FALL 2022 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 2022 CORE-UA 502, Cultures & Contexts: Islamic Societies
Prof. Alatas (Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies)
Islam and Politics—from the Prophet to the Present: An introduction to Islamic politics, that is, Islamic political thought and practice from the birth of Islam (c. 622) to the present. To give a comparative understanding of different configurations of Islamic politics that have taken shape in various parts of the Muslim world, students are introduced to the historical milieu, meaning, and significance of Islamic political cultures and practice as well as the various internal and external contestations that have continued to shape Islamic politics. Through exposure to the thoughts and activism of different Muslim leaders, thinkers, and ideologues, as well as various configurations of Islamic political formations, students gain a historical and comparative understanding of Islamic politics that will allow them to make sense of the latest trends in Islamic political thinking and practice, whether of reformist, modernist, liberal, or Islamist bent. At the same time, they develop a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between Islamic and Western political thinking, which has become a matter of urgency in the current global sociopolitical climate.
FALL 2022 CORE-UA 507, Cultures & Contexts: Japan
Prof. Shimabuku (East Asian Studies)
Since its inception in 1868, Japan has been regarded as exceptional: its unification into a nation state was relatively bloodless and its ensuing speed of modernization shocked the world, some have praised it as the first “non-white” nation to defeat a “white” nation in the Russo-Japanese War while others criticized it for becoming a major imperial power that colonized vast regions of the Asian Pacific, its economy rose from ground zero after World War II to the second largest in the world by the late 1970s. Today, it offers the largest financial contribution to U.S. military base operations globally—the very U.S. military that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Is Japan really exceptional? Does it possess a secret essence that enables it to do what others cannot? Or is the secret in its techniques of modernization and globalization that can, and in fact, have been used elsewhere? We study literary texts and films with theoretical and historical readings to rebuild the architecture of Japan’s “exceptional” modernization and uncover its hidden costs, paying particular attention to its innovative approaches toward multiethnicity as integral to its ability to not only manage, but thrive from economic crisis.
FALL 2022 CORE-UA 514, Cultures and Contexts: Ancient Israel
Prof. Fleming (Hebrew & Judaic Studies)
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 2022 CORE-UA 528, Cultures & Contexts: Russia and Revolution
Prof. O'Donnell (History)
By its own definition, the Soviet Union was neither nation-state nor empire, neither capitalist nor communist, neither east nor west. What was the Soviet Union? What is a personal dictatorship, and how did the Soviet Union become one? What was the role of the Communist Party in creating and maintaining Soviet rule? What was the role of violence or coercion? Did people “believe” in the Soviet Union, and if so, in what exactly? In the wake of recent challenges to liberal institutions across the Western world, the history of the Soviet Union offers its students critical insight into the characteristics of illiberal politics and unfree society. We examine the project of building socialism in the Soviet Union and its satellites, from the collapse of the Russian Empire to 1917 during the First World War, to the establishment of the Russian Federation in 1991. Though focused on Soviet institutions, practices, and ideologies, our aim is to situate the Soviet project in a global frame, and to assess the claim that Soviet socialism (though not necessarily the Soviet Union) was a project with a “shelf life,” conditioned by global politics and its own capacities for self-reproduction. Through extensive use of memoir, we consider individual processes of “illusionment” and disillusionment with the Soviet project, and analyze the life cycles of peasants, workers, bureaucrats, artists, writers, reformers, and other members of the Soviet establishment over time. Our analysis reaches from the First World War, through the creation of a socialist society, the geographical expansion of the socialist project and its subsequent implosion, into the new programs for liberalism, markets, and modernity of the 1990s and 2000s, and traces Soviet dominion, real and attempted, from Berlin to Baku, Vladimir to Vladivostok.
FALL 2022 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 2022 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 2022 CORE-UA 539, Cultures and Contexts: Asian/Pacific/American Cultures
Prof. Saranillio (Social and 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 2021 CORE-UA 544, Cultures & Contexts: Spain
Prof. Mendelson (Spanish & Portuguese)
What does Spanish culture look like? How do Spanish artists and writers articulate the often complex understandings they have of themselves, their nation(s), their relation to modernity, and the broader international community? How has Spain been viewed by others, and how have these views informed individual and collective responses to Spain's place in the world. We critically approach Spanish culture by learning about specific works, their close analysis, and the contexts in which they exist (when they were made, how they were perceived, and how we come to study them today), from the 19th to the 21st century, a period of time that covers Spain's transition from its imperial pasts to its democratic present, with important historical moments throughout, including the Spanish-American War, the Spanish Civil War, and the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. We study fiction, poetry, film, television, painting, poster art, photography, performance, and architecture; and whenever possible we connect with programs at New York’s museums, theaters, and parks.
FALL 2022 CORE-UA 545, Cultures and Contexts: Egypt of the Pharaohs
Prof. Roth (Art History/Hebrew & Judaic Studies)
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 2022 CORE-UA 556, Cultures & Contexts: Germany
Prof. Wood (German)
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.