What Does It Mean to be Modern?
General Catalog Course Title:
Geography 24, Section 1
Terms Offered:
Fall 2015

What does it mean to be modern, or live in a modern society? What distinguishes the modern from the non-modern? How might we think about words like modernity, modernization and modernism? To what do they refer and what are their origins? This seminar will explore these questions by reading some key texts by a variety of intellectuals and thinkers who have explored the various and complex meanings of being modern and the fundamental contours of modern life. We shall read works by Karl Marx, Hanna Arendt, Charles Baudelaire, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber and others who help us explore what stands at the heart of modernity and being modern. We will also attend exhibits and performances on campus and discuss modernism as it is expressed in the visual and performing arts. Bright, eclectic and motivated students with any background or interest who have an interest in exploring challenging ideas and in reading a wide variety of materials, often of a philosophical orientation. This is a Creating Change Theme Seminar. This seminar is a Berkeley Arts Seminar. Admission to the on-campus arts events included in this course will be provided at no cost to students.

Michael Watts is Class of '63 Professor of Geography and Development Studies. A Guggenheim Fellow in 2003, he served as the Director of the Institute of International Studies from 1994-2004. His research has addressed a number of development issues, especially food and energy security, rural development, and land reform in Africa, South Asia and Vietnam. Over the last twenty years he has written extensively on the oil industry in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. Watts has served as a consultant to the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and a number of NGOs and foundations. Watts is currently the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Social Science Research Council and serves on a number of Boards of non-profit organizations including the Pacific Institute.

Shaina Potts is a doctoral student completing her PHD in Geography. She was trained in History and Philosophy at UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and is currently completing a dissertation on the rise of the dominant role of finance in US capitalism and exploring the dynamics of the global financial crisis in 2008-2009.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.