TeachingRoundtable Empire Stories: Pedagogical Approaches to Comparative Histories of Empire

AHA Session 151
Saturday, January 5, 2013: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Balcony K (New Orleans Marriott)
Charles V. Reed, Elizabeth City State University

Session Abstract

Sponsored by H-Empire, the H-Net listserv dedicated to the study of empires and colonialism, this roundtable discussion will examine innovative approaches to teaching comparative histories of empire in different institutional and curricular contexts at the undergraduate level. From a pedagogical perspective, teaching students about empires across geographical space and time presents both opportunities and pitfalls. On one hand, the study of empire offers a opportunity to present complex theories about the encounter, the construction of racial and ethnic difference, and the making of the modern world to an undergraduate audience; to challenge student preconceptions about political, economic, and social development in the past and present; and to teach students about the regional and global networks of migration, commerce, and culture that existed long before the era of modern globalization.  On the other hand, how do we teach the comparative histories of empire without privileging the experiences of Western overseas empires? How do we conceptualize and teach a course to avoid a narrative that focuses on “one damned [empire] after another”? How do we help our students historicize contemporary discussions of development and neo-imperialism through critical analysis rather than through the lens of current politics?

The roundtable panelists will briefly present and discuss the pedagogical and technological approaches that they use, the empire stories that they tell, to effectively engage students about the comparative histories of empire. The panelists’ methodologies have been produced in diverse institutional settings – a community college (Kellett), an HBCU (Reed), liberal arts colleges (Boucher and Natale), and large research institutions (Wright and Vinkovetsky). Two of the panelists will focus on their efforts to teach the topic within the context of a particular course – in a 200-level special topics course for community college students (Kellett) and in a nineteenth-century European survey course (Vinkovetsky). The other three panelist will discuss how they have incorporated their research work as a means of engaging undergraduate students through the unique and innovative use of oral histories (Boucher), the history of food (Natale), and urban history (Wright). We hope that the panelists’ opening comments will be the beginning of a useful and robust conversation about teaching empires with the audience and later on the H-Empire list. The roundtable will be moderated by Charles Reed, List Editor of H-Empire.

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