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Reacting to the Past Regional Conference at Duke University

Hi all! Everyone is invited to attend our Reacting to the Past conference this January! It's FREE for Duke and Wake Forest Faculty/Admins/Grad students, $75 for external faculty/admins and $25 for grad students. Please read more below for more detail about the conference!

To sign up, go here


"Reacting to the Past" is an innovative new form of pedagogy which teaches content and argumentation through a series of elaborate role-playing games. Students do everything that is required in a regular class--read important texts, write papers, give presentations--but in the form of a game. Mark Carnes first developed Reacting pedagogy at Barnard College ten years ago, and the pedagogy has grown exponentially in popularity:

The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported on Reacting here, and peer-reviewed studies on the pedagogy have illustrated that it energizes the classroom and faculty  (see here)

Conference participants will learn about the RTTP pedagogy by engaging in intensive two-day workshops on particular games. In addition, plenary sessions will provide an opportunity to discuss issues related to teaching and learning, game mechanics, and the like.



Featured Games

Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence,1945 (Pearson Education, 2006) is set at Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the British viceroy has invited leaders of various religious and political constituencies to work out the future of Britain’s largest colony. Will the British transfer power to the Indian National Congress, which claims to speak for all Indians? Or will a separate Muslim state—Pakistan—be carved out of India to be ruled by Muslims, as the Muslim League proposes? And what will happen to the vulnerable minorities—such as the Sikhs and untouchables—or the hundreds of princely states? As British authority wanes, smoldering tensions among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs increasingly flare into violent riots that threaten to ignite all India. Towering above it all is the frail but formidable figure of Gandhi, whom some revere as an apostle of non-violence and others regard as a conniving Hindu politician. Students struggle to reconcile religious identity with nation building—perhaps the most intractable and important issue of the modern world. Texts include the literature of Hindu revival (Chatterjee, Tagore and Tilak); the Koran and the literature of Islamic nationalism (Iqbal); and the writings of Ambedkar, Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi.

  • Author / Convener: Mark C. Carnes is Professor of History at Barnard College and Executive Director of “Reacting to the Past.” He is author of the five original RTTP games and many books in American history.  His book on RTTP, entitled Mind Games: Rethinking Higher Education, is forthcoming in 2013.

Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845 (in development) introduces students to a time and place almost unimaginable today, when advocating an end to slavery was far more controversial than supporting its perpetuation: the United States in 1845.   Class debates focus on the intellectual and cultural clashes between the “Defenders of the Constitution”—the entrenched, respectable defenders of American slavery—and the Abolitionists—a small but dedicated movement calling for slavery’s immediate and universal abolition. Many characters are independent of both factions.

The question facing the country in 1845 was not a civil war—which was then unimaginable—but whether abolitionist critics of slavery were legitimate. Can the abolitionists be suppressed outright? The many violent anti-abolitionist mobs in the North showed that this was hardly just a “southern” demand. Thus, in the first part of the game, all characters “review” the newly published “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself” at a literary forum hosted by the illustrious English author Charles Dickens in New York.  (This forum brings together a range of people whose ideas and interests, while actually engaged with one another, never actually meet face to face.)  Later, characters address the U.S. Constitution and its clear protection of slaveholders’ power, such as its assertion that fugitive slaves must be returned. Are Americans accountable to the Constitution or to a “higher law”?

Again, to sign up and find out more, go here!


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