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Comparative History: Historiography

Graduate students interested in exploring comparative historical approaches have the option of mastering literature in one of four sub-fields: "Historiography," "Comparative Ethnicity and Nationalism," "Comparative Gender," and "Comparative Colonialisms." Each of these fields allows graduate students to situate their own focused research in broadly conceived historiographies.

Historiography

Historiography has two related definitions: the writing of history and the study of the history of historical writing. Both aspects are the subjects of fields offered by historians whose fields range in time from antiquity to the present and in place from the Mediterranean to the southeast Pacific. Students in these seminars examine techniques and assumptions employed in historical research, studying the relationship between history and other scholarly disciplines as well as the uses of social science methodology and literary theory in the interpretation of historical sources. Specific topics vary with the individual offerings. They can include the nature of oral tradition, the reckoning of time, and the significance of historicism, Marxism, poststructuralism, feminism, and globalization for historical research. Students build their reading lists in consultation with their field advisors.

Associated Faculty

Professor Purnima Dhavan
Associate Professor
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Early Modern South Asia

    Graduate students preparing a field in the history of South Asia 1200-1800 will be expected to gain a broad familiarity with the history of the Sultanate and Mughal period in addition to the histories of various regional dynasties. The social, cultural, and political history of the period is emphasized and includes state formation and the emergence and transformation of caste and ethnic identity, religious traditions, warrior and peasant cultures, trading networks, and intellectual traditions.

    Students will create a specialized course of study in consultation with the professor. Proficiency in one South Asian language and/or Persian is required for students who wish to pursue a primary specialization in this field. Students who select this as a secondary field need not have knowledge of a South Asian language.

    Required course work for a first field in this area includes completing HSTAS 502 and 590 and two supervised directed readings in coordination with the HSTRY 596-7 paper. One will focus on reading primary sources in the original languages.

    For those selecting Early Modern South Asia as a second field, HSTAS 502 is required. Two additional directed readings will also be required, one connected to the applicant’s regional/linguistic focus and the other in Historiography.

    For those selecting Modern South Asia as a third or fourth field, HSTAS 502 is required. Depending on research and training needs, a directed reading (HSTRY 600) will also be supervised by Prof. Dhavan.

    Proficiency in one South Asian language and/or Persian is required for students who wish to pursue a primary specialization in this field. Students who select this as a secondary field need not have knowledge of a South Asian language.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography & Comparative Gender)*

    Students preparing a field in Historiography will study the impact of modern historical theories and methodologies on our understanding of early modern South Asian history including nationalist, feminist, marxist, and subaltern modes of analysis. The course of study in the field will also explore oral traditions, mythological concepts of time, memory and history in textual sources and art from the early modern period.

    A field in Comparative Gender in South Asia from 1200-1800 will examine the construction of gender in early modern South Asia and its specific interactions with caste, social class, and ethnicity. Readings will focus on the construction of gender in courtly, warrior, ascetic, and mystical traditions in the early modern period as well as the considerable body of theoretical and methodological debates about the history of gender put forward by modern scholars.


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Adjunct Professor
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Ancient Mediterranean & Late Antique Near East*

    The particular field or topic in Roman history will be determined in consultation with me and with an eye to the particular needs, interests, and experience level of the student. Students will be expected to choose, however, an area that complements (and does not necessarily duplicate or overlap with) other fields while adding a useful dimension to their teaching or research profile. Past fields have included imperialism in the Roman Republic, the development and role of the Imperial senate, the senate of the Roman Republic, and the Republican aristocracy.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography)**

    The particular area in which I am prepared to offer a field exam is Greek and Roman historiography. The parameters and limits of this field will be determined by the student's preparation and needs. In all instances, however, students will be expected to read both primary texts (some experience with either Latin or Greek is desirable or, depending on circumstances, required) and secondary texts. Particular attention will be paid to relevant theoretical works on the nature of historiography.

    *Adjunct faculty do not normally supervise first fields.

    **Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


    View Alain M. Gowing's complete profile

Professor Vicente Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professorship
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    This field is constructed with an emphasis on island Southeast Asia and the Philippines from 1521 to the present.

    Division: United States History

    Asian American socio-cultural histories, with an emphasis on Filipino Americans and Filipino overseas workers

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography, Comparative Ethnicity & Nationalism, and Comparative Colonialisms)*

    A field in Comparative Historiography will include Nationalist and postcolonial conceptions of history, deconstruction, critical theory especially as these relate to the politics of translation, religion, and media technologies. A field in Comparative Colonialisms will carry a focus on United States and Spanish imperialism in Asia and the Pacific. The field in Comparative Nationalism and Ethnicity focuses on the historical and technological conditions for the rise of nationhood, as well as the role of mass media, translation and the languages of power in nationalist discourses.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


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Laurie Sears
Professor, Walker Family Endowed Professor in History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Asia--Pre-History to the Present

    Professor Sears offers fields covering the material and human history of Indonesia from the beginnings to the present. Students focusing on the period before 1800 will emphasize local cultures and early kingdoms through the study of religion, architecture, art, archaeology, economics, ecology, and textual studies (literature, laws, chronicles, and oral traditions). Students working in the modern period will focus on the social, political, cultural and economic changes in Indonesia from 1800 to the present. Emphasizes the growth of staes, imperialism, nationalism, the transformations of modernity, independence and the challenges of gendered, ethnic, and religious identities in the post-colonial world.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography & Comparative Colonialisms)*

    The goal of the Historiography field will be to look at the intersection of history and theory through a critical investigation of ideologies, post-modernities, the breakdown of rationalism, and the de-centering effects of postcolonial and feminist theories. How does post-modern critical discourse affect historical studies? What is the fate of history in the postcolonial world? Can one be a feminist, a Marxist, and a post-modernist? (Would one want to be?) By taking an interdisciplinary approach to "culture," theory, and history, this field will blend together a number of different methodologies associated with ethnography, semiotics, Frankfurt school theory, Birmingham school media criticism, feminist theories, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, postcolonial theories and deconstruction. The emphasis will be on different ways of "seeing" and how these intersect with changing notions of subjectivity. Each student will construct an individual list of required readings for this field specific to his or her research interests.

    This field in Comparative Colonialisms approaches the comparative study of colonialism by investigating spatial and temporal constructions of modernity and what is sometimes called post-modernity. The field draws novelists, cultural critics, and scholars of Asia and Europe into comparative historical conversations about "non-western studies". Continuing the dialogues with the social sciences that comparative studies have always entailed, this field integrates literary, historiographical, postcolonial, and psychoanalytic theories into these discussions by questioning the development of nations and identities, and the disciplinary constructions of modernity, ethnicity, gender, and culture.

    For the purposes of this field, we will avoid positing a past time of tradition that has been overcome by modernity. Tradition and modernity both come into focus at the same time, and scholars can only recognize tradition in the light of modernity. What becomes known as "culture" comes into focus in the 19th century as colonial empires are consolidated and colonial scholars begin the process of cultural representation that has sometimes been named Orientalism. What we must call culture, for lack of a better term, cannot be separated from the colonial moment and posited as an unchanging part of non-European civilization waiting for Europeans to uncover, interpret, document, or eventually reconstruct it. What social scientists call "tradition" developed within an atmosphere in which 19th century discourses of progress and science were percolating, both contributing and drawing from European, African, and Asian intellectual interactions. This field strives towards a re-envisioning of European and Asian histories by highlighting the mutual exchanges between Asian and European knowledges and mentalities. Each student will construct a different list of required readings for this field specific to his or her research interests.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field.


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Professor Joel Walker
Associate Professor, Lawrence J. Roseman Endowed Professorship in History
  • Graduate Studies Description

    Division: Ancient Meditteranean & Late Antique Near East

    A field in Late Antiquity will encompass the history of the Mediterranean and the Near East, 200-750CE, combining a broad general knowledge of the period, with intensive study of at least one region (e.g., North Africa, Syria-Palestine) and two themes chosen to complement student research interests (e.g., hagiography and asceticism, cities, death, burial, and conceptions of the afterlife). Students preparing a field in the History of the Byzantine Empire, 610-1453 CE, may focus on social and cultural history, and the relationship between Byzantine Empire and its neighboring states. In most cases, students will want to include course work in Byzantine art history as part of their preparation for this field. A field in the history of Christianity in the Near East is also possible, covering the period from 500 CE to the present, combining a broad knowledge of the various Christian traditions of the region, with an intensive study of any one tradition (e.g., the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, East or West Syrian Christian traditions), focused on the pre-modern period.

    Division: Africa & the Middle East

    Students may prepare a field in the Islamic Middle East, encompassing the history of the Sasanian and early Islamic Near East, 500-900 CE, combining a broad general knowledge of the period, with intensive study of at least one region (e.g., Egypt, Iraq, Iran), and two overarching themes chosen to complement student research interests.

    Division: Comparative History (Historiography & Comparative Gender)*

    Students preparing a field in Historiography will explore the themes, methods, and theory of hist TAUGHTorical writing in late antiquity. Students will acquire a broad general knowledge of the range of historical writing in late antiquity (200-900 CE): from the classical Greco-Roman tradition represented by writers like Ammianus Marcellinus and Procopius; to the Christian history and chronicle tradition begun by Eusebius of Caesarea; to al-Tabari and the origins of Islamic historiography. Fields in Comparative Gender will encompass the history of gender in early Christianity, from the New Testament to late antiquity (20-600 CE). Students will acquire a broad command of early Christian debates about gender (especially the role of women in the church). Topics examined in the field include sexual renunciation, asceticism, and the legal and social role sof women in the Roman Empire and the early Church.

    *Students may not offer a field in the Comparative History division as a first field


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