Dates of the Program: September 25 - December 3, 2017
PLEASE NOTE: The student housing starts (and thus is available) from noontime on Saturday, September 23, 2017. Classes start on Monday, September 25, 2017 with a comprehensive orientation meeting for the program, which everyone is expected to attend! Students should arrive in Prague on the weekend before classes begin but no later than Sunday noon.
If students want to arrive before September 23, they need to secure their own accommodations for those dates! (For hostels and other accomodation options please go to Useful Links.) The last day of the program is Friday, December 1, the program student housing ends on Sunday, December 3, 2017 at NOON! (If students will wish to stay in Prague longer after the program is over, they will need to find their own accommodations after this date.)
General Description of the Program:
The Autumn 2017 CHID Study Abroad Program in Prague, Czech Republic explores the dramatic social, cultural and political transformations of the 20th century in Central and Eastern Europe. The 15-credit, 10-week program surveys Central and Eastern European history, politics, art, architecture and film, examining such themes as resistance to authoritarianism, gender equality and human rights, nationalism and ethnic violence, globalization and environmental justice, and the role of the European Union in shaping discourse in these areas.
The program consists of three core classes (5 credits each), complemented by international and domestic field trips and cultural events. The background history course "East European Communism and Everyday Life " (HSTEU 490/CHID 471A), taught by the program director Vera Sokolova, will introduce the students to the history of the region in the 20th century, focusing mainly on three major periods of the interwar period, Nazi occupation and Communist rule in Eastern Europe. After familiarizing ourselves with the general background of the region's history in the 20th century, we will proceed to discuss the post-WWII region in depth through the lens of so-called Altagsgeschichte or the history of everyday life. Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to the issues of ethnicity, art, consumer culture, gender and sexuality in order to explore the contesting and conflicting narratives of the country’s and region's recent history. By examining the relationships between the state, society and the individual, we will work against the simplistic binaries of "regime" vs. "people" and "East" vs. "West" to see what these reveal about the nature and reality of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. In our readings, films, field trips, guest lectures, discussions and assignments, we will concentrate on the plurality of voices that together produce what we call “history”, on unofficial narratives and representations, which are produced (especially) by various overlooked and/or suppressed individuals and groups in order to explore the issues of collaboration and resistance, complicity and responsibility, legacy and change, memory and forgetting. The goal of the class is to study how these unofficial (as opposed to the officially accepted and promoted) and “everyday” narratives complicate the notions of a national history, collective identity and individual agency.
The HSTEU 490 course is closely linked with the second course, the CHID 390 Colloquium in the History of Ideas "Collective Memory and Public Space" also taught by Vera Sokolova. In the classroom, CHID 390 is an intensive reading and discussion colloquium that will focus on the theoretical and practical problems of memory, identity building and spatial representations of the past. We will explore how historians, politicians, intellectuals, artists, as well as "ordinary" people transform memories (both individual and collective) of past events into a source of knowledge of the present that may serve a variety of (often competing) intellectual, political and social power purposes. We will study how memory affects the way public space is constructed and how, in turn, the public space around us affects the way we remember (or forget, for that matter) the past. Central Europe has a vast reservoir of topics and actual physical sites to examine how specific constructions of the past are formed and shape life today: conceptualizations of the Holocaust, disagreements over the nature and justice of ethnic expulsions after WWII, understanding of the Roma (gypsies) and their culture, and national struggles against both Nazism and Communism are just some of the many issues we will explore. Given the many sharply contesting historical and ideological narratives, which are continuously produced, used and abused in the region, the Prague Program with its four international trips to Vienna, Krakow, Budapest and Berlin is the ideal context in which to examine these questions. In the classroom, we will look at a variety of texts and visual materials – theoretical essays, memoirs, popular media, films and literary texts that reveal and problematize a range of ways of remembering (and forgetting, for that matter). Outside of the classroom, CHID 390 is all about immersing ourselves in the surrounding local life and contemporary cultural and art scene and critically reflecting upon that experience. We will complement the class readings and their discussions by hands-on explorations of relevant cultural and historical sites in Prague with Vendy but mainly during our trips. As with other CHID 390 courses, we employ three interconnected critical practices: reading, talking, and writing, all of which will work together to create and sustain a learning community in Prague, one in which all of us will gain an enhanced ability to "think out loud" and develop thoughts and ideas through productive and supportive discussions.
The third class, Political Science course "Democracy and Development" (POL SCI 495/CHID 471B), taught by Michael Smith, examines the interaction between democratization and the politics of economic development in Central and Eastern Europe. After the collapse of communism, democratic and economic reforms took place simultaneously and rapidly, leading to a host of urgent problems and consequences their designers did not always predict, such as increases in economic inequality, unemployment and an increased sense of insecurity by large segments of post-communist societies. These phenomena have, in turn, provided a base of support for reinvigorated communist parties and nationalist movements, as well as provoked disillusionment with the democratic process. In exploring the complex intersections of recent social, political and economic transformation, we will pay particular attention to the role of civil society and membership in the European Union in shaping the democratic futures of post-communist societies. An integral part of our class are visits of and from important Czech NGOs.
In addition to the core classes, the program includes a 4-day international trip to Vienna and 5-day international trips to Krakow, Budapest and Berlin. The courses will also be supplemented by visits to important Prague historical and cultural sites, visits by Czech NGO activists, exhibitions and other current cultural events in Prague.
- More detailed information for all three classes is available in the section "Courses".
- More detailed information for housing, transportation and life in Prague is available in appropriate sections.