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 2023 Winter Session Term 2.

Sections are scheduled in the following patterns.
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays – MWF
Mondays, Wednesdays – MW
Tuesdays, Thursdays, – T/R
Tuesdays – T

MWF – Scheduling Patterns and Course Descriptions

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

Instructor: Jonathan Otto

Sections:  327*, 337*, 367*, 377

*These sections are reserved for students in the BIE Program

Available Times: 10:00, 11:00, 2:00, 3:00 - MWF

“I don’t believe it.” That was Donald Trump’s response to a report on climate change prepared by more than 300 leading climate scientists. Trump is hardly the only person in the contemporary world to reject scientific findings. People dismiss evolution, the health benefits of vaccines, even that the earth is a sphere. This rejection of science can seem perplexing, especially for those who understand the rigorous process of producing scientific knowledge and theories. So why is it that some people simply do not believe in science?

This course looks at the ways scholars from various departments seek to answer that question. Some of the scholars develop wide ranging theories about why people believe what they believe. Others focus on specific people and the complexity of their belief systems. Some scholars even raise their own doubts about science and scientific methods. The differences in the approaches each scholar takes to this question sometimes relates to the discipline they are from. These scholars come from Political Science, Sociology, Philosophy, and English departments. 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 science, politics, and belief. It will also introduce you to the various disciplinary approaches to research and writing.

Instructor: Katja Thieme

Sections:  341

Available Times: 12:00 - MWF

In this section we will study what oral history is, and how the humanities and the social sciences use it. Spoken history can be found in any setting: we form a sense of our personal histories by hearing stories about our families, our cities, and regions; we also tell historical narratives about ourselves to authorities in schools, court houses, and government offices. In addition to this everyday oral history, Indigenous communities have formalized ways of maintaining their cultural systems through storytelling protocols. Looking at examples of both these types of oral history, this course will investigate: How do oral histories and traditions shape the communities in which they occur? How do research disciplines such as social history, anthropology, and health studies use oral stories and traditions? As we explore these questions, you will learn to identify and use different research methods, types of data and evidence, and elements of style in research writing.


Instructor: Kimberly Richards

Sections:  333, 343

Available Times:  11:00, 12:00 - MWF

From public apologies issued by politicians for historical violences to theatrical strategies activists deploy to draw attention to injustice, performance is an important mode and medium of political communication. In this course, we will study some of the ways that political actors use performative strategies on stage and in everyday life with real consequences in the world. We will examine how diverse actors use scripts, choreographies, rehearsal practices, acting strategies, stage design, and recording technologies to persuade audiences of their righteousness, legitimacy and authority, and gain social, cultural, political and/or economic power in the process of doing so. We will observe how scholars working in social movement studies, critical Indigenous studies, discourse studies, celebrity studies, gender and women’s studies, and critical media studies describe, analyze, interpret and critique how power is gained, invoked and maintained through performance analysis. Doing so will help us to become more attentive and engaged citizens.


Instructor: Jennifer Cowe

Sections:  331, 353, 361

Available Times: 11:00, 1:00, 2:00 - MWF

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, social media and the environment. We will attempt to understand how the politics of memory, belonging and collective remembrance reflect and inform current political discourse.

Instructor: Tom Bittner

Sections:  372

Available Times: 3:00 - MWF

This section of WRDS 150A looks into the possibility of designing and creating genuinely intelligent
systems and some of the implications of this project. We will investigate a selection of the most
influential research writings on this question taking them as our models of scholarly work in a number of
different academic disciplines. Our main aim will be to contribute to this tradition of inquiry by
completing a term project that takes up an interesting question related to this topic.
In pursuit of this aim, we will learn about the characteristic features of scholarly writing and about how
writers employ these features in specific research contexts. We will also, of course, practice using them
ourselves in the various assignments we produce for this course.

Instructor: Diane Burgess

Sections:  311, 321, 352

Available Times: 9:00, 10:00, 1:00 - MWF

With their hashtags, newsfeeds, and status updates, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, blurring the boundaries between personal and professional networks and impacting how we gather and disseminate information. At the same time, micro-blogging has altered the public sphere, challenging journalistic norms and influencing potential forms of political engagement. By definition, social media are both networking technologies and information conduits. Drawing examples from media studies, psychology, journalism and political science, this section of WRDS 150 explores how scholars approach the qualities of social networks, their uses and their users.


Instructor: Mary Ann Saunders

Sections:  371, 381

Available Times: 3:00, 4:00 - MWF

In WRDS 150, our course focus will be the multidisciplinary research field of transgender studies. A fundamental premise of trans studies is that ethical research about trans lives and experiences must be attentive to and prioritize the knowledge which trans people have about themselves. This, then, is also the stance we adopt in WRDS 150, understanding trans lives as legitimate and valuable, and trans people as the experts on their own experience. We will examine trans studies research from several academic disciplines to develop an understanding of how different disciplines construct knowledge in ways unique to each. Throughout the term, you will use the knowledge and skills you gain to develop your own transgender studies research and writing project. What do trans people say about their lives and experiences? How can you, as apprentice researchers, ethically translate that lived experience into research scholarship of your own?

T/R , MW, & T – Scheduling Patterns and Course Descriptions

Instructor: Kirby Mania

Sections:  320, 350, 360

Available Times: 10:00, 12:30, 2:00 - MW

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: Stephen Dadugblor

Sections: 422

Available Times:  11:00 - T/R

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: Rebecca Carruthers den Hoed

Sections: 411, 421

Available Times:  9:30, 11:00 - T/R

Together we will explore the idea of “good food” as it is explored, imagined, and studied in different academic disciplines (e.g., cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, geography). What counts as “good food” is vast and varied — and we’ll explore many different approaches. Sometimes “good food” is about what is good for the body: like healthy, medicinal, or nutritious foods. In other contexts, “good food” is about what is good for the land or the environment: like organic farming or plant-based diets. In other contexts, “good food” is about cultivating a strong sense of group or cultural identity: food traditions and celebrations; religious or cultural foods and diets. “Good food” can also be about food that signals — and elevates — a person’s social status: foods that signal taste, refinement, socio-economic class, or self-control. “Good food” can be about taste and pleasure: like the aesthetic appeal of slow food, the sensory appeal of engineered food, the visual pleasure of food porn. And “good food” can be about what is good for the economy: local food, food banks, fair trade food, freegan foodways. In response to readings, lectures, and class discussion, students will develop a research project of their own that focuses on ‘state of the art’ research about “good food” and the impact “good food” can have on our bodies, minds, communities, economies, and ecosystems.


Instructor: Alexis McGee

Sections: 433

Available Times:  2:00 - T/R - online

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: Meredith Beales

Sections:  380, 431, 441

Available Times: 4:00 - MW, 2:00, 3:30 - T/R

In The Lion King, on the BBC, on stages and classrooms around the world—the work of William Shakespeare is often encountered as a classroom text, theatre, or film.  But Shakespeare is now also used as inspiration for academic research ranging from history and film studies to archeology, mathematics, and cognitive science.  In this class, we will examine how this one sixteenth-century English playwright has galvanized research in a variety of disciplines beyond the traditional starting point of English literature.  We will ask why this particular writer has such a large impact on academic study, and whether, in research on, for example, supernovae or twenty-first century Afghan politics, Shakespeare has much to do with the research at all.  Does simply adding the name Shakespeare make it more likely to be taken seriously?  Does it matter that the motivation for an archeological dig comes from trying to prove Shakespeare wrong?  What, if anything, does Shakespeare have to do with the research done in his name?

No prior knowledge of Shakespeare is expected, nor will we be reading his literature (the plays or poems themselves) in WRDS 150.

Instructor: Jennifer Gagnon

Sections:  391, 451

Available Times: 7:00 - T, 4:00 - T/R - online

Video games are neither “just for kids,” nor simple escapist entertainment. Indeed, video games are fast becoming one of the most profitable and innovative forms of creative and artistic expression today. Deeper study reveals that video games as a genre are heavily influenced by social and political understandings of ability, gender, race, sexuality, and identity. Issues related to diversity and inclusion such as who gets to play, whose stories are told, and who is represented, have taken centre stage in recent explorations of the future of gaming at the intersections of fun, profit, and politics. While video games let the player be in control, not everyone’s stories are represented. The theme of this course will explore how aspects of identity such as gender, race, ability, and sexuality, influence the ways that we experience and respond to the genre of video games as a media making and political practice.

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