• Current Courses

  • Courses in the Department of Historical Studies explore what happened in the past to understand what's happening now. Students study the most important theories of the discipline and learn to rethink accepted foundations through a modern lens. Ideas are explored through research, reading, writing, and discussion.

  • Please consult the New School Course Catalog for a full list of courses. Fall 2023 courses include:  

    Law and Politics in the US: Elections, Criminal Justice, and New Technologies, GHIS 5025
    David Plotke
    , Professor of Politics

    Elections, criminal justice, and new technologies provide crucial sites where legal and political conflicts intersect. We examine these areas of contention, both for their immediate importance and their theoretical meaning. Claims about the large role of law in and near American politics have a long history in social science and public understanding. Arguments about relations between law and politics have durable importance. Both issues deserve a new look. We analyze competing views of how politics and law are related. Then we examine rules and norms for choosing leaders and prohibiting corrupt and anti-democratic actions. We consider controversies about voting rights, political participation (and political finance), political violence, and impeachment. We next look at policy and political conflicts about security, criminal justice, and policing – all of which intersect racial and ethnic relations. What do equity and security mean as norms and legal approaches? Then we engage the legal and political arguments about the dramatic reshaping of the political economy by emergent technologies of communication, information, and supervision. We assess debates about the power of the largest tech companies, the aims of government action, and the regulation of political and cultural expression. This course is for M.A. and Ph.D. students in Politics at NSSR and for graduate students in other programs at TNS. Seniors at Eugene Lang College may be admitted with the permission of the instructor.

    Class Wars in the United States, GHIS 5103
    David Huyssen
    , Part-time Lecturer

    Can we see US history as a series of punctuated and reconfiguring class wars? This course uses recent scholarship from multiple disciplines and various subfields of history—women's & gender, African-American, LGBTQ, political, social, labor, etc.—alongside foundational works of history and theory to address this question. Students will trace how different conceptions and self-conceptions of class develop and manifest in conflicts from the early republic to the present day; how they correspond, overlap, and interact with understandings of race, gender, sexuality, national origin, and the economy; and how U.S. class wars have shaped not only U.S. and global history, but their study as well.

    Slavery and Anti-Slavery in the Atlantic World, GHIS 5104
    Julia Ott
    , Associate Professor of History

    Historians' recent investigations of the centrality of racialized chattel slavery to the origins of capitalism -- along with activists' efforts to expose the ongoing legacy of New World slavery -- inspire a broad reconsideration of the connections between capitalism, race, and coerced labor. This course will examine how historical and present-day forms of slavery and racism have shaped – and continue to shape -- capitalism. We will also investigate myriad forms of resistance, emancipation, and reparation-seeking by peoples of the African diaspora and their descendants.

    The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructures, GHIS 5520
    Emma Park
    , Assistant Professor of History

    From roads networks to electricity grids, infrastructures are often taken to be the invisible background of social life. On this framing, networked infrastructures are the apolitical substratum of modernity itself. In this course, by contrast, we will explore infrastructures as complex assemblages of power and politics. In the first half of the course, we will begin by reviewing the now-classic texts on infrastructures coming out of the humanities and social sciences. The second half of the course will be devoted to setting these ideas and theorizations in motion by tracking the infrastructural politics that have animated social, political, and economic life in the global south. Drawing these literatures together, we will query how starting a discussion of infrastructures from these other geographies has opened up new questions about the materiality of politics, power, and the making of subjectivities. Drawing on literature in history, Science and Technology Studies (STS), anthropology, and geography, we will analyze the complex and unexpected ways that infrastructures have been mobilized as vectors of power, objects of political concern, and networks of poetic meaning-making.

    The Making of the Modern World, GHIS 5542
    Paul Kottman
    , Professor of Comparative Literature and Chair of Liberal Studies

    The course presents an interpretation and an evaluation of the fate of modernity, as understood by some of the most influential thinkers of the past 250 years -- and involving different currents in the arts, social history, cultural theory, politics and philosophy. 'Modernity' is understood here to entail such things as the emergence of the nation-state; ambitious claims for the authority of reason in human affairs; the increasing authority of the natural sciences; the advent of a discourse of natural or human rights; aesthetic modernism; capitalism and the free market; globalization and social movements that take up new demands of mutuality, from feminism to the labor movement. Each of these issues will be addressed, through readings of works by Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Nietzsche, de Beauvoir, Arendt and others -- alongside consideration of a range of cultural products and social practices. 

    Historiography and Historical Practice, GHIS 6133
    Oz Frankel
    , Associate Professor of History

    This course focuses on US history to explore current permutations of historiographical interests, practices, and methodologies. Over the last few decades, US history has been a particularly fertile ground for rethinking the historical although many of these topics and themes have shaped the study of other nations and societies. American history has been largely rewritten by a generation of scholars who experienced the 1960s and its aftermath and have viewed America's past as a field of inquiry and contestation of great political urgency. Identity politics, the culture wars, and other forms of organization and debate have also endowed US historiography with unprecedented public resonance in a culture that had been notoriously amnesic. We examine major trends and controversies in American historiography, the history of the historical profession, the emergence of race and gender as cardinal categories of historical analysis, popular culture as history, the impact of memory studies on historical thinking, the recurrent agonizing over American exceptionalism, as well as the current efforts to break the nation-state mold and to globalize American history. Another focus will be the intersection of analytical strategies borrowed from the social sciences and literary studies with methods of historicization that originated from the historical profession. This course should be taken during a student's first year in the Historical Studies program. 

    Law, Race and Empire, GHIS 6295
    Jack Jin Gary Lee
    , Assistant Professor of Sociology

    The long shadow of colonialism and empire draws our attention to the need to re-think the foundational concepts and institutions of the contemporary world. Rather than viewing the post-WWII international order of independent, postcolonial nation-states with distinct legal systems as a given in inquiry, scholars have turned to question how modern empires and colonialism developed, identifying the consequences of these forms of domination for (post)colonial states and societies. This recent turn in sociological and legal-historical scholarship has recast foundational concepts like traditional/modern society, modernity, sovereignty, the rule of law, citizenship, etc. In these intellectual projects, scholars have also trodden new grounds, tracing historical connections and journeys that allow us to see our present (post)colonial world anew. This graduate seminar is designed to cultivate and develop understandings of the ways that the U.S., British, and other empires have shaped the forms and uses of modern constitutions, criminal punishment, race, religion, gender, sexuality, and, more broadly, the “social” and the state. Beginning with classic theoretical statements on empire and colonialism and rethinking paradigmatic events like the U.S. revolution, the course will proceed to unpack the processes and events that established the social contours and dynamics of the U.S., British, and other empires over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will pay attention to the significance of law and race in the political economy of empire and colonialism, and also seek to theorize their workings.

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