KNOW courses are offered by the faculty of the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at both the graduate and the advanced undergraduate levels. 

For graduate students, we offer a number of cross-listed seminars as well as an annual core sequence in topics in the formation of knowledge (KNOW 401, 402, 403). These seminars are team-taught by faculty from different departments or schools and are open to all graduate students regardless of field of study. Graduate students who enroll in two quarters of this sequence are eligible to apply for the Dissertation Research Fellowships.

For undergraduate students, we offer courses cross-listed in departments and schools across the University, as well as unique courses taught by the Institute's Postdoctoral Scholars. To browse courses, search by department, quarter, academic year, or type in a keyword that interests you. In addition, the Institute launched the Experimental Capstone (XCAP) in 2018-19, team-taught courses for fourth-year undergraduate students interested in building upon their UChicago educational experience by adding practice, impact, and influence as important dimensions of their undergraduate work. 

[Re]Framing Graphic Medicine: Comics and the History of Medicine

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Health and Society
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Spring
  • T Th: 2-3:20 pm
  • KNOW 37017 / HLTH 27017
  • Brian Callender & MK Czerwiec

What does the medium of comics contribute to our knowledge and understanding of illness, disability, caregiving, and disease? What can the history of comics teach us about the history of medicine? How can making comics help us understand these histories while forming individual knowledge about our bodies and health? [Re]Framing Graphic Medicine: Comics and the History of Medicine is a course designed to introduce students to the history and the basic concepts and practices of the field of graphic medicine. Throughout the quarter, we will visit the Special
Collections to view rare and historical materials to learn about the history of comics and medicine. Through critical analysis and discussion of both historical and contemporary works, students will also be exposed to a variety of styles, genres, and applications that capture the breadth and diversity of graphic medicine. An important component of the class will be exercises through which students will create their own graphic medicine works as a way to explore knowledge formation about health, illness, and one’s body through comics-making. Taught by a nurse cartoonist (and a founding figure in graphic medicine) and a physician, the course provides a perspective of the field from within the practice of medicine. No prior knowledge or experience of graphic novels, comics, drawing, or medicine required.

XCAP: Diasporic Narratives and Memories: Designing a New Concept for a Multi-Ethnic Museum of Belarusian Emigration

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Big Problems, Comparative Literature, Russian and East European Studies
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Spring
  • Wed: 10:30 AM-01:20 PM
  • KNOW 29943 / CMLT 29943 / CHST 29943 / BPRO 29943 / REES 29950 / MAPH 39943
  • Olga Solovieva and Bozena Shallcross

This course project takes the instability of Belarusian identity as an advantage for creating a new model of multi-ethnic, open emigrant community with a potential of cooperative democratic integration into a larger multi-ethnic landscape of Chicago. This project’s relevance goes beyond the Chicago community, offering a model of multi-ethnic integration for building a civil society in the Belarusian homeland. The course will involve theoretical readings in the studies of diaspora, training in oral histories gathering provided by the Chicago History Museum, and weekly field trips to the diasporic museums in Chicago. We will analyze these museums’ curatorial and narrative concepts in order to build upon their strengths and to avoid their weaknesses.

Social Stratification

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Sociology
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Spring
  • Tue Thu: 02:00-03:20 PM
  • KNOW 30103 / SOCI 20103/30103
  • Ross Stolzenberg

Social stratification is the unequal distribution of the goods that members of a society value -- earnings, income, authority, political power, status, prestige, etc. This course introduces various sociological perspectives about stratification. We will look at major patterns of inequality throughout human history, how they vary across countries, how they are formed and maintained, how they come to be seen as legitimate and desirable, and how they affect the lives of individuals within a society. The readings incorporate classical theoretical statements, contemporary debates, and recent empirical evidence. The information and ideas discussed in this course are critical for students who will go on in sociology and extremely useful for students who want to be informed about current social, economic, and political issues.

Technology and Aesthetics

  • Course Level: Graduate
  • Department: Art History, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Visual Arts, MAPSS
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Spring
  • T 3:30-6:20pm
  • KNOW 40310/1, ARTH 40311, ARTV 40310, CHSS 40410
  • Anastasia Klimchynskaya

New technologies regularly enable new mediums, styles, genres, and narrative forms as they offer us new ways to record the world, express ourselves, and tell stories. But the advent of each new artistic and literary form raises anew fundamental theoretical questions: what is the difference between an objective record of the world and an artistic rendition of it? Is what makes something art the creator’s intent or the viewer’s perception of it as art? That is, can something be experienced as art if it is not intended as such? What, even, is a narrative, given our minds’ tendency to resolve any random pattern into a coherent series of cause and effect? And, finally, as new technologies offer endless new creative possibilities, how can we continuously recalibrate how we define art and engage with it?

Normality: A History

  • Course Level:
  • Department: Graham School
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Spring
  • T 10:00am - 12:30pm 3/29/22 - 5/17/22
  • KNOW 11001
  • Tal Arbel

Worrying about what’s normal and what’s not is an endemic feature of our culture. Is my IQ above average? What about my height? Should I be feeling this way? Is there a pill for that? People seem to have always been concerned with fitting in, but the way of describing the general run of practices and conditions as “normal” is a rather recent phenomenon; testament to the influence that modern science has had on how we understand and organize ourselves as a society. Offering a broad historical overview of the ways that physical traits, intellectual ability, and social behavior came to be scientifically delimited and measured, this course will introduce students to the theories, techniques, and tools that were used to distinguish the normal from the pathological and the deviant for the past 200 years. We will read Lombroso on born criminals and Krafft-Ebing on sexual perversion; learn about intelligence tests and developmental milestones; and consider the kinds of people these efforts brought into being. In addition to lecture and class discussions, the course includes close engagement with a diverse historical archive: scientific and medical writing, clinical case studies, diagnostic instruments, and patient narratives.

When Cultures Collide: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Anthropology, Comparative Human Development, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Human Rights, Psychology
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Winter
  • Wed : 09:30 AM-12:20 PM
  • ANTH 45600 / CHDV 25699 / GNSE 45600 / HMRT 35600 / KNOW 45699 / PSYC 45300
  • Richard A Shweder

Coming to terms with diversity in an increasingly multicultural world has become one of the most pressing public policy projects for liberal democracies in the early 21st century. One way to come to terms with diversity is to try to understand the scope and limits of toleration for variety at different national sites where immigration from foreign lands has complicated the cultural landscape. This seminar examines a series of legal and moral questions about the proper response to norm conflict between mainstream populations and cultural minority groups (including old and new immigrants), with special reference to court cases that have arisen in the recent history of the United States.

Philosophy of History:  Narrative & Explanation

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, Philosophy
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Winter
  • Tue Thu : 03:30 PM-04:50 PM
  • CHSS 35110 / HIPS 25110 / HIST 35110 / KNOW 31401 / PHIL 20506 / PHIL 30506
  • Robert Richards

This lecture-discussion course will focus on the nature of historical explanation and the role of narrative in providing an understanding of historical events. Among the figures considered are Gibbon, Kant, Humboldt, Ranke, Collingwood, Acton, Fraudel, Furet, Hempel, Danto. (B) (III)

Religion, Medicine, and the Experience of Illness

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Committee on Clinical and Translational Science, Health and Society, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, Sociology
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Winter
  • Mon Wed : 01:30 PM-02:50 PM
  • CCTS 21012 / HIPS 26312 / HIST 24923 / HLTH 26302 / KNOW 26302 / SOCI 20542
  • Mark Lambert

This course introduces students to both the dynamic relationship between religion and medicine and the role of religion as it relates to the experience of illness. Through a survey of a broad selection of religious traditions, textual genres, and case studies, students will evaluate how religion offers a pliable explanatory system (through myths, symbols, rituals, etc.) to address questions of causation, coping, and curing vis-à-vis illness. The historical relationship between religions and medical systems has been fascinatingly complex. We will encounter examples where religion and medicine work in tandem as complementary explanatory systems, e.g., with devotion to holy figures such as Saint Jude. We will also discuss what happens when religion usurps the explanatory role of medicine, e.g., when the activity of spirits becomes the diagnostic explanation for a medical condition such as epilepsy. Drawing upon literature from art history, medical anthropology, sociology, history, and theology, this course surveys the impressive variety of responses to illness both across religious traditions and within those traditions. Prior knowledge of religious studies and/or medical history is not required for the course.

Coming of Age: Youth Cultures in Postcolonial India

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, History, Sociology
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Winter
  • TBA
  • KNOW 21352/1 [22794]
  • Titas De Sarkar

In this course, we will gain a deeper understanding of how certain key moments in postcolonial India-from student protests to an economic transition to globalization, from rise of Bollywood to the omnipresence of social media-have shaped the youth of the country and how young people in turn have been at the forefront of some of the major events and have created history on their own terms. We will ask-if youth is a construct like gender and caste then how was it constructed over the last seventy years? We will keep two guiding questions in mind-who all are considered to be the youth in postcolonial India? And-what are the lived experiences of young people during this time? The ever changing, seemingly arbitrary, and conflicting definitions of youth in government reports, commercial advertisements, or popular culture demands a thorough analysis of this category inside out. We will take an inter-disciplinary approach and examine how the identity of being young intersects with other identities such as class, ethnicity, linguistic abilities and so on. By identifying the constitutive elements of being part of the young generation in a young nation such as India, we will challenge any homogeneous perception of "the youth" and read young people's experiences in their own contexts. Focusing on youth culture in South Asia will help us think critically about youth culture studies where the Global South remains underrepresented.

The Role of Science in U.S. Education Reform

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Comparative Human Development
  • Year: 2021-22
  • Term: Winter
  • M/W 1:30-2:50 PM
  • CHDV 23050 / KNOW 23050
  • Lily Ye

How should science inform the improvement of education? Can education be studied scientifically? These questions have haunted American education research since its 19th century beginnings. In this course, Lagemann’s history of U.S. education research, An Elusive Science, will serve as a central orienting text, and students will read primary sources by the figures it describes: Dewey, James, Thorndike, Coleman, Tyler, and more. The course will end with a consideration of contemporary topics such as research-practice partnerships and design research. In taking on the case of American education research, students will confront and discuss the entanglements of epistemology and history, measurement and social organization, knowledge and authority.