Public History in Contentious Times: The Crowdsourced Syllabus

AHA Session 6
Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Blue Room Prefunction (Omni Shoreham, East Lobby)
Jennifer Evans, Carleton University
Nathan Connolly, Johns Hopkins University
Jaskiran Dhillon, New School for Social Research
Elizabeth D. Heineman, University of Iowa
Erika Lee, University of Minnesota

Session Abstract

Public History in Contentious Times: The Crowdsourced Syllabus

The crowdsourced syllabus has quickly become a genre in its own right. Starting with the Ferguson and Charleston Syllabi, such efforts have often inspired by media coverage that is insufficiently informed by historical (or other) knowledge, with the aim of creating easily accessible “courses” for educators, journalists, and members of the general public. But the process is as important as the product. As widely collaborative projects, they engage participants in discussions of what constitutes basic literacy in a topic, and they encourage thinking about the links between education, scholarship, and advocacy.

This roundtable will feature co-curators of four crowdsourced syllabi: Trump Syllabus 2.0, Immigration Syllabus, Standing Rock Syllabus, and New Fascism Syllabus. All share a commitment to publicly engaged scholarship and learning, but they vary somewhat in their genealogies. The Immigration Syllabus illustrates the feeling of urgency that spurred many activist-scholars to seek new ways to reach a larger public in the immediate aftermath of the presidential election. Spurred by the Indigenous struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock Syllabus adopts an explicitly anticolonial framework linking activism and scholarship. The New Fascism Syllabus seeks to bridge scholarly discussions that typically occur among non-Americanists with burning debates about the current US American scene. Finally, the Trump 2.0 Syllabus, curated by veterans of the Charleston Syllabus, was a direct response to the seeming inadequacies – in both content and method – of the Trump Syllabus commissioned by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The four speakers will discuss the processes by which they created their syllabi, their impact, and allied projects such as discussion groups or courses that emerged from the collaborations. They will consider limitations as well as achievements of the format.

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