HC 444H/431H : Reacting to the Past: Native Nations

Professor: Kevin Hatfield

4.00 credits

  • CRN 22642: Tuesday & Thursday, 1615-1745 @ REMOTE

Graduation RequirementThis class will fulfill a Social Science Colloquium and a US: Difference, Inequality, Agency (US) area of inquiry requirement.  If the student has already taken a Social Science Colloquium, this class will fulfill both of the following requirements:  an Elective Colloquium and a US area of inquiry.

The Reacting to the Past (RTTP) curriculum invites students to engage history by immersing themselves into elaborate role-playing games.  The roles enacted by students are not didactic simulations or scripted performances, but instead an active and extemporaneous participation in historical processes within a plausible context underpinned by original sources and contextual knowledge. RTTP games re-invest a sense of contingency and conditionality into historical study by situating students within boundary spaces between cultures, ideologies, motivations, and behaviors.  Role playing places historical decision making back into the hands of the students and requires that they reason through complex historical dilemmas, conflicts, and belief systems.  Hence, RTTP games may culminate in counterfactual conclusions as long as the results are intellectually sound and historically plausible.  Assassinations, bribery, betrayals, bluffing, secret alliances, deal-making, orations, publications, elections, impeachments, and weighted die rolls determining the outcomes of military operations are all part of the games.RTTP also encourages a healthy dose of “subversion of authority.”  The games deliberately flip the traditional classroom, and after a couple preparatory weeks of primary source reading and discussion and content-based presentations, the instructor assumes the role of Game Master and students interact “in-character.”  Students adopt their new identities and guided by their role descriptions—outlining their individual and faction-based victory objectives—lead the game sessions entirely.  The Game Master offers a guided autonomy with side conversations and written notes to ensure conformity with games rules and clarifying factual points as necessary.

We will play two Reacting to the Past games: Forest Diplomacy: War, Peace, and Land on the Colonial Frontier, 1756-1757, and Red Clay, 1835: Cherokee Removal and the Meaning of Sovereignty.  Each game encompasses about four weeks, and the coupling of Forest Diplomacy and Red Clay offer several benefits for students as both learners of history and game players.  Both games center on treaty councils between Native Americans and settler-colonizer Euroamericans separated by eighty years.  Forest Diplomacy occurs during the late colonial period in British and French North America on the Pennsylvania frontier centered on the Delaware and Iroquois, while Red Clay takes place in the Cherokee Nation and antebellum United States during the administration of Andrew Jackson.  The fundamental themes of settler colonialism, indigenous sovereignty, cultural intermediaries, intercultural contact/conflict, forms of captivity/slavery, conventions of negotiation, assimilation/acculturation, and contested notions of race, land, and identity underpin both games.  The primary sources informing game action and character development allow students to explore change-over-time within these themes.

RTTP was developed by Professor Mark Carnes at Barnard College in the early millennium. Carnes’ recent book, Minds on Fire: How Role-Immersion Games Transform College (Harvard, 2018) assesses the pedagogical outcomes of the RTTP curriculum, which has now been adopted by hundreds of institutions nationwide.  RTTP now includes over 300 games and was first taught at the UO in 2010.  The UO maintains an active institutional membership in the RTTP Consortium, which recently spotlighted the UO on their national website featuring several videos interviewing UO RTTP faculty and students—some in character—and capturing live game play.  https://reacting.barnard.edu/SpotlightUO