World Society Area Goals

GenEd World Society courses explore societies and cultures outside of the United States.  These courses take one of two approaches.  Some concentrate on a single nation or region, examining in depth its political, social, historical, cultural, artistic, literary, geographic, and/or economic landscape. Others investigate globalization and its effects across nations and regions.

World Society courses are intended to teach students how to:

  • Understand the influences (e.g political, social, historical, cultural, artistic, literary, geographic, economic) on world societies or processes (e.g. globalization) linking world societies;
  • Access and analyze materials related to world societies and cultures;
  • Develop observations and conclusions about selected themes in world societies and cultures;
  • Construct interpretations using evidence and critical analysis; and
  • Communicate and defend interpretations.


Advertising & Globalization

ADVERTISING 0853, 0953
Explore the current global scope and reach of advertising in our connected, digital age. Study major interdisciplinary themes related to the spread of consumerism, self and social identity, global consciousness, and cross-cultural effects as a result of the worldwide spread of advertising as part of the free market system. Particular attention is given to cross-cultural issues related to cultural imperialism, legal and societal constraints, ethical questions, universal values and green marketing. Course work includes comprehensive survey of print and broadcast advertising found in other countries.

Border Crossings: Gendered Dimensions of Globalization

Explore the ways in which gender “works” in different cultural and national contexts, and the impact globalization has on gender relations. “Gender” indicates the ways in which our social lives are organized around categories of male and female – in relation to work, family, sexuality, culture, and nation. “Globalization” describes the transfer of economic and cultural goods between nations and peoples. Questions we will ask include: What is globalization and how do women and men experience it differently? Do women and men work the same jobs in the global labor market, and do they get paid the same wages? How does immigration affect families? Does a growing connectedness between cultures and nations change traditional gender roles? How different are experiences of women in the “Third World” from those of women in the “First World,” and why? Investigate these issues together by reading critical writings as well as Internet blogs, watching films/documentaries, and analyzing popular media.

Confronting Empire: Voices of Resistance

This course introduces some key themes and topics in the study of modern imperialism as well its principal contestants. Carried by a variety of texts and narratives (cinematic included), we will range across the globe (especially the Americas) to explore ideas, activities and institutions that have enabled as well as disabled struggles over the “civilization” promised in the names of empires since the late 18th century. In reconsidering these contests over the legitimacy and terms of government, we pay particular attention to the historical emergence of concepts like “decolonization,” “dependency,” the “Third World” and “Postcolonialism.” These notions, we emphasize, have had great historic significance not only in the “backward” areas of the globe allotted to colonial rule, but also in “advanced” metropoles where colonial investments tend to become exoticized. In this way, our course aspires to comprehend something of world history.

The Detective Novel

The detective novel remains the most popular of literary forms since its American origins in Edgar Allan Poe. The form has spread to virtually every part of the world, taking on different perspectives in the different societies where it has prospered.  Our course analyzes the global travels of this prolific literary genre, paying particular attention to the manner in which its formula of crime-detection-resolution has evolved from its classic phase in the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, to its hard-boiled phase in the 1940’s US, to the transformation of the private detective working outside the formal apparatus of the law into the police detective working within the law in places as different as Sweden, Holland, Nigeria, and India.  We will read bestselling detective novels by figures such as Emile Gaboriau, Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Jorge Borges (Argentina), Vikram Chandra (India), Henning Mankell (Sweden), Janwillem van de Wetering (Holland), Kole Omotosho (Nigeria), and Soji Shimada (Japan).  We will pay special attention to the conventions of the form and analyze its evolution as it travels the world.  In exploring its global travels, we will attend to a number of issues, including: the changing definition of crime; the evolving representation of the criminal; the changing methods for “solving” the crime; the ideology of justice the conflicts between community and individuality; and the varying social and national anxieties that the form reveals

Development and Globalization

Use historical and case study methods to study the differences between rich and poor nations and the varied strategies available for development in a globalizing world. Examine the challenges facing developing countries in historical and contemporary context and analyze the main social, cultural, and political factors that interact with the dynamic forces of the world economy. These include imperialism/colonialism, state formation, labor migration, demographic trends, gender issues in development, religious movements and nationalism, the challenges to national sovereignty, waves of democratization, culture and mass media, struggles for human rights, environmental sustainability, the advantages and disadvantages of globalization, and movements of resistance.

Education for Liberation

This course explores educational issues in urban America and indigenous educational traditions in the “Third World.” The course focuses on the connections between education and politics, cultural diversity and economics, and the existence and persistence of poverty in developing nations. Students will critically analyze international films, course readings, and presentations from guest speakers. Culturally responsive, post-modern, and comparative approaches are used to investigate the impact of culture, poverty and development, and the goals of education in each societal context.

Evolution of Culture

The roots of many contemporary cultures around the globe reach deep into human history. This course examines the evolution of these cultures through the use of paleo-anthropological and archaeological data ranging from 2.5 million years ago through the beginnings of written history. Topics include the initial emergence and development of culture, the growth and expansion of human populations, the origins and dispersals of food production (particularly agriculture) and the rise and collapse of early civilizations. In addition we will examine the persistence of hunter-gatherers and other small-scale societies into the 19th and 20th centuries using ethnological data as well as the lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of early civilizations for predicting the future of the modern world.

Gender in World Societies

Learn about the history of feminine and masculine gender roles from comparative and international perspectives. Using case studies from Ancient Greece, Medieval Europe, West Africa, Victorian Britain, Modern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and/or Latin America, we will explore certain a themes–The State, The Sacred, Work, The Family, The Body and Sexuality, Modern Revolutionary Movements—to investigate how gender and gender roles have changed over time, and their significance today. Readings include primary sources written both by men and by women, secondary sources, novels, and films.

Global Cities

As globalization accelerates, the world becomes smaller, and is transformed to an extended urban network. Even though there are places and people off the global grid in both rich and poor countries, we live in a single, interdependent urban world. This course seeks to understand this urban world. We ask questions like: How do changes in the global economy affect the lives of people from Cairo to Chicago? As 50 million people per year move into cities around the world how do those cities change? How will the massive rural to urban migration in China and India affect resources and the global environment? What is life like in cities for the majority of the world’s poor? What types of plans and policies could improve cities in this century? Are wages in Philadelphia being influenced by what happens in Beijing and Bangalore? The answers will come from a wide range of perspectives, from geographers, urban planners, sociologists, and economists.

The Global Crisis: Power, Politics and the Making of our Times

Are we living in a time of global crisis? This course will provide you with the tools you need to find out. This class focuses on world politics over the past century, up to today. In this class, we will examine a number of key global problems as they have changed over time. We will adopt an historical approach, which means we will read texts and documents about the past as a way to understand the present. Together we will explore debates like: is America an empire? What is ideology and is it a factor in world politics today? What role do diplomacy, strategy, and military power play in world affairs? How have non-western peoples and states challenged the power of the West, and with what results? What are the roots of ethnic and religious conflict? And what can we as citizens do to address truly global problems? Drawing on examples from 20th Century world history, this course introduces you to world politics and the great debates of our time.

Global Slavery

Investigate global slavery as an historic phenomenon and a current reality. How is it that after the great emancipation movements of the 19th century and the International Geneva Convention (1926) outlawing slavery there are still 27 million slaves and counting? This course argues that any critique of globalization requires an understanding of why it has taken several millennia for anti-slavery law to emerge and why such legislation continues to have limited reach and effectiveness. It argues that there is no modernity and no globalization without slavery. Explore this problem by asking a basic question: By what techniques, abstract and concrete, do masters make themselves as visible by constructing slaves as invisible? With film viewings, carefully selected readings, debates and group projects, you will be led to make your own connections to these themes, and to consider global slavery as part of the past and the present.

Imaginary Cities

FILM & MEDIA ARTS 0869, 0969
Filmmaking is an overwhelmingly urban phenomenon. This class will take you to cities around the world, examining how international cinema has richly depicted and interpreted urban life during the last hundred years. As you respond to film clips, readings, lectures and lively discussions about the increasingly urbanized face of world societies, you will study films texts, and research the contexts in which they were produced and consumed. In a semester-long project you will research and interpret how urban experience is depicted and explored in a specific film or film series.

Latin American Media

From the music of J-Lo and Skakira to the style of the TV show Ugly Betty to Bart Simpson’s bad Spanish (no problemo!), Latin American influences are increasingly evident in U.S. media and culture. The influence goes both ways: U.S. media and culture have had great impact in Latin America. This class focuses on Latin American media as key institutions within the region and also as they interact with the United States. Media systems are so intertwined with society that understanding them requires understanding where they come from, so we will look at Latin America itself first–where is it? what are its characteristics? The class will then examine Latin American media and the ways that Latin American people have reacted to U.S. influence. We will also explore the growing presence of Latino media in the U.S. and in Philadelphia.

Latino Immigration

This course will explore the regulations enacted in Hazelton (followed by those enacted in Arizona, Georgia and other states) that aimed to curb illegal immigration and the reasons for their enactment. It will look into immigration law, the history behind it as well as the emotional and economic impulses that drive it. To understand the complexity of the subject, we will broaden the studies from the local through the cultural and to the global.

Law Beyond Borders

LAWU 0875
Law beyond Borders examines how law impacts world affairs and, in turn, how world affairs impact our understanding of law. We will examine high-profile and controversial current events ranging from U.S. cyber-operations in Iran to the Syrian civil war, asking what international law is, how it works, and how well it does so. We ask what makes a nation State and what powers it has. We’ll explore why and how states collaborate on issues of mutual concern and resolve their differences. We will survey the human rights revolution and the international responses to globalization, including efforts to regulate international environmental issues and international trade. The course will be taught using law school teaching methods plus three experiential exercises where students will debate Palestinian Statehood, argue a case before the International Court of Justice that arises out of war-time atrocities, and discuss potential responses to ISIS. The class will give students the tools to know what international law “is” and to assess its ability to promote justice in an increasingly globalized world. Just as importantly, this course will enhance students’ critical reasoning and writing skills, and their ability to create – and critique – different styles of argument.

Philadelphia Dance Experience

DANCE 0827
Open your eyes to the wealth of culture right at your doorstep. Deepen your appreciation of dance and become an educated audience member about the various styles and layers of meaning present in any one dance. We will attend several live performances, looking at dance from a cultural studies perspective, focusing specifically on European, African, Asian, and Latin influences in the city of Philadelphia. We will be interacting with guest artists and lecturers, observing performances on video, and engaging in guided viewing exercises. Dance concerts are selected from a variety of styles, including classical and contemporary forms from around the world.

Religion in the World

Learn about the major religious traditions found worldwide today: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and several indigenous traditions. Examine the beliefs, practices, and values of these groups in order to understand the worldviews and ways of life of the people who practice them. Our interdisciplinary analysis and interpretation of specific examples of religious experience will help shed light on the overall meaning of religion and human existence. We will carefully consider examples while also focusing on particular thematic issues, like cosmology and ritual. Develop appreciation for the religious vibrancy and diversity that exist in human cultures while you actively engage in the learning process through class presentation, class participation, paper-writing, and a self-selected field trip.

Turning Points: Ancient World Turning Points: Modern World

HISTORY 0871                                           HISTORY 0872
Explore ten of the most significant transformations in human life, from the time we evolved into Homo sapiens to the 21st century. Take either one or both of this two-course sequence. The first course looks at the period from 4 million BCE to about 1500 CE; the second from about 1200 CE to the present. Taking a whole world perspective, each asks how we have become who we are, through our global history. We compare among societies to foster analysis; we look at interaction among societies to foster synthesis. We will analyze primary documents to understand the people of each time period and their issues; and at secondary documents to understand how later commentators and scholars understood and interpreted them. You will write five essays in each of these courses to demonstrate the knowledge you have gained and the skills you have mastered.

War & Peace

Total war, weapons of mass destruction, genocide. These were not solely inventions of the twentieth century nor are they the natural consequences of a violent human nature. Leaders, armies, and the strategies they pursue are rooted in their social and political context. Weapons are the products of not merely technological but also historical and cultural development. Battles occur on a political and historical terrain. Learn how ancient ideology, medieval technology, modern propaganda, and more have changed how humans wage war and make peace.

World Affairs

We live in a global age when events beyond our borders significantly affect our lives. Sharpen your understanding of international developments, including wars, economic globalization, wealth and poverty, the spread of democracy, environmental degradation, and global pandemics. This course offers an introduction to the study of world affairs that gives you the conceptual tools to deepen your understanding of how major historical and current trends in the world affect your life and that of others around the globe. Readings include historical documents, classic texts in the study of international relations, and current perspectives on the state of the world from multiple disciplinary perspectives.

World Performances

THEATER 0852, 0952
Dance, puppetry, theater, opera; these are performance forms that are part of the cultures of the world. From the earliest religious rituals to modern interpretations of ancient traditions, performances are as varied and diverse as the cultures from which they arise. You are probably familiar with performances arising from western cultures, but the Noh Drama of Japan, the Water Puppetry of Viet Nam, the Koothu Patari folk performances of India, the Bejing Opera in China, the Caoperia Martial Arts performances of Brazil–these might be new to you. Explore world performances through live class presentations, lectures, video and attendance at international performances in Philadelphia. You might also have the chance to perform yourself!

World Regions and Cultures: Diversity & Interconnections

How does the process of globalization impact people in different culture regions? Explore this central question through readings, discussions, mapping exercises, field trips to Philadelphia sites and special events that celebrate the international flavor of the city. Focusing on four regions, we will learn how people cope with environmental problems like desertification, population growth, rapid migration to cities, and ethnic and religious clashes. We will investigate why some areas are mired in poverty and violence while others experience a growing economy and peaceful politics. For each region we will read case studies illustrating both cultural continuity and change.

World Society in Literature & Film

ARABIC 0868, 0968, ASIAN STUDIES 0868, CHINESE 0868, 0968, ENGLISH 0868, 0968 FRENCH 0868, 0968, GERMAN 0868, 0968, HEBREW 0868, ITALIAN 0868, 0968, JAPANESE 0868, 0968, JEWISH STUDIES 0868, KOREAN 0868, LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES 0868, 0968, POLITICAL SCIENCE 0868, RUSSIAN 0868, 0968, SPANISH 0868, 0968
Learn about a particular national culture—Russian, Indian, French, Japanese, Italian, for example, each focused upon in separate sections of this course—by taking a guided tour of its literature and film. You don’t need to speak Russian, Hindu, French or Japanese to take one of these exciting courses, and you will gain the fresh, subtle understanding that comes from integrating across different forms of human expression. Some of the issues that will be illuminated by looking at culture through the lens of literature and film: Family structures and how they are changing, national self-perceptions, pivotal moments in history, economic issues, social change and diversity.