110 | D | CCN: 15457

Advanced Argumentative Writing

Refugees, Rights, and Representation

Instructor: Tim Wyman-McCarthy

4 Units

Tu/W/Th 10:00-12:30PM, 234 Dwinelle /// 

Does displacement caused by personal persecution, natural disasters and climate change, armed conflict, or economic deprivation invite different kinds of international attention or sympathy? Where does the sanctuary promised the citizen end and the hospitality owed the stranger begin? How do contemporary developments in climate science, social media technologies, and data analysis intersect with discourses on refugees? And if ‘the refugee’ tells the lie to the nation state’s capacity to account for the world’s people, what other forms of political and social organization does the refugee live, inspire, create, or warn against? Given that, according to the UNHCR, there are currently 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, over 25 million of whom are refugees, it is unsurprising that such questions preoccupy international lawyers, academics from the social sciences to the humanities, engineers and economists, journalists, policy specialists at NGOs, government officials, artists, philanthropists, tech companies, and, most significantly, displaced persons themselves.

This course asks how these different actors draw on specific discourses and arguments—technological, scientific, moral, historical—as they construct the figure and the problem of ‘the refugee.’ We will recognize the refugee crisis as an issue of urgent public concern as well as an occasion for learning skills of writing and argument, tone, appeal, genre, and audience. Our work will involve the examination of political theory, history, anthropology, and philosophy; close analysis of international legal documents, policy proposals, investigative journalism, and NGO reports; and engagement with creative works including novels, poetry, film, and photography. Together we will develop strategies for analyzing complex arguments across disciplines, styles, discourses and genres. We will identify different modes of appeal (ethical, logical, pathetic), the audiences towards which such appeals are directed, and the effectiveness of the tone or register adopted. Assignments will require students to closely and critically analyze and compare the moves different forms of argumentation employ, as well as to construct their own original academic arguments and writing in a public voice.