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        Oz Frankel

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        Historical Studies Student Handbook


    • 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. Spring 2021 courses include:

      • Peripheries, Frontier, and the Outsides of Historical Capitalism, GHIS 5240
        Aaron Jakes, Assistant Professor of History

        Any argument that capitalism is historically specific implies that this complex object—whether construed as a mode of production, a form of life, or an institutionalized social order—has some kind of boundaries in both time and space. Ever since social theorists began to suggest that capitalism “has a history,” they have been arguing about when it began and about what lies beyond the edges of the capitalist world. Those debates about its historical and geographic “outsides” have, in turn, proven crucial to critical analysis of capitalism itself. This reading-intensive course will cover a range of classic works that represent distinctive positions on these questions of periodization, transition, and bounding as well as more recent scholarship that seeks to reframe these questions from the standpoint of our own crisis-ridden historical present. Readings will include texts by Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Leon Trotsky, Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, Robert Brenner, Immanuel Wallerstein, Frank Perlin, Giovanni Arrighi, Robert Brenner, David Harvey, Maria Mies, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Vinay Gidwani, Timothy Mitchell, Nancy Fraser, and Jason Moore.

      • 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.

      • Thinking Historically with Donald J. Trump, GHIS 5550
        Oz Frankel, Associate Professor and Chair of History

        Donald Trump’s improbable journey from the Trump Tower to the White House is often described as “without precedent.” And, yet, Trump’s campaign and presidency have reworked familiar themes in US history: nativism, populism, the politics of nostalgia, politics as spectacle, and the recurrent efforts to rejuvenate or re-masculinize American society. The seminar revisits these topics in some detail as it critically explores diverse historical frames and perspectives available for understanding the Trump phenomenon. Conversely, we will ask in what way Trump’s presidency alters our view of history and requires new historical thinking about American political system, public sphere, and ideology and the relationship between process and individual actors in history.

      • Historical Methods and Sources, GHIS 6134
        Jeremy Varon, Professor of History

        Historical Methods and Sources offers theoretical perspectives on and practical training in historical research, writing, and representation. We begin by exploring debates surrounding what history is: as mode of narrative, form of textuality, and as a set of relationships to the past. The remainder of the course provides hands-on training in what historians do: identify archives; locate, choose, and interpret primary sources; place research in its relevant intellectual and scholarly contexts; assess the existing literature; review books; design research; and intervene in historiographic debates by crafting original arguments. Individual projects will be tailored toward students' research interests, building toward (or enhancing) work on their MA theses.

      • Life and Death in International Society, GHIS 6250 
        Quentin Bruneau, Assistant Professor of Politics

        What determines whether states and other polities survive and thrive or whither and die? Just as individuals’ life prospects within a given society are determined by a variety of factors (e.g.race, class), so are polities’ prospects within international society (sometimes also referred to as the society of states). This course is an attempt to analyse how those determining factors have changed over the last five hundred years. The end goal is to shed light on the specificity of contemporary international society. The course is divided in three parts. The first deals with preliminary conceptual questions, using Max Weber’s sociological notion of ‘life chances’ as a starting point. The second part of the course focuses on the early modern period, around which so many theories of world politics emphasising the importance of war and military force are built. By contrast, the course seeks to tone down the role of these factors. The third section examines the period from the French Revolution to the present and is particularly concerned with understanding why a large number of previously independent polities were literally extinguished during that timeframe. Readings for this course will draw on scholarship in a variety of disciplines, including work by Charles Alexandrowicz, Lauren Benton, Tanisha Fazal, Mamadou Hébié, Edward Keene, and Jason Sharman.

      • Masters Thesis Seminar, GHIS 6500
        Julia Ott, Associate Professor of History 

        This course is mandatory for second-year graduate students in history, and is designed to help prepare them for writing their theses. Students will be expected to have already prepared materials for their thesis before taking the class, and should be on course for completing their thesis by the end of the semester.

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