Michael Cohen


Michael Cohen

Associate Teaching Professor

E: mmcohen@berkeley.edu


Michael Cohen is broadly interested in the cultural and political history of the United States from the Civil War to the Present. Teaching Areas: US Cultural History from the Civil War to the Present; Work and Labor History; World War II; Race, class and American popular culture; Cultural Studies and Marxist Theory; Drugs and Alcohol in US History

Fall 2012:
AFAM 27AC: Lives of Struggle – Minorities in a Majority Culture
AS 101AC: World War II
AS H110: Historian’s Eye at Cal

Spring 2012:
AS 10AC: Introduction to American Studies – Culture Wars
AFAM 142AC: Race and American Film
AFAM 298: Master’s Exam Preparation

Fall 2011:
AS 101AC: World War II
AFAM 119: Race and Drugs in US History

Spring 2011:
AFAM 240: Readings in Cultural History and Theory
AFAM 142AC: Race and American Film
AS 10AC: Intro to American Studies – Culture Wars

Course Descriptions:

AS 10AC: Introduction to American Studies – Culture Wars
At the 1992 Republican National Convention, conservative politician Pat Buchanan declared: “My friends, this election is about … what we believe. It is about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.” This belief that America is locked in an intractable, two-sided (liberal versus conservative) “Culture War” continues to dominate our national political and cultural life. Everything from daytime talk shows and the Oscars to the Supreme Court and Presidential Elections are today key battle fronts along the raging cultural wars, and there appears to be no end in sight. But why should something as immaterial, so unspecific, or something that is often so potentially frivolous as “culture” become the key site of political contest in our times? Why do terms like Society, Economy, Justice, Freedom or even War itself fail to carry such political weight in this day and age? Is culture simply that which keeps us entertained, or is it politics carried on by other means?

This class is about the place of culture as a site of political and social conflict in American history from the Civil War to the Culture War. We will consider the forces that have shaped American culture, question how a politics of representation shapes our understanding of reality and power, and examine some of the central American narratives, the stories we tell about ourselves, stories about heroes and villains that structure our political life. This class is designed to be a basic introduction to American Studies and Cultural Studies methodologies as well as a history of cultural conflict in the United States from the triumph of white supremacy after Reconstruction to the birth of Hip Hop.

AS 101AC: World War II
This class will focus on the military, cultural, and political history of World War II in the United States and around the world (1939-1945). Linking the battlefields of Europe and Asia to the factories and movie theaters of San Francisco and New York, World War II brought about the deaths of some 50 to 70 million people while transforming the US into the most powerful country in the world. This class will attempt to cover the broadest global history of WWII by focusing on three primary combatants: Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the United States with a special emphasis upon the role of economic competition and racist ideology in the origins and conduct of the war. As an American Studies class, we will emphasize the history of American involvement in World War II through oral histories, war photography and propaganda, African American fiction, Hollywood films, the writings of European intellectuals who fled the Nazis, the stories of Rosie the Riveter, incarcerated Pacifists, Chicano Zoot-Suiters, as well as consider the memory and legacy of the war’s twin atrocities: the Holocaust and the Atomic Bombings. This course satisfies the American Cultures requirements.

AS H110: Historian’s Eye at Cal
This research team will organize and execute a Bay Area component of the Historian’s Eye / Our Better History website. Our goal is to create a digital public archive of images and oral histories of our present moment here in California, building and expanding a website that ultimately can go live as part of the larger Historian’s Eye site. We will begin this project by studying the origins of the present economic and political crisis; interrogate historiographic, documentary and curatorial methodologies; and begin the process of building a digital archive of present history geared towards both academic and general audiences. Through this curatorial and archival project we will explore innovative and interdisciplinary ways to write and research contemporary American history, culture and political economy. About Historian’s Eye


His research interests focus on the history of racial formations, class conflicts and popular radical social movements between the 1870s and 1930s. I am currently at work completing a book contract to UC Press entitled “The Conspiracy of Capital”: Popular Radicalism and the Politics of Conspiracy from Haymarket to the Red Scare. It is a cultural history of popular anti-capitalist movements, conspiracy laws and political violence in the United States during the Age of Monopoly (1886-1928).


“Imagining Militarism: Art Young and The Masses Face the Enemy.” Radical History Review 106 (Winter 2010): 86-108.

“‘Cartooning Capitalism:’ Radical Cartooning and the Making of American Popular Radicalism in the Early Twentieth Century.” International Review of Social History 52, (Winter 2007): 35-58.

“The Ku Klux Government: Vigilantism, Lynching, and the Repression of the IWW.” Journal for the Study of Radicalism 1, No. 1 (Winter 2007): 1-24.

“Jim Crow’s Drug War: Race, Coca-Cola and the Southern Origins of Drug Prohibition.” Southern Cultures 12, No. 3 (Summer 2006): 55-79