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  • 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 2022 courses include:

      HISTORIES OF THE CITY: AN INTRODUCTION TO URBAN STUDIES, GHIS 5002
      David Huyssen, Part-Time Faculty

      This course explores the modern city as a space of production and reproduction, rule and transgression, exploitation and resistance, conflict and cooperation, violence and care. It considers various disciplinary approaches to urban studies, with an emphasis on historical methods. Histories of New York—ranging in focus across race, gender and sexuality, labor, politics, environment, finance, etc.—provide the bulk of the principal readings. These are set against selections from classic and more recent works in sociology, cultural theory, critical geography, and political philosophy. Seminars may also consider film, music, museums and memorials, and the city itself as texts. 


      THE POLITICS OF XENOPHOBIA: FROM FASCISM TO POPULISM, GHIS 5090
      Federico Finchelstein, Professor of History

      This seminar will study the history and public impact of right-wing populist movements in global and historical perspective. It will be specially tuned to contemporary public discourse on populist anti-politics in the context of discrimination against immigrants and minorities in Latin America, Europe, and the United States. 


      WEALTH & POWER IN U.S. HISTORY, GHIS 5322
      Julia Ott, Associate Professor of History


      Decades ago, historians Eugene and Elizabeth Genovese advised that the discipline of history should focus on the questions of “who rides whom, and how?” In this readings seminar, we examine how power operated, how it felt, and how it has been negotiated and challenged—on both the personal and institutional levels—throughout U.S. history. The actualization, accumulation, and transmission of wealth—and its translation into political power—are central questions in our seminar discussions and in the projects that students devise. As students use history and historiography to develop their own approaches to the study of power and wealth, they consider how that study might inform their political engagements in their own daily lives.


      ENLIGHTENED EXCHANGES, GHIS 5829
      Gina Walker, Professor of Women's Studies 

      This course reads published, private, and inter-textual conversations between select male and female thinkers to recover and assess more accurately women’s participation in the project of Enlightenment. While most of these exchanges and conversations will have been between contemporaneous figures, we will also consider some that have gone on across centuries, like the conversations Italian Renaissance humanists conducted with their antique predecessors. Machiavelli returned home in the evening, changed his clothes, and conversed with ancient authors by reading their books.[1] We ask whether there were any texts by women on his list? Why is female epistemological authority always contested so that accounts of the past are either ignorant or dismissive of named women’s contributions? We consider female thinkers’ ideas in the context of traditional Intellectual History and their interactions with their male contemporaries and each other. We draw on new research about “Revolutionary Women” Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784), learned enslaved poet, and Suzanne Sanité Belair (1781–1802), a young free woman of color who became a lieutenant in Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture’s army, to interrogate women’s resistance to canonical knowledge-ordering systems and their proposals for alternative structures and actions. We examine the conflicts and convergences between women and men’s theological, epistemological, political, and affective understanding; women’s networks and misalliances; the new knowledge that femmes philosophes produced; and, consequently, the volatile public reception to Poullain de la Barre’s Cartesian argument that “the mind has no sex” and his promotion of “the equality of the sexes.” We interrogate individual men’s and women’s responses to the ongoing Slave Trade and the concept of Enslavement. We map the female texts that consider gender and race as inextricably interweaved, and men’s resistance to or acceptance of this premise and practice. We speculate about how sixty years of feminist historical recovery has or has not made done more than just “add women into conventional historical narratives and stir.” In our discussions and presentations, we model what Enlightened Exchanges could look like. Finally, we ask what might a knowledge-ordering system that includes a female dimension look like? We ask whether and how the inclusion of previously eclipsed women thinkers or people of various races and nationalities in a reconceived canon transform the nature and history of Western thought. The set of “enlightened exchanges” we will investigate can be understood as part of a project of redressing epistemic injustice, defined by the philosopher Miranda Fricker as “a wrong done specifically to someone in their capacity as a knower. One of the two types of epistemic injustice Fricker analyses, testimonial injustice, occurs where a speaker’s report is taken less seriously by its hearer because of a dimension of that speaker’s identity such as gender, race or class. The women thinkers in these enlightened exchanges have largely been victims of the testimonial injustice Fricker thematizes. Beyond this dimension, however, we believe that Western thought and society have been epistemically injured by the testimonial injustice shown to these thinkers: the canon and its contents have been distorted and impoverished through the systematic exclusion of women’s voices. We hope in this course to begin to correct some of the damage. 


      HISTORIOGRAPHY AND HISTORICAL PRACTICE, GHIS 6133
      Jeremy Varon, Professor of History

      This course focuses on U.S. history, exploring current permutations of historiographical interests, practices, and methodologies. Over the last few decades, U.S. history has offered particularly fertile ground for rethinking the historical, although many of these topics and themes have shaped the study of other nations and societies. U.S. history has been largely rewritten by a generation of scholars who experienced the 1960s and its aftermath and have viewed the United States' 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 U.S. historiography with unprecedented public resonance in a culture that had been notoriously amnesiac. We examine major trends and controversies in U.S. 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 U.S. exceptionalism, and current efforts to break the nation-state mold and to globalize U.S. 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. 



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