The World Since 1850

The World Since 1850

Winter 2021
©️ Omnia El Shakry


This is a course in the history of the world since 1850 that will highlight five themes: the global formation of capitalism and industrialism; warfare and techno-politics; the rival ideologies of liberalism, fascism, and communism; anticolonial nationalism, decolonization, and revolutionary struggles; and the current global catastrophe. In particular, we will learn to think historically about global structures of inequality.

Our focus will be on modernity as a process of creative destruction. We will begin with the global world of the 19th century (“disciplinary societies”) and end by asking if we live in what the philosopher Gilles Deleuze calls a “Society of Control.” We conclude by contemplating what it might mean to imagine hope as survival in the aftermath of an ongoing catastrophe. The emphasis will be on understanding comparisons and connections across multiple societies and histories rather than comprehensive coverage. 

Required Texts

Robert Tignor, et. al., Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World, 1750–present Volume C, 3rd ed. or 4th ed. or 5th ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2011, 2014, 2018).

Domitila Barrios de Chungara with Moema Viezzer, Let Me Speak—Domitila, Testimony of Domitila, A Woman of the Bolivian Mines (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1978).

Sonallah Ibrahim, The Committee, trans. Mary St. Germain and Charlene Constable (Syracuse, NY: 2001).

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (New York: Touchstone, 1996).

Optional Texts

Yuan-tsung Chen, The Dragon’s Village: An Autobiographical Novel of Revolutionary China (New York: Penguin, 1981).

Required Films & Videos:

Snoop Dog Says Read the Syllabus, Snoop Dog (2020, 25 seconds)

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (Slavoj Žižek), dir. Sophie Fiennes (2013, 8-minute clip)

Geographies of Racial Capitalism with Ruth Wilson Gilmore, dir. Kenton Card (2020, 17 minutes)

Revolution: New Art for a New World, dir. Margy Kinmonth (2016, 86 minutes)

Battle of Algiers, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo (1966, 122 minutes)

Black Skin, White Masks, dir. Isaac Julien (1996, 72 minutes)

Soy Cuba, dir. Mikhail Kalatozov (1964, 135 minutes)

Visuality & Carceral Formations, N. Fleetwood, H. Gray, N. Mirzoeff (2020, 94 minutes)

Collateral Murder, Wikileaks, Iraq (2007, 18 minutes)

Deleuze’s Postscript on the Societies of Control, dir. Liquid Theory TV (2010, 23 minutes)

The Square, dir. Jehane Noujaim (2013, 105 minutes)