Month: October 2017

Speaker Spotlight: Draper Conference by Winifred Maloney

Nina Silber, David Blight, and W. Fitzhugh Brundage are all preeminent scholars of the Civil War and memory. They are three of many scholars who have entered the growing conversation regarding Confederate monuments and their place in our world. Silber, Blight, and Brundage have all contributed their thoughts on the matter to various publications, and will be continuing the conversation at the upcoming inaugural Draper Workshop Series event titled “Recasting the Confederacy: Monuments and Civil War Memory” on November 6.

Nina Silber, a professor of history and American Studies at Boston University, received her BA, MA, and Ph.D from UC Berkeley. She has published several books, including The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900 (1993); Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (1992); Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War (2005); and Gender and the Sectional Conflict (2009). Silber is the president-elect of the Society of Civil War Historians. Her piece on Confederate monuments, “Worshipping the Confederacy is about white supremacy—even the Nazis thought so,” was featured by The Washington Post in August. Her current work focuses on Civil War memory during the Great Depression and the New Deal.

David Blight is the Class of 1954 Professor of American History at Yale as well as the Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He received his Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and won the Bancroft prize for this book Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001). On October 23, Blight briefed Congress on the history of Civil War monuments. On the subject of Confederate monuments, Blight wrote “‘The Civil War lies on in us like a sleeping dragon’: America’s deadly divide—and why it has returned” for The Guardian in August. Blight is currently writing a biography of Frederick Douglass to be published in 2018.

W. Fitzhugh Brundage is the William B. Umstead Distinguished Professor and Department Chair in history at UNC Chapel Hill. Brundage received his MA and Ph.D from Harvard. He has written several books and edited numerous collections, including Beyond Blackface: African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890-1930 (2011). Brundage’s piece, “I’ve studied the history of Confederate memorials. Here’s what to do about them” was featured on Vox in August. Currently, he is working on a project tracing the history of torture in the United States.

“Recasting the Confederacy: Monuments and Civil War Memory” will be the first of many events in the Draper Workshop Series. Organized by Manisha Sinha, Draper Chair in American History, the series promises to bring leading scholars to the University of Connecticut to engage in conversation surrounding various historical issues.

Speaker Spotlight: Sir Hilary Beckles by Andrew Cain

On Wednesday, November 1, at 4:30 PM in the Konover Auditorium, Sir Hilary Beckles will give a talk titled “The Greatest Political Movement of the 21st Century: Global Reparations for African Enslavement, Native Genocide and Colonisation.”


Should the descendants of slaves be compensated for the work of their ancestors? How much wealth have slaves generated in economic capitol? Is it possible to calculate pain and suffering? If so, what is the formula? Sir Hilary Beckles is an economic historian and international thought leader whose contributions to the study of the slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean has positioned him to be one of the world’s experts and leading figures in the conversations dealing with reparatory justice for slavery. The Vice Chancellor at the University of the West Indies. Beckles also serves as the Chair of the Caribbean Commission on Reparations.

In 1979 Beckles received his PhD in Economic and Social History from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. However, the study of psychology was Beckles original interest—and it is the interdisciplinary weaving of history, economics, and psychology which has positioned Beckles as one of the Caribbean’s best thinkers. In 1979 (the same year he received his PhD) Beckles began his professional career as a senior lecturer at the University of West Indies. After serving as Chair of the History Department and Dean of the Humanities Department, at the age of 36 Beckles became the youngest person to be promoted to the personal chair at the University of West Indies.

Beckles has published over 100 peer-reviewed essays and 12 books on subjects ranging from Atlantic and Caribbean History to the sport of cricket. In his book Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide, Beckles explores the viability of reparations for Caribbean slavery. Slavery is very much so a personal topic for Beckles; he was born and raised on the Cumberbatch Plantation (a slave plantation) in St. Andrew’s Parish Barbados. In 2016, Beckles delivered a lecture at Oxford University where he recalls the experience of being born on a slave plantation. Beckles argues that colonial powers have left Caribbean countries with, which he terms, the “colonial mess” which includes social, economic, and political setbacks. Moreover, Beckles argues Caribbean colonialism has denied decedents of slaves’ access to their ancestry. For example, in the Caribbean 80 percent of black residents are unable to trace their ancestry beyond their great grandparents. Beckles connects this uncertain ancestry to his own ancestry by inquiring whether he is the cousin of actor Benedict Cumberbatch. And, unfortunately for Beckles (and most black people in the Caribbean) he will never have an answer. It is Beckles personal connection with slavery which drives his work and thinking about reparations. In addition to slavery and slave reparation, Beckles work focuses on the history the Caribbean and Barbados. In his book A History of Barbados: From Amerindian Settlement to Caribbean Single Market, Beckles illuminates a history of Barbados, its origin and events that have shaped the country. Beckles has edited and co-authored 13 books. The most recent book he co-edited Rihanna: Barbados ‘World-Gurl’” in Global Popular Culture (2016), explores the rise of the global icon and musical sensation Rihanna.

In addition to his distinguished academic accomplishments, Beckles serves as a member on many United Nation Committees and Advisory Panels. In addition, Beckles is a member of UNDP’s Advisory Panel on the Caribbean Human Development Report.
Lastly, Beckles is a well-recognized and respected figure in Connecticut: in 2017, Hartford, Connecticut declared March 2nd “Hilary Beckles Day” in recognition of Beckles’ contribution to Caribbean studies, social justice and human equality. Beckles contribution to the field of economic history has provided new perspectives, ideas and has raised new questions to explore reparatory justice for slavery and the history of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean.

Speaker Spotlight: Nile Green by Susan O’Hara

On November 2, historian Nile Green will be at the University of Connecticut, speaking at the Fusco Distinguished Lecture Series. Dr. Green, a professor of history at the University of California – Los Angeles, will be presenting a lecture entitled, “The Muslim Discovery of Japan: Global History and the Inter-Asian Encounter.” Dr. Green’s lecture is related to his monograph, Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam.

Dr. Green has published widely on Islam, globalization, and Muslim interactions with the non-Muslim world. Throughout his career as a historian, Dr. Green has traced the various Muslim networks that connect Afghanistan, Iran, the Indian Ocean, Africa, Japan, Europe, and America. His most recent monograph, The Love of Strangers: What Six Muslim Students Learned in Jane Austen’s London, is a microhistory that chronicles the journey of Muslim students from Iran to London, where they were tasked with learning scientific skills to bring back to their home country. In his 2015 monograph, Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam, Dr. Green explores how interactions between Muslim and non-Muslim societies transformed both Islamic practices and the history of Islam. Further, Dr. Green sheds light on the growth of Islam in both Japan and America.

Dr. Green’s work on Islam has set him apart from other historians in the field due to the emphasis he has placed on religion in his scholarship. Rather than using the nation-state to frame questions and investigations into the past, Dr. Green emphasizes religion. In his scholarship, Dr. Green pulls from a wide range of sources, including diaries from traveling students, reports from missionaries, magazines, Bibles, and the first books printed in Arabic. Dr. Green describes himself as a historian of the multiple globalizations of Islam and Muslims.

Dr. Green was the founding director of the UCLA Program on Central Asia. He currently serves on the Association of Asian Studies’ South Asia Council, the Executive Committee of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies, and on the editorial boards of both Iran-Nameh and Afghanistan.

On Friday, November 3, at 10:00 AM, the History Department will be hosting the Fusco Workshop in the Wood Hall Basement Lounge. Dr. Green will be discussing a pre-circulated paper regarding a global intellectual history approach to Afghanistan. Interested graduate students and faculty are encouraged to attend.

Speaker Spotlight: Douglas Little by Samuel Surowitz

Douglas Little of Clark University will be the second speaker in this year’s US Foreign Policy Seminar with a lecture entitled “Us verus Them: The United States and Radical Islam.”

First-year masters student Samuel Surowitz here offers a brief and compelling introduction to the work of this innovative scholar.

Dr. Douglas Little is the Robert and Virginia Scotland Professor of History & International Relations at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, he received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1972. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in 1975 and 1978, respectively, from Cornell University and has been at Clark since that time. Dr. Little’s areas of expertise include American foreign relations and twentieth century global history with a focus on American interaction with the Middle East. He is also affiliated with the program in Asian Studies. Dr. Little has written extensively about U.S. involvement in the Middle East, including articles he has published in International History Review and Journal of Cold War Studies. He has written book chapters for America in the World: The Historiography of US Foreign Relations since 1941, The Cambridge History of the Cold War, and The Cambridge History of the Cold War, to name just a few. He is the author of American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945 and is a winner of the James P. Hanlan Book Award from the New England Historical Association.
Dr. Little will be presenting a lecture on his 2016 book, Us versus Them: The United States, the Middle East, and the Rise of the Green Threat. Dr. Little describes the theme of an “us versus them” mentality which he places at the center of American society and foreign policy. This started with the “Red Threat” of the Native Americans, who were perceived by settlers to have “mounted the most sinister challenge”. Soon this progressed to the Founding Fathers, who identified the existential threat of European Monarchism as their great opponent. Dr. Little describes an unwavering tendency for American political actors and society at large to maintain this binary mentality in which Americans are pitted against a demonized threat.
Moving into the latter half of the 19th century, the “Yellow Peril” set Asians as a convenient nemesis. It allowed for legalized discrimination against Asian immigrants and provided an atmosphere ripe and abundant with hate crimes against them. Later, 20th century Americans would rally against Nazis in World War Two. The United States’ post war position would situate us well to take actions abroad against the new Soviet Communist “Red Threat” as well as oppressive domestic actions in response to the internal “Red Scare.” By the end of the 20th century and into the 21st, this tendency to view an “other” as the antithesis of the American and the American ideal has pointed the needle directly towards America’s most contemporary “them” – Islam. Islam has formed the new “Green Threat.” Dr. Little makes numerous references to the concept of a “self-fulfilling prophecy” in which stereotyping a group as the enemy (rather than identifying more comprehensive and nuanced reasons for conflicts) ipso facto results in a breakdown in relationships in which the group becomes the enemy. This becomes apparent when preemptive military or political action creates actual conflict in place of perceived conflict. The concept of the “Green Threat” in the American psyche will be the focus of his presentation, a portion of which is informally titled “A Short History of Islamophobia from Reagan to Trump.” Spoiler alert: Steve Bannon may or may not be portrayed as Darth Vader…
In 1985, the same year that the UConn History Department initiated the Foreign Policy Seminar, Dr. Little published Malevolent Neutrality: The United States, Great Britain, and the Origins of the Spanish Civil War. In 1986, UConn’s own Dr. Frank Costigliola (then at the University of Rhode Island) published a review of Malevolent Neutrality in The Journal of American History. He emphasized the importance of how Dr. Little shed light on the United States’ purposeful neglect of the left leaning Spanish republic when they called for aid. The republic, “turned increasingly to the Soviet Union, thereby adding credence to Anglo-Saxon suspicions that the republic had always leaned towards communism.” Dr. Little’s most recent book, Us Versus Them, provides structural integrity to the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy of othering. After identifying this theme over 30 years ago, it is exciting to see how Dr. Little has built upon it, and how after three decades this conversation among scholars is continuing.