HSTRY 494 A: Colloquium in Historiography

Spring 2024
M 3:30pm - 5:20pm / SMI 109
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

HIST 494: Colloquium: The American Empire in Comparative Perspective                                                                                                                                           

Vicente L. Rafael                                                                               vrafael@uw.edu

Office: Smith 116A         

Office hours: by appt.  

Course Description:

The theme for this colloquium is the United States Empire in Comparative Perspective. We will read some of the more recent scholarship that situates US national and imperial histories in relation to other imperial and postcolonial histories--for example, those of Spain, Britain, Native American and an emergent "Third World"--around such topics as imperial ideology, war, slavery and abolition, nationalism, settler colonialism and diplomacy; along the axis of race, gender and immigration. The goal of the course is to develop some ways of thinking critically and comparatively about the paradoxical nature of the United States as simultaneously an empire and a republic, at once peripheral and central to the spread and mutation of a certain “Western” civilization, a place founded on democratic institutions and ideas, yet sustained by undemocratic practices and ideologies. 

Course Requirements:

There are three requirements for this class:

  1. This is a reading intensive class. You’re expected to complete the assigned readings, attend each class and participate actively in the discussions. Since this class meets only once a week, attendance will be crucial and unexcused absences will negatively affect your final grade. Please make sure to allot enough time for the readings since they are substantial and often challenging in both their length and complexity. (15%) 
  2. Each of you will be expected to help lead at least one of the discussions(along with one other student) of the reading for a particular week. I will say more in class about these weekly discussions and what will be expected of you. (35%) 
  3. You will also be required to submit a longer, 15-20 page seminar paper on a topic of your choice, but one which touches on some of the major themes of the course, in consultation with me. The paper should involve the use of primary and/or secondary sources. However, it is also possible to write a paper that would engage in a sustained way one or a set of the readings in class, or synthesize the major topics that the readings take up, or trace the development of a set of themes as they migrate from one reading to another. I encourage you to meet with me during my office hours (by appointment) to discuss the topics for your paper. The papers will be due on Mon., June 3, 3:30pm by e-mail attachment to vrafael@uw.edu.  

Final Exam option. If you are unable for some reason to come up with a research topic for your paper by week 9, you have the option of writing a take home final exam based on the readings and discussions that I will provide. The exam will consist of a series of questions from which you will have to choose at least three. You will be expected to write about 4-5 pages on each question for a total of about 12-15 pages and will be due no later than Mon., June 3, 3:30pm on Word by e-mail attachment to vrafael@uw.edu (50%) 

Required Texts: (at the U Bookstore or any other bookseller online. All but one of these books can be downloaded from the UW Library.).

There are also required  shorter readings that are posted on Canvas that can be downloaded. 

J.H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830 Yale Univ. Press, 2006. (Downloadable from UW Library) 

Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora, Harvard Univ. Press, 2007 (Downloadable from the UW Library) 

Pekka Hamalainin, The Comanche Empire, Yale Univ. Press, 2009. (Downloadable from UW Library) 

Amy Kaplan, Our American Israel: The story of an entangled alliance, Cambridge, MA, Harvard Univ. Press, 2018. (Downloadable from UW Library).

Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, New York: Farrar and Strauss, 2019. (Not downloadable) 

Simeon Man, Soldiering Through Empire: Race and the Making of the Decolonizing Pacific, Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2018. (Downloadable from UW Library) 

Vernadette Gonzalez, Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper, Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2019.  (Downloadable, UW Library)


                                                            Schedule of classes: 

Part I: Settler Colonialism:

Gabriel Winant, "Birthing of an Imperial Nation," review of Steven Hahn, A Nation without Borders (2017) on Canvas.

March 25: Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native,” Journal of Genocide Research (2006), 8(4), December, 387–409 (On Canvas Reader) Canvas). http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/resources/pdfs/89.pdf (Links to an external site.)

 Tuck, Eve and Yang, K.Y., “Decolonization is not a metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 1, No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40 (On Canvas Reader)

https://clas.osu.edu/sites/clas.osu.edu/files/Tuck%20and%20Yang%202012%20Decolonization%20is%20not%20a%20metaphor.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, “The United States is not an Immigrant Country,” Boston Review, August 2021. (on Canvas Reader)

 https://bostonreview.net/race/roxanne-dunbar-not-nation-immigrants (Links to an external site.)

Tiya Miles, “Beyond a Boundary: Black Lives and the Settler-Native Divide,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Volume 76, Number 3, July 2019, 3rd series, pp. 417-426. (on Canvas Reader).

Kevin Bryneel, "Mocking Disavowal and Cruel Celebration: Trump's White Settler Nationalism," from Bruyneel, Settler Memory: The Disavowal of Indigeneity and the Politics of Race in the United States (UNC Press, 2021) (On Canvas Reader)


April 1:

J.H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World, Introduction, chapters 1-8.  


April 8: 

J.H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World, chapters 9-12, Epilogue.

Josep M. Fradera, “Reading Imperial Transitions: Spanish Contraction, British Expansion, and American Irruption,” in McCoy and Scarrano, Colonial Crucible, 34-62, [posted on Canvas]


Part II: Slavery, Racial Capitalism and the Question of the Human 

April 15:

Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora, please read the entire book. 

            Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2001, Chapters 1, 2 and 7, (on Canvas Reader.)


Part III: Imperialism's Others: Entanglements and Resistances.

April 22:

Pekka Hamalainin, The Comanche Empire, Introduction, chapters 1-6, 8 and Conclusion.  


April 29:

Amy Kaplan, Our American Israel: the story of an entangled alliance. Please read whole book. 


May 6:

Daniel Immerwahr, How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, please read whole book.


May 13:

Simeon Man, Soldiering Through Empire: Race and the Making of the Decolonizing Pacific, please read whole book.


May 20

Seungsook Moon, “Sexual Labor and the US Military Empire: Comparative Analysis of Europe and East Asia,” in Daniel E. Bender and Jana K. Lipman, eds., Making Empire Work: Labor and United States Imperialism, New York: NYU Press, 2015, 137-60. (on Canvas Reader)

            Vernadette Gonzalez, Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper, please read whole book. 


May 27:

Memorial Day, No class.


June 3: Papers due by 3:30pm. Please submit them typed, double spaced in Word format (12 pt. Times Roman) to vrafael@uw.edu

If you anticipate having a problem meeting this deadline, please let me know as soon as possible.


Catalog Description:
Advanced seminar examining central issues in historiography. Emphasizes reading, discussion, and writing.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
June 11, 2024 - 7:58 pm