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Interdisciplinary education

The UvA Create a Course Challenge

Winner Create a Course Challenge 2019: Post-humans in the Anthropocene A relational inquiry into Humanity Futures, other Species, and the Environment.

The fourth edition of UvA's Create a Course Challenge took place on Thursday 28 November. The prize went to "Post-humans in the Anthropocene: a relational inquiry into Humanity Futures, other Species, and the Environment." The jury praised "the great social relevance and the creative work forms" of the winning group. The course will be offered in the first semester of 2020/21 as an interdisciplinary elective at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS). The winning group consists of three members. José Bernardo Pedroso Couto Soares is doing his Master’s in Sociology (Gender, Sexuality and Society track), Amalia Calderón is a student of the Research Master’s in Artistic Research and Clémentine Dècle is following her Bachelor in Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE).

The course "Post-humans in the Anthropocene: a relationship inquiry into Humanity Futures, other Species and the Environment" examines the vision and position of man in the context of the Anthropocene; the era in which nature is radically transformed by the dominant influence of today's human. The course challenges students to reposition the perspectives they have on their relationships with nature, animals, bodies and geography and to delve into the possibilities of alternative future scenarios.

This year's jury consisted of Karen Maex (Rector Magnificus UvA), Lucy Wenting (director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies) and Pjotr van der Jagt (chairman of the Central Student Council). They praised the "high level" and found the presentations of all finalists "very inspiring". We are facing an uncertain future with many changes and challenges that need to be considered and the course "Post-humans in the Anthropocene" allows for this reflection.

In the coming period, the education developers of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS) will sit down with the winners to work out the idea into an actual course, which will be offered as an interdisciplinary elective in the first semester of the upcoming academic year.

The IIS received a total of 51 ideas, of which 14 were developed into concrete formats. The best ten were selected. Students and staff of the UvA were then able to determine the top five finalists by voting online and this was done in total by 839 people.

Create a Course Challenge IIS
  • How does it work?

    The UvA Create a Course Challenge consists of four rounds. In the final round, the winner is chosen by a jury. The IIS and the winner will work together to develop the course. The Challenge is open to all UvA students, Bachelor’s and Master’s alike.

    Round 1: Submit your idea

    Deadline: 29 September 2019

    A great scientist once said: ‘A good idea fits on the back of a beer mat.’ Write your idea on a Create a Course beer mat (get one at your study association) or download the beer mat here. Of course, you can also use a beer mat from a beach bar in Thailand, a brewery in Boston or wherever else you are spending your holidays this summer!

    Take a picture of the beer mat with your idea and send it to:

    No beer coaster to hand? Fill one in online.

    Round 2: Develop your idea

    Deadline: 3 November 2019

    As soon as we receive your idea through one of the channels above, we’ll send you a form you can use to further develop your idea. Which teaching methods will be used in your course? What will the students learn? Which lecturers will be involved? What study material will the students use, and how will they be assessed? If there are more than ten entries, a selection will be made by the selection committee, with the requirements and criteria in mind.

    Round 3: Nominate your favourite idea

    Between 7 and 18 November 2019

    All UvA students and staff may vote once for their favourite course idea The five ideas  with the most votes will continue in the challenge and will go to round 4. 

    Round 4: Pitch your idea to a jury

    Date: 28 November 2019

    17:30 - 19:30 @de Brug, Roeterseiland

    During the final event in the Bridge on the Roeterseiland Campus, the jury decides which entry will be rewarded with the realization of the course. One of the jury members is Karen Maex, Rector Magnificus UvA. We will announce the other jury members closer to the final. The winner may then immediately start working as a student assistant in the development of the course. After the final, we will all toast the winner!

  • Conditions

    When developing your idea, keep in mind the following requirements and guidelines.


    • The course must be suited for second and third-year UvA Bachelor’s students.
    • The course must be designed for a minimum of 20 participants
    • Number of credits: 6 (ECTS)
    • The course may be either in English or in Dutch
    • The course must be interdisciplinary in nature

    Your course will be assessed on the following criteria:

    • Content: interdisciplinary, creative, socially relevant
    • Lecturers: think about which lecturers you want to be involved in your course. Keep in mind that the course should be interdisciplinary in nature, which means the lecturers must have different academic backgrounds.
    • Teaching methods: activating lectures / creative methods / Bildung
    • Assessment format: learning objectives and the way these can be tested
  • The ideas of 2019

    Out of a total of 51 submitted ideas, the programme committee of the UvA Create a Challenge Course selected 10 ideas. This selection is based on interdisciplinarity, current issues and creativity. The five proposals with the most votes have reached the finals on 28 November at the Brug, Roeterseiland.

    The five ideas with the most votes are:

    1. The meaning of life in a world without work

    Marvin Nusseck

    In an interdisciplinary approach that includes active discussion, the course will provide a Political Science perspective on the shortcomings of our current definition of “work”. Before the technical insights from researchers of the fields of AI/Data Science & Machine Learning will give insights into how likely a replacement of humans is, we take a historical perspective on previous phenomena, namely the industrial revolution. The last part of the course will take a philosophical perspective: what makes a life meaningful and what role does work play in it? It will end with possible concepts and policies to tackle the issue at stake such as a Basic Income, a redefinition of labor, post-growth/plural economics and life-long learning.

    2. (Ir)rationality of man: foundations of good decision-making: living the experiments

    Henrik Pröpper

    The concept of rationality seems ingrained in all segments of society; it is institutionalized into our judicial system, into political and medical decision-making processes and economic models. Our society is organized around the (metaphysical) belief in human rationality. However, one could ask: are we really the rational beings we assume to be? And if not, what are we? Daniel Kahneman and (the late) Amos Tversky have shown since the late sixties that ‘cognitive illusions’, heuristics and biases constantly influence human decision-making. This fundamental understanding and ground-braking alteration in psychologists’ perception of reality has however not penetrated into our collective consciousness. Therefore, this course will take you on the journey of human decision-making.

    3. The Politics of Fashion

    Yasmine Ben Abdessalem

    The main guideline of this course is the importance of politics in the fashion process: before the conception, during the production, and during the consumption process.

    Disciplines: Fashion theory/history – politics- development

    • It would explore broad themes linked to the fashion industry and its impact on countries on domains like employment, production and fair trade. The whole cycle of production – consumption- post production issues related to fast fashion.
    • Also explore how clothes denote social rank, status or political and class affiliations and aspirations
    • Provides an analytical perspective on protest dressing, cultural appropriation to show that fashion is inherently political. 
    • Finally, it could discuss trade policies, and the environmental challenges that the fashion industry has to overcome in our era.

    4. Post-humans In the Anthropocene: a relational inquiry into humanity futures, other species, and the environment

    José Bernardo Pedroso Couto Soares / Amalia Calderón / Clémentine Dècle

    This course explores the perception of the human as a mutable condition within the context of the new epoch, the Anthropocene, in which nature is radically transformed by one single dominant influence: the homosapiens. 

    It will address the subject of the posthuman and their biotechnological corporeality, in addition to the socio-political and ecological implications of the relationship of the human with other species, such as speciesism and animalising. Finally, we will position the post-human in our contemporary geological age, the Anthropocene, and inquire on issues of post-human rights and alternative ecosystems. 

    This course will challenge the students to reposition their perspectives over their relations with nature, animals, bodies and geography; and to delve into the possibilities of other envisioned futures.

     5. Environ Mental Health

    Rosa van der Laag

    Environ mental health gaat over de mentale problemen die men als individu kan krijgen door klimaatproblematiek. Denk hierbij aan vliegschaamte en keuzestress bij boodschappen tot aan de hoop verliezen. In dit vak kijken we naar wat verschillende disciplines ons kunnen leren over gesprekstechnieken, media, voorbeeldrollen, hoop en nog veel meer onderwerpen die de mentale gezondheid beïnvloeden.