The Encounters Series: New Directions for Public Humanities from UConn

Encounters Series Dialogue

Participants discuss wealth inequality in an Encounters Series event at the Hartford History Center at the Hartford Public Library in 2017. Image courtesy of the Encounters Series.

 

“The Encounters Series grew out of a desire to build connections between a land-grant university
and its state,” Brendan Kane of the UConn Department of History explains. “We wanted to move
beyond the kind of typical mode of interaction, which is the lecture or the panel,” Kane says. “I love lectures and panels, but we wanted to do things that were more active. We wanted to get UConn faculty more out into the world, making a research university that’s state-supported more accessible to the people in the communities that we serve.” With this in mind, Kane began exploring models of conflict resolution and public conversations.”

The success of the Encounters series was recently highlighted by the National Humanities Alliance in an interview with Professor Kane: https://humanitiesforall.org/projects/encounters

The line-up of recent and upcoming events, including a discussion on “Emily Mae Smith and #MeToo” on March 9, in the series can be found here:
https://humilityandconviction.uconn.edu/encounter-series/

Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Rachel Roach ’18

Rachel Roach, a member of the class of 2018 and a proud History major, shares below how African history classes with Professor Fiona Vernal shaped her college experience, research interests, and career path.

 

Rachel Roach

I am a double major in history and Africana Studies. Through my African history courses with Dr. Vernal, I have been able to explore the ways in which certain narratives marginalized the history of some groups when told solely through a European lens and the mainstream curriculum in most American high schools. Interdisciplinary training in History and Africana Studies has taught me to question sources and pushed me to explore how an analysis of race and class, ethnicity and gender can shift the usual lens we use to tell stories about the past. My history courses have also introduced to the public history. I have been able to conduct research in the oral history and photo archives at the Manuscripts and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Archives and participate in a major exhibit on South African history, Children of the Soil: Generations of South Africans under Apartheid. My training in history also afforded me the opportunity to secure an internship at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and to win an IDEA Grant through the Office of Undergraduate Research. With this grant I was able to create a Native American Mascot Database. I also hosted a symposium on the history of Mascots in partnership with Chris Newell Co-founder of Akomawt Educational Initiative, a majority Native owned learning resource/consultancy partnership aimed at social change through education. My majors have inspired me to pursue a career in public history. I hope to go on to obtain my masters in public history.

 

Veterans History Project Launch

Nearly twenty years ago, Congress launched the Veterans History Project, an ambitious effort coordinated by the Library of Congress and run through local centers to gather the oral histories of US veterans.

Starting this spring, UConn is joining the work, aiming to reach and record a wide range of veterans across New England as they tell their stories.  The Veterans History Project at UConn is a joint endeavor of the Department of History and Veterans Affairs and Military Programs.

Anyone who’s willing to do the training can become an interviewer. For UConn students, there is an opportunity, starting this spring and continuing in the coming years, to earn internship credits while working as an interviewer, gathering important stories and developing useful skills.

On Monday, March 4, we will be kicking off the new program with a public event at Werth Hall. There will be breakfast and lunch for attendees, as well as parking validation for those coming from off-campus.  The morning will begin with introductions to the project and discussion of the value of stories and the importance of oral history. It will continue after lunch with free training for anyone interested in becoming an interviewer for the project.

 

VAMP Image

 

Professor Fiona Vernal will be speaking at the event and coordinating the internship, together with Heather Parker.  Feel free to contact them with any questions at Fiona.vernal@uconn.edu or heather.parker@uconn.edu.  More details can be found here.

VHP Flyer 2

 

Graduate Student Spotlight: Danielle Dumaine

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 Dumaine research trip

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. 

Marc A. Reyes, Smith-Richardson Foundation Fellowship Recipient

We are pleased to announce that Ph.D. candidate, Marc A. Reyes, has received a World Politics and Statecraft Fellowship from the Smith-Richardson Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to “contribute to important public debates and to address serious public policy challenges facing the United States.” Marc’s dissertation considers U.S. foreign policy towards India, particularly in regards to how Indians imagined what nuclear energy could mean for their nation’s future.

Marc currently is on leave as a Fulbright-Nehru Fellow in India for 2018-2019.

Professor Sinha’s Article in Jacobin

At the start of the new year, Professor Manisha Sinha (Draper Chair in American History) contributed an article titled “First as Farce, Then as Tragedy” to Jacobin. In response to President Trump’s aim “to destroy the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship,” Professor Sinha historicizes the challenges to the Fourteenth Amendment and observes how the increased rights of corporations at the expense of the rights of citizens has enabled the “triumph of capitalism over democracy.”

 

Interested in learning more about the impact and legacies of the Reconstruction Era? Please join us at this spring’s Draper Conference, titled “The Greater Reconstruction: American Democracy after Civil War,” held from April 19-20. Registration and more information can be found here.

NPR Interview with Professor Alexis Dudden

On January 30th, Professor Alexis Dudden took part in reflecting on the life of South Korean activist, Kim Bok-dong, who passed away at the age of 92. Having met Bok-dong, Professor Dudden describes her as a “force of nature” and discusses Bok-dong’s experience as a sex slave for the Japanese military during World War II.

The interview aired on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and can be found here.

Graduate Student Spotlight: Luisa Arrieta

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.

Luisa Arrieta Presentation

Luisa Arrieta Smithsonian

Asia Maritime Panel – February 7, 2019

UPDATE: For The Daily Campus‘s review of the panel, click here.

 

On February 7, 2019, the UConn Department of History invites you to join a panel of leading experts in a timely discussion surrounding the seas of Northeast and Southeast Asia. Moderated by Ambassador (ret.) Kathleen Stephens who served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2008-2011, the panel features distinguished speakers with specializations in security, history, law, and geography. Topics to discuss include: strategic and international law issues involving American and Chinese competition over the western Pacific, humanitarian concerns related to human trafficking, and troubling environmental problems, such as the depletion of fisheries.

Speakers and moderator include: Ambassador (ret.) Kathleen Stephens (CEO of Korea Economic Institute of America), Dr. James Kraska (Naval War College), Professor Lee Sung-Yoon (Tufts University), Professor Geoffrey Gresh (National Defense University), and Dr. Kevin Evringham (Department of Defense).

 

Beginning at 4 pm, the panel will take place at the Konover Auditorium in the Thomas J. Dodd Center. All are welcome to attend the reception that will follow. To RSVP, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/asia-maritime-panel-tickets-55340739642

 

The University of Connecticut Department of History is grateful for the generous sponsorship of the CLAS Humanities Institute, the Office of the Dean, the Office of the Provost, the Department of Geography, the Asian and Asian-American Studies Institute, and the Asian American Cultural Center.

Professor Fakhreddin Azimi Wins Prize for Persian Scholarship

Professor Fakhreddin Azimi was recently awarded the Mahteb Mirzaei Memorial Prize for his article, “An exploration and historical contextualization of the declassified CIA/US Government documents on Iran, 1952-54”, published in the summer 2017 issue of Negah-e Nou, the premier Tehran-based Persian language quarterly. This marks the third time his Persian language scholarship has won this award. Professor Azimi’s brother was on hand in Tehran to accept the award on his behalf on November 29, 2018. In addition to multiple monographs, articles, and chapters on the politics, society, and culture of modern Iran, Professor Azimi teaches courses in medieval and modern Middle Eastern history, and graduate seminars on history and theory in the UConn History Department. Congratulations, Professor Azimi!

A picture of the prize.
Professor Azimi’s brother accepting the award of his behalf.