Redesigning Modernities is an initiative to encourage collaborative research and generate new curriculum devoted to exploring the divergences, inequalities, and unevenness (as well as the commonalities) that define modernity in different parts of the world. The cornerstone of the project are two week-long summer workshops held in 2020 and 2021, which will be led by distinguished visiting scholars and will bring together faculty as well as graduate and undergraduate students from a number of Penn State campuses to explore the project's central theme. The project is funded by a Penn State Strategic Planning Seed Grant

Photograph of migratory birds in formation

Image credit: "Migratory Birds" by Didgeman is free to use (Pixabay)

Resource Description

Originally conceived for language learning classes, this 50-minute lesson and accompanying homework guides students (and teachers) towards understanding their own journeys into the present.

Photograph of an open dictionary on a table

"Dictionary" by greeblie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Resource Description

This lexicon is a semester-long examination into and expansion of course terms. There is an initial examination into multiplicities of knowledge, which takes place over two class days. Then, for the first half of the semester there are two "daily" assignments: At the end of every class period, students submit key words/phrases of that period to their instructor, and as part of homework, students submit three key words/phrases to their instructor--one of which they further describe.

Vintage illustrated poster promoting Grand Canyon National Park

"Grand Canyon National Park, a free government service" (1938) poster by Chester Don Powell is public domain

Resource Description

This module invites a comparative and global emphasis in a study of national parks in USA and India. The universal quest for conservation and preservation varies in its motivation and is inevitably influenced by local histories and culture. The two sections of the module focused on the United States and India respectively bring the separate trajectories in view. In bringing a critical perspective on analyzing national parks, the module will not only look at aspirations for preserving heritage, but also see the parks as geographical and social spaces with conflicts.

Photograph of demonstrators holding "Who Made My Clothes" signs at Rana Plaza, 2015

Rana Plaza Commemoration March by Greens/EFA Group is licensed under CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Resource Description

Who doesn't want to be fashionable? Fast fashion is quickly becoming one of the world's biggest problems. The fashion industry is creating more clothing than we can use, most of it of lower quality, and many of which ends up in landfills. Consumers buy this cheaply made clothing following fashion trends, but the garment breaks or we grow tired of it, and we donate it. What happens to the clothing we donate? It has been said that after oil, the fashion industry is globally the most polluting industry.

Illustration of a water molecule, visualized via ball-and-stick model, space-filling model, and structural formula

Image adapted from LibreTexts Chemistry, licensed under a CK-12 Curriculum Materials License

Resource Description

This three-part module provides lesson plans related to water pollution and water governance. Part I of this module examines water, pollution, and toxicity. Focusing on plastic pollution as a form of colonialism, this module argues for asserting that environmental responsibility needs to rest at the systemic level. Next, using the novel Agua by the Peruvian writer Jose Maria Arguedas, Part II examines the conflicting relationship between peasant-indigenous communities in the Andes and their fight for water sovereignty.

Ochre pigments (left shelves) and a selection of paint additives and resins (right shelves)

Credit: Ochre pigments and paint additives and resins at Cornelison and Sons, London by Heather C. McCune Bruhn, 2014., licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Resource Description

Ochre, which is essentially rust (iron oxide), is humankind's first pigment, and one of the most plentiful sources of color on earth. Ranging from red to orange, yellow, brown and even violet depending on trace minerals and moisture levels, it is extremely stable and fairly non-reactive. It can be prepared very easily (colored rocks and soil can be crushed, washed, and mixed with a binder to make paint), and was first used by humankind around 100,000 years ago. It is still in use today.

Godzilla statue surrounded by city buildings inTokyo

Credit: Godzilla by Ian Myles, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Resource Description

The modern era is full of fears. The more we know about our world, the more frightening it can be, and the 1950s were a time in which the threat of nuclear war, fears of communist takeovers, and new advances in science were all combining to make the modern world a very frightening place. This fear was reflected in art and in popular culture, particularly in inexpensive B-movie science fiction films. This module explores some of that fear, and the artistic and popular works inspired by it. Watch out for the giant ants!

An elaborate gold belt buckle

Credit: Heather C. McCune Bruhn, 2017, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Resource Description

In this two-part module, developed by Heather McCune Bruhn and Sarah J. Townsend, we will explore gold. First we'll look at gold as a substance and examine how it is obtained from the earth (along with some of the dangers and consequences involved). Next we'll examine what makes gold so important: its allure and symbolism in Prehistory, as well as in the Ancient and Medieval world. Then we'll look at the importance of Africa as a source of gold throughout the centuries before exploring some ways of working gold.

A big rock with pieces of Lapis Lazuli embedded in it.

Credit: Lapis Lazuli by Heather McCune Bruhn, Penn State University, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Resource Description

Lapis lazuli is a bright blue semiprecious stone, first known only in remote mountains in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and more recently in Brazil. This module explores lapis lazuli's use first in the production of high status objects in the Ancient world (Ancient Near East, Rome, etc.) and then its use as an expensive blue paint pigment. Since the process for extracting ultramarine blue pigment from lapis lazuli is so long and labor intensive, true ultramarine is still one of the most expensive pigments in the world.

Credit: City of Asylum by Jutta Gsoels-Lorensen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 


Resource Description

"Asylum Narratives" is conceived as a week-long module for a General Education humanities class, ideally of about 25 students or fewer to allow for open and trusting debate.