Fall 2008 Course Offerings

SHUM 4811 Confluence: Env Hist and STS

(also HIST 4811, STS 4181/ 6181)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
S. Pritchard.  
M 10:10-12:05.

This course uses water to examine the confluence of two fields: environmental history and the social and historical studies of science and technology (STS).  Although early scholarship has demonstrated the fruitful integration of these fields, a number of historiographical, methodological, and theoretical tensions remain.  These tensions include nature as a historical actor, the social construction of “nature,” constructivist models of science and technology, the emergence of “environmental” “problems,” the management of water through technoscience, and scholars’ use of scientific and technical sources to assess environmental change.  This class pairs readings that highlight some of these conceptual issues with specific case studies, including scientific investigation of the deep ocean, European river management, flood control in the Netherlands and United States, and the politics of water development in colonial and postcolonial societies.

Sara Pritchard is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell who specializes in the history of technology, environmental history, and their intersection. Her research focuses on twentieth-century France and French empire.  Her first book examines the history of the development of France’s Rhône River since 1945.  She is beginning a new project on water management across the French Mediterranean, tentatively entitled Fluid Empires.

SHUM 4813 Environments & Waterscapes

also HIST 4813, AMST 4813, STS 4381) 
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
A. Sachs.  
T 10:10-12:05

This seminar delves into the humanistic study of the environment. About half of the readings will explore different ways of examining environmental issues in a broad, theoretical framework. The other half will focus on water as a case study, illuminating the ways in which different societies and social groups have both argued about water and found meaning and even inspiration in it. Is the ocean overwhelming or connective? Is a waterfall in a gorge worth more as scenery or as hydro power? To what extent is our spatial reality determined by river systems? This is meant as a comparative, interdisciplinary course, ranging across time and space, and drawing on work in history, science and technology studies, landscape studies, literary criticism, cultural theory, geography, and public policy. 

Aaron Sachs is an assistant professor of history who received his Ph.D, in American Studies and was formerly an environmental journalist.  His teaching and research tend to be interdisciplinary and generally focus on the overlaps between cultural, intellectual, and environmental history.  His book, The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism (2006), was intended for anyone interested in history, the environment, or the genre of creative nonfiction.  The working title of his current project is "Death and Life in the American Environment: Radical Arcadias of the Nineteenth Century."


SHUM 4814 Liminality in Maritime Archaeology

(also NES 4914, HIST 4814) 
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
C. Monroe.  
T 2:30-4:25.

In this seminar we will investigate the relationship of human beings to bodies of water, as represented through artifacts, art objects, and literature. As a class we will test the notion that bodies of water have, cross-culturally and throughout history, presented opportunities, risks, and unknowns that closely conform to what is known in various humanistic fields as liminality, a phenomenon of transformative thresholds in physical and social space. How different cultures engage transformative maritime thresholds will be studied in a number of cases found in ancient Near Eastern and Classical texts, various archaeological cultures, Medieval history, and even modern art forms. While noting transformative and destructive aspects of past attitudes toward water, we will be building a model to help maritime archaeologists better frame discussions of shipwrecks and other maritime culture objects. We will also consider how present and future cultures might embrace the liminal properties of water in a more globally cooperative spirit.

Christopher Monroe is a Senior Lecturer in Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. He studied nautical archaeology under George Bass and participated in the excavation of the Bronze Age shipwreck at Uluburun, Turkey. Monroe wrote a dissertation investigating the socioeconomic role of Bronze Age traders and has published articles on seafaring and early economy that interpret the textual and archaeological sources from the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East.


SHUM 4815 Histories of Maritime Asia

(also HIST 4815)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
J. Gaynor.  
M 12:20-2:15.

Work on the global maritime past has begun to look beyond particular imperial circuits to examine the cross-currents between them and the social formations that fell between their cracks. From an earlier focus on trade and on European expansion, the study of maritime worlds has also shifted increasingly toward an examination of the histories of non-European and non-elite actors. Much of this scholarship has been organized around the framework of ocean basins, a convenient alternative to more traditional area studies and one that fosters the research and analysis of cross-cultural interactions. Oddly, Southeast Asia has largely been overlooked as a focal zone for this reinvigorated maritime history, despite its fame as a maritime crossroads linking ocean basins.

This exploratory seminar will look at a range of works on maritime history in Asia and the Pacific, but will emphasize materials on Southeast Asia. We will ask, what, after all, constitutes the "maritime" in "maritime Southeast Asia"? Surely it is more than an agglomeration of island and peninsular nations not included in the region's mainland. We will use work on the surrounding areas of Asia to push our thinking about the variety of ways that histories of maritime Southeast Asia may be written. Readings will include fine-grained studies of European-Asian maritime interactions in the region, as well as work on how Asians from outside the region traveled to and operated in its watery worlds. Our main aim, however, will be to take analytical stock, not of what different "outsiders" were doing in the region, but of how work by historians has engaged the concerns, conditions and practices of Southeast Asians. To this end we will discuss recent, as well as some not so recent writing, on the seas and the entangled histories they mediate in coastal and maritime Southeast Asia

Jennifer Gaynor is Assistant Professor of History at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Her research interests concern the history and ethnography of maritime worlds, particularly those in Southeast Asia.  She has published work on historical notions of maritime space in Southeast Asia, as well as on the new spatial division of labor in coastal Indonesia. Her current research examines how Europeans have viewed Southeast Asian sea people.


SHUM 4816 Crossing Oceans of Time: Depth, Flow, Fluency and the Turkish Atlantis

(also HIST 4816)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
M. Aymes.   
T 12:20-2:15.

Drawing on the variegated regimes of combined factuality and metaphoricity that the notion of water allows for, the course is intended as a multi-sited inquiry into Turkish history. The freeze of modern nation-state narratives notwithstanding, the geographical expression 'Turkey' here is to be considered as an enigmatic location, an abyssal venue immersed in many creeds and trades, states and fictions—in a nutshell: an historical Atlantis. While adopting a longue duréechronological span, from late Byzantium to the present, the course aims to unravel the wide spectrum of conundrums that call for examination: 1.The state, often described as a 'deep' structure of governmentality (derin devlet); 2.Territory, peninsula- or archipelago-like, with multiple flows and mobilities running through; 3.Language, as a 'purified' artifact or as a polyglot conflation of fluencies; 4.Religion, curdled by Holy War endeavours, but watered down by syncretistic ambiguities; 5.Europe, or how to be within (engulfed by 'Euro-speak') and without (kept at bay) all at once.

Marc Aymes has been studying (most notably in Paris and Aix-en-Provence, France) the history of the Mediterranean with a focus on the modern and Ottoman Turkish language-worlds, and a lasting interest in social anthropology. His first book, setting out a provincial approach to 19th-century administrative reforms in the Ottoman Empire, is due to come out in 2008 from Peeters Publishers (Paris & Leuven). Recently he was a postdoctoral fellow in Paris, at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (in 2006/07), then in Berlin, within the "Europe in the Middle East – The Middle East in Eurrope" Program, at the Zentrum Modern Orient (in 2007/08). He has been taking part in the editorial boards of the following journals: Labyrinthe, the European Journal of Turkish Studies, and sans papier, the electronic pre-prints series in the field of French and Francophone Studies published at Cornell University. 

SHUM 4817 Elements, Atlanticisms, Ecologies

(also ENGL 4070)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
M. Allewaert.  
M 2:30-4:25.

In this course, we will draw on philosophy, science studies, and critical theory to produce a dialogue between the related fields of Atlanticism and ecocriticism.  Our goal is to gain an understanding of the structuring assumptions of both of these fields, as well as to explore how each is transformed by being put into dialogue with the other. 

Monique Allewaert is an assistant professor of English at Emory University.  Her recent article in PMLA focuses on political resistance in American plantation spaces and in a forthcoming article she considers the role of Haiti in Jeffersonian politics.  In her current research project, she explores how an ecological interpretation of plantation spaces changes how eighteenth-century scholars conceive agency, politics, and genre.

SHUM 4818 Literature of the Maritime Empire

(also ENGL 4071)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
S. Baker 
W 2:30-4:25.

This course in the literature of the age of sail will introduce students to the difference that a marine perspective makes to our understanding of how modern aesthetics and geopolitics intersect. Texts will include classic literary works (e.g. Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Felicia Hemans’s “Casabianca”), contemporary histories of the  British empire in the period (e.g. David Armitage’s The Ideological Origins of the British Empire and Linda Colley’s Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850), and shorter textual artifacts and scholarly articles arranged to expose students to the various zones and modes of British and subsequently American maritime imperial endeavor (including points of contact and comparison with the French and Spanish empires). Formal writing assignments will include a short book review and a seminar paper.

Samuel Baker teaches eighteenth and nineteenth century literature in the English Department at the University of Texas at Austin. His research to date has centered on the formal characteristics and historical entailments of British writing during the Age of Revolution; his first book, Written on the Water: British Romanticism and the Maritime Empire of Culture, will be published by the University of Virginia Press in the Spring of 2009.

SHUM 4819 Water Concepts

(also COML 4064 and FRLIT 4819)
Fall. 4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
V. Conley.  
R 2:30-4:25. ADW 110. 

This course will focus on water as a concept of critical consequence. Just as spatial compression became a critical issue in the post-68 era, water is now of a similar order. Consumerism and electronic communication but also scarcity, new demographic shifts, uneven economic development and pollution made theorists become aware of unforeseen transformations of the nature and virtue of space. Henri Lefebvre’s Production of Space, appearing almost synchronously with Georges Perec’s Especes d’espace, bore impact on what geographer David Harvey famously called The Post-Modern Condition. So today with water: while space and time are the two coordinates with which every culture defines itself, with fire, air and earth, water remains one of the four grounding elements of our own. Water, sensed to be the element out of which all life emerges and into which it retreats, has haunted the imagination since time immemorial. Across cultures, it is seen as lifegiving, purifying, unifying but also as threatening and deadly. Values ascribed to water change from one culture to the next and also evolve over time. Today, in view of dilemmas created by scarcity, pollution, climate change and others such as privatization, water rights, the concept of water is hardly what it was forty years ago. Post-1968 theorists have written of the environment and the “ecoumene” that include water, but few have touched on it in a specifically critical way. 
This seminar will inquire as to how can we use critical writings of the last four decades to consider water as a critical concept—as what can be studied through both theory and practice. We will examine some of the history of water in the human imagination and review several works that focus on how “water” can indeed be a constitutive element of theory itself. We will then look at the changing representation of water in fiction and film. In the context of current dilemmas about the nourishing condition of the planet we will also address the question of the limits of critical theory as well as literatures whose degrees of effective solvency allow them to pass through and about disciplinary boundaries.
Readings include, first, background (Rachel Carlson, Gaston Bachelard and Carolyn Merchant); then, materials touching on a politics of water (Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Michel Serres and Etienne Balibar); third, anthropological studies (Veronica Strang and Vandana Shiva); finally, creative works of the same period (Patrick Chamoiseau, Hélene Cixous and others).