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. 


"The IFK was not something I discovered until my fourth year in the College, and I still wish I had engaged with it sooner. The IFK granted me the opportunity to explore social-scientific questions on how new technology impacts what we know, how we know, and the limitations to access to knowledge. The course I took at the IFK gave me the freedom to explore these questions in more depth than has been allowed in other courses I have taken during my undergraduate experience. The courses of study provided by the IFK are unable to be found in any single other major, and brings together students from across disciplines and programs to engage in unique discussion."

-- Undergraduate student, History and Sociology double major, Fourth Year

"Explorations of Mars provided me the rare opportunity to engage with students of different majors and with Mars-related pieces published across a wide range of disciplines. In our seminars and assignments, Professor Bimm challenged us to think through complex societal questions whose answers benefitted from each student's unique perspective. We were also empowered to equally utilize critical thinking, creativity, and imagination as analytical tools and to steer the discussion towards our own emerging concerns. Overall, this class provided an intellectual environment I've encountered nowhere else at UChicago: one that valued each student's voice, that immersed us in contemporary space issues, and that thrived on the multidisciplinary approaches central to IFK's mission."

MENTORING: "I have brought undergraduate and graduate students into my research projects. They learn about sociological research methods and have the opportunity to contribute to ongoing studies that investigate the politics of biomedical knowledge production. In the College Summer Institute (2023) I trained three undergraduate students in sociological methods, and they contributed to data collection and analysis for two projects. All three of these students stayed on to work as Quad Scholars in the 23-24 year." Dr. Melanie Jeske, 2022-24 IFK Postdoctoral Researcher at the Rank of Instructor

Tolerance and Intolerance in South Asia

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Religious Studies, History, South Asian Languages & Civilizations
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Winter
  • KNOW 25323, CRES 25323, HIST 26812, RLST 25323, SALC 25323
  • Taimur Reza

Few places in the world are as embroiled in the problem of diversity as South Asia, where sectarian violence-fought mainly along religious lines, but also along caste, gender, and linguistic lines-is at the center of political maneuvering. South Asia offers important lessons in how people manage to live together despite histories of mutual strife and conflict about communities and castes. Focusing on the period of British colonial rule, this class explores different instances and ideologies of toleration and conflict. How were South Asian discourses of toleration by such leaders as Gandhi and Nehru different from their European counterparts (e.g., John Locke and John Rawls)? How did their ideologies differ from those articulated by their minority peers such as Ambedkar, Azad, and Madani? We will analyze constitutive precepts, namely secularism, syncretism, toleration. Our attention here will be on the universal connotations of these ideas and their South Asian expression. Fifth week onward, we will turn our attention to select thinkers: Gandhi, Ambedkar, Azad, Madani. Our focus here will be on the ways that each intellectual negotiated the thorny issues of toleration, difference, ethnicity, and belonging. All the thinkers covered in this class had an active presence in nationalist era politics. Finally, we will read historical accounts of some of the most frequent causes of intolerance, namely cow slaughter, music played before the mosque, and desecration of sacred objects.

Are We Doomed? Confronting the End of the World

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Big Problems, Sociology, Astronomy
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Winter
  • Th 2:00-4:50
  • KNOW 54200/21700, BPRO 25800, ASTR 31700/21700, SOCI 30531/20531
  • James Evans, Daniel Holz

We may be at a pivotal point in human history, with civilization facing unprecedented threats including nuclear Armageddon, climate change, and pandemics. This class will explore our potential for self-inflicted catastrophe, as well as approaches for mitigating these perils. We will consider this through readings and engagement with a range of speakers focused on various imminent perils, from the perspective of a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, including sociology, philosophy, theology, anthropology, statistics, physics, astrophysics, economics, law, business, and the arts.

Making Sense of Lived Experience: In-Depth Interviewing

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: IRHUM
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Winter
  • M 1:30-4:20
  • KNOW 27011, IRHUM 27011
  • Melanie Jeske

How do people make sense of everyday experiences of daily life, injustice, crisis,
happiness, success, and suffering? How do researchers understand and connect lived experiences to sociohistorical context? In this undergraduate seminar, students develop qualitative research skills critical to understanding the social world. Social science researchers employ a wide range of research methodologies to learn about the social world, including both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Qualitative approaches often explore the questions that deepen our understanding of people, institutions, and social processes, attending to questions of meaning and practice. In particular, in-depth interviewing allows for the possibility of learning deeply about people's motivations,
actions, attitudes, feelings, and how they make sense of our lived experiences more generally. This course teaches students how to develop qualitative, humanistic interview-based research studies. Students will learn how to craft inductive research questions, identify and recruit participants, prepare a comprehensive set of interview questions, conduct interviews (and address issues that can arise while interviewing), analyze interview data, consider limitations, and present one's findings. The course culminates in a written interview analysis and presentation using data that gathered for this class. Students will collect primary data, by conducting at least 4-5 interviews for a class project.

The Economy by Other Means: New Approaches to the Economy of the Late and Post-Ottoman Middle East

  • Course Level: Graduate, Undergraduate
  • Department: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, History
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Winter
  • T/Th 11-12:20 pm
  • NEHC 20866/30866, KNOW 28066/30866, HIST 25809/35803
  • Murat Bozluolcay

Questions around political economy and capitalism are once again gaining prominence in Ottoman and Middle East studies. Whereas these questions have been fundamental to the traditional confines of economic history and political economy, this new engagement takes its cue from a different and diverse pool of fields. As one observer recently put it, an emerging body of literature engages with “the economy by other means.” This course takes stock of these still-uncharted means by bringing together and examining a selection of recently published books treating economic themes in the late Ottoman Empire and in the post-Ottoman Middle East up to the mid-twentieth century. How do these books challenge, build on, and/or conform to the contours of economic modes of analysis? What do they contribute to our understanding of capitalism in the Middle East? What are the new archives they create for the study of economic life? How do they destabilize the conceptual repertoire of political economy? More importantly, in what ways do they change our view of the late Ottoman and modern Middle East?

Environmental Justice in Chicago

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Public Policy Studies - Harris School
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Winter
  • PBPL 25704
  • Sarah Fredericks

This course will examine the development of environmental justice theory and practice through social scientific and ethical literature about the subject as well as primary source accounts of environmental injustices. We will focus on environmental justice issues in Chicago including, but not limited to waste disposal, toxic air and water, the Chicago heat wave, and climate change. Particular attention will be paid to environmental racism and the often understudied role of religion in environmental justice theory and practice. Throughout the course we will explore how normative commitments are expressed in different types of literature as well as the basis for normative judgments and the types of authorities authors utilize and claim as they consider environmental justice.

Euripides’ Bacchae: Madness, Contagion, Responsibility, Shame, and Guilt

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Classical Studies, Social Thought
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Autumn
  • Tuesdays-Thursdays 11:00 -12:20
  • SCTH 50000/25000, GREK 47123, KNOW 50000, 25000
  • Haun Saussy

Outline: We’ll conduct a careful study of one, slightly mutilated, Euripidean tragedy and its intellectual descendants. These descendants include the Byzantine-period mystery-play Khristos paskhōn; Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and Ecce Homo; E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational; Georges Devereux, “The Psychotherapy Scene in Euripides’s Bacchae”; Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity; some performance history; and translations by Wole Soyinka and Anne Carson. A dual attention to the play and the “essentially contested” character of its readings will lead us deeper into the meanings of the five abstract nouns enumerated in the course title. Familiarity with ancient Greek advisable but not required. Topics to be discussed will include classical reception, translation and appropriation, cultural and religious change, and the ambivalence of moral terms.

Ways of Knowing

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: MAPSS, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, History, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Winter
  • T/Th 2:00-3:20
  • KNOW 36054, HIPS 26054, CHSS 36054, HIST 35103
  • Tal Arbel and Shadi Bartsch

This seminar introduces students to the conditions and processes of knowledge formation that shape our understanding of truth, our theories of social life, and our projections of possible futures. It examines how claims to knowledge emerge out of disciplinary, historical, and political contexts, as well as local cultural factors, both explicit and unspoken: how do institutions, technologies, and other normative structures produce, stabilize, or disrupt knowledge? How do scientists and artists examine and represent the world differently? What makes expertise and why do we trust certain ways of knowing over others? Building upon methods and perspectives in the social sciences and humanistic social sciences, this seminar introduces problems, concepts, and analytical tools that will enable students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to examine how we know what we know. "Ways of Knowing" is a required seminar for all students wishing to undertake the Formation of Knowledge MAPSS track. It also counts towards a required MAPSS Methods seminar.

The Aesthetics of Artificial Intelligence

  • Course Level: Graduate; undergraduate with permission
  • Department: Media, Art, and Design, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, Anthropology, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, Cinema and Media Studies, MAPSS, Masters in Computational Social Science
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Winter
  • W 2:00-4:50
  • KNOW 36043/26043 MADD 12043, ANTH 36043/26043, MACS 36043, HIPS 26043, CHSS 36043, CMST 26043/36043
  • Andre Uhl

With the emergence of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, DALL-E, and Midjourney, the production of computer-generated content has been made accessible to a wide range of users and use cases. Knowledge institutions are particularly challenged to find adequate responses to changing notions of authorship as the mainstreaming of ‘artificial' texts, audio-visual artifacts, and code is transforming our paradigms of communication in real-time. This course offers a survey of scholarship from the nascent field of critical AI studies to investigate the impact of AI, machine learning, and big data on knowledge production, representation, and consumption. In addition to theoretical discussions, we will conduct research-creation experiments aimed at documenting and evaluating emerging methods of AI-augmented content creation across text, image, and sound. Prospective students should demonstrate a substantial interest in media art and design and its connections to digital humanities, critical theory, and pedagogy. Experience with artistic and/or engineering practice is a plus. Permission by instructor. Students must submit a statement of interest (300 words max.) to by December 22 in order to be considered for enrollment.

The Bible in U.S. Politics: The Use and Abuse of Sacred Texts in the Public Sphere

  • Course Level:
  • Department: Religious Studies, Fundamentals: Issues and Texts, American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Spring
  • KNOW 25400, RLST 25400, AMER 25400, FNDL 25405, GNSE 25403
  • Doug Hoffer

People across the political spectrum continue to cite the Bible to justify their viewpoints. Black Lives Matter protestors carried signs citing scriptural support for the rights of African Americans to life and justice, while some of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th first marched around their state capitols in recreation of biblical Israel’s circling of the doomed city Jericho. How can the same book serve the political ends of such ideologically distinct movements? In this course, we will explore the variety of ways in which the Bible, especially the Christian New Testament, informs contemporary political discourse. We will discuss what the Bible is and where it comes from, and how an interpreter’s social location and culturally and historical-bound assumptions shape their interpretation. We will build upon this foundation by examining several contentious political issues in which the Bible is commonly invoked, including abortion, sexuality, immigration, and gun rights. We will analyze the key passages used by supporters of various policy positions to support their claims, situating these texts in their original contexts and highlighting the historical distance that problematizes their use today. Prior familiarity with biblical literature is not required.

Magic, Miracles, and Medicine: Healthcare in the Bible and the Ancient World

  • Course Level: Undergraduate
  • Department: Health and Society, Committee on Clinical and Translational Science, Religious Studies, History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine, History, Jewish Studies
  • Year: 2023-24
  • Term: Spring
  • KNOW 20223, RLST 20223, CCTS 21021, HIPS 20223, HIST 25305, HLTH 20223, JWSC 20923,
  • Richard Zaleski

This course examines the complex issues surrounding the body, disability, and medical care in antiquity. It will be guided by a variety of questions, such as what was the root cause of bodily infirmity and disease in antiquity? How did cultural views of sex, gender, and race influence perceptions of the body and what it meant to be able bodied? Such questions are significant when considering what kind of access to healthcare marginalized groups had. In order to explore these questions, we will examine ancient Mediterranean views of medical care through material remains (e.g., magical amulets and healing shrines) and textual evidence (e.g., Galen and Hippocrates). After considering this wider cultural context, we will examine treatments in the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and early Christianity. We will also explore how Christian concepts of medical care evolved in light of accounts of Jesus as a divine healer. In addition to this ancient evidence, we will engage with modern disability studies and sociological analyses to better orient our readings. At the end of the course, students will be better acquainted with the complex relationship between religion and medicine and how that affects modern healthcare decisions.