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History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences

An interdisciplinary liberal arts department, History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS) offers a wide variety of courses on the nature of human life – past and present – in its psychological, social, political, intellectual, philosophical and cultural contexts and manifestations. Courses in Western and world history, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, political science, sociology, religion and American and cultural studies are designed to help students broaden their knowledge while developing stronger critical thinking, reading and writing skills.

Students who wish to focus their Liberal Arts study in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences may opt to complete a concentration.

Concentration in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences

Students can pursue a concentration (like a minor) in addition to their studio major. Concentrations are offered by each of the departments in the Division of Liberal Arts: History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC), History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS), and Literary Arts and Studies (LAS). Information, including requirements, on an undergraduate concentration in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences can be found below.

Undergraduate Concentration in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences
The Department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences is an interdisciplinary department where faculty teach and conduct research in a range of fields across the humanities and social sciences. All courses in the department emphasize critical thinking and the development of writing and research skills. A concentration in HPSS is designed for undergraduate students who wish to complement their studio major with an in-depth study in an interdisciplinary track supported by the department’s curriculum. Such study enables students to fully explore the department's course offerings and to fulfill their Liberal Arts requirements in a way that is most meaningful for them. Working across the disciplines of history, philosophy, and the social sciences requires intellectual curiosity, excellent communication skills and the ability to bring together disparate methods and approaches. Such qualities are integral to the creative work of an artist or designer, as well as for growth and success in everyday life.

The undergraduate HPSS concentration can be completed within a 4- or 5-year degree program. All RISD BFA candidates are eligible to add this concentration to their program of study. Interested students should contact the HPSS Concentration Coordinator, Barbara Von Eckardt (bvonecka@risd.edu).

A HPSS concentration requires careful selection of courses. Typically, concentrators meet or communicate with the concentration coordinator once or twice a year to discuss course options and to update their records. As part of the process, HPSS concentrators may pre-register for HPSS courses that will apply to their concentration track. The concentration coordinator will contact all concentrators with the relevant instructions shortly before the official registration period; this opportunity is offered in the fall and spring semesters only.

Concentration Tracks
Each concentrator shapes an individual course of study around one of the department’s nine established tracks, which build on faculty teaching and research strengths and represent a key intersection of one or more of the core disciplines in HPSS.


Belief Systems

  • Description: Study of how cultures and societies throughout history have developed worldviews through religious beliefs, philosophical traditions, scientific and political theories, and traditional understandings.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Belief Systems (five in HPSS; two from any department).

Environmental Studies

  • We encourage students with an interest in this area to consider the Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies (NCSS) Concentration.
  • Description: Study of human-nature relationships, past and present, including the role of science and technology, the impacts of cities, suburbs and rural worlds on the environment, and the ways in which art, design and creativity can contribute toward more sustainable and just socio-ecological futures.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Environmental Studies (five in HPSS or relevant LAEL; two from any department).

Gender, Sexuality and Race

  • Description: Study of the socio-cultural, legal/ethical, historical, anthropological, psychological, political, and sociological aspects of social identity worldwide, with a particular focus on gender, sexual orientation, and race.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Gender, Sexuality, and Race. Typically, the preponderance of these courses will be taken in HPSS, with relevant non-HPSS courses subject to the approval of the HPSS Concentration Coordinator.

Global Processes

  • Description: A consideration of cultures, economies, and societies globally, with particular attention to systems and flows of people, information, capital, products, imagery, and ideas; i.e. to the relationships, connections, and disconnections of the globalized world.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Global Processes. Typically the preponderance of these courses will be taken in HPSS, with relevant non-HPSS courses subject to the approval of the HPSS Concentration Coordinator. Language and study abroad courses may count toward the fulfillment of this concentration track.

Media, Technology, and Cultural Studies

  • Description: Study of the relationships between communications, politics, and culture, past and present, including the rise and role of culture industries, theories of production, reception, and influence; and theoretical debates about culture and society from anthropology, media studies, sociology, and psychology.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Media and Cultural Studies. Typically, the preponderance of these courses will be taken in HPSS, with relevant non-HPSS courses subject to the approval of the HPSS Concentration Coordinator.

Mind, Self, and Behavior

  • Description: Study of how people perceive, construct, manipulate, and maintain views of themselves and the world around them, and how philosophical principles, physical and social environments, as well as biological factors inform us about people’s identities, motivations, feelings, beliefs, and behavior.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Mind, Self, and Behavior (five in HPSS or relevant LAEL; two from any department).

Politics and Policy

  • Description: Study of social and political issues, worldwide, and the various methods that shape understanding of such issues, including empirical research, legal theory, political analysis, and social theory and practices.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Politics and Policy (five in HPSS; two from any department).

Regional Studies

  • Description: In-depth study of a region with a focus on histories, cultures, societies, philosophies, religions, aesthetics, political developments, and institutions. Examples of the regions where students could concentrate their studies include: The Americas (including North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America), Europe and Russia, The Middle East and Africa, Asia (East, Southeast, South, and Islamic Asia), The Atlantic World and/or The Mediterranean Sea.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses exploring their specified region in depth. Typically, the preponderance of these courses will be taken in HPSS, with relevant non-HPSS courses subject to the approval of the HPSS Concentration Coordinator. Language and study abroad courses may count toward the fulfillment of this concentration track.

Scientific Inquiry

  • Description: Study of the physical and natural sciences, with an emphasis on the importance of understanding science in society, and the influence of the scientific method and experimental practice across the disciplines. This concentration is designed to help students develop a broad range of science-literacies and explore the potential contribution of the sciences and of scientific method to critical making and critical thinking.
  • Requirements: In addition to S101, students will take seven courses related to Scientific Inquiry (five in HPSS or relevant LAEL; two from any department).

Note:

  • Courses that fulfill requirements in Liberal Arts may also be used to fulfill requirements in the concentration.
  • Except for HPSS-S101, all courses applied to the concentration must address the theme of a student's chosen track. The concentration coordinator has the discretion to determine whether or not a course is appropriate for a particular track.
  • Only one thematically appropriate independent study can be applied to the concentration.
  • No more than one course earning a grade of a "C+/C/C-" can be counted for the concentration. A grade of "P," or "pass" counts as a "C." No course receiving a grade of a "D+/D" can be counted for the concentration.
  • There is no penalty for withdrawing from the HPSS concentration.
  • A course at Brown that has been approved for HPSS credit by the Division of Liberal Arts may be applied to your concentration, provided it addresses your chosen track. Other transfer credits may be applied at the approval of the concentration coordinator.