FALL 2021 CORE-UA 500, Cultures & Contexts: Greco-Roman Egypt
Prof. Ratzan (Institute for the Study of the Ancient World)
For more than a millennium after the reign of the last pharaohs, Egypt was controlled by a series of foreign powers: first the Persians, then the Greeks, and finally the Romans for nearly seven centuries until the arrival of the Arabs. But how did these empires communicate with and control their Egyptian subjects? For their part, how did the Egyptians experience imperial rule and react to their overlords? What stayed the same and what changed with these regimes and why? Indeed, after so many centuries, what did it really mean to be "Egyptian"? Such questions presume we know how to understand this history, but what model should we use--colonialism, multiculturalism, assimilation, Hellenization, Romanization--and what’s at stake for us in the way we write it? Focusing on Egypt between the pharaohs and the caliphs, we study key figures, places, and events in the history of Greco-Roman Egypt, as well as the important social, political, and economic conditions and processes that helped to shape that history, and explore the dynamic relationship between individuals, society, and empire in the ancient world.
FALL 2021 CORE-UA 509, Cultures & Contexts: Caribbean
Prof. Fischer (Spanish & Portuguese) [Syllabus]
The culture and politics of the Caribbean considered through key moments of Caribbean history: “Discovery,” slavery and the struggles against it, colonialism and independence movements, U.S. occupations, dictatorships and revolutionary movements, the massive growth of a Caribbean diaspora, and the transformation of the Caribbean islands into so many tourist destinations. While the Spanish-speaking islands (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) are at the center, the French and English-speaking Caribbean, and questions that concern the Caribbean as a region, will be part of the discussion. Readings are drawn from primary sources (slave testimonies, declarations of independence, revolutionary discourses), literary texts, film, and important essays in cultural studies/critical theory, anthropology, and history.
FALL 2021 CORE-UA 514, Cultures and Contexts: Ancient Israel
Prof. Fleming (Hebrew & Judaic Studies) [Syllabus]
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 2021 CORE-UA 532, Cultures and 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 2021 CORE-UA 534, Cultures and Contexts: The Black Atlantic
Prof. Morgan (Social and Cultural Analysis) [Syllabus]
[Networked with NYU Accra]
We consider the Black Atlantic as a socio-cultural and economic space from the 15th-century first arrival of Africans in the ‘New World,’ through the rise of slavery in the Americas, continuing on to slave emancipation and decolonization in the 19th and 20th centuries, and conclude with contemporary black life in the Atlantic world. We trace the origins and importance of the concept of the Black Atlantic in the context of European imperial expansion and the transformation of indigenous structures of governance in the Americas, paying special attention to shifting social relations that shaped community formation among people of African descent and laid the foundations for political and economic institutions. Topics include: civilization, slavery, colonialism, capitalism, freedom, and justice. We approach these broad concerns through focused engagement with 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 2021 CORE-UA 536, Cultures and 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 2021 CORE-UA 537, Cultures and 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 2021 CORE-UA 539, Cultures and Contexts: Asian/Pacific/American Cultures
Prof. Saranillio & Prof. Lee (Social and Cultural Analysis) [Syllabus]
Using an interdisciplinary approach, this course will examine historical and contemporary examples of Asian/Pacific/American political, social, and cultural practices in the United States. Bringing together a diversity of texts related to and within the field of Asian/Pacific/American studies, the course will explore what constitutes Asian/Pacific/American identity and, indeed, what constitutes the dynamic field of Asian/Pacific/American studies itself. Emerging from various forms of student and community organizing in the late 1960s, the social movement based and interdisciplinary questions of this field has expanded to offer different ways of thinking about questions of race, gender, sexuality, nation, immigration, sexuality, ecologies, and imperialism. As a class, we will collectively examine Asian American and Pacific Islander communities through a thematic approach that will allow us to understand diverse communities in relation to each other. Such an approach creates space to examine the specificities as well as the overlapping similarities of the relations of power that constitute these different communities.
FALL 2021 CORE-UA 541, Cultures & Contexts: New World Encounters
Prof. Eustace (History) [Syllabus]
During the Atlantic Age of Sail, from the fifteenth though the nineteenth centuries, the peoples of four continents—Europe, Africa, North American and South America—began to interact in sustained and complex ways for the first time. They brought to their encounters diverse cosmologies (beliefs about the spiritual world), epistemologies (systems of knowing and gathering empirical knowledge), family formations (networks of kinship), state configurations (forms of political organization), trading patterns (systems of material accumulation and exchange), and traditions of war and peace (forms of conflict and negotiation across groups). From their divergent approaches to the distribution and regulation of land, population, and goods arose a complex new transoceanic system that would tie together these four corners of the Atlantic. Reading early historical accounts, travel narratives, personal memoirs, novels, poems, and plays, we see how Atlantic peoples make sense of their changing worlds and the creative tensions of encounter, and come to understand the productive conflicts that ultimately gave rise to an Age of Atlantic Revolutions.
FALL 2021 CORE-UA 543, Cultures and Contexts: Korea
Prof. Oh (East Asian Studies) [Syllabus]
Human being is often conceptualized according to various social relationships. The concepts of individual or self, for example, are closely related to those of society or the other. Are these global ideas? All of these modern concepts have in fact been imported and translated into Korea in the early 20th century. We consider how the self-formation of the “I” and “we” are understood and represented in relationships by exploring the topics of love, family, community, and society in modern Korean culture. It is not a mere coincidence that the concept of love, or free love, is brought into Korea soon after the concepts of individual and society are introduced and translated from Europe through Japan. Korean literature, including Yi Kwang-su’s Mujong, said to be the very first modern Korean novel, often depicts a love story as a quest of the modern individual’s self-discovery. Moreover, the family narrative that is predominant in Korean culture is also intimately related to the ups and downs of national history and social changes. By analyzing the conceptualization of the “I” along the formation of the “we” in Korean literature, film, TV drama, among other forms of cultural production, students explore broad spectrum of Korean culture and contextualize it on both individual and social levels.
FALL 2021 CORE-UA 545, Cultures and Contexts: Egypt of the Pharaohs
Prof. Roth (Art History/Hebrew & Judaic Studies) [Syllabus]
The culture of ancient Egypt in the New Kingdom period, 1550-1069 B.C.E. During this period of imperial conquest, the ancient Egyptian civilization, already more than sixteen centuries old, increasingly interacted with 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. Finally, we try to see how cultural assumptions interact and reinforce each other, playing out in a wide range of Egyptian cultural products.
FALL 2021 CORE-UA 555, Cultures and 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.
FALL 2021 CORE-UA 556, Cultures & Contexts: Germany
Prof. Strowick (German) [Syllabus]
Introduces students to modern German culture from the 18th century to the present through thought, literature, and film, focusing on three central aspects: knowledge and critical thinking; aesthetics, the modern metropolis, and theories of totalitarianism; and divided stories. Before the background of Kant’s question “What is enlightenment?,” we analyze Lessing’s call for tolerance in Nathan the Wise, the desire for knowledge in Goethe’s Faust, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, Freud’s notion of the “unconscious,” and Kafka’s analysis of modern formations of knowledge and power. Moving to German culture of the 20th century, we consider the experimental aesthetics of “Weimar Cinema,” which explores the modern metropolis, among other things, and which came to an abrupt end with Hitler's seizure of power in 1933. We discuss the dynamics of crowd psychology, which contributed to the rise of National Socialism, as well as the self-alignment of aesthetics with the totalitarian politics of Nazi Germany as shown in the films by Leni Riefenstahl. Seminal theories of totalitarianism include Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment and Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism – both of which were written in the U.S., since their authors had been forced to emigrate from Nazi Germany. Finally, we turn to the numerous films and literary texts that address the division into West and East Germany following the end of World War II, analyzing the different cultures of the two German states (xenophobia and left wing terrorism in West Germany in the 1970s, censorship and the culture of surveillance in the German Democratic Republic), as well as post-wall Germany after 1989.