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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Britt T. Yamamoto
GEOG 495
Seattle Campus

Special Topics

Topics vary and are announced in the preceding quarter. Offered: AWSpS.

Class description

This class brings coursework in civil society into critical conversation with service learning projects in local organizations. Coursework will introduce students to the concept of civil society, its varied representations and its practice at different geographic scales. At the same time, students will volunteer at different Seattle-based organizations on projects that will emphasize work and service. In this course, these two experiences will be brought together through exercises which focus on the ways in which the broad theoretical tools for understanding civil society inform and conceal everyday practice and vice-versa.

The main themes of this course are to examine and think critically about how “good work”--through service, volunteerism and civil society--is discursively constructed, and how work in civil society and service learning is shaped by state, market and political forces. Furthermore, a central theme of this course will be, specifically, to situate the work of students from the University of Washington doing service learning and the organizations in which they are working, within a broader university politics and a multi-scalar political economy. We will examine a range of theories related to the intellectual discourse and study of civil society from both inside and outside the discipline of geography, particularly as civil society has been theorized in relation to the state and market and at different geographic scales.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

In addition to conventional classroom instruction, the structure of this course will allow students an opportunity to work with and learn from local organizations working in civil society, including: private and community foundations, 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations and unincorporated grass-roots efforts.

In-class discussion, lecture, readings and written assignments on civil society will complement these service learning projects. Course requirements include weekly assignments, a final group project and final paper.

Recommended preparation

Graduating seniors, advanced undergraduates and graduate students who are: --Interested in doing service learning with a more critical focus; --Interested in better understanding the theoretical foundations and empirical dimensions of the civil society discourse; --Considering work or a career in the nonprofit/nongovernmental sector; --Interested in issues of service, volunteerism, citizenship and activism; --Curious to wrestle with how critical theory can be applied in practical work; --Thinking about doing volunteer or development work overseas.

Class assignments and grading

Written work incorporating reading material, service experience and individual reflection. Group work for final presenation.

Weekly Assignments (30%) Final Group Presentation (20%) Final Project Evaluation (10%) Final Paper (30%) Class Participation (10%)


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Britt T. Yamamoto
Date: 02/21/2003