The Department of History will be offering an upper-level elective called “Invaders” in the fall of 2019. The course will “examine the impact of the ‘once-marginal’ people like the Macedonians, the Mongols and the Turks, and draw conclusions about the roles such peoples play in history and critically evaluate the human tendency to scorn the ‘other.’”
Aaron Hagler, an assistant professor of history and the instructor of the class, said he was motivated to teach this course because, in most of recorded history, groups and peoples on the margins tend to be relegated to supporting roles in the story.
“Scorn for the other and xenophobia constitute short-sided arrogance that our powerful group is superior to their weak group,” Hagler said. “If we fall victim to our own arrogant preconceptions, we may find ourselves facing the same fate as the Romans in the face of the Huns, or the Persians in the face of the Macedonians.”
According to Hagler, the impact of invaders on the course of history is profound and some of them, like Genghis Khan’s Mongols and Alexander’s Macedonians, became overlords of massive civilizations in their own right.
“Ignoring such people was a mistake for their contemporaries, who often saw themselves conquered and their cultures transformed sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse as a result,” he said.
Charles Jeffery Taylor, a junior history major from Austin, Texas, said he was pleasantly surprised by a class so appropriate for his goal of studying Central Eurasian Studies in graduate school.
“I have wanted the opportunity to know more about how hostile cultures interact and eventually synthesize what Hegel spoke of in terms of dialectic, and this class provides that opportunity,” Taylor said.
Taylor said it is important to study this “otherness.”
“There seems to be a common sentiment nowadays that individuals can transcend their natural tendencies to ‘otherize’ members of different in-groups,” he said. “I don’t think this is possible.
“It is vital to try to acknowledge and understand it, so that the damage caused can be minimized.”
Joanna Ellis, a senior history education major from Gardendale, said she was excited about the class because “just discussing the contrasts between the large civilizations and the fringe people such as nomads is really fascinating because it makes for really good stories.”
“Bigotry is as old as humanity itself,” she said.
Ellis commented on the “otherness” of the nomadic people, stating that it got worse with the advent of highly structured civilizations because they were built on the foundation of separating people into rigid groups which made it easier to have an “us versus them” mindset.
The course is open to anyone interested and does not have any official prerequisites.