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American Culture Studies

Topics in American Culture Studies: Biopolitics: Environment, Health, & the Body in American History

American Culture Studies 378 - Spring 2020

What are the politics of bodily health in American life? Recent events such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the protests over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation have focused public attention on the long-standing connections between environmental, racial, and health inequalities in American society. This course will consider the historical roots of such contemporary problems through an examination of the ways in which American environments and bodily health have been materially contested, culturally constructed, and politically debated fromthe earliest encounters between indigenous societies and Europeans in North America up through the twentieth-century U.S. We will explore topics and themes including the biological consequences of the European colonization of the Americas; the creation of racialized regimes of forced labor in tropical, sub-tropical, and hot climates; resource conflicts and warfare in the conquest of the North American continent; the epidemiological crises of the Civil War and Emancipation; disease and early public health legislation in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era; and, the effects of racial and economic inequalities on life expectancies in the modern U.S. Through readings, discussions, and reflective essays, students will gain a critical understanding of the role of what theorists have called "biopolitics" in the creation of modern American society and culture.

Section 01

Topics in American Culture Studies:Biopolitics: Environment, Health, & the Body in American History
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