Course WILL count for major and minor credit in History
From Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative to Madonna’s transnational adoptions to the “dreamer generation," by way of the Victorian orphanage, figures of uprooted children condense cultural and psychic fantasies of displacement, relocation, and recomposition. Mythologized and sensationalized stories of children’s abandonment, abduction, and adoption illustrate how family lives are affected by global processes and politics including religious and racial conflict, war, colonialism, and economic crises. They simultaneously show how global affects– from fondness to fear– are animated by the figure of the child. This class studies the ethical, aesthetic and historical dimensions of these questions. From blood libel trials to child refugees to the ‘stolen generation,’ scandals to historical silences, we interrogate past figures in order to critically engage contemporary questions about humanitarianism, human rights law, welfare, family law, and social justice. This course integrates historical documents, literature, and film, as well as selected secondary sources in order to engage in a global, comparative, and interdisciplinary investigation of these questions. This topic is, of course, vast. I am providing a provisional list here of possible themes and readings in order to indicate both the potential breadth of the subject areas, interdisciplinary approaches, and global and chronological reach. This expansiveness also offer students an ideal opportunity to develop their own research project on a relevant subject.
JUDITH SURKIS specializes in Modern European History, with an emphasis on France and the French Empire, gender and sexuality, and intellectual, cultural, and legal History. Her research and teaching range across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, examining questions of sex and citizenship, colonialism and postcolonial migration, as well as critical theory and historical methodology. She is currently completing a book, Scandalous Subjects: Sex, Law, and Sovereignty in French Algeria, 1830-1930, which explores how ideas about sex and gender shaped approaches to law and public order in French Algeria. She shows how colonial law framed Algerian religious difference as a form of sexual difference and how Algerians worked within and against this legal frame. The book offers a new view of the historical entanglement of French and Muslim law and historically situates recent controversies over sexual and religious pluralism in France and Europe today. She has also begun work on a new project, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: Family Lives and Laws After Decolonization, which examines the development of private international law in the wake of the decolonization and European integration. Taking the case of the children of binational couples as a point of departure, she examines postwar transformations in kinship, women and children’s rights, feminism, and global legal orders in a shared analytical frame. Her previous publications include Sexing the Citizen: Morality and Masculinity in France, 1870-1920 (Cornell, 2006) and articles in the American Historical Review, Public Culture, French Politics, Culture, and Society, and the History of the Present.