Program in Early Cultures


Courses Supported by the Program in Early Cultures

From 2022-3 onwards, a designated PEC graduate seminar is offered each semester. These fulfill requirements for our Graduate Certificate in Early Cultures, as well as providing interdisciplinary and comparative training in Early Cultures for students across the University. A larger list of relevant current and past courses open to graduate students can be found in the sidebar. To view all courses being offered at Brown University in the current academic year, visit the university's online listings, Courses@Brown.

List of current and past PEC seminars:

Yannis Hamilakis (JIAAW)

How do the senses shape our experience? How many senses are there? How do ancient and modern art and material culture relate to bodily senses? What is material and sensorial memory, and how does it structure time and temporality? Using media and objects, including archaeological and ethnographic collections at Brown and beyond, this course will study how a sensorial perspective on materiality can reshape and reinvigorate research dealing with past and present material culture. Furthermore, we will explore how sensoriality and affectivity can decenter the dominant western modernist canon of the autonomous individual.

Stephen Houston (History of Art and Architecture & Anthropology) and Felipe Rojas (JIAAW and E&A)

To be human is to make many marks: tags and emblems of identity, memory aids that direct and guide human action, and writing that records the sounds and meanings of language, or that might exult in the purposively meaningless asemic script. This process reveals the powers of human invention and facilitates and deepens the “graphospheres” that envelop human life. Visible, concrete signs form an environment from which people construct and construe meaning. This collaborative humanities seminar addresses the nature of graphs from past to present. Topics include: the technology of graphs; their many precursors and parallel notations; their emergence, use, and “death”; their development over time, especially in moments of cultural contact and colonialism; their setting and presence as physical things; the perils and possibilities of their interpretation; acts of grapholatry and graphoclasm; and the nature of non-writing.

Prof. Tamara Chin (Comp. Lit.) and Prof. Amy Russell (Classics and History)

This seminar introduces students to comparative methods in the study of antiquity, with a focus on Han China and the Roman Empire. We will consider how and why we do comparative history, through the examples of the Han Chinese and Roman Empires. Sessions will consider existing examples of comparative work on these two ancient cultures from the eighteenth century to today, asking what questions the scholars involved were asking and what methodologies they brought to bear to answer them. Using a balance of ancient and modern readings, we will ask what the purpose of comparison is and what methodologies comparisons demand, as well as conducting our own comparative research informed by the most recent scholarship on both civilizations. No knowledge required of ancient European languages or ancient or modern Chinese languages.

Prof. Robert Preucel (Anthropology, Haffenreffer Museum)

In the past decade there has been a growing interest in the study of material culture as an explicitly interdisciplinary endeavor involving the fields of anthropology, archaeology, art history, literary theory, museum studies, and philosophy, among many others. These perspectives exhibit a range of approaches to interrogating how people make things, how things make people, how objects mediate social relationships, and how inanimate objects can be argued as having a form of agency. This graduate seminar is designed to encourage reflection upon material culture and its influence in shaping our lives.

Prof. Felipe Rojas (JIAAW) and Prof. John Steele (Assyriology and Egyptology)

This course explores how the early modern study of the ancient Near East took shape, paying particular attention to relevant debates from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Students will engage in thorough analysis of topics such as the history of decipherment of cuneiform; the development of systematic archaeological excavation; the rise of historical linguistics; debates about the historical value of classical Greek and Roman sources on the ancient Near East; the entanglement of European imperialist projects beyond Europe and the expansion of first-hand knowledge about Mesopotamia; the role of local collaborators in the production of academic knowledge; the place of non-western cultures in European constructions of ancient history; etc. The course is primarily aimed at graduate students (or advanced undergraduates) interested in the history and archaeology of the region in antiquity and/or early modern intellectual history.

Funding for course development and enhancement

The Program in Early Cultures also offers funding to Brown University faculty members for developing or enhancing courses relevant to the study of antiquity.