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Interdisciplinary graduate study in World Cultures focuses on the ways in which human beings conceive, express, and enact their situations in and relations to societies from the local to the global. In this endeavor, the World Cultures Graduate Group simultaneously embraces emerging trends in the scholarly world, while it harkens back to the holistic approach to knowledge common in the Renaissance. The interdisciplinary framework reconnects areas of study that have drifted apart even as their critical structures have shared basic tools and areas of inquiry—fields ranging from history and literature to art, anthropology, philosophy, and religion. Students will understand and use methods by which historians, literary scholars, anthropologists, artists, philosophers, and other humanists and social scientists examine societies and cultures. At the same time, students will critically examine theories of identity, culture, and society shared by scholars in multiple academic fields that create intellectual bridges for interdisciplinary inquiry. The World Cultures Graduate Group thus provides a broad intellectual context in which to locate societies and cultures over time and space. The objective is to train scholars who are able to work within or beyond the academy in particular disciplines and, simultaneously, to acknowledge and create interdisciplinary frameworks for study of complex human systems and constructs.
The approved emphasis in World Cultures under the Individual Graduate Program (IGP) offers courses of study leading to either a Masters of Arts (M.A.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree within the IGP at UC Merced. Drawing on the expertise and interests of affiliated faculty, both M.A. and Ph.D. students develop individualized, research-based courses of study that encompass traditional seminar instruction, individual directed study, and independent research. Students may either define their research around an interdisciplinary problematic or in primarily disciplinary terms with a wider lens. Thus, the World Cultures Graduate Group offers a unique framework in which to approach core disciplines of scholarly study, one that emphasizes an understanding of how similar issues and topics are addressed in multiple fields. The only two required courses in the program are WCH (World Cultures and History) 201 and WCH 202. The first is an interdisciplinary course usually team-taught by two professors in the graduate group, while WCH 202 is an independent study with the student's advisor in which the student prepares his or her reading list for the M.A. or Ph.D. exam.
Students pursing an M.A. may opt for either a thesis or non-thesis (exam) option that demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the ways in which the perspectives and practices of multiple disciplines contribute to study of a humanistic issue of contemporary concern. The Ph.D. degree emphasis in World Cultures is granted to students who demonstrate thorough knowledge of the intellectual and methodological tools they bring to bear in the completion of original doctoral dissertation research that makes a significant intellectual contribution to knowledge of societies and cultures.