Cultural and Regional Studies

Enabling student to think critically across disciplines

Students Talking at Tabling Event,

This competence area takes an innovative approach to the College's liberal arts and environmental mission. Students have the opportunity to understand varied cultural responses to the human condition and its environmental surroundings.

The curriculum design enables students to think critically across a number of disciplines, including anthropology, communication, economics, history, politics, and sociology. Students pursue a combination of local and field-based courses, explore the interwoven forces of globalism and localism in a variety of cultural settings.

The rich variety of extracurricular activities at Prescott College complements and enhances this competence – for example, the Amnesty International Club, the  Aztlan Center for Environmental Justice, the Student Environmental Network, and  the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. Many courses offer active, participatory  learning experiences among students, teachers of other courses, mentors and  others, and through travel courses in the United States and abroad.

Cultural and Regional Studies Areas of Knowledge

Border Studies

Border Studies, a flourishing field of study, analyzes the layering and clashing of cultural practices and images. The College's location in the Southwest provide a unique opportunity to consider "borders" as fundamental to analysis of the contemporary world. This decisive idea pushes study into the fresh and often uncharted conceptual territory of exile, migrations, diasporas, ecotourism, post- colonialism, multiculturalism, subcultures, and xenophobia.

Gender Studies

Gender Studies investigates questions of power organized around differences of gender. This area focuses on gender representations in the mass media, on the mapping of gender hierarchy onto the nature/culture distinction and on the social construction of gender roles in private and public life.

Political Economy

Political Economy studies the relationships among political institutions and values, economic institutions and practices, and the natural environment that supports them all. The study of political economy raises questions and hopes for change on a global scale. Through the methods of ecological economics and political ecology, students acquire a deeper understanding of the concept of "development."

Regional Studies

Regional Studies focuses on the authenticity of bioregional and cultural location. Regionalism offers a critical perspective providing new resources for identity and energies for reimagining the nature of the nation/state. Regional Studies has its roots in the particularities of place: history, language, cultural expressions, and physical environment. Study opportunities arise within the United States and abroad.

Religion and Philosophy

The Religion and Philosophy competence corresponds with the College's liberal arts mission. Students experience and endeavor to comprehend the universal human process of understanding themselves and their world, exploring a wide variety of religious experiences, thought, institutions, texts, and ethics.

Courses aim to enrich and encourage students' efforts to relate to the sacred or spiritual aspects of their world. Philosophy introduces the great issues that have intrigued people through time, offering students opportunities to develop their own personal philosophies. Students learn to think critically about and evaluate key issues and communicate their ideas orally and in writing. The religion and philosophy area seeks to integrate the human experience on both the intellectual and spiritual levels.

Most of the classes have field components, including visits to museums and community religious institutions and participation in lectures and conferences. Local resources include the Hindu religious community in Skull Valley, various area Christian churches, Prescott's Jewish synagogue, the local Baha'i group, the Thai Buddhist temple in Phoenix, and the Tibetan Buddhist Garchen Institute in Chino Valley. Students meet and interact with meditation teachers, religious practitioners, and philosophers who demonstrate various forms of thought and practice.

Student-Directed Competence Examples

Many students design and build individualized competences around their own questions about culture, power, and social systems, drawing from a wide array of cultural and regional studies courses as well as related interdisciplinary courses across the entire curriculum

Agroecology, Ethnobiology, and Sustainable Food Systems

Students explore the conservation of traditional sustainable economies, the environment, the development of more sustainable economies within areas of natural resource depletion, and the application of traditional knowledge to agriculture to achieve more sustainable and non-exploitative practices.

Border Studies

Cultural and economic conflicts resulting from land and resource battles throughout the world are explored through independent studies and on-site visits.  The history of conflict, revolution, environment, and independence create a context through which students can examine present-day conflicts and explore options for resolution and diplomacy.

Community and Social Change

Students integrate research and practical study, learning to use the essential tools for the creation of healthy community structures.  They develop and understanding of social and physical cultural borders, ideologies and diversity within communities, and issues such as generational differences, gender studies, race relations, nonviolence, social action education, and community development.

Community Development

Students investigate numerous areas to understand community development, including the infusion of ecology, social relations, health and wellness, food production, building design and implementation, consumption dynamics, resource management, and local, regional, and global connections.  Students may apply skill they gain to developing a plan for creating social movement toward holistic living.

Global and Local Food Systems

Study includes the ties among food, people, politics, land, culture, and power.  Students explore the farm-to-food chain and consider socioeconomics, energy efficiency, land degradation, and cultural customs tied to growth methods and food preparation using concepts of agroecology, ecodesign, and permaculture to gain practical skills of food growth and production.

History and Culture Studies

Students examine how culture changes over time and how this impacts the modern worlds, gaining perspective on trends and cause-and-effect relationships between internal and external pressures and cultural reform.  Topics include comparative religion, political systems, world history, anthropology, conflict history, race and gender issues, and human rights.

International Relations

Students look at an array of cultures and religions of the world, along with historic, environmental, and political factors that shape populations.  This includes the exploration of societal structures within various contexts through understanding of psychology and group behavior, and travel to examine a specific culture and its responses to governmental, environmental, and societal pressure.  Students have opportunities to gain understanding of cultural dynamics and community existence within a larger social context

Political Ecology

This competence focuses on the disciplines of ecology and cultural studies in an effort to gain a holistic understanding of the interrelation and effects of humans with the environment, using science as a base for thoughtful, constructive action.  Students learn basic social science research methods, while exploring historical and ongoing cultural attempts to quell environmental and societal discord.  Topics covered include capitalist globalization, poverty reduction, social inequality, resource monopolization, and human and environmental rights abuses.

Politics and Social Thought

Students develop knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for analyzing and resolving social conflict and for promoting the principles of peace, freedom, justice, respect, cooperation, and personal and global harmony.  They gain holistic, historical, and political understanding of societal constructs including gender, race, and government.

Sustainability and Social Justice

Study covers the history and current status of the interacting issues of sustainability and social justice in such areas as food production, resource distribution, human rights, wilderness protection, and reproductive health and education.  Students explore the tools to address these partnerships and predicaments.


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  • David Meeks

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