sustainability as a concept and a practice by reading the work of researchers in the fields of forestry, biology, engineering, business, and others. We will examine how scholars within these disciplines and others conceptualize, use, and critique the concept. As we engage with this scholarly work, we will identify the distinct analytical tools and rhetorical practices used by members of these disciplinary communities. We will then have the opportunity to use these tools and participate in these practices by conducting our own research on sustainability and by communicating our work in a variety of genres, including a research proposal, a presentation, and a research paper.

Instructor: Kimberly Richards

Section:  342

Settler colonialism is a distinct form of colonialism that functions through the elimination of Indigenous populations via an invasive settler society that, over time, develops a distinctive identity and sovereignty. Settler colonial studies has emerged as a distinct field of historically-oriented and theoretically-rich scholarly research. This course will engage key texts and concepts in settler colonial studies and relate them to contemporary conflicts and injustices in the land now called Canada, including the development of infrastructure for resource extraction, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the discourse of reconciliation. We will consider how Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars working in disciplines such as history, cultural legal studies, genocide studies, Indigenous studies, gender studies, performance studies, anthropology, geography, and education variously research and write about the ongoing socio-cultural, legal, political, and environmental issues that arise from invasion and settlement on native lands. At the same time, we will reflect upon our own entanglements in the systems of coloniality in writing, research, and our daily lives, especially as we learn and gather on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded Musqueam territory at UBC.

Instructor: Mary Ann Saunders

Sections:  343, 362, 381

We will focus on transgender studies, a multidisciplinary research field which investigates the increasing visibility and importance of transgender people in contemporary culture. A fundamental premise of trans studies is that ethical research in this area must be attentive to and prioritize the voices and knowledge which trans people have about themselves and their experience. We will, therefore, cultivate such an attentiveness in our course. By studying trans research representing several academic disciplines you will develop a sense of how different disciplines approach this research area, and then apply this knowledge to research and writing projects of your own. What do trans people say about themselves and their lives? How can you, as apprentice researchers, ethically translate that lived experience into research scholarship of your own?

Instructor:  Sang Wu

Sections: 333

This course introduces students to academic reading and writing through analysis of scholarly discourses in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities. We will focus our investigation on climate change and other global crises, and issues of responsibility concerning them, in the era of the Anthropocene. Coined at the turn of the 21st century, the word is compounded from the Greek anthropos (“human”) and kainos (“new”). The Anthropocene is the new epoch of humans: one in which planetary conditions are shaped by human activity rather than vice versa, humankind as a force of geological agency has overtaken physical geography and natural history, and the familiar distinction between man and nature no longer holds. A closer look at the scientific and semantic implications of the term, however, reveals it to be less straightforward than initially appears. Currently not officially recognized as part of the Geologic Time Scale, what should be understood or measured as the basis for the Anthropocene means different things to different disciplines. How do scholars from fields as diverse as geology, climatology, sociology, history, anthropology, and psychology, engage with the common idea of the Anthropocene? Do studies of pre-industrial greenhouse gas emissions, critiques of environmentally unsustainable trends of industrial, socioeconomic, and technological acceleration in an age of world capitalism, and theories of the end of human history at the limits of human “meaning” and modernity, ask similar research questions despite starkly contrastive methodologies? How are the discursive challenges posed by referring to singular abstractions (e.g., humans as a “species,” the sense of a “universal” history or geostory, the “Anthropocene”) represented across multiple disciplines, reflective of the conceptual difficulties which arise in accessing or preserving a nature no longer distinguishable from the human interventions that create and destroy it? How is our sense of what it means to be natural objects or human subjects, and what it means not to be, informed by how our discourses produce meaning?

Instructor:  Connor Byrne

This course will be taught online - details at bottom of webpage

For this course, the city will be our main object of scholarly investigation, and in order to introduce you to the rigours of academic writing and research, we will read academic research articles from a range of disciplines in order to familiarize you with the conventions and goals of academic criticism: novel, evidence-based research; critical dialogue; argumentation and analysis. As engaged readers and writers, and through a series of scaffolded assignments and workshops, you will become adept at the genre of research-driven writing: summary and citation, literature review, research proposals, conference papers, peer review, and the research paper.

Guiding this work will be investigations of the city—of urban phenomena and experience—carried out by the six research articles that model the kind of research (mainly qualitative, not quantitative) and writing for which this course serves as an apprenticeship. These articles provide a sampling of academic criticism from a range of disciplines—for example, sociology, history, urban design, art history, cultural studies, anthropology, etc.

In response to course material and discussion, you will reflect on your own evolving positions as modern city dwellers and ultimately develop a novel qualitative research project that contributes to scholarly conversations about the city.

Instructor: TBD

Section: 391
This course will be taught online - details at bottom of webpage

Course Description:  TBD


Tues, Thurs Course Schedule

Course Topics Descriptions

Below are course descriptions for each topic, as well as instructor and scheduling information.

Instructor: Louis Maraj

Sections: 411, 431

How does who we are shape the knowledge we produce and engage in the world? In what ways do institutions, cultures, and media give us ideas about how we should and shouldn’t think of ourselves and those around us? And what roles do language and communication play in developing our perceptions of who can make scholarly knowledge? In this course, participants will survey a variety of artifacts that engage ideas about identity and identity formation drawn from a number of strains of thought—including rhetorical studies, gender and sexuality studies, sociology, poetics, and cultural studies. We will think deeply about the politics of representation in how these artifacts communicate for scholarly audiences, while developing projects that actively acknowledge, address, and apply our own identity positions in research.

Instructor: Alexis McGee

Sections: 412, 432

This course investigates the importance of voice as it is composed through a variety of forms. What does it mean to read voice within texts? How do we listen to voices? How can we craft voice when we write? In addition to seeking answers to these questions, this course builds working definitions for the features defining voice, loosely, by engaging with scholarly conversations across discourses (sociolinguistics, writing studies, postcolonialism, etc.). By the end of this course, students should be able to identify, develop, and understand of how voice can be used rhetorically.

Instructor: Jennifer Cowe

Sections: 422, 433, 441

This course will aim to explore how different academic disciplines engage with the concept of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a word, or more usually a feeling, that most people have used or felt; however, very few understand its constant presence in everyday life. We will study nostalgia from its earliest appearance in academia as a form of mental illness in the seventeenth century and follow its growing influence over, and manipulation of, contemporary ideas of national identity, consumerism, class, lifestyle choices and LGBTQ histories. Through the study of academic journal articles from a variety of fields (psychology, history, marketing, politics, media) we will examine the research and writing techniques used by different disciplines to understand such an esoteric concept.

Instructor: Krista Sigurdson

Sections: 401, 421
Section 401 is scheduled to be taught online

In this WRDS 150A course we deconstruct our scientific and lived understandings of gender/sex and race as categories of difference. Through reading historical, philosophical, sociological and scientific research, we examine two facets of race and gender/sex as well as their interplay. First, we look at sex/gender and race as ways human bodies and behaviors have been organized, thereby informing us of historical origins of racism and sexism. Second, we look at these categories as used today to explain health or other inequities or to demarcate identity, belonging or exclusion. We will draw on Science and Technology Studies to guide our work and will take up examples in Indigenous science, medicine/health sciences, sport, psychology, economics and other areas of everyday life to unpack our very understandings of gender/sex and race. Throughout we will consider how scholars in a variety of disciplines study and write about gender/sex and race. What questions do they ask and what methods do they use? We will learn about a variety of conventions around knowledge making and rhetorical/discursive moves, including what conventions it makes sense for you to take with you into your scholarly work. No prior knowledge of gender/sex, race and science is expected other than a curiosity and willingness to learn and engage.

Online Course Schedule – Term 2

The WRDS 150A sections below will be taught online with synchronous and asynchronous components.    Classes will include a combination of synchronous (live) and asynchronous activities (such as watching recorded lectures, posting to discussion boards, or completing quizzes).  Attendance to online classes are required as per the instructors’ directions.

TBD TBD 391 W 6:00-9:00PM
Privacy Katie Fitzpatrick 313 MWF 9:00-10:00AM
Scientifc Racism and Sexism Krista Sigurdson 401 T/TH 8:00-9:30AM
The City Connor Byrne 301 MWF 8:00-9:00AM
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