History | The Invention of East and West
W300 | 26040 | Baesler/Kanig
A portion of the above section reserved for majors
Above section open to undergraduates only
Americans today see themselves as the leading nation of “the West.”
But what is the “West”? The question who we are cannot be answered
without simultaneously asking who we are NOT. As our class will
show, this paradox has occupied the minds of people for hundreds of
years. In fact, it is currently very much alive again. Is the world
engaging in what the author Samuel Huntington has labeled a "clash
of civilizations"? In our class we will investigate the development
of notions of irreconcilable differences between an allegedly
rational, individualistic, superior West and a mystical,
collectivistic, inferior East among Europeans, Americans, and the
peoples of Asia.
Students will explore how religion, power, technology, and ideology
have shaped the way societies view themselves and each other in
We will read a variety of documents, essays, and articles from all
the cultures involved – documents produced in the past as well as
works of contemporary historians – to investigate the issues of “us
vs. them” and “East vs. West”. We will also watch a few films,
viewings of which will be scheduled separately from class.
The assignments will include a take-home exam and a final research
essay of not more than 10 pp.