2017-2018 Topic

We live in contradictory times. On the one hand, humanity is probably less violent and more prosperous than at any time in human history. Technological innovation is reducing risks of all kinds, people are living longer than ever, and diseases once thought unconquerable have all but been eradicated. On the other hand, security is uneven around the world, extremely precarious for many, and increasingly so for the whole planet. From civil strife and terrorism, to cyberthreat and fake news, the devastating effects of climate change and the potential for deadly pandemics, we face new challenges to creating and sustaining secure environments for its citizens.

What does it mean to be secure? What do you think most people care about with respect to security? Do you feel secure? If we can identify a common sense of human security, how do we think about sustaining that security over a lifetime? How do we contend with persistent ideological insistence that some people are more deserving of security (in all its meanings) than others?

This course explores risks in the modern world and efforts to ameliorate them in sustainable fashion. We will hear from environmental scientists, geographers, psychologists, sociologists, economists and political scientists and we will read a wide range of research related to these issues. The books I have chosen reflect central issues that underlie the theme of this course: when and why people act collectively in their interests (Meeting at Grand Central); how a focus on sustainable security from violence can produce a more secure world for everyone (Until We Reckon); and the challenges of maintaining empathy for the suffering of others in the context of mass media [and social media] (Regarding the Pain of Others).

The course is divided into four modules, each of which address different issues of security and sustainability: war and migration; collective action and social welfare; neighborhoods, crime, and health; and environmental risks and climate change.