Students looking at posters of apes at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives

Students enrolled in HIST 41Q: The Ape Museum, a course funded by a Course Innovation Award, visit the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

Main content start

Course Innovation Awards

SGS course innovation awards support the development of new courses that focus on substantive topics of regional or global interest for the following academic year. The goal is to spur the design of courses that can appeal to large numbers of students or reach students early in their academic trajectory.

2023-24 Course Innovation Awards:

Global 41Q: The Ape Museum: Exploring the Idea of the Ape in Global History, Science, Art and Film

Instructors: Jessica Riskin and Caroline Winterer

Quarter Taught: Winter 2024

This course will explore the idea of "the ape" in global history, science, art, and film. The idea that apes might be humanity's nearest animal relatives is only about 200 years old. From the start, the idea developed in a global context: living fossil apes were found in Africa and Asia, and were immediately embroiled in international controversies about theories of human origins and racial hierarchies. This class will look at how and why "the ape" became a generative and controversial new concept in numerous national and regional contexts. We'll explore some of the many ways humans have looked at, studied, and thought about apes around the world: the "out of Asia" versus "out of Africa" hypothesis for human origins; Nim Chimpsky, the chimpanzee raised as a human child; Koko, the gorilla who may have learned sign language; Congo, the chimpanzee who made "abstract" paintings; films such as King Kong, Planet of the Apes, and 2001: Space Odyssey; the ape in World War II and Cold War propaganda in Japan, the Soviet Union, Germany, and the United States; Jane Goodall's study of chimpanzees "culture" and "personality"; the place of apes in natural history museums and zoos around the world; and Stanford's own fraught history of comparing apes and humans through the archival writings of eugenicist founding president David Starr Jordan. Taught in conjunction with an exhibit on global ape imagery at the Stanford Library curated by Professors Riskin and Winterer in 2024, the course will culminate in students' own miniature exhibits for a class-generated "Ape Museum."


GLOBAL 170: Where the Wild Things Are: The Ecology and Ethics of Conserving Megafauna

Instructors: Rodolfo Dirzo, Deborah Gordon, and Haiyan Lee

Quarter Taught: Winter 2024

Under conditions of global environmental change and mass extinction, how will humanity share the planet with wildlife? This course invites undergraduate students to consider this question under the guidance of two biologists and a literary scholar. We will engage with a range of interdisciplinary scholarship on how humans seek to study, understand, exploit, protect, and empathize with charismatic megafauna. We ask how regional differences in culture, political economy, and ecology shape conservation efforts.