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Spring 2015 Graduate Course Descriptions


510:502 Historian's Craft: II (Intro Course)
Professor Alastair Bellany

Introduction to the professional study of history, to the diverse methodological approaches of current historiography, and to the place of historical scholarship in both academic and non-academic spheres.  First year graduate students only.

510:503 Africa in World History: Politics, Trade and Global Connections
Professor Carolyn Brown

This is a African history course that focuses on the dynamic relationship between Africa and other areas of the world. It takes the perspective of political economy, organized largely chronologically and focuses on the commercial/economic interactions between Africa and the rest of the world. The course is organized around four somewhat overlapping historical periods: (1) Pre 15th century; (2) 16-18th century; (3) the 19th century and the (4) present. The primary nature of these contacts are labor (both African and other) and trade , both of which intersect in ways that produce particular political forms and contradictions both in Africa and the contact country. The production of export commodities often require the restructuring of labor systems and political structures to redirect labor from food production to producing for the world market. Thus some of these connecting linkages are trade in specific commodities (e.g. gold, cocoa, palm oil, ivory, diamonds, rubber, uranium, oil) and forms of labor ( exported and imported) . They allow us to discuss the nature of the political change in particular periods. The course also uses a series of themes, some economic, others socio-political, that allow students of various regional fields of history (i.e. diaspora, Europe, Latin America, India, etc.) to become familiar with the historical processes in Africa and the impact of the contact between the African continent and their area. Students of various fields and disciplines will be able to use this course to ‘globalize’ their area/time period of specialization through a focus on Africa. This will serve as an example of how to integrate a continent into a global history course.

Below are examples of themes to be covered:

  • The role of the slave trade ( and struggles over it’s abolition) in stimulating state formation in Africa and accelerating the ascent of new political classes in Europe.
  • The importation of Indians as indentured labor in East and Southern Africa and the political consequences and complexities that ensue.
  • The role of African gold (from the trans Saharan trade) in Europe’s commercial revolution and the formation and destruction of African states in West and East Central Africa.
  • International commodity networks such as diamonds that link South Africa with Amsterdam
  • Indian cloth exports to West Africa during and after the slave trade; Netherlands Dutch Wax prints designed in East Indies and exported to Africa as ‘African’ cloth .
  • The creation of creole coastal cultures in West (Krio in Sierra Leone, Saro in Nigeria, Amaro in Benin) and East (Swahili) with centuries of contact with Latin America, the Middle East (e.g. Iran) and Asia (India)

Mining and conflict: oil and the Niger Delta uprising; multinational corporations (e.g. AREVA) , religious conflict (Boko Haram, El Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and uranium in the Sahel.

510:519 Colloquium in Intellectual History: Theory in Women's & Gender History
Professor Judith Surkis

For theorists and historians of gender and sexuality, the idea of the “cultural construction” of identity categories is axiomatic. In her pioneering account in Gender Trouble (1989), Judith Butler argued that the binary conceptions of natural sex must themselves be understood as cultural effects rather than as pre-discursive givens. Seen from this vantage, writing the history of culture is a critical practice that denaturalizes and unsettles identities. But what do we mean by “culture”? What is at stake when we appeal to it as an explanatory framework? If culture is understood as a symbolic or discursive system, how can we attend to that which appears to exceed or contest these frameworks, including materialities, practices, affects, global processes? What are the potential pitfalls of reifying culture? How might ideas of cultural difference have their own essentializing effects, either in discourses of civilizational clash or multicultural “recognition”?

Rather than assuming “culture” as a stable concept or historical given, this class critically reorients our understanding of its place in recent theory and historiography. We will approach culture not as a master explanatory key, but as itself a contested site and object of critique. Before turning to recent works of theory and historiography, we will review classic formulations and critiques of culture as a concept in anthropology, social theory, and cultural studies. Subsequent weeks will be structured thematically, drawing on a selection of interdisciplinary, feminist, and global approaches to these questions. Themes will include: Sex, Sovereignty, and Exclusion; Recognition and Multiculturalism; Liberalism, Privacy, Domesticity; Gender, Desire, and the Commodity Form; Family Law Exceptionalism; Migration and the Global Family; Religion, Secularism, and Embodiment; Technology, Intimacy, and Bioethics; Affect, Human Rights, and Humanitarianism.

510:535  Colloquium in the History of Technology: Early Modern Atlantic & Global Exchanges
Professor James Delbourgo

This colloquium is specially designed to serve the needs of graduate students with several different ranges of interest: early modern history; Atlantic and colonial Americas history; global and diasporic history; and history of science, technology, environment and medicine. It asks what kinds of histories can now be written that recast our understanding of the entanglements of natural and cultural actors in the age of the ‘Columbian Exchange’ and the ‘First Globalization’ of the early modern era. We will not privilege scientific knowledge but see it as bound up with a range of material encounters in natural environments that involve humans from different societies, non-human animal life-forms, and artificial entities. We will address classic imperial themes like European colonial botany, bio-prospecting, collecting and natural history, but also shift our approach to consider a variety of perspectives not centered on European actors that link human experience and knowledge with plants, non-human animals and other entities. One general question thus concerns how it is now possible to write the history of knowledge of and intervention in the natural world using some notion of entangled histories, both human and not. More specifically, we will examine how recent scholars have wrestled with questions of material practice and writing about non-human actors’ histories, without losing sight of the inevitably mediated character of all human knowledge of such actions. Likely topics include the relation between global commerce and capital, natural history, medicine, and object and visual knowledges; the production of proto-anthropological bodily and racial surveys of human societies; the question of long-distance networks, how they operate, and who or what operates through them; the role played by technologies and instruments in mediating cultural encounters between different peoples; environmental histories that integrate non-human and human animals, ranging from livestock to mosquitoes to microbes; the relationship between the Atlantic slave trade, the circulation of African botanical knowledge, healing prowess and associated spiritual practices; the distinctive politics of Creole knowledges in Spanish and British American settler societies; the careers of go-betweens and cultural intermediaries who provide access to natural knowledge and resources across radically different cultural settings; and early modern histories of energy, environment and infrastructure. We will engage with a selection of theoretical readings in conjunction with a range of empirical case histories, while keeping our focus on the practical intellectual utility of what we read for students’ own future research projects.

510:550 Seminar in the History of Women II 
Professor Temma Kaplan  

Continuation of year long course; no new participants.

510:553  Readings in African American History 
Professor Walter Rucker

Prospective students who wish to discuss any aspects of the course should contact Professor Walter Rucker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

510:560  Readings in Women's & Gender History
Professor Johanna Schoen

The purpose of this class is to introduce students to some of the key topics, questions, and debates that have animated the field of women’s and gender history. In keeping with the comparative and global scope of our department’s research interests, we will be reading works about different time periods and geographic regions.

510:573  US, African American Seminar
Professor Deborah White

This course will focus on historical writing and research. We will start with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life as a way to introduce the subject and strategies of writing, and as a way to understand some of the unconscious issues involved in the process. We will unpack the issue of writer’s block; study how to balance research and writing; explore different note-taking and organization techniques. We will deconstruct published articles and Heather William’s Help Me to Find My People, as a way to explore the variety of writing styles used by historians. Finally, students will learn by doing as they research and write their own original article, historiographic essay, or dissertation proposal that will be lovingly critiqued in class and presented at an historical conference.

510:599 Readings in Modern European History  
Professor Jochen Hellbeck

Prospective students who wish to discuss any aspects of the course should contact Professor Jochen Hellbeck at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

510:601 Colloquium in European History: Early Modern France 
Professor Jennifer Jones

Prospective students who wish to discuss any aspects of the course should contact Professor Jennifer Jones at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

510:615  Seminar in European History  
Professor Samantha Kelly

This two-semester seminar provides an opportunity to pursue an original research project on a subject of your choice:  a chance to try out a dissertation topic and to see where it takes you. By the end of this first semester, you will have completed such research as is possible in this country, and will write up a preliminary draft of an article-length piece based on analysis of that research.  During the summer, you will have the opportunity to pursue further research on-site.  Then, next fall, you will work on a final draft of the paper.  The bulk of the work for this course will be identifying and researching sources, analyzing them, and writing up your conclusions in a carefully crafted form.  You will also be responsible for offering serious commentary to your colleagues in class on their ongoing projects, just as you will benefit from the same.  Finally, we will have some common class readings and visiting presenters to discuss issues of source material, methodology, argument, and audience.  Common readings will be downloadable at the class Sakai site, via  

510:631  Colloquium in Latin American History: Major Debates 1750-2000
Professor Mark Wasserman

Tentative Topics: The Transition from Colonial Rule to Independence (Bourbon reforms, rebellions, independence); The Struggle for Stability (caudillos, civil wars, war and gender, export economies); Turn of the [20th]Century Upheavals (Populism, revolution, urbanization, industrialization, immigration, labor, modern women); Left and Right Alternatives (Populism- the sequel, democratization, the great terror, democratization -the sequel); poverty and progress; issues in economic development. Based on student need, this course will actually be run as a readings course, highlighting major debates in the broad field of Latin America, ca. 1750-2000.


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