History

Related disciplines

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.

2015-2016 Courses

History

First-Year Studies: Becoming Modern: Europe in the 19th Century

Open , FYS

What are the distinctive features of our “modern” civilization? A partial list would include representative democracy, political parties, nationalism, religious pluralism, mass production, rapid technological change, consumerism, free markets, a global economy, and unceasing artistic experimentation. All of these characteristically modern things were 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 call the “long 19th century” (1789–1914). We will also consider how the development of modern civilization in Europe was shaped by the resistance it encountered from the defenders of older ways. The course reading will focus primarily on the most innovative regions of 19th-century Europe—Britain, France, Germany, Scandinavia, 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 of the 20th century during the three decades that preceded World War I. We will ponder and discuss a broad array of historical evidence, from government documents, revolutionary proclamations, and political tracts to philosophical essays, fiction, plays, poetry, and works of visual art.

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First-Year Studies: Leisure and Danger in History and Literature

Open , FYS

The interaction between work and play has taken various forms in history. Our project in this course will be to examine the changes and continuities in the idea of leisure. Beginning in early modern Europe, we will trace the concept up to the present—concentrating on Europe and America and reflecting on subjects such as travel and the pursuit of the exotic, theatricality, consumerism, luxury, and display. In the 19th century, leisure became democratized, and an anxious debate grew louder. What were the implications of making leisure available to masses of people? From romance novels to cheap liquor, from shopping to the cinema, new avenues of leisure aroused both fear and excitement. Moralists felt a need to police both public and private space and to reassert the primacy of work, thrift, and duty. We will study them and the various forms of accommodations and resistance that met their efforts. Class, ethnicity, gender, and geography all acted to structure people’s access to leisure. We will look at struggles over race, gender, and popular culture; the way certain groups became designated as providers of entertainment; or how certain locations were created as places of pleasure. To set the terms of the debate, we will begin with some 18th-century readings about the theatre and the market, the salon and the court. Readings will include work of Montesquieu, Flaubert, Wilde, Wharton, George Eliot, and Fitzgerald. In addition, we will read works of nonfiction that show how leisure helped to create new forms of subjectivity and interiority. Students will be encouraged to work on conference topics linking leisure to a variety of subjects such as childhood and education, the construction of racial identities, or the changing nature of parenthood as birth control became more and more widely available, to name just a few areas. Potentially, this course—through the study of complex oppositions such as need and desire, purpose and aimlessness, the necessary and gratuitous—can give us a sense of the dizzying questions about life’s very meaning that present themselves when we aim at a life of leisure.

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Activists and Intellectuals: A Cultural and Political History of Women in the United States, 1775-1975

Open , Lecture—Year

Through activism and organizing of all kinds, through fiction, memoir, poetry, and cultural criticism, through dance, visual art, and sport, and through the quotidian choices of daily life, American women have expressed their ideas, their desires, their values, and their politics. This course will approach US history through the words and actions of all kinds of American women from the late 18th century through the late 20th century. Using a variety of primary sources mixed with histories narrow and broad, we will analyze the ways in which women worked to survive and to intervene in the cultural and political world. Themes will include race, class, ethnicity, immigration and migration, sexuality, and, of course, gender. This is not a classic survey but, rather, readings in the cultural history of the nation framed with political and social history.

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The Urban Crisis and the Black Revolt: The Origins of Civil Rights and Black Power in the Jim Crow North

Open , Lecture—Year

The roots of the urban crisis may be traced as far back as racial slavery and Jim Crow racism in the cities of the Jim Crow North and the Jim Crow Midwest. In Jim Crow New England in the 1830s, Julie Williams and other black students were attacked by white mobs that closed Quaker Prudence Crandall’s academy for African American girls in Canterbury, Connecticut. Next, Williams attended the Noyes Academy in New Canaan, New Hampshire, where white mobs pulled the school off of its foundation and attacked the student boarding rooms. In 1863, New York City exploded in one of the worst race riots in American history; Union troops were pulled from Gettysburg to stop the racial pogroms in Manhattan. Discover the hidden roots of ethnic cleansing and the urban crisis, as well as the untold story of the Long Black freedom movement from the Jim Crow North to the Jim Crow West, including the landmark cases in New Rochelle and Yonkers to desegregate schooling and housing in Westchester County, New York. In other words, this course explores the experience of race and citizenship from 1777 in Jim Crow New York to 2000 in Jim Crow Yonkers.

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Russia and Its Neighbors: From the Mongol Era to Lenin

Open , Lecture—Fall

This course will introduce students to the main themes of Russian history from the Middle Ages to 1917. We will begin by examining how history transformed the various Slavic tribes of the East European plain into the three distinct peoples whom we now term “Russians,” “Ukrainians,” and “Belorusians.” We will consider the medieval principality of Moscow—in which Russia’s enduring traditions of autocratic government, territorial expansionism, and xenophobia originally took shape—and trace the course of Muscovy’s protracted struggle with Poland-Lithuania for dominance in Eastern Europe. We will investigate how rulers such as Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great endeavored to meet “the challenge of the West”—to marshal the resources of their huge but economically backward empire in order to compete militarily with the monarchs of more advanced European countries. We will discuss resistance to the oppressive demands of the tsarist state on the part of peasants, Cossacks, religious dissidents, and national minorities. We will consider how the tsars’ response to the Western challenge called into being a new, Europeanized elite that, in the 19th century, grew restive under the tutelage of its government and was increasingly attracted to liberal and socialist ideas. In the final weeks of the semester, we will consider the revolutionary upheavals that convulsed the Russian Empire in the early years of the 20th century and created the conditions for the establishment in Russia of the world’s first socialist regime. In group conferences, students will discuss a wide range of primary sources: saints’ lives, picaresque tales, classic works of 19th-century poetry and fiction, and the writings of leading revolutionary thinkers.

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International Law

Open , Lecture—Fall

In a 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 substance, theory, and practice. It addresses a wide range of issues, including the bases and norms of international law, the law of war (jus ad bellum and jus in bello), human-rights claims, domestic implementation of international norms, treaty interpretation, and state formation/succession. Readings will draw from two key texts: Murphy’s treatise, Principles of International Law, and International Law Stories, edited by Noyes, Janis & Dickinson. These readings will be supplemented by articles and original sources such as conventions, cases, and statutes.

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African American Sports History and Black Cultural Revolution

Open , Lecture—Spring

This course explores the rise of the black sports ethos not only in the boxing world but also in the Negro Leagues in baseball, football, and basketball. The black sports ethos was a component part of the black exodus from southern peonage and the social and cultural changes triggered by the Great Migration: black spiritual movements, the blues ethos and jazz aesthetic in music and dance, and the National Negro Congress. This history will pay special attention to the black leadership that flowered from the sports world, including that of Paul Robeson and Muhammad Ali.

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Russia and Its Neighbors: From Lenin to Putin

Open , Lecture—Spring

The aim of the lecture will be to provide students with the historical background required to make sense of Russia’s current predicament and the policies of its present-day leaders. We will first examine seven decades of Communist Party rule, tracing the extraordinary path that Russia took in the 20th century to become a literate, urban, industrial society. We look at such crucial episodes in Soviet history as Stalin’s war on the peasantry and his crash industrialization drive of the 1930s, the Great Purge, the Second World War, the Khrushchev-era cultural “Thaw,” the development of a consumer economy and embryonic civil society in the 1960s and ’70s, and Gorbachev’s failed attempt to reform the Communist system. We will also discuss the methods by which the Communist regime maintained control over the minority peoples of the USSR and the evolution of its relationships with its East European satellites and the non-Communist world during the era of the Cold War. We will devote some attention to the causes and effects of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990–91 and to Russian policies toward the newly independent states that came into being as a result of the dissolution of the USSR. In the final weeks of the course, we will consider how the travails endured by the Russian people during the unhappy Yeltsin period set the stage for a resurgence of authoritarianism and national self-assertion under Putin. Group conference readings will include a variety of memoirs and literary texts that capture the experience of ordinary Russians over the course of the last 100 years.

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Human Rights

Open , Lecture—Spring

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 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 human rights and humanitarian law. Approximately half the course will address the long and remarkably consistent history of the laws of war, focusing on the principles of military necessity, proportionality, and discrimination, as well as on the cultural, political, and technological context in which these laws evolved. The other half will focus on the rights that individuals and groups claim against their own states. Although there are no prerequisites, students would benefit from having taken The Contemporary Practice of International Law. Readings will draw from three key texts: Howard, Andreolopous & Shulman’s The Laws of War: Constraints on Warfare in the Western World; Buergenthal, Shelton & Stewart’s International Human Rights in a Nutshell; and Human Rights Advocacy Stories, edited by Hurwitz, Satterthwaite & Ford. These readings will be supplemented by articles and original sources such as conventions, cases, and statutes.

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The “Founders” and the Origins of American Politics

Open , Seminar—Year

From the establishment of the nation to the present, the Founding Fathers have served as a touchstone for American identity. But can we speak of an American identity? Or would it be more accurate to speak of American identities? After all, what were the common visions of such diverse figures as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin? And to what extent have their differences created multiple and perhaps irreconcilable American identities? Indeed, the very term “Founding Fathers” may be an evasion of the conflicts that have run through our entire history. Is the notion of the Founding Fathers our nation’s counterpart to the harmony of a Garden of Eden? But did the authors of Genesis have it wrong? Harmony is not incompatible with conflict; instead, one requires the other so that the denial of one is, in effect, the denial of the other. This course will explore how and why Americans have put such a premium on the Founding Fathers as a source of political legitimacy by examining the diverse colonial roots of the political thought of the founding generation. We shall also explore the lines of continuity that link the founding generations to the influences of such European thinkers as John Locke and Adam Smith. The course will then look at the political vision of the Founding Fathers themselves, putting into serious question commonly held views about the ideals that they embraced. Were the founders proponents of liberal individualism and democracy, as so many Americans assume, or were they backward-looking reactionaries, seeking to hold onto a communal ideal modeled on the ancient republics of Greece and Rome? Finally, the course will analyze the political legacy of the founders during the early 19th century to the Civil War, ending with the question of how could both the Union and the Confederacy view themselves as the true inheritors of that legacy when they seemed to represent such opposed causes?

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Money and Power in Latin America

Open , Seminar—Year

This seminar surveys the long history of Latin America as a region in the world and examines the intersection between money and power, economics and politics, at both the local and the global levels. Throughout the course, we will delve into specific historical contexts and problems that range from the 17th-century silver connection between China and Spanish America to the cultural phenomena of the “narco-novela” in Mexico and Colombia’s drug years. Throughout the seminar, students will discover how the questions and problems encompassed by the term “economy” go beyond issues such as GDP and national income statistics, stock market variations, and at times obscure, Nobel-winning theories. The seminar is divided into three major sections. Chronologically, these sections encompass the colonial period, the 19th-century national period, and the 20th and 21st centuries. Thematically, the three sections correspond to a focus on the global dimension of empire and colonialism in the Atlantic world in the first, the tension between local and national economic life in the second, and the oscillation between national conflicts and the transnational movements of goods, ideas, and capital in the third. There are also three major learning objectives in this course: (1) Students will familiarize themselves with economic processes, concepts, and questions while grasping their political and social implications. No longer dry and opaque, questions of money and power will come to life in ways that will make students critical and conversant about problems of globalization in the 21st century. (2) Students will acquire the ability to recognize the political and social dimension of economic issues and the economic side of political and social questions. (3) Students will be able to understand how the dialogue between the colonial past and the national present shape the history of Latin America.

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The City and the Grassroots: The Urban Crisis and Social Movements

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course is part of the Intensive Semester in Yonkers program and is no longer open for interviews and registration. Interviews for the program take place in the previous spring semester.

Did you know that Westchester County is in violation of the civil rights orders of the US Department of Justice to desegregate its schooling and housing? Study the dramatic stories of students and parents organizing to transform not only communities and schools but also themselves. In Yonkers, the NAACP challenged decades of segregated housing and schooling in the Jim Crow North to win a landmark court victory. In New Rochelle, Paul Zuber won another landmark court case to challenge Jim Crow schooling in Westchester County. In Los Angeles, black and Chicano students joined together to stage an extraordinary school walkout based on the successful Montgomery bus boycott triggered by Mrs. Rosa Parks. In Brooklyn, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) led garbage protests, demanding freedom, justice and equality in their fight against Jim Crow in Kings County. In the Bronx and East Harlem, Puerto Rican students developed the Young Lords Party, liberation schools, a new Lincoln Hospital, a Nuyorican Renaissance, the fight for Latino rights, and an alliance with the Black Panthers. The history of successful struggles against powerlessness and poverty in the inner city is widespread. This seminar studies Yonkers, New York, in that context of The City and the Grassroots: imagination and power in urban history from Yonkers to Los Angeles. The seminar also includes our students operating a children’s journalism program in Yonkers, where children will discover their voices by reporting on issues of wealth and poverty in Westchester County.

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France and Germany in the 20th Century

Open , Seminar—Fall

“If France were married to a country,” one historian astutely observed, “it would be to Germany.” Bitter adversaries during the World War I, yet intimate partners in the European Union today, France and Germany have sustained one of the most complex and intriguing relationships during the past century. This course will examine the development of that relationship, looking carefully at the economic, political, and social conditions in both countries. As they each experienced a remarkable cultural efflorescence (albeit under quite different circumstances), we will also investigate the important role played by various writers and artists. The class assignments will rely not only on historical accounts but also on memoirs, biographies, novels, and films. A few of the main topics include: the legacy of World War I; the rise of totalitarian movements; the impact of World War II on ordinary citizens in both countries; the significance of leaders such as Philippe Pétain, Charles de Gaulle, Adolf Hitler, and Konrad Adenauer; the construction of the larger European community after 1945; and the impact of Germany’s reunification in 1990. For conference projects, students may select a historical figure or problem from either country; topics that embrace both France and Germany are especially encouraged.

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Mystic Chords of Memory: Myth, Tradition, and the Making of American Nationalism

Open , Seminar—Fall

Is history just a memory of memories? This course will explore this question by looking at how Americans have remembered and mythologized important events and individuals in the nation's history. One of the best-known such myths is the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. On being questioned by his father about who chopped down the cherry tree, Washington confessed that he had done it, telling his father, “I cannot tell a lie.” Ironically, this story was itself a fabrication. We must also not forget “Honest Abe,” where the theme of “honesty” recurs. Why have such myths been so important to American national identity? Was Washington’s purported truthfulness, for example, a way of creating a sense of transparency and a bond of trust between the people and their democratically elected government? The course will address such questions by looking at the construction and function of tradition and myth, as well as the relationship between myth and tradition in American culture from the American Revolution to the Civil War. We will examine some of the specific myths and traditions that Americans invented, such as the mythologization of individual figures like Sojourner Truth and specific events like that of the Seneca Falls women's rights convention. We will pay special attention to the mythologization of the American Revolution and the myth of the self-made man, examining how figures such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln both contributed to and embodied these myths. We will consider how and why myths about these events and individuals were created and the extent to which they corresponded to social reality. The course will study how these myths both unified and divided Americans, as different groups used the same myths for conflicting social purposes. And finally, we will examine what these myths revealed about how Americans defined the nation’s identity. Was the United States a nation bound by “mystic chords of memory,” as Lincoln so poetically claimed? Or were Americans ultimately a “present-minded people,” defined by their rejection of the past? More precisely, did Americans view the very notion of tradition as an impediment to the unlimited possibilities for growth and the actualization of their “manifest destiny"?

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Brazil: An Excursion Through Its Cities, Regions, and History

Open , Seminar—Fall

Brazil has been described as a serene republic, a racial democracy, and the country of the future—and most recently advertised as a site of favela tourism. Those labels encapsulate the ambitions, contradictions, and indeterminacies that Brazilians and Brazilianists wrestle with in coming to terms with the social, economic, and political landscape of a nearly continent-size country. To unravel the questions driving these myths, this course delves into the history of Brazil from the establishment of Portuguese settlements on the Atlantic coast in the 1500s and the world created by sugar mills to the return to electoral politics and the advent of neoliberalism at the turn of the 20th century. The course is organized as an excursion through Brazilian towns and cities (and their hinterlands) that captures a set of historical movements in Brazil: from the coast to the interior, from the Northeast to the South and Center, and from a colony to an empire and even to a regional and global power. Using images, maps, Brazilian voices, and historiography, the forays into cities such as Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto, São Paulo, and Brasília will give students a broad perspective and the analytical depth to understand the history of Brazil and the challenges that the country faces today. Our focus on the interplay between regional and national actors and trajectories, the geography of politics and economics, and shifts in the center of power will provide analytical tools to understand other national and even international contexts. By the end of the course, students will be able to understand the structural processes, political and economic conjunctures and the social and cultural interpretations that shape the history of Brazil. In addition, students will have developed the critical skills to understand and analyze fundamental concepts and processes in history and the social sciences, such as colonialism, imperialism, nation-state, industrialization, and national myths. Students will also be able to capture the nuances that make Brazil an economically and culturally rich country with a poor population and myriad forms of social inequality.

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The Cold War in History and Film

Open , Seminar—Spring

The half-century conflict that developed between the United States and the Soviet Union—along with their respective allies—following the end of World War II manifested itself in many different spheres of life. This course will explore the integral role that film played on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Following an introductory survey of the main events of the Cold War, we will examine a series of major films—mostly in chronological order—focusing on the circumstances in which they were made and the larger historical themes that they contain. Various genres such as the rubble film, the thaw film, the Czech new wave, the spy film, the musical, and animation are also represented. A sampling of the syllabus includes The Murderers Are Among Us, The Cranes Are Flying, On the Waterfront, Man of Marble, East-West, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, and Goodbye Lenin! A short written assessment is required after each of the weekly screenings; supplementary readings will be assigned, as well, to aid our discussions. For conference, students are encouraged to investigate the work of an individual director during this era, the depiction of a specific Cold War event or issue in several films, or the national cinemas of countries, particularly in the Eastern bloc.

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Women and the Politics of Memory

Open , Seminar—Spring

“A vital need in education is to establish women in history as participants in the making of all history as they were in reality. This is my firm belief; my ‘cause’; and I work at it all the time, in various ways.” —Mary Beard, 1948

With this declaration, Mary Beard issued a clarion call for the recovery of women’s contributions to history, highlighting what she believed was the widespread neglect of their roles even by supporters of women’s rights. The conventional narrative of women’s history would have us believe that it was not until the upsurge of feminism in the 1960s and ’70s that scholars of women’s history began to carry out Beard’s imperative. In fact, the study of women’s history has had more of a history than Beard—or many people today—have assumed. As early as the 18th century, European and American historians acknowledged women as agents of history. This course will look at how historical representations of women from this period to the 20th century reflected changing gender roles, as well as other political and cultural developments. We shall examine how these forces encouraged women’s independence on the one hand and their subordination on the other. The course defines history broadly to include not only formal historical narratives but also other genres such as biographies, historical novels, and philosophical works
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Women and Gender in the Middle East

Open , Seminar—Spring

Debates over the status of Middle Eastern women have been at the center of political struggles for centuries—as well as at the heart of prevailing Western media narratives about the region—and continue to be flash points for controversy in the present day. This course will explore the origins and evolution of these debates, taking a historical and thematic approach to the lived experience of women in various Middle Eastern societies at key moments in the region’s history. Topics to be covered include: the status of women in the Qur’an and Islamic law; the Ottoman imperial harem; patriarchy and neopatriarchy; the rise of the women’s press in the Middle East; women, nationalism, and citizenship; the emergence of various forms of women’s activism and political participation; the changing nature of the Middle Eastern family; the politics of veiling; Orientalist discourse and the gendered politics of colonialism and postcolonialism; women’s performance and female celebrity; archetypes of femininity and masculinity; and women’s autobiography and fiction in the Middle East. Throughout, we will interrogate the politics of gender, the political and social forces that circumscribe Middle Eastern women’s lives, and the individuals who claim authority to speak for women. The course will also briefly examine gender and sexuality as categories for historical analysis in the modern Middle East.

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Education and Social Change in Africa

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

The arrival and expansion of Western education, through the provision of formal schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was hailed as ushering in a social revolution in Africa. Whether through the expansion of Universal Primary Education (UPE) programs, investment in literacy training, or distance learning through the use of modern technology, education has consistently been viewed as one of the most important services that a government can offer in order to change the lives of ordinary people in Africa. Education rates are supposedly a marker of economic development, and the provision of formal schools are said to provide a necessary path toward poverty reduction; however, critics of the belief that education is a magic bullet to solve social, political, and economic ills call the focus on education an example of the “school to the rescue” model. They point to the inability of postcolonial education systems in Africa to provide high-quality education for the bulk of the population and suggest that educational inequality has only been made worse as a result of the dominance of neo-liberal economic models. This course studies the history of education in Africa through reviewing indigenous/traditional, Islamic, and Western models of schooling. Through our readings and course work, we will analyze the ways in which formal schooling can be a tool of intellectual and political liberation; however, we will also consider the ways that schooling can lead to alienation and reinforce inequality. In particular, students will develop an understanding of how race, class, religion, and gender have been important fault lines in the history of education in Africa. This yearlong class will enable students to develop a broad understanding of the changes in African educational policy debates over the past 50 years. Students with a background in teaching and tutoring or a future interest in educational policy studies will be particularly welcome in this class.

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From Medina to Metropolis: The City in Middle Eastern History

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

The Middle East has a long and rich urban tradition, boasting some of the world’s oldest cities. At the same time, the cities of the region have undergone profound changes over time, particularly as a result of the range of global forces, patterns, and linkages that are intrinsic to the process of “modernity” (a conceptual category that will be examined at great length). This course explores the lived experience of urban space as a lens through which to view broader transformations in the social, political, economic, and cultural history of the Middle East from late antiquity to the present. The course will also introduce students to some recent developments in urban theory and different methods that scholars have adopted to capture various aspects of city life, particularly in the modern period. To this end, the approach of the course will be interdisciplinary, drawing from such fields as art history, anthropology, sociology, geography, comparative literature, film studies, and political economy to explore the historical development of Middle Eastern cities through a variety of frames. In our effort to think beyond the “hard city” of bricks and mortar, particular attention will be paid to the cultural imagination and expression of various Middle Eastern cities in literature and film—our main “primary sources” in this course. Throughout the course, we will examine what cities have meant for Middle Eastern society and culture in a variety of contexts; study how various individuals and social groups across the region have experienced and used urban space; explore how writers, artists and filmmakers have attempted to imagine and render their urban milieus; and consider the extent to which the Middle Eastern experience of urban modernity has paralleled others around the globe. Cities to be covered include: Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus, Mecca, Baghdad, Tehran, Isfahan, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Aleppo, Alexandria, Beirut, Algiers, Marrakesh, Aden, Izmir, and Dubai.

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Public Stories, Private Lives: Methods of Oral History

Intermediate , Seminar—Year

Oral history methodology has moved from a contested approach to studying history to an integral method of learning about the past. This is because oral histories allow us to gain an understanding of past events from a diverse array of vantage points. Methods of recording oral history also allow the possibility of bringing private stories into the public. In contrast, public history in the form of monuments, museums, and World Heritage Sites are consciously preserved in order to emphasize particular aspects of a national, regional, or local past that their protectors deem to be important. Who owns this history? Is it Civil War reenactors, who dedicate their weekends to remembering that war? Is it the African Americans who return to West Africa in search of their African past or the West Africans who want to forget about their slave-trading past? What happens when the methods for interpreting public and oral histories combine? This course places particular attention on the importance of oral history in tracing memories of the past. We will discuss how Africanist and feminist scholars have used oral history to study the history of underrepresented groups. We will also investigate how methods of oral history and public history can be used in reconstructing the local history of our surrounding community (i.e., Yonkers, Bronxville, Westchester County).

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The Development Project: Latin America and the Global South

Intermediate , Seminar—Spring

In the aftermath of World War II, the world of empires and colonies rapidly gave way to a world of nation-states. Because Latin America escapes the decolonization narrative, the region serves as a counterpoint for understanding the global development project of the postwar years and the contradictory meanings of the term “Global South.” The question of how to organize and command global, regional, and national economies—especially in a moment veering toward globalization—gained political and intellectual preeminence in the postwar era. Development (like progress, its 19th century counterpart) encapsulated that project and the promise of structural social, economic, and even political transformation. This course examines the birth of development as a field of study and the foundations of a global era. After exploring the early efforts to transform imperialism into both internationalism and self-determination in the aftermath of World War I, the course will examine: the role of international organizations; the effect of the Cold War; the rise of economists, economics, and expertise; and the myriad of large-scale and seemingly trivial interventions in the social world that encompass what we could call The Development Project. Finally, the course surveys the unfolding of development-era institutions and ideas and their contradictory transformation into pillars of globalization and liberalism. As a result, the course will provide a broad roadmap for the global history of the 20th century. The course sets out to help students understand how the interplay of local, regional, and global processes both define and shaped development as an international project, defying the oversimplifying categories implied by the terms “imperialism,” “civilization,” and “modernity” often used to describe it. By the end of the course, students will have acquired the critical skills to evaluate the role of science and expertise in society, to understand the foundations and mechanisms behind the making of a global order, and to explain the different dimensions in which the relationship between knowledge and power plays out.

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The Promise of the City: Urbanism and Black America

Advanced , Seminar—Year

In 1992, Los Angeles erupted in violence. African Americans took to the streets to protest the verdict in the Rodney King trial and to express their frustration over a system that they believed had failed them. Twenty-three years later, African Americans and their allies took to the streets once more—this time in Baltimore—to protest police violence against Freddie Gray and the larger issues of systemic discrimination, political corruption, and, as one activist explained, “the heartbreak of broken promises.” This yearlong seminar will explore urbanism with a focus on African American communities. Of central concern is how city life is shaped by race, class, and gender. This course asks how urban life, from the Great Migration to current times, creates both opportunities and obstacles for African American men, women, and children. Drawing from history, sociology, and anthropology, we will look at the ways in which cities have structured the lives of African Americans and how African Americans and other minority groups have left their mark—economically, politically, and culturally—on American cities. In the fall semester, we will concentrate on structural features such as the built environment, housing, transportation, political participation and representation, economic development, segregation, policing and crime, social services, and the education system. In the spring semester, we will turn our attention to cultural production, identity, language, sexuality, religion, leisure, the arts, and consumerism.

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Related Anthropology Courses

Colonialism, Anthropology, Politics

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Fall

When Jomo Kenyatta’s ethnography of Gikuyu (Kenya) society was published in the 1930s, the forward to this nationalist, anticolonial text was provided by Bronislaw Malinowski, a “founding father” of British social anthropology. This apparently unlikely alliance is just one example of the many paradoxes and contradictions to be found in the political history of anthropology. Over the past two centuries, anthropology has been the site of liberation and antiracist activism on the one hand and of studies that justified colonialism and slavery on the other. The course will explore the ways in which this intellectual discipline has formed in various social and political contexts both within and beyond the academy. Our questions will include the following: How have the practices of anthropologists contributed to interrogation of the concept of race? Why have particular theoretical approaches arisen in specific geographical locations? How have the subject positions of anthropologists—in terms of their nationality, class, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation—informed their anthropological research and writings? What have anthropologists done in wartime? What have been the relations between anthropologists and their funders (both large foundations and individual patrons)? We will study the writings and images of anthropologists, historians, novelists, and activists in many parts of the globe. This class may be of particular interest to students wishing to examine questions about diversity.

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The Ancient Mediterranean

Open , Seminar—Year

Fall: The Early Greeks and Their Neighbors
Spring: Ancient Italy and the Hellenization of the West

Although the Romans come to mind most immediately as the people who absorbed and passed on the achievements of Greek civilization to the Western world, the transmission of Greek culture to Western posterity was a far more complex process involving various other peoples. Already during the late second millennium BC, Greek culture began to interact with that of their neighbors in the Near East and Egypt to produce a common, “international,” Eastern Mediterranean cultural zone. Later, after a period of collapse and regression in the early first millennium BC, renewed contact with the East would revitalize and revolutionize Greek culture which, in due course, came to dominate the entire Mediterranean region—even among Near Eastern peoples like the Phoenicians, who had formerly been the teachers of the Greeks. But it was especially among the peoples of Italy, above all the Etruscans and early Romans, that Greek artistic and literary culture took root. No other region was ever able to absorb Greek ideas so thoroughly and consistently while also managing to preserve a unique cultural identity. And in the end, it would be the Romans rather than the Greeks themselves who would spread and administer an advanced stage of Hellenism from western Asia to Britain. The course will explore these issues for the entire year. The fall portion, The Early Greeks and Their Neighbors, will first examine the beginnings of Greek civilization in the Late Bronze Age—its relation to Minoan Crete and Egypt, as well as connections with the Hittites, Phoenicians, and Assyrians to the east. Then we will consider the so-called Orientalizing process, in which the Greeks adapted Phoenician and Egyptian culture to produce a distinctive new civilization in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. The spring half, Ancient Italy and the Hellenization of the West, will focus on how the Greeks affected Italic peoples like the Etruscans and Romans, who emerged as the dominant political force in Italy and then across the Mediterranean and southern Europe. The course will apply a varied approach, concentrating largely on material culture, art, and architecture—but also on literary and historical data—to achieve a larger cultural perspective.

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Related Asian Studies Courses

Making Modern East Asia: Empires and Nations, 1700-2000

Open , Seminar—Year

This yearlong seminar is a sustained look at the recent history of China and Japan, the major countries in East Asia. Placed alongside each other, the often wrenching history of Japan and China over the past three centuries raises important historical themes of Asian modernity, questioning both its sources and how we define it. Often portrayed as a direct import from the West in the 19th century, we will ask whether modernity might instead be traced to legacies of Japan’s isolationist feudalism and China’s multiethnic Manchu dynasty, even as we acknowledge the far-reaching impact of Euro-American imperialism. Both China and Japan have entrenched master narratives that portray themselves as victims of the West, but we will also investigate the contours of Asian imperialism: Qing dynasty colonization of the untamed Southwest and the Japanese Empire (1895-1945). What features (if any) did these different empires share, and what set them apart from others? Does Qing ethnic policy toward native Miao tribes differ from Western racism and its Civilizing Discourse? What about Japanese colonial rule on Taiwan (1895-1945) or Korea (1910-1945)—or even toward Japan’s internal Other, the Ainu on Hokkaido? In short, how and why were Asian empires built, and how did they end? In both polities, how were nation-states formed, and how was nationalism constructed (and reconstructed)? What role did wrenching socioeconomic, cultural, and international crises play in fueling nationalist sentiments? How and where was radicalism (of various forms, including radical Maoism) incubated? The impact of war, preparing for it, waging it, and rebuilding in its wake will be a repeated theme, too. And finally, we will look at Asia’s economic dynamism, covering both Japan’s post-World War II capitalism (and its roots in the wartime imperialist project) and China’s transition to a market economy. Course readings consist of historical scholarship regularly punctuated by primary sources, documents, fiction, and some film.

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Related Literature Courses

The Music of What Happens: Alternate Histories and Counterfactuals

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

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, two celebrated American “literary” novelists, Philip Roth and Michael Chabon, have within the last four years written well-regarded novels of alternate history (The Plot Against America and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union). 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. Cambridge more recently published a volume analyzing alternate histories of the Second World War; 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 also look at some of the recent academic work on the subject. 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 hamfisted, flat, and profoundly unpersuasive.

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Related Politics Courses

African Politics

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course offers a comprehensive introduction to African politics, challenging common assumptions and misunderstandings of the continent. We will investigate persistent political institutions, as well as mechanisms of political and economic change. Key questions include: How are postcolonial African states distinctive from other postcolonial states? How do the politics of patronage, prevalent in many African states and societies, affect processes of political and economic change such as democratization and the implementation of structural adjustment and poverty alleviation programs? What role have external influences, from colonialism to current forms of European and North American influence, played on the continent? What impact has China’s rising role (alongside other Asian states) had? What choices and trade-offs have Africa’s postcolonial leaders and citizens faced? This course will not investigate the experiences of all African states but will address these questions by drawing upon the experiences of a few countries: Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, and South Africa. We will begin with an in-depth analysis of the colonial experience, decolonization, and the state of affairs in the early postcolonial period. Key thematic questions will be addressed concerning the nature of the postcolonial African state; the relevance of identities along ethnic, class, religious, and gender lines; and patterns of state-society engagement. The second section will build upon the first by investigating processes of political liberalization/democratization and economic development to unearth the contradictions and promises of these processes.

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Related Religion Courses

The Jews in Europe

Open , Seminar—Fall

How did a Jewish civilization develop throughout the triumph of Christianity in the West? This course conceives of Judaism as a counterpoint to the dominant cultures of Europe. We begin with the arrival of Jews to the Roman Empire and proceed to the insular “Ashkenazic” Jewish communities of medieval France and Germany. Next, we trace the appearance of “Sephardic” Jews in Spain, including worldly poets and philosophers, other-worldly Kabbalists, and secret Judaizing “conversos” throughout the period of Inquisition. We then follow the exiles of Spain as they begin openly practicing Judaism again in the Land of Israel and other places; trace the growth of the popular movement around the false messiah Shabbetai Tzvi; and witness the blossoming of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, with its extensive self-rule, new economic niches, and world-renowned yeshivas. In the last part of the course, we examine the dissolution of the “ghetto” during the process of emancipation, the rise of more virulent forms of anti-Semitism, modern political responses like Zionism and Socialism, and the destruction of European Jewry during the Holocaust. Throughout, we will attempt to balance negative flashpoints like the Crusades, blood libels, Inquisition, pogroms, and genocide with more affirmative features of Jewish life such as economic vitality, self-government, and spiritual developments like Hasidism, Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), and Reform and Orthodox Judaism.

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The Holocaust

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Spring

The Holocaust raises fundamental questions about the nature of our civilization. How was it that a policy of genocide could be initiated and carried out in one of the most advanced and sophisticated countries of Europe, a country that had produced many of the greatest thinkers and artists that the world has seen? In this course, we will attempt to explain how these events took place, beginning with the evolution of anti-Semitic ideology and violence. At the same time, we will look at how the Jews chose to live out their last years and respond to the impending catastrophe through art, diary writing, mysticism, physical resistance, hiding, and so on. Finally, we will attempt to come to grips with the crucial but neglected phenomenon of bystanders—non-Jews who stood by while their neighbors were methodically annihilated. We shall inevitably be compelled to make moral judgments. But these will be of value only if they are informed and based on a fuller understanding of the perspectives of the various actors in this dark chapter of European history.

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