2014-2015 History Courses
First-Year Studies: In the Tradition: Introduction to African American History
African American history is an important window into the history of the United States and the rise of the modern world. Students will begin with such classics as The Souls of Black Folk and Up from Slavery. The course will also examine such major developments as the Atlantic slave trade in the making of the modern world; comparative slavery and emancipation; the classic slave narratives; the Civil War and Reconstruction; black populism and grassroots Garveyism; the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance; the Chicago Black Renaissance and the Negro leagues; making race and nation in the United States, Brazil, and South Africa; the racial politics of New Deal citizenship; African Americans in the city; the rise of blues and jazz; women in the black revolt; civil rights and Black Power; and the Black Arts Renaissance.
Standing On My Sister’s Shoulders: Women in the Black Freedom Movement
This course examines the definitive leadership of women in the formation of the Black Freedom Movement. Departing from older scholarship that presented a “leading man” narrative of the roots of civil rights and Black Power, this lecture explores the rich lives and legacies of women who were their own liberators. From Rebecca Protten and Maria Stewart, as well as Harriet Tubman and Ida B. Wells, to Rosa Parks, Septima Clark and Dorothy Cotton and to Angela Davis and Assata Shakur, generations of leaders shaped the black radical tradition. Students are invited to learn the epic, yet untold, stories of the war on terror pioneered by Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Claudia Jones, Esther Cooper Jackson, Denise Oliver, Ericka Huggins, Queen Mother Moore, Eslanda Robeson, Gloria Richardson, Diane Nash, Ella Baker, and Vicki Garvin. Students will also rethink the legacies of Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Shirley Chisholm, and so forth. Rather than the one-dimensional caricatures of those leaders, this course explores several dimensions of their leadership.
Europe Since 1945
With the conclusion of the longest and most destructive war in modern history, the countries of Europe faced the formidable challenge of reconstructing their economies, societies, and national cultures. At the same time, a new conflict soon emerged in the form of a cold war—one supported by a massive number of nuclear weapons—and kept the continent divided into two hostile camps until the last decade of the century. This course will explore those critical years, beginning with the Yalta and Potsdam treaties, the Nuremberg and successor trials, and the Marshall Plan. Other key topics to be investigated include the rise of the European welfare state, the historic rapprochement between France and Germany, the process of decolonization, and the nonviolent 1989 revolutions in the Eastern bloc. Of major concern is the question of European unity and its prospects for realization in the present century, along with the transatlantic relationship with the United States particularly since the events of 9/11. We will also try to remain current with unfolding, present-day events. The lectures will be supplemented by various documentary films and attention to cultural developments, especially in the visual arts. The group conferences will focus on individual works by leading authors such as Hannah Arendt, George Orwell, Albert Camus, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Milan Kundera.
The Contemporary Practice of International Law
What is the value of international law in a world that continues to see brutal tragedies in Syria and elsewhere? Which government is the government of Egypt following the military coup? Can international law have any genuine significance without a means of enforcement, such as a global police force and judiciary? Is it simply that “might makes right”? Or, in fact, is it true that “most states comply with most of their obligations most of the time”? These are the cornerstone questions that define the contemporary practice of international law. 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. We will examine such important cases as Nuremberg, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and Abu Ghraib. The readings consist mainly of historical case studies (International Law Stories), supplemented by international conventions and judicial decisions. This course also gives students a taste of what law school courses are like. Active participation is expected and encouraged. Mock oral arguments and other simulations form a crucial part of the experience. Each student writes a source analysis and a case analysis, as well as completing a major conference project.
The period l9l9-l920 saw the eruption of numerous civil disorders: riots, strikes, new social and cultural movements, and new political parties. New patterns of production and consumption were also beginning. While all these were responses to long-established tendencies in economic life, in class and racial conflict, and in national liberation struggles, it is not a coincidence that so many appeared within a few months of each other. They stemmed from the disruption and trauma of the war, which transformed all existing trends in ways that reverberated throughout the interwar period and beyond. The goal of this course is to examine, from a global perspective, the possibilities for good and ill that were opened up. It is clear, for example, that the war disrupted major tendencies in the socialist and workers’ movements. The Russian Revolution and the rise of international communism marked a break with important parts of the traditional Left and seemed to some to have established a vital and exciting new kind of polity; to others, a frightening and aggressive new enemy of civilization. We will study the debates over the Soviet Union in light of these profound disagreements. It is also clear that the war meant new directions in world capitalism. One of the most significant was the unleashing of American economic power. We will study how developments in the US oil and automotive industries impinged on Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa in the search for petroleum and rubber. At the same time, we will learn how this economic buildup enabled capitalism to replicate itself through the creation of such industries as advertising, which took on a new vitality in this period. Its seductive images of individual desires and personal fulfillment permitted advertising both to both shadow and rival the collective movements that worked for social change. Conflict over social change occurred on many fronts. Movements of national liberation in the British Empire were now placed in the context of the gradual eclipse of British power, even as Britain emerged victorious from the war and as a major power in redrawing maps of many contested terrains. Against this background, we will look at British efforts to deal with popular aspirations in India, Ireland, and Palestine and with the outbursts of violence that often characterized state action in these matters. Other important subjects include the movements for gender and sex equality and justice for workers and African Americans, who had to face a long-running, 19th-century, social Darwinist ideology that the war had made only more toxic, as witness the reception given to returning black soldiers expecting a better life, the restrictions on US immigration, and the appeal of racism, anti-Semitism, and many other ethnic prejudices to wide sectors of opinion. In the field of sex and gender, new movements of protest and affirmation grew up, while old ones declined. The goal of women’s suffrage having been achieved, the suffragist style of feminism began to disappear along with its liberal, rationalist, and parliamentary values. The war had done much to destroy these movements in all parts of the political spectrum and had cleared the way for many new cultural phenomena, including fascism, artistic modernism, and the emergence of a new gay people’s consciousness, to name just a few. Cities such as Paris, New York, and Berlin offer case studies of the vibrant subcultures that flourished during these years. Course readings and topics will include: the John Dos Passos novel, 1919; Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio; Rudyard Kipling’s short story, Mary Postgate; Margaret McMillan’s Paris 1919 on the Treaty of Versailles; selections from Mein Kampf; literature on the steel strike of 1919 in the United States; the 1919 Amritsar Bazaar massacre in India; Pan-Africanism and American racial disturbances of that year and the responses of people such as Garvey and DuBois; the coming of the private automobile and its relationship to highway construction, suburbanization, and the onrush of the extractive industries into Liberia, for example, searching for cheap rubber; the rise of public relations and the “engineering of consent,” as it was called by a founder of modern advertising, and how it worked both in political propaganda and in the sale of commodities; and the emergence of new styles of sexual expression. For written work, students will select subjects from the syllabus and explore them more deeply in a few short essays, using extra reading in consultation with the instructor.
“Not By Fact Alone”: The Making of History
History, like memory, is a reconstruction and, as such, does not call out to us to be seen or heard. Instead, we seek and discover only what our perspective illuminates. For the Puritans, history was the unfolding of providential design; purpose, like the seed of a plant, was always present in the unfolding of events. For Enlightenment philosophes, history was the story of progress effected by human reason; purpose in this case was a human triumph, such as the triumph of medicine over prayer. For Marx, history was the story of class struggle; in this case, purpose was no more than following the money trail, coupled with the added optimism that, in the end, the scales of justice would be balanced. Each of these perspectives recognized and struggled with the notion that history is, in the final analysis, a fate beyond human control because of the paramount role of unintended consequences that counterpoints the history of societies no less than it counterpoints the life of the individual. In other words, is purpose an artifact of human understanding or woven into the tapestry of history? We will study the different ways in which American and European thinkers from the 17th to the 20th centuries grappled with this question in their writings on history. The course will examine the conflicts and changes in their views on both the nature of the historical process and the way that history should be represented by historians. We will look at how these differences both reflected and contributed to broader intellectual, political, and social changes in this period. Such an examination will demonstrate the ways in which conceptions of history were, themselves, the product of history.
The Emergence of the Modern Middle East
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 critical examination of the designation “modern Middle East,” the course will draw upon a wide array of primary and secondary sources in order to illuminate the series of complex transformations and processes that have contributed, over time, to shaping what it 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; the collapse of the Ottoman Empire; state-building in both colonial and post-colonial contexts; the impact of war on Middle Eastern politics and society; transformations in religious thought; changing family norms and gender roles; the genesis of women’s movements; the emergence of nationalism in competition with various sub- and supranational ideologies (such as pan-Arabism); class politics, social movements, and revolution; Zionism and the Arab-Israeli conflict; the origins and spread of political Islam; the political economy of oil; the Cold War and the role of the United States in the Middle East; globalization and neo-liberal economics; and the impact of various new cultural forms and media on the formation of identities across the region.
Between Baroque and Romanticism: The European Enlightenment
The 18th-century Enlightenment was, arguably, the most important single episode in the last thousand years of European intellectual history—the true watershed between the “pre-modern” and the “modern” world. Yet historians have found the Enlightenment a singularly elusive phenomenon. Enlightenment thought was woven of several very different strands. The champions of “enlightenment” shared a surprisingly large number of assumptions with their supposed opponents, and some of the beliefs that we regard as most characteristic of the Enlightenment were already being attacked by Rousseau and other adventurous pre-Romantic thinkers before the century was half over. This course will examine the development of the Enlightenment from its origins in the age of the Baroque to its demise in the era of the French Revolution and Romanticism. While the course’s central focus will be ideas, values, and sensibilities, we will also consider the economic, social, and political context of the Enlightenment and examine the revolutionary upheavals in European politics and culture that brought it to an end. We will conclude by discussing several key texts of the 1790s—including works by Schiller, Goethe, and Novalis—that typify the revolt against the Enlightenment outlook with which the 18th century ended.
Good to Think With: The Culture of Food
Drawing on perspectives from the historical past and the present day, this course will focus on the social and cultural aspects of how we grow and consume food. We will explore issues such as how food production and presentation have changed over time and how different consumption patterns have affected identity and sociability. An example of this would be the rivalry between wheat and corn that dogged world civilization for centuries, influencing such issues as how bread was made, what constituted the best diet for convicts, and of what material communion wafers should be made. We will look at how authors shape narratives about food, social change, conflict, and accommodation. Subjects of study will include the early modern trade in coffee, tea, and spices; the voyages to the New World and the attendant disruptions of various populations; the effects of the French Revolution; the Irish potato famine; and Hitler’s and Stalin’s policies of imposing famine on conquered peoples. We will examine the role of science and modernity in creating the agricultural systems that provide us with our food. This will include a look at agribusiness, its friends and enemies, and various possible alternatives to it. The problem posed by the overabundance of food and food wastage will be addressed.
Dreaming of Home: Gender and the Family, Transnational Migration, and Historical Memory in Latin America
This course takes a critical approach to family history and historical memory, with a focus on women, gender, and transnationalism in Latin America in the late-19th and 20th centuries. Considering questions of voice, authenticity, and “truth,” we will take up the politics of gender in oral history, autobiography, and memoir. We will study the creation of cultural and historical memory at various levels—family, local, regional, national, and transnational. How do these levels of memory intersect in modern Latin American history? How and why do individuals, families, and states invent and reinvent the past? Case studies will help us explore the role of place, identity, and generation in historical memory and how gendered and racialized memory is a crucial part of state formation and control. People who existed on the fringes of nations for their gender, race, color, language, or romantic ties crossed borders and oceans by choice or by force. We will explore the historical memory of diasporic communities that emerged as a result of marginalization across Latin America. In particular, we will address Latin America-Asia connections. We will consider newer manifestations of memory construction and communication through digital media and transnational family associations. Assigned readings include historical monographs and articles, as well as oral and life histories, autobiographies, memoirs, and historical novels.
The Political and Cultural Work of Women Writers in the United States, 1790-1990
“This is what I want you to do,” novelist Rebecca Harding Davis wrote in 1861. “I want you to hide your disgust, take no heed to your clean clothes, and come right down with me—here, into the thickest of the fog and mud and foul effluvia. I want you to hear this story. There is a secret down here, in this nightmare fog, that has laid dumb for centuries: I want to make it a real thing to you.” Using the literary and expository writing of US women, we will explore American stories and secrets, what women writers are working to make “a real thing to you.” Readings will include autobiography, novels, stories, and cultural criticism. Rather than just following canonical literary or intellectual history, we will investigate less well-known and popular fictions alongside classics. Major themes will include questions of politics, class, and regional conflict; womanhood, manhood, and sexuality; American identity and nationalism; immigration and race. Course work will focus on literary and print culture, but students may explore other media in conference. Particular emphasis will be placed on careful research of the historical context when analyzing primary documents from the period. A working knowledge of the political history of the time is necessary; students who need refreshing will be expected to consult a textbook regularly.
Espionage in the 20th Century
What has been called the world’s second oldest profession truly came of age in the present era. Never before have so many countries—ranging from superpowers to aspiring third-world regimes—invested such vast resources into the creation and maintenance of permanent intelligence organizations. This course will explore not only the reasons behind this major historical development but also the different branches of intelligence, specifically cryptography, covert action, estimates and analysis, and counterintelligence. Besides examining how espionage has influenced the larger course of events, we will discuss the ethical dilemma of a secret government agency operating within a democratic society and the obstacles in providing reliable intelligence for policy makers. Particular attention will be given to the Cold War conflict, as well as to the more recent War on Terrorism. Relying on a variety of sources and approaches, the class assignments will consist of autobiography, historical analysis, case studies, fictionalized accounts, and film. For conference, some past topics have included the evolution of the Mossad, the case of the double agent Robert Hanssen, the life and writings of Lawrence of Arabia, and women in the OSS.
Gender, Education, and Opportunity in Africa
In modern Africa, equity in education—whether in relation to gender, ethnicity, race, class, or religion—remains an important arena of social and political debate. As formal colonial rule ended on the African continent and more African nations gained independence, education became synonymous with modernity and a leading indicator of a country’s progress towards development. Gender has consistently played a powerful role in determining who would receive access to education. An awareness of the significance of both formal and informal education has been reflected within the realms of African politics, popular culture, literature, and film. In this class, we will study 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. We will begin by questioning prevailing constructs of gender and determine how relevant Western gender categories have historically been for African societies. By focusing several of our readings on countries as diverse as Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, students will develop a broad overview of educational policy changes and practices throughout the African continent.
Global Conflict and International Law
Armed conflict is often brutal; yet it is a reality that we must face—both its existence and its conduct. Wars are sometimes fought for the right reasons (such as NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999) but also for less widely accepted ones (Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine). In contrast to the past, wars can now be fought with surgical precision in an attempt to minimize so-called collateral damage, while others are waged with the very purpose of causing maximum destruction. In addition, there exists a wide discrepancy in the means employed— from sophisticated high-tech drones to simple machetes. When is conflict of this nature just and right? And even if just and right, how can such atrocities be countenanced by civilized society? This seminar examines the international legal framework for war, both jus ad bellum (the law of going to war) and jus in bello (humanitarian law). We will use several films and firsthand accounts of armed conflicts and primary and secondary legal sources in an effort to provide a framework for analyzing the putative legality of armed conflict. Completion of a previous course in international law is recommended.
Gender, Sexuality, Marriage, and Family in Latin America
This course focuses on marriage, family, gender, sex, and sexuality in Latin America from the colonial period to the present. We will study varying forms of marriage and family construction—arranged marriage, elopement, bigamy, intermarriage and race mixing, and same-sex marriage. Other themes include: how indigenous women, families, and communities confronted the conquest; sexuality and the body; sexual norms and deviations; women’s spirituality, sorcery, and power; honor, love, romance, desire, seduction, fidelity, infidelity, and sexual violence; gender and everyday life; women, gender, and social change; the intersections of sex, gender, race, and ethnicity; queer subjectivities and sexual rights movements; gender identity, representation, and performance and the nation; and gender and the transnational arena. The class is organized chronologically and thematically. Readings on arranged marriage, prostitution, and sex slavery will tie in with the Women’s History Conference on human trafficking. Assigned readings include: historical monographs, articles, and chapters; scholarly work emerging from other disciplines; and historical novels.
Women, Gender, and Politics in American History
A course on women’s history in America can be understood only by way of its inextricable connection to the history of men. Therefore, while the emphasis of the course will be on women, we will also look at the category of gender more broadly by examining relations between men and women and conceptions of masculinity and men’s roles. More generally, the course will provide an overview of women’s history in America, beginning with the 17th-century colonial settlements and extending to the 1970s, by focusing on the relationship between gender and politics. We will examine the extent to which women were able to participate in the public sphere despite their exclusion from formal political power for much of the nation’s history. We will place the topic of women and politics in the larger context of American history, studying how more general social and cultural trends affected and were affected by women’s political activities. Specific topics and themes will include the ideology of separate spheres; the relationship of gender, race, and class; the impact of war on women; sectional and regional differences; the suffrage movement; and the emergence of feminism.
Palestine/Israel and the Politics of History
This course provides a comprehensive introduction to major topics and debates in the historiography of Palestine/Israel from the mid-19th century to the present. The course has two broad goals: first, to delineate significant trends and transformations that defined the political, economic, cultural, intellectual, and social history of this contested land in the modern period; and second, to explore the evolution of—and fraught political debates surrounding—varying interpretations of this history. Themes to be covered include: Ottoman Palestine in the 19th and early 20th centuries; Jewish modernity and the origins and trajectory of Zionism as an ideology and political movement; the emergence and development of Palestinian national identity and nationalism; British colonial rule and the Mandate system; the historiography of partition and its consequences; the construction of Israeli national culture and identity after 1948; the politics of memory among Israelis and Palestinians; regional war and diplomacy; the role of the United States and the global ramifications of struggle in Palestine/Israel; and various aspects of state and society within Israel, with a special focus on the diversity of its ethnic and religious composition. It bears saying that this is not a course about the “Arab-Israeli conflict” or even primarily about “conflict” as such; rather, this course provides an integrative approach to Palestinian and Israeli history, emphasizing the construction and articulation of multiple visions for forging collective identity within Palestine/Israel, as well as strategies for establishing and asserting control over it. To this end, we will pay particular attention in this course to cultural sources—especially literature and film—as a way to capture the complexity of voices and identities that claim this land as their own. The approach of this course is chronological but also cumulative—meaning that each new phase in this complex history must be evaluated in light of what has come before. For this reason, no additional students will be admitted for the spring semester.
Women/Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Film and Media: History and Theory
This yearlong seminar analyzes the representations of gender, race, sexuality, and class in American cinema and media from its origins to the present. Students develop critical understandings of cinema and media, not only as part of American cultural and social history but also as political vehicles for activism and change. We study cinema and media as part of historical processes and assess interpretations often rooted in feminist, sociopolitical, and postcolonial theories. We explore new ways to view cinema and media, identifying explicit and implicit meanings. A variety of cinema and media will be examined: early motion pictures, classical Hollywood, woman’s films, early and contemporary African American cinema, avant-garde, film noir, feminist cinema, documentary, new queer cinema, action/adventure, fantasy, transnational cinema, television, and new-media programming.
Powers of Desire: Urban Narratives of Politics and Sex
What are and have been the narratives of sex, gender, and desire in urban spaces? How does urban space (political and physical) create, bolster, and inhibit desire of all kinds? The course will examine relationships of urban space and sexual identities, the socioeconomic implications and outcomes of urban planning, and design and political decisions on a variety of people living and working in cities. Some specific topics addressed will include crime, consumerism, leisure, and capitalism. This history course uses historical scholarship combined with fiction, film, art, and music. The course focuses mainly on modern US cities but also includes discussion of cities around the world, including the ancient world.
Women, Gender, Transnationalism, and Power in Latin America
This course deals with women, gender, citizenship, and power relations in Latin America in the late-19th and 20th centuries. Using a global frame, we will consider Latin America as part of the Americas and the Global South. Taking a historical and thematic approach, the class will address questions of gendered power and the state, power relations between sexes and genders, and sexual and cultural imperialism and the gendering and racialization of foreign relations. Case studies will offer insight into how class, race, ethnicity, and color intersect gender, sex, and sexuality in modern Latin America. We will grapple with questions of gender and the family and hybridity, belonging, exclusion, and transnational migration. In the fall, a focus will be on gendered citizenship. Up until at least the early 20th century, Latin American women lost their citizenship rights upon marrying foreign men (defined by birth and/or race). In some cases, women moved to the men’s home countries and found that they had no legitimate citizenship status there, either. At the interstices of the nation-state, Latin American women pushed against gendered citizenship policy and practice. We will reflect on this phenomenon in a global context, as gendered citizenship existed around the world in this period. In particular, we will look at Latin America-Asia connections. Exploring historiographical questions and debates that take us across the borders of region and field, we will think about why the bulk of the literature has come from US women historians, while there has been a relative paucity of work on gendered citizenship by Latin American historians (though we will ask whether such comparisons constitute or lead to scholarly imperialism). In the spring, we will concentrate on sex slavery and sex and cultural tourism in Latin America in conjunction with the Women’s History Conference on human trafficking. We will address how diverse groups of women—indigenous, mestiza, black, Jewish, and Asian—have been trafficked in Latin America at different times. We will consider how travel brochures and online forums have sexualized and racialized Latin American and Caribbean bodies as exotic and ultradesirable to attract heterosexual and queer tourists from North America, Europe, and elsewhere. Throughout the year, we will also study notions of the body, masculinity and femininity, and queer subjectivities in modern Latin America. Other themes involve the blurring of the private and the public and women’s activism, as well as other ways women have intervened in Latin American culture and politics. Assigned readings include historical monographs and articles, as well as treatises, memoirs, and historical novels.
Winds of Doctrine: Europe in the Age of the Reformation
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. Our reading 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 these 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. To this purpose, we will look at a number of political struggles waged in the name of religion, including the Peasants’ Revolt and Thirty Years War in Germany, the Dutch revolt against Spain, the French Wars of Religion, and the English Revolution.
¡Sí Se Puede! Labor and Politics in Latin America
This seminar looks at the many ways working men and women have struggled to increase their political influence and advance their economic and social standing in Latin America and the Caribbean. We will use and critique a variety of theoretical approaches to the relationship among labor, the State, and democracy. Case studies will illustrate how working people have tried to take advantage of periods of relative democracy to elect candidates and affect laws and have also organized under harsh conditions of military dictatorship when strikes, demonstrations, and unions themselves were often illegal and workers’ actions met with State and employer violence. Our focus is on industrial labor—the factory workers and miners whose concentration in urban centers and/or role in producing export commodities gave them greater potential for organizing unions and wielding some political influence. But we will also examine the struggles of workers on the land—peasants, bonded labor, and farmworkers—whose determined and often violent mobilizations sometimes had a radical impact on national or regional politics. From the late 19th century on, we will look at the participation of workers and their unions in revolutionary movements and at the socialist, communist, and anarchist ideologies to which many were attracted. To understand the political campaigns of Latin American workers, we will consider not only conditions of work and economic exploitation but also the concerns of working-class communities, questions of nationalism/sovereignty, issues of human dignity and citizenship, and the ways in which gender, race, and ethnicity served to strengthen or weaken the labor movement. Assigned readings will include historical monographs and articles, as well as the cultural product of workers’ struggles: songs and poetry, documentary films, murals, and photographs.
Activism and Change in Contemporary Women‘s Biography
How are biographies mirrors of the world and windows for activism and change? What is the relationship between the contemporary biographer and the historical subject? How are narratives, particularly about women‘s lives, researched and constructed? How do biographies of women impact our understanding of history? These are some of the questions that we will address in this semester-long seminar on biography. We examine how authors use a variety of primary sources (such as diaries, letters, memoirs, oral histories) and analyze how they create, with slim primary source material, full narratives that illuminate an entire past and time. We will discuss how contemporary women‘s biographies have resonance for today‘s discourses and power relations of gender, race, class, and sexuality. We interrogate notions of truth and myth in life-writing texts. A variety of women‘s biographies from American and transnational contexts will be read and analyzed, including those by Blanche Wissen Cooke, Angela Davis, Jill Lepore, Malala Yousafzai, and Camilla Townsend, among others.
Alternative Americas: A Cultural and Intellectual History of the United States, 1776-1976
The story most typically told of America focuses on the path taken, the victors and the nature of their victory, the dreamers whose dreams were realized, and central figures in a largely political narrative. In this course, we will revisit the United States through the lives of those more on the margins—dreamers and doers who faced heavier odds or who dreamed of a world that never arrived. Through the words, dreams, memories, and exhortations of African Americans, workers, women, immigrants, and cultural critics of all sorts, we will revisit the story of the idea of America as it has unfolded. Readings will include primary sources from the time period, as well as historical articles and books. In the spring, we will add film. As we read and watch, we will also write. This will be a course that emphasizes the synthesis of historical research and expository writing. Juniors with permission of the instructor.
Public Stories, Private Lives: Methods of Oral History
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).