March 24, 2020
Kenyon is suspending its residential program and transitioning to remote instruction. Read more about Kenyon's response to COVID-19.
"We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it." —Stephen Hawking
We are living in a time of consequences. Gone are the days when we can talk about sustainability, about maintaining the status quo. Change is happening, fast. We need a plan on how to cope with this change, we need resilience. Kenyon is located in Knox County, a rural county that has worked to maintain its rural character. This initiative examines Knox County as a resilient community and seeks to connect us to other rural communities, both contemporary and historical.
Each of these courses addresses themes relevant to rural resilience. In some cases, the subject matter is central to the entire course; in others, it represents a distinct unit. Please refer to the brief description accompanying each listing, which notes the particular topics examined in the course. Complete course descriptions may be found in the listings for each department or program. For additional information, please contact the relevant faculty member. Independent study and summer research offer additional opportunities for academic work.
This course introduces students to the discipline that studies and compares other cultures. Students learn about the main concepts used in anthropology and how anthropologists conduct research, while also discovering how people live in other times and places. Students will learn about theories that provide
frameworks for understanding and comparing cultures. Ethnographic descriptions of life in particular places give students factual materials with which to apply and critique such theories. Through this introduction to the study of culture in general, and an exposure to specific cultures, students inevitably come to re-examine some of the premises of their own culture. This foundation course is required for upper-level work in cultural anthropology courses. As the culmination of this course, students will design an ethnography investigating the use of space and place among “The Noynek” (which is “Kenyon” spelled backwards). In particular, they will describe and delineate their “mental maps” of the Kenyon campus by focusing on one of five domains: academics, social life, food, exercise, and safe spaces. They will create interactive maps utilizing GIS software to demarcate social zones according to the variables of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.
This seminar examines the meaning and significance of connection to place through an intensive investigation of Knox County. We will spend much of our time in the surrounding locale, exploring the landscape and interacting with individuals knowledgeable about community life. Complementing these field experiences, scholarship in the arts, humanities, and sciences will address how natural, economic, social, and cultural conditions inform rural character and personal identity. We will conclude our studies by creating a public project designed to share what we have learned. Taken together, these activities will illustrate the distinctive perspective and power of a liberal education.
Can headstones, monuments, cemetery locations, and grave layouts illuminate the intersections of gender, race, politics, economics, and ideology in the past? How does archaeology, with its focus on physical remains, teach us about the lived experience of men and women? What can students learn about place by interacting with community? In this class, students will consider the cemetery as a physical site for humanistic and scientific inquiry. The cemetery provides an excellent site to begin a conversation about the relationships between the scientific study of sex difference and feminist theories of gender difference. Specifically we will focus on what we can learn about gender from studying cemeteries, bringing feminist theory and methods to bear on bioarchaeological methodologies and vice versa. Cemeteries are archives from which we can learn about mourning and mourning rituals, status, ideologies about death, the position of individuals, families, communities and historical demography in local contexts. We can also glean information about religion, professions, associations, and individual and communal values. We will use our location in Knox County as an anchoring site for a study of local history through physical and discursive remains. The Oak Hill cemetery is within walking distance of Kenyon College will serve as local field site.
Humans often take for granted the spaces and places that frame our everyday lives. In this course we will “make the familiar strange” by asking: why do most Americans live in square spaces? What would it be like to live in a cave? Can houses be spiritual places? In order to address these and other questions, we will explore how human habitats provide the very foundations of cultural practice and reproduction. This course takes a long- term perspective of humans and their habitats by starting our investigation in prehistory. Over the course of the semester we will explore social landscapes, dwellings, and environments across different cultures, time, and space. Our survey will include contemporary habitats as well as ancient dwellings and a consideration of sacred structures such as shrines and temples. This course emphasizes the form and meaning of architecture, its role in cultural formation processes, and explores long-term changes in how humans relate to their habitats and dwellings. As the material manifestations of culture and the building blocks of societies, having a place to dwell recursively makes us human while shaping us into bearers of culture.
After fall break (roughly week 8), the course will focus on examining rural resilience through the lens of the rural built environment. In particular, we will examine the vernacular architecture of Knox County—its common buildings—to learn about how this rural community has developed and changed over time. By looking at its buildings and landscapes, students will develop a critical appreciation for local space and place. To do this, we will read literature from folklore, archaeology, and vernacular architecture
studies, incorporating themes such as: an analysis of midwestern farmhouses, African-American folk architecture, civic architecture, and agricultural and industrial spaces. To provide points of contrast to the close examination of the rural built environment, we will also read about the experiences of people who do not have a physical home (i.e., refugees and the homeless), as well as those of people who live in urban places.
The course will start at the Brown Family Environmental Center to set the tone for our semester-long discussion of rural space and place. In addition, there will be several field trips, including a social analysis of architecture in Gambier, a walking tour of downtown Mount Vernon, and a visit to Ariel Foundation Park in Mount Vernon.
The final course project is a collaboration between students and the Knox County Historic Register, a subcommittee of the Knox County Landmarks Foundation. The committee has recently developed a county register of historic places, and has asked for research assistance for community members who may want to include their house or property on the register. Students (in pairs) will work with a community member to conduct local research and will base their final paper on this research. The project will provide a unique experience for Kenyon students to connect with local community members and learn about local history, community, and architecture firsthand.
Students in this course investigate the central role food plays in human biology and culture. We will begin by exploring food from an evolutionary and ecological perspective, examining how nutrition varies in subsistence strategies ranging from foraging to industrial societies. Through cross-cultural comparisons, they learn how food utilization and symbolism associated with food is culturally constructed. Finally, utilizing a biocultural perspective we will look at the effects of social, political and economic issues on human nutrition. One important issue in food studies is to show students the ways in which our society have created structures that result in food insecurity. Students will become more familiar with the local rural community and to consider the ways in which local rural community structures impact the ability/inability
of local impoverished peoples to navigate food insecurity.
Misconception stems, in part, from not knowing. This course will use a hybrid “Rural Resilience” model to introduce Kenyon students and the Knox County community to aspects of the portrayal of Arabs in the US. Since part of a resilient rural community is building and maintaining good long-term relationships with others, the course will serve as both a pilot course for the Arabic Program’s engagement with the community and also to serve as a starting point for more similar community engaged courses. The class will be held in the community and the class will host members of the community.
The American news media portrays the Arab world as one of endless political upheaval and repression, with a culture shaped strictly by Islam. This course broadens students' and the community’s understanding of contemporary Arab societies through the study of Arab TV/radio/print/internet news, propaganda and cartoons - from those sanctioned by government-run outlets to those of national-resistance activists, democracy-promoting movements and even jihadists. The news is used in this course to investigate cultural issues, including political authority and decision-making, religion, gender and family dynamics, in Arab societies as well as to explore American-Arab relations. Through a study of the media, students compare
Arab culture as portrayed by American media and American culture as portrayed by the media in Arab world.
The class is conducted in English, with materials in English and Arabic with English subtitles.
This hands-on class investigates artistic, social and ecological aspects of sculpture with emphasis on landscape and place. Artists whose work explores place and who use the language of social-environmental-activism will be discussed. Through presentations and readings, key historical works will be introduced and contextualized within current approaches in contemporary art across cultures. A variety of sculptural traditions will be presented with emphasis placed on identifying and communicating ideas and constructing meaning through the materials employed. Material methods will include but are not limited to wood, metal, plaster, casting processes, acrylic construction, soft sculpture and/or found materials. Individual reflective blogs, group critiques and instructor feedback are included in the course structure. This year I’ve made changes so the course culminates in a module collaborating with the Kenyon Farm. Ryan Hottle will make a class visit to introduce students to permaculture and we will visit the Kenyon Farm to learn about materials and practice. I’ve updated the course to include new readings related to land, ecology, and social ideas of resilience.
This course is designed to introduce students to the concept of government interventions and the consequences resulting from these interventions on the economy. Further, students should be able to apply the econometric and modeling tools from this course to other real world situations that affect communities and surrounding areas.
Since there are direct and indirect consequences of government intervention, we
will devote a significant amount of attention to both empirical research and current policies that affect the Knox County area. Government interventions may have different outcomes and success for various communities and levels of government. For instance, a tax policy that may easily incentivize residents to move within a city may have, in theory, no effect on rural migration once policy makers take into account rural preferences such as family ties, disposable income, and residential duration. Consequently, as topics are covered during lectures, every effort will be made to:
The second semester of the Kenyon Seminar during the year-long Kenyon-Exeter Program is traditionally focused on Literature and Landscape. We spend a semester reading works of mostly English literature, then traveling to sites connected with those works. After Exeter’s month-long spring break in April, we then take our students on a three-week journey through Scotland, Ireland, or Wales; the Lake District; and the Yorkshire Moors, both developing conversations and insights from earlier in the semester and studying additional literary works as we travel. In spring 2019, we will begin our three-week trip in Ireland.
We have redesigned the Literature and Landscape semester to include works that will foreground, even more fully than in previous years, the ways fiction, poetry, and non- fiction prose have shaped ideas about “the rural” and “Nature” in the British Isles. Most importantly for the purposes of this module proposal, we have put the Romantic poetry of William Wordsworth, the children’s tales of Beatrix Potter, and the aesthetic and environmental writing of John Ruskin in conversation with James Rebanks’s "A
Shepherd’s Life" (2015), which will, for most of our 2018-19 Kenyon-Exeter students, constitute a follow-up to Rebanks’s visit to Kenyon in January 2018. We plan to use Rebanks’s interrogation of the literary and cultural construction of “Nature” as a way to ask our students to think critically about questions of rural life and conservation when we visit the Lake District (and possibly even visit Rebanks’s farm). We also expect that our having that unit waiting for us near the end of the semester will give a particular critical turn to our discussions earlier in the semester, especially as we discuss works that openly aestheticize or even render mythical working landscapes across England, from Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset on up to Yorkshire. When we discuss Virginia Woolf’s "To the Lighthouse" (1927) and visit Cornwall in mid-March, we may try either to meet up with Michael Leyshon (whether in person or virtually) or at least to read some of his work on Cornwall’s economic and cultural complexities; this addition to our syllabus would add a critical dimension to our exploration of St. Ives and the landscape that surrounds it.
This course examines contemporary environmental problems, introducing the major concepts pertaining to human interactions with the biosphere. We will explore this interaction at both local and global scales. Course topics include basic principles of ecology (flows of energy, cycling of matter and the role of feedback), the impacts of human technology, the roots of our perceptions about and reactions to nature, the social and legal framework for responding to problems, and economic issues surrounding environmental issues. We will discuss methods for answering questions regarding the consequences of our
actions and, using a systems approach, focus on methods for organizing information to evaluate complex issues. The format of the course will be three-quarters discussion and lecture and one-quarter workshop. The workshops will include field trips, experience with collecting data, and application of systems thinking. One goal in teaching Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENVS 112) is to make the environmental issues of today relevant on a local level. Kenyon’s place in Knox County is not always appreciated or understood by students. We think students will gain a better understanding of environmental problems that are felt world-wide by seeing more clearly the rural aspect of Kenyon College, in particular, and Knox County, in general. To that end, we outline here a number of changes to the ENVS 112 curriculum that will allow our students to get a local perspective on larger environmental issues.
As the first course many students take in the environmental field, ENVS 112 is an excellent vehicle for introducing students to the concept of resilience and its application to community planning. My proposal is to include a week of systems theory early in the course (relevant portions highlighted in red in schedule at end of syllabus). Readings will be technical readings on the basics of systems theory. While I previously did include a section on systems thinking previously, this week will be redesigned to prepare students specifically to focus on the question of resilience later in the course. Following that basic introduction, students will study several natural systems and will see those ideas in context. (This is not new.) After applying systems thinking to natural ecosystems, we will transition to human systems, focus on climate as a principle reason that we need to consider the question of resilience, then we will spend 1½ weeks on sustainability and resilience, comparing and contrasting the two concepts, and exploring the arguments for and against a shift in focus by the environmental community from sustainability to resilience. We will finish the module by considering the application of resilience principles to urban and rural communities.
Doing a documentary is about discovering, being open, learning, and following curiosity. I like the idea of the documentary as a portrait. There's not a chronological beginning, middle, and end structure. You build something in the editing room that's shaped by getting to know the person and digging deeper, unpeeling the layers of them as you get to know them.
The European continent is incredibly diverse: geographically, culturally, economically, ethnically, and politically (to name only the most obvious). Throughout this semester we will explore some of the diversity of the European experience since the end of the eighteenth century. We will look at issues of race, class and gender, as well as violence, poverty, faith, nationalism, urbanization, technology, and art. We will read political proclamations and personal memoirs, watch films and listen to music as we hone your historical knowledge and sensibilities about modern Europe, its peoples and governments. We will examine the fates of a variety of nations, using examples from across the continent. The focus of this course will be on the relationships between the state, civil society, the environment, and the individual. How do these relationships change over time – what makes these relationships “modern”? This semester we will also look at the question of “rural resilience” as we study the modernizing societies of Europe through a series of readings and responses (marked RR). We will cover over 250 years of exciting history in only 14 weeks, so hold onto your hats – we’ll be moving fast, but it will be a wonderful ride!
This course evaluates the ways in which North American peoples (Natives and not) have evolved through corn in terms of population growth and cultural values from pre-Columbian America to the rise of large agribusinesses such as Cargill. Although corn was one of many plants that Mesoamericans initially domesticated, its hardy nature, nutritional bounty, and adaptability to many environments helped it spread
throughout North and South America. As Native peoples domesticated corn, they often abandoned nomadic lifestyles for sedentary ones in order to cultivate their crops and feed their growing communities. Such changes ushered in profound transformations among Native communities as social hierarchies developed, new religious practices and cosmologies evolved, and large urban centers such as Tenochtitlan and Cahokia appeared. Corn's centrality in the lives of North Americans continued even after Europeans, Africans, and Asians arrived during the colonial period. In fact, without corn, efforts by Europeans to colonize North America may have taken an entirely different course or failed altogether. Yet Native peoples helped
European colonists grow corn as part of reciprocal trade relationships, military alliances, or simply to win the loyalty of a convenient ally when European diseases ravaged their communities. Non-Natives quickly relied on the crop as much as Native peoples and it too began to transform European and African worlds. Slavery and the slave trade quickly grew to incorporate corn as an important foodstuff from the west coast of Africa to plantations in the American South. Ohio Valley frontiersmen rebelled against the nascent American republic in the 1790s to protect their corn whiskey that was increasingly threatened by oppressive taxes. Settlers who moved west during the nineteenth century grew corn from Ohio to Colorado and created a market for foodstuffs, machines, and corn-on-the-hoof (cattle and swine) that fueled the development of key urban centers such as Chicago and Kansas City. By the turn of the twentieth century, Americans were not only dependent on corn as a foodstuff, but as a key component of their capitalist, agrarian, and racial identities. Although scholars traditionally speak of native peoples as tying their genesis to corn,
they often neglect to engage the ways in which non-natives did the same.
Myriad uncertainties cloud the energy options on our horizon: Why is the move away from fossil fuels being engineered so slowly, despite consensus on the consequences for the climate? What are the inherent shortcomings of current renewable options, and why are they ignored? This advanced seminar probes these questions through the lenses of environmental sociology, the sociology of science and technology, the sociology of culture and consumerism, political sociology, and the sociology of institutions.
The course conceives of energy broadly and emphasizes the centrality of geography. Rather than focus solely on electricity, it will assess the social and material systems that deplete natural resources at multiple scales using Kenyon, Gambier, Knox County, and Ohio as case studies. These systems include: energy extraction and production, agricultural cultivation and export, and the design of buildings, communities, and transit networks. Together we will learn to understand our region as a dynamic system of energy relationships, and you will model that understanding in completing a final research project on a place of your choice.
The course will engage with four central questions: