2020 TASP Programs

2020 TASP Programs

“No one had wanted me to truly think before, and TASP came not politely asking, but demanding that I read and analyze, present my view and then defend it.”
– Meredith Durkin, student

“TASP has changed the way I look at history, society, and even myself.”
– Sasha-Mae Eccleston, student

Four TASP programs will be held in 2020, between June 21 and August 1.

You can read about the 2020 seminars by clicking on the tabs below.


Cornell I Program
Storytelling Across Genre: Writing for Personal and Political Change
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
June 21 – August 1, 2020

FacultyChristine Vines and Kirsten Saracini, Cornell University

Factotum: TBA

To encounter a truly great story is, as George Saunders posits, to walk away changed. But what are the ingredients of a compelling, persuasive story? Whether true or invented, some stories fall flat while others captivate and effect personal and political change. In this class, we’ll discuss world-building, voice, style, perspective, and structure to discover what makes a story tick. We’ll also be asking: what are the unique advantages of fiction vs. nonfiction? Do we engage with one form differently than the other? Most importantly, how can we use these techniques in our own writings to inspire growth in ourselves and our readers? We’ll begin with short-form fiction and nonfiction and then widen the scope by asking how these narrative techniques translate to film? Comedy? Podcasts? In our writing, we’ll use our personal experiences to explore what cultural forces shape us, what roles we play, and how we are coping. We’ll write fictional stories and critical, personal essays that ask who we are, what we’re up against, and why it matters.


Cornell II Program
Humor, Comedy, and the Politics of Identity
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
June 21 – August 1, 2020

Faculty: Alpen Razi and Denise Isom, California Polytechnic State University

Factotum: TBA

Humor is a social phenomenon. Studies have consistently demonstrated that people will laugh more and harder at something funny when they’re among other people rather than when they’re alone. But as a socializing process, humor is a double-edged sword. It has the power to define who is and isn’t included—who does and doesn’t belong—and it can powerfully influence those whom we admire versus those we view as objects of ridicule or disparagement. This tension lies at the heart of the deeply complicated relationship between comedy and marginalized people in contemporary society. On the one hand, humor that disparages people according to social categories can reinforce or deepen existing social hierarchies and inequalities (e.g., racist caricatures and sexist jokes). Yet socially marginalized people have also harnessed the power of laughter as a vital weapon to contest and combat the very terms of their oppression (e.g., ‘ethnic humor’ and feminist sketch comedy). This course explores these dual functions of laughter, examining how a sustained cultural analysis of humor and comedy can shed light upon the “politics of identity”—the strategies by which people have attempted to define and redefine their sense of self within and across existing social categories in the contemporary United States.

To that end, this course will begin by examining different theories of humor (i.e., what makes us laugh and why) before investigating the ways in which comedic genres and forms have taken up humor for a variety of social and political aims. After examining the history and logic of socially oppressive and exclusionary humor, we’ll turn to how socially marginalized people have used humor and comedy as a tactic of resistance, forging a “counter-public” in which they can articulate their own politics of identity. The remainder of the course will then focus on contemporary comedic culture, using critical and cultural-studies approaches to examine an array of genres and forms that are increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life (e.g., teen comedies, sitcoms, “jokelore,” stand-up routines, YouTube videos, memes). Although such cultural artifacts are often dismissed as trivial by critics, students will explore the different ways in which they are nevertheless highly significant and influential sites of meaning making in our contemporary social world.



Maryland Program
Education and Citizenship
University of Maryland, College Park
June 21 – August 1, 2020

Faculty: Campbell F. Scribner, University of Maryland, and Ethan Hutt, University of North Carolina

Factotum: TBA

This seminar encourages students to think about one of the communities with which they are most familiar: schools. By studying the foundations of education, students will explore the dilemmas underlying democratic self-government. Central questions include: What does it mean to be an educated citizen, and is everyone (or anyone) capable of that standard? Which values are most important in education (freedom? equality? justice? self-realization?) and what should we do when they come into conflict? How do schools create community, and to what extent should they tolerate a diversity of beliefs? Are children ultimately the property of their parents or the state? Can education overcome prejudice? Students will examine the topic from a diverse set of disciplinary perspectives (including law, history, philosophy, and sociology) and ideological perspectives (ranging from libertarianism and conservatism to Marxism, postmodernism, and liberal pragmatism). To underscore the relevance of class discussions, we plan to take students on field trips to Washington, D.C., to meet with Congressional staffers involved with educational policymaking.


Michigan Program
Feminist Philosophies of Space, Time, and Evolution: Untimely Politics
University of Michigan
June 21 – August 1, 2020

Faculty: MD Murtagh and Annu Dahiya, Duke University

Factotum:  TBA

What is a “feminist” philosophy of space and time, and how is it different from other philosophies of space and time? Does being “feminist” mean something is inherently political? How could space and time possibly be “political” concepts? The purpose of this course is to challenge conventional ideas about what “politics” encompasses, and ultimately, to demonstrate that even seemingly abstract, philosophical concepts are never apolitical in and of themselves.

The course is divided into two main parts. First, we will carefully study a survey of primary texts within the history of Western philosophy ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Descartes and Newton. Paying attention to how each describes space and time, we consider the ways that assuming they are static categories lends itself to an oppressive modality: a world ruled entirely by the laws of cause and effect does not allow for chance eruptions, spontaneities, or creative evolutions to arise. The possibility for what happens in the future is always already given in advance: the same as the present. From this historical context, the second part of the course turns to contemporary feminist and anti-racist approaches to space and time. We work through the scholarship of Elizabeth Grosz, Emanuela Bianchi, Evelyn Hammonds, Sylvia Wynter, Brittney Cooper, Denise Ferreira da Silva, and others to explore how rethinking space and time through evolution has radical political potential. These thinkers give rise to a space and time that is dynamic, unpredictable, and open to unknowable indeterminacies for matter, life, and the universe itself. We will discuss how evolution, as a political concept, opens new ways of imagining a future that breaks with present systems of oppression and recurrent forms of violence, especially for women, people of color, queer and trans folx, animals, and the environment. The course ends by considering evolution as a tool for building more just socio-political futures, and how this kind of feminist philosophy of space and time could frame activist work in important and productive ways.