Spring 2024


Roosevelt Montás, Maura Spiegel

UN1010 SEC. 001 - M, W 1:10-2:25 PM

This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the values and cultural expressions of the people of the United States since the late nineteenth century. We will examine a variety of works in literature, history, cultural and social criticism, music, the visual arts and the built environment with an eye to understanding how Americans of different backgrounds, living at different times and in different locations, have understood and argued about the meaning and significance of American national identity. Our goal is to make connections between different genres of expression and consider how different cultural forms have served as opportunities to ponder the meaning of modern life in the United States. Lectures and readings will give particular attention to the sites—real and imagined--where Americans have identified the promise and perils of American life.


Prof. Montás: Mon. 10:00 AM-12:00 PM |  312 Hamilton Hall.
Prof. Spiegel: Mon & Tue 2:30-3:30 PM | 402 Philosophy Hall and by appointment.

Andrew Delbanco, Roger Lehecka

AMST3931UN Sec.001 M 2:10 - 4:00 PM

In this seminar we examine the roles colleges and universities play in American society; the differential access high school students have to college based on family background and income, ethnicity, and other characteristics; the causes and consequences of this differential access; and some attempts to make access more equitable. Readings and class meetings cover the following subjects historically and in the 21 st century: the variety of American institutions of higher education; admission and financial aid policies at selective and less selective, private and public, colleges; affirmative action and race-conscious admissions; what "merit" means in college admissions; and the role of the high school in helping students attend college. Students in the seminar are required to spend at least four hours each week as volunteers at the Double Discovery Center (DDC) in addition to completing assigned reading, participating in seminar discussions, and completing written assignments. DDC is an on-campus program that helps New York City high school students who lack many of the resources needed to succeed in college and to be successful in gaining admission and finding financial aid. The seminar integrates students' first-hand experiences with readings and class discussions.Download application here and submit to [email protected]


Prof. Delbanco: by appointment.
Prof. Lehecka: Tues. 11:00 AM-1:00 PM |  319 Library Hamilton.

Benjamin Rosenberg

AMST3931UN Sec.002 M 6:10 - 8:00 PM

As Tocqueville observed, "scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question." As a consequence, the Supreme Court of the United States has been at the center of many of the most significant developments in American history. It has played significant roles in, for example, (l ) the creation of the young republic and the achievement of a balance between states and the federal government, (2) race relations including the institution of slavery, (3) the rights of workers, (4) civil rights, and (5) elections. This seminar will explore the Supreme Court’s role in American society by examining its decisions on key issues throughout its history.


By appointment.

Roosevelt Montás

AMST 3931UN Sec.003 W 10:10-12:00 PM

Pre-Civil War debates about the abolition of slavery were also debates about the nature of the American nation and the place of race in the construction of American citizenship. This seminar will consider the lives and works of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln in the larger context of an emerging American nation. The course will focus largely on the contrasting ways in which they approached the national crises of the 1850s and, in the case of Douglass, the complexities of post-emancipation politics. We will also consider the relevance of each thinker to contemporary debates about American identity. The seminar will focus exclusively on primary texts. No pre registration, join waitlist.


Mon. 10:00 AM-12:00 PM |  312 Hamilton Hall.

Ross Posnock

AMST 3931UN Sec. 005 W 2:10-4:00 PM

The term “class” is at once elusive and familiar, hard to talk about and ubiquitous, in a democratic society grounded in a presiding myth of classless equality. The contradictions and complexities, comedies and tragedies of class as they play out in the United States will concern us this semester. We will examine a range of fiction, essays, memoir, and monologues as they depict how the abstraction called class impinges on our daily lives in visceral and intimate ways.


Tues & Th. 1:30-2:30 PM | 610 Philosophy Hall and by appointment.


Casey Blake 
HIST 2478 Lecture - T, R 1:10-2:25 PM

This course examines major themes in U.S. intellectual history since the Civil War. Among other topics, we will examine the public role of intellectuals; the modern liberal-progressive tradition and its radical and conservative critics; the uneasy status of religion ina secular culture; cultural radicalism and feminism; critiques of corporate capitalism and consumer culture; the response of intellectuals to hot and cold wars, the Great Depression, and the upheavals of the 1960s.


Wed. 3:00-5:00 PM |  504 Fayerweather.

Hilary Hallett
HIST 2565 Lecture - T, R 2:40-3:55 PM

This lecture explores major topics in modern American history through an examination of the American film industry and some of its most popular films and stars. It begins with the emergence of “Hollywood” as an industry and a place in the wake of WWI and ends with the rise of the so-called ‘New Hollywood’ in the 1970s and its treatment of the 1960s and the Vietnam War. For much of this period, Hollywood’s films were not protected free speech, making movies and stars peculiarly reflective of, and vulnerable to, changes in broader cultural and political dynamics. Students will become familiar with Hollywood’s institutional history over this half-century in order to understand the forces, both internal and external, that have shaped the presentation of what Americans do and don’t see on screens and to become skilled interpreters of American history at the movies.


Wed. 1:00-3:00 PM |  623 Fayerweather


Farah Griffin
ENGL GU4622 Lecture - T, R 2:40-3:55 PM

This survey of African American literature focuses on language, history, and culture. What are the contours of African American literary history? How do race, gender, class, and sexuality intersect within the politics of African American culture? What can we expect to learn from these literary works? Why does our literature matter to student of social change? This lecture course will attempt to provide answers to these questions, as we begin with Zora Neale Hurstons Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) and Richard Wrights Native Son (1940) and end with Melvin Dixons Loves Instruments (1995) with many stops along the way. We will discuss poetry, fiction, drama, and non-fictional prose. Other authors include Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Malcom X, Ntzozake Shange, Audre Lorde, and Toni Morrison. There are no prerequisites for this course. The formal assignments are two five-page essays and a final examination. Class participation will be graded.


Abosede A George (Barnard)
HIST BC3770 Seminar - M 2:10-4:00 PM

This class explores the history of voluntary migrations from Africa to the United States over the course of the 20th century. This course is designed as a historical research seminar that is open to students with prior coursework in African Studies, Africana Studies, Race and Ethnic Studies, or History. Thematically the course dwells at a point of intersection between African history, Black History, and Immigration History. 

As part of the Barnard Engages curriculum, this class is collaboratively designed with the Harlem-based non-profit organization, African Communities Together.  The aim of this course is to support the mission of ACT by producing a historically grounded digital advocacy project. The mission of ACT is to empower immigrants from Africa and their families to integrate socially, advance economically, and engage civically.  To advance this mission, ACT must confront the reality that in the current political moment new legal, political, and social barriers are being erected to the integration, advancement, and engagement of African immigrants on a daily basis. As immigrants, as Black people, as Africans, and often as women, low-income people, LGBT+ people, and Muslims, African immigrants experience multiple intersecting forms of marginalization. Now more than ever, it is critical that African immigrants be empowered to tell their own stories—not just of persecution and suffering, but of resilience and resistance.


Gideon Rose
POLS UN3961 Seminar - T 4:10-6:00 pm

Seminar in International Politics. This course will explore contemporary American foreign policy. After looking briefly at history and theory, the class will study major issues on the current foreign policy agenda, both regional and functional. It will cover China, Russia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa as well as trade, terrorism, nuclear weapons, democracy and human rights, and climate change. Some sessions will feature guest experts. Students will write a short paper on policy towards China or Russia and a longer final paper, in the form of a memo to senior policymakers, on a current policy issue of their choice.


Robert Amdur
POLS UN3921 Seminar - T 4:10-6:00 PM


Thai S Jones
HIST GU4933 Seminar - W 10:10-12:00 PM

“American Radicalism in the Archives” is a research seminar examining the multiple ways that radicals and their social movements have left traces in the historical record. Straddling the disciplines of social movement history, public humanities, and critical information studies, the seminar will use the archival collections at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library to trace the history of social movements and to consider the intersections of radical theory and practice with the creation and preservation of archives.


Michael Witgen
HIST UN1512 Lecture - T, R 1:10-2:25 PM

This course will explore the struggle to control the continent of North America from an Indigenous perspective. After a century of European colonization Native peoples east of the Mississippi River Valley formed a political confederation aimed at preserving Native sovereignty. This Native confederacy emerged as a dominant force during the Seven Years War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812. At times Native political interests aligned with the French and British Empires, but remained in opposition to the expansion of Anglo-American colonial settlements into Indian country. This course is designed to engage literature and epistemology surrounding these New World conflicts as a means of the colonial and post-colonial past in North America.  We will explore the emergence of intersecting indigenous and European national identities tied to the social construction of space and race. In this course I will ask you to re-think American history by situating North America as a Native space, a place that was occupied and controlled by indigenous peoples.  You will be asked to imagine a North America that was indigenous and adaptive, and not necessarily destined to be absorbed by European settler colonies.  Accordingly, this course we will explore the intersections of European colonial settlement and Euro-American national expansion, alongside of the emergence of indigenous social formations that dominated the western interior until the middle of the 19th century.  This course is intended to be a broad history of Indigenous North America during a tumultuous period, but close attention will be given to use and analysis of primary source evidence.  Similarly, we will explore the necessity of using multiple genres of textual evidence – archival documents, oral history, material artifacts, etc., -- when studying indigenous history.


Elizabeth OuYang
CSER UN3940 Seminar - R 10:L10-12:00 pm

This course will examine how the American legal system decided constitutional challenges affecting the empowerment of African, Latino, and Asian American communities from the 19th century to the present. Focus will be on the role that race, citizenship, capitalism/labor, property, and ownership played in the court decision in the context of the historical, social, and political conditions existing at the time. Topics include the denial of citizenship and naturalization to slaves and immigrants, government sanctioned segregation, the struggle for reparations for descendants of slavery, and Japanese Americans during World War II.


Andrew Lipman (Barnard)
HIST BC2549 Lecture - M, W 2:40-3:55 PM

This course examines the three critical centuries from 1492 to 1763 that transformed North America from a diverse landscape teeming with hundreds of farming and hunting societies into a partly-colonized land where just three systems empires held sway. Major themes include contrasting faiths, power relationships, and cultural exchanges among various Native, European, and African peoples.This course examines the three critical centuries from 1492 to 1763 that transformed North America from a diverse landscape teeming with hundreds of farming and hunting societies into a partly-colonized land where just three systems empires held sway. Major themes include contrasting faiths, power relationships, and cultural exchanges among various Native, European, and African peoples.


Rebecca Kobrin
HIST UN3604 Seminar - T 2:10-4:00 PM

Prerequisites: the instructor's permission. Over the course of the nineteenth century, millions of Jews uprooted themselves from their places of birth and moved to cities scattered throughout the world. This mass urbanization not only created new demographic centers of world Jewry, but also fundamentally transformed Jewish political and cultural life. In this course, we shall analyze primary source material, literary accounts as well as secondary sources as we examine the Jewish encounter with the city, and see how Jewish culture was shaped by and helped to shape urban culture. We shall compare Jewish life in six cities spanning from Eastern Europe to the United States and consider how Jews’ concerns molded the urban economy, urban politics, and cosmopolitan culture. We shall also consider the ways in which urbanization changed everyday Jewish life. What impact did it have on Jewish economic and religious life? What role did gender and class play in molding the experiences of Jews in different cities scattered throughout the world?


Karl Jacoby
HIST UN2222 (Lecture) - T, R 10:10-11:25 am

Environmental history seeks to expand the customary framework of historical inquiry, challenging students to construct narratives of the past that incorporate not only human beings but also the natural world with which human life is intimately intertwined. As a result, environmental history places at center stage a wide range of previously overlooked historical actors such as plants, animals, and diseases. Moreover, by locating nature within human history, environmental history encourages its practitioners to rethink some of the fundamental categories through which our understanding of the natural world is expressed: wilderness and civilization, wild and tame, natural and artificial. For those interested in the study of ethnicity, environmental history casts into particularly sharp relief the ways in which the natural world can serve both to undermine and to reinforce the divisions within human societies. Although all human beings share profound biological similarities, they have nonetheless enjoyed unequal access to natural resources and to healthy environments—differences that have all-too-frequently been justified by depicting such conditions as “natural.”


Tiffany Hale (Barnard)
RELI GU4998 Seminar- R 2:10-4:00 pm

The frontier is central to the United States’ conception of its history and place in the world. It is an abstract concept that reflects the American mythology of progress and is rooted in religious ideas about land, labor, and ownership. Throughout the nineteenth century, these ideas became more than just abstractions. They were tested, hardened, and revised by U.S. officials and the soldiers they commanded on American battlefields. This violence took the form of the Civil War as well as the series of U.S. military encounters with Native Americans known as the Indian Wars. These separate yet overlapping campaigns have had profound and lasting consequences for the North American landscape and its peoples.

This course explores the relationship between religious ideology and violence in the last half of nineteenth century. Organized chronologically and geographically, we will engage with both primary sources and classic works in the historiography of the Indian Wars to examine how religion shaped U.S. policy and race relations from the start of the Civil War through approximately 1910.



Alma Steingart
HIST UN2987 Lecture - T, R 10:10-11:25am

The course investigates the relation between politics and technology in the United States during the twentieth century. Following the telegraph, radio, the mainframe computer, the internet, and online platforms, the course asks how have Americans conceptualized the relation between technological developments and democratic ideals starting in the late nineteenth century? Are new technologies forms of control or of liberation? Do they enhance or curtail free speech? Has the public sphere been strengthened or weakened by new communication technologies? What has been the rule of government regulation in the adoption of these technologies? Students will be introduced to basic ideas and methodologies in the history of technology, while focusing on the relation between politics of technology.