Empire, Colonialism, & Globalization

Although it has been imagined and experienced from very different vantage points, the modern world-system has only recently become a coherent and integrated object of historical analysis.

Focusing on transnational historical processes, courses in this thematic area help students learn to analyze western imperial expansion, cultural encounter, and the politics of representation; the articulation of metropolitan and colonial social formations; the transnational flow of peoples, ideas, and goods and the unequal power relations they embodied; and the cultural contradictions of empire, colonialism, and modernity.

Possible course topics might include: comparative slavery in the Atlantic world; migration, hybridity, and diasporic identities; British, French, or Iberian imperial conquest, slavery, and subaltern struggles; global capitalism and commodity histories; North-South relations; and the impact of technology and the mass media on globalization.

Empire, Modernity & Globalization is one cluster in the History Department’s thematically-organized Research Program.

Empire, Colonialism, Globalization News

Doctoral Student wins Fulbright

Congratulations to Stony Brook History Department PhD student Erica Mukherjee, who has been awarded a Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship for 2015-16. The grant will support 9 months of research in India on her dissertation project, “The Real and Imagined Environments of the Colonial Indian Railways.”

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 563/CEG 536: South Asian History Field Seminar/Introduction (Fall 2012)

This course will provide an advanced introduction to South Asian history and historiography from the early modern period to the present. We will cover major works on key themes, including precolonial cultural relations, colonialism and imperialism, the politics of religious identity, anti-colonialism and nationalism, decolonization and partition, and postcolonial developments. Readings of classics of the field – drawn from various schools of historiography – will be supplemented with selections from relevant primary sources. This is not a survey course, and does not attempt to be comprehensive. No prior knowledge of the field is prerequisite, and the course will begin with a rapid thematic survey of South Asian history. This course is jointly designed for History PhD and MA students for whose research and teaching a knowledge of South Asian history will be useful, and for MAT students who intend to teach South Asian and global history at the advanced secondary level. Requirements include preparation and participation, a series of short response or feedback papers, project presentation, and either a topical historiographical essay (for HIS 536 students), or a lesson plan (for CEG 536 students).

Graduate Core Seminar Recommended Readings, Part 3

Colonialism, Capitalism, Modernity

Early Modern Colonialism/Latin America:

Clendinnen, Inga. Ambivalent conquests : Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Mignolo, Walter. The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization. 2nd ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003.

Capitalism/World Systems:

Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Braudel, Fernand. Capitalism and material life, 1400-1800. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

Frank, Andre Gunder. ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Pomeranz, Kenneth. The great divergence : China, Europe, and the making of the modern world economy. Princeton  N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Wallerstein, Immanuel Maurice. The Modern World-System. New York: Academic Press, 1974.

Modern Colonialism:

Cooper, Frederick, and Ann Laura Stoler, eds. Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Cooper, Frederick. Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

Wolf, Eric R. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.


Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Oxford [England]: Blackwell, 1989.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991.

HIS 653 — Transnationalizing History/Historicizing the Global

By now, it has become widely accepted that History (with a capital H) was deeply implicated in naturalizing the territorially delimited nation-state as one of the fundamental categories of historical analysis and narration. This recognition of the radical historicity of their own disciplinary knowledge is leading many historians to take the “transnational turn.” Despite the rapid spread of transnational studies, however, the theoretical thrust and the political valences of the concept still remain imprecise.

Furthermore, so many of the works which march under this banner do so with little or no critical analysis of race, gender, and sexuality. This seminar will explore how ideas on gender, race, and class helped structure global flows of peoples, ideas, and goods and legitimize the unequal power relations that they embodied. In this seminar, we will also discuss how the state serves as a “surface of articulation” between the global and the national. In the end, we will all learn that transnational perspective affects historical narratives and the making of alternative possibilities. The ultimate goal of this seminar is to reflect on strengths, the weaknesses, and future directions of the current transnational turn.

The first half of the seminar will be devoted to reading and discussing recent scholarly literature in the field in order to help students define the parameters and guiding questions for their own research (Readings include selections from: Postcolonial Disorders; Christopher A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World; Matthew P. Guterl, American Mediterranean; T. Ballantyne/A. Burton (eds.), Bodies in Contact; Étienne Balibar on transnational citizenship; Geoff Eley, “Historicizing the Global”; S. Conrad/D. Sachsenmai (eds.), Competing Visions of World Oder: Global Moments and Movements). Students are expected to submit a research paper (20-25 pages).

HIS 553-World Commodities and Historical Political Economy

This theme seminar, intended for aspiring Ph.D. students from any regional concentration, uses the burgeoning field of commodity history and the terrain of Latin American and global history to explore the uses and value of “political economy” in history. The cultural turn of the 1990s, however necessary, tended to erase many of the pressing social and economic concerns of previous waves of theoretically-inclined historians.  Now, emerging approaches to material goods and global consumption may offer to bring cultural, anthropological, constructionist, and transnational perspectives deep into the realm of economic and social history.  The seminar uses a string of those new commodity histories to trace out these possibilities for more culturally and socially informed varieties of historical economics.  In the process, students will concertedly revisit and reflect on classic interdisciplinary and materialist perspectives such as modernization, state-building and developmentalism, neo-Marxism, Polanyian anthropology, structuralism, institutionalism, dependency, and world systems analysis.

This seminar demands intensive reading and discussion participation.  It welcomes graduate students with interdisciplinary interests.  The semester is divided into two parts.  In the first half, we plow through and dissect new works in commodity history.  In the second half, in close consultation with the professor, students focus on a particular political economy school or tradition for individual study.  Students will learn about and evaluate its earlier contributions to historical research, its limitations, and its prospects for renewal.  The seminar has two written assignments. The first, over Weeks 6-7, is a brief exercise, from a collective essay question, about the commodity literatures covered.  The second  paper, about 15-20 pages, will result from student’s critical assessment of a historical political economy perspective, and is due on the last day of the seminar, May 7.  Students will report on their themes in seminar as well.

The following seminar books–most  worth buying–are available at Stony Brooks (only):

Steven Topik, Carlos Marichal, and Zephyr Frank, eds, From Silver to Cocaine   (Duke UP)

Arnold Bauer, Goods, Power, History:  Latin America’s Material Culture (Cambridge UP)

Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power:  The Place of Sugar in Modern History (Penguin)

Arturo Warman, Corn & Capitalism (Univ. of North Carolina Press)

Judith Carney, Black Rice: African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Harvard UP)

William Roseberry, Gudmundson, Samper, Coffee, Society, and Power in Latin America (JHUP)

John Soluri, Banana Cultures (Univ. of Texas Press)

Paul Gootenberg, ed., Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug (on order, UNC Press)

Fernando Coronil, The Magical State (Univ. of Chicago Press)

We’ll also deploy a few critical “handouts” during the first weeks of the seminar. The professor’s office hours are best confirmed by graduate appointment.  Professors Moran/or Roxborough from Sociology may come talk to the group about “development” studies.