Spring 2013 Course Offerings


ANTH 499AG: New African Immigrants in the New European Union

Professor: Alma Gottlieb
Meets: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:30-1:50

European nations are now closing borders to illegal African immigrants and “repatriating” the thousands of desperate African refugees who swim (or “wash”) ashore on their coasts. At the same time, the EU is, conversely, attempting to craft humane policies that will grant dignity to the increasing numbers of Africans fleeing economic, political, gender-based, and other sources of hardship, seeking a better life in Europe. In this course, we examine the pressing issues facing the new EU as the realities of a multicultural Europe shape the daily lives of all. We will endeavor to balance out “top-down” and “bottom-up” perspectives inherent in local realities. To gain a sense of the big-picture issues, we begin by considering changing demographic profiles of specific nations across the EU; we then analyze policies of diverse European national governments, and compare those with changing policies of the EU itself. To gain a more nuanced understanding of lived realities, we will spend most of our time reading texts based on ethnographic research with specific African immigrant communities across the EU. Case studies will emphasize England, France, Italy, Portugal, and Germany, and other nations as additional scholarship and information become available.


ARTH 546: Art and Ecology

Professor: Terri Weissman
Meets: Tuesdays 3:30-6:10

This seminar will focus on the intersection of contemporary art and the politics of ecology. We will look at the recent emergence of socially-engaged, transnational, and interdisciplinary artistic engagements with the environment in light of the urgent threats of global warming, massive species extinction, increasing numbers of natural disasters, and climate-change refugees. The course will consider recent analyses and proposals such as those from cultural geographer Neil Smith, “speculative realist” writer Tim Morton, activist Naomi Klein, and theorist Felix Guattari. We will examine work by artists such as Nils Norman, Jimmie Durham, Francis Alÿs, Ursula Biemann, Amy Balkin, Alfredo Jaar; and collectives such as Superflex, D-Town Farms, Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Collectif Argos.



CWL 502: Cross-Cultural Comparison

Professor: Waïl Hassan
Meets: Mondays 7:00-8:50

This seminar is an introduction to the history and methods of comparative literary studies. Readings will focus on the evolution if the discipline from Goethe’s notion of “Weltliteratur” (world literature) to its institutionalization in the U.S. academy in the mid-twentieth century, and on to the contemporary practices that define it. The discipline is informed by philosophical, historical, anthropological and psychoanalytic perspectives which will each be examined over the course of the semester, particularly with reference to the questions of alterity, cultural worldviews, and cross-cultural encounters, which have been central to comparative literature.

ENGL 547: Secularism and Early U.S. Fictions

Professor: Justine Murison
Meets: Wednesdays 1:00-2:50

This seminar explores the vibrant recent debate over secularism and secularization. Long a structuring principle of literary study, the assumption that modernity is marked by an ineluctable secularization has been called into question both by geopolitical events and scholars of the humanities and social sciences. While engaging with these debates directly, this seminar will also use them to study a paradox in the early United States: that during the decades of disestablishment of state-supported churches, religiosity rose rather than waned. The early Republic and antebellum eras gave us the “separation of church and state” and the Second Great Awakening; provoked the creation of new religious communities and the often violent responses to them; and experienced the evangelizing of abolitionism that spurred the urgency of such figures as William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John Brown. Over the course of the semester, we will examine the relation between belief and secular culture theoretically and historically, with a particular focus on fiction. In great part, our consideration will be how fictional genres gave popular expression to both faith and unbelief, and how new theories of the secular revise commonly held assumptions about the role of fiction in the new nation. More broadly, then, theories about secularism will ultimately allow us to rethink the larger narratives about American literature, those inherited from the founding works in American Studies and those still operational today. To that end, we will read theoretical works on secularism by such scholars as Charles Tayler, Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, and José Casanova; studies of American religion, secularism, and literature by Tracy Fessenden, David Paul Nord, Joanna Brooks, and Susan Griffin, among others; and histories of American fiction and American religion. Our case studies may include works by novelists such as Charles Brockden Brown, Royall Tyler, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, George Lippard, Augusta Jane Evans, Herman Melville and Harriet Beecher Stowe as well as tracts from the American Tract Society, polemical works attacking such groups as Masons and Catholics, and the print culture of sentimental evangelical Protestantism. 


GWS 580: Queer Theory

Professor: Siobhan Somerville
Meets: Thursdays 1:00-3:50

This course begins from the premise that queer theory is distinct from identity-based formations such as lesbian and gay studies. Instead of anchoring its methods to the question of sexual orientation, queer theory might be thought to destabilize the ground upon which any particular claim to identity can be made. Further, while one familiar genealogy of queer studies locates its origins in the development of a theory of sexuality (as distinct from theories of gender), some of the most ambitious work in the field has critiqued any attempt to give exclusive priority to sexuality over other categories of analysis. The full potential of queer theory, it has been argued, is to dislodge "the status of sexual orientation itself as the authentic and centrally governing category of queer practice, thus freeing up queer theory as a way of reconceiving not just the sexual, but the social in general" (Harper, et al., 1997). We will trace signal moments in the development of the field of queer theory over the past three decades, with an emphasis on recent developments such as "queer of color critique," black queer studies, and transnational queer studies.


IT 510: Europe and the Mediterranean: Transnational Spaces and Integration

Professor: Emmanuel Rota
Meets: Tuesdays & Thursdays 3:30-4:50

The Mediterranean Sea has captured the imagination of scholars and other people for a very long time. Recently it has topped the news in the US and internationally, either because of the “Arab spring” uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt or because of the dramatic economic crisis in Greece, Italy and Spain. This course examines the governments, societies and cultures on the shores of the Mediterranean. It is designed for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in the social sciences and the humanities, who are interested in interdisciplinary study. Therefore the course challenges students to think outside the boundaries of their respective majors and specialties. A team of scholars from the University of Illinois, with backgrounds in a range of disciplines, has been assembled to assist with this effort. During the semester we will examine ideas associated with the Mediterranean and practices followed by its people and governments from the perspectives of a variety of disciplines, including political science, history, the classics, economics, anthropology, sociology, archaeology and architecture. Taken together, these various perspectives paint a comprehensive and multi-faceted picture of a very diverse geographic area and its people. In this exploration, we will pay special attention to the role of the European Union as a catalyst for modern developments and as a prism through which to examine past events in this part of the world. The course is supported with a generous Jean Monnet grant from the European Commission. Meets with PS 590/300, HIST 502, ANTH 399/515, ITAL 390, SPAN 395.


JS 502: Memory Studies and the Traumatic Past

Professor: Michael Rothberg
Meets: Thursdays 3:00-5:00

This seminar will provide a graduate-level introduction to the field of memory studies with an emphasis on the remembrance of traumatic histories. In the first half of the course, we will survey the most significant theorists of memory from the last century. Although our focus will be on collective memory—via the work of Maurice Halbwachs, Pierre Nora, Jan and Aleida Assmann, Paul Connerton, Andreas Huyssen, Marianne Hirsch, and others—we will also consider individual memory and the question of trauma through readings by Sigmund Freud, Cathy Caruth, Shoshana Felman, and others. Topics will include the relations between history, memory, and identity; power, politics, and contestation; media, generational change, and modes of transmission; and remembrance, justice, and globalization. In the second half of the semester, we will turn to comparative case studies from twentieth-century histories of genocide and extreme violence. We will consider modes of remembrance and commemoration of the Nazi genocide of European Jews, the Rwandan genocide, and the Armenian genocide, among other potential examples. Many of our readings will be taken from The Collective Memory Reader (ed. by Olick, Vinitzky-Seroussi, and Levy), but these will be supplemented by a course reader containing other works of history, literature, and theory. Students will have the opportunity to design research projects in their own areas of interest. This course is recommended (but not required) for those contemplating the Certificate in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies.


MDIA 590: Cutlural Studies in Science & Medicine

Professor: Paula A Treichler
Meets: Thursdays 6:00-9:00

In this seminar we will examine selected culturally-oriented studies of science and medicine that are of theoretical, social, historical, and methodological interest. These studies address such topics as the U.S. health care system, its history, and structural contradictions; scientific and medical professionalization, practice, and ethical conduct; epidemic disease including HIV/AIDS; different cultural paradigms of the body, health, and disease; conflicts over medical advertising; practices and performances; sex, sexuality, and reproductive technologies (in the "post-reproductive era"); gender, race, and disease; illness narratives; genes and genomics; disabilities in war and peace; media representations from early 20c movies to new media and imaging technologies; occupational and environmental illness; the production of scientific and medical knowledge; and social and cultural construction in science and medicine. 

Generally speaking, these works can be called "cultural" because they focus, to a significant extent, on the concrete languages, texts, and discourses of the issues they are investigating, the ways they make meaning, and the cultures and subcultures they represent. These works thus treat as interesting and problematic the materiality—production, representation, interpretation, and circulation—of texts. Our goal will be to better understand the function and range of scientific and medical discourses as well as the complexity of current debates that surround them. We will examine the nature and explanatory power of several central terms and concepts in cultural studies and science studies—ideology, hegemony, identity, agency, culture, theory, practice, cultural work, action networks, social and cultural construction, marketing and branding, empiricism, interpretation, narrative power, representation, intertextuality, material facts. These keywords, in Raymond Williams' sense, significantly shape the ways we read and understand science and medicine today. We will give special focus to media representations and their multiple functions in American culture.  

Readings and videos are selected to represent a range of approaches, theoretical perspectives, and social and cultural interventions. There will also be a modest course packet of readings (hard copy and online).

Contact Information
Instructor: Paula A Treichler
email: ptreich@illinois.edu
Phone: 217 390-8083 (phone or text)
Office: 220 Armory
Office Hours: by appointment 


MDVL 500/ITAL 510: Ugly Beasts, Talking Monkeys: Animals in the Middle Ages

Professor: Nora Stoppino
Meets: Tuesdays 2:00-4:20

This seminar will explore the boundaries between humans and animals in medieval texts. The categories we will use to investigate the distinctions between animals and humans include metamorphosis, contagion, education, taxonomy, subjugation, hunting, representation, anthropomorphism and zoomorphism, wilderness, misogyny, and promiscuity. To probe these categories and distinctions, we will make use of a series of critical approaches, from critical animal studies to posthumanism, within the disciplinary specificity of Medieval Studies. A series of guest speakers, from Illinois and other Universities, will participate in the seminar.


MS 590: Techno-Scientific Networks

Professor: Anita Say Chan
Meets: Mondays 3:00-6:00

From Bittorrent to Wikipedia, and from transnational fast food franchises to free software producers, global networks have emerged as the defining organizational structure of the contemporary information age. Capable, allegedly, of channeling the productive and creative potential of diverse participants, and organizing complex knowledge- and information-based exchanges, they have at once become the circuits through which new forms of political contest and challenges to logics of social inclusion/exclusion manifest. This course examines the network as a social formation that responds to the current conditions of digitaliz-able capital, labor, and governance. Drawing from science and technology studies, communications and media studies, political anthropology, globalization studies, and social theory, this seminar will investigate networks as discursive technologies that manifest the political tension between free markets and free individuals, and between the competing aspirations of participatory democracy and late capitalism.

*NOTE: first class is on Monday, Jan. 28 (219 Greg Hall). 


PS 572: Political Economy: Its Theorists and Critics

Professor: Melissa Orlie
Meets: Wednesdays 1:30-3:50

This advanced introduction to modern political theory will focus upon theorists and critics of political economy of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau and Adam Smith, Hegel and Marx, and their heirs. In addition to these "primary" texts (see listbelow), we will consult broad contextualizations, incisive commentaries, and paradigmatic theoretical elaborations of our main thinkers, their theoretical themes and the politics of economy of their time and our own (see "Context, Commentary, Elaboration" below). 
Requirements: Besides doing the reading scheduled for each seminar and attending these meetings regularly, participants will be expected to prepare a 1 page discussion brief (succinctly posing a vital issue for us to consider during our meeting) for most class sessions. Each participant also will write a longer final paper on an agreed topic related to the course material. 

Required Texts:


  • T. Hobbes, Leviathan (Hackett)(0-87220-177-5) Hackett
  • Locke, Two Treatises on Government (0-521-35730-6) Laslett, Cambridge
  • J.J. Rousseau, The Basic Political Writings (1-60384-673-5) 2nd edition Hackett
  • A. Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments (9780143105923) Penguin Classics
  • A. Smith, The Wealth of Nations (978-0-553-58597-1) Modern Library Classics
  • G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (0-19-824597-1) Miller, Oxford
  • Marx, The Marx Engels Reader (0-393-09040-X) Tucker, Norton

    "Context, Commentary, Elaboration"
  • David Harvey, The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism
  • (978-0199836840) Oxford
  • C.B. MacPherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism (978-0195444018) Oxford
  • G. Arrighi, Adam Smith in Beijing (978-1844672981) Verso
  • Karl Polanyi,The Great Transformation (978-0807056431) Beacon
  • F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (978-0226320847) Chicago
  • Fredric Jameson, The Hegel Variations (978-1-84467-616-3) Verso
  • Susan Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti and Universal History (978-0-8229-5978-6) Pittsburgh
  • Charles Taylor, Hegel and Modern Society 0-521-29351-0 Cambridge
  • L. Althusser, For Marx (978-1844670529) Verso
  • G. Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness (978-0262620208) MIT
  • A. Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks (978-0717803972) International


    REES 496: Genetic Technologies, Social Networks, and the Transformation of Racial Identities in Europe

  • Professor: Judith Pintar
    Meets: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:30-1:50

    This course examines the rapid acceleration in the global production of genetic knowledge that was triggered by the initiation of the Human Genome Diversity Project in 1991, and the diverse social networks (commercial, hobbyist, academic, and religious) through which this knowledge continues to be received, framed, and disseminated. Nationalists across Europe increasingly use genetic findings to strengthen ethnic origin myths, or to tear down the territorial claims of competing groups. Pseudoscientific racism has resurged among white supremacists as discussions of mtDNA and the Ice Age inhabitation of the refuges of the last glacial maximum, collide with traditional notions of East and West, North and South. Over the course of the semester we will take a multi-disciplinary approach to the issues, drawing from the natural and social sciences and the humanities to examine the interaction of genetic discoveries with the collective re-imagining of racial categories and identities in Europe.