This course occured at Occidental College
Spring 2021 MWF 12:15-1:10 PM (PST)
Course Description: US Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez set off a political firestorm after describing detention camps at the US-Mexico border as "concentration camps." Many objected to the term because of the comparisons it suggests between state violence at the US-Mexico border and state violence in the Third Reich. Was the Nazi persecution and extermination of European Jewry, Communists, homosexuals, Roma/Sinti, and the disabled a singular, unique, and unprecedented event in world history? What kind of relationship does the Holocaust have with forms of violence and subjugation that precede, coincide, and follow it? In this seminar, we will explore what is at stake in debates on comparing the Holocaust and we will investigate a handful of case studies that put the Holocaust in comparative perspective. As a first-year seminar, this course is intended to introduce you to the critical thinking, writing, and research skills that will be expected of you throughout your career at Oxy. We will focus on a single topic (the “Holocaust”) in a particular frame (“Comparative”), but the skills you learn in this course should also translate to other courses and to critical thinking, writing, and research activities beyond academia. You will learn to read and interpret various textual forms, analyze primary sources according to historical cultural context, evaluate historical and cultural arguments, and articulate your own in interesting, sophisticated, and clear ways. The course is divided into an introductory unit followed by eight comparative case studies: Fascism, Racial Contagion, Race Law, Ghettos, Camps, Perpetrators, Jews & Others, and Genocide. We will explore multiple comparative scales (such as the national, transnational, international, and global) and multiple comparative forms (such as diachronic/synchronic, historical/literary, etc.). The course will culminate in a paper that combines original research and analysis. This research paper will offer a comparative analysis of either (1) unexplored examples of cases studied in the course or (2) a case study including an element of the Holocaust not studied in the course. Your original research paper can also take the form of a comparative cultural analysis of literature or film.