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Decolonizing the Age of Discovery, Interrogating the Modern

Semester and Year FA 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG2032
Section 001
Instructor Valerie Forman
Days R
Time 6:20 PM - 9:00 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, EARLY, GLOBAL


Same as SCA-UA 721 002


This course interrogates how and why “Western” or “Eurocentric” perspectives dominate the ways the “Age of Discovery and Exploration” are taught and understood. As part of this project, we will explore alternatives to these narratives. Most of us educated in the “West” (and many of its former or current colonies) have been taught that the era beginning with Columbus and extending for the next two centuries, has been marked by the agency of “Europeans” whose discoveries led to globalization and modernity. Two not often asked questions in courses on this era will motivate our discussions: what kinds of travel, knowledge production, and artistic creation were people throughout the world involved in at the time of these well studied events and why are these other events excluded from the dominant narrative we are taught? Some additional questions include: what impact—socially, economically, and environmentally-- did the events of this age have on the peoples and places that were colonized and enslaved? In what ways did knowledge production and accumulation of profits derive from, or depend on, other regions and to what extent can they be considered collaborative? To explore how our understanding of the "Age of Discovery" impacts what counts today as “modern,” vs. “underdeveloped” or “backwards,” we will study works that place our contemporary world in conversation with the “early modern.” Materials for this course—written, visual, and oral-- will be wide ranging and, at times, innovative in both genre and discipline. Students will conduct research throughout the semester for a longer final project of their choosing that has the potential to shape future iterations of this course, which is very much about y(our) education.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)