Matthew Guariglia, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in May 2019, contributed another great article to The Washington Post‘s Made By History column. His article, titled “What the loss of the New York police museum means for criminal justice reform,” underscores the importance of NYPD historical records for both obtaining insights into the police force as well as highlighting silences. In particular, Guargilia emphasizes the utilization of the documents for exposing “the deep intellectual, scientific and legal justifications for criminalizing black and brown populations.”
Congratulations to Megan Streit who has received a David Boren Fellowship from the US Government’s National Security Education Program (NSEP)! The award of $24,000 will enable Streit to undertake advanced language training and valuable dissertation research in the Ukraine from January to September 2020.
The Department is very pleased to announce that Amy Sopcak-Joseph will begin this fall as an Assistant Professor of History in the Department of Global Cultures at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA!
Amy’s dissertation, titled “Fashioning American Women: Godey’s Lady’s Book, Female Consumers, and Periodical Publishing in the Nineteenth Century,” explores the production, dissemination, content, and reception of Godey’s Lady’s Book, an exceptionally popular antebellum American periodical. The final drafting of her dissertation has occurred at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) where Amy has served as a fellow for the 2018-2019 school year.
Amy also has a forthcoming article in Book History that received the Graduate Student Essay award by the journal’s editors. The essay, “Reconstructing and Gendering the Distribution Networks of Godey’s Lady’s Book in the Nineteenth Century,” will appear in the 2019 volume of the journal, which will be published in November.
On Tuesday, February 19th, Ph.D. Candidate Danielle Dumaine will be presenting at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute as part of the Boston Seminar on the History of Women and Gender. Her paper is titled “Sisterhood of Debt: Feminist Credit Unions, Community, and Women’s Liberation.” For more information, click here.
1. Would you please share some of your findings from your upcoming presentation at MHS paper and elaborate on how this topic relates to your dissertation?
The presentation on Tuesday is based on a pre-circulated paper that can be accessed by attendees. I begin by tracking how women (particularly single/divorced women and non-white women) were discriminated against by the banks and the credit industry after World War II. For example, many banks would not accept a women’s income in a loan application if she was married. Another big problem was that many divorced women had no credit in their name or bad credit from their husband. This could make it incredibly difficult to do basic things like renting an apartment or buying a car. The paper then gives a brief history of the law that changed that, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), but concludes that the law had a lot of shortcomings and almost no enforcement mechanisms. Basically, if you thought you were discriminated against you had to figure out which one of a dozen agencies to report the incident to (this has since changed). It put a large burden on consumers to be experts in lending laws and government agencies. That is where Feminist Credit Unions (FCUs) come in. Twenty-nine FCUs opened between 1974 and 1979. Connecticut had an FCU in New Haven and Hartford. You can see the rest here. These credit unions operated on the idea that feminists needed a place to “recycle” money within the movement to fund feminist projects. Other FCUs went further and said that women were good credit risks because they were women and lent out money accordingly. Now as you can probably guess, most of these projects failed. This type of community credit union takes a lot of work, time, and money to maintain. Really, the central issue for most FCUs became the question of what to do with delinquent accounts. Do you take a fellow woman to court? Repossess the car she needs to drive to work/daycare/etc.? This caused a lot of really painful fights. The paper ends with a discussion of how mainstream banks and credit card companies used the language of feminism to appeal to women customers once they figured out that getting a bunch of women into debt could be profitable. Sorry to end on a cynical note.
My main conclusions in relation to community and women’s liberation are that FCUs represent a level of coalition-based organizing and regional organizing that historians really haven’t fully acknowledged. Many of these projects brought together radical feminists, liberal feminists, Black feminists, and more for this shared goal of making loans accessible to women. It is also a history of women’s imagination. The women who started these FCUs wanted to rewrite the rules to banking and lending. They wanted to see applicants as whole beings, not a series of risk factors punched into a so-called “neutral” credit scoring system. Their solutions were often really fraught and didn’t work, but I think they are worth spending some time looking at.
2. How did you become interested in the life and work of poet Diane di Prima for your dissertation?
I took Professor Ronna Johnson’s class on the Beat Generation during my senior year at Tufts and we read some of Diane di Prima’s work. When I got to UConn, I met with Melissa Watterworth Batt at the Dodd Center to discuss the collections and to see if there was something I would want to use for my 5102 research paper. She suggested di Prima’s diary from Timothy Leary’s Millbrook Commune. She said that not many researchers seemed interested in it. At the time I thought I was going to write a dissertation on the women’s liberation movement so it wasn’t a great fit, but I’m nosy so working with a diary seemed like fun. Once I started reading I knew that it was a really special object. So I shifted gears and here we are!
3. In addition to pursuing a Ph.D. in History, you also have undertaken a certificate in Feminist Studies from the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. How has this interdisciplinary approach impacted your research, influenced your teaching, and possibly challenged and/or expanded upon the work of historians?
It seems to me that most historians do at least some reading outside of their field and doing a certificate is a great way, as a student, to gain a solid footing in a discipline that you might want to read/borrow from/contribute to in your work. There are so many smart people doing great work out there that I don’t want to limit myself to just reading in history. In my dissertation, I use work from scholars of literature, queer theory, political science, critical race studies, and more. Taking certificate classes is also a great way to network with grad students from other departments and learn about their training/methods and to make friends.
4. If you could teach any course, what would it be and why?
I made up a syllabus for a job application this fall called “A History of ‘Cool’ in Postwar America” that I think would be really fun. I’d also like to teach a course on women’s labor history since the Civil War. And “Gender and Sexuality in U.S. History.” I have a whole list on my computer.
Danielle on a recent archival trip to California where she visited: the California Historical Society; The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University; GLBT Historical Society Archives.
For the summer of 2018, Luisa participated in the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Latino Museum Studies Program, which seeks out Latinx scholars whose scholarship connects the academy and museum’s work. With the objective of preparing the young scholars to work in museums that represent the Latino community and experience, the program places the graduate students in positions across the Smithsonian museums. Luisa worked directly with the Center and its Media Director, Melissa Carrillo, in a project called Latinos in the 21th Century: a Digital Experience. Luisa’s work involved: analyzing digital experiences and installations in D.C. museums to determine their public-engagement strategies; deconstructing the pre-phase of the Latino Gallery narrative content to unveil the ways in which it tells the Latino experience in the U.S; and developing a proposal for the entrance installation to the first Smithsonian Latino Gallery.
1) Could you describe what you observed in other installations and how the Smithsonian’s first Latino Gallery will compare?
The Smithsonian museums are attempting to engage more with their audiences while offering a more inclusive picture of the American nation. The National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of the American Indian represent, for me, the biggest efforts in that sense with exhibits such as UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar and Americans, respectively. Nevertheless, I think the Latino Gallery will be pioneering the museum field when it comes to turning the audience from spectators to actors. By linking interactive installations with more inclusive museum practices, installations at the Latino Gallery will favor individuals as making-history agents whose history is worthy of being told within the museum space.
2) What skills from our doctoral program did you utilize during this internship?
Critical thinking. As a doctoral student, you are constantly asking yourself and your colleagues about the work you do, the role of human actors, and the importance of the historical context..
3) How did you hear about this opportunity?
My advisor, Mark Healey, sent to me an email about the Latino Museum Studies Program. Honestly, I thought it would be a long shot, but he was right. The program was perfect for me and I really loved the experience.
4) Could you expand upon your previous experience researching and/or working with underrepresented groups in Colombia’s national museum?
As a teenager, I worked with a UNESCO project that sought to facilitate the access of Afro-descendant people to historic places and monuments. My home city, Cartagena, is a touristic Caribbean center so being black and not having money really reduces your chances to enjoy the historic spaces that tourists can. However, while the project facilitated access, Afro-descendants and Indigenous were still not included in those stories or places. This experience impacted my undergraduate thesis on land legal cases between indigenous groups, white settlers, and the Spanish Crown prior to the Independence struggles of the 1820’s. I was interested in demonstrating how the lack of inclusion of indigenous groups within the national history is linked to their support of the Spanish Crown during that period.
At UConn, I have moved onto the representation of these groups – Afro-descendants, Indigenous, and women – within the National Museum in Colombia. I consider the objects and portraits introduced to the museum in 1880 and I argue that this process represents the simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of these groups. Many of the paintings have been visually modified to fit the image of the nation that the Colombian elites wished to portray. I seek to showcase that process so these groups, today, can understand how they have been pushed out of many places and stories, and maybe they would seek to regain them. Thus, my work has come full-circle from my teen years.
5) How did this opportunity impact the way you conceptualize your dissertation and/or future career? Would you be interested in working with the Smithsonian in the future?
The Latino Museum Studies Program helped me realize that there are spaces that are perfect for me in regards to what I want to do, both academically and personally. Specifically, I am interested in cultural work and public engagement, in reconnecting academy and community. I think that museums are perfect spaces for that. This is reflected in my dissertation that will utilize a comparative perspective to analyze the opening of the first gallery at the National Museum of American History to similar ones in Colombia. Regarding my future career, I would definitely consider working with the Smithsonian.
Doctoral student Erik Freeman has won the Communal Studies Association’s 2018 publications award for “Best Article.” His article, “‘True Christianity’: The Flowering and Fading of Mormonism and Romantic Socialism in Nineteenth-Century France” appeared in the April 2018 issue of The Journal of Mormon History. Erik’s work was praised for demonstrating “the groundbreaking connections between socialism and the LDS movement.” He will receive the award at the Association’s annual meeting in October. Congratulations, Erik!
At 4:30 PM on Friday, September 22, in the Wood Hall Basement Lounge, Daniel Immerwahr of Northwestern University will be inaugurating this year’s US Foreign Policy Seminar with a lecture entitled “No One Knows in America, Puerto Rico’s in America.”
First-year doctoral student Megan Streit here offers a brief and compelling introduction to the work of this innovative scholar.
Daniel Immerwahr is an historian who focuses on twentieth-century US through a global lens. Additional research interests include the history of capitalism and intellectual history. Though born near Philadelphia, Immerwahr’s research and scholarship have taken him abroad to India and the Philippines and he has lectured and taught at elite universities such as Berkeley and Columbia as well as at San Quentin State Prison. The son of a philosophy professor and theater director, Immerwahr began his academic career at Columbia University hoping New York City would kickstart a career as a jazz musician. Though originally immersed in the Columbia Architectural School, his coursework there introduced Immerwahr to Hawaii’s complicated history with the US government and this inspired him to explore US power and nation building. Immerwahr’s architecture professor, Gwendolyn Wright, advised him to go down to NYU and speak with her husband about the topic and soon enough Immerwahr found himself in conversation with Thomas Bender, a leading scholar on the historiography of the United States. Bender’s anthology, Rethinking American History in a Global Age, indicates the overlap in interest that the two shared. With these interactions we see how Immerwahr’s undergrad experience and academic influences evolve toward a focus on the US as a global force. Immerwahr earned a second B.A. as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge and then a PhD at Berkeley. After a postdoctoral post at Columbia in 2011, he has taught at Northwestern as an assistant professor since 2012.
The organic evolution of Immerwahr’s research interests, from architecture to intellectual history and capitalism, serves as a testament to the journey of a historian. Embarking on his first book, Thinking Small, Immerwahr combines these interests to posit a resounding critique of community development as a political tool. Critical of US pursuit of grassroots development at home and abroad, Immerwahr’s focus ranges from the micro to macro and flawlessly weaves the two realms into a cohesive narrative on US empire and power. Thinking Small takes its reader on an exploratory examination of development as a tool both in the foreign and domestic arenas. Development is no simple topic nor endeavor. Affected by every political and sociological factor imaginable, development is an ongoing issue with no clear, blanket solution in sight. From climate, to demographics, to political structures, there are too many variables by country and region to impose a magical solution to poverty and wealth disparity. Historically, the American approach to catalyzing development at home and abroad has largely been the top-down structure, a “trickle-down” development theory if you will. While this approach has been well-intentioned, there have been several examples of unforeseen consequences that have actually hindered the communities they aimed to help. Large dams displace people, foreign donations can disrupt local economies, and new problems replace the previous ones. Immerwahr’s transnational approach shifts the focus from the elected elite to the everyday villager who understands the problem in a day to day lens.
Furthermore, there are additional issues seen in top-down development, one of formidable importance is that of corruption. With corruption we begin to see the political impact that social programs can elicit, a point which Immerwahr discusses at length in attacking the efficacy of government initiated development programs. Unfortunately, lesser developed countries often tend to also have less legitimate governments and less adherence to strict rule of law. Whether cause or effect, the lackluster economy incentives corruption and corruption dissuades investment in economy and the cycle spirals. This being said, foreign aid will not reach those it is intended to reach but instead, when the presence of poverty elicits continued donations from rich countries, the corrupt government is further incentivized to keep the people poor. Microloans and similar grassroots economic programs are prime examples of the bottom-up development that Immerwahr discusses for empowering the people to create the development of their local communities.
Thinking Small: The United States and the Lure of Community Development (2015) is Immerwahr’s primary piece of scholarship though his second major work, How to Hide an Empire: Geography and Power in the Greater United States, focusing on overseas territories of the US is forthcoming. Thinking Small is a masterful work that brings Immerwahr’s 2011 dissertation “Quests for Community: The United States, Community Development, and the World, 1935-1965” to a wider audience. The clear thread of evolution from dissertation to the expanded version of a book publication is that of community development. A buzzword over the last decade, the history of community involvement goes back much further in American history than this recent uptick in popularity suggests. As Immerwahr defines community development, “It’s a way of dealing with poverty by drawing on the participation of poor people. The idea is that the poor could improve their own conditions if only they could be brought together.” The concept of grassroots societal improvement resonates strongly with foundational American values of mobility though occasionally at odds with America’s avid individualism.
While most narratives of communal development focus on their reach and impact within American society, Immerwahr’s Thinking Small adds the previously absent dimension of the international expression of this idea. Particularly as the Cold War began to ramp up, America took community building and refashioned it as a tool for containment via food aid in the 1950’s and 60’s. Immerwahr centers his work around India and the Philippines as his case studies. Immerwahr found there to be a lack in scholarship particularly around the relationship between the Philippines and the US and, apart from the attention it receives in Thinking Small, he did additional research and produced a piece titled, “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Philippines But Were Afraid to Ask.” The Philippines is featured further in his How to Hide an Empire work in which Immerwahr challenges the discourse on the murky status and history of the Philippines. Immerwahr describes this shift in thinking saying, ““What if, instead of writing about the Philippines as part of the history of foreign relations, we instead considered it part of national history? And what if, when we talked about the United States, we didn’t just talk about the contiguous part, but all of the land under US jurisdiction?”Here we see what an interesting new take on US empire we can look forward to in Immerwahr’s second book. Given the well reception Thinking Small has received, How to Hide an Empire should surely be a riveting examination of the sprawl of US imperialism and the nuanced politics that shade this discourse on empire building.
Immerwahr’s message in Thinking Small is not that community development is futile or inherently misappropriated but that these current challenges that America faces now that community development has turned stateside again are not new. Immerwahr stresses that community development is not the pleasant hand-holding slogan but rather, hard choices on far-reaching issues. Real change and improvement, the primary goals of community development, are not going to come without facing the critical issues of its motives and implementation that Immerwahr underscores. A concise book, Thinking Small creates constructive push back to the prevailing scholarship that is often enamored with community development. Immerwahr emphatically exposes the political band-aid that both the Left and Right have used community development as and criticizes the illusion of empowerment that this constructs. HIs approach and scholarship runs counter to the bulk of existing scholarship on this transnational topic and thus provides a fresh interpretation in the discourse of grassroots development.
In a show of true concern for his topic matter, Immerwahr has designated that all proceeds from the sale of Thinking Small go toward the NGO 350.org that aims to raise awareness of climate change, an issue in which human development efforts have played no small role and which grassroots development is directly impacted by. Finally, to ensure fascinating and lively dinner conversations, please treat yourself to Daniel’s thorough research on guano by watching his lecture on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/TnI4l6rFuHI
Conference Schedule – Monday, August 28, 207
All sessions held in the Class of ’47 Room in the Homer Babbidge Library
Session A: 1:15-2:45 pm
Panel One: Governance, Institutions, and Movements in New England
Chair: Danielle Dumaine
Nicole Breault, “Peace and Good Order in the Streets”: The Work of the Constable’s Watch in Eighteenth-Century Boston
Abdullah Alhatem, “The Domestic Slave Trade in New England”
Britney Murphy, “The Fall of Mount Trashmore and the Rise of Community Activism: Environmental Justice and the Politics of Inclusion, Bridgeport, CT (1991-Present)”
Commentator: Matthew Guariglia
Coffee Break – 2:45-3:00
Coffee, tea, assorted cookies
Session B: 3:00-4:45 pm
Panel Two: Power and Influence in World Affairs
Chair: Maggie Stack
Erik Freeman, “‘True Christianity’: The Flowering and Fading of Mormonism and Romantic Socialism in Nineteenth-Century France”
Frances Martin, “Who’s Watching the Clock? Rise of the Doomsday Clock as a Pop Culture Phenomenon”
David Evans, “False Harvest: U.S. Foreign Relations and the Dream of Agricultural Power during the 1970s”
Lauren Stauffer, “From the North to the South Atlantic: NATO and the Falklands War”
Commentator: Gabrielle Westcott
Keynote Address: 5:00 pm
Professor of History, University of Massachusetts-Boston
Editor, New England Quarterly
“Wrestling with the Devil: An Historian Becomes an Editor”
Doctoral dissertations must offer original contributions to knowledge and understanding. For historians this involves not only identifying fresh topics and source materials but exercising the diligence and imagination to reconstruct past lives and circumstances from necessarily fragmentary evidence. Their reward is to uncover unknown or forgotten aspects of the past, or to offer new and surprising perspectives on familiar subjects.
This past May, four scholars were awarded PhDs by the History Department, a number that should make a small liberal arts department very proud.
Two of these graduate students shed light on a pair of women who broke tradition and forged new paths personally and politically, another focused on the revelations of character and piety in the diary of an 18th century Congregational minister who despite inner doubts, brought peace to his flock. The dissertation of the fourth student examines the political, economic and cultural relationship between the United States and a region of Southern Italy over several centuries.
In her dissertation titled, “Janet Minot Sedgwick II and the World of American Catholic Converts, 1820-1890,” Erin Bartram traces the history of the controversial conversion to Catholicism of Sedgwick. Raised by an elite New England Unitarian family. Sedgwick, who was born in New York City, found friendship and emotional support through her association with other female converts. Despite her family’s indifference (they eventually accepted her conversion) and what Bartram said were priests whose ideas “about gender and authority” conflicted with her own, Sedgwick found happiness and comfort with other converts and eventually worked to establish a Catholic school.
The woman studied by graduate student Allison B. Horrocks had a different, though equally groundbreaking life. Flemmie Kittrell (1904-1980) was a pioneer in the effort to establish the legitimacy of the study of home economics. The first African American woman to earn a PhD in that field, Kittrell taught the subject at many black institutions. But her work, according to Horrocks’ research, did not begin and end on college campuses. Kittrell developed home economics programs abroad. As the dissertation, titled “”Good Will Ambassador with a Cookbook,” points out, because of Kittrell’s accomplishments, her work should be viewed as providing a new understanding of women’s activism, gender politics and the legitimacy of the field of home economics in higher education and politics.
Anthony Antonucci’s dissertation examines the evolution of the relationship between the Mezzogiorno region of southern Italy (centered around the city of Naples) and the United State, dating back to 1785 when Thomas Jefferson was U.S. Minister to France, through author Herman Melville’s visit to Italy in 1857, six years after the publication of “Moby Dick.” The exchange of goods and ideas between the two regions “exerted a substantive influence on the economic and cultural development of both countries,” he writes of his thesis titled in part, “Americans and the Mezzogiorno: United States Relations with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.” Though largely overlooked, the examination of how Americans and southern Italians viewed and related to each other “offers a larger understanding of both cultures” of the late 18th and 19th centuries.
The depth and breadth of historical research becomes even clearer when one considers the dissertation of Linda Meditz who chose to do a close examination of the life of Stephen Williams, through his own words. Titled “Captive: Piety and Ministry in the Diary and Life of Stephen Williams,” Meditz provides a close reading and analysis of Williams’ 4,000 page diary, which starts in1715 when he had just graduated from Harvard and ends in 1782, a week prior to his death. Though other scholars have concentrated on Williams’ comments on events of the period, Meditz focuses on the personal aspects of his inner piety and his belief that he was inadequate for the spiritual life. The diary, which Meditz calls “a hybrid literary form,” because of its mix of styles and materials, served as a “spiritual discipline,” through which the pastor looked into his soul and dealt with his self-doubts.
So there you have it: Four commendable scholarly works that take readers from international cities to the innermost workings of an individual’s soul. The results represent years of study, research, writing and rewriting by the four new PhDs, who have brought pride to their department and faculty mentors, and enlightenment to the field of history.
by Terese Karmel
Department of Journalism
Chartered in 1799 “…to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest and happiness of a free and virtuous people…” The Connecticut Academy of the Arts and Sciences is the third-oldest learned society in the United States. Its purpose is the dissemination of scholarly information. For the past 200 years, the Academy has fulfilled this mission through lectures and extensive publications. (from the CAAS website)
Michael Limberg was nominated to the Academy in September 2015. He is UConn’s first Graduate Fellow.
Limberg’s dissertation focuses on the efforts of a network of U.S. missionaries, philanthropists, and diplomats to encourage economic and social development in Turkey, Lebanon, and Palestine during the 1920s and 1930s.