African History

HIST 25217  Decolonizing Science  (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow)  What does science look like from the perspective of colonized, indigenous, or otherwise marginalized people? How has science been used to justify domination during the age of imperialism? Can science and technology ever be morally neutral? How universal is science? What ways of knowing have existed in the past that provided systematic explanations for natural phenomena? This course will ask these and other questions about the global practice of the sciences from prehistory to the present and, when possible, view the sciences from the perspective of non-Western people. We will examine both the contributions of non-Western cultures to modern science as well the use of the sciences by Western powers as tools of colonization. We will also examine the methodological, epistemological, and ontological assumptions made by modern science and attempt to tease out some of their more problematic aspects. Topics may include the development of Islamic, Chinese, and Indian sciences; pre-Columbian mathematics and botany; indigenous cosmologies and astronomy; practical knowledge (e.g., Papuan taxonomic systems, Polynesian navigational astronomy, and West African botanical medicine); the use of science as a tool of subjugation or resistance; the racialization of medicine; phrenology, eugenics, and social Darwinism; indigenous resistance to nuclear weapons, fossil fuel companies, agribusiness, and climate change.

HIST 25613  Saints and Sinners in Late Antiquity  (R. Payne)  Between the third and seventh centuries, Christian communities came to flourish throughout the Middle East and neighboring regions in the Roman and Iranian empires as well as the kingdoms of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Ethiopia. This course will examine the development of Christian institutions and ideologies in relation to the distinctive social structures, political cultures, economies, and environments of the Middle East, with a focus on the Fertile Crescent. The makers of Middle Eastern Christianities were both saints and sinners. Holy men and women, monks, and sometimes bishops withdrew from what they often called "the world" with the intention of reshaping society through prayer, asceticism, and writing; some also intervened directly in social, political, and economic relations. The work of these saints depended on the cooperation of  aristocrats, merchants, and rulers who established enduring worldly institutions. To explore the dialectical relationship between saints and sinners, we will read lives of saints in various Middle Eastern languages in translation.

HIST 29421  Politics of Commemoration  (L. Auslander)  Most of the time we pass in front of the statues, commemorative museums, monuments, and flags that inhabit our cities without noticing them. In recent years, however, they (along with pre-college history curricula) have become controversial across the globe. This course addresses those controversies primarily in Europe and the United States, but also in Latin America, West Africa, and South Africa. Through a series of case studies we will analyze the conditions of the creation of statues, monuments, and museums. Who conceptualized them and lobbied for their creation? Who paid for them? For whom were they originally intended? What message did they convey? What happened over time? How did their message change? Did they provoke controversy at the moment of their planning or inauguration or later and, if so, from whom? Equal attention will be paid to scholars' efforts to address the question of what these commemorative works actually do. If they really become unnoticeable, then why does the threat of their removal so often spark such intense controversy? Assignments: Active participation in class, one secondary text analysis, one analysis of a controversy, and one proposal for a monument, museum, or school curriculum.

HIST 49502  Colloquium: Colonialism, Globalization, and Postcolonialism  (R. Austen)  This course deals with European overseas expansion from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries, the emergence from this process of new colonial territories inhabited by non-Europeans, and the fate of these territories as "postcolonies" in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century global order. The analytic goal is to integrate politics (the formation of colonial regimes and successor nation-states); economics (the dialectics of global capitalism, European overseas expansion, and varieties of development and underdevelopment), and culture (the construction of European and Third World identities via colonialism). The lectures and assigned readings will privilege "northern" Europe (as opposed to Iberia) but will include France. We will focus upon tropical Africa, the British and French Caribbean, and South Asia, but students are welcome to challenge or extend this definition of the topic. I will normally lecture on Wednesdays, and we will normally discuss the readings on Fridays. Assignments: Two short (3–5 pp) critical papers on specialized readings and one longer final essay (10–12 pp) discussing an approved, self-selected topic. The analysis of these readings must take into account the relevant general material in the course. Students may select a take-home final exam based on the required readings as an alternative to the longer paper.