North American Studies (M.A.)

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The Main Disciplines

Most of your studies at the JFKI will revolve around your two main disciplines, each of which makes up a quarter of the credit points you will have to earn to complete your degree. Disciplines can be freely picked and combined during the course of your studies, and while it is recommended to know from the outset which subjects you will want to focus on, there is no necessity to commit early on. Both disciplines consist of three modules representing an equal amount of courses, yet your primary discipline is determined by the subject for which you choose to submit your MA thesis.

Half of all the courses in the main six modules you complete for your primary and secondary disciplines are seminars, while the other half are lectures. Depending on the department, seminars and lectures can have similar attendance and requirements, but typically seminars host fewer students and are designed to accommodate extended classroom discussions.

This course will consider the theories behind international trade and exchange, as well as their importance, their domestic and international impacts, and the political economy of trade agreements. Theories to be covered will include the classical-Ricardian and Neoclassical approaches, along with an introduction to more modern theories such the Heckscher-Ohlin and Gravity models. This course will also discuss the impacts of globalization on inequality and unemployment, and consider the problems relating to tariffs and other types of protectionism. The political economy of trade policy in the U.S. will be covered, as well the impacts of trade on economic development for less-developed economies.

Imperial history is en vogue. While nationalism and colonialism has clearly dominated historians’ agenda since at least the 1980s, the recent interest in comparative and global history has reintroduced the idea of an “empire” as an analytical category. From John Darwin to Charles Maier, renowned historians have increasingly revisited the meaning and function of world empires such as China and Great Britain. How does the U.S. factor into this tale? An “empire” (lat. power) encompasses a geographically extensive territory of states and people with highly diverse ethnic or cultural backgrounds, governed by a ruler or a group of rulers. The history of empires, in turn, describes the rise and the history of hegemonic states who held imperial ambitions, i.e. whose intention it was to dominate and colonize within the international system. In the context of the new world and global history, imperial history examines the impact of imperial structures on the movement of people, goods and ideas among regions and continents. Course: This lecture-seminar seeks to fulfill two premises: first, we will spend a significant amount of time looking at the history of the rise and fall of empires across two millennia, including ancient Rome, China, and Islam. Second, within that context, we shall try to situate the meaning, function and impact of the United States as a typical – or atypical – empire. Central questions include: How can we define “empires” across time and space? Which criteria are typical for empires and how do they differ? How has the profile of empires changed – or remained the same – over time? Most importantly: what kind of empire is the U.S., how does it “fit” into imperial history, and what conclusions does that history allow to draw us for the present and the future? For general reading, I recommend John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (London: Penguin Press, 2007).

Notions of social integration and social order have long been considered to be constitutive for social theory. More recently, though, this focus has been fading and has given way to both, more basic and more complex conceptualizations of the social. ----- This lecture course presents a sketch of this long trajectory – starting with the most basic forms of social order that already characterize the beginning of human evolution. It offers an overview of the different paradigms and theoretical perspectives that historically have made social order their focus – with an emphasis on normative solutions for the problem of social order. Alternative conceptualizations of the social are explored in contrast to these classical approaches of sociological theory. Their spectrum reaches from Pragmatism to Performative Studies, Ethnomethodology and the work of Bruno Latour. The challenge is to understand the radical change – substantial and theoretical – that social ties and social networks have been undergoing. ----- Recommended as introductory literature: Michele Dillon, Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century, Oxford: Basil Blackwell 2014.

Modernism is characterized by some big names such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Henry James, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, or Gertrude Stein but there are also some ‘minor’ authors who definitely belong into the picture such as, e.g., T.E. Hulme, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), e.e. cummings, Marianne Moore, Amy Lowell, or Stevie Smith. The seminar will discuss those ‘minor modernists’ with a view to exploring their share in the modernist project as well as to taking a deep look into the specificity of the production, reception and canonization processes regarding their language work. Topics to be addressed will be the publication in ‘little magazines’ (drawing on the JFKI archive), the communication form of the ‘network’ and the craze about ‘isms’. Participants are asked to familiarize themselves with the basic tenets of modernism before the seminar begins and preferably also to develop some specified research interest in terms of authors/topics that can be used as input for seminar planning and discussion.

Having emerged as a world power from World War II, the United States faced numerous problems of cultural self-definition in the second half of the 20th century. The Cold War produced not only an ideology of international leadership but also new anxieties about America’s social identity and the nation’s changed position in the world. Topics discussed in this lecture course include the advent of a postindustrial economic order, the decline of New Deal liberalism, postmodernist aesthetics, the New Hollywood, and the emergence of the New Left and the New Right. In the early 21st century, many of these developments have been radicalized under conditions of military hegemony, globalized capitalism, corporate anti-statism, neoliberal governance, and catastrophic ecological transformations. Altogether, the lecture course focuses on select phases and moments of cultural production between 1945 and 2019, when American poems, novels, films and television shows often defined the global state of art in their respective fields. We will concentrate on literary sources, sociological writings, political documents, cinema, television, and other cultural fields.

In this seminar, we will analyze Canadian foreign policy from various angles. This will include Canada’s foreign, security, development and international trade policy. After a brief overview on the history of Canada’s external relations – starting with the emancipation from British rule and the country’s participation in World War I and II – the seminar will primarily focus on the period after 1945. We will examine the role of the Prime Minister, the respective ministries and the House of Commons in fashioning Ottawa’s stance in the world and briefly address the role of Canada’s provinces, most notably Québec. The seminar will end with a simulation of an expert meeting leading to a foreign policy review.