Sample Syllabi created for exams and final projects:
HIST 300 (New Lectures in History): Introduction to Public History: The Meaning and Method of the American West
More than fifty years after the formation of the field known as Public History many still ask–”what is it?” Even amongst practitioners and scholars there remains a blurry line between the definition of public history as a rigorous academic discipline and public history as a profession. Not to mention what happens to the field when it is diffused between historic preservation, archives, museum studies, oral history, digital history, publishing, and historical consulting. Furthermore, its place in academia remains fraught, with many history programs either dismissing that public history exists in and of itself, or believing that it is a practice that can be added to more legitimate methods of doing history (or that any public-facing scholarship is public history).
That Public History combines methodology, praxis, theory, and disciplinary rigor is often neglected–a consequence of the field rising to prominence as the solution to “save” the discipline of history in the face of declining student enrollments and academic jobs. This course will critically build a cohesive understanding of Public History as a discipline whose methods and theories can be applied both to practice and to scholarship. These two concepts are the organizing framework for the course, which will track both the development of public history in scholarship and in the public sphere from the 1960s to the present day. This course will focus on major turning points in public history, such as the rise of public commemoration, historic preservation and the National Park Service, and museum controversies, to encourage students to draw comparisons and connections between the national (and international) currents and the critical tenets of public history. The second purpose of this course is methodological, where students will learn the arguments of both proponents and critics of public history’s purpose, and will interrogate concepts such as shared authority, critical oral history, the archive, and narrative as they relate to the field.
The American West, a site of histories of conquest, nationalism, violence, and encounters is an especially ripe field of inquiry, particularly since myths of what it means to be American–and the memory of American culture–is so tightly bound to Westward Expansion. What happens when we use public history methods to interpret and interrogate the West? How do we account for the public memory of this region, made up as it is of multiple ethnic groups, languages, and violences? When studying the American West through this lens, we see that history and public memory–from sites to textbooks to museums–are not neutral or apolitical. They are imbued with particular meanings, with a variety of stakeholders and memory makers.
The lectures will be mostly content-based, but will situate students within praxis and scholarly debates about the application of history to the public sphere. Discussion sections are intended to allow students to critically evaluate debates, sources, and praxis in the field, using specific examples drawn from the readings and lectures as well as their own encounters with history outside. The first half of the course introduces students to the historical narrative of the American West(s) to understand how historians work, combined with interpretive constructs of their work. The second half of the course is methodological–by introducing students to the methods of public history, they will then understand how public historians work and learn how to use their tools to enhance academic scholarship.
The overarching objective of this course is to expose students to the field of public history as more than a means of obtaining employment in a museum or archive; public history provides a critical way of looking at the past and the present. This requires seeing history as more than things that happened on certain dates and in certain places in the past, but that it is an ongoing narrative that everyday people wrestle with in a variety of places and spaces.
The course is structured to give historical context to issues in public history, and then to delve into public history methods to provide the foundational training for your final project. Through a combination of lectures, films, readings, case studies, and projects, students will be introduced to the following skills:
- Analyze the range of cultural texts (exhibitions, historic sites, oral histories, etc) that have shaped public history methods and praxis
- Think critically about the role of monuments, memorials, and museums in everyday life
- Contextualize sites of public memory and commemoration in national and local contexts
- Challenge and critique dominant models of historical inquiry
Troubling the Diaspora: Black Women’s Intellectual History
The contributions of Black women to national and transnational struggles against slavery, Jim Crow, colonialism, mass incarceration, food justice, and education, to name a few, are often marginalized, suppressed, or silenced. This course attempts to chart the intellectual histories and the production of knowledge by women of the African diaspora. To ask if and how Black women conversed with one another across diasporas and temporalities through the different mediums. Drawing on interdisciplinary methods for investigating humanities-based questions using literature, film, art, museum exhibitions, digital humanities, and texts, we also tackle the questions of what is intellectual history? What defines the African diaspora? What is blackness? How do geographies influence (or not) Black women’s conceptualization of themselves?
Course Objectives: By actively participating in the course and developing their skills in close reading, academic writing and meaningful participation and dialogue, students should be able to:
- Recognize the important intellectual, literary and political contributions of key Black women writers.
- Understand both the structural and everyday intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class and nation within the context of Black women’s writing.
- Analyze the complexities of the arguments in literary and academic texts.
- Develop academic skills in order to translate material learned into their own written scholarship.
THE PROBLEM OF THE COLOR LINE: AFRICAN AMERICANS AND THE AMERICAN CENTURY
This course will discuss how African Americans have engaged with the state
and negotiated their place in the global civil rights movement across the
twentieth century. Careful attention is paid to the interactions between black
people and the United Nations and the changing concepts of Black Power. We
will explore and examine the following questions through a mix of primary and
secondary sources and textbooks.
– What is the state?
– How do African Americans define citizenship?
– How does race interact with the state?
– What is the United States’ conception of itself on a global stage?
– How have African American responded to U.S. empire?
– What are some of the main currents in African American history?
– What is Black Power in relation to the state?
– How does geography influence how African Americans experience the state?
By actively participating in the course and developing their skills in close reading, academic writing, and meaningful participation and dialogue, students should be able to:
● Recognize the important contributions of African American historians to the topic of diplomacy, empire, and internationalism.
● Understand both the structural and everyday intersections of race, gender, class and nation within the context of Black intellectual thought.
● Analyze the complexities of the arguments in literary and academic texts.
● Develop academic skills to translate material learned into their own written scholarship.