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

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.

Black and White Photograph of Roger Casement

Credit:  Sir Roger David Casement
(1864-1916), Public domain,
via Wikimedia Commons

Resource Description

Suitable for introductory or survey courses in the humanities, this module focuses on the last fifteen years of the life of the diplomat and human rights advocate Roger Casement (1864-1916), which included his investigation of abusive practices on the rubber plantations of the Congo Free State and in the Putumayo District of the Amazon, as well as involvement with the Irish independence struggle.

protesters in masks holding a sign: No Justice, No Peace, Black Lives Matter

Credit: Black Lives Matter march by Victoria Pickering is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Resource Description

This module is intended for students interested in having a global perspective on the impact of George Floyd's death and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Students will survey BLM in the U.S. context and its international iterations around the globe by addressing the complexity of race in relation to social justice, political oppression, and the role of the media and technology.

watercolor of a slave ship, 5 crew members with multiple enslaved persons crowded on the deck. A Portuguese flag flies & an outline of another ship is in the background.

Credit: Lieutenant Henry Samuel Hawker, The Portuguese slaver Diligente captured by H.M. Sloop Pearl with 600 slaves on board, taken in charge to Nassau, May 1838. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Resource Description

This series of modules approaches 'ships' and 'boats' as material and metaphor for thinking about migratory experiences and the movement of peoples, goods, and commodities, as they relate to the idea of modernity on a local, transnational, and planetary scale. The modules focus on literary, visual, and cinematic representations of ships and boats as a basis for engaging in comparative work.

Resource Description

This module, intended for use in introductory humanities courses, will be an interdisciplinary, comparative analysis of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Students will compare/contrast popular narratives about BLM with stated goals of movement participants. They will also consider the place of BLM in larger historical narratives. Students will be encouraged to move beyond initial assumptions, and instead ask the questions that humanist scholars ask of such texts and events. In the process, students will:

a white sculpture depicting a woman with African features in the shape of a sphinx

Credit: Kara Walker's "A Subtlety" by metacynic is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Resource Description

This module provides resources for teaching about the artistic practice of Kara E. Walker and its interrogation of whiteness and race. Materials also support teaching an overview of the history of the production, consumption, and meanings of sugar, particularly as that history has contributed to the Transatlantic slave trade and continues to depend upon coercive labor practices in the U.S. and globally.

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