Note: * indicates draft/sample syllabus
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 500, Cultures & Contexts: Topics—The Silk Road and Central Asia
Prof. Stark (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World) syllabus
For centuries Central Asia has been a conduit for a variety of cultural encounters and transfers between China, India, the Near East and the Mediterranean. In an almost emblematic way, this position and function seems to be embodied in our image of the far-distant caravan trader, traversing on the so-called “Silk roads” the vast expanses between China and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. However, it was not only traders that connected the civilizations of the ancient world via Central Asia: with and next to the traders’ caravans traveled diplomats, missionaries, artists and many more; and vast parts of Eurasia were, again and again, connected and controlled by confederations and empires of nomadic origin. We inquire into the many facets, which characterize the resulting network, oscillating around Central Asia, from the Bronze Age onwards up to the days of the Mongol Empire, taking a multi-disciplinary approach to a considerable variety of primary evidence, ranging from ancient travel reports and business letters to spectacular archaeological artifacts.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 502, Cultures & Contexts: Islamic Societies
Prof. Ben-Dor Benite (Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies/History) syllabus
Major social, cultural, and political transformation of the Middle East from late antiquity through the mid-thirteenth century, considered in the context of the formation and evolution of Islamic culture and polity. Examines the emergence of key concepts, practices, and cultural motifs of the medieval Islamic tradition. Also examines the emergence of the idea/concept of the "Middle East", the history and background of European interest in the region, as well as the crucial role of cultural encounter and dialogue (e.g., through trade, colonization, polemics) in the formation and development of identity.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 503, Cultures & Contexts: South Asia
Prof. Rajagopal (Media, Culture, & Communication) syllabus
The South Asian subcontinent is in many ways at the heart of contemporary globalization. Few regions contain a higher density of population experiencing faster rates of social change. South Asia is the site of massive social transformations, ranging from new modes of consumption and aspiration, to accelerated urbanization, rising social inequality, and violent inter- and intra-state conflict. A little analyzed, yet central catalyst for these transformations is represented by media industries, which have grown at a rate greater than that of the economy as a whole for several years now. The current centrality of media to social life as neither entirely new, nor unprecedented, and provides entry points--from print and visual culture, to cinema, television, internet (including social media such as Youtube), and cellphones--for understanding both media history and South Asia, the relationship between culture and technology, the South Asian diaspora, mediated religion, and a range of inter-related topics.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 510, Cultures & Contexts: Russia
Prof. Kotsonis (History) syllabus
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 2014 CORE-UA 512, Cultures & Contexts: China
Prof. Zhang (East Asian Studies) syllabus
An introduction to the main issues and foundational texts of imperial and modern China. Selected readings include excerpts from early Chinese classics such as Classic of Odes and the Analects to the vernacular novels of late imperial China. The classical canon is then coupled with central texts from modern China, from the initial reflections of the mandarin scholars on a rapidly changing world, to writings on revolution, the modern state, and the new culture of the enlightened individual by leading Chinese intellectuals in the 20th century. Rather than a display of cultural and literary edifices, our intellectual and critical interest is to rethink Chinese traditions, both imperial and modern, in terms of continuity as well as discontinuity.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 514, Cultures & Contexts: Ancient Israel
Prof. Fleming (Hebrew & Judaic Studies) syllabus
The people of the Hebrew Bible understood themselves to be united as an ancient tribe called Israel, a name that lay behind even the eventual state. Working backward from the fullest early definition of Israel, when the Hebrew Bible was taking final form, toward the time of older origins, we push back in time, using the Bible as the primary point of reference, while examining various independent evidence. Writing projects focus mainly on interpretation of biblical texts.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 515, Cultures & Contexts: Latin America
Prof. Lane (Spanish & Portuguese) syllabus
Over the last 50 years, millions of Latin Americans have experienced extraordinary shifts in their social, political, and cultural landscape, a result of the transformative effects of revolution or insurgency, state repression, popular resistance and social movements. We focus on events that had continental, hemispheric, and even global impact, including the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the military coups of the 1970s, and the Zapatista uprising in 1994. Drawing on a range of primary sources and cultural forms, we listen carefully to the voices of the major social actors of the time. Our sources are drawn from a wide range of media: newsprint, television broadcasts, transcripts, testimony, essay, documentary and feature film, art, and music. We deliberately mix artistic representations with documentary evidence to understand how the arts—music, visual art, literature, film—do not just reflect the reality around them, but are themselves vital sites for shaping and changing that reality and our imagination of it, both then and now.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 529, Cultures & Contexts: Contemporary Latino Cultures
Prof. Beltrán (Social & Cultural Analysis) syllabus
Explores the political, social, and cultural practices of Latinos in the United States using a historical and interdisciplinary approach. Draws on literature, history, politics, as well as social and political theory to address issues of participation, under-representation, and civic and economic empowerment. Topics include immigration, social movements, figures of resistance, identities, popular culture, and language. Of particular concern is the idea and representation of a pan-ethnic “Latino” identity encompassing all the diverse national groups, and the emergence of this concept in both the cultural and political life of these communities.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 532, Cultures & Contexts: African Diaspora
Prof. Gomez (History) syllabus
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 2014 CORE-UA 536, Cultures & Contexts: Indigenous Australia
Prof. Myers (Anthropology) syllabus
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 2014 CORE-UA 539, Cultures & Contexts: Asian/Pacific/American Cultures
Prof. Saranillio (Social & Cultural Analysis) syllabus
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 2014 CORE-UA 540, Cultures & Contexts: Mongol Asia and Its Legacy
Prof. Ben-Dor Benite (Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies/History) syllabus
The Mongol Empire was one of the greatest empires in world history, covering virtually all of Eurasia from the Pacific Ocean to the outskirts of Central Europe. Its impact went far beyond its physical boundaries and lasted well after it disappeared. We examine the history of that nomadic empire from a world history perspective emphasizing the way in which it shaped major cultures and civilizations all over Asia, Europe, and north Africa. Themes include nomadic life and culture, the structure of a nomadic empire, how that nomadic empire interacted with the various settled states it conquered, and ramifications of the Mongol conquest on economy and trade, medicine, science and technology, food and art, culture and religion, as well as social and intellectual developments across Eurasia, during the time period from approximately 1200 to 1450 C.E. Our primary sources will be narratives of Mongols generals, stories of peoples they conquered, and travelogues of people who travelled in Mongol territories, and we also look at visual depictions of the Mongols in art and cinema, pay special attention to the environment and how it shaped the life of the Mongols, dedicate time to the image of Genghis Khan, the role played by women, both from the commoner society and from the elite, and interactions with Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, and Islam.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 544, Cultures & Contexts: Spain
Prof. Abercrombie (Anthropology) syllabus
Spanish modernity, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic: Spain has not been a major world power in over 200 years, during which its competitors and successor empires (France, Britain, and the U.S.) branded it, via a conglomeration of ideas called the “Black Legend,” as a backwards and feudal bastion of superstition and intolerance, good only for anthropologists and tourists. A hotbed of state-building in antiquity, Spain emerged as a center of Renaissance learning under Arab and Berber rule. While the rest of Europe languished in feudalism, its seven centuries co-existence of Christians, Muslims, and Jews saw the rebirth of classical knowledge, the spread of literacy, the development of a human-centered cosmology, the emergence of narrative self-making and the novel, and Europe’s first primarily urban society, where philosophy, the sciences, architecture, and the arts flourished. After Christian princes defeated the last Islamic foothold in the Peninsula in 1492, Castilian language and culture was the backbone of Spain’s imperial expansion across the Atlantic and produced the first modern, disciplining state, the privileging of individualism, private property, and capitalism, and theses of popular sovereignty, the nation state, and theories of racial inequality. Outpaced in industrialization by the late 18th-century, still Spain (and the new nations of Spanish America) kept pace with liberal reforms that culminated in the clash of competing fascist-capitalist and democratic-socialist ideologies, leading to the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, and the re-birth of Spanish democracy in the post-Franco and European Union era, and Spain’s current avant-garde role in culture and the arts. Materials include history, ethnography, literature, and film.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 552, Cultures & Contexts: Empires and the Political Imagination
Prof. Burbank (History) and Prof. Cooper (History) syllabus
Comparative study of empires, from the Romans to the present, and the ways that empires have inspired and constrained their subjects' ideas of rights, belonging, and power. Throughout history, few people lived for very long in a state that consisted entirely or even mainly of people with whom they shared a language and culture. Empires--polities that maintained social and cultural distinction even as they incorporated different people--have been one of the most common and durable forms of political organization. An examination of the variety of human cultures must take account of how people lived in empires--sometimes seeking higher degrees of autonomy, sometimes accommodating to rulers' authority, sometimes trying to extend their own power over others. The study of empire expands our ideas of citizenship and challenges the notion that the nation-state is natural and necessary. We investigate how empires were held together--and where they were weak--from perspectives that focus on political and economic connections over long distances and long time periods. We also explore how scholars have approached the topic of empires, examining their methods and their interpretations. Readings include historical scholarship on the Roman, Chinese, Mongol, Spanish, Russian, French, British, and American empires, as well as primary sources produced by people living in these and other imperial polities.
FALL 2014 CORE-UA 555, Cultures & Contexts: Brazil
Prof. Weinstein (History) syllabus
Brazil's transformation from a colonial, agrarian, slave society to a predominantly urban, industrialized nation, and an aspiring world power. Considers how Brazil became both a major industrial power and a society with all the classic social ills of a “Global South” nation. We also explore the relationship between mainstream notions of modernity and development, and the many different social and cultural initiatives that have produced Brazil’s hybrid popular culture and multiple national identities. Topics include slavery, racism, and emancipation, urban life, immigration and industrialization, changing gender roles, carnaval and popular culture, and democratization.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 502, Cultures & Contexts: Islamic Societies
Prof. Rowson (Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies) syllabus
The Islamic world from about the year 600 to about 1300. Despite very large variations in culture across time and space, it is meaningful to speak of a single Islamic civilization during this period, and we ask why. Although the dominance of the religion of Islam, in one way or another, serves to define and unify the societies under examination, and religion will be a major topic of study, attention is also paid to philosophy and science, literature and music, and art and architecture. Reading are English translations of Arabic works written by the inhabitants of this world themselves. A chief objective is to help students appreciate just how different a culture different from their own--and especially one in the distant past--can be, and yet make perfect sense to its participants. By reading, analyzing, and discussing what those participants have to say about a myriad of topics, students gain insights into how cultures in general, including their own, work; and although the modern world is not included, study of the Islamic past will also enhance students’ understanding of Islam and Islamic cultures today.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 505, Cultures & Contexts: Africa
Prof. Gomez (History) syllabus
Major issues and questions relating to Africa's development from early to contemporary times, approached through its literature. While not a formal study of the history of Africa, establishes the historical context for understanding the literary texts in the periods in which they are embedded. Examined regionally and over time are questions concerning the relationship of the production of literature to centers of power, the meaning of literature in societies espousing orality, the problematics of sustaining both content and intent upon the conversion of oral literature into written form, the specific and at times parochial uses of literature, the interplay of gender and voice, and the politics of translation into European modalities.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 507, Cultures and Contexts: Japan
Prof. Kaffen (East Asian Studies) syllabus
Japan from 1945 to the present, through cinema, animation, photography, manga, television, kami shibai, pop songs, and other creative forms of expression and documentation, with emphasis on various points of view both within Japan (women, youth, burakumin, Okinawan), and externally (the US-Japan relationship, Japan’s relationship with its East- Asian neighbors). We consider the ways Japan is framed and imagined, as well as the tensions, contradictions, and variety of perspectives at work in those imaginations; the processes of mediation through which history and place are constructed; and issues such as war responsibility, high economic growth, political radicalism, technology and consumption, and “lost decades,” and what they might mean for a consideration of Japan’s place in the world at present.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 509, Cultures & Contexts: Caribbean
Prof. Khan (Anthropology) syllabus
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.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 514, Cultures & Contexts: Ancient Israel
Prof. Jassen (Hebrew & Judaic Studies) syllabus
The culture of the ancient Israelite societies of biblical times, covering the period from about 1200 B.C.E. to the conquests of Alexander the Great, in the fourth century B.C.E. Topics include the achievements of these societies in the areas of law and social organization, prophetic movements, Israelite religion, and ancient Hebrew literature. The Hebrew Bible preserves much of the creativity of the ancient Israelites, but archaeological excavations in Israel and neighboring lands, as well as the discovery of ancient writings in Hebrew and related languages, have added greatly to our knowledge of life as it was lived in biblical times. The civilizations of Egypt and Syria-Mesopotamia also shed light on Israelite culture. Of particular interest is the early development of Israelite monotheism, which, in time, emerged as ancient Judaism, the mother religion of Christianity and Islam.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 516, Cultures & Contexts: India
Prof. Ganti (Anthropology) syllabus
Utilizing a variety of sources—novels, films, and academic scholarship—students are introduced to the history, culture, society, and politics of modern India. Home to one billion people, eight major religions, twenty official languages (with hundreds of dialects), histories spanning several millenia, and a tremendous variety of customs, traditions, and ways of life, India is almost iconic for its diversity. We examine the challenges posed by such diversity as well as how this diversity has been understood, represented, and managed, both historically and contemporarily.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 537, Cultures & Contexts: Modern Israel
Prof. Zweig (Hebrew & Judaic Studies) syllabus
Modern Israel—Society and Culture: Despite its small size and population, Israel is a diverse, dynamic, and complex society. To understand its ethnic, religious, and political divisions, the different ethnic origins of the Jewish population over the last 150 years will be examined, and the growing role of the Arab population (approaching 20%) in Israeli society will be discussed. The special role of religion in the secular state, the development of Hebrew speaking culture, the political system, the settlement movement and the peace movement, gender issues, and the role of the army in everyday life are all addressed, concluding with a survey of the debate on whether Israel is a Jewish state or a state of all its citizens. Although the controversial issues that keep Israel in the headlines are touched on, the focus is the character of Israeli society and the impact on everyday life of living in the international limelight.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 541, Cultures & Contexts: New World Encounters
Prof. Tortorici (Spanish & Portuguese) syllabus
What was America before it was called “America”? How did indigenous peoples understand and document their first encounters with Europeans and Africans? We focus on how the convergence of indigenous, African, European, and Asian peoples in the Americas created complex cultures, societies, ethnicities, and forms of religiosity. Beginning with the “discovery” of the “Indies” by Christopher Columbus in 1492, we work our way thematically and chronologically through the centuries of conquest and colonial rule, up until the wars of independence in the early nineteenth century. We also examine the historical context before 1492 in the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East (with an emphasis on how particular Old World encounters affected New World encounters).
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 545, Cultures & Contexts: Egypt of the Pharaohs
Prof. Roth (Hebrew & Judaic Studies) syllabus
Ancient Egypt during the New Kingdom period, 1550-1069 BCE. During this period of imperial conquest, the ancient Egyptian civilization, already more than sixteen centuries old, increasingly interacted with the peoples and civilizations beyond its borders. We examine the remains of this newly cosmopolitan pharaonic culture, including a variety of primary sources—texts (literature, popular stories, religious writings, letters, and administrative documents), as well as material culture (works of art, architecture, archaeological remains). Students learn how scholars analyze this material to reconstruct New Kingdom cultural life and use these methods themselves to gain insight into the Egyptians' religious beliefs, social forms and organizations, and conventions and achievements of their literature, art, and architecture, as well as to critically evaluate the interpretations and reconstructions in the secondary scholarship.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 549, Cultures & Contexts: Multinational Britain
Prof. Ortolano (History) syllabus
Introduces students to the peoples, cultures, and histories of the British Isles. Today home to a pair of European states, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, this grouping of islands off the northwestern coast of Europe has historically been home to an astonishing variety of peoples, kingdoms, religions, nations, and states. Rather than collapsing this diversity into a study of the English people or the British state, we think about the United Kingdom as a multinational formation, produced through the experience of repeated invasions, encounters, and migrations. Our ultimate goals are twofold: to learn about the peoples of the British Isles, and to use this knowledge to think critically about claims regarding national characteristics, ethnic stability, or cultural homogeneity--in Britain, and beyond.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 553, Cultures & Contexts: Pagan Europe, 60–1600 C.E.
Prof. Bedos-Rezak (History) syllabus
In pre-modern Europe, where a Christian outlook prevailed, the existence of pre-Christian cultures drove a master narrative that all but cast them off as the heterodox mythology and magic of primitive religions. We examine both the medieval evidence for the nature of European pagan cultures and the tendency of modern scholarship to endorse the medieval self-proclaimed image of a monolithic Christian occident. The medieval discourse on paganism cannot be reduced to its condemnation and rejection; this would ignore the ways that the predominant culture had in fact integrated elements of paganism into its theology, philosophy, rituals, calendar, life-cycle events, scientific knowledge, intellectual categories, literary creations, artistic repertoire, and physical environment. As we consider a millennium of European civilization (60 c.e.-1600 c.e.) from the perspective of paganism, we cross-pollinate multiple streams of evidence (textual, archeological, artifactual) with various epistemologies (history, anthropology, folklore, literary criticism), which will allow a new chronology and a new geography to emerge.
SPRING 2015 CORE-UA 554, Cultures & Contexts: Italy
Prof. Merjian (Italian) syllabus
The culture of modern Italy—a nation younger than the United States, yet steeped in all manner of millennial traditions, linguistic dialects, and regional artistic and economic customs. “We have made Italy; we must now make Italians.” Thus declared the politician and writer Massimo d’Azeglio following the country’s belated unification in 1861. How has Italy attempted to “make Italians” over the last century? What forms of culture could unify a people so diverse in origins and aspirations? Has the country managed to transform itself from a “geographic idea” to a cultural reality? Aside from commonplaces—rolling hills, historical landmarks, beloved cuisine, fashion runways—what are the bel paese’s most salient cultural characteristics, and why do they matter? We examine cultural manifestations in various visual, verbal, and material forms: manifestos, cinema, literature, popular music, poetry, architecture, painting, television, exhibitions, and journalism.