Fall 2017 Diversity • Difference • Otherness
Difference and diversity sit at the heart of many contemporary social challenges. Changing demographics have provoked national debates about citizenship and basic human rights. Humans and associated global economic activity have contributed to the spread of invasive species and declines in native biodiversity. Colleges and universities have struggled to recruit and retain diverse faculty and students. Yet efforts to develop collective responses to these and other challenges have been stymied by increasing political polarization, decreasing empathy, and the entrenchment of difference. Transcending these divides requires consideration of fundamental philosophical and empirical questions about how we understand and represent difference, how categories of cultural difference and biodiversity are constructed and maintained, how notions of difference are used to support and undermine communities, and how individuals and collectives resist binary demarcations of the self vs. "other."
Themester 2017 engages diversity by considering how “otherness” has been constructed through time and space; how it is maintained politically and through interpersonal interactions; how it is represented in literature, film, and mass media; and its implications for individual well-being, social action, and environmental health. Our engagement with “otherness” draws from the full complement of the liberal arts—arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences—and from their wide-ranging subject matter—cognitive research on social categorization and bias; science fiction and dystopian literature; histories of racialized conflict; contemporary immigrant experiences; biological diversity, environmental change, and invasive species; stigma and social exclusion; and the ongoing search for life beyond earth.
Themester events, activities, and courses promote dialogue and literacy about the many forms of "otherness,” about what it means to be a welcoming global, national, local, and campus community, and about how we can work collectively toward that goal.
"Diversity Mask," from Artworkers exhibition, George A. Spiva Center for the Arts, 2013 Creative Commons