I am teaching a class “Theoretical Foundations of Global Studies” this quarter. It’s a challenging course for the students, and my class is currently wrestling with Dipesh Chakrabarty’s book, Provincializing Europe. I’ve chosen the book so that students think about such questions as: How do we understand modernity in a non-Western context? How applicable are social science theories developed in Europe or North America to other world regions? To what extent do Western social sciences implicitly accept models based on historicism, in which other cultures and societies are expected to pass through the same stages as Europe? What is the meaning of modernity? How do the social sciences approach the study of religion? Next quarter I am teaching the same class, but plan to use Edward Said’s Orientalism, which I think most students will find to be a more accessible text. Still, I think that Chakrabarty is a key text to any conversation about the meaning of modernity.
The class is also preparing for the midterm exam, which is coming up in two weeks. I’m sharing the possible questions with the students before hand, and thought that I would post them below, for anyone else teaching a similar class.
Midterm Exam Questions
This is an on-line exam, which you will submit to the Dropbox feature of D2L on Friday, October 26th. Remember that there is no class on exam day. You are not expected to write more than you would for a regular in-class exam. The intent is only that you are able to write without that time pressure upon you. Please answer ONE of the following questions.
- In “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” Marx wrote: “Men make their own history, but they do not do it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted by the past.” What did Marx mean, and how does this reflect his vision of history and social change?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of Neoliberalism as a theoretical approach? Why did Neoliberalism become the dominant development paradigm during the 1990s? What factors explain why it has lost international influence since this period? Why might people in different world regions (Africa, Asia and Latin America) perceive this theory differently?
- Briefly compare and contrast Critical Theory and Postcolonialism. What do the two theoretical traditions have in common? How do they differ? How does each reflect the time and social context in which they were created? How useful are both to understanding the modern global system?