Courses

History 202: Doing History

HISTORY 202 provides a structured and cohesive foundation in the analytical, methodological, compositional, and historiographical skills involved in “doing history.” Students will encounter a diverse set of primary sources in order to evaluate how historians identify and interpret the clues, evidence, and omissions in the historical record. Students also will read secondary historical texts on selected subjects, with a focus on historiographical debates over competing interpretations of the past and consideration of the various approaches of political, social, cultural, and other subfields of history. In addition to the critical analysis of primary and secondary sources, HISTORY 202 focuses on the practice of historical writing and the development of research skills, preparing students for the requirements of more advanced history courses, especially the capstone Junior/Senior Colloquium.

HISTORY 202 also introduces majors to ways of “doing history” outside the classroom, from archival research to public history. As a group, the seminar will visit a number of research libraries affiliated with the University of Michigan for hands-on experience with primary sources and manuscript collections.  In addition, the course will explore the ways in which the Internet and new media technologies have changed the methods of “doing history,” including the increasing availability of digital archives and visual sources.

History 261: The United States, 1865 to the Present

History 261 is designed to provide a broad introduction to the political, social, cultural, intellectual, and economic history of the United States from 1865 to the present. It will not attempt to present an over-arching narrative explaining America from Reconstruction to the present. Rather, we will interrogate various moments in the American past in order to enrich our understanding of the varieties of voices that have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the development of American politics, culture, and society. We will be particularly attentive to how large-scale phenomena such as social movements, economic transformations, demographic shifts, and political contests shaped daily lives, and how individuals from all backgrounds contributed to these processes.

The overall goals of this course are to develop your ability to engage with historical materials critically and to gain some appreciation for the issues that have been central to the development of American culture. We will particularly emphasize improving analytical and writing skills through assignments that require interpretation as well as synthesis.

RCSSCI 275 / History 285: Science, Technology, Medicine & Society

From automobiles and computers to immunizations and genetically modified foods, science, technology, and medicine are almost omnipresent elements of modern lives and lifestyles, and have been for many decades. This four-credit course will introduce students to some of the central ideas, techniques, and controversies in the social study of science, technology, and medicine. Open to students with backgrounds in either the humanities/social sciences or the sciences, its purpose is to help participants think in a more informed, critical, and sophisticated manner about science, technology, and medicine (STM) and their implications for modern life. We will examine not only developments in the knowledge and practices that make up STM, but also how they affect society and how society shapes them.

There will be two lectures and one discussion session per week, and requirements will include weekly reading, a midterm, and at least one paper. RCSSCI 275/History 285 fulfills the core course requirement for those wanting to pursue an STS minor through the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, as well as the LSA social sciences distribution requirement.

History 361: U.S. Intellectual History, 1750-1940

Do Americans really care about ideas? Contrary to popular belief, all kinds of Americans do and always have. As we will discover in this lecture course, Americans think and argue and talk in all manner of ways that matter to what government does and how society functions. Together we will examine some of the words and concepts that have been central within American culture from the Enlightenment to World War II. We will explore how these words and ideas have been developed, debated, deployed, and appropriated at a variety of times and by a variety of people.

Our reading will include such major figures as Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, W.E.B. Du Bois, Margaret Mead, and Langston Hughes, as well as a host of less well-known writers, scientists, political thinkers, popular commentators, and the like whose ideas, for good or ill, have helped shape the world we live in now. We will try to gain some appreciation of the varieties of voices that have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the development of American culture and will focus throughout as much on how words were used–in producing arguments, laws, social movements, consumer goods, and machines–as on the ideas themselves.

History 465: Making America Modern: The United States, 1859-1945

This course involves an intensive exploration of the intellectual, cultural, technological, and social transformations that Americans experienced after the Civil War. Starting in 1859, with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, we will examine some of the ways in which Americans grappled with modernity in many of its various guises, from the remaking of the intimate worlds of love, sex, friendship, and family to the attempts to reinvent politics and the role of government. A period marked by the invention of the skyscraper and telephone, but also of Jim Crow segregation and the assembly line, we will analyze these and other aspects of American modernity, as well as the resistance to it.

History 497: Human Nature and Its Sciences

This undergraduate seminar explores some of the ways in which our knowledge about human nature and human beings has been made from the late eighteenth century to the present. Looking across a range of academic disciplines–including anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, and economics–it focuses particularly on how human beings, considered individually and collectively, have become objects of scientific investigation. Starting with various attempts to understand the human sciences theoretically, the course then address such topics as the construction of the notion of normality, the making and re-making of hysteria as a mental pathology, and the development of the sciences of race and gender. Throughout it is concerned with understanding the political and cultural ramifications of the various ways in which human beings have been constituted within the human sciences.

Hist 619 / SI 719: Knowledge/Power/Practice in Science, Technology & Medicine

This graduate readings seminar is designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to some of the major themes and issues that occupy the field of Science and Technology Studies. Drawing on scholarship in history, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, and information studies, we will mix theoretical material with more empirically oriented studies. The course will focus particularly on the relation between social, political, and cultural contexts and the development of ideas, practices, tools, and objects within science, technology, and medicine. No particular expertise in a scientific field is expected or required of participants.

Work for the seminar will include reading approximately 200-300 pages per week, brief weekly response papers, two discussion papers based on a week’s reading, and a final project of about 15 pages.

Hist 685 / AC 685 / Law 895: Human Natures in Their Cultural/Legal Contexts

What is a human being? What is human nature? Who decides? And why does it matter anyway? This seminar will explore some of the ways in which conceptions of and practices around “the human” have been made and used and challenged in the U.S. and Europe from the mid eighteenth century to the present.

Looking across a range of discourses – including anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, medicine, philosophy, religion, and particularly law – we will focus on how the abstract entity “human being” becomes real, specific, and consequential in particular sites and under particular conditions. We will be especially attentive to the role of the human sciences and of legal systems in this process – what does it mean for human beings, considered individually or collectively, to become objects of scientific investigation and legal definition? – and to the ways in which social orders and renderings of human nature are mutually produced.

Starting with Michel Foucault’s theorization of the human sciences, we will address such topics as human science and jurisprudential bodies, state power and human individuality, the sciences and practices of race and gender, body and mind as colonial constructs, and the human being as an experimental object. We will be concerned throughout with understanding the cultural embeddedness and political ramifications of the various ways in which human beings have been constituted, and with examining the spaces and gaps between such renderings as sites of resistance and/or pressure for change.

Work for the seminar will include reading approximately 200-300 pages per week, brief weekly response papers, two discussion papers based on a week’s reading, and a final project of about 15 pages.