Visions of "America" from Abroad
America is the great, ongoing experiment of modernity, a nation thoroughly structured by all that is considered new in the Western world: liberal democracy, science, technology, industry and capitalism. The colonization of America by Europe led to the status of the United States as a laboratory for political, social and artistic theories which otherwise may never have been attempted. At the same time, the rest of the world has often looked at the United States from a critical, even adversarial perspective. As recent history has shown, America is not just a European obsession, but increasingly finds itself today in a multilateral geopolitical environment. The Sept. 11 attacks were a brutal awakening for many Americans to the hostility that exists in parts of the world against U.S. foreign policy, and against the identity of American citizens. Is such hostility related to the European ambivalence toward America, or is it an entirely new phenomenon, with separate historical and intellectual roots? What new insights do the critiques from non-European regions contribute to an understanding of America’s relationship to the rest of the world? Each week, we will examine texts that center on a particular theme of European-American intellectual relations, the emerging and complex relationship between Islam and America, the longstanding tension with Latin America, and critiques of American-style modernity from Japan. Among the European texts studied are works by Bartolomé de las Casas, Alexis de Tocqueville, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean Baudrillard. Middle Eastern authors include Osama bin Laden, Jalal Al-i Ahmad, and Sayyid Qutb. Among the Latin American authors are Fidel Castro, Eduardo Galeano, and Che Guevara. From Japan, they include Keiji Nishitani and Shunya Yoshimi. We also will view and discuss several films by directors such as Godfrey Reggio and Adam Curtis. This counts toward the major in French ("track two" or "track three") under certain conditions, when arranged with Professor Guiney at the start of the semester. This also counts as an elective for the Political Science Major. No prerequisite.