Study Away

There’s just something about walking Gandhi’s last steps in New Delhi; putting your hands on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany; looking through the bars into Mandela’s jail cell on Robben Island; or walking under the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate at Auschwitz. Seeing historical sites with your own eyes enlivens and deepens your understanding of history and its connection to the world.

Faculty in the History Department periodically offer study away courses during January term under the guidance of the Center for Global Learning. These courses combine the discovery of the past through written texts with on-site experiential learning. Dig through dating ads at an LGBTQIA+ archive in Chicago. Discuss government building with a former president of Botswana, Sir Ketumile Masire. Luther College’s study away programs are one of its greatest strengths and the history department is a key asset to that strength. As a testament to the wide reach of Luther’s study away programs, we offer this story from one of the students who went on Richard Mtisi’s ACM Botswana semester:

“I was at a store in Gaborone with my friend and as we were checking out, the cashier asked where we were from. I had told her I was from the states. Her eyes had widened with excitement and asked me where in the states. I told her Iowa. She smiled. She then asked where in Iowa and I had told her I am from Decorah, Iowa, and she laughed. Apparently she had come to Luther College in the 80’s under the direction of the Professor that taught here from Botswana.” —Kylie Kozelka, ‘17

Current Courses

History 299: History and Memory of the Holocaust
Taught by Anna Peterson (History) and Lea Lovelace (Art)

This course immerses students in the history of the Holocaust and the ways in which its remembrance reflects distinct national projects. Students examine the interrelated individuals, institutions, historical events, and ideologies that contributed to the state-sponsored murder of 6 million European Jews. They also consider the ways in which this historical event has been remembered and commemorated, and the role this remembrance has played in the creation and recreation of national identities. Students explore these topics in four key national contexts: the United States, Germany, Poland, and Israel through the examination of both museums and memorials. These places encourage students to compare the national histories entwined in the history and remembrance of the Holocaust, highlighting similarities and differences and providing students with a complex understanding of this historical topic. While the focus of the course is on the attempted genocide of the Jews, students also have an opportunity to study memorials and monuments dedicated to other groups persecuted by the Nazis, including the Roma Sinti, homosexuals, Soviet POWs, and Poles. Students travel to Washington, D.C., Berlin, Nuremberg, Prague, Krakow, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Warsaw, and Jerusalem.

Past Courses

Paideia 450: Reconciliation in South Africa
Taught by Guy Nave (Religion) and Richard Mtisi (Africana Studies/History)
Offered in J-Term 2014

This course will examine how South Africans are attempting to overcome their tortured past by examining it and facing squarely the implications of human rights abuses that occurred during apartheid and the violent struggle to topple it. In the course of three weeks in Johannesburg, Kwazulu-Natal, East London, and Cape Town areas, students will meet with journalists who covered the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, judicial officials and religious leaders who ran it, and individuals of all races who bared their pasts to the Commission (and families of victims) in an attempt to receive amnesty from the Commission. We will also talk with South Africans to get their view regarding if and how things have changed during the course of twenty years of democracy.

History 299: The Reformation in Renaissance Europe (Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands)
Offered in 2009 and 2012, Taught by Victoria and Robert Christman

In this course we will analyze the ideas and trace the steps of some of the key figures of the Protestant Reformation, while observing the sites of some of the Reformation’s central events. We will begin in Prague, in the Czech Republic, home of the Reformation’s famous forerunner, Jan Hus. Thereafter we will proceed to Wittenberg and other sites in Eastern Germany associated with Martin Luther, before continuing on to Münster, in western Germany, to explore the ideas and fate of the Anabaptists, part of the radical wing of the Reformation. The course will end in the Low Countries, with stays in Antwerp, Belgium and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In Belgium, we will focus our attention on the Counter and Catholic Reformations, the church’s effort to defend itself from the growing Protestant heresy, and redefine itself in its wake. Finally, in the Netherlands, we will observe important sites in the Calvinist Reformation and explore that reformation’s central premises.

History 299: Reading Local History in India
Offered in January 2009, Taught by Brian Caton

This course examines Indian history from the ground up, using local narratives to think about historical figures and processes operating on a larger scale. Travel to ordinary and well-known historical sites in northern and western India shows how people use the past to engage in current dialogues and how material life affects the construction of history. Guest lectures and student interviews with a variety of locals will encourage students to consider the many different ways individuals' memory of historical events interact with more formal constructions of historical narratives.