Fall 1999 courses

Design notes

History 60: Cultural Constructions of Africa

History 88: The Social History of Consumption

Design Notes

Pennsylvania, like many states, is saddled with wooden-headed legislators who make life miserable for faculty at public colleges and universities by periodically complaining about the work ethic of the professoriate. Somehow, these guys have gotten the idea that the only hours that a professor is working are the hours where he is teaching, and the rest is just goofing off. If nothing else, you wish these particular know-nothings could be forced to teach a course themselves, and they'd find how much labor goes into preparation for class (leaving aside all the other administrative and intellectual labor involved in a faculty position). But then, we're not often given to explaining ourselves, either. If we want the public to tell its representative what dummies they are, it might behoove us to give folks a better picture of our daily work routines.

I'm teaching History 60 and History 88 for the second time, and I thought I'd put up the syllabi with this little design note so I could highlight some of the behind-the-scenes thinking and work that goes into the redesign of a class.

With History 60, in the syllabus for the first iteration of this class, I tried to cover more topics: scholarly representations of Africa (especially anthropological ones), exhibitionary culture, museum representations, mass media images of Africa, and so on. And there were more texts in each section.

So why change? Well, for one, I've come to feel that many Swarthmore professors habitually overcrowd their syllabi with readings. I'm trying to cut down and ask students to privilege quality of reading over quantity. More specifically, however, I felt that because the class was covering, rapid-fire, a great many issues, we weren't necessarily focusing on the central questions that the course was meant to raise.

There are also practical considerations involved. In between 1994 and 1999, many excellent books have gone out of print: I would gladly have used Eddy Harris' Native Stranger once again, for example.

In redesigning the course, I felt strongly that I wanted my students to use the class as a window into public debates about the "politics of culture", the kind that erupt with great frequency but little subtlety and even less historical grounding in American society. Though obviously, I'd like students to learn something specifically about how Africa has been envisioned and portrayed, I'm now more focused on the general application of what we do in the class to a broader class of issues. Africa is simply our focus, an illustrative example.

As a result, as I pared down material, I also resolved to add a new kind of assignment to the last portion of the class. Rather than write traditional research papers, the students will be researching and organizing position papers that will support their participation in a series of debates about contemporary culture, ranging from whether a character in "The Phantom Menace" is really an "African chief", as some critics have alleged, to whether Afrocentric children's books problematically distort African realities.

For History 88, the old syllabus is pretty similar to the new one. Save for the elimination of out-of-print texts and the addition of some newly published materials, I've done relatively little to change the class except to pare down the reading load slightly and reorganize a few sections. Of all the classes I've taught so far at Swarthmore, this one was one of the most satisfactory experiences the first time around, and called upon me to do the least revision as a result. Of course, I read a good deal of new material as I considered what additions and subtractions I might make: even a class in which little revision is evident in the syllabus nevertheless demands a lot of preparatory work beforehand.


History 60


FALL 1999

Swarthmore College

Professor Burke


Office phone: x8115

Home phone: 544-2504

Email address: tburke1@swarthmore.edu

Office is Trotter 206.

Office hours: Monday 2-4, Wednesday 2-4, Thursday 2-4, or by appointment.


Books for purchase:

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism

Nicholas Thomas, Colonialism's Culture

Richard F. Burton, Wanderings in West Africa

Robert J. Gordon, Picturing Bushmen: The Denver African Expedition of 1925

Molefi Keti Asante, Afrocentricity

Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture

H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes

Optional: Theodore Roosevelt, African Game Trails


Readings marked with an asterix are on reserve.

In this class, we will study the history of representation, focusing on representations of Africa. Central questions include: how are images and ideas reproduced over time? Can images and representations be used to dominate or repress? How, if so? How do the meanings of images change over time? Can an image which is originally used in a repressive fashion or context lose that authority over time?

There will be two short discussion papers in the first half of the semester, but the major project on which a substantial portion of the grade will be based will be the debates which are scheduled for the last quarter of the semester. Students will be expected to do substantial preparation for this assignment, including original research. They will also be expected to prepare a substantial position paper which will be turned in and graded and to give oral presentations in class, which will include a rebuttal to the arguments presented by the opposing group and answering questions and objections from the floor.


Friday Sept. 3


What is "representation"?

Bringing history to bear on "the politics of representation"

The debatable gap between representation and reality


I. The Reproduction of Images, The Representation of Empire:

A Theoretical Debate


Monday Sept. 6

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, Chapter One


Wednesday Sept. 8

Said, Chapter Two Section VI; Chapter Three Sections I-II


Friday Sept. 10

Said, Chapter Four Section I


Monday Sept. 13

*Timothy Mitchell, "Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Culture", in Dirks, ed., Colonialism and Culture


Wednesday Sept 15

Nicholas Thomas, Colonialism's Culture, Chapter One


Friday Sept. 17

Nicholas Thomas, Colonialism's Culture, Chapter Two


Monday Sept. 20

Nicholas Thomas, Colonialism's Culture, Chapter Six


Wednesday Sept. 22

*Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine, Foreward, Chapter One


Friday Sept. 24

*Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine, Chapter Two and Chapter Four


Monday Sept. 27

*Douglas Rushkoff, Media Virus! , Chapter Nine

First paper due


II. The Colonial Representation of Africa


Wednesday Sept. 29

*Philip Curtin, The Image of Africa, Chapter Two, Three and Thirteen (skim)


Friday Oct. 1

Richard F. Burton, Wanderings in West Africa, Vol. 1, pp. 1-5; pp. 50-52 (passage about Englishmen); pp.162-189 (to mid-page)


Monday Oct. 4

Burton, Vol. 1, pp. 206-225, pp. 265-276


Wednesday Oct. 6

Burton, Vol. 2, pp. 14-34, pp. 278-293


Friday Oct. 8

*Ben Shephard, "Showbiz Imperialism", in MacKenzie, ed., Imperialism and Popular Culture




Monday Oct 18

Theodore Roosevelt, African Game Trails, Foreward, Chapter I, II and III; Chapter XIV


Wednesday Oct 20

Robert J. Gordon, Picturing Bushmen: The Denver African Expedition of 1925, pp. 1-57


Friday Oct 22

Gordon, pp. 117-141

Librarian visit to discuss research strategies for debates




Monday Oct 25

*Wilmot Blyden, selected letters


Wednesday Oct 27

*Langston Hughes, The Big Sea , selection

*Aaron Douglas, "The Negro in an African Setting" (slide to be shown in class)


Friday Oct 29

*Marcus Garvey, selection from the UNIA papers


Monday Nov. 1

*George Lamming, Passages From Exile, selection


Wednesday Nov. 3

Molefi Kete Asante, Afrocentricity, as much as possible


Friday Nov. 5


Second paper due.


Monday Nov. 8

Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father's House, Chapter One


Wednesday Nov. 10

Appiah, Chapter Four and Chapter Seven


Friday Nov. 12

Popular Afrocentrisms

Material available in class

Rasta and hiphop, Captain Africa comic, playing cards, Shaka beer mug, etc.

*"Coming to America": selected scenes





Monday Nov. 15

H.Rider Haggard, King Solomon's Mines, all

*NYT on "Lost City" resort

Film: "Congo": time TBA


Wednesday Nov. 17

Film: "In Darkest Hollywood": time TBA


Friday Nov. 19

Film compilation: in-class showing





Nov. 21-23

Is Boss Nass an "African chief"? So what if he is?

"Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" (if you haven't seen it, try to see it right away at the beginning of the semester)



Nov. 29-Dec. 3

The Evolution and Future of Tarzan

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes

*Cinematic Tarzans, several versions: times TBA


Dec. 6

Images of Famine

Materials TBA


Dec 8

Afrocentric children's books

Materials TBA


Friday Dec. 10

Ecological Wonderland and Traveller's Tales

*Extinction is Forever: The Rhino Girls

*Laura Resnick, A Blonde in Africa

"Gorillas in the Mist"

Other materials TBA




History 88

The Social History of Consumption

Fall 1999

Professor Burke


Office: Trotter 206

Office hours: Monday 2-4, Wednesday 2-4, Thursday 2-4, or by appointment.

Office phone: 328-8115

Home phone: 544-2504

Email: tburke1



Books for purchase:


Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods

William Leach, Land of Desire

Daniel Miller, Capitalism: An Ethnography

Sidney Mintz, Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom

Richard Klein, Cigarettes Are Sublime

Barbara Slate, Barbie Soccer Coach

M.G. Lord, Forever Barbie

Luke Sullivan, Hey Whipple Squeeze This


There will be four assignments due during the semester, with the final paper being the most important:

2-3 page discussion paper

A consumption diary and commentary on diaries, 2-3 pp.

Historical analysis of an advertisement, 2-3 pp.

Biography of a commodity, 10-12 pp


Though this is a large class, I still expect everyone to engage in regular discussion. Attendance and participation are a vitally important part of your final grade. You cannot do well in this course if you miss class repeatedly.



Thursday September 2





I. Early Modern Europe: Transitions Reconsidered


Tues. Sept. 7

Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods , Chapters One and Two


Thursday Sept. 9

Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods , Chapter Six and Eight

Tuesday Sept. 14

*Jan de Vries, "Between Purchasing Power and the World of Goods"

*Joyce Appleby, "Consumption in Early Modern Social Thought"

*Lorna Weatherill, "The Meaning of Consumer Behavior"

*TH Breen, "The Meaning of Things: Interpreting the Consumer Economy of the Eighteenth Century"

You will be assigned ONE of these four essays to read. You will be responsible for explaining its basic argument and methodology to other students in small groups.


II. Consumption and the Making of Modern America


Thursday Sept. 16

William Leach, Land of Desire, Introduction, Chapters One through Four


Tuesday Sept. 21

William Leach, Land of Desire, Chapter Nine and Ten

*Elaine Abelson, When Ladies Go A-Thieving, Chapter Six

Discussion paper due.


Thursday Sept. 23

*Andrew Heinze, Adapting to Abundance, Chapter Five


Tuesday Sept. 28

*Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle For Christmas, Chapter Four


III. The developing world


Thursday Sept 30

*Peter Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound, Chapter Five

BEGIN consumption diaries.


Tuesday Oct. 5

Daniel Miller, Capitalism: An Ethnography, Chapter Four, Seven and Eight

TOPIC for final paper due.


Thursday Oct. 7

*Timothy Burke, Lifebuoy Men, Chapter Six

*OPTIONAL: Richard Wilk, "Learning to be Local in Belize", in Daniel Miller, ed., Worlds Apart: Modernity Through the Prism of the Local






I. Food


Tuesday Oct. 19

Spam: A Biography , all

Librarian visit: discussion of final paper and research strategies.


Thursday Oct 21

Sidney Mintz, Tasting Food, Chapter One, Two, Four, Five, Six and Eight

II. Textiles


Tuesday Oct 26

*Jane Schneider, "Rumpelstiltskin's Bargain", in Jane Schneider, ed., Cloth and Human Experience

Consumption diaries due.


Thursday Oct. 28

*Misty Bastian, "Female Alhajis and Entrepreneurial Fashions", in Hendrickson, ed., Clothing and Difference

Distribution of consumption diaries.


Tuesday Nov. 2

Consumption diaries: discussion and review.


Thursday Nov. 4


Paper on consumption diaries due.


III. Cigarettes


Tuesday Nov. 9

Richard Klein, Cigarettes Are Sublime, Introduction, Chapters One through Three and Chapter Six

Distribution of advertisements for paper due November 30.


IV. Barbie

Thursday Nov. 11

Slate, Barbie Soccer Coach, all

MG Lord, Forever Barbie, Chapters One Through Ten


Tuesday Nov. 16

MG Lord, Chapters Eleven through Fifteen

*Erica Rand, Barbie's Queer Accessories , Chapter Three

*BLO Nightly News video: in class



Thursday Nov. 18

*Thomas Richards, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England, Chapter Two

*Randall Rothenberg, Where the Suckers Moon, Part III

Tuesday Nov. 23

Luke Sullivan, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, all



Tuesday Nov. 30

*Jennifer Jones, "Coquettes and Grisettes: Women Buying and Selling in Ancien Regime Paris", in Victoria di Grazia, ed., The Sex of Things

Paper on advertisement due.


Thursday Dec. 2

*Phillp D. Holley and David E. Wright, "A Sociology of Rib Joints", in McDonaldization Revisited, ed. Alfino et al



Tuesday Dec. 7

*Alan Durning, How Much Is Enough? The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth, Chapter Ten


Thursday Dec. 9

*Tyler Cowen, In Praise of Commercial Culture, Chapter Five

*Martin Parker, "Nostalgia and Mass Culture", in McDonaldization Revisted, ed. Alfino et al


FINAL PAPER DUE by NOON on DECEMBER 20th. No extensions, no incompletes.