Lectures & Seminars

Faculty Seminar Series

Faculty research presented to Department colleagues and graduate students.

Fall 2012

Donna Harsch, “The Politics of Vaccination in Cold War Germany”

October 18, 2012

Vaccination against both tuberculosis and polio became politicized in the two German states in the 1950s and 1960s. My talk will explore how and why politicization occurred - and then gradually declined. I will discuss the relationship between politicization and patterns of convergence and divergence in vaccination policies in East and West Germany. This research is part of a larger project on the politics of prevention in health care in the GDR and FRG in the Cold War era.
Spring 2012

Jay Aronson, “Sacred Ground: The Recovery, Identification, and Memorialization of the Dead in the Aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center Attacks”

January 26, 2012 | 12:00-1:15

This talk will focus on recent ethnographic and historical work that I have been doing on the recovery, identification, and memorialization of missing people in the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. I will examine three episodes that have taken place over the last decade in order to elucidate the contentious "politics of dead bodies" at Ground Zero. The first episode is the initial decision made by city officials to allow fire fighters to take control of the recovery of remains at the site, rather than bringing in professional archaeologists or disaster recovery specialists. The second episode is the decision to move debris from Ground Zero to Fresh Kills landfill (on Staten Island), and the dispute over the mingling of human remains with ordinary household garbage that recently was considered, but rejected, for a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court. The final episode is the controversy over how to memorialize the dead, and store their remains, in the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum complex on the redeveloped World Trade Center site. Although this project is very much a work in progress, I will offer some preliminary conclusions and policy recommendations for future post-conflict and post-disaster identification efforts both in the United States and around the world.

Elisabeth Kaske (Modern Languages), "Financing Wars in Nineteenth-century China."

Feburary 2, 2012 | 12:00-1:15

Throughout the eighteenth century, the accumulation of treasure during peacetime was the main way to provide additional finance for wars in China, at a time when most European nations had already given up building reserves and taken recourse to other means of war finance including borrowing and taxation. War funds were forwarded from the central government and used in the war theater to pay the soldiers and procure supplies, while the provinces sent troops. The Taiping Rebellion, which started in 1850, led to a collapse of the centralized fiscal system and fundamentally altered the way war was financed. The lack of central funding increased the responsibility of military leaders and the civilian-staffed logistic networks to actively pursue the provisioning of funds and food supplies for the army. New commercial taxes and borrowing (mostly of foreign loans) played an important role in this process and have been in the focus of research. This paper argues that the Chinese system of selling office and rank provided the government with an instrument to extract additional resources from the landholding elites while simultaneously making them into stakeholders in government and enlisting their support for the war effort. I believe this system was vital for the recovery of the Qing from multiple civil wars in the 1850s and 1860s. At the same time, the very success of office selling hampered the development of new methods of finance including land tax reforms and internal borrowing, which would have been necessary for a thorough modernization of the Qing armies.

Kevin P. McDonald (Post-Doctoral Fellow), "Pirates, Merchants, Settlers and Slaves: New York, Madagascar, and the Indo-Atlantic Trade World, ca. 1700"

March 1, 2012 | 12:00-1:15

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, an informal global trade network spanned the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds, connecting the North American colonies with the rich trading world of the East Indies. This trade was not directed from London by a chartered trade company. Instead, colonial merchants in New York entered an informal alliance with Euro-American pirates, who functioned as cross-cultural brokers in the settlements they founded in Madagascar. This paper will discuss a global trade network located on the peripheries of global empires, exposing the ways in which informal networks, created by pirates and merchants, enabled American colonists to attain their consumer desires for East India goods—including slaves. These slaves functioned both as commodities and laborers in this network, some eventually obtaining their freedom as a result of their participation in this Indo-Atlantic maritime world of ships and shorelines, inlets and coves, mangroves and beaches: the amphibious realm of pirates, slavers, and contraband traders.
Fall 2011

Edda L. Fields-Black, “Caribbean Captives, African Slaves: The Origins of the Gullah/Geechee”

October 20, 2011 | 12:00-1:15

Today, the area located from the coast to 30 miles inland from the St. John’s River in Florida to Cape Fear in North Carolina is the “Gullah/Geechee Corridor”. The Gullah/Geechee are descendants of enslaved Africans who inhabited this southern coastal region, were enslaved on a variety of plantations within the region, including plantations where rice, indigo, Sea Island cotton, and turpentine were produced, and maintained an English-based Creole language of the same names. In the historiography, Gullah/Geechee culture and language are portrayed as the exception to “African-American exceptionalism,” providing tangible “proof” that African-Americans were not decimated by the institution of slavery and that enslaved Africans were skilled, not just brute laborers. However, unlike the historical sources available specifically for Brazil and New Orleans, there is little historical evidence pinpointing the African ethnicity of captives who disembarked in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida ports. There is little historical evidence elucidating who the captives who disembarked in these ports were, where they originated, what crops they might have grown or what skills they might have brought from the Caribbean and/or Africa. This paper will examine the historical evidence for the earliest Black settlers in the Lowcountry region. It will discuss the importance of the Caribbean, the Gambia, Sierra Leone, and the Kongo/Angola regions at various moments in time. However, it will argue that historians must be very careful about attempting to find the origins of the Gullah/Geechee either in the Caribbean or in West/West Central Africa.

Aaron Shkuda, “Artists and the Origins of Gentrification: Cultural Tourism, Zoning Fights and Real Estate Speculation in SoHo, New York”

September 22, 2011 | 12:00-1:15

Artists’ transformation of industrial buildings into residential lofts during the 1960s and 70s revitalized the neighborhood of SoHo. Yet, the mere presence of artists did not inspire redevelopment in the area. Artists had to convince city leaders that their unique form of housing should be legal because it could breathe new life into cities while avoiding the monetary, architectural and social costs of urban renewal projects. At the same time, the efforts of artists and art dealers to promote artwork led to cultural tourism in SoHo that inspired shops and restaurants to open near galleries and artists’ lofts. Both artist advocacy and tourism popularized SoHo and led to rising demand for lofts. The increasingly popularity of these residences led to fights between speculators, artists and city leaders over the future of the neighborhood while cementing the link between artists and urban development that exists to this day.
Spring 2011

Caroline Acker

March 13, 2011 | 12:00-1:15

"The Many Lives of a Simple Instrument, or The Hypodermic Syringe's Excellent Adventure" (31 March)

Nico Slate

February 20, 2011 | 12:00-1:15

"East Indian, West Indian: Colored Cosmopolitanism, Ventriloquism, and the Transnational Subaltern in the Dual-Autobiography of Cedric Dover and Claude McKay" (20 February)