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Academics, Research Centers, & Initiatives
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Academics, Research Centers, & Initiatives
Research and Writing Seminars
Hist. 80010- Literature Survey in American History
GC: W, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 5 credits, Prof. KC Johnson
The objective of this course is for students to read and discuss important studies in post Civil War American history. They will be considering the ways in which the critical elements of American history have been conceived, structured and narrated. Some of the readings are classics; others are important because they offer provocative theses about long established historical questions; yet others introduce new viewpoints and new questions for historical inquiry. The broad scope of readings provides an essential immersion in the literature of the field and promotes a textured perspective for subsequent colloquia and seminars. Students will also be considering diverse approaches and methods of historical analysis that will help them shape their own research projects. Open only to PhD Program in History students.
Hist. 84900- Seminar in American History II
GC: T, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 5 credits, Prof. Jonathan Sassi
This course is intended for first-year U.S. history majors and is the continuation of the Seminar in American History I. Having framed projects in the fall semester, students will complete the research and writing of an article-length research paper over the course of the spring semester. The class is designed as a workshop, in which participants will present their works-in-progress, constructively criticize one another’s writings, and tackle common problems of the research and writing process. Students will be responsible for circulating drafts of their developing works electronically in advance of class and preparing written responses to others’ papers. Timely completion of the assignments and collegial participation in the seminar are essential requirements. Open only to PhD Program in History students.
Hist. 80020- Literature Survey in European History
GC: M, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 5 credits, Prof. Benjamin Hett
This course is intended to provide an introduction to the major themes and historians’ debates on modern European history from the 18th century to the present. We will study a wide range of literature, from what we might call classic historiography to innovative recent work; themes will range from state building and imperialism to war and genocide to culture and sexuality. Students will be expected to take the lead in class discussions: each week one student will have the job of introducing the literature for the week, while another student brings to class questions for discussion. Over the semester students will write a substantial historiographical paper on a subject chosen in consultation with the instructor. This paper will be due on the last day of class. After completing the course students should have a solid basic grounding in the literature of modern Europe, which will serve as a basis for preparation for first year written exams, oral exams, and teaching and research work. Open only to PhD Program in History students.
Hist. 84900- Seminar in Non-American History II
GC: T, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 5 credits, Prof. Dagmar Herzog
This course is a continuation of History 80900 (Seminar in European and Non-American History I). Students will complete the research project developed in the fall, turning their prospectuses into 30-page papers of a publishable quality. The papers should be based on primary sources and should situate their topic within the appropriate historiographical context. During the semester, the class will read and discuss examples of model articles and, most importantly, offer constructive critiques of each other’s papers. Open only to PhD Program in History students.
Hist. 84900- Advanced Research Seminar
GC: R, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 5 credits, Prof. Joshua Freeman
In this course students will write, workshop, and rewrite a roughly 30-page research paper of publishable quality. The paper must be based on primary sources, work with a clearly defined historiographical problem, and reflect a high level of care for prose and professional standards. In class, we will read model essays, discuss research methods and writing strategies, and workshop drafts. Students should select a tentative topic for their paper before the first meeting of the course. The topic should be significantly different from each student's first year seminar paper but may constitute a piece of research that leads toward a dissertation. The course is only open to students in the PhD Program in History who have completed the first year seminar.
Hist. 89900- Dissertation Seminar
GC: T, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 0 credits, Prof. James Oakes
This workshop will give students the opportunity to develop and complete dissertation chapters. It will be conducted as a workshop with students reading and commenting on one another’s work under the professor’s guidance. Open only to Level 3 PhD Program in History students who have defended their dissertation prospectus.
Hist. 74900- Political Cultures, Cultural Politics, United States
GC: R, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. David Waldstreicher
A distinctive American politics and culture is said to have emerged, clearly and perhaps even triumphantly, during the early republic, the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War or Reconstruction. Several generations of scholarship elucidated this period as the locus classicus of American political ideologies (republicanism, liberalism, democracy, constitutionalism, nationalism, race), cultural forms (the captivity narrative, the boycott, the celebratory parade, blackface minstrelsy) and institutions (the voluntary association, the political party, the press, the presidency). And yet the nature and boundaries of that culture and that politics now appear to have been not only porous but also deeply contested. It seems less certain what the Revolution created or what the Civil War resolved, and thus less clear how the first century of the nation created patterns or cycles followed or broken. Nor is it obvious or settled what mattered more: the formal politics or what occurred seemingly outside it in the culture wars of the time. Or how to characterize the relationship between the two, or those messy middle grounds between politics and culture that scholars began to identify, during the late twentieth century, with terms like ideology, political culture, and cultural politics. Or to put it differently, whether to approach the making of the United States as a state, as states, or as a state or states of mind.
At a time when American exceptionalism has come under renewed and withering criticism for its politicized uses, how should we approach the making of an American politics and culture(s)? Did the first century of the republic set "American"—or other--patterns? What was united – or disunited – and how? What was the national state and the states, and what were the stakes of state-making? Is it sufficient to conclude that the battles over what would be American politics and culture constituted the politics, the culture? Are the concepts of culture and of politics with which historians have worked adequate to the task of understanding the history and its significance?
This seminar will address these questions by comparing classic and recent work by historians, by literary and cultural studies scholars in the American Studies tradition, and by political scientists -- including some scholarship that puts forward longer narratives that reach from the early republic to or through the twentieth century, something historians no longer do as often or as boldly as scholars in cognate fields. During most weeks there will also be a primary source or artifact under consideration that will help us evaluate whether various trends in scholarship are adequate not only to what we want and need to know now, but also to the demands the evidence may make on us.
Hist. 75700- Paths, Detours, and Barriers to Citizenship: Immigrants, Refugees, and Aliens in U.S. History, Law, & Culture
GC: M, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. David Nasaw
We will interrogate the sometimes conflicting, sometimes consonant, but always changing relationships between notions of citizenship—and its cultural significance, political resonance, and legal entitlements—and American immigration policy. While attentive to European migrations from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries, we will focus on twentieth and twenty-first century border crossings from Mexico, immigrations from Asia, Cold War refugees from Europe, and the discordant and unintended consequences of post-World War II legislation.
The readings will explore the separate but entwined historical literatures on “citizenship” and “immigration.” I have designed them to be global in reach and interdisciplinary in perspective. We will, as the semester proceeds, read several works of fiction written by authors who have immigrated to the United States in recent years, some with, some without their families.
Students may be asked to write short papers in the course of the semester and a major final paper in the form of a “lecture” to undergraduates on the themes and issues discussed in the readings.
Hist. 75800- History of the City of New York
GC: W, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Kessner, Thomas
New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it -- once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough. All of everything is concentrated here, population, theater, art, writing, publishing, importing, business, murder, mugging, luxury, poverty. It is all of everything. It goes all right. It is tireless and its air is charged with energy.
Whoever is born in New York is ill-equipped to deal with any other city: all other cities seem, at best, a mistake, and, at worst, a fraud. No other city is so spitefully incoherent.
A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: It is a beautiful catastrophe.
For those who would understand the past century of American history, the role of urban society is crucial. The influence of our cities has been considerable, pervasive and shaping. While the founding elite of the early republic fastened upon the nation the ethos of the plantation and southern life, cities assumed a more important part in setting national priorities following the Civil War. America's cities exerted broad economic, political and cultural authority, often steering the transforming forces of nineteenth and twentieth century American life. The impact of cities and especially the major metropolises on national life has been extraordinary.
Herald of twentieth century modernity, New York made itself into the center of world capitalism and American diversity. The variety of its markets and services afforded it a reach in space and influence that remains unmatched. Its fabled diversity provides a riveting history of relations between groups divided by class, interest, culture, ethnicity, and race.
Shown a portrait of her painted by Picasso in his characteristic style, Gertrude Stein gazed at it with some distaste, protesting: "But I don't look like that". "Don't worry," he replied, "you will, you will." How often New York has been viewed as unique only to discover that it was merely early.
This course will trace various themes in the history of the city through readings, discussions and student research.
Instructor permission required. Please write to
Hist. 75900- From Civil Rights to Black Power
GC: M, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Clarence Taylor
The modern civil rights movement is the most important social protest movement of the twentieth century. The movement helped cultivate national leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer. It was responsible for eradicating the American Apartheid system known as Jim Crow and it was the major reason for the passage of some of the most important laws in twentieth century America, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While prominent figures were important in shaping the civil rights struggles, the movement was also influenced by countless numbers of ordinary men and women who participated in civil rights campaigns throughout the nation, many whose names shall never be recorded in history books. Although some historians and others date the movement’s origin to the 1954 Brown decision, more recently, scholars in several disciplines contend that the civil rights struggle began much earlier. More recently scholars have been examining black and brown coalitions in the struggle for social and economic rights.
By the mid 1960s, the goals of the civil rights movement, including a fully integrated society were questioned by several national and grassroots leaders and activists who contended that empowering people of African origins in America should be the paramount objective of the black freedom struggle. On college campuses, among sports figures, politicians, theologians, business owners, and union members, Black Power became the major objective. This course examines the origins and the impact that the Civil Rights and Black Power movements had on American society. The course scrutinizes several theoretical explanations of these movements and the assigned books and articles focus on the ongoing debate among scholars over periodization, geography, conceptualization, and leadership of civil rights and Black Power movements in America.
Hist. 71500- Spaces and Identities in France and the Francophone World since 1750
GC: W, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. David Troyansky
A well-known French slogan refers to France as “one and indivisible.” However, historians know well the various ways in which France has been quite divisible. We will explore those ways by looking particularly at the theme of spaces and identities. We will pay attention to the history of the French landscape, the variety of divisions that are associated with the scholarship on history and memory, ideas of neighborhood in Paris in the eighteenth century, provincial cities and their surroundings in the nineteenth, and a variety of locations and “communities” in France and the Francophone world in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The first two thirds of the course will involve common and collective readings in the scholarly literature; the last third will involve student research and presentations on particular spaces and identities.
Hist. 72300- After Theory
GC: M, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Richard Wolin
"Theory" has become historical.
During the 1980s Theory’s cryptic messages and provisos coursed through departments of comparative literature and humanities promising, if always obliquely, a qualitative transformation of our conventional and retrograde intellectual and practical habitudes. Theory traded on the fading aura of 1960s radicalism, implying that, whereas the soixante-huitards ('68ers) had foundered, it would write the next chapter in the Book of Revolution. Its heightened awareness of past failures, nourished by a skepticism vis-à-vis metanarratives, seemingly enhanced its prospects of success.
But, when all is said and done, how might one, going forward, define "success"? When the entirety of a tradition is presumptively jettisoned or consigned to desuetude, it is difficult to know exactly where to begin – or to re-begin. Derrida implied that once the demons of logocentrism had been vanquished, life and thought would be permanently and positively transformed. However, both he and his acolytes refrained from pointing out that the thinker who had coined the term "logocentrism" was the well nigh unreadable, proto-fascist German Lebensphilosoph Ludwig Klages (cf. Geist als Widersacher der Seele; 3 vols. 1929-32).
In The History of Sexuality, Foucault, mistrusting the allure of collective action, or, in Hannah Arendt's words, "people acting in concert," recommended that we pursue "a different economy of bodies and pleasures," going so far as to invoke - in what can only be described as a prototypical instance of "Orientalism" - the Kama Sutra (sic) by way of illustration. However, in retrospect, this prescription seemed merely to dovetail with the "culture of narcissism" (cf. Christopher Lasch) that succeeded the demise of the contestatory spirit of the 1960s – as such, grist for the mill of an apolitical "lifestyle" or "identity" politics. In other words: an "apolitical politics."
Circa 1971, Foucault had internalized the deleterious linkage between "knowledge" and "domination" – or, "power-knowledge" – to the point where he was prepared to abandon both "writing" and "discourse" tout court, having concluded that both were merely expressions of hegemony. If we accept the Nietzschean claim that “truth” is little more than an efflux or manifestation of “power” (as Foucault suggests: “truth isn’t a reward for free spirits . . . it is produced by multiple forms of constraint. It induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth”), and if all norms are “normalizing,” what, then, is the basis of contestation and critique? Has the concept of emancipation remained meaningful, or must it, too, be cynically consigned to the rubbish heap of lost illusions?
The story of French Theory coincides with the reception of Nietzsche and Heidegger's thought in France during the 1950s and 1960s. Here, Deleuze's 1962 book on Nietzsche as well as Foucault's essay, "Nietzsche, Genealogy, and History" (1971) signify important way stations. Deconstruction, for its part, takes its inspiration from Heidegger's appeal in Being and Time for a "destruction of the history of Western ontology." At the outset, we will focus on pivotal German and French texts in order to secure a solid philosophical grounding in Theory's conceptual intricacies. Thereby, in a post-enlightenment spirit, the obscure shall be rendered clear - or, at least, clearer.
Marx once said: "We recognize only one science, the science of history." What, then, might it mean to historicize poststructuralism?
Prospective Book/Reading List:
o Nietzsche, "On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense"
o Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals
o Heidegger, "Letter on Humanism"
o Heidegger, Being and Time (selections)
o Derrida, "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences"
o Derrida, "Signature, Event, Context"
o Foucault, Discipline and Punish
o Foucault, History of Sexuality
o Deleuze, What is Philosophy?
o Cusset, French Theory
o Historicizing Postmodernism
o Habermas, Philosophical Discourse of Modernity
Hist. 78400- Knowledge is Power: The State and its Sciences in the Age of Enlightenment
3 credits, Prof. Barbara Naddeo
If age-old, the well-known aphorism "knowledge is power" was a watchword of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, an age in European history which has traditionally been hailed for its development and codification of the methods and disciplines of the modern sciences. If usually studied as the product of the culture and sociability of the age, the emergence of the modern sciences in Europe was also inextricably tied to the new political culture of the territorial state, which itself sought to sponsor, cultivate and harness the findings of the sciences to its own political ends. As a result, the age of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment was perhaps the first age of "big science," big-picture theories and large-scale projects which sought to transform the terrain and peoples of Europe's territorial states and their empires. At the same time, "big science" equally transformed the political culture of the state, the jurisdiction of its administration, and, no less, the rights and duties of its citizens. This dualistic trend is perhaps best illustrated by the advent of the human sciences, which more than a set of discourses was also tied to the new institutional culture and political practices of the emergent nation-state in Europe. What were the political ramifications of "big sciences" for the state, its subjects and citizens in the age of Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment? This class will provide the answer to that enduring question with its case studies of the major figures and projects of the new human sciences at the cusp of modernity.
Middle East History
Hist. 78110- Imperialism and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East
GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Simon Davis
This course surveys how interaction with increasingly influential foreign interests, and responses to them, both assimilative and resistant, shaped leading currents in Middle Eastern experience from the late eighteenth century onwards. Themes include imperialism in historical interpretation, perceptions and framings of the region, forms of political, economic, cultural and social change, and in Middle Eastern intra-regional, international and global relations. Each session will feature a discussion on a theme preceded by suggested readings from course texts, related published documents, and specialized scholarly journal articles relating to each topic. Students will each complete a research essay chosen from a number of assigned titles and reading lists, a number of smaller critical exercises and a final examination.
Latin American History
Hist. 77300- Law and Justice in the History of the Latin American City, c. 1500 to the present
GC: T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Amy Chazkel
This doctoral-level course examines the long history of cities in Latin America, from the early colonial era in the fifteenth century to the present day, with a particular focus on scholarship at the intersection of the study of the law and the humanities. We will consider topics that include, but are not limited to: the founding of cities as an expression of imperial power; gender and the question of private and public urban life; the centrality of urban slavery and freedpersons to the sociolegal history of Latin American cities; the long history of urban crime, justice, and policing; urban protest and social movements; architecture and power; and the history of struggles over control of urban space and time. A topic that we will treat in particular depth is the history of what has come to be called the “right to the city” as it developed out of centuries of struggles over urban resources throughout the region.
In addition to our readings, students will work throughout the semester toward producing an in-depth, publishable-quality historiographic essay as a final project.
This course is designed equally to explore the law and justice as crucial elements in the humanistic study of cities on the one hand, and, on the other, to familiarize students with a panorama of some of the most cutting-edge new scholarship on Latin American history, from the colonial era to the present. Students in this course do
need to have any prior knowledge of Latin American history, and students from other disciplines are warmly welcomed. All required readings will be in English; reading knowledge or Spanish and/or Portuguese would expand the possibilities available for writing the final paper but it not a requirement.
Hist. 72600- Human Rights and the Non-Western World
GC: W, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Manu Bhagavan
This graduate class will focus on the idea of human rights as it has been understood and propagated by and in the “non-Western” world. “Human rights” are at once posited as a universal category, and critiqued as a specifically Western discourse. But what are “human rights?” Where and when did the concept originate? Who invested the concept with meaning? How has the concept been contested, and how how is evolved as a result? In this seminar, we will explore the answers to these questions while further asking: what is the relationship of universalism to violence? Can there be a just, non-violent universalism? How are human rights defined in relation to, and in juxtaposition to, racism and imperialism? What role do human rights play in foreign policy and diplomatic history, if any? This seminar, in short, examines what kind of world is imagined and brought into being by human rights.
Hist. 72700- The African Diaspora
GC: R, 2:00-4:00 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Herman Bennett
By employing the heuristic concept of diaspora—and specifically the African diaspora—this course focuses on the analytical work generated by studying cultures of movement. As scholars, we might begin by asking whether diaspora complicates our understanding of disciplinary formations—including the normative assumptions that inform the study of society and culture. How does diaspora, for instance, enhance our perspectives on imperial, colonial, national and post-colonial formations and the ways in which they have been historically represented? In utilizing the prism of diaspora we confront the politics of representation through which scholars render meaning out of the past and present. For this reason, diaspora like other categories of analysis engages the vexed terrain of representation whereby scholars frame the subject of their inquiries.
Diaspora brings into relief many of the principle categories and themes informing the social and human sciences. It de-naturalizes many of the foundational assumptions on which contemporary social theory rests. For this reason, we will route our conversations and readings through some of the central concepts defining social theory (state, nation, society, sovereignty, difference, stratification, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture) so as to discern how diaspora might trouble existing forms of knowledge bequeathed to us by the Renaissance, Enlightenment and Modern Era.
On a practical professional level, the course serves as a graduate-level introduction to diasporas in general but the African diaspora in particular. Scholarship on this subject along with its development over time and in distinct settings (the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, England and Continental Europe) introduces us to the historical profession and professionalism. For this reason, we will devote significant time focusing and discussing how various scholars have framed and approached their scholarly projects. Since the African diaspora as a field of study constitutes a relatively novel endeavor, most of the readings draw on works from the last few years. While this conveys a sense of where the field is presently at it also serves to delineate how the African diaspora draws and builds on early forms of inquiry (the history of colonial expansion, the history of slavery and freedom, the history of racial formation, etc.) Over the semester we will constantly need to ask what defines an inquiry, an approach or a perspective as diasporic in scope. In doing so, we will necessarily focus on an earlier body of scholarship that was associated with different fields of inquiry (slavery, race relations, African Studies, Brazilian history, the study of religion, English Cultural Studies).
Hist. 74300- Readings in 19th Century Women's History
GC: M, 4:15-6:15 p.m., 3 credits, Prof. Kathleen McCarthy
When women’s history emerged as a subfield in the 1960s, its initial goal was to write women into the historical record. Since then, the analytical focus has shifted from an emphasis on “sisterhood” to class relations, political culture, gender constructs, transnationalism, and colonialism and empire. Cultural analyses have also become increasingly important, illuminating the subtexts that shaped women’s lives in different regions and eras, while microhistories have excavated the lives of ordinary Americans in revealing ways. This course will chart these historiographical shifts, as well as the ways in which women’s history has reshaped our understanding of American history for the period between 1790 and 1900.
Within this framework a variety of topics will be explored, including: 1) the legacy of the Revolution; 2) microhistory, female entrepreneurship and crime; 3) charity, “sisterhood” and class; 4) antebellum national and transnational social reform movements; 5) gender and the Gold Rush; 6) slavery and the Civil War; 7) Reconstruction, race and reform; 8) transnationalism and empire; 9) middle and working class cultures; 10) elite culture and cultural elites; 11) Gilded Age politics and labor; and 12) political culture and reform . Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which historians have analyzed the changing cultural subtexts that shaped women’s activities in different regions and times.
The goal of this course is threefold: 1) to help students prepare for their written and oral examinations; 2) to deepen their knowledge of the ways in which women’s history has reshaped our understanding of American history; and 3) to bolster their research, writing and analytical skills.
Students will lead one to three discussion sessions, and have a choice of doing weekly abstracts on the assigned readings for the weeks in which they are not presenting, or developing a research proposal on a women’s history topic of their choice for the period between 1790 and 1900.
PDEV 79400 Advanced Spoken English: Teaching and Presentation Skills
GC: Tuesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 0 credits, 
This course is designed to help students improve their spoken English in a variety of academic and casual settings through guided instruction of American-style conversation and direct instruction of spoken English fluency and pronunciation skills. Additionally, students will be instructed in the standard methods and style of teaching and presenting for the American university classroom. Students will also be discussing and learning about American culture via themes and topics that are relevant to the students’ interests.
PDEV 79401 Teaching Strategies
GC: Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 0 credits, Prof. Allen, 
This course is designed to provide students with practical advice and hands-on exercises to help them design future courses and prepare for classroom teaching. It is grounded in an understanding of the social context of teaching at CUNY as well as providing some theoretical discussion of what makes for good pedagogical practice. This course will be especially valuable for graduate students who will soon be teaching undergraduate courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
PDEV 79403 Effective Academic Writing – for native English speakers
GC: Tuesday, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm. TBA, 0 credits, Prof. Smith,  Section for native English speakers.
This course is designed to help students improve their academic writing. This section is meant for native English speakers who want to address issues in their writing and overcome particular writing hurdles.
PDEV 79403 Effective Academic Writing – for non-native speakers
GC: Wednesday, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm. TBA, 0 credits, Prof. Parmegiani,  Section for non-native English speakers.
This workshop course intends to help students improve their academic writing skills. The section is restricted to students who speak English as a foreign language and will address common issues and problems that they may face when writing. All students are required to share with the class a draft of their own academic writing in progress.
Colloquium on College Teaching
GC: Monday, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm. TBA, 0 credits, Prof. Cahn, 
This colloquium will critically examine issues concerning a professor’s teaching responsibilities and related collegial obligations. Among the subjects to be discussed are academic freedom, institutional governance, teaching strategies, testing and grading, research responsibilities, departmental duties, professorial-administrative relationships, and faculty recruitment (as viewed by both employers and applicants). The colloquium is intended for doctoral students planning for academic careers.