The transnational approach that shapes my research also informs my teaching. I encourage students to think about local and regional issues in broad geographic, political, and cultural contexts. To accomplish this, I draw on a variety of professional experiences—as a college-level instructor in the US and Europe, a docent in an art museum, an elementary school teacher in France, and a volunteer in a graduate-level history program for incarcerated women. Through each of these endeavors I have honed my pedagogical skills and discovered new ways of rendering complex ideas accessible to a wide variety of students.
The Mediterranean, Europe, and the World
Ancient peoples identified the Mediterranean as the middle of the earth, giving rise to its name in both Latin and Ancient Greek. The sea’s name reflected its centrality to the societies and peoples of antiquity. Today the Mediterranean may seem like a peripheral space, yet the region is where three continents meet. Events and processes that take place on its shores—from colonization to wars of independence; and from international meetings on oil prices to the Syrian refugee crisis—have a global impact. This course examines the Mediterranean world from Napoleon to the presents. During the semester, we will investigate why we might simultaneously view the region as central and peripheral. In the process, we will explore significant political, economic, and cultural movements and moments of the modern era, including the age of revolutions, the rise of nationalism, colonialism, and globalization.
Introduction to Eastern Europe: Communities, States, and Forms of Belonging, 1800-present
How do states, political regimes, and ideologies shape individuals’ identities? How do they impact people’s ties to various communities based on kinship, geography, religion, and language? And to what extent do they dictate dynamics among these groups? In this course, we will explore these questions through an examination of East European history from 1800 to the present. While at the beginning of this period, most East Europeans were subjects of multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious empires, by the end of World War I, they had largely become citizens of nation-states. New laws, cultural forms, and social norms accompanied these political changes, altering how people understood themselves and their place in larger social and political formations. During the better part of the twentieth century, many East Europeans lived under state socialist regimes that sought to reconfigure human relations and individuals’ interactions with the state. As we investigate this history, and the post-communist period, in the second part of the semester, we will consider whether or not state socialism successfully transformed people’s identities and why certain notions of belonging, especially those based on nationalist ideologies, have persisted into the twenty-first century.
The East European experience over the course of the last two centuries did not take place in a vacuum. Many of the events, ideas, and processes that impacted people’s sense of self and belonging in the region had a continental or even global scope. Consequently, we will situate our discussion of regional transformations in broader European and global contexts from the Napoleonic Wars to the Concert of Europe and from the rise of nationalism to the fall of communism.
Introduction to Modern France: France as a Political Laboratory
In May 1789 the Estates General met in Versailles to vote on the tax reforms proposed by Louis XVI’s minister. By mid-June the delegates to this body had voted to transform themselves into the National Assembly, vowing not to separate until they had ratified a French constitution. Meanwhile a mob, or “the people,” took to the streets in protest a few miles away in Paris, storming the Bastille on July 14. We often refer to the conjunction of these two incidents as the start of the French Revolution, an event that looms over the history of not just modern France but the world. The French Revolution was just one in a seemingly never-ending series of revolutions, coups, and political upheavals that punctuated the last two and a half centuries of French history. Since the end of the eighteenth century, the French have lived under an absolutist monarch, an array of revolutionary regimes, two emperors, a constitutional monarchy, five republics, a socialist and an authoritarian regime. They also conquered and colonized other peoples making them subjects of the French state. In many ways we can think of modern France as a political laboratory where forms of government were debated, attempted, and discarded.
In this course we will study the history of France from the perspective of its changing political regimes. We will explore how the political, social, and economic impact one another. We will discuss why various French governments proved to be so unstable in the end and whether or not this means that they were “failures.” We will look at how politicians, theorists, and activists shaped and responded to the political landscape. We will ask to what extent did these changing regimes shape France? Finally, we will locate our discussion in a broader European and global context, investigating how world events impacted French history and how French actors, regimes, and ideas altered the course of affairs abroad.
UNDERGRADUATE TOPICS COURSES & SEMINARS
How the “Rest” Shaped the West
Today, many American universities have replaced or supplemented Western Civilization surveys with world or global history courses. This shift reminds us that historical definitions of the West and its relationship to the rest of the world are not static, but dynamic. The relationship between Western and non-Western societies, moreover, is a reciprocal one and interactions between them have shaped cultures and individuals around the globe over the course of the last several centuries. This course surveys encounters between the West, broadly defined, and the “Rest” to offer a global narrative of the modern era. It looks at the central role of the “Rest” in defining the “West.” Students will analyze how scholars and politicians worked out ideas about Europe, European civilization, and modernity, and how these ideas have changed over time. They will study a number of analytical frameworks academics and policymakers use to discuss relations between the West and the "Rest"—the center-periphery model, orientalism, narratives of progress, civilizational clashes. Students will consider what these models teach us about Westerners' self-conceptions and their views of others from the Enlightenment to the present.
Science, the State, and Society in Modern France
This course explores a number of fundamental questions about the relationships among the sciences, the state, and society. Focusing on France, students trace the professionalization and specialization of the sciences from the Enlightenment to the present, investigating who did and can do science? How were and are the scientific disciplines constructed? How scientists, broadly defined—philosophes, engineers, biologist, anthropologists, nuclear physicists, and computer programmers—have served the state as ministers, colonial administrators, and consultants and how the state has used them and their institutions. Students analyze and compare different visions of society scientists have proposed over the last 250 years and how various publics have viewed scientists and their discoveries. They also consider whether or not—from the creation of national schools for engineering, like the Polytechnique, to the rise and fall of the “Minitel”—science was or is a national enterprise. This course is both an introduction to the history of science for humanities and social science majors and an introduction to the study of history for students in the sciences. Through readings, lectures, discussions, and written assignments, the course will help foster dialogue among students from different disciplinary backgrounds. It will likewise give them an opportunity to explore how their fields developed and how they relate to one another.
A Different Kind of Empire: Cultural Diplomacy, Mass Media, and the Cold War in Europe
During the Cold War the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies deployed a myriad of technologies to compete with one another. While the race for space and the atomic bomb come to mind; film, radio, television, modern kitchens, and educational exchanges were equally important tools during the Super-powers’ half-century standoff. Our class will explore the history of the Cold War, primarily in Europe, through the lens of cultural diplomacy and propaganda. We will analyze and study feature films, radio broadcasts, propaganda movies, cultural exchange programs, and daily practices in the United States, Western Europe, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe. We will ask why different governments and groups thought cultural diplomacy and propaganda were necessary and useful instruments in this ideological confrontation. We will discuss what these efforts were meant to accomplish and evaluate how effective they were. Through a semester-long oral history project, we will consider how ordinary people responded to them.
The Greek War of Independence and Nineteenth-Century Philhellenism: A European Phenomenon
Beginning in 1821 people began to arrive in the Peloponnesus and on the Aegean Islands. They came from neighboring regions, such as the Italian Peninsula and the Danubian Principalities, and from European countries farther afield, including France, England, Germany, and Poland. Some even made the journey across the Atlantic to reach this corner of the Mediterranean. They had all come to volunteer in the Greek War of Independence. This conflict, fought for a country that did not exist, captured the attention of politicians and diplomats, writers and artists, bankers and engineers around the world and led to the creation of a small, independent state, which was formally recognized by the European powers in 1831.
The Greek War will serve as a case study to think about the intersection of the local, regional, and global and investigate the relationship between culture and politics. Over the course of the semester, we will examine how events on Europe’s southeastern fringe shaped and were shaped by incidents, actors, and processes across the continent and around the world. To explore these issues, we will use a range of primary sources including literary, philosophical, and political texts as well paintings, architecture, and fashion trends. Secondary works by historians, art historians, anthropologists, literary critcs, and other scholars will supplement these readings.
Perceptions of the Balkans in the Modern Era
For more than two centuries, historians, politicians, travel writers, economists, and others have routinely characterized the Balkans as peripheral, backward, and even semi-barbaric. Though in recent decade scholars have critiqued this portrayal of the region, a notion of the area as a poor, disorganized, and corrupt has persisted in Western discourse and continues to inform political, economic, and cultural interactions between Southeast Europeans and the rest of the world. In this course, students will examine the scholarship and journalistic works that both confront and sustain such depictions of the Balkans. They will investigate how Southeast European figures have challenged, manipulated, and accepted assertions about the regions. Students will explore how this portrayal of the Balkans played a decisive role in modern understandings of Europe and consider the centrality of the Balkans in broader European narratives. They will also think about who has the authority to speak for and write about the Balkans and how this shapes representations of the region in academia and the media.
The Enlightenment can simultaneously refer to a period in history, a literary movement, and a philosophical critique of society. In this class students will explore the Enlightenment through a close reading of texts by thinkers from Western and Eastern Europe as well as the United States. They will place classic works in their historical context and put them in dialogue with texts by the so-called “enemies” of the Enlightenment. They will consider if and how Enlightenment thought impacted European society and how economic and social changes might have fostered this intellectual moment in time.
Politics, Ethics, Morality, Historiography
In this course students analyze politics, ethics, and morality in historical writing. Taking a broad chronological and geographic view of European history–from the French Revolution to the fall of the Soviet Union–students trace how different political regimes and changing notions of morality have impacted historiography. Readings and class discussion are supplemented with the completion of two substantial historiographical essays. Methodological questions like when a secondary source becomes a primary source are also addressed as well as issues associated with the social, political, and scientific role of the historian.