Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
wall map of the world with cyclone tracks overlaid

Global Perspectives

Main content start

Global Perspectives courses in the spring quarters investigate several different global phenomena, enabling you to make comparative analyses and locate your own actions within a global context. Most courses are 4 units and structured with faculty-led lectures (2x/week, 50 minutes) and fellow-led sections (2x/week, 50 minutes), but a few course are taught as 3-unit seminars meeting twice a week for 80 minutes. Unlike autumn and winter, most spring courses have required lectures. 

Students placed in spring quarter in August will receive an email to submit course preferences before spring enrollment opens.

COLLEGE 107 (4 units--2 lectures, 2 sections each week)

Preventing Human Extinction

Killer epidemics, climate change, nuclear war, hostile artificial intelligence: is human extinction inevitable? Is it necessarily bad for the planet? What might we do to prevent it? You will have the chance to explore several plausible scenarios by which human extinction could occur within the next 100 years. We’ll study the psychological, social, and epistemological barriers that frequently derail efforts to avert these catastrophes.

Paul Edwards, Science, Technology & Society

Stephen Luby, Medicine (Infectious Diseases)

COLLEGE 108 (4 units--2 lectures, 2 sections each week)

Where Does It Hurt?

How can physicians best prevent or relieve pain? What is suffering? You will use case studies and live interviews to understand how individuals environments shape the experience of illnesses, including recovery and loss. You will also develop skills for reflecting upon how one’s culture and personal context influence how you may make meaning of illness and suffering.

Karl Lorenz, Medicine (Primary Care and Population Health)  

Nicole Martinez-Martin, Pediatrics (Biomedical Ethics)

COLLEGE 109 (4 units--2 lectures, 2 sections each week)

Rules of War

When, if ever, is war justified? How do we determine what limits, if any, govern how wars are fought and who may be killed? Are these rules still relevant in light of the changing nature of warfare? You will actively engage with the main ethical questions raised in this course through an interactive role-playing simulation, in which you will be assigned roles as government officials, advisors, or other actors. Students will confront various ethical, legal, and strategic problems as they make decisions about military intervention and policies regarding the threat and use of force in an international crisis.

Scott Sagan, Political Science

Allan Weiner, Law


COLLEGE 110 (4 units--2 lectures, 2 sections each week)

The Spirit of Democracy

What has led to the remarkable spread of democracy around the world? And why do freedom and democracy now appear to be receding in the world? How are the original debates on the design of constitutional democracy in the United States relevant to the current challenges it faces? The class is a unique opportunity to not only study democracy in the United and around the globe but also participate in a practical experiment in “deliberative polling.” You will help develop and organize a focus group and run through a simulation of the deliberative democracy process.

Larry Diamond, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

James Fishkin, Communications

COLLEGE 111 (4 units--2 lectures, 2 sections each week)

The Ethical Challenges of the Global Climate Crisis

Climate change is now a global crisis. The notion that countries can each individually deal with it and ignore the fact that it ignores borders has long been recognized as unrealistic and counterproductive. Yet the international community has time and again for more than three decades fallen far short of what the global scientific community warns is necessary to stave off catastrophe soon. Fortunately, governments and the fossil fuel industry that still holds undue influence over them are not the only entities that will determine whether humanity can survive on the only planet in the universe known so far to support life. Thanks to massive global activism, especially among youth and people on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and a revolution in ever more affordable and scalable clean energy, especially solar, wind, geothermal, electric vehicles, and battery storage, the global political climate surrounding what is “economically and technologically” possible is rapidly changing.

Mikael Wolfe, History

COLLEGE 112 (4 units--2 lectures, 2 sections each week)

Living with Viruses

What is a virus? How do viruses affect our lives? Does the virus make us distinctly human? This course challenges you to think beyond conventional disciplinary distinctions through questions about the impact of biology on human behavior as well as the potential of humans to shape biology through genetic engineering. Through creative projects, students will engage the study of individual viruses in their microbial as well as cultural context.

Julie Baker, Genetics

COLLEGE 113 (3 units--2 seminar meetings each week, plus two evening film screenings required during the quarter)

Utopia, Dystopia, and Technology in Science Fiction

Science fiction thinks about how science and technology transform human society, values, and everyday experiences in ways good or bad. By projecting both utopia and dystopia, sf reveals and critiques technology-induced social malaises and keeps hopes alive by projecting better futures, testifying to the ceaseless human potential for self-renewal in sustaining civilization on Earth. This course asks the two-fold question: How can humans of diverse cultures harness technoscientific innovations while preserving humanist values and maintain a sustainable economy and civilization? How do narratives of utopia and dystopia depict the anthropocentric domination of nature and the exploitation working classes through the misuse and abuse of technology?

Ban Wang, East Asian Languages and Cultures

COLLEGE 114 (3 units--2 seminar meetings each week)

Looking for the Dao in East Asia

This course explores an array of early thought and practices in East Asia that had lasting impact--down to today. The focus is on foundational texts, systems of belief, and the arts (music, calligraphy, painting). In one way or another, these were primarily concerned with discovering and propagating a certain Way (Dao) that was believed to embody cosmic principles and be essential to a good life and a harmonious society. But there was plenty of disagreement about what the Way was, where to look for it, and how best to practice it in daily life. We concentrate on cultural values in ancient China that became intrinsic there and were later transported throughout East Asia (Korea, Japan) and even to Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, etc.). Since antiquity, Chinese thinking grappled with the question of how society should be ordered and what if any model should be adopted to achieve social harmony. A range of rival philosophical and religious systems emerged. Later, people who were not satisfied with any one of these extended their inquiries into other areas of human endeavor, especially in the literary, musical, and visual arts, discovering that these could embody their own Way that led to a fulfilling life. We will give attention to all of these alternative understandings of the Way, which collectively account for many of the distinctive traits of culture and history in East Asia.

Ronald Egan, East Asian Languages and Cultures

COLLEGE 115 (3 units--2 seminar meetings each week)

Ancient Greece and Rome

Ancient Greek and Roman texts have long been regarded as the touchstones of Western culture. Many of the disciplines that we study at the university — including history, philosophy, political theory, and literature — evolved out of classical texts. In this course, we will read and discuss some of the most influential Western works, ranging from Homer and Plato to Cicero and Seneca. Not only do these texts reward attentive reading, but for much of Western history, their knowledge was considered essential for an education.

Dan Edelstein, French

COLLEGE 116 (3 units--2 seminar meetings each week)

Ancients and Moderns: Africa and South Asia

How might the comparative global humanities help us understand the cultural traditions of Africa and South Asia? Culturally significant texts (and text equivalents) will allow us to compare different answers to abiding human questions, such as (a) Where do we come from? Why do origins matter? (b) Which features define human (as opposed to divine and animal) being? (c) Which features define community? What is the role of gender, religion, race/ethnicity, language or geography in creating group identity? In what ways are such social identities determined by a sense of the past, whether we call it history, mythology, tradition or collective memory? (d) What role do different media - whether written, spoken, otherwise performed, or visual - play in conveying a sense of the past from one generation to another? In the course of our readings and analysis we shall question the very nature of literature in relation to non-written media, the coherence of supposed traditions, and the usefulness of rubrics such as collective memory. In what ways is our access to such cultural productions framed by colonial histories, with their discrepant experiences and perspectives? By what means can we try to get beyond such constraints?

Grant Parker, Classics