Mason, John Edwin

Seminar in African History

Seeing Africa in the 20th C
HIAF
4501
Undergraduate
Fall
2017

Seeing Africa in the American Century is an undergraduate research seminar that blends African and American history and the history of photography to explore the ways in which images in popular media shaped the ways that Americans understood Africa during the Cold War.

 

Two powerful historical dynamics defined this era:  the emergence of the United States as the dominant global superpower and the fight for freedom in Europe's African and Asian colonies.  The dramatic story of the coming of independence to Africa captured the imaginations of Americans, from policy makers to private citizens.  They struggled to understand what was happening in what many of them mistakenly thought of as "the Dark Continent."

 

Photography in popular magazines, such as, National Geographic, Time, and Life, played an important role in introducing Americans to African issues and in defining their attitudes toward the continent.  Magazines mirrored Americans' conflicted thinking, which ranged from support for independence to a strong suspicion that Africans weren't ready for freedom.

 

In this course, students may choose to develop research projects on a variety of topics.  They many decide to look at the way that photography in popular media affected public policy toward Africa, the work of non-profits and activist groups, the ideas of private citizens, and even the creations of the entertainment industry.  Alternatively, students may opt to examine ways in which photography by Africans -- for instance, images of the anti-apartheid in South Africa -- offered Americans a very different perspective on the continent.

 

Students in the course will first read about the histories of Africa, American foreign policy, and photography.  They will then develop research projects, with the assistance of the instructor, and produce a seminar paper that showcases their own original research.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
15
Course Type: 

History of Southern Africa

HIAF
3021
Undergraduate
Fall
2017

HIAF 3021 is a lecture course on the history of southern Africa, with an emphasis on South Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  we'll begin with a look at the precolonial African societies of the region and then move on to an examination of colonial conquest, life under colonialism, and the rise and fall of apartheid (South Africa's infamous system of racial oppression).  The course ends with the birth of democracy in South Africa that was marked by the election of Nelson Mandela as president.

 

By the end of the nineteenth century, all of the African peoples of southern Africa had been conquered by European powers and incorporated into Dutch, British, Portuguese, and German colonial empires.  Conquest had not come easily.  Every society in the region resisted European domination, sometimes for many decades before being finally defeated.  Colonialism and, just as importantly, African responses to it dramatically reshaped societies in southern African, transforming political and economic systems, gender and class relations, religion, and even music and sports.

 

Throughout southern Africa, resistance to colonialism and white supremacy assumed new forms in the twentieth century, as Africans began to bridge ethnic divisions to create multi-ethnic trade unions, churches, political parties, and liberation movements.  Particularly in South Africa, African nationalism was influenced by nonracialism, uniting blacks and progressive whites in the ultimately successful struggle against apartheid.

 

Course materials include primary sources, such as autobiographies, magazine accounts and photography from the 19th and 20th centuries, and even CIA reports.  We will also read some of the best historical writing about the region.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
40
Course Type: 

Introductory Seminar in History

Seeing History: Online Photo Archives in the Age of Instagram
HIST
1501
Undergraduate
Spring
2017

Most people recognize that the internet, smart phones, and social media have changed the very nature of photography.  Photos are made, distributed, and seen in ways that were virtually unimaginable 10 or 15 years ago.  Photos about every conceivable topic, from science and politics to celebrities and kittens, are made and are almost instantly viewed by more people, in more places, than ever before.

 

Few people understand, however, that the internet, smart phones, and social media have also transformed how photographs -- even very old photographs -- are stored, retrieved, and analyzed.  These photographs open windows on the past.  They allow us to see history and to understand it in new and exciting ways.

 

Students in Seeing History will use online photo archives to explore topics in twentieth-century history.  Because the archives are both local and international, students will be able to use photography to research subjects almost anywhere, from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

In this course, we will look at photography from all over the world.  We will read about the history of photography and about how photography can be used to understand the past.  And with the guidance of the instructor, each student will carry out an original research project that will lead to a written essay and a web-based presentation.  (The web presentation may be public or private.)

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
15
Course Type: 

Modern African History

HIAF
2002
Undergraduate
Spring
2017

Modern African History, explores the history of Africa from the decline of the Atlantic slave trade, in the early nineteenth century, to the present.  Our goal is to examine the historical roots of the continent's present condition.  We will look at the slave trade and its consequences, the growth of African states, the spread of Islam, the European conquest of most of the African continent, African responses to colonial rule, and the reestablishment of African independence.

 

We will concentrate on three regions:  West Africa, especially Nigeria; Central Africa, especially Congo and Rwanda; Ethiopia, in northeast Africa; and southern Africa, with an emphasis on South Africa.  We will pay particular attention to the ways in which colonialism affected ordinary Africans and to the strategies that Africans employed to resist, subvert, and accommodate European domination.

 

We will especially be interested in the ways that Africans used photography -- a new and powerful expressive tool in the 19th and 20th centuries -- to define themselves.  We will also look at the ways in which the attitudes of the colonizers was reflected in the photos that they made of Africans.

 

HIAF 2002 is an introductory course and assumes no prior knowledge of African history.

Course Instructor: 
Maximum Enrollment: 
60
Course Type: 
Discussion Sections: 
3

History of Southern Africa

HIAF
3021
Undergraduate
Fall
2015

HIAF 3021 is a lecture and discussion course on the history of southern Africa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with an emphasis on the country of South Africa.

The course is especially concerned with the ways in which people expressed their political beliefs through popular culture.  It begins with a look at the precolonial African societies of the region, before moving on to a study of conquest, colonialism, the rise and fall of apartheid, and the recent rebirth of African independence.

By the end of the nineteenth century, all of the African peoples of southern Africa had been conquered by European powers and incorporated into Dutch, British, Portuguese, and German colonial empires.  Conquest had not come easily.  Every society in the region resisted European domination fiercely, sometimes for many decades before being finally defeated.  Colonialism and African responses to it dramatically reshaped societies in southern African, transforming political and economic systems, gender and class relations, even religious beliefs.

Resistance to colonialism assumed new forms in the twentieth century, as Africans began to bridge ethnic divisions to create multi-ethnic trade unions, churches, political parties, and liberation movements.  Particularly in South Africa, African nationalism was influenced by nonracialism, uniting blacks and progressive whites in the ultimately successful struggle against apartheid.

Course materials include biographies, memoirs, fiction, music, and film, as well as academic studies.  Students will take periodic quizzes on the readings and write two blue-book exams, a mid-term and a final.

Course Instructor: 

Seminar in History

"The Sixties: Photography, America, and the World"
HIST
4501
Undergraduate
Fall
2015

HIST 4501, The Sixties:  Photography, America, and the World, looks at how photography shaped the ways in which Americans interpreted and reacted to tumultuous events across the globe.  Our focus will be on America's most influential magazine -- Life -- which employed some of the finest photojournalists of the era and reached tens of millions of readers every week.  We will also consider how other media challenged Life's images and, in turn, affected Americans' understanding of world events.

Across the globe, 1960s was a dynamic period.  The Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, the Cold War and anti-colonial struggles, the women's and environmental movements, and rock & roll and student protests fascinated Americans, generating concern, support, and sometimes fierce opposition.  Relatively few people were directly involved in these events.  Many found that their attitudes toward them were shaped by what they saw in popular media.  Looking at the photographs and at people's responses to them will help us understand the history of the times.

Students will develop a research topic in which they explore the ways in which the photographs in Life and other media depicted a particular aspect of the Sixties, in the United States or globally, and shaped the ways Americans responded to it.

Course Instructor: 
Subscribe to Mason, John Edwin

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

  

Contact:
(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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