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design: Bubu & Vydra

Autumn 2019



Dates of the Program: September 21 - December 1, 2019

PLEASE NOTE: The student housing starts (and thus is available) from noontime on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Classes start on Monday, September 23, 2019 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 21, 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, November 30, the program student housing ends on Sunday, December 1, 2019 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 2019 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 second 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.

 The third course, the CHID 390 Colloquium in the History of Ideas "Collective Memory, Civil Society and Public Space" is co-taught by both Vera Sokolova and Michael Smith. 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 and how these processes intersect with the building of civil society and active citizenship. We will explore how memory and commemorative practices of recent traumatic events (concretely the Holocaust, WWII, expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the Stalinist Purge Trials of the 1950s) shape construction of public space(s) in the countries of Central Europe and how the public space (through monuments and memorials) in turn affects the way people and states selectively remember and forget those events. At the same time, the constrution of public space is intimately connected to the organization and expression of civil society, the politics of identity, and the democratic or undemocratic movements that they spawn. In many ways CHID 390 integrates the politics and history of Central Europe that you study in the other two courses and intertwines those with the experiential learning of our program trips, as well as visits to civil society and international organizations. Central Europe has a vast reservoir of topics and actual physical sites to examine these specific relationships. Given the many sharply contesting historical and ideological narrative of the past, 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 the questions of memory and space as mutually constructed and interrelated processes. 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), as well as theoretical scholarship on human rights and civil society. 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 but mainly during our trips, we will also visit many NGOs and other political bodies. 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.
     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.