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History Department Graduate Seminars, Spring 2017

AFH 6259, African and Global Medical Histories. Dr. Nancy Hunt. Thursday 8-10 periods.

In part, this graduate seminar will compare. Yet we will also think seriously about historical questions and their relationship to scale. A good share of our time will be spent building a critical appreciation of one field: Africa and its medical histories. Thus, we will consider how Africanist medical historiography departed in the 1970s from the history of disease and epidemiology into matters of political economy or ecology, while developing over the years in relation to religious imaginations and practice; rivalries among the biomedical and the vernacular; with recent anthropological and STS (Science & Technology Studies) forays into the rise of studies of suffering, technologies, and “global health.” If it is important to think about what makes the field of African medical history strikingly unusual (or not), it is fascinating to ask: What may happen when any historians of medicine attempt to “go global” with their questions, research, and narratives? Need the shift in scale yield forms of functionalism alone? What is to be gained in thinking across fields and world regions into capacious matters relating to (for instance) life and death, health and affliction, or disability and the psychic? All graduate students of history may gain much from this seminar, therefore, which will fundamentally ask about how fields of historical writing develop, thrive, or disappoint. In the process, we will also explore the significance of different kinds of historical writing that do and do not label themselves as “medical” but speak to matters of health, bodies, dying, madness, and the like.

Requirements and format: We will usually read a monograph or several articles per week. Students will write near-weekly critical commentary papers and develop a program of writing (and research) with the instructor related to their particular interests and needs. Most will write a significant historiography paper around a theme of choice and focused on 2-3 global (or African) regions. (Others may seek to negotiate a plan of work that gets them closer to preliminary examination preparation, a dissertation prospectus or chapter. Students who are not historians will find their way into this thicket and write papers germane to their disciplinary and individual needs.) In addition to engaged attendance, students will meet at least once with the instructor, do at least one oral presentation, and workshop their paper proposals during seminar time. For further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch:

This seminar counts toward the World History minor.


AMH 6199, US 19th Century History. Dr. Matthew Gallman. Tuesday 8-10 periods.

AMH 6199 is a required seminar for PhD and MA students in the AMH graduate program.  It is organized as a readings seminar, with monographs assigned nearly every week.  Students will lead discussions, prepare short review essays, and write an extended historiographic essay on a selected topic.  There will be no research component.  The goal of this seminar is to introduce graduate students to a range of scholarship on Nineteenth Century U.S. History.  Most – but not all – of the readings will be fairly recent books.  The seminar will touch on a diversity of topics, but many discussions this semester will emphasize scholarship examining the intersection of gender, race, region and class.  Although this is a required course for AMH students, graduate students in all fields in History, and in a wide range of disciplines outside history, have taken this seminar and made valuable contributions.

AMH 5667, American Legal History. Dr. Dale. Wednesday 8-10 period.

This course will look at the modern legal history of the United States, defined as the period from 1865 through the end of the twentieth century. We will read a mix of recent books and articles on legal history topics, trying to get an overview of major issues in the field and an introduction to significant moments in legal history. Topics we will cover will be the legal history of crime and punishment, the transformation of the American state, and the revolutions (and counterrevolutions) in rights across that period. The course requires no special legal knowledge.

EUH 5934, Christianity and the Body. Dr. Bonnie Effros. Wednesday 8-10 periods.

This course will bridge the disciplines of European history and archaeology in late antique Christianity and the European early Middle Ages by focusing on the differential representation and treatment of male and female bodies. Its point of departure will be the ancient belief that women’s reproductive organs were inverse versions of male genitalia. The logical implication of this view was that a woman’s body, as opposed to a man’s body, was incomplete and thus less than fully human; in order to attain full humanity and the dignity of a soul, a woman had to, in some sense, become a man. We will explore some of the ways in which the dominant male standard and the desire to control and transform an inadequately formed body constituted a central intellectual preoccupation in the medieval Mediterranean and more generally in medieval Western culture.

Some of the themes we will address include monastic claustration (permanently imprisoning the body), self-mutilation, martyrdom (fragmentation), cross-dressing and gender slippage in late antique and early medieval written sources. Readings will include selections from the church fathers, histories of saints, monastic rules, visionary texts, theological works and ancient and early medieval medical treatises. We will also treat where possible archaeological representations of Christian bodies. To supplement the primary sources, we will read modern interpretations of this material. It is hoped that in looking at the ways in which men and women were conceptualized and represented, we will recuperate a body of literary texts and practices that without such contextualization seem incomprehensible and bizarre. The central problems that the readings variously thematize, namely the exercise of power, control and interpretation with regard to human bodies, are highly “modern” and relevant to us today.


HIS 5939, Second-Year Seminar. Dr. Michelle Campos. Monday 8-10 periods.

The second-year seminar is a required course for all doctoral students, and is strongly recommended for all Master’s students. The aim of the seminar is to facilitate students’ continued development of the research and writing skills necessary for the eventual successful completion of an original and high-quality dissertation or thesis. For some students, the second-year seminar will be the first opportunity to carry out an extended trial examination of part of their dissertation topic; for others, particularly Master’s students, it might serve as the first polished draft of their thesis. By the end of the semester, all students will produce a 10,000 word (~40 page) paper based on primary and secondary source research placed within the context of a larger historiographic conversation within their field.

For more information on the seminar including assessment criteria, see


HIS 6061, Historiography. Dr. Louise Newman. Monday 8-10 periods.

his course introduces beginning graduate students to some of the key concepts and challenges involved in reading, researching, and writing history at the professional level.   First we will read some theoretical/philosophical works that  discuss how the assumptions and methods of academic historians have changed over recent decades, considering such concepts as objectivity, evidence, narrative, causality, agency, etc. Then we will study some exemplary monographs drawn from students’ major fields of interest, enabling us to see how historians “frame” their questions, engage in conversations with others, and justify the significance, or usefulness of their work.


LAH 5933, US Imperialism and the Latin American Cold War. Dr. Lilian Guerra. Friday from 2:15-5:15 pm.

Looking especially at the period from the 1940s through the 1990s, this seminar examines a new generation of scholarship that seeks to examine the internal processes, experiences and comparative authoritarianism of Latin America’s “Cold War” states. Countries of particular centrality to the course are: Chile, Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Cuba.  Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, some of our readings will include  archive-based explanations of the origins of the genocidal regimes of Guatemala and El Salvador in peasant-based rebellions; the emergence and linking of dictatorships of “state terror” in Argentina and Chile into umbrella operations of surveillance and disappearance; studies of “memory” as instruments of contesting/defeating some of these regimes; and the rise and paradoxical policies of the national security state/”grassroots dictatorship” of Cuba. Common themes examined across these countries’ historiographies are race, gender, sexuality, the nature of central-left popular political cultures, strategies of repression developed through US-funded military training programs of “advisement”  as well as “development” as a common, normalizing paradigm of justification not the world stage.

Introduction to the History Examined in the Seminar: Beginning in 1948, the government of the United States dramatically shifted its justifications for what had been a long tradition of intervening militarily and diplomatically in Latin America. Until that point, US officials had sought to preserve a highly undemocratic political status quo throughout much of the region in order to protect and expand US business interests.  However, US involvement in World War II had relieved the interventionist pressure on many countries most affected by US interests and repressive regimes, especially those of Central America and the Caribbean. There, citizens successfully ignited movements for change that resulted in reforms that were, while far from revolutionary, nothing short of radical: Guatemala held its first truly fair and democratic elections in 1944; protests and strikes achieved labor concessions from military dictators in Nicaragua and El Salvador; Cuba witnessed the most democratic, prosperous period of its history; Chile moved closer to achieving a consensus not only on the rights of urban workers but on the need to break up the great, semi-feudal estates responsible for the misery of the rural poor.

From the 1950s through the early 1990s, US officials and businessmen viewed reforms and pro-reform governments in Latin America as a dangerous, slippery slope toward a Communist take-over.  Indeed, top US officials, their constituents, the media and even large swaths of the US public came to see any critique of private capital, the United States and/or private property as “anti-American”, “Communist”, “Communist-inspired” or an opportunity for the Soviets to create a neo-colony or “Soviet satellite.” Thus, long before the Cuban Revolution seemed to prove that the struggle for political autonomy from the United States was a zero-sum game in the early 1960s, the US was already establishing that very paradigm. Through its policies, its discourse and, most importantly, US commitment to providing even the most brutal Latin American regimes with virtually unconditional military support and training, the US signaled its willingness to back up the most conservative, often most authoritarian side of any national conflict, whatever the cost.The results of this struggle for greater freedom in Latin America and the collaboration of local elites with the United States to repress unarmed and later, armed challenges to the historical status quo are the focus of this seminar.

Goals and Materials: This class is meant to fully ground participants in the history and historiography of the most pivotal cases of Latin America’s Cold War. We will be committed to discussing mutual readings that should prepare students for  exams, research and/or teaching the period of the late Twentieth Century in Modern Latin America. Memoirs, unconventional histories, anthropological accounts and primary sources of a documentary nature will be used.