SPR 19: East & South Asian History Courses
HIST 15300 Introduction to East Asian Civilization 3 This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This is a three-quarter sequence on the civilizations of China, Japan, and Korea, with emphasis on major transformation in these cultures and societies from the Middle Ages to the present. Taking these courses in sequence is not required.
HIST 20111 History of Death (K. Hickerson) From the treatment of mortal remains to the built environment of cemeteries, tombs, and memorials, the dead have always played a role in the lives of the living. This course examines how beliefs and practices surrounding death have been a source of meaning making for individuals, institutions, religious communities, and modern nations. It will ask students to consider how examining death makes it possible to better understand the values and concerns of societies across time and space. This course will consider case studies from Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, North America, Europe, and Asia, from the Middle Ages to the Vietnam War. It introduces students to the methods and debates that animate the historical study of death—coming from histories of the body, social history, and the study of slavery—and ends by asking the question: "Is it possible to have a global history of death?"
HIST 20805 Cities and Urban Space in the Ancient World (M. Andrews) Cities have been features in human landscapes for nearly six thousand years. This course will explore how cities became such a dominant feature of settlement patterns in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, ca. 4,000 BCE–350 CE. Was there an "Urban Revolution," and how did it start? What various physical forms did cities assume, and why did cities physically differ (or not) from each other? What functions did cities have in different cultures of the past, and what cultural value did "urban" life have? How do past perspectives on cities compare with contemporary ones? Working thematically and using theoretical and comparative approaches, this course will address various aspects of ancient urban space and its occupation, with each topic backed up by in-depth analysis of concrete case studies.
HIST 20902 Empires and Peoples: Ethnicity in Late Antiquity (R. Payne) Late antiquity witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of peoples in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Vandals, Arabs, Goths, Huns, Franks, and Iranians, among numerous others, took shape as political communities within the Roman and Iranian empires or along their peripheries. Recent scholarship has undone the traditional image of these groups as previously undocumented communities of "barbarians" entering history. Ethnic communities emerge from the literature as political constructions dependent on the very malleability of identities, on specific acts of textual and artistic production, on particular religious traditions, and, not least, on the imperial or postimperial regimes sustaining their claims to sovereignty. The colloquium will debate the origin, nature, and roles of ethno-political identities and communities comparatively across West Asia, from the Western Mediterranean to the Eurasian steppes, on the basis of recent contributions. As a historiographical colloquium, the course will address the contemporary cultural and political concerns—especially nationalism—that have often shaped historical accounts of ethnogenesis in the period as well as bio-historical approaches—such as genetic history—that sometimes sit uneasily with the recent advances of historians.
HIST 24810 China and Global Capitalism since 1911 (J. Werner, Collegiate Assistant Professor) This course examines China's violent encounter with capitalism over the last century. How are we to explain the "failure" of China to follow the classical free-market path of development? Why did Marxism become such a powerful ideology in a country that was so incompletely capitalist, and what is the relation of the Mao era's "socialism" to capitalism? Is contemporary China a case of free-market excess or of state domination? How does today's US–China trade war rise from this history? In order to answer these questions, this course will develop capitalism as a category that goes beyond a narrow focus on economic issues. We will apply and evaluate several competing frameworks that allow us to conceptualize capitalism as simultaneously a global structure and an everyday practice of social life. Drawing upon these different approaches, we will interpret not just the movement of commodities and the dynamics of class division in China, but changing concepts and practices of gender and nation as well. Through these discussions we aim to understand how capitalism has shaped China while using China's experience to enrich our understanding of capitalism.
HIST 29525 The Global Life of Things (O. Cussen, Von Holst Prize Lecturer) We are often told that the market has taken over all aspects of our social lives. The effects of this process can be seen in the financialization of the economy, the deregulation of labor, and the exploitation of natural resources. Goods are produced on one side of the world and consumed in another. Even college students are seen as investments that accrue value. How did this happen? This course will examine the deep history of how so much of the world became commodities. Focussing primarily on the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, we will ask how work, time, land, money, and people were commodified. We will also consider how historians and anthropologists have told the history of global capitalism through particular commodities, including sugar, cotton, meat, grain and mushrooms. Readings will span western Europe, India, the Atlantic World, Chicago, and contemporary Japan. Periodically, we will reflect on how these histories bear on questions of labor, gender, and the environment in the present day.