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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Ryan E. Burt
CHID 390
Seattle Campus

Colloquium in the History of Ideas

Basic theoretical issues in the comparative history of ideas as a disciplined mode of inquiry; examination of representative historical figures and problems. Primarily for majors.

Class description

Title: 'Death Beneath this Semblance of Civilization': Anthropology, Literary Nationalism and American Indian Sovereignty

Description: Our 390 colloquium will consider culture, identity, and power via an interdisciplinary inquiry that foregrounds the relationship between the emergent disciplines of American anthropology and American literary studies from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth century. Specifically, we’ll attend to the way the disciplines related to the construction of an American national identity and shaped U.S. Indian (colonial) policy, although we’ll privilege the way Native communities in North America engaged these disciplines to facilitate their own struggles for community and sovereignty. In an era of policy targeting the dissolution of tribal sovereignty, literary and ethnographic discourses emerged, situating indigenous communities in relation to “Western? civilization and American national destiny. Just as tribes were being targeted for dissolution, the figure of the “native? put forth in these disciplines held tremendous imaginary purchase for a Northeastern bourgeoisie struggling, in the wake of the Civil War and reconstruction, with insistent doubts about their own industrial capitalist civilization. Ultimately we’ll consider the transformations of disciplinary knowledge shaped by the rise of the American Indian Movement in the latter half of the 20th century.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The course will be conducted as a seminar and students will have the opportunity to lead discussions.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Weekly critical writing and a sustained research project constitute our primary written assignments.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Ryan E. Burt
Date: 04/19/2011