Core Curriculum

The purpose of the core curriculum is to ensure that every MA student in the Global Thought program receives a theoretical, broad-based, interdisciplinary foundation in the concepts behind global thought. Each of the core courses will expose students to a range of approaches, methods, and theories, while allowing them to work directly with leading scholars in global thought. This includes graduate-level course work in trans-national relations, economics, politics, philosophy, and cultural analysis. Students are required to take a one-semester long course in global governance, a one-semester long course in global political economy, a one-semester long course in global politics and culture, and a two-semester long seminar course to help students hone their research interests within the MA essay.

MA Seminar

MA Seminar I

This course explores the challenges of understanding the global world in which we live, a world that demands new conceptual approaches and ways of thinking. The objectives are:

1.) To explore the various methodologies and approaches that Committee on Global Thought faculty apply to their scholarship on pressing global issues, and to confront the challenges of conducting research across local, regional, and global scales. This will take place through multi-week modules that center on a critical issue, asking students to familiarize themselves with key questions and context, engage with an expert on the topic, and apply their insights to a specific case or question.

2.) To develop a focused and feasible research project and hone the practices of scholarly data collection, analysis, and communication through workshops and assignments. This work begins in the fall and continues to completion in the spring semester of the seminar. The perspectives and skills developed in MA Seminar will support students in the development and completion of their 10,000-word MA essays, which they will present to each other and to CGT faculty at the Spring Symposium.

MA Seminar II

Building upon MA Seminar I’s global approach to core issues and conversations with CGT Faculty, MA Seminar II tackles new topics and supports the completion of student research and writing. Multi-week modules will continue building discussions around key questions, engaging with guest speakers, and applying new perspectives to hard problems. Research workshops will address common challenges in turning research into writing, engaging sources and citation, and communicating your findings beyond the scope of this class.

Global Governance Core

Globalization and the Problems of World Order

This course will examine some of the key institutional challenges and most vexing conceptual controversies in the current rethinking, some might say turmoil, over world order and global governance. Faced with a daunting range of challenges and crises – including the management of the international economic system, climate change and environmental sustainability, terrorism, human rights and democracy promotion, international peace-keeping, the challenge of urbanization and human settlements, the apparent implosion of the Middle Eastern state system to mention just a few – it is no wonder that many of the features of the international system established at the end of World War Two are under severe strain and are subject to intense scrutiny and re-evaluation. These debates reveal at least three key characteristics. 

First, a depth of disagreement about the shape of the international system which is arguably unprecedented in the last fifty years. Almost every dimension of global government and governance is today the subject of robust and often contentious debate. These can be seen in debates in over the role of western and non-western powers in competing visions of world order, the resurgence of nationalism, the emergence of powerful revisionist powers in Eurasian, East Asia and the Middle East; as well as the controversial claims about the increasing salience of cultural and civilizational identity in the international system.

Second, there is a dizzying multiplicity of actors and arenas and scales involved which renders the global system exceedingly complex. The persistence of the nation-state and nationalism as core elements of the global system are complicated by the presence of other actors ranging from non-state, multi-lateral, to supra-national bodies not to mention globe-spanning forms of private sector market forces. Many of these issues are reflected in debates over sovereignty and who has the right and/or duty to intervene in the international arena.

Third, there appears to be an absence of any recognizable consensus about the most appropriate conceptual frameworks for addressing these often bewildering challenges. This has resulted in a high degree of theoretical uncertainty, perhaps indeed ideological confusion.

Given the vast range of issues the course will have to be selective and aimed at a broad understanding. After surveying some of the key debates surrounding questions of world order, sovereignty as well as the most appropriate conceptual models, the course will examine how well the current structures are addressing a selected number of problems areas.

Global Culture and Politics Core

Students take ONE of the following courses.

Art in Protest, Protest in Art

“In our age, the mere making of a work of art is itself a political act. So long as artists exist, making what they please and think they ought to make, even if it is not terribly good, even if it appeals to only a handful of people, they remind Management of something managers need to be reminded of, namely, that the managed are people with faces, not anonymous numbers, that Homo Laborans is also Homo Ludens.” William H. Auden (from The Dyer’s Hand, 1926)

Course Description: All art is political, but some art is made as a form of protest or to incite an audience to protest. Most often it is both. This course – though far from exhaustive in its coverage – will present a sample of genres (music, plastic arts, theater, dance, installation, photography) in a variety of locations and times to understand how art and artists have engaged in protest. Much of modern art is conceptual, using installations and performance, to communicate. Therefore, we will start the class by first understanding what we mean by protest, which will underpin how we think about artists’ using various media to engage voicing opposition. Then, we turn to T. J. Clark, the preeminent art historian, for his answer to the question, when did modern art begin and how does it relate to protest? This question will lead us to explore the debate on the purpose of art in the 20th century and into the present. Next, we will move to how artists responded to moments of crisis in the early 20th century – world wars, economic depression, and the rise of fascism – because the art that emerged informs much of what we see today. Based on these foundational questions, the class will turn to case studies from around the globe.

In each case study, we will observe

  • Political, economic, and historical context in which the artist created the work
  • How the art was received at the time; how it is received now
  • The artist’s career trajectory
  • Why the artist’s selection of a genre was effective (or not) as a protest

Finally, we will address throughout the course current controversies concerning art, artists, and the art world. Many of the links will be listed here, but students will be invited to raise topics as they arise throughout the course. Sources for art world topics can be found at Hyperallergic, Art Net, Artforum International as well as articles in the New York Times, the New Yorker, New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, etc.

Global Fault Lines

Considering various global connections requires addressing the fault lines that disrupt those ties. Threads woven into the global textile are boundless: social media, academic institutions, news outlets, ease of international travel, fashion trends, diasporic communities, music, food, and more. However, cracks between groups appear to be widening despite these connections. People continue to be fragmented by war, religion, disasters and crises, poverty, and concentrations of wealth. In this class, we will examine these various fault lines, including how to understand cultural difference, nationalism, populism, and identity politics. By understanding the fissures in our collective humanity, we will have a better understanding of what binds us together.

Global Political Economy Core

Global Political Economy

The current era of economic globalization, which until recently appeared inevitable to many observers, faces numerous challenges that have erupted in the past few years—including war (and accompanying sanctions), heightened superpower rivalry, pandemic-related disruption of supply chains, and inflationary pressures. To this list, we must add a series of preexisting conditions, such as ballooning inequality, the climate crisis, rising nationalist and xenophobic sentiment, and increasing support—on both the left and right—for protectionism and skepticism of both “free trade” and (global) capitalism itself.

This course centers around analyzing the structure of the contemporary global economy, its political origins and inherently political nature, and how power is exercised therein by actors including states, corporations, international institutions, and even individuals. As we will highlight throughout the semester, the global economy shapes the lives of people all over the world, including our own.

Specifically, we will discuss the rise and consolidation of today’s neoliberal global order, its “governance,” and the various forms of backlash against it that are currently proliferating. We will also carefully analyze the role of race, class, and gender in the global economy, as well as the persistence of colonial legacies, and the ongoing relevance of North-South and other inequalities. Additionally, we will discuss how issues such as climate change, U.S.-China relations, technological change, and the pandemic itself may shape the future trajectory of the global economy.

To shed light on these and related matters, we will critically engage with the contributions of a diverse and interdisciplinary array of classic and contemporary thinkers who have sought to theorize the global economy, and the dynamic interplay between politics and economics, in different ways.