FALL 2015 CORE-UA 500, Cultures & Contexts: Topics—The Indian Ocean, from Egypt to Sri Lanka
Profs. Bagnall and Potts (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World) syllabus
For centuries the Indian Ocean basin has been a conduit for a variety of cultural encounters and transfers between South Asia, Arabia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. The sea routes through the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, down the coast of East Africa, and across the Indian Ocean, have been the maritime counterpart to the complex of land routes often called collectively the "Silk Road." They were trade routes, certainly; but the civilizations in this vast expanse were also connected by military action, diplomacy, the diffusion of religion and artistic currents, and many more interconnections. We look at the many facets that characterize the resulting network, involving the whole area from the Mediterranean to South Asia, from the Bronze Age onwards up to the days of the earliest European involvement in the region. The approach is multi-disciplinary throughout, as we consider a variety of primary evidence, ranging from ancient travel reports and business letters to spectacular archaeological artifacts, and how these different kinds of evidence contribute in the scholarly reconstruction of an early globalized world.
FALL 2015 CORE-UA 500, Cultures & Contexts: Civil War and Its Aftermath in 20th Century Spain
Prof. Labanyi (Spanish and Portuguese) syllabus
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 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.
FALL 2015 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.
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.
FALL 2015 CORE-UA 510, Cultures & Contexts: Russia
Prof. Kotsonis (Russian & Slavic Studies/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 2015 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 2015 CORE-UA 525, Cultures & Contexts: Latin America and the Caribbean
Profs. Ferrer and Thomson (History) syllabus
A general introduction to the history and culture of Latin America, focusing on major themes in the history of the region: colonization and interaction between Europeans, Africans, and indigenous people; the Atlantic slave trade and the creation of slave and plantation societies; race, nationalism, and revolution; and the place of the United States and Africa in the region. Readings include Spanish and indigenous accounts of the Conquest, firsthand accounts of the slave trade, revolutionary manifestos, political cartoons, and a range of other sources.
FALL 2015 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 2015 CORE-UA 532, 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.
FALL 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.
FALL 2015 CORE-UA 539, Cultures & Contexts: Asian/Pacific/American Cultures
Prof. Tu (Social & Cultural Analysis) syllabus
Major issues in the historical and contemporary experiences of Asian Pacific Americans, including migration, modernization, racial formation, community-building, and political mobilization, among others. Asian Pacific America encompasses a complex, diverse, and rapidly changing population of people. As an expression/reflection of their cultural identities, historical conditions, and political efforts, we pay particular attention to Asian Americans' use of cultural productions--films, literature, art, media, and popular culture.
FALL 2015 CORE-UA 543, Cultures & Contexts: Korea
Prof. Lee (East Asian Studies) syllabus
The global popularity of Korean culture and the transnational Hallyu (Korean Wave) boom continue to percolate beyond Asia and raise critical questions regarding transnationalism, cultural imperialism, and musical authenticity and hybridity. Using postcolonial aspirations of Koreans and the Hallyu as our focus, we examine the genealogy of "cultural modernity" in modern and contemporary Korea as it intersects with both Japanese and American imperialism and lingering colonial mentalities of Koreans. Reading engage a range of issues including colonial modernity, modernization, cultural imperialism, hybrid identity, memory and commemoration in nation-state building, the Korean War, Korean Wave, globalization and its aftermath. We examine the meaning of media and culture and its social changes in contemporary Korea through various audio-visual artifacts including Korean news, films, TV dramas, and pop songs.
FALL 2015 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 2015 CORE-UA 556, Cultures & Contexts: Germany
Prof. Wood (German) syllabus
An introduction to the achievements and paradoxes of modern German history and culture. Crucial historical background is the invention of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in the 1450s, the Protestant Reformation catalyzed by Martin Luther in 1517, and the Thirty Years’ War of the seventeenth century, but the emphasis is on the shaping role that German art and thought have played within European modernity from the late eighteenth century to the present, culminating in the regeneration of German literature and art since the 1960s, involving such figures as Heinrich Böll, Christa Wolf, Alexander Kluge, Ingeborg Bachmann, W.G. Sebald, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Josef Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, and Martin Kippenberger. Sources include literary, philosophical, and other texts, and works of art, architecture, music, and film.