Exploring Other Worlds

TOC image for "Exploring other Worlds" with Amy Corbin and Amy Cooper

Theory of Connectivity: Exploring Other Worlds

Dr. Amy Corbin, assistant professor and acting director of film studies, teaches Travel & Cultural Encounters in Film, a course that asks students to explore narrative and experimental films that feature travel as an impetus. In particular, students look at cultural encounters through American, Indian and North African colonialism as well as post-colonial contact through migration and tourism.

Her class is part of a new cluster series taught in combination with Dr. Amy Cooper, assistant professor of anthropology. Cluster courses consist of two classes that students sign up for simultaneously. They focus on interdisciplinary exploration and are intended as a means to explore a shared idea, theme or question from the perspectives of two different academic disciplines. 

The nature of the cluster structure means that students will bring their knowledge across disciplines and expand their learning beyond the confines of either course. Other clusters currently underway include (Re)Framing Urban Youth with Pearl Rosenberg, associate professor of education and Dr. Lora Taub, associate professor & Rita and Joseph Scheller endowed chair of media & communication and RJ Fellows Program director; Latin American Dance & Culture with Corrie Cowart, assistant professor of dance and Mirna Trauger, lecturer of Spanish; and Power, Communities, & Social Change with Dr. Anne Esacove, associate professor of sociology/anthropology and Beth A. Halpern, director of community engagement.

“There’s a whole approach to studying film as an index of contemporary culture,” says Corbin. “That’s always appealed to me. I see film as a particularly effective medium to study culture, in part because it’s so popular.”

“We’re using films and texts to think about the ways that narratives construct a point of view,” says Corbin. “Does the audience experience both sides of a moment of cultural contact? Or is it a one-sided view? People tell stories to understand cultures, and they come to know and experience those cultures through various means of story telling.”

Corbin and Cooper have thought extensively about how the specific goals in each class will grow and develop when students reach Cooper’s accompanying cluster course, Other Worlds: Anthropology Through Science Fiction, this fall. As an alternative to film, Cooper’s students will be exploring many of the same questions through the lens of science fiction novels.

“I hope to have students explore social and economic inequality, thinking critically about travel and exploration, our binary understanding of male and female gender, technologies of body and health,” says Dr. Cooper. “Science fiction is perfectly suited for this, but these are also topics anthropologists have extensively researched. We explore what it means to be human."

“We both have a physical presence in each classroom,” says Cooper. “I visit Amy’s class, and she’ll visit mine. The students will collectively know more about both subjects than we will individually and will be a resource as we revisit the themes and topics that transcend both courses.”


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