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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. Spring 2022 courses include:

      • 60s as Global History, GHIS 5009
        Jeremy Varon, Professor of History
        No recent decade has been so powerfully transformative in the United States and much of the world as have the 1960s. The era's protest movements dramatically changed the politics in the West; decolonization struggles altered the balance of global power; and in communist Europe democracy movements set the stage for full-scale revolutions ending the Cold War. We will explore foundational philosophical and theoretical critiques which helped define the global New Left; challenges to empire through struggles for national liberation; the challence to bureaucratic rationality in the Communist World; the world of "policy" and elite agency; numerous "local" arenas of struggle and their implication in international and transnational structures and cultures of dissent. Special focus will be given to the United States, West Germany, France, and Mexico. Readings will be drawn from across disciplines and will include: Marcuse, Katsiaficas, Suri, Klimke, Jameson, Herzog, Joseph, Varon, Ross and Bourg, as well as period documents. The 1960s was also a time of great experimentation in art, music, film, literature and language. Exploring each of these media, the class seeks also to capture the era's experimental spirit, and engage the Sixties as "living history." 

      • Dictatorship in History and Theory, GHIS 5304
        Federico Finchelstein, Professor of History, and Andreas Kalyvas, Associate Professor of Politics

      • Intellectuals in the Public Square: Engaged Scholarship for the 21st Century, GHIS 5310
        Claire Potter, Professor of History

        As university-trained intellectuals, many of us aspire to share our research, analysis, and specialized knowledge with policymakers, activists, and an engaged public. When we do, we follow in a long tradition of scholars who have met the challenges of their time through their work. Social science doctoral programs were founded in the 19th century with the explicit ai not of producing university professors but of educating policymakers, journalists, industrial analysts, and other public intellectuals who would use their expert knowledge to help both states and their citizens make sense of a swiftly changing world. That need is no less urgent today. Reaching the public does not require reducing the rigor of our thinking, but it does require us to unleash our creativity and learn to speak in both the language of the academic researcher and one that will take us to our desired audience(s). This seminar invites graduate students from all departments at NSSR to think about their research and scholarship expansively and imagine ways of taking their ideas outside the university to influence public debate. Students learn how to create compelling narratives from their research that speak to contemporary problems and a variety of audiences: community groups, young people, activists, and non-specialist general audience readers. We practice writing opinion and magazine pieces and also explore alternative media through which we can convey a sophisticated narrative while capturing the audience we want to reach.

      • Wealth and 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 has operated, how it has 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.

      • 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: a mode of narrative, a form of textuality, and 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 to students' research interests, building toward (or deepening) work on their MA theses. This course is mandatory for all Historical Studies master's students and all PhD students engaged in joint programs in history, but it is open to all NSSR graduate students who are interested in historical research and methodology.

      • Forensics of Capital: Race, Debt, Credit, Risk, and Liability, GHIS 6285
        Michael Ralph, Faculty Fellow

        This course examines how forms of social difference (age, race, gender, sexuality, ability, generation, and national origin, and more) influence who gets access to capital and how people are governed. In exploring “forensics of capital” as an analytic, we explore how, from the Enlightenment era to the present, forensic inquiry has been used to determine who owes what to whom in matters of civil and criminal liability. In the process, we interrogate forensics as a police technology and as a method for managing breaches in modern civil society. We pay special attention to the way people grapple with alterity (human difference) through the presence of DNA traces inscribed in a crime scene and through patterns of criminal behavior attributed to a distinct population or demographic. We study how technologies are deployed in forensic procedures to determine guilt or innocence in a criminal case and to assess damages in a civil suit, but we also go beyond this familiar use of forensics to employ them as a lens through which to analyze and adjudicate emergent forms of value. In the process, we examine strategies for assessing the value of a human life, with reference to the role that mechanisms of colonial exploitation, enslavement, and incarceration have played in shaping economic systems, political institutions, and financial instruments. Finally, we examine how using "forensics of capital" as a framework potentially differs from related forms of inquiry (i.e., “racial capitalism,” “slavery’s capitalism,” and “new histories of capital”) that do not always readily appear to be intersectional.

      • Capitalism: New Approaches in History and Theory, GHIS 6290
        Nancy Fraser, Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor of Political and Social Science, and Eli Zaretsky, Professor of History
      • Masters Thesis Seminar, GHIS 6500
        Oz Frankel, Associate Professor and Chair 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 are 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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