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Course Information

Instructor Info:Sue Darlington
Office Extension x5600
TA Info:Marushka Grogan
Term: 2012F
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 106
01:00 PM - 02:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 106

Rivers have become sites of contention surrounding how they can best serve the people living along them and the nations through which they flow. For some, they provide cultural meanings and livelihoods; for others, they represent progress in the ways they can be developed and used. We will critically examine several case studies of rivers to unpack the cultural, environmental, economic, and identity conflicts that arise worldwide as people's concepts of rivers collide. Issues explored will include colonization and trade, indigenous histories and rights, economic development and dams, water rights, environmental debates, and transnationalism. The rivers we will look at include the Connecticut, the Mekong (Southeast Asia), the Ganges (India), the Yangtze (China), and the Amazon (South America), each bringing different stories of meaning, conflict, development, and environmentalism. Theories from anthropology, history, human rights and agrarian studies will inform our explorations of these rivers and their controversies.

Course Objectives:

The goals for the class include:

  • exposing students to the diversity of histories, ways of life, and ways of interacting with rivers and nature;
  • examining the different ways people perceive and imagine rivers, and how these ideas intersect with culture and history;
  • exploring the ways in which landscapes and riverscapes impact human life and lives;
  • unpacking conflicts that emerge from these differences and the power structures that accompany them;
  • critically thinking about how humans impact nature, and how we can better use and care for resources;
  • learning to take ideas, concepts, and theories from certain authors and readings and apply them to one's own research and writing;
  • learning to think critically while researching and writing.
Evaluation Criteria:

To receive an evaluation for the course, you must complete all assignments on time and make satisfactory progress on the course learning goals.  I expect a lot of writing and class participation.  If you miss more than two class meetings without a good reason, you may not get a good evaluation.  (If you miss a significant number of class meetings, you may not get an evaluation.)  Remember:  Communication with me about your status in the class can help you meet the course goals and do well in this course.  I do not give Incompletes unless negotiated before assignment due dates.

Additional Info:

Books for the Course:

The following three required books are available for purchase at Food for Thought Books in Amherst (106 North Pleasant Street  Amherst, MA 01002; 413-253-5432):

  • Chetham, Deirdre. 2002. Before the Deluge: The Vanishing World of the Yangtze's Three Gorges. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Alley, Kelly D. 2002. On the Banks of the Ganga: When Wastewater Meets a Sacred River. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Tripp, Nathaniel. 2005. Confluence: A River, The Environment, Politics, & The Fate of All Humanity. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press.

They are also available on Reserve in the Hampshire Library.


*Plagiarism:   Plagiarism is the presentation of another person’s ideas or words as if they were your own, without acknowledging the source.  Plagiarism is a serious offence, and can result in either No Evaluation for the course or even disciplinary withdrawal from the College.  As you write your papers, you must be sure to cite your sources thoroughly and correctly, whether you are quoting directly or paraphrasing.  Ignorance of plagiarism is not an excuse.  If you are ever uncertain as to whether doing something is technically plagiarism, you should ask.  You should also consult with writing reference manuals for correct citation and bibliographic formats, including for citing Internet sources.