Course description

This course establishes a broad understanding of American history as a dynamic, contested, and creative cultural encounter of Indigenous-Afro-Eurasian cultures and people. The borderlands and new worlds framework reflects a historical process, a geographic reality, and a focusing lens through which to think about the present with special attention to the role of political-religio-cultural dynamics. We take seriously the different narratives and perspectives involved in the colonization of parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, Guatemala, and a significant segment of what is now US territory so we can begin to grapple with the contested present. Many cities, states, and counties are still marked by Indigenous and Spanish names, while the old world continues to be manifested in architecture and culture. The history of the US is an ever-evolving struggle and blend of the ideology and religious sensibilities of the peoples dwelling in and shaping this contested space. Drawing from the history of religions, anthropology, American, and ethnic studies scholarship, we draw on historical accounts, autobiographies, art, and music to illuminate the human identities, symbols, and the social complexity of rural spaces and urban sites in the various borderlands including Mexico City, El Paso, New York, New Orleans, and Santa Fe, and their implications for today. We view the films Chulas Fronteras, Alambrista and the soon to be released Song for Cesar about the music, teatro campesino, and labor struggles of the United Farm Workers. We come to better understand the many meanings of living in the contemporary world through the influences of these borderlands' histories and peoples.


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