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Fall 2019

Photo above: Detail from map of the British Empire in 1886.


This course meets M, T, W, Th - 3:30 - 4:50pm

In this exciting course—taught by an historian, a cultural anthropologist of science, and an English professor—we will ask about empire, one of the most important forms of global connection in the modern age. We’ll approach our topic in an interdisciplinary way, looking at culture, history, literature, and even science—and we’ll examine a rich array of texts and objects from different periods of history and parts of the globe. Some of the questions we’ll consider:  What are empires?  How do they get formed? How do they become objects of representation, and in what media? How do they regulate the circulation of people, goods, ideas, genes, languages, and germs? How do they shape our most fundamental experiences, and how are they contested or destroyed?

Texts and films to be explored:

Shakespeare, The Tempest
Maran, Batouala
Gandhi, Hind Swaraj
Battle of Algiers and Bamako (films)
Fanon, Concerning Violence
Nelson, Social Life of DNA
Smith, Wealth of Nations
Said, Orientalism
Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost


Adia Benton is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and author of the prize-winning HIV Exceptionalism:  Development Through Disease in Sierra (University of Minnesota, 2015).  She is a cultural anthropologist with interests in global health, biomedicine, development and humanitarianism, professional sports, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Daniel Immerwahr is Associate Professor of History.  His first book, Thinking Small (Harvard, 2015), offers a critical account of the United States' pursuit of grassroots development at home and abroad in the middle of the twentieth century. His second book, How to Hide an Empire, a narrative history of the United States' overseas territory, will be out with Farrar, Straus and Giroux in February 2019.

Jules Law is Professor of English literature and a specialist in nineteenth-century British literature. His most recent book is The Social Life of Fluids:  Blood, Milk, and Water in the Victorian Novel (Cornell 2010).  He is currently working on a book entitled Virtuality in the Victorian Age. He has received numerous teaching and public-service awards, including the Charles Deering McCormick Professorship of Teaching (2007) and the Centro Romero Community Leadership award (2008).


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