Self and Society

Students must complete two sections of HONR 2047 between their second and fourth years. In HONR 2047, students choose from a selection of social science introductory courses that provide a foundation in the language, perspectives, methods, and research approaches of a specific social science discipline.

Fall 2023 Courses

Cross-listed Honors courses

NOTE: Students must be registered in the HONR section in order to receive UHP credit. 

A cross-listed course is a course that is shared with another department, please pay careful attention to the GPAC attributes associated with each cross-listed course.

Upper-Level Course Substitution Option

On occasion, a UHP student may have a particular interest in a certain course or topic outside of their major which we are not able to offer formally through the UHP but which may nonetheless conform to some or all of the ideals of an Honors course. If a UHP student can demonstrate that they will benefit personally and intellectually from that course, they may be granted an exception to count one non-UHP course toward the UHP upper-level course requirements. Please review the upper-level course substitution option webpage for more information.

Transitional Justice

Professor Elvira Maria Restrepo

HONR 2047:10 - 3 Credits

CRN 43819

R 12:45-03:15PM


  • GPAC Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences

Course Description: Since the end of the Cold War, peace building interventions have increasingly implemented Transitional Justice (TJ) initiatives. TJ incorporates a dynamic set of multidisciplinary mechanisms adapted to societies transforming themselves after a period of pervasive human rights abuses due to conflict or authoritarian regimes. While definitions of TJ may vary, they all encompass the political, legal and moral dilemmas faced during these transitions. 

The field has expanded in three significant ways: it has moved to embrace a larger number of disciplines, transcending its initial legal focus; it has broadened its goals; and it has also raised high expectations in troubled societies. Even though TJ cannot achieve all of its goals, due to its inherent limitations, this fascinating and increasingly popular field merits its careful study. 

The purpose of this course is to: (i) examine and analyze TJ mechanisms including trials, truth commissions, reparations, lustration/vetting, amnesties, reforms, and memorialization; (ii) investigate normative and political debates raised by TJ processes; (iii) assess the effects and reach of TJ processes; and (iv) discuss real examples stemming from a variety of countries that have or are experiencing huge violations of human rights.

Food and Cities

Professor Mesbah Motamed

HONR 2047:11 - 3 Credits

CRN 44950

R 3:30PM - 6:00PM


  • GPAC Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences

Course Description: Since human societies started practicing agriculture 10,000 years ago, the relationship between food and cities has shaped the growth of economies and empires. To this day, food markets continue to drive economic debates and policy choices with consequences ranging from nutrition and cost of living to political instability and violent conflict. This class examines how agricultural systems—food production, consumption, and trade—have shaped historic and modern outcomes in health, economic development, and urbanization. Building on this foundation, it further explores how modern policies interact with food in urban settings. In this seminar, we will tackle questions like: How did agriculture give rise to cities? How does farming technology shape the food we eat? Why do some countries struggle to achieve food security? How do governments balance the competing demands of food producers and consumers? How does policy affect our food choices? Expert guest speakers will complement the lectures, and students will similarly contribute to topic discussions by presenting findings from the scholarly literature. In their final class paper, students will address a current policy debate in food and agriculture that draws critically from the views of researchers, advocates, and broader private interests.

Bio: Dr. Motamed works at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an innovative and independent U.S. foreign assistance agency that is helping lead the fight against global poverty. He helps develop and design high-return public investments geared towards stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty in developing countries.  

Ancient Skies: Our Journey to Understand the Cosmos

Professor Shanil Virani

HONR 2047:12 - 3 Credits

CRN 46809

M 6:10PM - 8:40PM


  • GPAC Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences

Course Description: The Great Pyramids of Egypt. Newgrange in Ireland. Stonehenge in England. Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Chaco Canyon in the American southwest. Chitchen Itza in Mexico. Macchu Pichu in Peru. These are just a few of the elaborate structures that our ancestors built that indicate they deciphered the pattern of motion of the Sun and Moon over the course of a year. They understood that the Sun did not rise due East every day and did not set due west every day. They understood there was a season of cold, of growth and renewal, of warmth, and a time when nights grew long. They observed that the moon repeated its cycle of phases approximately every 30 days, and even coined a word for that timescale they still use! A month. Think Moon-th! These observations led to the creation of early calendars. Moreover, the ancient Wayfinders of Polynesia figured out how to use the position of stars to navigate some of the most treacherous waters on Earth. This allowed them to discover many of the islands in the South Pacific and perhaps even reach South America long before European explorers. Join astronomer and host of the Our Island Universe podcast, Shanil Virani, as we journey through space and time to view the ancient skies of our ancestors, to learn how they decoded its patterns, and what this says about us as a species. Following in the path of our ancestors, semester-long observing of the day and night sky will allow you to make sense of the regular patterns they decoded.

Bio: Professor Virani is the host of Our Island Universe, a weekly podcast that looks at all things space. Professor Virani’s research has focused on supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. 

Leading High-Performing Teams

Professor Sharon Hill

HONR 2047:13 - 3 Credits

CRN 47844

W 3:30PM - 6:00PM


  • GPAC Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences

Course Description: Leading and participating effectively in teams is a critical and highly valued competence in today’s workforce. Many of the most pressing problems in contemporary organizations require complex solutions developed by teams that bring together diverse expertise, skills, and experiences. Yet, research points to numerous challenges that undermine successful teamwork, causing many teams to fall short of their goals. Moreover, recent teamwork trends—such as virtual teams (i.e., members distributed across

different locations and time zones, relying on electronic rather than face-to-face communication) and multicultural teams—can increase these challenges. However, they can also present new opportunities. In this course, students develop knowledge and skills for leading high-performing teams, including determining when teams are (and are not) the right choice, setting teams up for success, and promoting effective team dynamics. Students will also learn research-based leadership strategies for addressing the challenges and leveraging the opportunities of leading teams in an increasingly digital, global age.

***This course will require an additional $80 fee for course materials***

Bio: Dr. Hill is an Associate Professor of Management in the GW’s School of Business. Her primary research area is virtual work, which involves work interactions using electronic rather than face-to-face communication between employees and she has previously worked with many different multinational companies. She was awarded GW’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research Mentorship Award in 2022.

Identity and Politics in Africa

Professor Matthew Kirwin

HONR 2047:14 - 3 Credits

CRN 47845

M 5:10PM - 7:00PM


  • GPAC Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences

Course Description: The class will focus on African identities and how they both shape and are shaped by political behavior.  It will commence with an examination of the origin stories of several key ethnic groups and how these narratives shape claims to legitimacy in modern polities.  The class will also investigate how westerners have regarded Africa and how these largely pejorative perceptions affected western engagement with the continent and how these views continue to resonate today. It will attempt to answer the question of how identity affects political access and resource distribution on the continent.  The class will conclude with a discussion of how outsiders, foreign governments and militaries as well as global extremist organizations seek to influence the continent while also considering how African publics interpret these efforts.  The class will take a multimedia approach, relying on academic articles, films, novels and music to examine how African identities are formed and shaped.

Bio: Dr. Kirwin is a Division Chief in the Office of Opinion Research at the US Department of State who has over 20 years of work and research experience on development, and security in Africa. He once served in the Peace Corps in Niger and was awarded GW’s Morton A. Bender Teaching Award in 2021.

Providing Reading Materials for Underprivileged Children

Professor Leo Chalupa

HONR 2047:15 - 3 Credits

CRN 47846

TR 2:20PM - 3:35PM


  • GPAC Critical Thinking in the Social Sciences

Course Description: Since the early 1950s a vast literature from the neurosciences has established the paramount importance of experience on the developing brain. The preschool years have been shown to play a determining factor in subsequent successful performance in school, and indeed, in life in general. In this context, it is alarming that children raised in disadvantaged socioeconomic families often have little or no experience with age-appropriate books. The main objective of the class is to devise a children’s book drive at GWU and to distribute these books to economically disadvantaged families. The course will be comprised of the following: (i) a selective review of the relevant neuroscientific and educational literature documenting the important of exposure to books from infancy through preschool; (ii) designing a workable plan for obtaining children’s book donations from the GWU community (and possibly related groups); the sorting and storage of these books, as well as the distribution of these books utilizing appropriate channels within the District of Columbia.

A term paper based on the course experience will be required.

Bio: Dr. Chalupa is a Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology in GW's School of Medicine and Health Sciences whose research focuses on the developmental neurobiology of visual systems. He served for nearly a decade as GW's first Vice President for Research, growing GW's research profile significantly during his tenure.

Holocaust Memory

Professor Walter Reich

HONR 2047:81 - 3 Credits

CRN 46504

W 3:30PM - 6:00PM


  • CCAS: Upper-level History European Regional requirement
  • ESIA: Comparative, Political, Economic, Social Systems, Conflict Resolution, Contemporary Cultures and Societies, Europe and Eurasia, International Politics, and Security Policy concentrations
  • This course has no GPAC designations

***Note that UHP students will only receive Self & Society credit if they are enrolled in the HONR 2047 section (CRN: 46504)***

Course cross listed with IAFF 3190.82 (CRN: 46577) and JSTD 2002 (CRN: 46879)

Course Description: The sources, construction, development, nature, uses and misuses of the memory, or public consciousness, of the Holocaust. How do different publics in different countries, cultures and societies know, or think they know, about the Holocaust from diaries, memoirs, testimonies, fiction, documentaries, television, commercial films, memorials, museums, the Internet, educational programs and the statements of world leaders—some of them historically accurate and some of them highly distorted, often for political and national reasons. The challenge of representing the Holocaust with fidelity and memorializing its victims with dignity and authenticity. The impact of Holocaust memory on contemporary responses to other genocides and crimes against humanity. The increasing efforts to use, misuse, abuse, minimize, deny or attack the Holocaust for political, diplomatic, strategic, ideological, antisemitic, anti-Zionist, or other purposes, including the growing efforts to create false or distorted narratives of the Holocaust in Europe in the service of nationalist ends.  The effectiveness—or lack of effectiveness--of Holocaust memory in teaching the Holocaust’s contemporary “lessons,” especially the vow of “Never again!” The roles of Holocaust memory, and of Holocaust denial or minimization, in international affairs, including in the Middle East in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular. The psychological, national and diplomatic role of Holocaust memory in Israeli consciousness and behavior. The effects on Holocaust memory of the passage of time since the event. This course uses a cross-disciplinary approach, drawing on the fields of politics, society, ethics, literature, history, cinema, individual testimony, group psychology, social psychology, individual psychology and international affairs.

Bio: Dr. Reich is the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He formerly served as a Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Totalitarianism: Reading Hannah Arendt

Professor Ingrid Creppell

HONR 2047W:81 - 3 Credits

CRN 44704

W 12:45PM - 3:15PM


  • WID requirement
  • This course has no GPAC designations

***Note that UHP students will only receive Self & Society credit if they are enrolled in the HONR 2047 section (CRN: 44704)***

Course cross listed with PSC 3192W (CRN: 47958)

Course Description: This course will engage in a close reading of Hannah Arendt’s masterpiece The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951). Considered by many contemporary writers to be an essential reference today (see for a couple of examples: Why We Should Read Hannah Arendt Now and Transcript: Ezra Kelin Interview Anne Applebaum), this text requires careful exploration for its philosophical, historical, psychological, analytical and of course brilliant political insights. It has also stirred up a great deal of controversy since its publication, for its discussions of anti-semitism, race and imperialism, and communism, to name only the most explosive topics. Its magisterial achievement, passionate and engaged scholarship and enormously ambitious scope make it worth devoting an entire semester to close analysis. Hans Morgenthau (a founder if 20th century Realism in IR theory) observed: “You can fight over many things with her, but she was the first to understand fascism. Then all the professors came along years later to make details where she was the pioneer. She was a historian very close up, like Thucydides” (quoted in Why Arendt Matters By Elisabeth Young-Bruehl).

Bio: Dr. Creppell is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs. She is currently working on enmity as a conceptual, normative, psychological and historical phenomenon.

The Rise of Authoritarianism: The Role of Media, Political Economy & History

Professor Steven Livingston

HONR 2047:82 - 3 Credits

CRN 48177

TR 12:45PM - 2:00PM


  • This course has no GPAC designations
  • SMPA: Political Communications major requirement

***Note that UHP students will only receive Self & Society credit if they are enrolled in the HONR 2047 section (CRN: 48177)***

Course cross listed with SMPA 3194.81 (CRN: 48180)

Course Description: According to V-Dem, a research institute in Sweden, “In North America, and Western and Eastern Europe, no country (in 2022) has advanced in democracy in the past ten years while Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and the United States of America have declined substantially.”  Nearly two-thirds (64%) of young Americans have more fear than hope about the future of democracy in America. What explains these developments, both in the U.S. and abroad? One common explanation singles out social media, often in conjunction with conventional media. Other explanations focus on social, historical, and economic factors. Interestingly, these approaches often speak past one another. One of our goals will be to join these approaches together in an effort to understanding democratic backsliding. Media effects must be understood in a social context.

Bio: Dr. Livingston is the Founding Director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics and Professor of Media and Public Affairs. Dr. Livingston is spending the Spring 2023 semester as senior fellow at the Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS) research consortium in Berlin, Germany and completed a Fulbright Scholar in Helsinki in 2021.