California Cultures Initiative Awards Three Course Development Grants

Violence and civility, immigration and home, conflict and community…these tensions shape California. Three new and revamped courses will help UC Davis undergrads to better understand this complex state thanks to course development grants awarded by the California Cultures Initiative (CCI).

The three grants were awarded to Professor Naomi Janowitz in Religious Studies, Associate Professor Robyn Magalit Rodriguez in Asian American Studies, and Assistant Professor Cecilia M. Tsu in the Department of History.

Janowitz plans to teach a new course titled Reading War/Fighting War in collaboration with Joseph Harvey of the Military Science ROTC program. The course facilitates a dialogue between two of the central “microclimates” within California—the UC campuses and military bases. Janowitz and Harvey hope to connect students unfamiliar with experiences of war with the veterans among our campus populations.

According to Janowitz, these encounters will facilitate critical and civil discussion about the challenges facing America in a time of war. Readings on war and peace, such as the Iliad and the Bible, will be juxtaposed with presentations by current members of the armed forces. To reach as many people as possible, Janowitz will invite the campus community to join the 300-person class for special lectures of interest.

Rodriguez’s class, Immigrant Routes/Roots: Comparative Explorations of California’s Immigrant Communities, examines how migration shapes Californian and American identity. The course examines how immigrants from the Philippines and Mexico share similar histories of immigration and labor struggles that create new Californian communities and identities.

“Having grown up in a long-time Filipino and Mexican immigrant community, I’ve experienced the intimacies between these communities first hand and given the dynamics of immigration in this state, I imagine many of my students have similar experiences” said Rodriguez, adding that she believes students engage a topic more deeply when they can find a connection to it.

Already an established undergraduate offering, California History will have a new feel this year, thanks to the work of Tsu. The redesigned course will take advantage of the latest research on the history of race relations and visual culture in California. New studies of race and ethnicity highlight the complex history of California.

Tsu explained that this additional material moves beyond the traditional white-nonwhite framework to consider the historical interactions among minority groups. Students will also analyze documentary photographs, films, and other art forms such as Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother.”

“Students find these images striking and compelling, and often want to know more details about the people in the photos and Lange’s point of view,” said Tsu. “Knowing the context of the photograph enriches students’ understanding of California history in this time period and challenges them to explore motivations behind the production of visual culture, rather than just accepting images at face value.”

An endowed program administered by the UC Davis Humanities Institute, CCI seeks to enhance the connection of humanities research and scholars at UC Davis to their surrounding region, defined broadly to include areas or sites within the state, as well as state-wide geographies and broader regional understandings.