J400 Americans Discover the World
Spring 2009

Tuesdays, 3:35 - 5:30 p.m.
Ballantine 137

Prof. Konstantin Dierks

Go to syllabus week 15
Writing assignment #9
Go to research paper progress reports
Go to secondary-source bibliographies
Go to primary-source databases
Go to sample research paper introduction

Course website: http://www.indiana.edu/~kdhist/J400-2008-09-Spring.html

Email: kdierks@indiana.edu

Office hours: Ballantine 734, Tuesdays, Tuesdays, 2:15 - 3:15 p.m., or by appointment

Office phone: 855-6288

Course description:

This course examines the construction of “knowledge” about the rest of the world by Americans in two critical periods of American history.  The first covers the era when the colonies were part of the British empire, and their relationship to the rest of the world was determined by their membership inside an empire.  The second concerns the era when the United States became an independent nation developing its own relations in the “family of nations.”  One of the first steps the young United States took in the 1790s was to open trade relations with China and India.  So, how did Americans learn about the rest of the world?  What kinds of images did they have of other parts of the world?  How segregated or interconnected did they imagine the world to be?  How often did Americans go out into that wider world?  What parts of the world came to America?  Throughout the course we will use American images of and interconnections with the world in the past to interrogate America’s place in the global world today.

At the end of the course, I hope you will have sharper analytical skills with which to assess evidence and formulate your own arguements, as well as sharper writing and verbal skills with which to organize and articulate your own ideas -- beyond the confines of history, and and useful in any field of endeavor.

Course requirements:

CLASS PARTICIPATION.  Because this course is an intensive seminar, its success depends on your regular attendance and your active participation.  Attending every class is thus absolutely mandatory.  If you must be absent at some point, you should have the courtesy to alert the professor beforehand and to provide official written notification from the Dean of Students (Franklin Hall 108) for any such absence to be excused.  Unexcused absences will result in a steep grade deduction on the ensuing paper.

You are expected to have completed the readings prior to coming to class, and to be prepared to contribute to respectful, informed, and constructive discussions.  Class participation will count 30% toward your final grade.

READING ASSIGNMENTS.  Weekly reading will generally involve a blend of “primary” documents produced by people in the past, and “secondary” readings written by historians.  Links to these readings can be found in the course syllabus, from where you can print them out.  Other materials will be supplied as in-class handouts.

For general tips on interpreting primary documents and evaluating secondary readings, see the following two guidelines:  Strategies for Interpreting Primary Documents; Strategies for Evaluating Secondary Readings.

WRITING ASSIGNMENTS.  Consistent with the intensive writing requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences, there will be a series of writing assignments culminating in a 15-page research paper (50%), as well as a number of one- to two-page response papers (20%).  (Improvement over the course of the semester will be rewarded.)  All of these assignments will be posted ahead of time on the course syllabus, from where you can print them out.

Papers are due at the beginning of the class period.  All papers should be double-spaced, in a readable font, and stapled (no folders), with your name (but never your social security number), course number and title, date, and paper title at the top of the first page.  Lateness will be penalized, unless excused by official written notification from the Dean of Students (Franklin Hall 108).

Plagiarism will result in failure of and withdrawal from the class, and will become a permanent part of the student’s transcript and academic record.  Writing must be original, and all quotations, derivative ideas and uncommon facts must be duly footnoted.

See plagiarism guidelines from Writing Tutorial Services.  See plagiarism procedures from IU Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct  (II. Student Responsibilities; G. Academic Responsibilities and Misconduct; 3. Plagiarism).

For general assistance with writing papers or other study skills, you are encouraged to visit Writing Tutorial Services, one of the Academic Support Centers, or the Study Smarter Workshops run by the Student Academic Center.

For specific guidelines on how to write thesis statements, how to write topic sentences and organize paragraphs, and how to use evidence, see the relevant pamphlets produced by Writing Tutorial Services.

Highly recommended for paper writing strategies is “Research and Writing Resources for History J300 and J400.”

ASSISTANCE.  If at any time during the semester you have questions about the course website, lecture material, reading material, writing assignments, or your performance in this class, please feel free to speak to the professor before or after class, during office hours, via email, or via telephone to make an appointment.

If you have a disability or learning disability, please provide me with official written notification from either Disability Services for Students (Franklin Hall 096, 327) as soon as possible so that any necessary accommodations can be made.


Turn off all electronic devices, especially cell phones, prior to entering the classroom.  (Laptops may be used, obviously for note-taking purposes only.)

For safety information related to Ballantine Hall, see http://www.indiana.edu/~bhsafety/.

Course books: (available on reserve at the Wells Library)

Said, Edward W.  Orientalism.  New York: Pantheon Books, 1978. * DS12.S24 1979 * DS112.S24 2003 (25th Anniversary Edition)

Bruckner, Martin.  The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy, and National Identity.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. * G1201.S1 B8

Course syllabus:

January 13

Course Introduction and Concepts


The Stakes Now, as a Prelude to the Stakes Then

A transformed perception of the world?:  Rutenberg, Jim.  “Networks Move to Revive Foreign News.”  New York Times, September 24, 2001.

....Seems not:  Pew Research Center, Project for Excellence in Journalism.  “The Changing Newsroom: Gains and Losses in Today’s Papers” [press release].  July 21, 2008.

What is within view versus beyond view:  Journalism.org.  “The Changing Newsroom: Changing Content.”  July 21, 2008.

....And seems not again:  Stelter, Brian.  “TV News Winds Down Operations on Iraq War.”  New York Times, December 29, 2008.

January 20
Course Themes I -- The Cultural Construction of Ignorance in the "Age of Ignorance"

response paper #1

“We have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly.”
--President Barack Obama, inaugural address, January 20, 2009

  Why Is the Study of Ignorance an Intellectual Innovation in the 21st Century?

“Preface.”  In Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance.  Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger, eds.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.  vii-viii.

Proctor, Robert N.  “Agnotology: A Missing Term to Describe the Cultural Production of Ignorance (and its Study).”  In Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance.  Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger, eds.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.  1-33.

Mills, Charles W.  “White Ignorance.”  In Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance.  Robert N. Proctor and Londa Schiebinger, eds.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.  230-249.

January 27
Course Themes II -- The Cultural Construction of “Knowledge” as Power

response paper #2


Edward Said’s Classic Text -- Not Discovery, but Invention; Not Reality, but Fantasy

Said, Edward W.  Orientalism.  New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.  Introduction (pp. 1-28), Chapter 1 (esp pp. 31-55, 73-92, 92-100), Chapter 2 (113-123 only).

February 3
Course Themes III -- Misrepresentation in the Interests of Empire

response paper #3

  Perez, Louis A., Jr.  Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.  pp. 1-11 (Introduction).

McAlister, Melani.  Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East, 1945‑2000.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.  pp. xi-xv (Preface), 1-12 (Introduction excerpt).

February 10
Individual student research project consultations


writing assignment #1

February 17
Discoveries of America

response paper #4


Imperialist Britons Discover America:  Mayhew, Robert.  “Geography Books and the Character of Georgian Politics.”  In Georgian Geographies: Essays on Space, Place and Landscape in the Eighteenth Century.  Miles Ogborn and Charles W.J. Withers, eds.  Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.  192-211.

Nationalist Americans Discover America:  Bruckner, Martin.  The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy, and National Identity.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.  Chapters 3, 4, 7.

February 24
Americans Discover the World

response paper #5

writing assignment #2


Harvey, Bruce A.  American Geographics: U.S. National Narratives and the Representation of the Non-European World, 1830-1865.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.  pp. 1-26 (Introduction), 27-60 (Chapter 1).

Schulten, Susan.  The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880-1950.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.  pp. 1-14 (Introduction).

March 3
Student research project consultations


writing assignment #3

March 10

in-class primary-source exercise

(writing assignment #4)

March 17
SPRING BREAK -- no class
March 24

in-class exercise

writing assignment #5

March 31
Student research project consultations

writing assignment #6

April 7


in-class exercise

writing assignment #7

April 14 WEEK 13
Student research project consultations

writing assignment #8

April 21 WEEK 14
Historical Explanations and Modern Dilemmas

writing assignment #9

April 28 WEEK 15
Course Conclusion