FALL 2017 CORE-UA 500, Cultures and Contexts: Topics—Urban Life in the European City, Ancient to Early Modern
Prof. Jütte (History) syllabus
Throughout history, cities have been among the most complex forms of social and cultural organization. In the premodern period, many cities were also important political players with a high degree of autonomy; some even pursued imperial ambitions. Almost all functioned as centers of religious, economic, and cultural activity. Many cities were separated from their environs by massive walls of stone, underscoring the distinct character of the urban community. In reality, however, the fortunes of a city were often crucially tied to immigration and the diversity it engendered. And although every city aspired to construct its own unique identity, as reflected in founding myths or specific artistic agendas, many premodern cities had commonalities. They also faced the same problems, such as social inequality, overcrowding, and environmental crises. We explore the history of the Western city from a multidimensional and comparative perspective encompassing ancient Athens, imperial Rome, medieval Paris, Renaissance Venice, and eighteenth-century London, paying special attention to everyday life, and adopting a bottom-up approach to see how people of different backgrounds (e.g., gender, religion, and class) have experienced, imagined, and struggled with urban life. Can this rich archive of urban experiences from the past teach us lessons for the metropolises of our time?
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 500, Cultures and Contexts: Topics—Modern Arab Nations
Prof. Kesrouany (NYU Abu Dhabi/Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies)
Arab adaptations of the European model of nation-state from the 19th century until today. We ask: How did early Arab writers represent other nations in a language before the nation-state? Did they use distinct narrative conventions to create and imagine their nations? Did they imagine one nation or many, and how does the ‘modern’ and distinctly Western view of nation-state interact with local understandings of tribe, umma (Muslim people), and community? Through historical accounts, travel narratives, government documents, films, contemporary graffiti, personal memoirs, novels, poems, and plays, we examine how diverse Arab peoples responded to changing worlds and how such responses continue to frame national, ideological and cultural conflicts in the Middle East today.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 500, Cultures and Contexts: Topics—Civil War and Its Aftermath in 20th Century Spain
Prof. Labanyi (Spanish)
The Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 has been called the last war fought for utopian ideals; it was also the first war to see mass bombing of civilian targets, and was internationalization as a fight between Fascism and Communism, thanks to support for the right-wing military uprising by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, and support for the left-wing Republican Government by the Soviet Union and international volunteers from across the globe. While World War II ended with the defeat of fascism, Spain’s Civil War ended with fascism’s triumph and the institution of a dictatorship, under General Franco, that lasted almost 40 years, during which the winners of the war were ritually remembered, while the losers suffered savage reprisals and could not be mentioned in public. After his death in 1975, feelings about the war were still so strong that the topic was avoided, to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy; but since the mid-1990s, the topic has surfaced in often acrimonious public debate and a proliferation of cultural representations, as Spain tries to come to terms with the wounds of a civil conflict only now starting to be addressed. We explore the political issues involved in the Spanish Civil War and its remembrance today, considering a wide range of materials, including letters from the front by U.S. volunteers held in the archive of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade here at NYU, Picasso’s Guernica, and historical and contemporary films, and raising issues about the politics of memory, trauma, post-memory, and national reconciliation.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 509, Cultures and Contexts: Caribbean
Prof. Kahn (Anthropology)
Examines the impact of the Caribbean's long colonial history from the perspective of its diverse populations, through race, class, culture, gender, and sexuality. Known for its beauty, cultural vitality, and mix of peoples, cultures, and languages, the Caribbean is where today's global economy began, some 500 years ago. Its sugar economy and history of slave labor and colonialism made it the site of massive transplantations of peoples and cultures from Africa for more than four centuries and from Asia since the mid-19th century, and of a sizable influx of peoples from Europe all along. Readings examine the history of the region's differing forms of colonialism; the present postcolonial economic and political structures; anthropological material on family and community life, religious beliefs and practices, gender roles and ideologies; and ways in which national, community, and group identities are expressed today.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 510, Cultures and Contexts: Russia
Prof. Kotsonis (Russian & Slavic Studies)
Focuses on distinctive historical and geographical dichotomies and issues in Russian culture. Emphasis is on primary documents, including literary works, travel notes, works of art, and political statements from all periods, chosen to establish the particular matrix of competing positions that make up the Russian national and cultural identity.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 514, Cultures and Contexts: Ancient Israel
Ancient Israel names the land and people of the Hebrew Bible, and it occupies a place in antiquity that is the “classical” background for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious heritage, much as Greece and Rome stand behind much of modern philosophy and science. Yet Israel in history remains difficult to approach, between a biblical text received only through centuries of later sifting, and archaeological data lacking names, voices, and stories. We piece together glimpses of ancient Israel through varieties of evidence, acknowledging degrees of uncertainty, with the ultimate goal of probing what life was like for everyday people.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 529, Cultures and Contexts: Contemporary Latino Cultures
Prof. Márquez (Social & Cultural Analysis)
Using an interdisciplinary approach, we examine historical and contemporary examples of Latino/a political, social, and cultural practices in the United States. Bringing together a diversity of texts related to and within the field of Latino/a studies, we explore what constitutes Latino/a identity and, indeed, what constitutes Latino/a studies itself. Topics include colonialism and conquest, sexuality and gender, transnationalism and immigration, social inequality and practices of resistance, as well as language, popular culture, and media representations.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 532, Cultures and Contexts: African Diaspora
Prof. Gomez (History)
The dispersal of Africans to various parts of the world and over time, examining their experiences and those of their descendants. Regions of special interest include the Americas and the Islamic world, centering on questions of slavery and freedom while emphasizing the emergence of cultural forms and their relationship to both African and to non-African influences.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 534, Cultures and Contexts: The Black Atlantic
Prof. Morgan (Social & Cultural Analysis)
This course considers the Black Atlantic as a socio-cultural economic space from the first arrival of Africans in the ‘New World,’ beginning around in the 15th century, through the rise of slavery in the Americas. During this class we will trace the origins and importance of the concept of the Black Atlantic within broad political contexts, paying special attention to the changing social, cultural and economic relations that shaped community formation among people of African descent and laid the foundations for modern political and economic orders. Once we have established those foundations, we will think about the Black Atlantic as a critical site of cultural production. Using the frame of the Atlantic to ask questions about the relationship between culture and political economy. We will explore a range of genres--film, fiction, music, as well as formal scholarship--so as to explore questions of evidence in the context of the real and the imaginary. Topics to be covered include African enslavement and settlement in Africa and the Americas; the development of transatlantic racial capitalism; variations in politics and culture between empires in the Atlantic world; creolization, plantation slavery and slave society; the politics and culture of the enslaved; the Haitian Revolution; slave emancipation; and contemporary black Atlantic politics and racial capitalism.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 536, Cultures and Contexts: Indigenous Australia
Prof. Myers (Anthropology)
The indigenous people of Australia have long been the subject of interest and imagination by outsiders for their cultural formulations of kinship, ritual, art, gender, and politics, and they have entered into representations as distinctively "Other"—whether in negative or positive formulations of the "Primitive." These representations—in feature films about them such as Walkabout and Rabbit Proof Fence, in New Age Literature, or museum exhibitions—are now also in dialogue with their own forms of cultural production. At the same time, Aboriginal people have struggled to reproduce themselves and their traditions in their own terms, asserting their right to forms of cultural autonomy and self-determination. We explore the historical and geographical range of Aboriginal Australian forms of social being through ethnographic texts, art, novels, autobiographies, film and other media, and consider the ways in which identity is being challenged and constructed.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 539, Cultures and Contexts: Asian/Pacific/American Cultures
Prof. Saranillio (Social & Cultural Analysis)
Examines significant historical and contemporary moments through an analysis of culture and power and how cultural productions--film, television dramas, novels, visual art, national monuments and memorials, among others--produce ideas, stories and silences in different historical moments about different Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that have contemporary resonance today. For instance, how is it that the bikini, which most people associate with suggestive beach wear, has its origins in the U.S. nuclear testing of the first hydrogen bomb on the Bikini Atoll that irradiated much of the Pacific? How do historical representations of Asian American men make the meteoric rise of basketball star Jeremy Lin so unexpected and anomalous? How do histories of U.S. wars in Asia coupled with anti-Asian immigrant legislation shape ideas about Asian Americans as “perpetual foreigners” even centuries after Asian migration to the United States? Using different methods of cultural inquiry such as visual and popular culture, sports and media studies, literary critique, political economy and legal studies, we examine the complex ways that ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and indigeneity produce unequal power relations in U.S. society.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 543, Cultures and Contexts: Korea
Prof. Kwon (East Asian Studies)
The principles, logic, and dynamics that have constituted the contemporary divided Korea. The postcolonial era in Korea soon led to the Korean War and then the Cold War, which took the two Koreas down dramatically different pathways. South Korea achieved rapid and dramatic economic development, eventually witnessing exemplary democratization movements emerge from the fight against dictatorial government, class inequality, and sexual discrimination. Despite an earlier start on economic development following its socialist revolution, North Korea has suffered from a poor economy and a repressive authoritarian regime. Through ethnographies, histories, and films, we explore nationalism based on developmentalism, militarism, and neoliberalism; globalized sports, capital, people, and religion; crisis in class, youth, memories; and North Korean issues.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 546, Cultures and Contexts: Global Asia
Prof. Ludden (Liberal Studies)
Explores the expansive transformation of Asian cultures from ancient times to the present, focusing on networks of mobility, interaction, social order, and exchange that form the particularity of Asian cultures through entanglements with others. Beginning in the days of Alexander the Great and the formation of the Afro-Eurasian ecumene, follows tracts of Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, and Muslim expansion; then turns to the age of early modern landed empires, Ottoman-Safavid-Mughal-Ming/Ching, and their interactions with seaborne European expansion. Studies truly global formations of culture in the flow of goods, ideas, and people among world regions, during the age of modern empires and nationalism, including the rise of the nation as a cultural norm, capitalism in Asia, and Japanese expansion around the Pacific rim. Concludes by considering cultural change attending globalization since the 1950s, focusing on entanglements of Asian cultures with the globalizing culture of the market, consumerism, and wage labor, and transnational labor migration as well as Asian cultural spaces in and around New York City, including our nearby Chinatown.
FALL 2017 CORE-UA 554, Cultures and Contexts: Italy
Prof. Forgacs (Italian)
Almost anything one might think of as typically Italian, from pasta to pizza, neorealism to Sophia Loren, Armani to the mafia, has been made or remodeled by contact and exchange with the world beyond Italy. This does not mean that they are “not really” Italian. They are, but what has made them really Italian have been circuits of international travel and trade and the accompanying processes of naming and comparison by which non-Italians have defined certain things as essentially Italian and Italians have seen themselves mirrored in those definitions, modified them, or branded and marketed themselves through them. To look at how all this works, we start with an overview of ideas of Italy from classical antiquity to the eighteenth century, moving to an analysis of travel to and within Italy, the internationalization of Italian food, drink, music, and fashion, the Futurist assault on Italy’s cultural heritage, and the Italian film and television industries in a global system. We examine how movements of people, both out of and into Italy, have involved a remaking of collective identities. Finally, we turn to international relations and changing perceptions of Italy on the world stage as a result of foreign policies, wars, and entry into the European Union. Throughout, students are invited to reflect critically on how Italy’s culture, political identity, and icons have been produced over time, and to consider how far similar process are at work in other nations, including their own.