Course Archive

HIS 517: Mobilities & Connections [Graduate Theme Seminar] (Spring 2015)

This seminar examines expanding circuits of global mobility from the early modern period to the present, and considers methodological implications of taking mobilities and connections as object of analysis. We will examine historical processes and dynamics on multiple scales from the perspective of people, commodities, and ideas in motion, along with dynamic networks and material or cultural effects these circuits generate; and the regulatory systems that emerge in consequence of increasingly robust flows. Expanding global connections and their effects produce new constraints and open a wide range of fresh possibilities for both states and diverse groups of people. The course will look closely at the interplay between unprecedented mobility and the restrictions imposed by modern political regimes, and the shifting relationship between people and real and imagined political entities from the global (empires, internationalisms, global governance bodies), to the provincial (kingdoms, nationalisms, nation-states). Organized thematically around mobile people, commodities, and ideas, and global institutions, we will examine disaporic migrant connections, global radical and anti-colonial movements, material and cultural effects of long-distance commodity production and exchange, and the circulation and expanding scope of institutional ideas and practices. The course will be interdisciplinary, incorporating comparative and monographic historical and anthropological studies, theoretical writings, and selections from literary or historical primary source texts; and transregional, examining particular themes via close consideration of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, and their interconnections. Readings will include books or articles by scholars such as Benedict Anderson, Sebouh Aslanian, Sven Beckert, Lauren Benton, Engseng Ho, Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Mark Mazower, Adam McKeown, Jeremy Prestholdt, Maia Ramnath, and Sanjay Subrahmanyam (links above are to recommended or required books ordered for the course).

HIS 340.03-J: Cities & Global Connections (Fall 2014)

Cities have long served as connecting points between geographically dispersed places. Over the last couple of centuries, urban populations have grown more and more rapidly, and technologies of mobility and communication have made them focal points of increasingly global flows. They have also become centers of tighter political control. The rise of Western world empires and political and economic imperialism have been critical in shaping migration patterns and the circulation of technologies and commodities. This course examines cities – densely populated, extensively built up, intensively surveilled urban zones – and the mobile people, ideas and commodities that shape them. We consider urban expansion from the early modern period onwards, and focus on the era after the late nineteenth century, when cities displace other spaces as the paradigmatic arenas of modern life. Starting with an introduction to key concepts, questions and trajectories in urban history, we then turn to case studies of major cities from a variety of locations (in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas). While the course is global in scope, we focus on cities that were integral to relationships of modern colonialism and imperialism, such as London, Mumbai and New York. Reading and discussion topics may include: government planning and urban development, everyday life, built form and architecture, public health and sanitation, policing and surveillance, housing and poverty relief, global capitalist transformations, or the politics of cultural difference, and the formation and negotiation of public spheres.


HIS 348: Colonial South Asia (Fall 2014)

Colonial South Asia comprised much of what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and was dubbed ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the British Empire at its height. The Subcontinent’s status as the most populous and lucrative colony of the world’s largest empire profoundly shaped the world of both colonized and colonizer there. This course will consider the political, social, economic and cultural effects of Britain’s rule in the South Asia from about 1700 to 1950.

We will examine in detail key themes such as the rise of the colonial state and changes in sovereignty, the formation of the colonial economy, the remaking of social categories (caste, religious community, gender relations), anti-colonial and nationalist movements, and decolonization. Overall, the course seeks to develop a narrative about South Asia that is attentive to both the profound violence and change wrought by colonialism and the agency of South Asians in the making of their own modernity.

HIS 301.01: The World of the Indian Ocean (Spring 2014)

Taking oceans, rather than nations or empires, as key units for historical study focuses attention on the movement of people, ideas and commodities across space, and the political and cultural formations that emerge from these circulations. This course will accordingly consider several different stages of globalization from antiquity to the present along the Indian Ocean littoral. We will focus on South and Southeast Asia, eastern and southern Africa, and West Asia (commonly known as the Middle East). A methodological section on oceanic history, and examples of concrete connections with other locations will take us, on occasion, beyond the limits of the Indian Ocean itself. The course will consider, both in minute detail and from a bird’s eye view, inter-regional connections spanning the Indian Ocean world forged by religious solidarities, far-flung trade networks, labor migration, imperial domination, and anti-colonial nationalism.

HIS/AAS 347: South Asia Before Colonialism (Spring 2014)

The South Asia region–contemporary India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan–has been the crossroads of diverse people, ideas and commodities for millennia. This course covers key themes and developments in the subcontinent from antiquity to the rise of British colonialism. We begin by covering major issues in early South Asia, and proceed to consider closely medieval and early modern periods. Central themes include pre-modern dimensions of the Hindu-Muslim encounter, emergence of South Asian regions, the subcontinent in global networks, and early presence of European powers.


In addition to surveying diverse political, socio-economic and cultural developments across South Asia, the course also raises methodological questions about how different sources provide different perspectives on history. Accordingly, we consider material evidence alongside various narrative primary sources, as well as scholarly writings. The course also highlights the importance of historical memory and the continuing relevance of the pre-colonial period in contemporary South Asia.


Summer Session I (May 28 – July 4)

TuTh 1:30-4:55

This course explores the significance of Central Asian peoples, goods, and places in historical perspective. Specifically, this course will investigate transnational relationships, overlapping peoples and regions, and historical interdependencies on the eastern front of Central Asia, where Central Asia meets China. We will explore the famous “silk road” of the early common era as one manifestation of this history. We will go backward and forward through time to uncover other manifestations of enduring connections between China and Central Asia. We will look at Xinjiang and Tibet, in the western borderlands of modern-day China, as well as parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, and Iran.

(Urumqi, People’s Republic of China, 2004 [Source: Wikimedia Commons])

From ancient times to the present, we ask the following question: what forces have brought this region together over time, and what forces have pulled it apart? Students will be responsible for completing three quizzes and two response papers.