Other Courses

Fall 2020

Asian American Studies W20AC: Asian American Communities and Race Relations

This course will be a survey of contemporary issues affecting the Asian American community. We will look at the different theories that explain the current status of Asian Americans and the interrelationship between the Asian American community, nation, and world. The course will focus on the issue of race relations, the commonalities and differences between Asian Americans and other race and ethnic groups.

Instructor: Harvey Dong

Asian American Studies 125: History, Memory and Citizenship: Key Issues in Southeast Asian Migration and Community Formation in the US

Over four decades after their resettlement, the Southeast Asian (SEAn) refugee communities (defined here as populations that were resettled in the US in the aftermath of what is commonly known as the “Vietnam War”) have grown significantly, registering both advances as well as persisting challenges.  While Southeast Asian achievements are noteworthy, many communities remain marginalized and underserved.


This course introduces students to critical issues in the Southeast Asian American communities.  While attentive to the challenges that include transgenerational trauma, educational impediment, poverty and other forms of social vulnerability, the course also underscores the agency and resilience of SEAn families and communities as they work to rebuild lives, institutions, and cultural practices, and contribute to the socio-economic, cultural, and political vibrancy of the US. 

Instructor: Khatharya Um

College Writing R1A, section 4: Cross-Cultural Conversations

Cross-cultural conversations are more important than ever. National radio journalist Celeste Headlee calls conversation "a survival skill" that requires exercise and intention (We Need To Talk 3). We practice listening actively and developing skills to understand those around us and their diverse cultural backgrounds. We watch TED Talks like "The Danger of a Single Story" by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and we study how to engage with others whose cultures differ from our own, increasing our Cultural Intelligence (CQ). We also read amazing fiction like the novel Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, the 2020 selection for On the Same Page, our campus-wide book-in-common program. Shortlisted for the 2017 Booker prize, Exit West is an inventive and timely love story about two migrants who are forced to flee their homes and navigate utterly new terrains, geographical, cultural, and emotional. We also read amazing nonfiction like Reyna Grande's memoir The Distance Between Us that can help us “overcome identity politics,” as novelist Elif Shafak observes. Our course material also includes riveting documentaries and other credible, relevant, well-written articles that can help us see where our own cultural biases lie. In short, we expand our worlds as we write excellent papers, too. 

Instructor: Carmen Acevedo Butcher

College Writing R1A, section 7: Freedom: Moving Between Worlds

In this multilingual-designated section, all students will self-identify as bilingual and bring that asset to our discussions of the complexities of language and the writing process.  

As you develop your voice as a writer in this intensive reading and writing course, you will explore the course theme of freedom: moving between worlds in personal, political, and legal spheres.  You will read about immigration and the civil rights movement.  You will engage with texts from various genres, including speech, non-fiction, short story, photography, and scholarly articles, as well as write in diverse genres--including text analysis, opinion editorial, and narrative.  And you will publish your writing in different formats as well!

Book List:

Mohsin Hamid's Exit West (On the Same Page)

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" Speech

John Lewis' March: Book 2 (with Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

Instructor: Michelle Baptiste

College Writing R1A, section 11: The Pen and the Sword: Violence, Education, and Identity

Every time a mass shooting occurs, it shocks all over again. Those at schools seem particularly disturbing. We start asking why? How might it have been avoided? How can we stop this from happening again? And yet, it continues to happen. Violence is everywhere in our culture, from state-sponsored wars to domestic abuse to video games and films and, of course, mass shootings. For this course, we’ll focus on some explorations of the causes of violence and some of its representations, with an emphasis on youth and violence—why shoot at school? Why join a gang? How does violence at home affect people? How might other social factors, such as class and gender, affect violence? While I don’t expect us to answer these questions fully, and I know there are many answers to them, I hope that these texts will provide a rich array of issues for exploration in ways you might also adapt to some of your own interests. While violence is the theme of the course, the focus is on your writing. Sources include , Benjamin Percy's "Refresh, Refresh," Moshin Hamid's, Exit West, and Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, among others.

Instructor: Kim Freeman

College Writing R1A, section 15: Connections

Around the world, COVID-19 has fundamentally reshaped the way that people connect with one another. Inspired by the 2020 Berkeley Summer Reading List, the theme for this year's course is connections. Our class will examine this theme in different contemporary texts, taking a global approach to the question of what it means to have a connection with a person or a group, the things that hold us together, and the things that keep us apart. The greater purpose of this class is to introduce practical methods for reading “texts” (print, visual, auditory, social, etc.) and writing to engage with the dynamic issues they raise. Working in and with a variety of genres, modes, and styles, students will be asked to read and think deeply and carefully, and to practice both formal and informal writing through sustained engagement with the revision process.

Instructor: Ben Spanbock

College Writing R1A, section 10: Traveling Identities: Migration, Culture, and Belonging

We could say that movement defines us. In this course, we will consider the question, what does it mean to belong and how do migration, travel, and immigration not only foster but also perhaps complicate a sense of belonging? We will read a variety of fiction and non-fiction, beginning with Exit West, a compelling narrative by British Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid and the 2020 selection for On the Same Page, CAL’s campus-wide book-in-common program.

We will end our class with a visual analysis (film) unit. Potential selections might include Marvel’s Black Panther, Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, or Marc Forster’s World War Z, among others.

Instructor: Lindsey Lanfersieck

Ethnic Studies 240: Bodies in Motion: Theories, Concepts and Issues in Critical Refugee, Diaspora and Transnational Studies

With prevailing conflicts, increased globalization, poor governance, and other dislocating conditions in the world system, millions of people are on the move, displaced by war, failing economies, environmental destruction, and the desire for betterment.  Exit from the homeland, anticipated or unanticipated, however does not necessarily ensure successful resettlement or re-integration.  Many of the world’s forced migrants languish in temporary camps, are repeatedly displaced, or repatriated back to their homelands.  Further challenging the assumed linearity of the migration process are migrant efforts and desire to maintain their presence in, and connections to multiple places.  These transnational ties present both opportunities and challenges for the globally displaced.


This course provides students with a foundational understanding of and critical engagement with key theories, concepts, issues, and debates in critical refugee, diaspora, and transnational studies.  Framed by migration and post-resettlement experiences of migrant communities in different parts of the world, it interrogates fundamental questions salient to global migration such as the causes and effects of displacement, state policies and migrant responses, impetuses for transnational ties, and diasporic longing, remembering, and “return.”  Our intellectual concerns are informed by, but are not limited to the following: 


  1. Why do people move?
  2. Who can move?
  3. What compels “return,” be it actual or metaphysical?
  4. What is the role of the state in this post- and trans- national era?
  5. What are migrant responses to the conditions that they face?
  6. Are concepts such as “diaspora” and “transnational” useful in helping us better understand the embedded nuances of the migration experience?



Instructor: Khatharya Um

French 43: Arts of the Border: Visions of Migration in Film, Photography and Fiction

In this course we will follow the journeys of refugees attempting to cross borders into Europe. Using contemporary film, fiction, photography, the press, virtual reality platforms and other experimental forms of visual art, we will explore the experiences and stories of those on the move. How are people fleeing violence trapped by land and sea borders? How do they confront and challenge these borders? How do their attempts to cross borders invent new ways of thinking about place and belonging? How is our view of the “refugee crisis” and the “immigrant threat” shaped by imagery in the media? How might artworks change these visions? Some but not all of the works we will study are from the French-speaking world. Readings include Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, UC Berkeley’s featured book for On the Same Page (free copies for Fall 2020 Freshmen). Course offered in English. Knowledge of French not required.

Instructor: Debarati Sanyal

Near Eastern Studies 190E: Reel Arabs: Film and Fiction in the Middle East

This course introduces students to key themes in modern Arab culture through film and fiction. Within an analytical framework, students will read texts and watch films by Arab authors and filmmakers that engage questions of desire, gender, Islam, colonialism, borders, refugees, and revolution. The course also offers an overview of key historical events in the modern Middle East, and provides a variety of analytical tools that introduce the students to the disciplines of film studies and literary criticism. Knowledge of Arabic not required. 

Instructors: Ahmad Diab

Sociology C146M/Legal Studies C134: Migration and Membership

In this course we will explore questions about migration and membership in the contemporary world by drawing on empirical and normative perspectives.

The first half of the course will focus on membership. How should we conceive of membership—as a formal legal status (e.g., citizenship status), entitlement to a set of rights, active participation in self-governance, an identity, or something else? What is the relationship between membership and class, race, and gender? What rights have historically been associated with citizenship status, and what rights have been extended to noncitizens living in a country?

The second half of the course will focus on migration. Why do people migrate across international borders? Should people be allowed to migrate across borders? States exert control over migration but what, if anything, justifies this control? What is the impact of migration on sending countries, receiving countries, and the migrants themselves? How do we understand the politics of immigration? What kinds of immigration policies should democracies pursue?

Instructors: Irene Bloemraad and Sarah Song

South Asian 240: The Realist Novel in South and Southeast Asia

This course looks at the histories and the contexts of the realist novel through a comparative literary focus on South and South East Asia. By examining novels produced in both South and South East Asia from the 1900’s to the present, this course will look at how the writers in these regions deployed realism in complex and innovative ways to represent ideas of the individual and the collective.

Instructor: Vasugi Kailasam

Spring 2020

Humanities 10: Borders and Belonging: Reading Refugees through Law, Literature, and Film

What makes someone a refugee? How do people inhabit placelessness? What kinds of lives can refugees build, what kinds of communities can they forge, even when they are in exile, in transit, or in detention? In this course, we will read and discuss legal and political texts on refugees and their rights, and we will closely analyze literature, photography, and cinema representing refugee experience. We will consider the status of the refugee in relation to that of the citizen and will work to understand how refugees' lives are shaped by both humanitarian impulses and security-driven practices of surveillance and control.  In the face of often dehumanizing treatment, how do refugees tell their own stories, and on what terms?  Authors will include, among others, Hannah Arendt, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Sylvain George.

Instructors: Karl Britto, Samera Esmeir, and Debarati Sanyal