Everyday Life History In Empire and Beyond (lecture and seminar)

Course Description: 

This course is designed to introduce students to the methodological and theoretical approaches to cultural history and everyday life experience and apply these approaches to much larger social concerns like the study of empires and their aftermaths.  Until recently, the study of economic, “hard-data” tabulation-types of history, grand concepts such modernity, progress, and reform vs. break-away nationalisms, traditional political histories of powerful men, or diplomatic/military histories dominated research agendas of historians working on empire.  The real-life practices of the countless millions were relegated to nebulous social science models and paradigms.  Macro-studies and theses that explain social relationships and struggles between the state vs. the rest of society dominated – and still dominate – historiography, yet many of these studies are not based on creative approaches to primary sources that can be used to reconstruct the practices, sentiments, behavior, and world-views of actual historical actors outside of imperial palaces and the halls of governance.  The “small peoples” of empire were—and are often still—ignored or silenced (especially if they were unruly) by elite officials, chroniclers and, consequently, modern historians.  

Learning Outcomes: 

Learning Outcomes:  This class seeks to instill into students the sensitivity as well as methodological and theoretical tools to approach different types official and narrative sources in order to reveal the human dimension of the past – a past that can only be discovered by the intense study of particular individuals, communities, or events.  This class will encourage students to focus on actual social relationships and interactions among mostly forgotten historical actors and their greater worlds in order to isolate and test abstractions of social thought that dominate mainstream historiography.   The emphasis of the class will be on how can we re-construct prosopographies from below—or better yet, from the “middle”— in which the relationships, decisions, restraints, and freedoms faced by “middling” individuals and networks directly affected their worlds around them.  This class is very comparative and inter-disciplinary in nature and juxtaposes the Ottoman world (as well as the worlds of its successor states) with other parts of the world about which historians, anthropologists, ethnologists, and sociologists have completed micro-historical – and/or related anthropological, sociological, and ethnographic – projects that take on large issues with smaller cases studies.  That being said, the readings of this class are also critical of many of the pitfalls of everyday life and microhistory, and therefore, tries to teach students how to overcome them.



 2 Credits vs. 4 Credits: The class can be taken either as a 2 or 4 credit class.  2 credit students must come to Tuesday’s lecture class and only read and write about readings pertaining to that class.  Students who want to take the 4 credit class must come to both the lecture and seminar class (Tuesdays and Thursdays), and they must read and write about readings for both classes. 

 Attendance: Attendance in all class meetings is mandatory.  Up to two excused absences are allowed, if the professor is notified before the class. Any further absences will result in an automatic decrease of the final grade by half a letter grade.   Students should come to class on time and are not allowed to surf the internet during class.

 Discussion Leading Activity and Class Participation (2 credit students, 40 pts; 4 credit students 30 pts): Every student will be in charge of leading the discussions at least two or three times during the semester depending on class size.  This does not mean that the student simply gives a summary of the article or book chapter that everyone has already read. Rather, it means that the student should ask 5 questions or raise points of contention/criticism about the article that will stimulate conversation in the classroom.  It is in this discussion of the questions that the presenter can offer her own opinion and answer to her questions, only after other students have attempted to answer them.  In this sense, the students will be evaluated on their ability to stimulate and sustain an intellectual conversation with her peers and professor.

Every student will be expected to come to every class and actively participate in the class discussions.

 To assist the students in leading meaningful conversations about the assignments, I have included a supplement from Harvard graduate students.

3 Response Papers (2 credit students, 60 pts—20 pts each; 4 credit students, 30 pts—10 pts each): 3three-to-four-page response papers on two to three readings of their choice taken from the different classes within each unit. The first response paper has to be submitted by (including) Week 4, the second by Week 8, and Week 12.  In the response paper, the student should not provide a mere summary of the readings’ contents  but is expected to write an analytical paper that has a thesis and a point, compares and contrasts different approaches in an intelligible manner, and offers the student’s personal opinion regarding the works compared.   

 Final Historiographical Paper (12-15 pages, only for 4 credit students, 40 pts

  •  Participation and Discussion Leading Presentations (depending on class size) of weekly readings: 30%
  • All Students must write 3 (2-3 page) Response Papers due on the designated dates outlined below.  For the students taking the class for 2 credits, this is all the writing required of you: the assignments are worth 70% of your grade, approximately (24% each).  For those taking the class for 4 credits, the same response papers are worth 30% of your final grade, 10% each.
  • Students taking the class for 4 credits must also submit a Final Historiographical Paper – (12-15 pages) worth 40% of the final grade.