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Native American & Indigenous Studies Courses

NAIS Minor

In May of 2014, the School of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee and Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania approved a new inter-disciplinary Minor in the field of Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS). Minors at Penn are intended to: enable students to develop knowledges and skills that can complement their major; pursue additional fields of in-depth study beyond the major; express themselves in a different discipline; explore an emerging intellectual field; gain experience in applying specific methods and theories; and/or learn about particular ethnicities, cultures, and heritages.

The NAIS Minor requires SIX courses in total: ONE "Core Course" and FIVE "Related Courses," spread across at least TWO departments at Penn. Students interested in pursuing the NAIS Minor can follow the links on this page for more information.

• To download a pdf file with past and present NAIS course descriptions, see: NAIS New Course Descriptions 2023.pdf

• To register for the NAIS Minor, contact NAIS Advisor Prof. Kate Moore:

• For information on other Minors available for study at Penn, see: List of Minors

Overview of NAIS Courses

The University of Pennsylvania currently offers a number of courses with Native American and Indigenous content across several different departments. Several courses include dense content focusing almost exclusively on Native American and First Nations peoples in North America. Other courses offer sections focusing on Indigenous peoples and issues in diverse worldwide locales, from diverse disciplinary perspectives. 

Some NAIS courses are cross-listed or can be applied towards other requirements of the College. Other NAIS courses offer foundational knowledge that is central to a particular discipline, but can also be very useful across disciplines. Several new NAIS courses are currently in development; please check back for more information.

Note: The NAIS roster of courses is in a period of transition, since some faculty have retired and some courses are temporarily unavailable. In the interim, we encourage interested students to take other related courses, which can be accommodated as substitutions (contact the NAIS Advisor with any questions).

Spring 2024 NAIS Courses:

Core Course for Spring 2024:

ANTH 1490: Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies
Prof. Tina  Fragoso   Tuesday & Thursday  3:30-5:00 PM
This course offers a broad introduction to evolving scholarship in the combined fields of Native American Studies and Indigenous Studies worldwide. Students will examine the various ways that Indigenous peoples and academic researchers are currently engaging with Indigenous knowledges, while also exploring the lingering impacts of settler colonialism and the influence of decolonizing methodologies. Students will gain foundational understandings of the cross-disciplinary nature of Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS), by studying theoretical interpretations of Indigenous peoples in academic and historical contexts, and by examining practical approaches to Indigenous research in diverse worldwide settings. Students will approach topics from a variety of disciplinary traditions, utilizing historical texts, ethnological studies, oral literature, material culture, and modern media, including websites and databases produced by and for Indigenous communities. Readings will include the work of researchers who bridge the disciplines of anthropology, history, folklore, art, law, science, etc. Students will watch a selection of films by Indigenous filmmakers, and attend lectures by a selection of Indigenous guest speakers. Special case studies will focus on: new directions in collaborative research; issues in museum representation and repatriation; heritage site protection and Indigenous archaeology; legal interventions and protections for Indigenous rights; and innovative projects in language restoration and cultural recovery.

Theme Courses for Spring 2024:

STSC (HSOC 3097): Indigenous Science: Indigeneity in Health, Science, And Technology
Prof. Juan Gil-Riano   Tuesday & Thursday   10:15-11:45 AM
In recent decades, Indigenous Studies has emerged as a trans-national and interdisciplinary academic discipline that seeks to understand the historical experience, social reality, and political aspirations of Indigenous peoples. This course examines how theories and methods from Indigenous Studies offer new perspectives on core issues in the social study of science and technology and of health and society. Through films, podcasts, literature, and academic articles we will examine the historical role that science, technology, and medicine have played in the colonization of Indigenous people in the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand. We will also examine how Indigenous groups have resisted scientific and technological projects and participated in their development in ways that foster self-governance and territorial sovereignty.   

HSOC 3524  (LALS 3524): Medical Mestizaje: Health and Development in Contemporary Latin America
Prof. Juan Gil-Riano   Tuesday & Thursday   3:30-5:00 PM
Latin American nations as we know them today emerged in the nineteenth century after revolutionary independent struggles against the Spanish Empire. Since independence, mestizaje has been an influential ideology that seeks to portray the identity of Latin American nations as comprised of a unique cultural and racial fusion between Amerindian, European, and African peoples. Through historical, anthropological, and STS approaches this course examines how concerns with racial fusion and purity have shaped the design and implementation of public health programs in Latin America during after independence and into the 20th century. Topics include: tropical medicine and race; public health and urbanization; toxicity and exposure in industrialized settings; biomedicine and social control; indigenous health; genomics and health; food and nutrition.

LALS 3733: Locating the Andean Radical Tradition
Prof. George Ygarza   Tuesday & Thursday   10:15-11:45 AM
The Andean region, running along the western part of south America (Abiayala), has for centuries been home to different expressions of resistance. From anti-colonial struggles to ideological movements, these different forms and practices have sought to transform the social order. Is it possible to collectively read these expressions as a layered history unique to the region? When speaking of a radical tradition, one refers to an accretion of resistance and struggle for an otherwise world that takes place across periods of time. Thus, if one is to speak of an Andean Radical Tradition, one needs to understand the temporal, political and social conditions of the Andean region in order to see how they inform movements to struggle for a different kind of reality. This course surveys key thinkers, writers, and political figures who have evoked and enunciated an Andean Radical Tradition in various ways since colonization. From the written word and critical theorization, through political mobilizations, this course will explore manifestations of a radical tradition not only as a form of refusing the colonial condition but as proposals for liberatory futures predicated on everything from socialist values to Andean cosmology. Locating an Andean Radical Tradition requires us to trace the practices of resistance and critical inquiry premised on unique characteristics and traditions of the region. This course will introduce students to radical thinkers and practitioners, covering notable primary and secondary texts from thinkers such as José Carlos Mariátegui, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, Alvaro Linera and René Zavaleta Mercado. This class is part of the Penn-Mellon Just Futures Dispossessions in the Americas course series.