Global Studies: Plants and Empire

Fall 2020
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
16 Credits per quarter
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This program reimagines the study of economic botany as interdisciplinary through the use of a historical lens combined with case studies in order to develop a more nuanced view of how various peoples’ use of plants globally are shaped by economic, cultural, legal, and political conditions as well as environmental realities. Taught by a social scientist and a botanist, this program introduces students to key questions about how gender, race, and class shape our relations with the natural world. Using commodities histories, students explore how these relationships are both socially constructed and shaped by the limits as well as the possibilities for commodification that plants present. Our focal point will be on plantation economies beginning in the 17th century to current day. World systems analysis will be one of multiple theoretical frameworks explored by the learning community in the process of cultivating an analytical tool kit. This introductory coursework in economic botany grounded in political economics and political ecology will give students the skills to think critically about how human use of the environment intersections with power dynamics. This will allow them to examine how various systems of knowing about nature and its use can support or challenge systems of oppression. Students will gain an appreciation for the social movements that have challenged, and in some cases, fundamentally changed economic practices and public policy regarding plant use, both in the U.S. and globally. And they will develop an understanding of how current political controversies are shaped by historical examples of oppression, struggle, and social change. This program will be taught entirely online. Students can expect our remote teaching to be a blend of about 32 hours/week of asynchronous (self-paced) and 8 hours/week of synchronous (scheduled) work. For example, there will be written assignments and discussions using Canvas, videos that students watch on their own time, live online lectures and discussions on Zoom as well as virtual one-on-one consultation. To successfully participate in this program, students will need a quiet place to read and write, as well as access to a computer with a reliable internet connection and word processing software. Students will have access to alternatives to synchronous (in person or remote) participation if conditions require.


Fall 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10170

Academic details

Maximum Enrollment
Online Learning
Complete Online Learning - This offering delivers all of its instruction online.
Class Standing


Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

DateRevision 2020-09-09 This program is now open to Sophomores