Spring 15 Snapshots: Last Edition

R S 375S, 43285, Religion in the American South

R S 375S church

Whether you’re new to Texas or a long-time resident, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a church at least every other town block. For many people, the ubiquitous presence of religion in the South may be a given, but have you ever really wondered why it is? The course, Religious Studies 375S “Religion in the American South”, taught by Dr. Chad Seales aims to address the myths and ironies of religious life in the South.

The objective of the class is to trace how religion and region has changed over time in frames of history from slavery, industry, and ethnic diversity. What does it really mean to be a Southerner? What makes the South more religious than other places in the US? Case studies will be used to examine the questions posed and allow students to apply theories of both region and religion to various ideologies and practices of Southerners.

This course carries Writing and Independent Inquiry flags.

MEL 321, 40790, Turks in Europe

Matthew Brunwasser

Matthew Brunwasser, matthewbrunwasser.com

Understanding diversity and learning about other cultures is the first step in breaking stereotypes and developing a much more knowledgeable viewpoint of the world as a student. The last century has been marked by changes in international markets, political conditions, and a desire to attain a better life – with interactions between the Europeans and Turks as a prime example of a new socio-cultural and political-economic constellation.

The objective of this class, taught by Dr. Jeannette Okur, is to examine the Turkish presence in Europe and evaluate its impact in politics, media, education, arts, language, etc. By looking at local and transnational forces that drives such interactions for the 9 million Turks in Europe, students will be asked to form a critical analysis of the topics presented in both text and film. With subjects such as the relationship of civil society and Islam, ethnic businesses and communities, citizenship and political participation, asylum movements and xenophobia, students will truly be able to trace the transition of a Turkish guest worker to a transnational citizen of Europe.

This course carries a Global Cultures flag and is cross-listed with European Studies (EUS) 347 and Islamic Studies (ISL) 372.

J S 365, 39446, NGOs in Israel/Northern Ireland: Conflict Area Case Studies

N Ireland graffiti

Loyalist mural on a building in Belfast, January 2000; Picture: PA

War zones. What types of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) go into those areas? How do they operate in such unsafe environments? What services do they provide? This course will address the impact of the proliferation NGOs and NPOs as influential actors with vast resources and presence on the ground by looking at a crucial case study, conflict areas. The NGOs’ ability to influence and bring a change under the most unfavorable conditions operates as an indication of this sector’s effect and role in other fields.

The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, and the Israeli- Palestinian Conflict both underline a democracy that copes with an enduring low-intensity conflict between two groups who share the same territory. Instructor Ori Swed will look at the two cases’ similarities and dissimilarities while focusing on the NGO activity on both arenas and its impact.

This course is cross-listed with Sociology (SOC) 321K.

Spring 15 Snapshots-Late Edition

LAS 328, 39644, K’ichee’ Peoples: Culture, History, and Language

Diego Rivera Creation

The most significant source on Mayan culture and beliefs – the Popol Vuh, sometimes called the “Mayan Bible” – was written in a language still spoken in the highlands of Guatemala – K’ichee’. Prior to the Spanish conquest in 1519, the K’ichee’ peoples were the founders of the most powerful state in the region. The surviving K’ichee’ have gone on to play a leading role in anti-colonial struggles into the twenty-first century.

This course will delve into both historic and contemporary aspects of K’ichee’ society. Students will learn about such topics as the history leading up to the Spanish invasion; the genealogy of the Popol Vuh; the introduction of Christianity into highland Guatemala; the K’ichee’ role in Guatemala’s independence from Spain in 1821; K’ichee’ guerrillas and revolutionaries in the 1980s; Maya spirituality and K’ichee’ prophets; and Maya art and poetry.

Students who have studied K’ichee’ in the past will be able to continue improving their language skills.

J S 365, 39443, Israeli Peace & Social Justice


Is peace possible amidst the turmoil taking place in the Gaza Strip? Many NGOs and grassroots organizations are currently working toward peace and social justice in this Israeli-Palestinian context, but how successful have they been and is there actually a potential for peace in the future?

This new course, taught by Visiting Professor Julia Chaitin, explores the major activists and organizations in the area that have emerged since the 1970s. The professor will look at the attempts of these actors to overcome obstacles in the area and work for peace-building and reconciliation between two peoples. In order to do this, students will first focus on understanding what peace-building, conflict reconciliation, group-think, de-individuation, de-humanization, and people-to-people processes are, among other things.

In this course, students will also have the opportunity to read and hear about “stories from the ground,” drawing heavily on the presentation and work of organizations on the internet and specifically in social media. How is social media affecting the issues in Israel, and how likely is it that these organizations will actually break ground on peace in the area? Sign up for this class to find out!

This course is cross-listed with Middle Eastern Studies (MES 341, 41024) and Sociology (SOC 321K, 44993).

EUS 347, 35703, Literary Maps of the Ukraine

EUS 347 Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia. We’ve been hearing a lot recently about their tensions and struggles as formerly unified, now neighboring countries. The situation is made even more difficult in part because of the fact that the territory of the Ukraine encompasses various cultural spaces with local rather than national identity. Such powerful opposing views in one country greatly lessens its strength as a whole. What will happen next?

A new course, “Literary Maps of the Ukraine”, will examine the representation of certain geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and memorial spaces in Ukrainian, Yiddish, Polish, and Russian literature since the 18th century.

This course includes a focus on current geopoetics, which encompasses poetry that is fundamentally concerned with a relationship to the earth and the opening of a world, and which is usually approached using local knowledge. What can literature tell us about these countries, including how they have been shaped over time, how they interact with each other, and what they are likely to do in current and future situations? Join visiting professor Erik Martin to find out!

This course carries a Global Cultures flag and is cross-listed with Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (REE 325, 44183).

Spotlight: Cultural Aspects of Doing Business in Brazil

Course Spotlight: PRC 320E, 45479, Cultural Aspects of Doing Business in Brazil 

PRC Brazil Business

By: Grace Xu

As increasing emphasis is placed on global communication and interaction in the business world, understanding one another and resolving cultural differences is a skill that is undeniably useful. The question is: How are we supposed to identify these cultural issues and develop ways to resolve them? I recently had the pleasure of visiting Professor Orlando Kelm and learning more about his course, Portuguese Civilization (PRC) 320E “Cultural Aspects of Doing Business in Brazil,” which aims to answer all these questions and more.

Walking into Professor Kelm’s office is like walking into a miniature museum, complete with artifacts from a variety of international cultures. On his wall are glittering Chinese New Year cards and traditional paper cutouts, and his bookshelves are filled with trinkets of all kinds from various countries he’s traveled to, such as Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, and many others. As an Associate Professor of Hispanic Linguistics at UT, Professor Kelm speaks an impressive number of languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, German, Italian, Chinese, and some Japanese. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Business Language Education for CIBER, or the Center for International Business Education and Research. Highly tech-savvy, he also incorporates all types of technology and social platforms to reach out and engage with his target audiences through blogs and other media. His current podcast project, “Lingua da gente,” aims to provide free Portuguese lessons and can be found on iTunes.

Professor Kelm opened by showing me a gallery of pictures taken in Brazil: Fatty Man, a boutique shoe store, Snob, a napkin brand. There were floss dispensers in public bathrooms, and specific bus seats for not just the elderly and pregnant, but the obese as well. These cultural images are encapsulated in the LESCANT model that Professor Kelm teaches. The model is an acronym that represents seven areas in which cultural issues arise when dealing with business communication: Language, Environment, Social Organization, Context, Authority, Non-verbal, and Time. By applying the LESCANT model to various cases, students will learn how to identify various cultural issues within Brazil and the rest of the world, such as misunderstandings in language, variations in clothing, distinct temporal schedules, different social values and religion, and high context/low context signs and situations.

The next step, Professor Kelm notes, is to learn how to diplomatically resolve these problems through Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions and Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner’s dilemma theory. Having the ability to recognize cultural differences is imperative, but being able to identify strengths from another culture and incorporate them, (for instance, combining American efficiency with Brazilian flexibility), would greatly enhance productivity. Students will be assigned work such as blog entries and comments, presentations of case studies, and executive summaries relating to cultural issues found within Brazilian/ North American practices.

If you are interested in doing business in Brazil in the future, or simply want to know how to identify and incorporate cultural issues and differences, PRC 320E “Cultural Aspects of Doing Business in Brazil” is the perfect course to take. Not only is the information relevant, interesting, and engaging, but also Professor Kelm’s dynamic charisma and energetic presence should make you put this course at the top of your list for next semester.

Check out Professor Kelm’s blog, or find out more about the LESCANT model.

This course carries a Global Cultures flag.

GC Flag Edit

Course Spotlight: Freud Feminism Queer Theory

GSD 360, 37483, Freud, Feminism, and Queer Theory

By: Jacqueline Foxworth

GSD 360 Freud

Freud, Feminism, Queer Theory. Are these three things even related, you ask? Kinda, yeah, and you can find out how by reading this post and then registering for Professor Peter Rehberg’s spring course.

A little bit on Professor Rehberg that you may not learn in class: he is part of an exchange program run by the German government to bring German and European cultural studies to the U.S. through a teaching and research at American universities. He received academic training both in Germany, where he acquired his master’s, and the U.S., where he received his PhD.

So, who is Freud, and what are Feminism and Queer Theory? Freud, a neurologist who lived from 1856 to 1939, is known as the father of psychoanalysis, which is considered a method for the treatment of psychopathology through a dialogue between the patient and psychoanalyst, named the “talking cure”.

According to Professor Rehberg, feminism describes “our cultural interpretation of sexual difference [being] heavily charged with ideologies that put women into a disenfranchised position,” which overwhelmingly seems to be the norm in the West today. In the class, he wants to tackle such questions as: Why is feminism being dismissed in today’s society? Why does it have such a negative connotation? On the subject of Queer Theory, Professor Rehberg explains that it implies “not just a critique of heteronormativity, but also a critique of notions of identity.” And in terms of where these two ideas converge, he feels “feminism cannot afford to ignore the question of homo- and hetero-sexuality,” and his course will delve into why this might be.

So, where does Freud meet Feminism and Queer Theory? It is often understood that Freudianism and psychoanalysis provide an inhospitable environment for women, gays, and lesbians. But, how accurate is this interpretation? For example, was Freud misogynistic or was he just really good at explaining the misogynistic system of society? And, was Freud’s work on sexuality actually useful for queer theory? According to Professor Rehberg, we have to take a closer look at history and Freud’s writings in order to understand these contrasting views.

Finally, when I asked Professor Rehberg why it is important to understand Freud, Feminism and Queer Theory today, he responded: “I still think that psychoanalysis is the most complex discourse on sexuality and the relationship between sexuality cultures and subjectivity that we have today…It’s a cultural tradition that offers such a fantastic, fascinating understanding of how subjectivity works and what our relation to our body is…I don’t think psychoanalysis is over.” He then provided examples of ways in which psychoanalysis has infiltrated our everyday discourse, like how often we use its terms such as “symptom,” “fetish,” “neurosis,” etc. All of these are reasons why even students not in Germanic or Gender Studies would benefit from this course, so I would encourage all students to quench their curiosity and take it!