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2018-2019 Seminar Schedule

Spring Semester 2019

Women in Ancient Greece. The Case of Sparta

February 1, 2019, 9am-2:30pm

Thomas Figueira, Distinguished Professor of Classics and of Ancient History, Rutgers University

The study of women in the ancient world can be particularly valuable for the wider investigation of women’s history. The societies of the ancient Greeks and Romans are particularly well attested for pre-modern humanity, and exhibited a high level of self-awareness of their cultural existence as merely one of many co-existing civilizations. Hence the lives of women in the Greek and Roman world offer invaluable points of comparison for us about a number of important issues, including, for example, fertility in the nuclear family and its interaction with the demography of the community and state; maturation, procreation, and child-rearing in an environment of high mortality and primitive medicine; the allocation of productive roles within the proto-Western household; social roles mediating the private and public spheres;, the ideological boundaries between nature and culture, and the political status of women in civic militarized states.

Sparta and Athens are the two best referenced Greek city-states. We have a wealth of information about Spartan women which not only presents them as mirror images to their Athenian sisters, but also marks out several significant ways in which they differ from other women in pre-modern European contexts. Sparta’s atypical political economy freed citizen men and women from all conventional work duties. Thus, Spartan women are seen to have shared an elaborate cycle of initiations and long athletic and musical educations, exercised autonomous control over their households, supervised the upbringing and marriages of their daughters, undertook family planning, and stringently policed men’s adherence to their political and military behavior codes. Aristotle reflected Athenian thinking when he contrasted Athenian democracy with Spartan gynecocracy ‘rule by women’. We shall explore several exemplary aspects of this social matrix.

The Financialization of the American Economy

March 1, 2019, 9am-2:30pm

James Livingston, Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

 This seminar will examine a series of questions regarding American Economic History: (1) The "financialization" of the economy: what does that mean, how does it operate, why does it matter?  (2) The origins of the Great Depression and the Great Recession: are the causes of these catastrophic events comparable?  Is another crisis on the horizon?  What can be done to prevent it, or manage it?  (3) The future of work: does it have one?  Have the robots and the computers already displaced us?  If so, is a Universal Basic Income the only way to sustain a reasonable standard of living?

Interconnections in the Ancient World

March 29, 2019, 9am-2:30pm

Adam DiBattista, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA

Modern views of the ancient world often divide cultures into singular categories like the Egyptians or the Greeks, ignoring the role played by interaction and exchange in shaping these cultures. This distorts our view of the ancient world and reinforces outdated ideas about “cultural evolution.” This seminar examines how the highly interconnected world of the Late Bronze Age Aegean and Near East (ca. 1500-1100 BCE) fostered an environment of experimentation and internationalism. We will examine how the subsequent breakdown of Bronze Age society (ca. 1200-1000 BCE) led to widespread destruction and instability. However, it also created new opportunities for the creation of cultural identities in subsequent periods. We will then trace the legacy of Bronze Age internationalism into the Early Iron Age and so-called Orientalizing periods of Ancient Greece (1100-600 BCE). Here we see how the intellectual and material world of Homer was shaped by foreign individuals like Phoenician merchants and Anatolian kings. This seminar will complicate more monolithic views of the ancient world which has ramifications for the entire notion of the Western intellectual tradition.

The US in the Middle East: What does oil have to do with it? (Wait List Only)

April 5, 2019, 9am-2:30pm

Toby Jones, Associate Professor, Department of History, Rutgers University

This session will examine the recent history of American politics and war in the Middle East. It will consider two deceptively simple questions: what is the relationship between oil and war in the region? And, why has the United States sought to maintain hegemony in the region?

War of the Empires: The First World War and its Global Impact

May 3, 2019, 9am-2:30pm 

Michael Adas, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Rutgers University

As the original name – the Great War – adopted by those who lived through that half-decade of horrific slaughter indicates, the First World War was by far the most genuinely global and immense conflict humankind had ever experienced. The seminar will focus on how to integrate the “world” aspects of that war from the Middle East, Africa, and North America to India, East Asia, and Oceania into courses on American, European and World history. We will consider its enduring impact on the emergence of nationalist resistance to the colonial powers, the boost it gave across continents to the struggle for women’s rights, the shift in power from Europe to the US and Japan, and the misguided postwar settlement that made a second world war inevitable.  

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