Oceanic Justice Syllabus

On World Ocean’s Day, I am sharing this syllabus for an undergraduate class that I am teaching this summer at University of Pittsburgh. This is a six weeks general education class that fulfills several requirements at our university, including Literature, Writing and Global Studies. Please feel free to adapt, borrow and use this syllabus. However drafting a syllabus takes a lot of labor. Therefore I will really appreciate, if you use it with proper credits. I am grateful to a lot of people who have helped me think more about this work at different stages of my graduate career: Shalini Puri, Neepa Majumdar, Troy Boone, Geoffrey Glover, Cory Holding, Neelofer Qadir, Supriya Chaudhuri, Sugata Hazra, Najnin Islam, Barnamala Roy, Alexandra Campbell, Nilanjana Deb, Arpita Chattaraj Mukhopadhyay, Silpa Mukherjee, Rahul Kumar and Ankita Deb. My gratitude to Saronik Bosu who helped me in designing the promotional poster for this class.

Underwater sculpture by Jason DeCaires Taylor. Image of a person sitting on a sofa on the sea bed and watching television.

Course Description

Our class on Oceanic Justice takes up contemporary literary and cultural imaginations of the ocean to ask : if it is a world which is on the verge of disappearance because of sea level rise, what alternative futures of the world can the lens of the ocean help us envision? We will immerse ourselves in short stories set under the ocean; deep ‘dive’ to look at underwater sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor; soak in oceanic worldmaking that counters eco-pessimism; and sail from coast to coast to explore the interconnection of labor, climate change and refugee crisis.

Core goals:

Ø To reflect on how literature and the arts can be transformative in imagining social justice.

Ø To consider the cultural and historical ramifications of oceanic justice for our past, present and future.

Ø To approach justice as a multidimensional issue, going beyond legal mechanisms.

Ø To critically interrogate whether the spaces that we inhabit enact principles of environmental justice.

Summer Teaching Schedule, 2021

Week 1 Oceanic Pasts and Present: Slavery, Refugee Crisis and Climate Crisis

18th May, Tue: Introduction, Expectations.

In-class Viewing : Pumzi

20th May, Thursday : Poetry

“The Sea is History” by Derek Walcott

“Geography Lesson” by Yvette Christiansë

“Refugee Status Determination” and “Water” ( from the anthology Mediterranean by Warscapes)

“Water” by Koleka Putuma (Performance poetry)

“Of Ships and Men”

Introduce : Close Reading Assignment

Week 2 Speculative Futures and Feminist Worldmaking

25th May, Tue : Short stories

Singh, Vandana. “Mother Ocean.” In Current Futures: A Sci-Fi Anthology. Web

Mashigo, Mohale. “Floating Rugs.” In Current Futures: A Sci-Fi Anthology. Web.

27th May, Thursday : Visual Arts

Underwater sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor.

Video project : “Communicating Women’s Health Issues in the Climate Change Vulnerable Areas of Indian Sunderbans”

Class visit: Barnamala Roy, Video-artist from India.

Close Reading Assignment Workshop/Peer- Review

30th May, Sunday: Submit Close reading assignment via Canvas

Week 3 Oceanic Fragments: The Mediterranean

1st June, Tuesday

Mediterranean by Warscapes (Excerpts TBD)

Introduce: Anthology Assignment

3rd June, Thursday

Mediterranean by Warscapes (Excerpts TBD) Continued

Show examples of previous anthology assignments.

Week 4 Afro-Asian Solidarities

8th June, Tuesday : Migritude by Shailja Patel (1–70)

10th June, Thursday: Migritude by Shailja Patel (rest),

Migritude‘s “Decolonial Lessons ” by Dr. Neelofer Qadir. Class visit by Dr Neelofer Qadir.

13th June, Sunday: Anthology Assignment due via Canvas

Week 5 Indigenous Mapping

15 th June, Tuesday

“Introduction” to Candace Fujikane’s recently published book Mapping Abundance for a Planetary Future,

Margaret Wickens Pearce and Renee Pualani Louis, “Mapping Indigenous Depth to Place” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 32:3 (2008): 107–26

Viewing Project : Decolonial Atlas

17th June, Thursday : In-class workshops and Working with Digital Tools

Week 6 Indigenous Mapping

22nd June, Tuesday : In-class workshops and Working with Digital Tools

Meeting with Sri to discuss Map projects. Please come prepared with a map that you want to work on.

24th June, Thursday: Presentation Day

27th June, Sunday: Map Assignment due.

Assignments and Point Distribution

Close reading project : 300 points

Anthology project : 300 points

Map-making project: 300 points

Final class presentation: 100 point

Course Citizenship: 500 points

Total points : 1500 points

Detailed guidelines about each of these assignments will be posted on our Canvas Site, in advance. Please note that all grades and points for macro assignments that you receive from me throughout the semester are provisional because you have the opportunity to revise any of your macro projects for better grades and points throughout the semester. Before you submit your macro projects, I encourage you to make use of my office hours to discuss drafts. I can also take a look at your drafts if you submit them to me at least three days before the due date. Please also be prepared drafts of your work with your peers during small group sessions.

1450–1500: A+

1400–1449: A

1350–1399: A-

1300–1349: B+

1250–1299: B

1200–1249: B-

1150–1199: C+

1100–1149: C

1050–1099: C-

1000–1049: D+

900–999- D

Anything below 900: F


There will be one presentation at the end of the semester on your map project. Detailed guidelines about this presentation will be communicated to you mid-semester.

Mid-Semester Meeting and Map Proposal Meeting

As an instructor, it is important for me to be able to understand the career goals of my students and what they expect out of the course, so that I can craft and adapt the course to suit the needs of my students. Therefore, we will meet at least twice in the semester virtually. I will circulate an excel sheet for both of these meetings and you will be expected to sign up for the meetings.

The Mid-term conferences(10–15 minutes for each students) are substantial in nature. We will take stock of your performance in the semester till that point and work together to make a plan on how you can be a better writer in the remaining days of the semester. Mid-term conferences can also be brainstorming sessions, where you may consider running your ideas for a paper by me. Should you need to reschedule the time and date for a mid-term conference, please email me at least 24 hours before a meeting is due. I might be able to accommodate your request for a rescheduled date/time but you do need to give me advance notice.

Map Project Meeting: We will meet once more for about 10 minutes to discuss your map proposal and plan out a timeline for conducting the final map project

A note on accessing readings for this class.

I am aware that textbooks often cause undue financial stress on students. Therefore, I have made a decision to make all readings except the ones mentioned below, available to you for free on the class Canvas site.

I request you to purchase the two books that you will read for this class:

Mediterranean by Warscapes

Migritude by Shailja Patel

I have already placed a request for textbooks at the University Store on Fifth Avenue. Please be aware that processing textbooks at this time is taking more time than usual. So university store might not have it instantly. They are also offering window pick-ups and free delivery to residence halls Another good place to see whether these books are available or not is the Carnegie Mellon Public Libraries where membership is free. They also have a pick-up facility operational now.

COVID has massively impacted local bookstores whose book sales have gone down and they are struggling to keep themselves afloat. This is a good time to support them, if you would like.

Please get in touch with me, if you have not been able to get a copy of these books. I will try my best to work with you to make sure that you have access to these readings.

How will this class function?

Although the class is for 3 hours and 15 hours for two days in a week, I am cognizant that being on Zoom for 3 hours is not feasible.

Hence, we will have two hour synchronous sessions on each day (with options to participate asynchronously). The third hour of each class day is reserved for my office time, where you can meet with me to discuss readings, assignment and your writing. I recommend you make use of my office hours, though it’s optional for you.

We will have a 10 minute break in the two hour session. On some of the days, we will have guest speakers visiting our class.

Note: I will be remote for the entire term because I am prioritizing my safety during a pandemic and also encourage you to prioritize your own safety first, above anything else. Please note that you will not be penalized in any way for choosing to stay remote for the entire term and completing the course. Presence in the physical space of the classroom is not required.

Modes of Attendance and Class Participation

Per the Flex@Pitt plan, there are three ways to attend and participate in this class: in person or remotely, synchronously or asynchronously. Remote-synchronous means that you participate in the “real time” of the class virtually from a location of your choosing. Remote-asynchronous means that you complete the work for the class but do not participate in “live” class sessions. Whether synchronous or asynchronous, robust participation is important because this course is a “seminar.” That is, it runs on our shared ideas and conversations, and we want our hive-mind to be as buzzing as possible. We also want to know and learn from each other. If you are thinking of going fully asynchronous, please let me know.

Synchronous sessions

To participate synchronously (whether in-person or remote):

· Arrive on time (or a few minutes early — the “classroom” will be open to you);

· Even if you are in the actual, physical classroom, log in to our Zoom session;

· To receive full participation points: you can 1) speak and/or type in the chat 3 times or more and participate as an active member in small group discussions; or 2) volunteer to be the day’s notetaker.

· Notetaker: records major class points in discussion, but not who said them. After class, uploads the “Notetaker’s Records” to the Canvas page (a discussion board) for All-Class Meeting.

To participate asynchronously:

· Read the notes on the All-Class Meeting page;

· View the recorded announcements after the class (you are responsible for this information); and

· Within 24 hours of the class you missed, post to the Asynch Attendance Discussion Board at least 300 words on your responses to the central questions for class discussion and the class meeting notes.

· Within 48 hours of the class you missed, post to the Asynch Attendance Discussion Board any in-class writing or other project that students produced during the class you missed.

Course Policies

Where to look for official communication :

I will send out official communication using our Canvas site and email. So please do check the Canvas site for this class and your Pitt email, at least once a day.

Platforms that we will be using for this course

Zoom, Panopto for watching video recordings(I will connect it our Canvas Site) and our Canvas shell.

In addition, I ask you to download any pdf reader and Microsoft Office for reading, notetaking and annotation. A list of software that you can access as a Pitt student are available here : https://www.technology.pitt.edu/services/software-download-service-my-pitt

Office Hours /Let’s chat

The office hours are time periods that I have dedicated each week to address your concerns, questions or something that you think you may need help with. Are you struggling with understanding concepts in a reading/assignment? Do you think that you may need help in helping you envision how you can grow as a writer through revision? Would you like to discuss your ideas for the research project with me at some length? Please come and see me virtually during the office hours so that we can work together in this journey of making you a better writer and thinker. My office hours are on Mondays from 3 to 5 pm and you can use the Zoom link specified at the top of the syllabus to meet me.

Although it is not required, I would strongly encourage to email me and/or let me know after class that you are planning to visit me and your reason for visit so that I can prepare myself about what to expect. This will also help in avoiding circumstances where multiple people turn up at the same time.

Email Communication Policy Statement

Each student is issued a University email address (username@pitt.edu) upon admittance. You are expected to read emails sent to this account on a regular basis. You will need to use this email address to access CourseWeb for this class. Some basic rules that you will need to follow while writing an email to me are as follows:-

a)Always include a title briefly mentioning your purpose for the email.

b)Please consider including a salutation: “Dear Sri”/ “Hello Sri”.

c) You may not use SMS language while composing an email

d)Always sign off your email politely. Examples include: “Best”, “Sincerely”, “Warm regards”

The reason, I insist on emails being written in a specific way is because emails are a part of your professional exchange and a genre of writing, that you will likely use in your future too. So it is better to start early and craft it with the care and attention that it deserves. This is important for your own professional advancement.

You can expect me to respond to your emails within 48 hours, except on holidays and weekends. If I do not respond to your emails by 48 hours, please send me a reminder email because due to the high volume of emails that I receive every day, it might get lost in my inbox.

For the full Email Communication Policy, go to www.bc.pitt.edu/policies/policy/09/09-10-01.html.

Land Acknowledgment

We are gathered on the unceded land of the Osage people. I ask you to join me in acknowledging the Osage community, their elders both past and present, as well as future generations. As a class, we also acknowledge that it was founded upon exclusions and erasures of many Indigenous people, including those on whose land this institution is located. This acknowledgement demonstrates a commitment to beginning the process of working to dismantle the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism.

Recording Policy

Portions of this class may be recorded for the benefit of students unable to be present and opting for an asynchronous learning. I will always let you know if I begin recording the class. Recording video or audio in Pennsylvania requires the consent of all participants. Students are also subject to PA law and are not allowed to record a class without permission of all participants. If you are not comfortable being recorded in conversation in general, please let me know. If you are not comfortable being recorded in any specific situation, you may choose not to participate in discussion. The other alternatives are, I will pause the recording as you speak or you could choose turn your video off, as you speak if you are uncomfortable being recorded. Any class recordings that I make for this class will be circulated only within the students enrolled in this course and not with anyone else.

Statement on Class Decorum

I encourage an open classroom and the sharing of ideas in a safe, respectful environment. In order to facilitate this open exchange of ideas, as members of this class, we agree that we will not engage in derogatory language, writing, or expressions against race, ethnicity, religion, gender identification, sexuality, economic position, and political views. Any disagreement in class discussion with me or with your fellow students should be respectfully expressed so that there can be an equal exchange of thoughts.

Content Warning and Class Climate

Our course readings and classroom discussions will at times focus on mature, difficult, and potentially challenging topics. Readings and discussions might trigger strong feelings — anger, discomfort, frustration, anxiety, confusion, excitement, humor and even boredom. Some of us may have emotional responses to readings; some of us may have emotional responses to our peers’ understanding of the readings; all of us should feel responsible for creating a space that is both intellectually rigorous and respectful. Above all, be respectful (even when you strongly disagree) and be mindful of the ways that our identities position us in the classroom.

Disability Resource Services Statement

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact me and the Office of Disability Resources and Services, 216 William Pitt Union, 412–648–7890/412–383–7355 (TTY), as early as possible in the term. Disability Resources and Services will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course. However, I am also committed to addressing disabilities that are undocumented and not always visible. Please let me well in advance and we will see how we can work around it.


It is important that the work you submit is your own work, that you acknowledge your sources, whether quoted or paraphrased, and thank anyone who has helped you with your drafts. When you cite scholarship of others, you locate yourself within an intellectual dialogue and network. Therefore citation helps a reader understand with whom you are in conversation and in what ways you add to the existing scholarship

We’ll talk about responsible use of sources, but you should consult your handbook for guidelines on proper paraphrase, quotation, and citation. You can get additional help at the Writing Center, as well as at hackerhandbooks.com/pocket. The English Department defines plagiarism by a student as:

● when a student presents as his/her own, for academic evaluation, the ideas, representations, or works of another person or persons without customary and proper acknowledgement of sources.

● when a student submits work of another person in a manner which represents the work to be his/her own.

Instances of plagiarism will result in a loss of credit for the assignment and a report to the dean. Severe cases may result in failure of the course.. For the University’s full policy on Academic Integrity and the adjudication process for infringements, including plagiarism, go to http://www.pitt.edu/~provost/ai1.hdtml.

Sexual Misconduct, Required Reporting and Title IX

The University is committed to combating sexual misconduct. As a result, University faculty and staff members are required to report any instances of sexual misconduct, including harassment and sexual violence, to the University’s Title IX office so that the victim may be provided appropriate resources/support options. What this means is that as your instructor, I am required to report any incidents of sexual misconduct that are directly reported to me, or of which I am somehow made aware.

There are two important exceptions: a list of the designated University employees who, as counselors and medical professionals, do not have this reporting responsibility and can maintain confidentiality, can be found at http://www.titleix.pitt.edu/report/confidentiality. An important exemption to the reporting requirement exists for academic work. Disclosures about sexual misconduct that are shared as part of an academic project, classroom discussion, or course assignment are not required to be disclosed to the University’s Title IX office. If you are the victim of sexual misconduct, Pitt encourages you to reach out to these resources: *Title IX Office: 412–648–7860 *SHARE @ the University Counseling Center: 412–648–7930 (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. MF) and 412–648–7856 (after business hours). If you have a safety concern, please contact the University of Pittsburgh Police, 412–624–2121. Other reporting information is available at http://titleix.pitt.edu/report-0.

Writing Center

The Writing Center is a great resource that you might consider taking help of, for your writing. Although consultants do not correct, edit, or proofread papers, they can teach you strategies for organizing, editing, and revising your writing. For the Summer of 2021, the Writing Center has remote tutoring available, that may help you to grow as a writer. To sign up for remote appointments, please check this page : https://www.writingcenter.pitt.edu/undergraduate/remote-tutoring

This is already covered within the tuition fees that you pay to the university. So, there’s no extra charge and you would want to make effective use of this resource available to you.

A note on the Pandemic:

As with everything in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, this class has a contingency plan. If you become ill, or if you become a caregiver for a loved one who is ill, please let me know with a brief email.

If I become ill, class will initially move to asynchronous mode. If you receive a message that I am ill, you’ll be instructed to follow the asynchronous guidelines for weekly meetings, watch the weekly lesson (if relevant), and complete writing assignments listed on the course schedule. Things won’t be graded during that time, but I’ll catch up when I return. If my absence is longer than two weeks, another instructor will step in until either I am able to return or the end of the term.



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