An Invisible Class in a Silent Land. Aristocracy and Settlement Transformation in Atlantic Iberia during Late Antiquity (300-600)
This project investigates the transformations of aristocracies during Late Antiquity in an obscure corner of the Roman World: Atlantic Iberia. The project addresses the following question: a powerful and wealthy aristocracy dominated the Iberian Peninsula during the late Roman Empire; what happened to these aristocrats after Rome “fell”? The fate of Iberian aristocracies after the so-called fall of the Roman Empire lies at the center of the quest to understand the formation of Medieval Spain. By focusing on one area of the peninsula (Atlantic Iberia), Damián Fernández contends that a mosaic of local aristocracies with different economic and social strategies dominated local societies in the mid-sixth century, in contrast to the uniformity that had prevailed among the late-Roman elites in Iberia. Thus, the fate of the regional Roman aristocracy was not simply a “decline” or a “fall.” Nor does “continuity” provide a better paradigm. Rather, local aristocracies changed the basic meaning of what it meant to be an aristocrat, with responses varying from region to region.
Double Meanings: Representing Conjoined Twins
Double Meanings: Representing Conjoined Twins analyzes cultural representations of conjoined twins in literature, film, media, and popular culture. The guiding principle for this project is to reverse the sensationalism usually attached to public discussions of conjoinment by turning the lens of fascination back onto the cultural meanings attached to representations of such twins. Double Meanings asks what representations of conjoinment can tell us about the workings of power in different cultural settings, especially as conjoinment intersects with more familiar identities of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Unlike previous scholarly works, this project turns away from broad philosophical questions to explore such historically-located areas of inquiry as colonialism, slavery, sexual science, modern consumerism, and globalization, all of which shape the representation of conjoined twins from the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries.
Ecological Imperialism Revisited: Entanglements of Disease, Commerce, and Knowledge in a Global World
Forty years ago, in The Columbian Exchange, and a few years later, in Plagues and Peoples, Alfred Crosby and William McNeill advanced grand historical narratives on a global scale driven by the movement of plants, people, and parasites across space and time. The appearance of disease as an agent of empire in the writing of global environmental histories is deeply entangled with ecological and evolutionary understandings of disease that emerged in the service of capital in the early twentieth century. In his talk, Mitman examines how American military and industrial expansion overseas—witnessed firsthand by doctors in the American occupation of the Philippines, on the coffee plantations of the United Fruit Company, in the trenches of the Great War, and on the rubber plantations of Firestone in Liberia—helped bring into being new views of nature and nation that would, in turn, become the scientific foundation upon which later historical narratives of ecological imperialism relied.
Meridith Beck Sayre
The Process of Conversion: A Biography of the Jesuit Relations
In August of 1632 Father Paul Le Jeune penned the first installment of the Jesuit Relations “from the midst of a forest more than 800 leagues in extent, at Kebec.” The Relations were yearly reports written by members of the Society of Jesus who worked to christianize New France during the seventeenth century. Sent back to Paris for publication every year between 1632 to 1673, the texts formed a forty-one volume book series that was popular among the Parisian elite. They are now widely considered to be one of the most important historical sources for understanding the colonial encounter between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of North America. My dissertation presents a biography of the Relations, in which I chart how these religious texts gained scientific authority in the modern social sciences and humanities. By exposing the print history and textual practices that transformed these texts into a tool of scientific inquiry, my work reveals the fundamental role the Relations have played in the history of race in North America. Furthermore, I argue that the print culture surrounding the Relations—namely their transmission and reception in the late nineteenth-century—has significantly influenced the modern reading of the texts as ethnographic documents.
"I are citizens of the Halles": Forging Citizenship in the Marketplace during the French Revolution
Historians, political scientists, and philosophers rightly emphasize how the French Revolution created a foundation for democracy in Europe. However, some scholars point to the Revolution’s potentially dark underbelly – the revolutionaries legally cast citizenship as male by denying women the right to vote and banishing them from political clubs. However, if we only consider the institutional attributes of citizenship, we project our current definitions on the revolutionary model. In doing so, we miss the opportunity to probe the myriad ways revolutionaries conceptualized citizenship in its embryonic stages, many of which belied its legal gendered divisions.
This paper takes the Dames des Halles, Parisian market women, as a case study. From the outset of the Revolution, the Parisian marketplace and the female merchants who worked there drove politics in new directions. While they are best known for their leading role in bringing the king to Paris during the October Days, the Dames des Halles continually demonstrated in the streets, boldly intervened in the assembly halls, and asserted their vision of a regenerated nation.This paper argues that the Dames remained unfazed by the gendered visions of legal citizenship specifically because they did not view their sovereignty primarily through gendered markers. Rather, the Dames frequently referenced how their commerce benefited public utility and how their autonomous work supported the social body. The Dames linked themselves to the nation as citizen-workers. They imagined that they earned citizenship through societal engagement. For them, legitimacy did not stem from an a priori right. The Dames portrayed their commercial endeavors, political interventions, and familial obligations as civic work that granted them political membership. The Dames' attitudes towards their work can nuance our understanding of nascent citizenship at the cusp of modern democracy.
Long a pejorative word since its associations with the flag-waving and jingoism surrounding U.S. participation in World War I, “propaganda” would hardly seem a useful concept for understanding democracy. After all, spreading false information, manipulating facts, and other propaganda techniques are preferred by totalitarian states, not democratic ones. This book project questions such conventional wisdom by examining how popular consent and public opinion in early America relied on the spirited dissemination of rumor, forgery, and invective. Propaganda 1776 considers the extent to which the dispersal and circulation—indeed, the propagation—of information and opinion across the various media of 18th-century print culture helped speed the flow of transatlantic republicanism. The spread of revolutionary material in the form of newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, letters, songs, and poems across British North America (and later the United States) created multiple networks that spawned new and often radical ideas about political communication.
Dishonorable Duty: The U.S. Army and the Removal of the Southeastern Indians
Dishonorable Duty: The U.S. Army and the Removal of the Southeastern Indians will examine the American military’s role in the ethnic cleansing of the American Southeast in the 1830s and 1840s. By examining the host of Indian and white perceptions of the army’s role in Indian Removal—as well as the ways in which various groups have remembered or forgotten it—I hope to fuse a fractured historiography and to complicate comfortable-but-flawed conceptions of ethnic and racial identity during the “Age of Jackson. “ As the agency charged with executing federal Indian removal policy, the army was a lightening rod for controversy—one capable of illuminating grave disagreements about the nature and future of American society. Nominally, criticism of the army reflected entrenched views about the justice of the removal policy itself, but attacks on the army bespoke deeper schisms over the locus of sovereignty, the meaning of national honor, the sources of republican virtue, and the currency of class and race as measures of human worth. Painted in the stark colors of race, memories of removal obscure the equally (and sometimes more) powerful antagonism between Jacksonian-localist populism and the nationalist elitism of the Whig party. Ironically, the army wielded by Andrew Jackson represented everything his supporters abhorred—military elitism, the superiority of federal authority, and hierarchy based on class rather than race. These tensions were not lost on the Indians, who neither looked upon Anglo-Americans as a monolithic people nor were unified within their own communities.
Conflict in the Construction of Socialism: Public Health, Rapid Industrialization, and the Communist Modern in Czechoslovakia
This paper explores the development of public health services in communist Czechoslovakia, and in turn, the early attempts of state hygienists to improve the living and working environment, enhance the biophysical condition of the proletariat, and halt the consequences of rapid industrialization. Through the efforts and activities of the hygiene services, I trace the converging influences of social humanism, disciplinary ambition, Marxist-Leninist ideology, and progressive critiques of Western medicine. What arose from this constellation of imperatives was a vision of communist modernity that sought to prioritize population health and physiological well-being as the highest aims of state, and furthermore, reform traditional understandings of both preventative medicine and its role in an industrial society. But this idealistic perspective quickly encountered a competing imagination of the socialist modern, one that saw rapid and extensive industrial development as the primary foundation of any social and economic progress. As this confrontation between ideals played out in the 1950s, the attempt to place salubrity and prophylaxis over the demands of socialist economic efficiency ultimately failed, and entrenched attitudes towards medical practice, industrialization, and environmental health risks remained largely unchanged.
Education and Identity Among the Children of Minorities in the French Republic
This talk will be followed by a screening of Le gone du Chaâba.
Créer dans les marges. Azouz Begag: du gone au ministre, en passant par l'écrivain