Beyond the Binary in Science and the Arts

Fall 2015 quarter

Taught by

American studies
ecology, vertebrate biology

This program will explore issues of identity and our tendency to see the world in binary (that is, "either/or") terms. We all rely, in varying degrees, on certain categories and labels to help us understand ourselves and our environment. What if those categories blurred or merged and we began to see plants, animals, and people in “and/both” terms rather than “either/or” fashion? What does it mean to be “black and white” or “male and female” or “human and machine”? One of the goals of this program is to expose flaws in binary forms of thinking and analysis and, in the process, help students question the very foundations of what is considered normal in our world.

The sciences, the arts, and popular culture will be our primary investigative tools. Topics for exploration will include race, biology, and genetics; the fusion of human and machine (cyborgs, artificial intelligence, implants, and prostheses); diversity, gender, and sexuality in nature (for example, marine invertebrates that have both male and female sex organs or transgender expression among hummingbirds); how mixed-race and transgender identities help challenge the mythologies of race and gender; and what cinematic representations of vampires, monsters, and aliens can teach us about the meanings of "human" and other topics.

Our learning goals will include development of analytical/critical thinking, reading, and writing skills; communication skills; and the ability to work across disciplines and differences. Weekly activities will include lectures/presentations, labs, workshops, film screenings, and seminars. Students will be required to submit weekly lab reports and seminar assignments, maintain an Identity Journal, and produce and present a final project.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

biology, evolutionary biology, the humanities, and environmental studies.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Freshmen–Sophomore; 50% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 40


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10181
So (16 credits): 10182
(1-16 credits): 10501

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