History

The history curriculum covers the globe. Most courses focus on particular regions or nations, but offerings also include courses that transcend geographical boundaries to examine subjects such as African diasporas, Islamic radicalism, or European influences on US intellectual history. Some courses are surveys—of colonial Latin America, for example, or Europe since World War II. Others zero in on more specific topics, such as medieval Christianity, the Cuban Revolution, urban poverty and public policy in the United States, or feminist movements and theories. While history seminars center on reading and discussion, many also train students in aspects of the historian’s craft, including archival research, historiographic analysis, and oral history.

History 2021-2022 Courses

First-Year Studies: Reform and Revolution: China’s 20th Century

Open, FYS—Year | 10 credits

In 1900, China was a faltering empire ruled by an autocratic, foreign, dynastic house and an entrenched bureaucracy of Confucian officials. Its sovereignty heavily battered and its territory compromised by foreign powers, China was commonly called “The Sick Man of Asia.” In 2000, China was a modern nation state ruled by an authoritarian party and an entrenched bureaucracy of technocrats and administrators. With a surging economy, swollen foreign reserves, dazzling modern cities, and a large and technologically advanced military, China is regularly predicted to be the next global superpower. Yet, the path between these two startlingly different points was anything but smooth. China’s 20th century was a tortuous one. Policymakers, elites, and the common people oscillated between the poles of reform and revolution—bouts of wild radicalism alternated with more sober policies—as they pursued changes that they hoped would bring a better society and polity. This class examines some of the major events and personalities of this arduous century and its momentous political, social, and cultural changes. We will learn and apply skills of historical analysis to primary documents (in translation), some fiction, and film. Along the way, we will encounter a rich cast of characters, including Sun Yatsen, China’s “national father”; colorful warlords; corrupt bureaucrats; fervent intellectuals; protesting youths; heroic communist martyrs; the towering and enigmatic chairman Mao; long-suffering peasants; and fanatical Red Guards. These men and women made and remade modern China. This class is history and, thus, is not primarily concerned with contemporary China; but by the end of the year, students will be well-equipped with an understanding of China’s recent past, knowledge that will help immeasurably in making sense of today’s China as it becomes increasingly important in our globalized economy and society. In addition to regular seminar (discussion) sessions, this FYS includes an individual research (conference) project each semester; these will be guided through biweekly, research-specific, group meetings and individual conferences in the fall and biweekly one-on-one meetings in the spring.

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First-Year Studies: Literature, Culture, and Politics in US History

Open, FYS—Year | 10 credits

This is an interdisciplinary course in which we use literature and other cultural texts to illuminate a history of ideas, culture, and politics in the United States. The course is premised on a series of assumptions: First, the public words and stories that Americans choose to tell reflect ideas, concerns, presumptions, and intentions about their time period; they do, both intentionally and unintentionally, “political work” in revealing the world in the way that they shore up, modify, or work to change power structures. Second, this course assumes that you, the reader, have some sense of context for these stories (or that you will work to acquire one) and, hence, have some sense of how the stories reflect the material world that they seek to change; novels, stories, memoirs, and critical essays all derive from a single vantage point and, therefore, need to be understood as one voice in a larger conversation coming from a particular time and a particular place. Third, these readings are largely primary sources  that are always paired with a secondary-source chapter, article, or introduction; this pairing presumes a desire on your part to grapple with the material of this moment yourselves, to write history as well as read it. Themes of particular significance will include the construction of national identity, class consciousness, the experience and meaning of immigration, slavery and particularly race, and the political significance of gender and sexuality. Conference projects in the fall will focus on history and literature to 1900; in the spring, on history and literature up to just yesterday. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on student needs and the progress of their conference projects.

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Becoming Modern: Europe From 1760 to 1914

Open, Lecture—Year | 10 credits

What are the distinctive features of our “modern” civilization? A partial list would include representative democracy, political parties, nationalism, religious pluralism and secularization, mass production, rapid technological change, consumerism, free markets, a global economy, and unceasing artistic experimentation. All of these characteristically modern things became established in the 19th century, and most of them were pioneered by Europeans. Yet, in Europe, with its ancient institutions and deeply-rooted traditions, this new form of civilization encountered greater resistance than it did in that other center of innovation, the United States. The resulting tensions between old and new in Europe set the stage for the devastating world wars and revolutions of the 20th century. In this course, we will examine various aspects of the epochal transformation in ways of making, thinking, and living that occurred in Europe during what historians sometimes call the “long 19th century”: the period extending from the French Revolution to the outbreak of World War I. We will also survey the political history of that era and consider how the development of modern civilization in Europe was shaped by the resistance it encountered from the defenders of older ways. The course readings will focus primarily on the most innovative regions of 19th-century Europe: Britain, France, Germany, and Italy; but we will also give some attention to the Habsburg Empire and Russia, which gave birth to some of the most influential ideas and artistic trends of the 20th century during the three decades that preceded World War I. Group conference readings will include novels, plays, political programs, philosophical and scientific writing, and studies of 19th-century art.

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Rethinking Malcolm X, Black Panthers, and Young Lords: A Radical Historiography

Open, Lecture—Year | 10 credits

This yearlong history lecture examines four dimensions of the 1960s Black Revolt: Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, and the Black Arts Movement. The new scholarship on Malcolm X and Black Power re-examines important primary sources, including Malcolm X’s siblings. The trajectory of the Black Panther Party (BPP) has its roots in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Lowndes County and Greene County, Alabama. In turn, Malcolm X, SNCC, and BPP leaders inspired the Puerto Rican Young Lords. Finally, the Black Arts Movement links those groups to the Black Cultural Revolution.

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European Imperialism: Violence, Knowledge, and Migration Since the 19th century

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits

The history of imperialism, like all history, was a history of power relations. Direct and indirect acts of violence sustained that power, but so did networks of knowledge and the voluntary and involuntary migration of peoples. The history of European expansion continues to shape the world we live in today, not only in the former colonies but also in the former metropoles. The structure of international relations and the presence of colonial objects in European museums attest to the legacy of domination. But dishes like Dabba gosht (a staple of Bohri cuisine but allegedly influenced by the shepherd’s pie of British colonial troops) and chicken tikka masala (invented in Britain by a Bangladeshi chef) are reminders and remainders of the hybridity that could emerge as a result of imperial networks, as well. The course will begin with a brief introduction to early modern colonial empires but will then focus on the period of so-called High Imperialism from the second half of the 19th century and end with decolonization and a survey of some aspects of imperialism’s legacy today. The course will introduce students to the ways in which trade networks enmeshed metropole and colonies; how people moved and were moved between them; how scientific knowledge was gained, produced, and used in the context of imperialism; and how it created, supported, but eventually also ended direct imperial rule. The lecture investigates the projection of power through formal and informal means, be it military control or urban planning, and looks at the way imperialism affected politics and society in the global north and global south. The course meets for one weekly lecture and a weekly group conference that will give us the chance to discuss the themes of the lecture in more detail. Postcolonial studies have decentered the history of European imperialism in productive ways and challenged the one-directional relationship from metropole to colony. This decentering will be reflected in the voices we will hear and read in our weekly group conferences, with scholarship and primary sources hailing from various directions and perspectives.

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International Law

Open, Lecture—Fall | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

In a global landscape pocked by genocide, wars of choice, piracy, and international terrorism, what good is international law? Can it mean anything without a global police force and a universal judiciary? Is “might makes right” the only law that works? Or is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These essential questions frame the contemporary practice of law across borders. This lecture provides an overview of international law—its doctrine, theory, and practice. The course addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war, human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession.

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Human Rights

Open, Lecture—Spring | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

History is replete with rabid pogroms, merciless religious wars, tragic show trials, and even genocide. For as long as people have congregated, they have defined themselves, in part, as against an other—and have persecuted that other. But history has also yielded systems of constraints. So how can we hope to achieve a meaningful understanding of the human experience without examining both the wrongs and the rights? Should the human story be left to so-called realists, who claim that power wins out over ideals every time? Or is there a logic of mutual respect that offers better solutions? This lecture examines the history of international human rights and focuses on the claims that individuals and groups make against states in which they live.

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The Emergence of the Modern Middle East

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course provides a broad introduction to the political, social, cultural, and intellectual history of the Middle East from the late 18th century to the present. After a brief conceptual overview, the course draws upon a wide array of primary and secondary sources to illuminate the manifold transformations and processes that have contributed over time to shaping what has meant to be “modern” in this remarkably diverse and dynamic region. Particular attention will be paid to the following themes: the question of modernization and reform within the Ottoman and Qajar empires; the experience of different forms of European imperialism in the Middle East; the integration of the Middle East into the world economy; World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; state-building in both colonial and postcolonial contexts; transformations in religious thought; changing family norms and gender roles and the genesis of Middle Eastern women’s movements; nationalism; class politics, social movements, and revolution; Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict; post-World War II geopolitics and the Cold War in the Middle East; Nasserism and pan-Arabism; the role of US power in the Middle East; the origins and spread of political Islam; the political economy of oil; globalization and neoliberalism; and the impact of various new cultural forms and media on the formation of identities across the region.

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Winds of Doctrine: Europe in the Age of the Reformation

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

In the 16th century, Europe entered upon a religious crisis that was to permanently alter the character of Western Christianity. Between 1520 and 1580, the religious unity of Catholic Christendom was destroyed, as believers throughout Central and Northern Europe severed their ties with the papacy to form new “Protestant” communities. But the impact of the religious crisis was by no means confined to the emergence of the churches of the Reformation. Luther’s revolt against the Roman church ushered in an era of soaring religious creativity and savage religious conflict that lasted for nearly two centuries and revolutionized thought, art, music—and politics. The modern state is ultimately a product of the Reformation crisis, as is the system of international law that still governs the relations among sovereign states. Students in this course will examine multiple aspects of the religious, intellectual, and political history of Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. The readings will focus attention on the diversity of religious thinking and religious experience in this era. Besides tracing the rise of the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican churches and the complex history of the “radical Reformation,” we will consider forms of belief independent of any church and new varieties of skepticism and doubt. We also will devote considerable attention to the reform movements that transformed Roman Catholicism during those two centuries and the upsurge of missionary energy and mystical spirituality that accompanied them. We will investigate the effects of the Reformation crisis on politics and the state and on the social order that Europe inherited from the Middle Ages. As part of this investigation, we will examine the most important political struggles waged in the name of religion between 1524 and 1689: the Peasants’ Revolt and Thirty Years’ War in Germany, the Dutch revolt against Spain, the French Wars of Religion, and the English Revolution. Texts we will read include works by Luther, Calvin, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila, Queen Marguerite of Navarre, Rabelais, Montaigne, and Pascal.

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The Strange Career of the Jim Crow North: African American Urban History Since the Atlantic Slave Trade

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

For decades, students sought the origins of Jim Crow in the South; however, Jim Crow was born in New York City. Thus, recent history has focused serious attention on the rise of the Jim Crow North, beginning with northern slavery and the Atlantic Slave Trade in important port cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. Some historians think that those northern roots amount to a serious gap in the knowledge of how racial oppression took shape in American democracy.

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Class, Race, Gender, Work: Readings in US Labor History

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course explores American labor systems and labor struggles from the colonial era to the present. Core topics include slavery and peonage, as well as wage work; the enduring legacy of settler-colonial regimes; and intersections of class, racial, and gender hierarchies. Along the way, we will focus especially on the complex relationship between mechanisms of oppression and collective forms of resistance: from slave rebellions to insurgent political parties, from bread-and-butter unionism to revolutionary workers’ movements, from community-based organizing to prison uprisings, and from fights against gendered violence to campaigns for sexual freedom. Readings include fiction, journalism, historical documents, and scholarship that invite us to reimagine both the past and possibilities for the future. Class discussion of research methods, analytic paradigms, and conference projects figures prominently in the syllabus.

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Social Protest and Cultural Critique: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the United States

Advanced, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

“I pray you, then,” W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in his 1903 The Souls of Black Folk, “receive my little book in all charity, studying my words with me, forgiving mistake and foible for the sake of the faith and passion that is in me, and seeking the grain of truth hidden there.” In this yearlong course, we will study the words of American activists, who used story, memoir, and cultural criticism to create social change. From Thomas Paine’s brash Common Sense and a (seemingly) conservative seduction novel intended to protect young women, Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple, in the late 18th century, through narratives of enslavement meant to awaken somnolent Americans to the moral tragedy in their midst, to critiques of the ills of capitalism in the 19th century, to revealing the profound injustices meted on immigrants, as well as migrants, in the early 20th century, to James Baldwin and other critics of racial prejudice in the 1960s, to the feminists of the Women’s Liberation Movement, we will analyze the “faith” and seek the “grain of truth” in these passionate cries for social justice.

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Theories at Heart

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This course takes political aesthetics, from the Zapatistas to Amazonian autonomy projects, as a point of departure to ground historical understandings of interculturality from an indigenous perspective. The course seeks to develop students’ critical skills as they acquire tools to talk about transcontinental political aesthetics. While engaging this aesthetics of resistance, students will be exposed to a series of critical theories that convey the depths of cultural memory—which is necessarily tied to a local indigenous history remembered in the community by heart. Students will read historical and literary texts from the 16th century onward, as well as secondary readings from recognized scholars interested on indigenous historiography. Thus, students can compare various indigenous perspectives—from the Amazon to the Andes and Chiapas and the people of Turtle Island—contextualized in each nation’s colonial long-durée.

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Gaming the Past: Democracy and Dissent in the United States

Open, Large seminar—Fall | 5 credits

It is 1637, and a woman’s life is in your hands. Do you vote to condemn Anne Hutchinson to exile and likely death simply for expressing her own religious beliefs and challenging the Puritan church? Or do you allow her to stay in Massachusetts, risking the destruction of the fragile young colony and the failure of its mission to be a “city on a hill” to the rest of the world? It is a century and half later, and you are now a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Will the proposed Constitution save the new nation from falling into anarchy, or is it an instrument of tyranny that threatens to destroy the freedoms the revolutionaries fought so hard to defend? These are some of the dilemmas that the course will ask you to face as you engage in role-play simulations of events such as the controversy over the religious dissenter Anne Hutchinson and the writing of the Constitution, based on the Reacting to the Past pedagogy developed by Mark Carnes at Barnard College. Students will be assigned roles representing the different contestants in these conflicts and asked to reenact the debates over them. To prepare for their roles, students will read relevant primary and secondary sources and write position papers expressing their character’s views. Students should be aware that the process of playing these historical roles and immersing themselves in an earlier time can be emotionally intense and even uncomfortable. To enter the world of the 17th and 18th centuries—one where people of European descent considered themselves more civilized than others, where women were viewed as subordinate to men, and where aristocrats saw themselves as superior to ordinary people—students should be prepared to engage in and express views that are alien and at times, indeed, aversive to them. Thus, the course aims to show how much “the past is a foreign country,” as the writer L. P. Hartley once put it, and to cultivate a sense of historical empathy by trying to understand that foreignness on its own terms.

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The American Revolution

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

It may be comforting to know that historians agree that an American Revolution did, indeed, occur. Less comforting but more intriguing may be the realization that historians do not agree on when it commenced and when it ended, much less on the full meaning of what exactly took place beyond the mere facts of the Revolution. Certainly, the question was profound enough to move John Adams to ask, “What do we mean by the Revolution?” This course will look at the many different answers that revolutionary Americans gave to Adams’s question by examining the political, intellectual, social, and cultural dimensions of the event. Was the Revolution simply a struggle for political independence, or was it also a social conflict over who would “rule at home”? Was the American Revolution a transformation in the “hearts and minds” of the people, as Adams believed, or was the War for Independence integral to the meaning and character of the Revolution? Did the Revolution end with the close of the war, or was the war—to use Benjamin Rush’s words—“but the first act of the great drama”? What was the relationship between the Constitution and the Revolution? Was the Constitution a conservative reaction against the radicalism of the Revolution, or did the Constitution extend and solidify what the Revolution had achieved? While the emphasis of the course will be on what the Revolution meant for those who participated in it, we also look more broadly at the long-term legacy and memory of the Revolution. Through this examination, the course ultimately seeks to address the question: What was the basis for and nature of American national identity?

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Nationalism

Open, Large seminar—Fall | 5 credits

This course provides a broad historical and theoretical inquiry into the phenomenon of nationalism—one of the most enduring ideological constructs of modern society. Indeed, the organization of the globe into a world of bordered territorial nation states—each encapsulating a unique social identity—is such a taken-for-granted feature of contemporary geopolitics that it is easy to forget that nations did not exist for most of human history and that nationalism dates back only to around the 1700s. And yet, despite many predictions of its imminent demise at different moments in history—Albert Einstein quipped famously that nationalism was an “infantile disease” that humanity would eventually outgrow—nationalism remains perhaps as powerful an ideological force as ever in the United States, as elsewhere. This course will examine a range of foundational questions about the emergence of nations and nationalism in world history: What is a nation, and how has national identity been cultivated, defined, and debated in different contexts? Why did nationalism emerge when it did? Who does nationalism benefit, and how do different social groups compete for control over national identity and ideology? How and why did nationalism become such a vital feature of anticolonial political movements beginning in the late-19th century? Is nationalism fundamentally a negative force—violent and exclusionary—or is it necessary for forging cohesive social bonds among diverse and far-flung populations? The course will begin with the emergence of nations and nationalism in Western Europe but will then move on to explore its evolution and ensuing spread to all parts of the globe, exploring a number of case studies along the way. The course will conclude with a brief survey of the state of nationalist politics today, with a particular emphasis on Brexit and white nationalism in the United States.

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Environmental Politics, Informality, and Democracy in Brazilian History

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

When wildfires spread across the Brazilian Amazon in the summer of 2019, international concern spread rapidly. Containing more than one-third of the world’s primary rain forest, Brazil has featured prominently in hopes for a carbon-neutral future. Yet, Brazil is also home to a complicated past. Since the colonial era, inequality and authoritarianism have competed with democratic reforms and populist social movements. From the occupation of urban favelas by poor families to the development practices of wealthy corporations, legal reforms have often given way to the politics of informality—gray areas beyond the law. How have these politics enabled democracy, and how have they subverted it? And what have they meant for environmental conservation efforts? This course seeks to peel back the layers of informal politics in Brazilian history, with specific attention to the intersection of informal practices, democracy, and environmental politics in the present. We will begin by examining indigenous environmental practices before 1492 and continue with the Iberian glorifications of the walled city as a site of order and the social implications of sugar production and slave society. We will continue by examining the rise of populism in the 1930s; slum clearance in the 1940s and ’50s; contemporary indigenous social movements; and the explosion of drug traffic, gentrification, and deforestation in a neoliberal age. Along the way, we will trace the destruction of Brazil’s once vast Atlantic Forest near Rio de Janeiro, the rise of the Green Party in Brazilian politics, and future prospects for the Amazon. The course makes use of a variety of sources, including scholarship, films, and novels, with a critical analysis of urban popular music..

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Revolutions in Cuba: Local Origins, Global Fault Lines

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

Beginning in 1959, rebels in Cuba toppled a dictatorship, defied the United States, and shocked the world. Six decades later, the Cuban Revolution’s contested legacy is enough to tilt the balance in US presidential elections—a symbol of tyranny for some and of hope for others. This course looks beyond simplistic narratives of a singular “Cuban Revolution.” Rather, it considers longstanding tensions between radicalism and conservatism in Cuban history, tracing their interplay with global movements such as antislavery, decolonization, and Marxism. Beginning with the antislavery movement in the broader Caribbean, course topics will include the contours of US imperialism, the rise of mambo and the Mafia, the politics of Cuban/West African religious practice, the limits of guerrilla warfare, radical economic reforms in practice, postrevolutionary contradictions in gender equality, LGBTQ rights and prostitution reform, and Cuba’s military role in Africa. We will conclude with the recent rise of Cuban hip hop as a new social movement. Throughout the course, we will assess when the Cuban Revolution began—and did it ever end? Did revolutionary leaders empower movements for gender, racial, and labor rights—or limit them? Did they conform to international currents of totalitarian rule—or foster new forms of democratic solidarity within the so-called “Third World”? Analyzing scholarship, testimonials, music, artistic movements, poetry, novels, and film, we will use the tools of history to construct competing narratives of revolution in Cuba and trace fault lines and possibilities of Global South solidarity.

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Asian Imperialisms, 1600–1953

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

East Asia, like much of the globe, has been powerfully shaped by the arrival and presence of imperialist power in the region. In fact, in both China and Japan, nationalism is founded on resistance to the encroachments of Western imperialism. Both nations cast themselves as victims to the rapacious West. And yet, often unnoticed by patriots and pundits, both China and Japan are deeply indebted to their own domestic imperialisms, albeit in very different ways. Relying on a wide range of course materials (historical scholarship, paintings, lithographs, photographs, literature, and relevant primary sources), this course is an intensive investigation of the contours of Asian imperialism, covering the colonialism of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the aggressive Western expansion in the 19th century, and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). We will ask: What features (if any) did these very different empires share, and what set them apart from each other? How and why were Asian empires built, how did they end, and what legacies did they leave? We will excavate the multiethnic Qing imperium for how it complicates China’s patriotic master narrative. Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western racism and its familiar civilizing discourse? And what are the legacies of Qing colonialism for China’s modern nation state? The Qing campaigns to subjugate the Mongols in the northwest and the colonization of the untamed southwest both predated the arrival of the Westerners and the Opium War (1839-42). How does that impact our understanding of the clash between China and the rapidly expanding West? We will trace earlier views on the classic confrontation between these two presumed entities before examining more recent revisionist formulations on the Western penetration of China. What were the processes of Western intrusion, and how did Western imperialism come to structure knowledge of China? And, finally, we will turn to the Japanese Empire. What were its motivations, its main phases, and its contradictions? Should we understand it as similar to Western imperialism or as an alternative, something unique? What are the implications of both positions? To understand the Japanese Empire in both its experiential and theoretical dimensions, we will range widely across Japan’s possessions in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. The questions and topics in this seminar will complicate the master narratives that prevail in both East Asia and the West—not to delegitimize or subvert Asian sovereignties but in order to understand the deeply embedded narratives of imperialism within those sovereign claims, to see how those narratives (and their blind spots) continue to frame and support policies and attitudes today.

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Being Totalitarian: Making Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Stalin’s Soviet Union

Open, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, in power from 1922 until 1945, famously declared that he wanted to create “the fascist man.” Adolf Hitler in Germany and Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union had similar aspirations to reshape not only the political structure of their states but also to alter the very being of their citizens. In different ways and to different degrees, class, age, race, and gender—Mussolini did not accidentally speak of the “fascist man”—were crucial to this new kind of being. In this course, we will look into the ideologies and practices that formed the basis of “being totalitarian,” as well as the resistance to them. Bigger and smaller acts of resistance to those regimes’ claims on their citizens meant that their totalitarian aspirations were never quite achieved. In light of the increased frequency with which the terms “fascist” and “totalitarian” are being used in today’s political debates, the course—in its comparative approach and focus on the construction and practice of totalitarianism—will offer students tools to approach these terms in all of their complexity. The course will provide new perspectives on both the past and the present. Together, we will read political programs and speeches, diaries, letters, and memoirs. We will look at school books and propaganda posters and watch movies. We will also engage with the long historiography on these three regimes. Scholarly debates on the nature of fascism and totalitarianism have their own history and politics, which have shaped our use of the two terms as much as the history of the three states themselves. Being Totalitarian will thus be a simultaneous study of both history and historiography.

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Liberations: Contemporary Latin America

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

After the military regimes that swept Latin America came to an end in the last quarter of the 20th century, a new era of liberation emerged. The transition to democracy and the broad-based coalitions then formed renewed the hopes and expectations of justice, equality, and freedom that had been shattered by torture, censorship, and state power. But the era that emerged from those transitions—and which is coming to an end—is full of contradictions. Alongside the liberation of prisoners and the press and the return to party politics came the demise of social revolution and the retreat of the left. Alongside the liberalization of markets and the so-called neoliberal reforms came innovative social policies and a multiplicity of social movements, the most salient of which were led by indigenous groups and peasant-based organizations. Similarly, the ascendancy and hegemony of liberal ideas and policies gave rise to a new left, which brought the world’s attention back to Latin America with its combination of growth and equality. This course will examine the dynamics of revolution and counterrevolution in which contemporary Latin America emerged; study the origins of neoliberalism in Latin America and its economic and political repercussion; delve in the contradictions of the democratic transitions and its legacies; and explore the new rural, labor, feminist, and indigenous movements that challenged both neoliberalism and democracy.

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Reconstructing Womanhood I: Writers and Activists in the United States, 1830–1930

Sophomore and Above, Small seminar—Fall | 3 credits

“But if you ask me what offices they may fill, I reply—any. I do not care what case you put; let them be sea-captains, if you will,” Margaret Fuller wrote in Woman in the 19th Century in 1845. Not 10 years later, Fanny Fern’s autobiographical protagonist tells her daughter, when asked if she would write books when a woman, “God forbid,” because “no happy woman ever writes.” In this small seminar, we will discuss what US women writers imagined they could be and why they wrote (happy or not). We will read both major and forgotten works of literary activism from women writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, focusing on issues of gender and gender convention; race, racial prejudice, and enslavement; immigration, migration, and national identity; class and elitism; and sex and sexuality.

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Gendered Histories of Sickness and Health in Africa

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

How does an individual’s gender expression determine how s/he or they receive health care in Africa? In what ways does gender influence who provides health care, the kind of care that they offer, or the social determinants of peoples’ health? In the 19th, 20th and early 21st centuries, African citizens, refugees, and internally displaced persons have had to cope with a range of health care challenges. These include: high levels of disability as a result of car accidents and work-related injuries; disruptions to health care services and food provision stemming from war or political unrest; lack of supplies and access to quality care resulting from neoliberal economic policies; and, most recently, the challenges of food insecurity due to seasonal locust infestations. These concerns paint a bleak picture of the status of health and health care provision in Africa. Epidemics like ebola and cholera complicate conditions for people seeking to improve the quality of their health. In addition, pandemics like HIV/AIDS and now COVID-19 have transformed demographics and gender relations in both predictable and unexpected ways. Despite these challenges, millions of African men, women, and children find ways to survive and respond creatively in order to address their needs for health and wellbeing. This class is organized around the understanding that the idea of “good health” is a useful critical lens through which to analyze gender-related questions. How do women, men, and LGBTQ+ individuals organize, navigate, and seek care in order to attain good health? What historical, political, and economic factors influence the provision of quality health care? How have African citizens, governments, faith communities, activists, and indigenous healers responded to the challenges associated with disease and the goal of maintaining good health? Because the African continent is massive and every country is complex and diverse, this class will use case studies from countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Kenya to answer these questions. In addition, students will be able to choose other African countries to study in depth in order to gain as broad a picture as possible of this complex and important topic. While we will primarily focus our inquiries by using historical works, we will actively monitor innovations in African countries resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of what it takes to maintain a sense of “good health” in Africa.

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‘The Founders’ in Film and Fiction

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

We were told that George Washington never told a lie and confessed to his much chagrined father that he chopped down the fabled cherry tree. Was this the myth to inspire trust in “The Founding Fathers” and the infant democracy? But the myths continue. For more than two centuries, “The Founding Fathers” have been a touchstone for American identity. Americans have expressed their fascination with “The Founders” not only in the political arena but also in the realm of fiction in works ranging from James Fenimore Cooper’s novel The Spy to the HBO series John Adams and the Broadway musical Hamilton. What is the source of this fascination? But most importantly, who were “The Founders” that have such a hold on the American historical imagination, and what did they actually stand for? This course will explore these questions by looking at the different ways in which “The Founders” have been represented in film and fiction from their own time to the present. We will consider a variety of media, including novels, art, plays, films, and television. We will look at how those fictional portrayals reflect larger cultural changes and at the different political and social purposes that they served. Would the musical glorification of Hamilton have been a hit during the Great Depression? We will also examine the extent to which those portrayals conformed to historical reality, using them to look more broadly at the relationship between history and fiction. What can fiction contribute to historical understanding, and what are its limits as a medium of historical representation?

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Mainland Chinese Cinema, Culture, and Identity From 1949 to the Present

Open, Joint seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This seminar course will examine both the historical and cultural context of mainland Chinese cinema from 1949 to the present. The course will be focused on full-length feature films from the People’s Republic of China, providing an eclectic mix of movies covering socialist propaganda of the high Maoist period (1949-76), the critical stances of the “Fifth Generation” (of graduates from the Beijing Film Academy) in the 1980s and early 1990s, the more entertainment-focused films of post-Deng (2000s) China, as well as contemporary art films that are largely seen outside of the commercial exhibition circuit. This wide variety of films will open up questions of cinematic representations of Chinese identity and culture in at least four major modes: socialist revolutionary (1949-76), critical reflections on China’s past and the revolution (1982-1989), what one might call neoliberal entertainment (1990-present), and the more underground art cinema that has emerged as mainstream Chinese cinema has become increasingly commercial. Along with the close analysis of films (their narrative structure, audiovisual language, relationship to other films from both China and beyond), the course will deal with Confucian legacies in Chinese society, communist revolutionary spasms and the censorship system, and the more open market and ideology of the post-Mao reform era. Assigned readings will be varied, as well. Several key movies will be paired with their textual antecedents (e.g., LU Xun’s New Year’s Sacrifice will be read alongside HU Sang’s by the same title, while LI Zhun’s The Biography of LI Shuangshuang will accompany the 1962 movie that followed). Appropriate readings will cover important historical background in some detail; for example, the Great Leap Forward (1959-62) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) are both crucial events for understanding the revolutionary experience, while the latter is particularly relevant for its impact on reform-era filmmakers. Other readings will focus specifically on cinema, ranging from broad historical overviews on the material/financial conditions of production, distribution, and exhibition; close analyses of individual films; the transition from socialist to postsocialist cinema and the construction of “Chineseness” as a object for the Western gaze to the avant-garde/independent responses to the current global/commercial Chinese cinema. This course is an open superseminar (capped at 30 students), meeting once a week for two and half hours in order to facilitate in-depth discussions of paired material; for example, two movies or a movie and significant historical texts (either primary or secondary). In addition to this weekly class time, there will be required screenings of film (one or two per week).

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Decolonization and the End of Empire

Open, Large seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Among the most salient features of the new international order that was ushered in by the end of World War II and the creation of the United Nations in 1945 was the emergence of an unprecedented global wave of decolonization that would last for roughly three decades. As many leaders of the international community consigned the “age of empire” to the dustbin of history, the world witnessed, in rapid succession, the dissolution of European overseas imperial configurations and the consequent formation of myriad new nation states across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. This seminar provides an in-depth historical inquiry into the global phenomenon of decolonization in the post-World War II era. The course will adopt a comparative and transnational lens, exploring—through a wide range of both secondary and primary sources—the complex historical processes that attended decolonization in the British, French, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese imperial domains. Particular attention will be paid to the following questions: Why did European imperialism end when it did, and how did the politics of anti-colonial nationalism vary across the different empires? How did nationalist movements and local elites negotiate the end of imperial rule, and what challenges did they face in their attempts to build postcolonial societies? What role did international organizations such as the United Nations play in constructing the new decolonized world order? How did the Cold War impact decolonization? How did decolonization work within nascent frameworks in post-World War II international law, particularly concerning the legal status of postcolonial national citizens as well as migrants? And finally, to what extent has decolonization led to a truly “decolonized” world order? Or, to what extent have older imperial discourses, ideologies, and cultural prejudices persisted into the era of postcolonial independence and self-determination? Conference work for this seminar will take the form of small-group work: Each group will undertake research relating to the experience of decolonization in a different European imperial context (British, French, Italian, Dutch, or Portuguese).

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Neoliberalism

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits | Hybrid Remote/In-Person

Neoliberalism is a widely used, abused, and controversial term that is often used to identify a historical era that, paradoxically, is also described as the “end of history.” Sometimes, the term is used synonymously with globalization, a process that nonetheless has been deepening for hundreds of years. Other times, neoliberalism is equated with capitalism despite the term’s socialist origins. Although neoliberalism as a set of ideas, policies, and practices spread ubiquitously across the globe, it had many different local origins and effects. This course will explore the history of neoliberalism in its political, intellectual, social, economic, and cultural dimensions, as well as in the different manifestations around the world. We will address the role of international institutions, right- and left-wing politics, economists, experts, and technocrats in bringing about  “neoliberal” projects—as well as the impact of the set of neoliberal ideas and practices on states and markets, politics and citizenship, environment and environmentalism, race and ethnicity, and welfare policies and social justice, among others—in Latin America and other parts of the world. This course will have both in-person and online components to be discussed with the group and will have a collaborative, web-based, research- and writing-heavy conference project. The course is open level, but students with experience in other social-science courses are especially encouraged to enroll.

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Nazis on Screen: The Third Reich in Film, From The Great Dictator to Inglorious Basterds

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

Movies shape the way we see the world. They also shape the way we think about history. Holocaust, the miniseries of 1978, did more to sensitize the American public, as well as the German public, toward the mass murder of European Jews—and also popularized the term—than most books written about The Holocaust until then. Fifteen years later, Schindler’s List once more confronted audiences with the very personal histories of Jewish victims during The Holocaust while, at the same time, introducing the figure of the “good German.” While films about the Third Reich and The Holocaust continue to be reliable box-office hits, both as blockbusters and as art-house movies (Alone in Berlin, Operation Valkyrie, The Fall, and Inglorious Basterds are just a few examples from the 2000s), attempts to visualize the Third Reich from outside began during its existence. This course seeks to investigate the changing representations of the Third Reich. The films literally put changing views about its history on the screen and shaped the public’s idea about the Third Reich. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze the range of genres and approaches to the topic in their historical and national context. Most of the movies will be from the United States and Germany, with forays into Eastern European and Israeli representations of the Third Reich. This is not a film-studies course but, rather, one that explores the legacy and memory of the Third Reich through film. The movie screenings will be accompanied by weekly readings. By the end of the semester, students will have familiarized themselves with the different and historically contingent ways in which the Third Reich was and is viewed. Students will be introduced to the use of films as historical sources, the influence of movies on public history, as well as the legacy of the Third Reich in postwar politics.

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At Home in Another Country: Afropean Communities in the 20th Century–21st Century

Open, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

This course examines the intertwined developments of 20th- and 21st-century globalization and transnational immigration from Africa to Europe. We’ll begin with an introduction to the major themes and theories underpinning “African” and “European” histories to unpack the creation of an Afropean identity and community. While many historians interested in “modern European immigration” focus on the last 15 years as the starting point for mass migration to Europe, we will go further back in time and focus on a critical catalyst as a result of World War II. Throughout the course of the semester, we will use four nation-state case studies—Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—to isolate particular moments of Afropean agency, as well as the relationship of race and class, gender, sexuality, and nationalism. In order to do that, we will focus on conceptions of citizenship and how Afropeans were able to politicize their identity to vie for inclusion within various societies. Delving into sports, activism, music, literary works, and film, we will examine the impact of African migrants in contemporary Europe. By exploring transformations in Africa, the Atlantic world, and Europe, students will consider new ways of conceptualizing cultural and sociopolitical change in our current society.

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Reconstructing Womanhood II: Writers and Activists in the United States, 1930–1990

Sophomore and Above, Small seminar—Spring | 3 credits

“You must not tell anyone,” my mother said, “what I am about to tell you,” begins Maxine Hong Kingston’s 1976 memoir of a girlhood among ghosts. This course will be a continuation of the work of the fall, as well as a stand-alone seminar. In this semester, we will explore the stories that women writers have not always told—focusing, in particular, on women writers from outside the mainstream of the time, women who chronicled and critiqued an American world that sought to silence them in some way. As in the fall, we will focus around issues of gender and gender convention; race, racial prejudice, and the legacy of enslavement; immigration, migration, and national identity; class and elitism; and sex and sexuality.

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Gender, Education, and Opportunity in Africa

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Spring | 5 credits

In modern Africa, equity in education—whether in relation to gender, ethnicity, race, class, or religion—remains an important arena of debate. As formal colonial rule ended on the continent and more African nations gained independence, education became synonymous with modernity and a leading indicator of a country’s progress toward development. Gender and class biases played (and continue to play) a powerful role in determining who received access to formal education. Even though traditional education was believed to be “accessible to all,” the demands of traditional education were often arduous, painful, and in direct conflict with Western schooling. While African governments and multilateral organizations like the United Nations and UNICEF emphasize the importance of more children attending school, disruptions as a result of political conflict, civil war, or infectious disease (including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and now COVID-19) undermine families’ abilities to keep children in school. This class studies the history of education in Africa, focusing on a wide variety of training, classroom experiences, and socialization practices. In particular, we will investigate the influence of gender in defining access to educational opportunity. An awareness of the significance of both formal and nonformal education has been reflected within the realms of African politics, popular culture, literature, and film. Because of this, we will use a range of sources to investigate how gender influences access to educational opportunity. We will begin by questioning prevailing constructs of gender and determine how relevant Western gender categories have historically been for African societies. By focusing our readings on countries as diverse as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Senegal, and South Africa, students will develop a broad overview of educational policy changes and practices across the continent and leave the class better able to analyze debates about education in Africa.

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Ethnographic Research and Writing

Advanced, Seminar—Year

Javanese shadow theatre, Bedouin love poems, and American community life are but a few of the cultural realities that anthropologists have effectively studied and written about. This is no easy task, given the substantial difficulties involved in understanding and portraying the concerns, activities, and lifeworlds other than one’s own. Despite those challenges, ethnographic research is generally considered one of the best ways to form a nuanced and contextually rich understanding of a particular social world. To gain an informed sense of the methods, challenges, and benefits of just such an approach, students in this course will try their hands at ethnographic research and writing. In the fall semester, each student will be asked to undertake an ethnographic research project in order to investigate the features of a specific social world, such as a homeless shelter, a religious festival, or a neighborhood in Brooklyn. In the spring, she or he will craft a fully realized piece of ethnographic writing that conveys something of the features and dynamics of that world in lively, accurate, and comprehensive terms. Along the way, and with the help of anthropological writings that are either exceptional or experimental in nature, we will collectively think through some of the most important features of ethnographic projects, such as interviewing others, the use of fieldnotes, the interlacing of theory and data, the role of dialogue and the author’s voice in ethnographic prose, and the ethnical and political responsibilities that come with any attempt to understand and portray the lives of others.

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Telling Lives: Life History in Anthropology

Open, Seminar—Fall

Through studying life-history narratives (one person’s life as narrated to another), autobiographical memoir, archival documents, and more experimental forms in print and on screen, we will explore the diverse ways that life courses are experienced and represented. Throughout our readings, we will carefully examine the narratives themselves, paying attention to the techniques of life-history construction and familiarizing ourselves with ethical, methodological, and theoretical challenges. We will consider a number of questions about telling lives: What is the relationship between the narrator and his or her interlocutor(s)? How does a life-history approach inform debates about representation? What can the account of one person’s life tell us about the wider culture of which he or she is a part? How can individual life narratives shed light on issues such as poverty, sexuality, colonialism, disability, racism, and aging? The selected texts attend to lives in various parts of the world, including Australia, Great Britain, the Caribbean, East Africa, and the United States. Students will also analyze primary sources and create a life history as part of their work for the course.

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Children in Imperial Projects

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

At the close of the 1920s, a Miss Wilson presented a paper at a London conference addressing, “The Education of European Children in Contact With Primitive Races.” In her talk, she described the life of rural white Kenyan settler children growing up with African playmates and expressed her concerns about the morally deleterious effects of such play on these future imperial leaders. This particular case illustrates discourse about the role of privileged white children in imperial regimes; but children of diverse social classes, races, and nationalities across the globe were all implicated in processes of imperial expansion and European settler colonization over (at least) the past three centuries. What was believed about children, done to children, and required of children was central to the success of imperial projects. In this seminar, we will examine a series of cases to understand the diverse roles, both intentional and unintentional, of children in imperial processes. In addition to the white sons and daughters of European settler colonists in Africa and Southeast Asia, we will look at the contrary things that were said and done about mixed-race children (and their mothers and fathers) at different historical and political moments of empire. We will learn, too, about the deployment of “orphans” in the service of empire. In the metropole, particularly British cities, orphan boys were funneled into the military and merchant navy, while children of both sexes were shipped across the globe to boost white settler populations, provide free labor, and relieve English poor-houses of the responsibility of taking care of them. The ancestors of many contemporary citizens of Canada, Australia, and South Africa were exported from metropolitan orphanages as children. In our intellectual explorations, we will deploy approaches from sex-gender studies, postcolonial studies, and critical race theory. Questions that we will explore include: Why did settler authorities in Australia kidnap mixed-race indigenous children and put them in boarding schools when such children in other colonies were expected to stay with their local mothers out of sight of the settlers? How did European ideas about climate and race frame the ways in which settler children were nursed in the Dutch East Indies? How did concepts of childhood and parental rights over children vary historically, socioeconomically, and geographically? How did metropolitan discourses about race, class, and evolution frame the treatment of indigent children at home and abroad? The materials for this class include fiction, memoirs, scholarly texts, ethnographic accounts, historical documents, and visual images.

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Faking Families

Open, Seminar—Spring

In her study of transnational adoptees, Eleana Kim noted the profound differences between discourses about the immigration of Chinese brides to the United States and those describing the arrival of adopted Chinese baby girls: the former with suspicion and the latter with joy. Two ways that families form are by bringing in spouses and by having children. We tend to assume that family-building involves deeply personal, intimate, and even “natural” acts; but, in actual practice, the pragmatics of forming (and disbanding) families are much more complex. There are many instances where biological pregnancy is not possible or not chosen, and there are biological parents who are unable to rear their offspring. Social rules govern the acceptance or rejection of children in particular social groups, depending on factors such as the marital status of their parents or the enactment of appropriate rituals. Western notions of marriage prioritize compatibility between two individuals, who choose each other based on love; but, in many parts of the world, selecting a suitable spouse and contracting a marriage is the business of entire kin networks. There is great variability, too, in what constitutes “suitable.” To marry a close relative or someone of the same gender may be deemed unnaturally close in some societies; but marriage across great difference such as age, race, nation, culture, or class can also be problematic. And beyond the intimacies of couples and the interests of extended kin are the interests of the nation state. This seminar, then, examines the makings and meanings of kinship connections of parent and spouse at multiple levels, from small communities to global movements.

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Black England: From Tudors to Two-Tone

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

In 1596, Elizabeth Tudor wrote to lord mayors of major English cities that there were “of late divers blackamoores brought into this realm, of which kind of people there are already here to manie…….those kinde of people should be sente forth of the land.” A common myth about England is that it was a homogeneously white nation until Jamaicans and South Asians emigrated to Britain after World War II. Another myth is that there were no slaves held in England. As the above quotation indicates, free Black people were already settled there in the 16th century; and they were already the object of scapegoating for increasing poverty in the land at that time. The 17th century brought African slaves to England and, by the 19th century, the great ports of London, Bristol, and Liverpool were populated by West Africans (free and unfree); Lascars (Muslim sailors from east of the Cape of Good Hope); and seamen from Shanghai and Guangzhou, who created the first European China Town in the London Docks. In this class, we will investigate the multiracial nature of England from the Tudor era to the late 20th century. We will consider temporal moves between free and unfree lives and the role of free Africans in the abolition movement. Articulations of race, gender, and sexuality will be central, particularly as they play out in family formations and economic activities. We will wrestle with the absence of people of color in discourses about the English past and with contemporary constructions of racist stereotypes, such as the 19th-century trope of the Chinese opium den. Finally, we will engage with cultural explosions in music (reggae, ska, two-tone), film (Young Soul Rebels, Bend it Like Beckham, The Stuart Hall Project), and literature (Fathima Zahra, Aizaz Hussain, Paul Gilroy) created by second- and third-generation children of Commonwealth immigrants, particularly as they articulate with antiracism movements. Our hands-on class materials will be multidisciplinary (anthropology, history, literature) and multimedia, with a particular focus on visual images, audio, maps, and archival documents.

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First-Year Studies: Masterworks of Art and Architecture of the Western Tradition

Open, FYS—Year

The visual arts and architecture constitute a central part of human expression and experience, and both grow from and influence our lives in profound ways that we might not consciously acknowledge. In this course, we will explore intersections between the visual arts and cultural, political, and social history. The goal is to teach students to deal critically with works of art, using the methods and some of the theories of the discipline of art history. This course is not a survey but will have as its subject a limited number of artists and works of art and architecture, about which students will learn in depth through formal analysis, readings, discussion, research, and debate. We will endeavor to understand each work from the point of view of its creators and patrons and by following the work's changing reception by audiences throughout time. To accomplish this, we will need to be able to understand some of the languages of art. The course, then, is also a course in visual literacy—the craft of reading and interpreting visual images on their own terms. We will also discuss a number of issues of contemporary concern; for instance, the destruction of art, free speech and respect of religion, the art market, and the museum. If health considerations and COVID restrictions allow, students will be asked to schedule time on weekends to travel to Manhattan, either on their own or in the College van, to do assignments at various museums in New York. You will need several hours for each of these visits and will keep a notebook of comments and drawings of works of art. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences; in the spring, we will meet every other week.

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East vs. West: Europe, the Mediterranean, and Western Asia From Antiquity to the Modern Age

Open, Lecture—Year

Historically, competition or conflict between the European or Mediterranean West and the regions of the Middle East has been seen as a struggle between Christian and Muslim worlds with roots in the era of the Crusades, whose precedent and implications reach into the present time. While this course will focus extensively on the medieval period, it seeks to do so by situating the relations between Christian Europe and the Muslim world within a larger context as the result of geopolitical patterns that long antedated the emergence of Christianity or Islam. In the fall, the course will begin with the Greek invasion of the Near East under Alexander as a war of retribution for the Persian invasion of Greece more than a century earlier. We will consider how the political structure and culture of the multiethnic Hellenistic Greek kingdoms emerged from the wreckage of the Persian Empire and how Rome subsequently built on Hellenistic Greek experience and conflict with the Near East in establishing its empire. We will examine the emergence of Christianity as an example of a Roman or Western response to an originally Eastern religion and, conversely, the emergence of the Islamic faith and its new empire as an Eastern challenge to the Christianized Roman Empire of Late Antiquity. In the spring, we will see how this approach affords a very different view of the Crusades and the battle for the Holy Land as the outgrowth of longstanding cultural and political interactions or competitions that transcend religious faith and doctrine. The course will look at Christian and Muslim cultural relations in Spain and then close by examining the rise of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which originated as a Muslim regime in Eastern Europe and became a major power in Asia only after it had conquered the remaining symbol of the old Christian Roman Empire, Constantinople, in 1453. We will consider primary historical and literary sources, as well as major artistic monuments.

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Sursum Corda: Art and Architecture from Michelangelo to the Dawn of the Enlightenment, 1550-1700

Open, Lecture—Year

In Annibale Carracci’s painting of St. Margaret (1609), an Early Christian martyr, an altar is inscribed: Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts). This course explores what that meant in the 17th century—for the arts to be a vehicle of uplift and salvation, a challenge to the supremacy of nature, an analysis of history, and a site of contention, paradox, and pride for artists and architects. Using PowerPoint presentations, class discussion, and papers focusing on works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the course will cover the art of 16th-century Italy—as that art frames the questions that painters, sculptors, and architects pursued throughout Europe in the 17th century, commonly called the Age of the Baroque. Included will be studies of major movements in religion, politics, and society (Catholic reform and the founding of the Jesuits Order, the evolution of academic art, the creation of papal Rome, the importance of private patronage); issues in aesthetics and art theory (the transformation of classical models, theories of the reception of nature, the links to poetry, and the dynamics of style); the emergence of the varying national traditions (the sweet style and Bel Composto in Italy, Calvinist naturalism and the power of light in The Netherlands, and high classicism and Bon Gout in France). Focus will also be on careers of artists like Titian and the erotics of the brush; Michelangelo and transcendent form; Caravaggio and naturalism as the death of painting; Artemisia Gentileschi, biography and exemplum; Bernini and the beautiful whole; Rubens and the multiple ways of transforming; Rembrandt and the rough style; Vermeer and the discipline and technique of light; and Poussin and the modes of expression, among others. Group conferences in the first semester will focus on the art of Michelangelo as practice and problem and theories of the Baroque; in second semester, theories and problems in 17th-century architecture.

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Global Modernism, Internationalism, and the Cold War: 1930s, 1960s, 1990s

Open, Lecture—Year

This course is an introduction to diverse trajectories of modern and contemporary art from contexts that include Russia, Mexico, Iran, China, Japan, Argentina, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Ethiopia, Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan, as well as Europe and North America. The course ties these trajectories together via the theme of “internationalism” and its shifting geopolitical stakes over the course of the 20th century. The course follows the creation of modern internationalism in institutions like the League of Nations, the United Nations, UNESCO, and the Non-Aligned Movement; to a shift from diplomatic internationalism to economic “developmentalism” and “globalization” led by institutions like the World Bank and the IMF; and related cultural internationalisms promoted by MoMA, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Venice and São Paulo Biennales, and even the Stalinist state and Chinese Communist Party. Lectures will examine topics like Mexican muralism and Rockefeller internationalism; Négritude and its influence on African postcolonial modernisms; the infamous “weaponization” of abstract expressionism during the Cold War; debates on socialist realism in the Second and Third Worlds; the arrival of postcolonial diasporas to London and Paris and, relatedly, developments in “calligraphic modernism” spanning from North Africa to East Asia; and finally the proliferation of post-medium and new media strategies around the world toward the end of the century. Taking a chronological journey through global modern and contemporary art, the course focuses on three key decades to examine how artists navigated the shifting pressures and opportunities of internationalism throughout the 20th century. We will ask: How did modern artists think about national identity and nationalism in the colonial and postcolonial periods? What were the stakes of abstraction versus realism in different Cold War contexts? Can modernism exist in a totalitarian state? How have “First World” ideologies informed how modernist history has been written in the past? How are global modernists expanding the canon today? And on whose terms? While the course will include canonical readings on modern and contemporary art from the West, we will also read work by thinkers including Hannah Arendt and Rabindranath Tagore on nationalism; Mark Mazower and Vijay Prashad on the shifting politics of internationalism; Geeta Kapur and Ferreira Gullar on postcolonial avant-gardes; and primary documents, including UNESCO conference proceedings and artist manifestoes. The course lays a particular focus on recent work on global modernism by scholars that include Chika Okeke-Agulu, Iftikhar Dadi, Kellie Jones, Joan Kee, Ana María Reyes, and Reiko Tomii. These readings will illustrate current debates and shifts in the field, opening onto questions of art historical method and ways of looking, especially as they pertain to contested and formerly marginalized domains of art history. Writing assignments will focus on New York-area collections; the course will include a guided field trip to MoMA.

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Greeks, Romans, and Barbarians

Open, Seminar—Year

The study of the Greco-Roman world and its contribution to the evolution of ancient Mediterranean culture remains a primary object for classical studies. But what of the complex connections or interactions that existed between the urban cultures of the Greek and Roman world and the so-called “barbarian” peoples? What does the term “barbarian” imply as used by the Greeks and their Roman successors? Was it simply meant to denote “otherness,” or did it signify notions of social and material cultural or technological inferiority, as well? What did Greek culture in its formative stages borrow from its non-Greek neighbors? In the course of time, what technologies and modes of artistic expression did “barbarian” peoples of Asia and Europe absorb from the classical world? How does consideration of such issues help us to gain a clearer understanding of the whole substance and rhetoric of Western cultural identity? The answers to these questions are neither simple nor easy. They require a careful look at the cultural dynamic between the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans and an array of non-classical peoples—Egyptians, Phoenicians, Persians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Celts, and various Germanic tribes—through a vast panorama of space and time. We will approach the problem from the perspective of history, especially through such primary sources as the histories of Herodotus, Polybios, and Tacitus. But we will also consider the problem from the perspective of art history or archaeology, since it was in the domain of material culture—the art of ornament and display—that tribal peoples of Europe and Asia found their most important modes of expression and most tangible form of interaction with classical peoples to the west and south.

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Home/Nation: 20th-Century Asian Art–via New York

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar is an introduction to modern and contemporary art from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea. The course takes its title from Indian artist Rummana Hussain’s “Home/Nation” (1996), a multimedia installation reflecting on rising political violence in India at the end of the century—especially against minority groups. In 1998, Hussain completed a residency at Art in General in New York and was one of numerous artists from across Asia showing in the City during the “global” and “multicultural” 1990s. This seminar elaborates on this global turn by tracing prior histories of Asian art in the City; however, our discussion and reading will also spend equal time in Asian and New York-based histories of modern and contemporary art, looking across continents to consider parallels, inversions, connections, and disconnections between and among them. We will, therefore, examine artists like Hussain, who might have visited New York only briefly, along with those who have lived in the City for all or most of their lives. Artists examined will include Toshi Shumizu, Rabindranath Tagore, Chao Chung-hsiang, F. N. Souza, Isamu Noguchi, Zainul Abedin, Yoko Ono, Tehching Hsieh, Zarina Hashmi, and Shahzia Sikander. We will consider how artists grappled with splits between “home” and “nation,” both in Asia and in the United States, during the 20th century, taking into account major events in Asian history that include decolonization, the Cold War, and neoliberal globalization. We will also explore the impact of World War I and World War II on Asian minorities in the United States, the civil rights movement and related passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the Vietnam War, and, more recently, the aftermaths of 9/11 and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Artistically, we will examine diverse trajectories of realism and abstraction, photography and performance, and new media and avant-garde strategies. Students will have the opportunity to visit New York-based museums, galleries, and archival collections, including the Asia Art Archive, as part of in-class and individual assignments. Seminar discussion and final papers will focus on primary documents: institutional correspondences and historical newspaper and magazine reviews, artist writings and interviews, and archival photographs, among other documentary forms. These records will be used to build on existing histories of Asian art in/via New York and, if possible, to rediscover new or forgotten ones.

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Paris: A History Through Art, Architecture, and City Planning

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

In this course, we will trace the history of Paris from its foundation until World War I, working from the visual arts that both defined and emanated from this remarkable city. We will explore works of art, architecture, and urban design as documents of history, social and cultural values, and the history of ideas. Our readings and discussions will lead us to interactions between the arts and the history, fashion, religion, science, and literature of Paris. In both individual and group projects, students will chart these relationships graphically and construct a cultural history of Paris from Roman Lutetia to the City of Lights.

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First-Year Studies: Reform and Revolution: China’s 20th Century

Open, FYS—Year

In 1900, China was a faltering empire ruled by an autocratic, foreign, dynastic house and an entrenched bureaucracy of Confucian officials. Its sovereignty heavily battered and its territory compromised by foreign powers, China was commonly called “The Sick Man of Asia.” In 2000, China was a modern nation state ruled by an authoritarian party and an entrenched bureaucracy of technocrats and administrators. With a surging economy, swollen foreign reserves, dazzling modern cities, and a large and technologically advanced military, China is regularly predicted to be the next global superpower. Yet, the path between these two startlingly different points was anything but smooth. China’s 20th century was a tortuous one. Policymakers, elites, and the common people oscillated between the poles of reform and revolution—bouts of wild radicalism alternated with more sober policies—as they pursued changes that they hoped would bring a better society and polity. This class examines some of the major events and personalities of this arduous century and its momentous political, social, and cultural changes. We will learn and apply skills of historical analysis to primary documents (in translation), some fiction, and film. Along the way, we will encounter a rich cast of characters, including Sun Yatsen, China’s “national father”; colorful warlords; corrupt bureaucrats; fervent intellectuals; protesting youths; heroic communist martyrs; the towering and enigmatic chairman Mao; long-suffering peasants; and fanatical Red Guards. These men and women made and remade modern China. This class is history and, thus, is not primarily concerned with contemporary China; but by the end of the year, students will be well-equipped with an understanding of China’s recent past, knowledge that will help immeasurably in making sense of today’s China as it becomes increasingly important in our globalized economy and society. In addition to regular seminar (discussion) sessions, this FYS includes an individual research (conference) project each semester; these will be guided through biweekly, research-specific, group meetings and individual conferences in the fall and biweekly one-on-one meetings in the spring.

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Japan’s Heisei Era (1989–2019): Culture, Society, and Experiences

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will embark on an examination of Japan’s Heisei Era (1989-2019). Over the course of 30 years, this dynamic period of contemporary Japanese history gave rise to significant societal changes, profound cultural transformations, and multiple shared national traumas. Persistent demographic shifts produced far-reaching consequences, greatly altering individuals’ lived experiences and expectations. Devastating natural and manmade disasters deeply shaped collective and individual consciences. Desires for catharsis, escapism, recreation, and reflection reinvigorated popular culture across a plethora of mediums: J-pop, literature, puroresu, anime, and many more. Relaxed societal constraints facilitated new options for self-expression, livelihood, and interpersonal relations. Underrepresented voices were added to critical dialogues. We will examine the unique sociocultural phenomena and historical events that constitute the Heisei Era, utilizing a diverse and interdisciplinary array of primary sources—ethnography, literature, journalism, analyses, and narratives—augmented by albums and films. We will attempt to deconstruct the era from a monolithic entity into a series of interlinking but distinct features in order to better understand and evaluate it. We will explore key sociocultural developments of the Heisei Era: Japan’s rapidly aging and decreasing population, family structure, alienation, gender norms and reform, rural depopulation, historical reckonings, and more. We will investigate the ramifications of major events, such as the Aum Shinrikyo terror attacks; the collapse of the bubble economy; and the “311” Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. We will also examine influential Heisei-defining individuals and exemplars of popular culture, potentially including Hikaru Utada, Studio Ghibli, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hakuho, and Perfume. Our ultimate aim is to comprehend this immensely impactful period in recent Japanese history from a variety of perspectives through both academic analyses and the creative output of the period itself.

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Asian Imperialisms, 1600–1953

Open, Seminar—Fall

East Asia, like much of the globe, has been powerfully shaped by the arrival and presence of imperialist power in the region. In fact, in both China and Japan, nationalism is founded on resistance to the encroachments of Western imperialism. Both nations cast themselves as victims to the rapacious West. And yet, often unnoticed by patriots and pundits, both China and Japan are deeply indebted to their own domestic imperialisms, albeit in very different ways. Relying on a wide range of course materials (historical scholarship, paintings, lithographs, photographs, literature, and relevant primary sources), this course is an intensive investigation of the contours of Asian imperialism, covering the colonialism of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the aggressive Western expansion in the 19th century, and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). We will ask: What features (if any) did these very different empires share, and what set them apart from each other? How and why were Asian empires built, how did they end, and what legacies did they leave? We will excavate the multiethnic Qing imperium for how it complicates China’s patriotic master narrative. Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western racism and its familiar Civilizing Discourse? And what are the legacies of Qing colonialism for China’s modern nation state? The Qing campaigns to subjugate the Mongols in the northwest and the colonization of the untamed southwest both predated the arrival of the Westerners and the Opium War (1839-42). How does that impact our understanding of the clash between China and the rapidly expanding West? We will trace earlier views on the classic confrontation between those two presumed entities before examining more recent revisionist formulations on the Western penetration of China. What were the processes of Western intrusion, and how did Western imperialism come to structure knowledge of China? And, finally, we will turn to the Japanese empire. What were its motivations, its main phases, and its contradictions? Should we understand it as similar to Western imperialism or as an alternative, something unique? What are the implications of both positions? To understand the Japanese empire in both its experiential and theoretical dimensions, we will range widely across Japan’s possessions in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. The questions and topics in this seminar will complicate the master narratives that prevail in both East Asia and the West—not to delegitimize or subvert Asian sovereignties but, in order to understand the deeply embedded narratives of imperialism within those sovereign claims, to see how those narratives (and their blind spots) continue to frame and support policies and attitudes today.

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Intermediate Microeconomics

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall

What assumptions, methodologies, values, vision, and theoretical foundations do microeconomists incorporate and rely upon for analyzing economic behavior at the individual level? What insights, knowledge, inferences, and/or conclusions can be gleaned through examining characteristics of individual firms, agents, households, and markets in order to understand capitalist society? How do our theories of individual and business behavior inform our interpretation of distributional outcomes? Among other topics, this semester-long seminar in intermediate microeconomics will offer an inquiry into economic decision-making vis-à-vis: theories of demand and supply; the individual (agents); households; consumption (consumer choice); theories of production and costs; theories of the firm; theories of markets, market governance, and competition; prices and pricing theory; and business legal history. As a course that is designed for students interested in pursuing the study of economics at the graduate-school level, this course will provide a rigorous analysis of theory and policy in the neoclassical and political economy traditions. A central theoretical issue will be an engagement of the “governments versus markets” dichotomy, which is at the heart of neoclassical economics. This important theme will be addressed by investigating the rival treatments of institutions in neoclassical economics (new institutionalism) and the law and political economy tradition. Among other topics, we will analyze how these different approaches to institutions and the economy study cost-benefit analysis, Pareto optimality, business competition, and the Coase Theorem. Students should be prepared to deploy their high-school level math skills in dealing with certain topics.

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The Environmental Imagination: Perspectives From the Social Sciences, Environmental Humanities, and the Arts

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Year

“Climate change” covers a variety of hydrological, thermal, geological, and atmospheric crises that are intersecting and accelerating in scope and intensity. Inspired by Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwOvBv8RLmo) performing her poem Earthrise, this course invites a conversation that draws together the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts: a journey through the global climate crisis on a variety of scales, in specific contexts, and through diverse media. Fiction and nonfiction writing, history, and film will be drawn upon to investigate understandings of an epoch controversially called “the Anthropocene.”  What do these different perspectives, methods, and insights bring to our perceptions of specific environments? How do different rhetorical formations, imaginaries, narratives, and visual images inform cognitive and affective responses to the Anthropocene?  What do they bring to our understanding of the global environmental emergency that is the signature of this moment in planetary history? How do interventions in the arts and humanities constitute acts of “world-making”—new ways of seeing, feeling, and imagining human ways of caring for this planet? In conjunction with the literatures of political ecology and cultural anthropology, we will read fiction by authors such as Amitav Ghosh and Stanislas Lem; nonfiction by Robert MacFarlane (Underlands), Ben Ehrenreich (Desert Notebooks), Joseph Masco (irradiated landscapes in the American West), Kate Brown (Plutopia), and Madeleine Watts (The Inland Sea).

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Intermediate French I (Section I): Contemporary French and Francophone Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course will offer a systematic review of the most fundamental aspects of French grammar. The emphasis of the class will be on developing oral proficiency by working on specific grammatical structures and conjugations, as well as idiomatic expressions. We will also work on writing skills through in-class short essays and exercises with the primary goal of strengthening students’ grammatical agility. We will meet twice a week for two hours. We will use recent and contemporary French and francophone popular culture (songs, film, cartoons, fashion, etc.) as a gateway to explore underlying trends and tensions that have been at work in the francophone world since the 1960s. Some of the questions that we will discuss this semester include colonization and its aftermath in France and Belgium, as well as in several sub-Saharan African countries; the complex issue of race and slavery as part of France’s past in the Caribbean; the presence of Islam in France as a result of immigration from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; the history of feminism and gender; and the question of ecology and climate change. Each week will be organized around a song, a film, and a text that echo each other around a common theme. We will memorize lyrics and write and act dialogues, as well as short essays. This course will be an excellent preparation for the spring 2022 Intermediate I course, which will focus on reading and writing more elaborate texts. In addition to conferences, a weekly conversation session with a French language assistant(e) is required. Attendance at the weekly French lunch table and French film screenings are both highly encouraged. The Intermediate French I and II courses are specially designed to help prepare students for studying in Paris with Sarah Lawrence College during their junior year.

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Food, Agriculture, Environment, and Development

Open, Lecture—Year

Where does the food that we eat come from? Why do some people have enough food to eat and others do not? Are there too many people for the world to feed? Who controls the world’s food? Will global food prices continue their recent rapid rise? And if so, what will be the consequences? What are the environmental impacts of our food production systems? How do answers to these questions differ by place or by the person asking the question? How have the questions changed over time? This course will explore the following fundamental issue: the relationship between development and the environment, focusing in particular on agriculture and the production and consumption of food. The questions above often hinge on the contentious debate concerning population, natural resources, and the environment. Thus, we will begin by critically assessing the fundamental ideological positions and philosophical paradigms of “modernization,” as well as the critical counterpoints that lie at the heart of this debate. Within this context of competing sets of philosophical assumptions concerning the population-resource debate, we will investigate the concept of “poverty” and the making of the “Third World”; access to food, hunger, grain production and food aid, agricultural productivity (the Green and Gene revolutions), biofuels, the role of transnational corporations (TNCs), the international division of labor, migration, globalization and global commodity chains, and the different strategies adopted by nation states to “develop” natural resources and agricultural production. Through a historical investigation of environmental change and the biogeography of plant domestication and dispersal, we will look at the creation of indigenous, subsistence, peasant, plantation, collective, and commercial forms of agriculture. We will analyze the physical environment and ecology that help shape, but rarely determine, the organization of resource use and agriculture. Rather, through the dialectical rise of various political-economic systems—such as feudalism, slavery, mercantilism, colonialism, capitalism, and socialism—we will study how humans have transformed the world’s environments. We will follow with studies of specific issues: technological change in food production; commercialization and industrialization of agriculture and the decline of the family farm; food and public health, culture, and family; land grabbing and food security; the role of markets and transnational corporations in transforming the environment; and the global environmental changes stemming from modern agriculture, dams, deforestation, grassland destruction, desertification, biodiversity loss, and the interrelationship with climate change. Case studies of particular regions and issues will be drawn from Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the United States. The final part of the course examines the restructuring of the global economy and its relation to emergent international laws and institutions regulating trade, the environment, agriculture, resource extraction treaties, the changing role of the state, and competing conceptualizations of territoriality and control. We will end with discussions of emergent local, regional, and transnational coalitions for food self-reliance and food sovereignty, alternative and community supported agriculture, community-based resource management systems, sustainable development, and grassroots movements for social and environmental justice. Films, multimedia materials, and distinguished guest lectures will be interspersed throughout the course. One farm/factory field trip is possible in each semester if funding permits. The lecture participants may also take a leading role in a campus-wide event on “food and hunger,” tentatively planned for the spring. Please mark your calendars when the dates are announced, as attendance for all of the above is required. Attendance and participation are also required at special guest lectures and film viewings in the Social Science Colloquium Series, which are held approximately once per month. The Web Board is an important part of the course. Regular postings of short essays will be made there, as well as followup commentaries with your colleagues. There will be in-class essays, a midterm quiz, and a final exam each semester. Group conferences will focus on in-depth analysis of certain course topics and will include debates and small-group discussions. You will prepare a poster project each semester on a topic of your choice that is related to the course and which will be presented at the end of each semester in group conference, as well as a potential public session.

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Introduction to Development Studies: The Political Ecology of Development

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will begin by examining competing paradigms and approaches to understanding “development” and the “Third World.” We will set the stage by answering the question: What did the world look like 500 years ago? The purpose of this part of the course is to acquaint us with and to analyze the historical origins and evolution of a world political-economy of which the “Third World” is an intrinsic component. We will thus study the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the rise of merchant and finance capital, and the colonization of the world by European powers. We will analyze case studies of colonial “development” to understand the evolving meaning of this term. These case studies will help us assess the varied legacies of colonialism apparent in the emergence of new nations through the fitful and uneven process of decolonization that followed. The next part of the course will look at the United Nations and the role some of its associated institutions have played in the post-World War II global political-economy, one marked by persistent and intensifying socioeconomic inequalities, as well as frequent outbreaks of political violence across the globe. By examining the development institutions that have emerged and evolved since 1945, we will attempt to unravel the paradoxes of development in different eras. We will deconstruct the measures of development through a thematic exploration of population, resource use, poverty, access to food, the environment, agricultural productivity, urbanization, industrialization, and different development strategies adopted by Third World nation-states. We will then examine globalization and its relation to emergent international institutions and their policies; for example, the IMF, World Bank, AIIB, and WTO. We will then turn to contemporary development debates and controversies that increasingly find space in the headlines: widespread land grabbing by sovereign wealth funds, China, and hedge funds; the “global food crisis”; and the perils of climate change, as well as the potential of ”a new green deal.” Throughout the course, our investigations of international institutions, transnational corporations, the role of the state, and civil society will provide the backdrop for the final focus of the class: the emergence of regional coalitions for self-reliance, environmental and social justice, and sustainable development. Our analysis of development in practice will draw upon case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and North America. Conference work will be closely integrated with the themes of the course, with a two-stage, substantive research project. Project presentations will incorporate a range of formats, from traditional papers to multimedia visual productions. Where possible and feasible, you will be encouraged to do primary research over fall study days. Some experience in the social sciences is desired but not required.

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Beginning Greek

Open, Seminar—Year

This course provides an intensive introduction to Ancient Greek grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, with the aim of reading the language as soon as possible. By mid-semester in the fall, students will be reading authentic excerpts of Ancient Greek poetry and prose. Students will also read and discuss English translations of selected works of Plato, Aristophanes, Thucydides, and Ps.-Xenophon. During the spring semester, while continuing to refine their knowledge of Greek grammar and their reading skills, students will read extended selections of Plato’s Apology in the original Greek.

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Beginning Italian: Viaggio in Italia

Open, Seminar—Year

This course, for students with no previous knowledge of Italian, aims at giving the student a complete foundation in the Italian language with particular attention to oral and written communication and all aspects of Italian culture. The course will be conducted in Italian after the first month and will involve the study of all basic structures of the language—phonological, grammatical, and syntactical—with practice in conversation, reading, composition, and translation. In addition to material covering basic Italian grammar, students will be exposed to fiction, poetry, songs, articles, recipe books, and films. Group conferences (held once a week) aim at enriching the students’ knowledge of Italian culture and developing their ability to communicate. This will be achieved by readings that deal with current events and topics relative to today’s Italian culture. Activities in pairs or groups, along with short written assignments, will be part of the group conference. In addition to class and group conference, the course has a conversation component in regular workshops with the language assistant. Conversation classes are held twice a week (in small groups) and will center on the concept of viaggio in Italia: a journey through the regions of Italy through cuisine, cinema, art, opera, and dialects. The Italian program organizes trips to the Metropolitan Opera and relevant exhibits in New York City, as well as offering the possibility of experiencing Italian cuisine first-hand as a group. The course is for a full year, by the end of which students will attain a basic competence in all aspects of the language.

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Intermediate Italian: Modern Italian Culture and Literature

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

This course aims at improving and perfecting the students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills, as well as their knowledge of Italy’s contemporary culture and literature. In order to acquire the necessary knowledge of Italian grammar, idiomatic expressions, and vocabulary, a review of all grammar will be carried out throughout the year. As an introduction to modern Italian culture and literature, students will be introduced to a selection of short stories, poems, and passages from novels, as well as specific newspaper articles, music, and films in the original language. Some of the literary works will include selections from Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Natalia Ginzburg, Gianni Rodari, Marcello D’Orta, Clara Sereni, Dino Buzzati, Stefano Benni, Antonio Tabucchi, Alberto Moravia, Achille Campanile, and Elena Ferrante. In order to address the students’ writing skills, written compositions will be required as an integral part of the course. All material is accessible on myslc. Conferences are held on a biweekly basis; topics might include the study of a particular author, literary text, film, or any other aspect of Italian society and culture that might be of interest to the student. Conversation classes (in small groups) will be held twice a week with the language assistant, during which students will have the opportunity to reinforce what they have learned in class and hone their ability to communicate in Italian. When appropriate, students will be directed to specific internship opportunities in the New York City area, centered on Italian language and culture.

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Intermediate Latin

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

See the full description under Literature: Can This Republic Be Saved? Cautionary Evidence From Ancient Rome. Intermediate Latin students will complete the reading assignments for the literature course and attend all literature seminar meetings. In place of an independent conference project, Intermediate Latin students will read selected works in Latin and attend twice-weekly Latin group conferences.

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Perverts in Groups: Queer Social Lives

Open, Seminar—Fall

Contradictory assumptions about the relation of homosexuals to groups have dominated accounts of modern LGBT life. In Western Europe and the United States, from the late-19th century onward, queers have been presented as profoundly isolated persons—burdened by the conviction that they are the only ones ever to have had such feelings when they first realize their deviant desires and immediately separated by those desires from the families and cultures into which they were born. Yet, at the same time, these isolated individuals have been seen as inseparable from one another, part of a worldwide network, always able to recognize their peers by means of mysterious signs decipherable only by other group members. Homosexuals were denounced as persons who did not contribute to society; homosexuality was presented as the hedonistic choice of reckless, self-indulgent individualism over sober social good. Nevertheless, all homosexuals were implicated in a nefarious conspiracy, stealthily working through their web of connections to one another to take over the world—or the political establishment of the United States, for example, its art world, theatre, or film industries. Such contradictions could still be seen in the battles that have raged since the 1970s, when queers began seeking public recognition of their lives within existing social institutions, from the military to marriage. LGBT persons were routinely attacked as threats (whether to unit cohesion or the family) intent on destroying the groups they were working to openly join. In this class, we will use these contradictions as a framework for studying the complex social roles that queers have occupied and some of the complex social worlds they have created—at different times and places, shaped by different understandings of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and nationality—within the United States over the past century and a half. Our sources will include histories, sociological and anthropological studies, the writings of political activists, fiction, and film.

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First-Year Studies: Romanticism to Modernism in English-Language Poetry

Open, FYS—Year

In the first semester of this course, we will explore the work of major poets writing in English between the French Revolution and the American Civil War.  One of the goals of the course is to demonstrate the ways in which modern poetry originated in this period.  In the wake of the French Revolution, Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge invented a new kind of poem that largely internalized the myths they had inherited from literary and religious traditions. To put it another way, the inner life of the poet became the inescapable subject of their poetry.  In the second semester, we will trace the impact of their work on subsequent generations of poets writing in English.  Our preeminent goal will be to appreciate each poet’s—indeed, each poem’s—unique contribution to the language. Our understanding of literary and historical trends will emerge from the close, imaginative reading of texts.  Authors will include: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Whitman, Dickinson, Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, Hardy, Frost, Yeats, and T. S. Eliot.  During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet every other week.

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Theatre and the City

Open, Lecture—Year

Athens, London, Paris, Berlin, New York...the history of Western theatre has always been associated with cities, their politics, their customs, their geography, their audiences. This course will track the story of theatre as it originates in the Athens of the fifth-century BCE and evolves into its different expressions and practices in cities of later periods, all of them seen as "capitals" of civilization. Does theatre civilize, or is it merely a reflection of any given civilization whose cultural assumptions inform its values and shape its styles? Given that ancient Greek democracy gave birth to tragedy and comedy in civic praise of the god Dionysos—from a special coupling of the worldly and the sacred—what happens when these genres recrudesce in the unsavory precincts of Elizabethan London, the polished court of Louis XIV, the beer halls of Weimar Berlin, and the neon “palaces” of Broadway? Sometimes the genres themselves are challenged by experiments in new forms or by performances deliberately situated in unaccustomed places. By tinkering with what audiences have come to expect or where they have come to assemble, do playwrights like Euripides, Brecht, and Sarah Kane destabilize civilized norms? Grounding our work in Greek theatre, we will address such questions in a series of chronological investigations of the theatre produced in each city: Athens and London in the first semester; Paris, Berlin, and New York in the second.

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The Forms and Logic of Comedy

Open, Small Lecture—Year

Comedy is a startlingly various form, and it operates with a variety of logics; it can be politically conservative or starkly radical, savage or gentle, optimistic or despairing. In this course, we’ll explore some comic modes—from philosophical comedy to modern film—and examine a few theories of comedy. A tentative reading list for the first semester includes a Platonic dialogue (the Protagoras) and moves on to Aristophanes’ Old Comedy (The Clouds), Plautus’ New Comedy, Roman satire, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night, Molière, some Restoration and later stage comedy, and Fielding. In the second semester, we will read Byron, Stendhal, Dickens, Wilde, P. G. Wodehouse, Kingsley Amis, Joseph Heller, Philip Roth, and Tom Stoppard and also look at some cartoons and some film comedy. Both semesters’ reading lists are subject to revision.

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Studies in Ecocriticism: The Idea of Nature in the Western Tradition

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

As the capitalistic and predatory model aggressively promoted by the United States continues to reveal itself as a major threat to biodiversity and the environment in general, it is vital to understand the cultural and literary history of the concept of “nature” that is at the core of the Western and Judeo-Christian tradition while also putting that concept in the context of gender, race, and ethnicity in America today. For example, comparing stories of world creation from indigenous nations, with narratives taken from the Bible and from Greek and Roman classical texts, will allow us to better grasp how language in the European tradition functions as a deep divider between humans and other living creatures. We will also follow the development of the genre of the pastoral as an idealized construction of nature that deeply influenced Europe from third-century BC to 19th-century English and American Romanticism. We will try to better understand how the conception of wilderness in America is in close relation to the presence of enslaved black bodies on its land. Going in a different direction, we will analyze how contemporary feminism and gender studies provide crucially important models to invent new ways for the West to relate to nature. Animals will also be a focus of our discussions, from classical representations of animals as machines to the use of models like the burrow or territoriality imported from the animal realm by Deleuze and Guattari, to the possibility of shifting from a humanist understanding of nature inherited from European Renaissance, to new forms of ecocentric expression. These are some of the themes that we will cover in this lecture, with the goal of reading texts of the past in order to better understand the complexities of today’s discussions and debates about how to invent new forms of relating to the living environment around us.

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Milton, Blake, and the Bible

Open, Small Lecture—Fall

John Milton in the 17th century and William Blake in the late-18th and early-19th centuries forged fiercely independent poetics of visionary resistance to the trends toward intellectual materialism, religious conformity, economic mercantilism, and political authoritarianism that dominated the England and Europe of their periods. Both represented themselves as visionary teachers and prophets in a line of prophetic succession that began with Moses and included Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, and John, the writer of the Apocalypse. They founded their prophetic imaginations on what Blake called, “the sublime of the Bible,” the great epic of human liberation and imaginative inspiration. This course will provide readings of central biblical narratives and poetry and examine how Milton and Blake read, understood, and rewrote scripture in their major poetic texts in their prophetic expectation of changing the world and how we see it.

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Toward a Theatre of Identity: Ibsen, Chekhov, and Wilson

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Year

Theatre emerges from social rituals; and as a communal exercise, theatre requires people to work together toward a common purpose in shared and demarcated physical space. Yet, the very notion of “character,” first expressed in the indelibly defining mask of the ancient Greek protagonist, points paradoxically toward the spirit, attraction, and trial of individuation. And so we have been given Medea, Hamlet, and Tartuffe, among the many dramatic characters whose unique faces we recognize and who speak to us not only of their own conflicts but also of something universal and timeless. In the 19th century, however, the Industrial Revolution, aggressive capitalism, imperialism, Darwinism, socialist revolution, feminism, the new science of psychology, and the decline of religious clarity about the nature of the human soul—all of these, among other social factors—force the question as to whether individual identity has point or meaning, even existence. Henrik Ibsen, a fiercely “objective” Norwegian self-exile, and Anton Chekhov, an agnostic Russian doctor, used theatre—that most social of arts—to challenge their time, examining assumptions about identity, its troubling reliance on social construction, and the mysteries of self-consciousness that elude resolution. The test will be to see how what we learn from them equips us—or fails to do so—in a study of August Wilson, an African-American autodidact of the 20th century, whose plays represent the impact, both outrageous and insidious, of American racism on “characters” denied identity by definition.

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Literature in Translation: 20th-Century Italian Literature and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

The course will explore 20th-century Italian literature, focusing on important intellectuals, works, and movements that helped shape it and their connection with the arts, cinema, and society at large. Italy had become a unified nation by 1860, and its literature addressed issues such as (national and personal) identity, tradition, innovation and modernity, the role of literature and of the writer, and the changing role of women in Italian society. We will explore the interrelation between Italian literature and crucial historical events—such as the Great War, the rise and fall of fascism, World War II, the Resistance, the birth of the Republic, the postwar economic boom, the students’ and women’s movements of the 1960s and ’70s, the terrorism of the “Anni di Piombo”—until the recent contribution of migration literature to the Italian literary canon. Among the authors and intellectuals, we will explore Sibilla Aleramo for her literary treatment of the issue of female emancipation at the beginning of the century; Luigi Pirandello and his work as a novelist and playwright; Gabriele D’Annunzio as a poet, playwright, and novelist but also a war hero and politician; F. T. Marinetti, whose futurist manifestos and literary works reflected his desire to renew Italian art, literature, and culture in general; B. Mussolini’s fascist regime, its dictates, and their influence on propaganda literature and cinema; Ignazio Silone’s novels on the fascist era; Roberto Rossellini’s neorealist cinema; Italo Calvino’s, Beppe Fenoglio’s, and Elio Vittorini’s literature of the Resistance; Primo Levi’s depiction of The Holocaust; and women writers such as Anna Banti, Natalia Ginzburg, Elsa Morante, and Dacia Maraini. Readings will be supplemented by secondary source material that will help outline the social, historical, and political context in which these authors lived and wrote, as well as provide a relevant critical framework for the study of their works. On occasion, we will watch films that are relevant to the topics and period in question. No previous knowledge of Italian is required. Students proficient in Italian may opt to read sources in the original language and write their conference projects in Italian. Conference topics may include the study of a particular author, literary text, or topic relevant to the course and that might be of interest to the student.

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Conscience of the Nations: Classics of African Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

One way to think of literature is as the conscience of a people, reflecting on their origins, their values, their losses, and their possibilities. This course will study major representative texts in which sub-Saharan African writers have taken up the challenge of cultural formation and criticism. Part of what gives the best writing of modern Africa its aesthetic power is the political urgency of its task: The past still bears on the present, the future is yet to be written, and what writers have to say matters enough for their work to be considered dangerous. Political issues and aesthetic issues are, thus, inseparable in their work. Creative tensions in the writing between indigenous languages and European languages, between traditional forms of orature and storytelling and self-consciously “literary” forms, register all of the pressures and conflicts of late colonial and postcolonial history. To discern the traditionalist sources of modern African writing, we will first read examples from epic, folk tale, and other forms of orature. Major fiction will be selected from the work of Tutuola, Achebe, Beti, Sembene, Ba, Head, Ngugi, La Guma, Dangaremgba, and Sarowiwa; drama from the work of Soyinka and Aidoo; poetry from the work of Senghor, Rabearivelo, Okigbo, Okot p’Bitek, Brutus, Mapanje, and others. Conference work may include further, deeper work on the writings, writers, and genres that we study together in class; aspects of literary theory, particularly aspects of postcolonial and womanist theory relevant to readings of African literature; or readings of more recent writers out of Africa whose work draws on and develops the “classical” works that will be the foundation of our work together.

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History Plays

Open, Seminar—Fall

Some of the greatest dramatic literature is set in an era preceding its composition. This is always true of a form of dramatic literature that we usually call by a different name (Plato’s dialogues). It is also true of some of the most celebrated drama, plays that we identify with the core of the Western theatrical tradition; for example, much of Greek tragedy. And it is very famously true of some of the greatest work by Shakespeare, Schiller, and Corneille. Some of the best contemporary playwrights also set some of their work in the past: Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, Arcadia, The Invention of Love, and The Coast of Utopia are all, in one or another sense, history plays. Setting a play in the past can create and exploit dramatic irony—the audience knows the history to come, the protagonists usually cannot—but there is no single reason for setting a play in the past. For some playwrights, history provided the grandest kind of spectacle, a site of splendid and terrible (hence, dramatic) events. Their treatment of the past may not depict it as radically discontinuous with the present or necessarily different in kind. Other playwrights may make the past setting little more than an allegory of the present; Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) seems to be a celebration of Victorian liberal imperialism. The playwright may set work in the past as part of an urgent analysis of the origins of his own situation; Michael Frayn’s fascinating play, Benefactors, was written in 1984 but set in the late 1960s and attempted to locate the causes of the then-recent collapse of political liberalism, seeking in history an answer that could be found only there. But another of Frayn’s plays with a historical setting, Copenhagen, does not necessarily focus on something irretrievably past; its interests may rather be concentrated on a living problem of undiminished urgency. Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade, arguably the most successful work of 1960s political theatre, was a history play focused on what then seemed the explicit and unbreakable link between late 18th-century politics and the politics of the present. A play by Alan Bennett, The History Boys, sought to illuminate something about the political present by examining a changing fashion in the teaching of history. In this course, we will read a number of works of dramatic literature—all of them, in one sense or another, history plays written for various purposes and of generally very high quality. We may or may not discover anything common to all history plays, but we will read some good books.

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The Music of What Happens: Alternate Histories and Counterfactuals

Open, Seminar—Spring

The alternate history—which imagines a different present or future originating in a point of divergence from our actual history, a branching point in the past—is both an increasingly popular form of genre fiction and a decreasingly disreputable form of analysis in history and the social sciences. While fictions of alternate history were, until very recently, only a subgenre of science fiction, celebrated “literary” novelists (among others, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, and Colson Whithead) have written within the last decade and a half well-regarded novels of alternate history (The Plot Against America, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and The Underground Railroad). Similarly, while counterfactual historical speculation is at least as old as Livy, academic historians have until recently scorned the practice as a vulgar parlor game; but this is beginning to change. In the early 1990s, Cambridge University Press and Princeton both published intellectually rigorous books on alternate history and counterfactual analysis in the social sciences; more recently, Cambridge published a volume analyzing alternate histories of the World War II; and, in 2006, the University of Michigan Press published an interesting collection of counterfactual analyses titled, Unmaking the West. This course will examine a number of fictions of alternate history, some reputable and some less reputable, and may also look at some of the academic work noted above. We shall attempt to understand what it might mean to think seriously about counterfactuals; about why fictions of, and academic works on, alternate history have become significantly more widespread; and about what makes an alternate history aesthetically satisfying and intellectually suggestive rather than ham-fisted, flat, and profoundly unpersuasive.

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The Music of Russia

Open, Large Lecture—Spring

This course will survey the great contributions of Russian composers to Western music from the first half of the 19th century to the end of the Soviet era and beyond. We will study these works in the context of the important historical events and intellectual movements that galvanized Russian artists: the desire to find the appropriate expression of Russian identity, the ambivalence toward the achievements of Western Europe, the ideals of civic responsibility, the aestheticism of the later 19th century, the Russian Revolution, and the repressions of Soviet society. Composers to be studied include Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky. No prior music courses or knowledge of music theory is required.

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Existentialism

Open, Lecture—Spring

Does life have a purpose, a meaning? What does it mean “to be”? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be a woman (or to be a man)? What does it mean to be black (or to be white)? What makes us into who we are? What distinguishes each of us? And what, if anything, is in common to all of us? These and other questions are raised by existentialist philosophy and literature, mostly through interrogation of real-life experiences, situations, and “fundamental emotions” such as anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and shame. In the first half of this class, we will get acquainted with the core tenets of existentialist thought by reading two of its most influential figures: Jean-Paul Sartre (France, 1905-1980) and Martin Heidegger (Germany, 1889-1976). In the second half, we will analyze texts by authors who set out to expand or challenge these core tenets on the grounds of their experiences of oppression. These authors are Simone de Beauvoir, Frantz Fanon, and Jean Améry. Group conference will meet weekly and play a central role in this course. In it, we will mostly read literary texts or watch films that are relevant to the work of the above-listed authors. Conference material will include stories by Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, and Ralph Ellison and films like The Battle of Algiers (1967) and Monsieur Klein (1977).

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Critical Race Theory: Philosophical Perspectives

Open, Lecture—Spring

What is race? In what ways have prominent political movements—such as liberalism, Marxism, and feminism—failed to fully address the significance of racism? How should the relationship between racial and gender identity be conceptualized? How do processes of racialization differ across the globe? Is the assertion of racial identity in conflict with universal humanism—or are these, in fact, necessarily connected? In this course, we will look at some of the major themes, debates, and questions within critical race theory from a historical and global perspective. In the first half of the course, we will engage with thinkers from the African continent and the Caribbean who centered issues of Black consciousness and decolonial, antiracist solidarity. We then look at some of the major historical forbearers of critical race theory within the United States before turning to contemporary debates. Some of the figures that we will be reading include Paulette Nardal, Léopold Senghor, Frantz Fanon, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. By foregrounding the plurality of critical-race theoretical traditions, this course provides students with the theoretical tools to critically engage problems central to current political realities and discourse. Group conferences will meet every week, and discussion will be a central part of the course.

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Women Philosophers in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Open, Seminar—Year

Western philosophy originated in Ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago, addressing fundamental questions about being and time, about the human condition, about ethics and politics, about science and religion. Despite the fundamental and universal nature of these questions, philosophy was practiced (at least publicly) mostly by men for the majority of those 2,000 years. It was not until the 20th century that this convention began to be significantly challenged, both practically (by the fact that more and more women entered the forefront of philosophical discussion) and theoretically (by questioning the validity and scope of this male-dominant tradition). This yearlong course is a survey of 20th-century continental philosophy that, countering the aforementioned tradition, focuses exclusively on the work of women in philosophy. Among the authors we may read are Sarah Ahmed, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Talia Bettcher, Judith Butler, bell hooks, Luce Irigaray, Melany Klein, Julia Kristeva, Audre Lorde, Maria Lugones, Simone Weil, Sylvia Winter, and Virginia Woolf. Some of these philosophers are feminists or consider the issue of sexual difference as central to their work or to philosophy in general; some are not. More importantly for our purposes, surveying their thought will be our means of acquiring a comprehensive view of the key developments in continental philosophy of the 20th and 21st centuries and the relations between them, including phenomenology, existentialism, psychoanalysis, critical theory, structuralism and poststructuralism, feminism, black feminism, and trans-feminism, decolonial and queer theories. During the fall semester, in addition to biweekly individual conferences, first-year students will have a biweekly group conference, in which we will discuss the nature of academic work in general and practice research, reading, writing, and editing skills.

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Decolonizing Philosophy

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this course, we will think about the various strategies for reforming the philosophical “canon” with decolonial aims in view. Some of the questions that will guide our discussions throughout the semester are: How does academic decolonization differ from political decolonization? What are the connections between philosophy as an academic discipline and the historical reality of colonialism? Does decolonial theory require a break with the Western tradition of thought? And, if not, what are the advantages and disadvantages of remaining in dialogue with the Western “canon”? What are the various decolonizing strategies, and what goals do they enact? In the first half of the course, we will read a variety of key texts within decolonial theory that propose very different answers to these questions. Some of the thinkers we will look at include Walter Mignolo, Marisa Belausteguigoitia, Audre Lorde, Kwasi Wiredu, Lewis Gordon, and Nadia Yala Kisukidi. The second half of the course then moves on to put into practice one strategy for decolonizing philosophy in order to allow us to engage these questions more concretely. This strategy involves reading “canonical” texts of European phenomenology—including texts by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger—through the lens provided by decolonial thinkers such as Paulin Hountondji, Frantz Fanon, and Mariana Ortega. Beyond equipping students with the tools to think critically about canon formation and the meaning of academic decolonization, this course will familiarize students with seminal texts in Latinx and Africana traditions of decolonial theory, as well as with critical and decolonial phenomenology.

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Introduction to International Relations

Open, Lecture—Fall

War made the state, and the state made war. —Charles Tilly

This course will take a critical approach to the study of international relations. First, we will study the main theories (e.g., realism, liberalism, constructivism, and Marxism); concepts (e.g., the state, anarchy, sovereignty, balance of power, dependency, hegemony, and world order); and levels of analysis (systemic, state, organizational, and individual) in the field. Then, we will apply those various theoretical approaches and levels of analysis to current international conflicts and crises in order to better understand the many ongoing debates about war and peace, humanitarian interventions, international institutions, and the international political economy. Some of the questions that we will explore include: Why do states go to war? Why do some humanitarian interventions succeed while others fail or simply never materialize? Why are some regions and states rich while others are poor, and how do those inequalities shape international relations? How do international organizations help to reinforce or moderate existing interstate political and economic inequalities?

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Organizing Against Racism

Open, Seminar—Fall

Contemporary American political discourse tends to interpret the movements that go from the abolition of slavery to the Civil Rights Movement as movements against racism, which are celebrated as progressively realizing the promise of American democracy. Those movements were heterogeneous, however, addressing different targets, advancing different demands, and having different organizational forms. In this course, we will study the specificity of those movements as politics—as challenges to racism, to be sure, but also in terms of social and economic relations that may be underemphasized in the standard narratives. We will also examine how those different movements developed strategies and forms of organization in response to their historical situations, bringing the discussion up to the present by tracing their history to contemporary protests against police violence and responses to the mobilization of national and racial identity by right-wing populism. We will look at Emancipation and Reconstruction, the labor movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Power movement, using historical texts by authors like W. E. B. Du Bois and Robin D. G. Kelley and primary texts by figures like Frederick Douglass, Claudia Jones, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Amiri Baraka, and others. Finally, we will study the present situation by drawing on commentaries by authors including Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

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International Politics and Ethnic Conflict

Open, Seminar—Spring

Writing about the democratic transitions and ethnic conflicts that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel pessimistically declared in his 2002 novel, The Judges, that “the malevolent ghosts of hatred are resurgent with a fury and a boldness that are as astounding as they are nauseating: ethnic conflicts, religious riots, anti-Semitic incidents here, there, and everywhere. What is wrong with these morally degenerate people that they abuse their freedom, so recently won?” Although written from a perspective of moral outrage, one would be hard-pressed to find a quote that more accurately illuminates both the sense of severity associated with ethnic conflict, broadly defined, and the absolute lack of understanding of its causes. Indeed, the end of the Cold War was seen by many conservative and liberal thinkers as “the end of history” and the beginning of a steady march toward global political stability and peace. Yet, despite an explosion in the number of electoral democracies, the frequency and intensity of bloody and brutal scenes of ethnic violence seemed to belie all expectations. The proliferation of such violence over the last 30 years has thus caused many scholars and policymakers to more critically examine their assumptions about the sources and potential solutions to the problem of ethnic conflict as an international problem. Despite significant evidence to the contrary, commentators like Wiesel and even many politicians still frequently attribute the sources of such strife to the existence of “morally degenerate people,” ethnic diversity, or the history of animosity between various ethnic communities. Looking at the problem from a more holistic perspective—which engages with the economic, cultural, and political motivations underlying ethnic conflict—this course will challenge those commonly held assumptions about the cause of ethnic violence and explore some possible solutions for preventing further conflicts or resolving existing ones. Some of the questions that this course will address include: What are the main sources behind political conflicts deemed “ethnic”? How and for what purposes are race and ethnicity constructed? What is the role of the international community in managing ethnic conflicts? What is the effect of democratization on territorial integrity and political conflict between ethnically divided communities? What constitutional designs, state structures, and electoral systems are most compatible with ethnically divided societies?

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Racism and the Media in America

Open, Seminar—Spring

There was a reason why Edmund Burke famously called the press “the Fourth Estate” of government during a debate in Parliament in 1787 and why it remains true. For all of its self-proclaimed and often real independence, the press is as much a part of the power systems that run society, politics, and the economy as the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary; political and social organizations; churches and corporations. With that in mind, this course will examine the role of the press (now newspapers, radio, TV, and an endless array of digital outlets) in the creation and perpetuation of anti-Black racism in the United States. Even with the most well-meaning attempts to stay above the fray, the media is not merely a passive pipeline for events and data. It constructs the news and, in doing so, is as much a part of the institutions of racism as any other group with power and privilege in a racist society. We look at the flow of American history and its constant current of anti-Black racism, from the pre-Civil War to the present day, through the prism of the nation’s evolving news media. How does the media reflect the social, economic, and political currents of the day? And how, in turn, does the media influence them? This is not a practicum class in journalism; but we will ask questions about journalistic practices, institutions, and language structure to see how the language and agenda of racism were reflected in journalism. Did journalists, in turn, perpetuate that language and, in fact, foster it, whether wittingly or passively? Did the media help sustain overt and systemic racism, even as many covered—with obvious approval—things like the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter movement of today? Most American news organizations have stopped using the overt language of racism, although new descriptions are just as bad in some cases. But beyond that, is there an inherent racism of language? Has modern English, for our purposes as used in the media, been another lever of systemic racism? How do news reporters navigate the current world of propaganda and disinformation in which truth is said to have no value? Readings for this class will primarily be original news and opinion content from the late 19th century until today. We will analyze the structure and nature of media coverage using specific events: the racist massacre in Tulsa; lynching and Jim Crow; the police-instigated violence in Watts in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s; the FBI’s Cointelpro attack on the Black Panther Party; Black Lives Matter protests; the war in Vietnam; football players and other athletes demonstrating for equal rights; and others. The seminar will conclude with each student teaching his/her research project to the class, using the framework of our work together during the semester.

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International Perspectives on Psychology

Open, Lecture—Fall

What does psychology look like outside of the United States? How does psychology operate across multiple cultures? In this course, we will attempt to answer these questions as we explore multiple international perspectives of psychology. First, we will begin with an examination of the history of psychology as a field. Next, we will grapple with arguments for and against international psychology. Our course will explore the development of psychology in multiple parts of the world. Our readings will focus on tracing the roots of specific schools of psychology, such as liberation psychology and South African psychology, and examining case studies in India, Aotearoa/New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, and El Salvador. Readings may include perspectives from theorists such as Martin-Baro (liberation psychology), Sunil Bhatia (decolonizing psychology), Frantz Fanon (postcolonial theory and psychology), and Lev Vygotsky (cultural-historical psychology). Lastly, we will explore the role of international organizations and mental health, such as the WHO and the UN. In conference work, students will be encouraged to explore international perspectives of psychology beyond the examples discussed in class. This course is open to students interested in psychology, mental health, international relations, politics, regional studies, and anthropology.

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Doing Research With Young People

Open, Seminar—Spring

How is research conducted with young people? What are the ethical dilemmas when working with children, adolescents, and young adults? Instead of focusing on traditional research methods on subjects, this course will explore the possibilities of conducting research with, or alongside, young people. This is an interdisciplinary course, and our readings will be pulled from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, education, criminal justice, and critical childhood studies. First, we will examine the sociohistorical context of children, adolescents, and youth. Next, we will investigate the rights of young people and the policies that designate them as protected populations. This course will survey a number of different research methods with youth participants, including but not limited to interviews, mapping, narrative analysis, youth participatory action research, and visual and performative research. We will apply a critical eye to a number of case studies of young people dismantling systemic oppression and working toward racial, immigration, and environmental justice. Students will develop their own conference project, focusing on how to conduct research with young people. Fieldwork in partnership with the Early Childhood Center or Community Partnerships is also possible.

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Readings in Christian Mysticism: Late Antiquity

Open, Seminar—Year

This course will focus on the intersection of Jewish theology and Greco-Roman philosophy in the early Christian texts commonly seen to contain “mystical elements.” We will define these elements as texts that have to do with the desire on the part of the reader to “know,” experience, or “be with” God and with the author’s attempt to properly demarcate the boundaries within which those desires can be fulfilled. Christian mysticism is perhaps best thought of as erotic theology—theology that involves the desire for God. Recognizing this, we must also acknowledge that inherent to this theology is a profound paradox. What is desired must be conceived. It must be held in the grasp of one’s understanding in order to be attained. While this is fine for an orange, or even for wealth and power, it is much more problematic when the object of desire is God, the creator of the universe. Theologians in the early church developed a language of desire and specific sets of practices involving one’s lifestyle and prayer in order to resolve this paradox and fulfill their desire. They began to ponder this paradox with a synthesis of a biblical theology of divine revelation (i.e., the revelation of God as preserved in the biblical canon, symbolized in both the revelation of YHWH on Mt. Sinai and in the incarnation of the divine logos as Jesus of Nazareth) and Platonic expression of a desire for the ultimate good, truth, or beauty. In order to better grasp these ideas, we will be reading parts of the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels and will contemplate the anthropology of desire set forth by Plato in The Symposium and his Phaedrus. Educated in the Hellenistic world, the early church fathers took these ideas for granted and attempted to find common ground with their Christian inheritance. We will study the phenomenon of Gnostic Christianity, an early attempt at synthesis of biblical material and Greek philosophy. We will then move on to encounter the great early Christian writers like Origen and Athanasius of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Psuedo-Dionysius, and Ambrose of Milan. We will conclude our study with a lengthy look at what, for Western culture, is the seminal work of Augustine of Hippo.

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The Emergence of Christianity

Open, Seminar—Year

Perhaps no one has not heard the name of a seemingly obscure carpenter’s son executed by the Romans around 33 CE. Why? The religion that we call Christianity shaped the Western world for at least 1,500 years. In this course, we will study the origins of that tradition. As we study those origins, we will explore Judaism in the strange and fertile Second Temple period (515 BCE–70 CE). We will encounter the learned societies of holy men like the Pharisees and the Qumran sectarians, as well as the freedom fighter/terrorists called the Zealots. Our main source will be the New Testament of the Christian Bible, though these sources will be supplemented by other primary materials. Excerpts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinic literature, as well as other Hellenistic texts from that period provide the cultural backdrop in which Christianity has its roots. We will learn about the spread of the new movement of “Christians,” as they were called by their detractors in Antioch, from its roots in the Holy Land into the greater Greco-Roman world. How did that movement, which began among the Jews of the Eastern Mediterranean, come to be wholly associated with Gentiles by the end of the second century? Who became Christian? Why were they hated so much by the greater Greco-Roman society? What did they believe? How did they behave? What are the origins of Christian anti-Semitism? What kind of social world, with its senses of hierarchy and gender relations, did these people envision for themselves?

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Jewish Life in Eastern Europe: A Diaspora Case Study

Open, Seminar—Fall

Nearly three-fourths of the world’s Jewish population once resided in Poland and Russia, producing a vibrant culture that has been celebrated in the paintings of Marc Chagall and plays like Fiddler on the Roof. Thanks to extensive self-government, economic niches like tavern-keeping, educational institutions like yeshivas, and spiritual subcultures like Hasidism, many Eastern European Jewish men and women enjoyed a stable, prosperous, and confident existence. The 19th and 20th centuries, however, witnessed a steady breakdown, manifested in interethnic tensions, violent pogroms, expulsions, and genocide. This course explores the ways in which East European Jews promoted their own self-empowering discourses about gender, law, spirituality, magic, the arts, and politics (e.g., radicalism, nationalism, orthodoxy), often in the face of cultural coercion, exclusion, or violence. At the end of the course, we follow the mass migration to America and then return to confront The Holocaust from the perspective of its four million Eastern European Jewish victims. Throughout, the sources of Eastern European Jewish history will be examined in light of foundational readings in postcolonial and diaspora theory.

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Modern Jewish Literature

Open, Seminar—Fall

As Jews were emancipated in Europe and freed from the “ghetto,” many began to grapple with modernity through literary genres. Writers like Franz Kafka, Isaac Babel, Primo Levi, S. Y. Agnon, and Sholem Aleichem (whose short stories formed the basis of the play, Fiddler on the Roof) achieved universal acclaim. But the path of the modern Jewish writer was rarely smooth. It usually entailed alienation, rebellion against tradition, bouts of nostalgia, longing, regret, and confrontations with increasingly virulent forms of anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust. In new centers in America and Israel, the Jews’ improved and inverted power status yielded a different, but no less acute, sense of ambivalence, as witnessed in works by authors such as Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, Amos Oz, and David Grossman. Despite the tension and anguish that runs through modern Jewish literature, we will discover works of beauty and poignancy by men and women whose outsider, “pariah” status gave them a unique perspective on the world.

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Jewish Autobiography: Between History & Literature

Open, Seminar—Spring

Autobiography is among the most contentious literary/historical genres, compromised by the fallibility of memory and the human tendency toward self-fashioning yet unique in the insights it affords into the lived experience of history. This course employs personal narratives as windows onto the Jewish transition to modernity. We begin with narratives by “traditional” Jewish men and women. We then proceed to the wrenching accounts of early detractors from tradition and then to writings by Jewish leaders of modern political movements like Zionism, Jewish Socialism, Communism, Orthodoxy, and Ultra-Orthodoxy. We conclude with individual perspectives on The Holocaust, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and American Jewish feminist, queer, and transgender self-narratives.

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Beginning Russian

Open, Seminar—Year

To learn another language is to open yourself to another worldview, both as you gain entry into another culture and as your own sense of self is transformed. In another language, you are still you; but the tools that you use to create and express that identity do change. As English speakers find themselves in Russia and learning Russian, they first need to come to terms with an often complicated grammar. We will tackle that aspect of our work through a degree of analytical thought, a great deal of memorization, and the timely completion of our often lengthy, biweekly homework assignments. Even as I encourage students to reflect on the very different means of expression that Russian offers, I also ask that they engage in basic—but fully functional—conversational Russian at every point along the way. Our four hours of class each week will be devoted to actively using what we know in pair and group activities, role play, dialogues, skits, songs, etc. As a final project at the end of each semester, students will create their own video skits. In addition to class, students are required to meet weekly with the Russian assistant; attendance at our weekly Russian Table is strongly encouraged.

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Intermediate Russian

Intermediate, Seminar—Year

At the end of this course, students should feel that they have a fairly sophisticated grasp of Russian and the ability to communicate in Russian in any situation. After the first year of studying the language, students will have learned the bulk of Russian grammar; this course will emphasize grammar review, vocabulary accumulation, and regular oral practice. Class time will center on the spoken language, and students will be expected to participate actively in discussions based on new vocabulary. Regular written homework will be required, along with weekly conversation classes with the Russian assistant; attendance at Russian Table is strongly encouraged. Conference work will focus on the written language. Students will be asked to read short texts by the author(s) of their choice, with the aim of appreciating a very different culture and/or literature while learning to read independently, accurately, and with as little recourse to the dictionary as possible.

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Sociology of Global Inequalities

Open, Lecture—Spring

The focus of this lecture will be to introduce students to the processes and methods of conducting sociological research projects using a transnational and/or comparative lens. We will be taking, as our starting point, a set of global themes—loosely categorized as human rights, culture, migration, health, climate, and development— through which we will try to build our understanding of inequality in various forms and in different contexts. The approach we will take here in designing research will be one that aims to move beyond the national or the nation state as a bounded “container” of society and social issues; rather, we will aim at a better understanding of how different trends, processes, transformations, structures, and actors emerge and operate in globally and transnationally interconnected ways. For example, we can look at migration not simply through the lens of emigration/immigration to and from particular countries but also through the lens of flows and pathways that are structured via transnational relationships and circuits of remittances, exchanges, and dependencies. As part of group conferences, students will be asked to identify one of the key global themes through which they will examine issues of inequality, using a range of methods for data collection and analysis—datasets from international organizations, surveys, questionnaires, historical records, reports, and ethnographic accounts—which they will then compile into research portfolios produced as a group.

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Both Public and Private: The Social Construction of Family Life

Open, Seminar—Year

Many of us take for granted the dichotomy between public and private life. The former is frequently understood as abstract, distant, and a key site of power; the latter, as the site of warmth, intimacy and emotional sustenance. In this seminar, we will critically examine the assumptions underlying such idealized distinctions between public and private domains. Through such revisioning, it is hoped that we will better understand the public and private dimensions of the family, its complexity, and its historical variability. In particular, our analysis will enable us to critically examine notions that posit the inevitability of the nuclear, heterosexual family as a universal and “natural” institution. Through historical, cross-cultural materials and oral histories, we will look at the myriad ways in which personal and social reproduction occur; the relationship between distinct family forms and different systems of social organization and social movements; and the expression of class, gender, racial relations, and sexual relations in diverse familial settings. Throughout, we will be attentive to shifting boundaries between the private domain (often erroneously and transhistorically understood in familial terms) and public institutions and practices. The “private” domain of the family will be problematized as a site for the construction of identity and caring and, simultaneously, as a location that engenders compulsion and violence. In this latter context, we will examine how relations of domination and subordination are produced through the institution of the “family” and how resistance is generated to such dominant relations and constructions. The course will conclude with an examination of family forms in contemporary societies (single-parent, same-sex, fictive-kin based) and of public struggles over these various forms.

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Bad Neighbors: Sociology of Difference, Diversity, and Cosmopolitanism in the City

Open, Seminar—Fall

The focus of the seminar will be on questions of diversity, difference, and cosmopolitanism as it pertains to urban life in a contemporary American city such as Yonkers or New York City, as well as in urban societies around the world. We will take a sociological look at how urban communities experience, navigate, and transform social structures, relationships, and institutions in their everyday lives, as they deal with problems such as inequality, hate, and exclusion while co-existing with different and diverse populations. We will read books and essays by Arlie Hochschild, Asef Bayat, Yuval Noah Harari, Dina Neyeri, Robert Putnam, and others, as we explore ways in which cities embody particular histories as central while marginalizing others—and how communities and people in their everyday lives resist, alter, and decenter those histories and hierarchies. Through engaged field research, we will try to learn and understand how diverse communities of people work and live together; build and provide for the wider community; and rely on informal and formal opportunities, resources, and networks to make life in the city possible.

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The Sociology of Sports

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Fall

This is a course about sports as practice, and practice is used here in a multiple sense. As an embodied activity, sporting practice is felt and experienced in and through the body, which is its primary but not sole “habitus”—a term that French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu popularized when elaborating on his notion of “cultural capital.” In this course, taking the sporting body and Bourdieu’s concept of habitus (taste, habits, skills, dispositions) as our point of departure, we will examine sports and its habitation of worlds that reach far beyond the individual (body) in both time and space. We will examine sports along multiple axes: as a collective and/or individuated activity; as a source of leisure and recreation; as a source of profitable employment; as a site of identity and nation-building projects; and as a space that engenders transnational mobilities and interconnections, as well as ruptures. In its commoditized contemporary form, sports is, more often than not, controlled by big money and/or the state and is part and parcel of what Debord refers to as the “society of the spectacle,” a site of production, consumption, and entertainment. The complex relationship between sports as experienced through the body and as a set of disciplinary practices will allow us to think through the relation of the individual, the collective, and institutionalized power, linking these to questions of body politics. Taking the internal dynamics and meaning of sports seriously, we will engage sports as a contradictory field—as both a productive space and a space of consumption. Our readings will include scholarly works, sports journalism, films, documentaries, and other primary sources. Possible conference topics include sports and politics; analysis of particular sports events (e.g., the Olympics, women’s basketball, the World Cup); (auto)biographies and/or oral histories of athletes; sports and protest; “fitness,” health, and the body; gender, race, sexuality, (dis)ability, and sports; nationalism(s), national “styles,” and sports; and the phenomenology of sports.

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Lineages of Utopia

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

Utopias have existed in human history for centuries. Guided by a critique of the world as constituted, utopias have been vehicles for both imagining and constructing a different socio-spatial order. In this seminar, we will examine the materialization of utopias in physical space and the logic(s) that informed them. Rather than dealing simply with the abstract ideas behind utopian thinking, we will examine a diversity of socio-spatial formations—both as a critique of the present state of existence and as a practice rooted in a radically divergent notion of the future. It is the contention of this course that utopias, rather than being solely imaginary, are deeply historical and informed by existing social conditions. With the objective of analyzing utopias as materialized practices, we will look at different kinds of utopian communities, ranging from millenarian movements, to socialist, anarchist and countercultural experiments, to the Occupy Wall Street movement. We will also examine architectural and aesthetic utopias which, like their more explicitly movement-based counterparts, attempt to visualize and rethink space—which remains an essential utopian preoccupation. Our foray into these various utopian designs is meant to get us to interrogate the impulses undergirding these practices instead of an approach that dwells primarily on their sustainability over time. We will attempt to understand the traces that these various experiments have bequeathed us regarding activism, social transformation, and the potential for a more just world. Participants in this seminar will be encouraged to address our living relationship with utopia by asking how we might, both individually and collectively, work to create, experience, or perform utopia without ascribing a totalizing vision to it. Student projects might take the form of a close examination of specific utopian practices or be based on creative projects and/or fictional utopias frequently encountered in science-fiction novels and film. Particular activist movements—such as Black Lives Matter, LGNTQ+ activism, and feminist movements—can also be seen as ways of visualizing futures that depart from the historical present, out of which such movements emerge and in which they are embedded. As such, these, too, have a vision of the future that is at odds with the present and will provide fertile ground for conference work. Finally, while the course will not specifically address the vexed relationship between utopias and dystopia, an examination of the latter remains yet another possible line of inquiry for student projects.

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First-Year Studies: History and Histrionics: A Survey of Western Drama

Open, FYS—Year

This course explores 2,500 years of Western drama and how dramaturgical ideas can be traced from their origins in fifth-century Greece to 20th-century Nigeria, with many stops in between. We will try to understand how a play is constructed, rather than simply written, and how how each succeeding epoch has both embraced and rejected what has come before it in order to create its own unique dramatic identity. We will study the major genres of Western drama, including the classically structured play, Elizabethan drama, neoclassicism, realism, naturalism, expressionism, comedy, musical theatre, theatre of cruelty, and existentialism. We will look at the social, cultural, architectural, and biographical context for the plays in question to better understand how and why they were written as they were. Classroom discussion will focus on a new play each week, while conference work with be devoted mostly to the students’ writing about them. This FYS in Theatre will occasionally interact with the other FYS in Theatre course, Dave McRee’s Directing in the American Theatre. This will include, but not be limited to, attending theatre in New York City regularly (pandemic allowing), after which the two groups will then meet to discuss the play and the performance.

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Diversity and Equity in Education: Issues of Gender, Race, and Class

Advanced, Seminar—Fall

The education system is a central institution in the socialization of young people and the maintenance of the modern nation state. Schools support meritocratic models of society by providing opportunities for social mobility. Paradoxically, schools also reproduce gender, racial, and class inequality. In this course, we will examine the roles that schools play in the transmission of culture, formation of identity, and reproduction of social structures. Paying special attention to gender and its intersection with other social categories, we will look at practices and policies that shape students’ performance as they strive for competence, achievement, and acceptance. We will also analyze the larger political and economic contexts that shape both schools and the communities in which they are situated.

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Stories and Gifts

Sophomore and Above, Seminar—Spring

In this class, we will tell, read, and listen to stories from everywhere—written, oral, for grownups or children. And we will collect them in many places, predominately at Wartburg eldercare but also in our families and elsewhere. Students will gather stories and be the scribe, editor, and anthologist. These story gifts may include tales of immigration, stories of Yonkers or Mount Vernon from long ago or from this moment, family stories, or moments of revelation. For conference work, we will make some stories into books or digital presentations to give back to the tellers and their families. The storytelling with children may involve practice in English literacy and a chance for them to hear their parents’ stories—and with elders, a tribute to the richness of the past and its gifts of meaning and perspective to both family and community. Community visits will be involved.

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Ecopoetry

Open, Seminar—Year

In this poetry class—a yearlong school of poetry and the living world—we will consider the great organism Gaia, of which we are a part. We will read and write poems every week. We will ask questions: When did we begin to think of nature as apart from us? Why did we begin to speak of the animals as if we are not also animals? What are the stories and myths that have determined our attitude toward what we are and what we believe? We will read some of these stories and myths (myths of creation; Eden, the lost garden). We will read the long and rich tradition of poetry addressing itself to this subject, from the early indigenous peoples through the Zen monks and Wordsworth and right up through Gary Snyder to utterly contemporary poets writing right now. We will read books and articles that teach us about the other animals and living entities that we call plants and trees and planets and galaxies. Each student will research an aspect of the living world and teach the rest of us what they have learned. And we will write poems that incorporate that knowledge. We will read books of poems but also watch films, take field trips, and meet with each other outside of class in weekly poetry dates. By the end of the class, my hope is that each of us will have a greater understanding of the great organism that we call Earth and will create a collection of poems that engage the questions that our class raises: What is time? What is death? What is Eden? Where is the garden now? Who are the other organisms? How have we, as a species, affected the other organisms? How have we affected the oceans, the Earth, the air? How can poetry address the planetary emergency? Required for this class: intellectual curiosity, empathy, and a willingness to observe the world, to pay attention, and to write poetry that matters. This is a class for experienced writers, as well as for those who want to give writing poetry a try. All are welcome.

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