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Meaningful Life: Art, Digital, and Field-based Learning


POL 309


Spring 2024


In this era of AI, robot technology, mass-consumption, mass urban dwelling, the rise of global corporations, and the increasing weakness of democratic politics, how can we create a meaningful life for ourselves and others on this planet, including non-human beings? This course explores through multi-disciplinary perspectives the ways in which the meanings of life are created through the interdependent relations between humans and nonhumans. A meaningful life cannot be autonomous or standardized; it is reciprocal and relational. It is thus co-created by the interdependent relationships between humans and nonhumans.


Climate change is the most urgent problem of the twenty-first century. But many of us feel a sense of moral disengagement, powerlessness, and inertia when it comes to changing the way we lead our everyday life. This class sets out to nurture engagement in social and environmental justice, promote creative and imaginative skills, and work together to try to find positive solutions for the future.  


Through art, digital, and field methods, students will experience first-hand the environment and livelihood of the small fishing and farming village of Kitaushima on Sado Island. While the community there is shrinking due to aging and the drift of young people to urban areas the village is also a repository of local knowledge, related to farming, fishing, nature and the environment, cultural knowledge in the form of songs, ceremonies and legends. Instead of “teaching” the students’ knowledge, this course encourages the students to explore a particular place from a variety of perspectives and to use not only their rational minds but their senses and unconscious minds to respond to the place, the people and the other living creatures in the locality. We believe the “life and art practice” growing from the village’s traditions, might offer different approaches to thinking about how we live our lives more meaningfully in cities and how we can adapt our lives to counter global warming.

Important note: The course requires two sessions of fieldwork. Please make sure that you are able to travel during the Spring 2024 semester. Travel grants are available to students!

To apply for the course, please fill out this form!

Meaningful Life Application Form 2024
Download DOCX • 28KB

Your Instructor

Takeshi Ito and John Williams

Takeshi Ito (FLA) and John Williams (English Department, Faculty of Foreign Studies)

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