On Tuesday, 26 September, at 330pm, Professor Mimi Sheller of Drexel University will give the annual Robert G. Mead Lecture on the theme “Caribbean Futures: Surviving the Anthropocene” http://dailydigest.uconn.edu/publicEmailSingleStoryView.php?id=85861&cid=24&iid=2752
First-year El Instituto student Megan Fountain offers a survey of Professor Sheller’s work and a glimpse of what she’ll cover in this talk.
As our society is increasingly shaped by the mobility of people, goods, ideas and capital around the globe, the inequalities in our society are increasingly shaped by “uneven mobilities.” In the case of travel and migration, for example, some people are more mobile than ever, while others are immobilized by militarized borders, and still others are displaced by forced migrations. These uneven mobilities have changed over time, and they are in no way permanent or inevitable. It is this fascination with past and future mobilities that drives the scholarship of Mimi Sheller, Professor of Sociology and Founding Director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University.
Sheller began her career studying the “public sphere,” democracy formation, and civic participation, so it is not surprising that today she is a scholar who is deeply engaged in public policy debates. Sheller earned her PhD in history and sociology at the New School for Social Research. Her dissertation and first book, Democracy after Slavery: Black Publics and Peasant Radicalism in Haiti and Jamaica (2000), examined how “black publics” in post-emancipation Haiti and Jamaica labored to build radical democratic societies before they were ultimately stunted by liberal and then authoritarian governments. Mining the archives of peasant organizations and popular religious organizations, including meeting minutes, mass petitions, and newspapers, Sheller studied how these black publics organized collectively and demanded land reform and political rights not only by reimagining liberal, European ideas of citizenship but also by drawing on transnational black abolitionist thought and critiquing white domination and planter oligarchy. Sheller’s future scholarship would continue to probe this question of how “publics” form and how they participate politically.
When Sheller joined the Sociology Department at Lancaster University in England, she began a collaboration with sociologist John Urry that would last nearly two decades until Urry’s untimely death in 2017. In their first of many co-authored articles, “The City and the Car” (2000), they examined how the automobile was changing public space, public life, and democratic participation. Government projects of urban and suburban planning together with fossil fuel interests had created a “car culture” and car landscape that gave automobile owners access to a public sphere, while marginalizing pedestrians and public transit users and excluding them from civic life.
Sheller continued to examine public life in an article about “Mobile Publics” in 2004. While neoliberalism was extinguishing public goods and public spaces, and traditional modes of public debate such as newspapers were dying out, Sheller argued that other forms of public debate, democratic participation, and connectivity were emerging thanks to the increased mobility of information and people. Still, Sheller did not see these “mobile publics” as “some kind of democratic cybertopia.” Who was included in these new mobile publics? Who was excluded, and how could those exclusions be corrected?
In the coming years, Sheller and Urry would bring together a vast number of scholars across numerous disciplines to explore these questions together under the banner of “mobility studies.” In 2003, Sheller and Urry established the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University, and soon after, they convened the first Alternative Mobility Futures Conference and inaugurated the Mobilities journal. This “mobilities paradigm” was necessary, they insisted, because it was impossible to understand social inequalities without considering the uneven distribution of mobilities. “Mobilities are tracked, controlled, governed, under surveillance and unequal,” wrote Sheller, inviting scholars to play a role in creating “mobility justice.”
In her second book, Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies (2003), Sheller began to explore the problem of mobilities and immobilities in the Caribbean. In a sweeping indictment of the ways that the Global North has consumed Caribbean land, sugar and bodies from the colonial era to the present, Sheller also pointed to the free mobility of white tourists, contrasted with the immobility of black laborers trapped in the Caribbean.
Several years later, in the article “Virtual Islands,” Sheller revisited this problem in a case study of the Turks and Caicos Islands. She examined how cruise ships, tourist resorts, off-shore tax havens, and free trade zones were “part and parcel of the same process of spatial restructuring that is simultaneously producing enclaves of intense violence, withdrawal of governance, and collapse of civic life.” The same forces that were connecting global travelers to the islands were also disconnecting island residents from each other.
In 2010, Sheller again analyzed uneven Caribbean mobilities in the article “Air Mobilities on the U.S.–Caribbean Border: Open Skies and Closed Gates.” Here she argued that tourist rhetoric about Caribbean “open skies” and political rhetoric about free trade “claim to increase mobility, but are in fact associated with material practices of border securitization and increased immobility, including refugee interception, migrant detention, and the militarization of air space.”
In 2012, Sheller again examined the nineteenth century history of Caribbean public life and civic participation in her book Citizenship from Below: Erotic Agency and Caribbean Freedom. Here Sheller examined the ways that the post-slavery state tried to “control and discipline sexuality, fertility, and labor relations,’’ while at the same time black women and men resisted that control in a variety of ways. Such resistance is not necessarily found in the written archive, but it can be found in “embodied” practices. For example, the withdrawal of women from field labor was an act of resistance to exert control over their time and their reproductive lives.
Sheller’s latest book, Aluminum Dreams: The Making of Light Modernity (2015), looks at environmental history in the Caribbean. Part one, “The Bright Side,” tells how architects, advertisers, and mining companies helped us imagine aluminum as an environmentally-friendly, “light” metal, that would increase our mobility and allow us to travel at high speed. In part two, “The Dark Side,” we learn how bauxite mining and aluminum refining have strip mined Caribbean lands into toxic sludge and further disrupted Caribbean communities with hydroelectric projects, all backed by military force.
Since moving back to her native Philadelphia to found the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel, Sheller has convened social science researchers with diverse actors including engineers, artists, designers, governments, and non-governmental organizations to co-create alternative mobility futures.
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Sheller began facilitating “participatory engineering” projects in Haiti to make infrastructure projects more responsive to local voices and local needs for water and sanitation. In 2015, she interviewed Haitian and Dominican farmers, fishers, and other community members about the impacts of flooding due to climate change and sea level rise. In both projects, she paid close attention to uneven mobilities, and she presented the findings and recommendations to government and civil society organizations.
In 2011, Sheller joined the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute to evaluate post-earthquake efforts in Japan, and she used the findings to produce guidelines for the World Bank about disaster preparedness.
Through the Center for Mobilities Research, Sheller also fosters efforts to study and transform US cities, such as the creation of “Smart Cities” and “eco-cities” that use technologies such as “embedded sensors, open data systems and more community participation in planning and policy.”
In 2012, Sheller and colleagues from the Center co-curated LA Re.Play, an exhibit of “mobile art” in Los Angeles. The many participating artists used video, audio and other media to make visible social structures, histories, and injustices that typically remain invisible in the Los Angeles landscape. As viewers walked through the city following a digital map, they accessed the art through their smart phones.
It is hard to imagine another scholar who has crossed so many disciplinary boundaries and collaborated with such a wide range of practitioners in the public sphere, from creative artists to engineers. While Sheller’s work travels across hundreds of years and multiple continents, she seems to return again and again to the same question of uneven mobilities in the Caribbean, each time refining, deepening, and expanding her analysis. As climate change continues to intensify hurricanes in the Caribbean and no-so-natural inequalities continue to intensify natural disasters, there is no doubt that Sheller’s work is more relevant than ever.
The Boston Seminar on the History of Women, Gender, & Sexuality is a collaboration of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America and the Massachusetts Historical Society. This series, whose five meetings in 2017-2018 will alternate between the Radcliffe Institute and the MHS, aims to seed fresh conversations on the history of women, gender, and sexuality in America without chronological limitations. Some sessions will offer the opportunity to discuss new scholarship presented in pre-circulated essays. This fall, two sessions will include members of the UConn History department:
October 17, 2017
Tuesday, 5:30PM – 7:45PM
Location: Fay House, Radcliffe Institute
Discussion: Gender, Sexuality, and the New Labor History
Anne G. Balay, Haverford College; Aimee Loiselle, University of Connecticut; Traci L. Parker, UMass-Amherst
Moderator: Seth Rockman, Brown University
The “New Labor History” is highly gendered, global, and often situated in spaces that are transitory or obscured. This session will consider the new directions that the path-breaking work of these three scholars indicates: on female, trans, and intersex truck drivers and state surveillance (Balay), on Puerto Rican needleworkers and the global working class (Loiselle), and on African American women workers in the post-Civil Rights Era (Parker). Note: There are no pre-circulated essays for this session.
December 19, 2017
Tuesday, 5:30PM – 7:45PM
Location: Massachusetts Historical Society
Miss America’s Politics: Beauty and the Development of the New Right since 1968
Micki McElya, University of Connecticut
Comment: Genevieve A. Clutario, Harvard University
Drawn from McElya’s larger book project, this essay examines the centrality of the Miss America pageant, its local networks, and individual contestants to the rise of activist conservative women and the New Right in the 1960s and 1970s. It analyzes the celebration, power, and political effects of normative beauty, steeped in heterosexual gender norms and white supremacy, and argues for the transformative effect of putting diverse women’s voices at the center of political history and inquiry.
Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. To RSVP: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (617) 646-0579.
The guest speaker is Daniel Immerwahr of Northwestern University. The title of his talk is “Nobody Knows in America, Puerto Rico’s in America: Colonial Medicine, Militant Nationalism, and the U.S. Empire.”
The talk will be held on Friday, September 22 in the Wood Hall Basement Lounge. A reception with refreshments will start at 4:30pm and the talk will begin at 5pm.
Professor Immerwahr is an historian of the United States and the world, serving in the history department at Northwestern University. His first book, Thinking Small (Harvard, 2015), offers a critical account of the United States’ pursuit of grassroots development at home and abroad in the middle of the twentieth century. He is currently working on another book, How to Hide an Empire, about the United States’ overseas territory.
“Describing English/Algonquian Space/Place: Using Historical Maps, GIS, and Spatial Theory”
Nathan’s workshop will consider the challenges and rewards of a spatial approach to the history of 17th-century New England through the discussion of three different kinds of maps: English maps, Algonquian maps, and Historians’ maps. While all important, each of the maps lend themselves to different kinds of analysis and different pitfalls.
Please plan on attending and joining in the conversation with Nathan. We will meet as usual in the Wood Hall basement lounge. We will get started at our customary time of 12:15 p.m.
“After Armageddon: International Society and the United States, 1945-1956”
Reception 4:30pm, Presentation 5:00pm
Contact Frank Costigliola (email@example.com) if you wish to stay for the dinner following the talk ($12 for students, $20 for faculty)
March 7 at 11am in EC-1
This workshop will provide an overview of the Omeka tool. Omeka allows users to build digital exhibitions and create simple web pages. We will cover the basics of creating an Omeka account and adding items, collections, and exhibits. This workshop is designed for the beginner and does not require any previous knowledge of Omeka.
March 8 at 3pm in EC-1
This workshop will introduce the basics of interactive web mapping using CartoDB, an open platform for data visualization. It is a great tool for those who are interested in web mapping, but have no experience in web programming. You will learn how to upload various types of data, use filters, customize your map symbols and share a final online map. Perfect for beginners – no specific experience required.
If you’re interested in attending one of these workshops, please register at the following link: http://workshops.lib.uconn.edu/
HUMANITIES IN ACTION
Panel & Discussion with the Initiative on Campus Dialogues (ICD)
Wednesday, March 8, 2:00-3:30
Humanities Institute (4th floor, Babbidge Library)
We have three History Department faculty!
This panel gathers scholars who have brought their knowledge and humanities perspectives to collaborative community activities. Such public opportunities bring scholars and community members together with research and popular practices, and open new questions both in and out of the academy. They are important avenues for engaging, disseminating, and enriching all our knowledge.
Shayla Nunnally, Associate Professor, Political Science & Africana Studies
She will discuss her work with others to expand research about and education opportunities for women and girls of color.
Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Associate Professor, History and Director of El Instituto
He will be speaking on detention and deportation activism.
Fiona Vernal, Associate Professor, History
She will discuss her local public history projects with Caribbean communities in the greater Hartford area.
Chris Vials, Associate Professor, English and Director of American Studies
He will speak about labor organizing in and out of the academy.
Manuela Wagner, Associate Professor, Literatures, Cultures & Languages and Director of German Language and Culture Program
She will discuss her collaborations with K-12 teachers and graduate students.
Mark Kohan, Assistant Clinical Professor, Neag School of Education and English Language Arts
He will speak about community collaborations for multicultural education.
Melanie Newport, Assistant Professor, History
She will speak about her efforts regarding prison education.
Aimee Loiselle, Ph.D. Candidate, History
She has worked in alternative and community education for many years, bringing an intersectional approach to teaching and mentoring in programs with low-income, underrepresented, and adult basic education (ABE) students.
In the latest event in our Career Pathways series, Marla Miller of UMass will be speaking on “Artisans and Entrepreneurs in the 21st Century Humanities: Graduate Education as Maker-Space” on Monday, 6 March, 12pm-1:15pm, UCHI Conference Room, 4th Floor, Babbidge Library.
At 4pm, we will have a Career Pathways roundtable on “Public History at Multiple Scales”, featuring Marla Miller, Bea Gurwitz of the National Humanities Alliance, and our own Nick Hurley in the Wood Hall Basement Lounge.
Both these events are co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Humanities Institute, and a Career Diversity Grant from the American Historical Association.
The Hartford History Center at Hartford Public Library, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, and the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute, are launching a community engagement partnership with a new discussion series called Encounters. The partners will provide discussion leaders to engage in topics aimed at strengthening our ability to know ourselves and one another through respectful and challenging dialogue. This February and March, Encounters will focus on the fundamental documents that define our democracy.