ENVI 208
Saharan Imaginations Fall 2023
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed ARAB 209 / COMP 234
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Deconstructing reductive Saharanism, which the course conceptualizes as a universalizing discourse about deserts, this course seeks to critically examine the myriad assumptions that are projected upon deserts across times and cultures. In addition to their depiction as dead and empty, deserts have become a canvas for the demonstration of religiosity, resilience, heroism and athleticism. Cultural production, particularly literature and film, do, however, furnish a critical space in which important questions can be raised about deserts’ fundamental importance to different cultures and societies. Drawing on novels, films, and secondary scholarship, the course will help students understand how myth, memory, history, coloniality/postcoloniality, and a strong sense of ethics are deeply intertwined in the desert sub-genre of African, Euro-American, and Middle Eastern literatures. Whether grappling with transcontinental issues of climate change, cannibalization of biodiversity or overexploitation of natural resources, desert-focused cultural production invites us to interrogate the politics of space and place as well as mobility and spatial control as they relate to this supposedly dead nature.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 14
Expected: 14
Class#: 1173
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation, short presentation, short weekly responses on GLOW, midterm exam, and final paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Students are admitted into the course on a first-come-first-serve basis. If the course is over-enrolled, preference will be given to Arabic Studies and Comparative Literature majors and certificates.
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARAB 209 Division I COMP 234 Division I ENVI 208 Division I
WS Notes: Students will receive constant and extensive feedback on their written work. Students will write regular weekly responses on Glow, a reflection statement, two 5pp. papers for midterms, and one 10pp. final paper.
DPE Notes: Students will gain critical awareness of the imbrication of power, hegemony, economic injustice, and colonial policies in the disruption of indigenous conceptions of the Saharan space. Students will also be able to question representations of the Sahara as a dead or empty space by engaging with locally produced alternative conceptualizations of place. Finally, students will produce written assignments that address issues of power and environmental discrimination.
Attributes: ENVI Humanities, Arts + Social Science Electives

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