Humanities in Class Webinars
Live, interactive webinars connect educators with scholars and experts in humanities fields to discuss compelling topics. Webinars are free of charge but require registration.
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You are now able to register for multiple webinars at once. You will be prompted to create an account on our digital library first, and then you will be able to access the new webinar portal. Registration opens August 31, 2020 at 10am EST.
Fall 2020 Semester
Humanities in Class Digital Library: Using OER to Collect, Publish, Remix Curriculum
September 2, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
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Lead Scholar: Andy Mink (Vice President for Education Programs, National Humanities Center)
How do you access the readings, PowerPoint, and recording from the NHC webinar titled “The Historical Context of Black Lives Matter?” How can you modify and remix “The Columbian Exchange” lesson from the America in Class series? How can you connect and collaborate with scholars and educators committed to promoting civic education and the importance of voting? Launched in June, the Humanities in Class Digital Library (HICDL) is an Open Education Resource (OER) platform that serves as the primary makerspace for all NHC instructional resources and provides support to develop activities and curriculum for your classroom. This webinar will provide a guided tour of the HICDL and sample resources as well as a tutorial on how to create instructional resources for your classroom. Amplified by resources from over thirty partner organizations across humanities disciplines, the HICDL is one of the most trusted resources for humanities education available.
Soundtrack for a Revolution: Pop Music and Protest Tradition in America
September 3, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Claudrena Harold (Professor and Department Chair of History, University of Virginia)
How can pop music help us understand historical movements? Does music have an effect on the outcome of protests throughout history? How does music foster connections between people in pursuit of a common goal? Through an examination of pioneering artists such as Sam Cooke, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, and Curtis Mayfield, this webinar explores the evolution of protest music in America from the Civil Rights era to the present. It considers how musicians in a variety of genres—most notably soul, funk, and hip hop—have used their art to critique racism, class exploitation, militarism, and state-sanctioned violence.
Oral History and the Pandemics of Social Suffering: Listening and Transformation
September 10, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
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Lead Scholar: Mary Marshall Clark (Director, Columbia University Center for Oral History Research and co-founding director, Oral History Master of Arts INCITE-Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics, Columbia University)
Oral history, a form of social inquiry that connects the humanities and the social sciences in the academy and creates new understandings in the public world, is a portal through which we can enter another’s life story, individually or communally. Never is this kind of embodied meaning-making through listening more important than in times of social and cultural crisis, where historical norms fail to explain extraordinary events and ways of life that are interrupted. In this webinar we will reflect on two oral history projects focused on disruptive events that challenged public meaning and reconstructed public narratives. The September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project was initiated four days after the events of 9/11, and collecting 900 hours of testimony in diverse communities throughout New York City in three years, using a longitudinal frame. In March 2020, the project team gathered again to develop The Covid-19 Narrative and Memory Archive, interviewing over 200 people in New York City three times each over 18 months, focusing on low-income, immigrant communities, and front-line workers in the current crisis. Conducting this work in the midst of a public pandemic of racism, inflects it with even greater meaning.This webinar will focus on the ways in which oral history has the ability to enable deep reflection on sustaining humanitarian dialogues in the face of tremendous social isolation and despair.
Defund the Police: Protest Slogans and the Terms for Debate
September 15, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
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Lead Scholar: Austin McCoy (Assistant Professor of History, Auburn University)
The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have inspired Americans and people throughout the world to take to the streets in protest against police brutality. In the course of what might be the largest movement for civil rights since the 1960s, many activists have issued calls to “defund the police” in response to police killings of Black Americans. This demand and slogan has generated much debate, just as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist Stokely Carmichael’s call for “Black Power” did in 1967. In this webinar, we will use Carmichael’s concept of “Black Power,” and the ensuing debate around that slogan, to think about how we can use history to understand contemporary social movements and protests. This will contribute to a broader examination of the purpose and significance of terminology in activism and a look at how speech and framing can help to reshape political culture.
Whistleblowers: Renewing and Sustaining Democracy in America since 1778
September 17, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Allison Stanger (Leng Professor of International Politics and Economics, Middlebury College)
Revealing the misconduct of the powerful is always dangerous. By challenging and exposing corruption, whistleblowers perform a vital public service—yet, historically, they have suffered for it. This seminar will explore the origins and history of whistleblowing in America, tracing the critical role it has played in keeping elites honest and amplifying the voice of the people. From corrupt Revolutionary War commodore Esek Hopkins (whose dismissal led to the first whistleblower protection law in 1778) to Edward Snowden to the collapse of a longstanding tradition of bipartisan support for whistleblowers under Donald Trump, the status of whistleblower protections can be a way to assess the well-being of American democracy. We will examine the tension between rights-based constitutional democracy, the First Amendment, and the demands of national security in the internet age, where whistleblowers who provide the public with important information have been seen by both Democrats and Republicans as an insider threat. An important but unrecognized cousin of civil disobedience, the act of whistleblowing continues to challenge Americans to close the gap between our professed ideals and practices. The connections between whistleblower protection, freedom of expression, and the debilitating consequences that fear and self-censorship can have in both our classrooms and in democratic public life will also be explored.
The 19th Amendment at 100: A Centennial Reassessment, Focusing on Sex, Race, and Memory
September 22, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
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Lead Scholar: Kimberly Hamlin (Associate Professor of History and Global and Intercultural Studies, Miami University of Ohio)
The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which removed “sex” as a legal reason to disqualify citizens from voting. Centennial celebrations have revealed how little most Americans know about the history of women’s rights and how contested this history remains. For the past 100 years, suffrage history has been marginalized and narrowly focused on a few white leaders. But recent scholarship has upended the standard narrative of suffrage, which starts with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and focuses on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. This webinar will incorporate new research on suffrage, highlighting sex and race. Drawing on the book Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener (W.W. Norton, 2020), we will consider how the sexual double standard motivated activists, how the 19th Amendment got through Congress, and how racism shaped the suffrage movement and its legacy.
Social Media and Disinformation
September 29, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Darren Linvill (Associate Professor of Communications, Clemson University)
The social media influence operations of the Russian Internet Research Agency were made famous by the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and the Mueller investigation. Today, their work continues. It has expanded in scope and is mimicked by other nations attempting to influence how we engage with one another online. In a time when the majority of Americans’ news is socially mediated, this has potentially serious implications for the 2020 election. Utilizing genuine IRA social media content, this webinar will walk through the tactics and strategy of Russian “active measures.” It will show how foreign influence operations engage in online conversations, simultaneously pushing both extreme right and extreme left-wing viewpoints in order to sow distrust in institutions that help build a strong democracy and to entrench Americans in opposing world views.
How To Think About (and Teach) the History of Immigration and Citizenship – By Invitation Only
October 1, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Kunal M. Parker (Fellow, 2014–15; Professor and Dean's Distinguished Scholar, School of Law, University of Miami)
Immigration is always in the news. We think of it principally in terms of how to manage the influx of outsiders into our community. Whom should we admit? How much should we invest in controlling our borders? How should we regulate those we have chosen to admit? This webinar will suggest that these ways of understanding immigration are premised on facile distinctions between “citizen” and “alien,” “us” and “them.” The long history of immigration and citizenship in the United States suggests a different set of questions and answers. If we look back in time, we find that “foreigners” in the United States could be not only those who came to the country from outside it, but also those who entered communities from neighboring towns, counties, and states. For a long stretch of American history, not everyone born within the United States was deemed a legal citizen thereof. And even those deemed legal citizens were frequently denied many of the rights we now think of as essential to the status of citizen. This webinar seeks to complicate our understanding of the history of immigration and citizenship by joining immigration history with the history of African Americans, Latino/a Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, women, and the poor.
“Underneath America”: Immigrants and the Long History of Struggles for Equality
October 8, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Julie Greene (Professor of History and Director, Center for Global Migration Studies, University of Maryland College Park)
Even amidst celebrations of their diverse contributions to American society and culture, immigrants have long confronted suspicion, prejudice, and xenophobia. As a result, they also have a long history of fighting for equality. This webinar will examine the contradictory impulses of American history towards immigration and the ways immigrants and their allies have fought to overcome prejudice. From the Irish and Germans in the early 19th century, to Chinese and Italians in the early 20th century, and onward to Latinos and Vietnamese in the early 21st century, the long history of immigrants’ struggles against discrimination has been a central part of the American experience.
The Problem of Polarization
October 13, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Robert Talisse (Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University)
Democracy is such an important social good that it seems natural to think that more is always better. However, we also recognize that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. In this webinar, we will analyze current findings regarding political polarization to argue that, as important a social good as democracy is, it is nonetheless possible for citizens to overdo it. Today, our everyday activities are increasingly fused with our political profiles: commercial spaces, workplaces, professions, schools, churches, sports teams, and even public parks now tend to embody a particular political valence. When politics is permitted to saturate our social environments, we impair the capacities we need in order to enact democracy well. In a slogan, when we overdo democracy in this way, we undermine it. The solution is to build venues and activities where people can engage in cooperative activities together in which their political identities are neither bolstered nor suppressed, but simply beside the point. If we want to do democracy well, we need to put politics in its right place.
The Election of 1860
October 20, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Jonathan Earle (Roger Hadfield Ogden Dean, LSU Honors College and Associate Professor, Louisiana State University)
This year’s election stakes are high, to say the least. But perhaps no presidential vote in U.S. history was more consequential than that of 1860. The nation roiled over the issue of slavery. Abraham Lincoln captured the Republican nomination over New York Senator William Seward, and then took on a divided Democratic Party. His win in November–with less than 40% of the popular vote–prompted the immediate secession of South Carolina, roused the rest of the South, and ushered in the Civil War. In this webinar, we will discuss and explore just how frayed the nation’s political system had become after a decade of uninterrupted sectional turmoil, and how unlikely a Henry Clay-style grand compromise would be at the start of the new decade.
#GoOpenHumanities: Celebrating Gender Voices in Stories, History, and Documents – By Invitation Only
October 27, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Andy Mink (Vice President for Education Programs, National Humanities Center)
To celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, this webinar will provide a hands-on introduction to resources that amplify women’s voices throughout history. Each segment will feature a HICDL Content Provider, who will curate and share OER materials for use throughout the humanities curriculum.
Lead experts include:
- Schuyler Schuler of the New-York Historical Society will share resources from two new units of the Women & the American Story curriculum
- Lisa Fink of the National Council for Teachers of English will explore resources in the Read, Write, Think archive
- Karuna Sinha and Lyla Cerulli of Lupercal will share resources and approaches for elevating gender in Latin and the classics
This webinar is By Invitation Only and only educators associated by the Early Adopter School Network partners are eligible to participate. Use this link to become a cohort in the EASN.
Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?
October 29, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Alex Keyssar (Matthew W. Stirling, Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy, Harvard University)
Every four years, millions of Americans wonder why we choose our presidents through the Electoral College, an arcane institution that permits the loser of the popular vote to become the president and narrows campaigns to swing states. Most Americans have long favored reform, and Congress has attempted on many occasions to alter or scuttle the Electoral College. Several of these efforts—one as recently as 1970—came very close to winning approval. Yet this controversial system remains. In this webinar, we will consider its persistence, tracing its tangled origins at the Constitutional Convention, exploring the many efforts from 1800 to 2020 to abolish or significantly reform it, and showing why each has failed. The reasons include the complexity of the electoral system’s design, the tendency of political parties to elevate partisan advantage above democratic values, the difficulty of passing constitutional amendments, and, importantly, the South’s prolonged backing of the Electoral College on the basis of its desire to preserve white supremacy in the region. The commonly voiced explanation that the small states have resisted reform for fear of losing influence proves to have been true only occasionally.
Whitman, Alabama: A Portrait of America
November 4, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Jennifer Crandall (Journalist, Artist and Filmmaker)
America continues to fracture. Whitman, Alabama: a Portrait of America is a 52-part, Emmy-nominated work of documentary portraiture. The work spotlights contemporary Americans, their alienation from and forgotten connections to each other, and offers a tool for reconnection through the unique lens of artist, journalist, and filmmaker Jennifer Chang Crandall.
Roots, Rock, and Reggae
November 12, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Matthew Smith (Fellow, 2018–19; Professor of History, University College London)
This webinar will consider how humanities scholars research and write about popular music, highlighting the unique interdisciplinary methods often employed as part of this process. Generally, popular music is reflective of broader social and political change. Yet at the same time, there are elements of its development that are quite specific to the concerns of its creators. To successfully attend to this balance of the personal and the public and how it shapes creative musical production, the scholar is charged with looking beyond the text of lyrics or interviews in order to explore other factors that influence composition. The webinar takes as its example a current project which studies the social history of Jamaican music from the 1950s to the 1980s. It considers the sources that have been used–both conventional and novel–and discusses how to apply unique analyses to this material in order to better understand the composition, production, and legacy of Jamaican music. The webinar will use case studies of select songs from Bob Marley’s canon to explore the career these songs have had as they moved from their source base in Jamaica to become part of the mainstream pop songbook.
The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians
November 17, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: David K. Johnson (Fellow, 2014–15; Professor of History, University of South Florida)
McCarthyism and the Red Scare are well known concepts in American history textbooks. But if you’re only teaching about McCarthy’s attack on suspected communists, you’re leaving out half the story. This webinar explores how homosexuals were also considered threats to national security during the Cold War, how they became conflated with communists and subversives in popular culture, and how this unfounded fear ruined the lives of thousands of innocent American citizens. Drawing from insights contained in the book and documentary film The Lavender Scare, we will discuss how homosexuality became a national political issue during the Cold War and how state-sponsored persecution helped usher in the modern LGBT rights movement.
The Roots of the Revolt of the Black Athlete
November 19, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Johnny Smith (Julius C. “Bud” Shaw Professor of Sports History, School of History and Sociology, Georgia Tech University)
We are currently witnessing a remarkable wave of political activism among Black athletes who are using their power and prestige to challenge white supremacy, police brutality, and injustice. Yet Black athletes’ political activism has a long history. In the late 1960s, an unprecedented number of Black athletes joined the Black Freedom Struggle, contesting the old political boundaries of the sports world that required them to be seen but not heard. Although many Americans recognize the famous photograph of track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists on the victory stand during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, most people do not know the history of the movement behind it: the revolt of the Black athlete. In this webinar, we will examine the roots of the revolt of the Black athlete and discuss its implications for the empowerment of Black athletes today.
How to Think Like Shakespeare
December 3, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Scott Newstok (Professor of English, Director of the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment, Rhodes College)
Shakespeare became a nimble thinker through a fascinating array of intellectual exercises. This webinar revisits key facets of his education, with an eye towards how such practices might work for today’s students: commonplacing; imitation; translation; disputation; synonymy; recitation; invention. These rhetorical habits shaped the mindsets of powerful artists for generations—and can still help today’s young writers hone their craft.
History of Immigration from Mexico to the U.S.
December 10, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Victoria DeFrancesco Soto (Assistant Dean of Civic Engagement, LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin)
This webinar will provide a historical overview of Mexican migration and immigration to the United States. This session will focus on the push and pull factors that have shaped the experience of migration between Mexico and the United States over the last 150 years. The session will end with a look at recent immigration reform attempts and a consideration of the shape that future reform may take.
Mapping the Holocaust
December 15, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Anne Knowles (Professor of History and Geography, University of Maine)
The Holocaust was an intensely geographical phenomenon, as it displaced millions of people, created and destroyed thousands of places, rendered social space hostile—or deadly—and resulted in profound changes that reconfigured Europe and led to global diasporas. This webinar will explore the many geographical dimensions of Holocaust places, including concentration and labor camps and Jewish ghettos. We will also explore research and presentation techniques being used to incorporate survivors’ memories of Holocaust experiences into maps, spatial diagrams, and other data visualizations. Mapping the Holocaust is both a vital effort to tell a more integrated history of the Holocaust—placing people in the midst of life-changing events—and a means of telling stories of trauma and escape, hiding and vulnerability, loss and survival.
The Chinese Must Go: Chinese Exclusion and Anti-Chinese Violence
December 17, 2020 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Elizabeth Lew-Williams (Associate Professor of History, Princeton University)
The American West erupted in anti-Chinese violence in 1885. Following the massacre of Chinese miners in Wyoming Territory, communities throughout California and the Pacific Northwest harassed, assaulted, and expelled thousands of Chinese immigrants. In this webinar, we will examine how American immigration policies incited this violence and how the violence, in turn, provoked new exclusionary policies. We will consider how these historical events continue to impact immigrants today and ask what it means that America’s immigration policies have violent roots. We will also discuss best practices for teaching about racial violence.
Spring 2021 Semester
To Live and Defy in LA: New Approaches to Teaching Hip Hop History
January 6, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Felicia Viator (Assistant Professor of History, San Francisco State Univeristy)
Days after the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, protestors all across America took to the streets to demonstrate against systemic racism and, more specifically, a national crisis of police violence against Black people. This movement for Black lives, arguably the largest protest movement in US history, included invocations of the cries of those killed—“I can’t breathe!” and “Don’t shoot!”—and the mantra of “Black Lives Matter.” But the cry of “Fuck the police!” was pervasive, too, as a raw expression of pain and frustration. That explicit phrase, meant to seize the attention of the public, has an important history, one directly tied to the origin story of Los Angeles rap music and the cultural changes that followed. This webinar explores the history of the hip hop genre popularly known as “gangsta rap,” a topic typically avoided or caricatured in standard American history curriculum. Through a discussion of the concepts covered in the book To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (Harvard University Press, 2020), we will explore the historical significance of black youth culture in Los Angeles in the Reagan era, rethink the cultural impact of the commercialization of rap music, and reimagine the way we teach the history of hip hop, popular culture, and protest movements in America.
Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War
January 12, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Ari Kelman (Chancellor's Leadership Professor and Interim Dean, University of California, Davis)
This webinar will focus on the production of a graphic history of the Civil War, emphasizing the challenges of representation when it comes to one of the most politically fraught chapters in the history of the United States.
The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination in Youth Literature, Media, and Culture
January 14, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania)
Humans read and listen to stories not only to be informed but also as a way to enter worlds that are not like our own. A sense of the infinite possibilities inherent in fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction, comics, and graphic novels draws children, teens, and adults from all backgrounds to speculative fiction–also known as the fantastic. However, when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, we often discover that the doors are barred. Even the very act of dreaming of worlds-that-never-were can be challenging when the known world does not provide many liberatory spaces. Yet the success of new narratives from Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic universe, the recent Hugo Awards won by NK Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor, and the blossoming of Afrofuturistic and Black fantastic tales prove that all people need new mythologies–new “stories about stories.” In addition to amplifying diverse fantasy, liberating the rest of the fantastic from its fear and loathing of darkness and Dark Others is essential. This webinar will move from ideological concepts to concrete action by showcasing the ways that youth and young adults respond to textual erasure and misrepresentation by using social media to create new worlds—effectively “restorying”–and how creatives are in turn starting to think about the implications of race and difference in participatory culture.
Global Health in Africa: An Historical Perspective
January 21, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Neil Kodesh (Professor of History and Director, African Studies Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The last few decades have witnessed an enormous increase in interest in global health, particularly with respect to Africa. Most international agencies, national governments, pharmaceutical companies, research universities, and charitable organizations are now involved in some capacity in activities related to global health. As a result, there is currently far more money devoted to global health than at any other time in history. This webinar will explore what might account for this increased interest in global health and also provide some historical perspective to help makes sense of this phenomenon. Such a historical perspective will allow us to consider the relationship between current and previous practices of global health in Africa. Is there something radically different about global health in Africa today compared to what used to be called “international health?” Are there continuities with earlier periods? And if so, what role do long-term continuities play in global health?
January 28, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Geraldo Cadava (Associate Professor of History, Northwestern University)
A hip hop infused musical, Hamilton is widely considered to have revolutionized the genre of the Broadway musical, just as many saw the American Revolution as a first for the world. This webinar will give participants an opportunity to learn about Hamilton the musical, attempting to account for its extraordinary resonance during the presidencies of Barack Obama and, now, Donald Trump. Why has this historical figure’s life inspired such interest today, in a nation that looks so different from the one that Hamilton (and his enemies) knew? Where does the musical diverge from the history, and what does that say about our memory and use of the past? Does the musical offer an inspiring, multiethnic vision of U.S. history or, as some have argued, a more haunting and problematic one? And when audiences hear and see Hamilton, what do they take away about the United States today, and about themselves?
Monuments as Social and Political Symbols – By Invitation Only
February 3, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Mia Fuller (Fellow, 2018–19; Associate Professor and Department Chair, Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley)
Monuments are often ignored; what they commemorate tends to be forgotten a generation or two after their construction. Sometimes, though, their meanings become matters of urgent debate. This webinar will begin with an overview of how monumentalization has manifested across different societies, asking: what do monuments do, and why do we make them? In the context of ideas of collective memory, heritage, history, we will then consider recent crises in the U.S. and Europe.
Breaking the Habit: An Aristotelian Look at Recidivism
February 4, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Audrey Anton (Fellow, 2018–19; Associate Professor of Philosophy, Western Kentucky University)
Based on the paper “Breaking the Habit: Aristotle on Recidivism and How a Thoroughly Vicious Person Might Begin to Improve,” this webinar will provide an opportunity to bring moral philosophy to bear on the contemporary criminal justice system by considering how Aristotle might have attempted to solve the problem of criminal recidivism. This problem seems particularly American, as 66% of paroled or released prisoners in the United States of America re-offend within five years. We will apply Aristotelian logic to recidivism, ultimately suggesting that the only way to reform someone entrenched in bad habits requires two seamless steps. First, the habit must be undone. Second, the habit must be replaced. Luckily for us, each goal is achieved in a single program of compelling people with bad habits to act contrary to those habits. Initially, such compulsion will appear punitive and will require incentives and rewards beyond the worth of the initial “good” acts. With time, and once the person is no longer vicious and finally able to see the error of their past ways, the person can begin to inculcate the values the new habits were intended to foster. This webinar will also involve a discussion of how the causes and cures of vicious recidivism have evolved over the last five years.
Centering Trauma and Resilience: Teach US History Through Native American Women’s Voices
February 9, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Rose Stremlau (Associate Professor of History, Davidson College)
Speaker: Brooke Bauer (Assistant Professor of History and Native American Studies, University of South Carolina–Lancaster)
Native women’s perspectives and experiences are accessible in the documentary record, and attention to them fundamentally alters traditional historical narratives for the better by infusing them with relevance for twenty-first century students. Beginning with a reframing of early colonial encounters and ending with an analysis of the modern justice movement for missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people (#MMIW), we will emphasize two themes characterizing Native women’s histories across chronological time and geographic place: exposure to trauma and violence and then resistance to settler colonialism and resilience. By providing examples of specific women whose voices were documented in non-Native authored sources or who spoke and wrote for themselves, we will demonstrate how centering Native women opens up new opportunities for understanding the human experience and framing US history in ways that provide students with models of collaborative leadership, mobilization in response to injustice, and models to heal harmed communities.
Producing Outrage: the Poetics of Enslavement
February 11, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Hollis Robbins (Fellow, 2017–18; Dean, School of Art & Humanities, Sonoma State University)
Throughout 18th- and 19th-century America, activists and abolitionists wrote and deployed poetry and personal narratives to voice outrage and spur opposition to slavery and race violence. How did these works ‘work’? Which ones were most effective and how do we know? What role does authenticity play and how much is literary craft? This webinar will explore the process of creating a poetic or narrative voice and how the tools used by the most celebrated practitioners are as powerful today.
A History of Money in Nine Slides
February 16, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Simon Middleton (Fellow, 2019–20; Associate Professor of History, The College of William & Mary)
What is money and where does it come from? If asked, most people would likely respond to these questions by pointing to the notes and coins in their pockets—or maybe their debit and charge cards—and muse on some connection between the “government” and printed money. Concerning origins, most would probably add that money developed more or less spontaneously in the market in response to the inconveniences of barter exchange. Both answers are wide of the mark: most money—meaning credit and value—is created by the banks and the myth about money’s spontaneous market origins is traceable as far back as Aristotle. In this session we will survey the actual history of money, beginning from its origins in Iraq/Syria in 3000 BCE through to its latest reformulation as Bitcoin. We will also consider how changing understandings of monetary forms and functions have been linked to major political and economic developments, from the collapse of the monarchy in the early modern era to the rise of capitalism and its troubles in the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries. We will do this in nine, straightforward, and easy to follow powerpoint slides. To check on the accuracy of the assumptions above, here’s a challenge for you: Before you come to the session, ask a friend or family member what they think money is and where they think it originates.
Books Make Great Company: Why We Read in an Age of Social Media
February 25, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Ann Wierda Rowland (Fellow, 2019–20; Associate Professor of English Literature, University of Kansas)
The death of the book and the decline of literary reading have been threatened for over two decades now. How can the humble novel compete with the latest social media apps to capture our attention and connect us to others? And yet the experience of imaginative, immersive, literary reading endures and remains one of humanity’s most vital cognitive and cultural processes. This is because books and literary reading are not throw-back alternatives to social media, but instead precursor forms of social media. We still read novels because they remain one of our most effective technologies for socializing, communicating, and keeping company with others. The first goal of this webinar is to uncover and understand the social basis of literary reading. To accomplish this goal, we will examine how reading has historically been approached as a social experience, and we will look at what happens cognitively and psychologically in the process of reading to make even the most solitary reader feel like they are in the company of others. Armed with these historical and cognitive accounts of reading, we will then turn to the second goal of the webinar: to become more self-aware about the experience of literary reading and to articulate for ourselves and our students what novels can do that other forms of entertainment cannot, what the experience of literary reading offers that other forms of social media simply do not.
Baptism of Early Virginia
March 4, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Rebecca Goetz (Fellow, 2018–19; Associate Professor of History, New York University)
In this webinar, we will examine the construction of race through the religious beliefs and practices of English Virginians. She finds the seventeenth century a critical time in the development and articulation of racial ideologies—ultimately in the idea of “hereditary heathenism,” the notion that Africans and Indians were incapable of genuine Christian conversion. In Virginia in particular, English settlers initially believed that native people would quickly become Christian and would form a vibrant partnership with English people. After vicious Anglo-Indian violence dashed those hopes, English Virginians used Christian rituals like marriage and baptism to exclude first Indians and then Africans from the privileges enjoyed by English Christians—including freedom.
Expanding the Canon: Highlighting the Contributions of Contemporary African American Women Authors in Southern Literature
March 11, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Sondra Bickham Washington (Assistant Professor of American Literature, Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University)
Conversations addressing Southern literature often centralize William Faulkner, Harper Lee, Walker Percy, and Eudora Welty, while overlooking and often excluding the contributions of Black women. This webinar will familiarize educators with various literary works written by contemporary Southern African American women authors and simultaneously provide a framework for analyzing such works within any educational setting. By the end of this webinar, educators will be able to teach and contextualize various literature written by Southern Black women in order to present a more inclusive and representative survey of American literature.
The West on Fire
March 16, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: William Deverell (Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, University of Southern California)
This webinar explores the past, present and future of fire in the American West. As drought and climate change deepen and as the urban/wildfire interface expands, how the West addresses fire has never been more important. Better understanding of fire history is critical to effective fire practices. This requires a broad interdisciplinary grappling with fire from sources that range across indigenous histories, settler-colonial belief, scientific understandings, and the wide range of forecasting disciplines.
Water in the Middle East: Challenges and Solutions
March 25, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Sarah Shields (Fellow, 2006–07; Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
In January 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned about the consequences of inadequate water resources: “Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict.” Water is essential for life everywhere. Although that seems a simple enough statement, its implications are overwhelming, especially for an arid zone like the Middle East. Rivers that cross borders have already resulted in conflicts between Israel and its neighbors, while Turkey’s development project dams have created thirst in Syria. Iran and Iraq struggled over the river that forms a boundary between their two countries, and Saddam Hussein used flooding to punish his adversaries in the south of Iraq. Today, as Saudi Arabia purchases land in Africa to grow its “own” food, and Egyptian leaders threaten war against Ethiopia if the Greater Ethiopian Renaissance Dam limits their access, access to water continues trouble policymakers. This webinar will offer a historian’s views on this crucial environmental resource as it has influenced the history of the region.
Letters from an American
March 30, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Heather Cox Richardson (Professor of History, Boston College)
Historians are fond of saying that the past doesn’t repeat itself; it rhymes. To understand the present, we have to understand how we got here. Taking up some of the same questions, concerns, and analyses put forth in the newsletter Letters from an American, this webinar will demonstrate that you can’t get a grip on today’s politics without an outline of America’s Constitution, laws, economy, and social customs. We will explore what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American. These were the same questions a famous observer asked in a book of letters he published in 1782, the year before the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur called his book Letters from an American Farmer, once again revealing that while history doesn’t repeat itself, it sure rhymes.
Help Me Find My People
April 6, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Heather Williams (Fellow 2007–08; Geraldine R. Segal Professorship in American Social Thought and Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania)
After the Civil War, African Americans placed poignant “information wanted” advertisements in newspapers, searching for missing family members. Inspired by the power of these ads, this webinar will use slave narratives, letters, interviews, public records, and diaries to guide back to devastating moments of family separation during slavery when people were sold away from parents, siblings, spouses, and children. We will explore the heartbreaking stories of separation and the long, usually unsuccessful journeys toward reunification. Examining the interior lives of the enslaved and freedpeople as they tried to come to terms with great loss, Williams will ground their grief, fear, anger, longing, frustration, and hope in the history of American slavery and the domestic slave trade.
How Roman Law Became the Foundation of the Criminal Justice System
April 13, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Sarah Bond (Professor of History, University of Iowa)
“Awful Choices”: Bayard Rustin’s Radical Vision and the Social Movements of the 1960s – By Invitation Only
April 14, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Jerald Podair (Professor of History and Robert S. French Professor of American Studies, Lawrence University)
Bayard Rustin was twentieth century America’s great radical voice. His vision contained multitudes, fusing labor rights, racial justice, sexual equality, socialism, and pacifism. He may well have been America’s first intersectional radical. But in the 1960s, Rustin’s attempt to weave the strands of his activism together into a broad-based program for transformative change fell victim to the centrifugal forces of racial, ethnic, class, and antiwar identifications, forcing him into a series of “awful choices” among the causes that had defined his life. We will use speeches, letters, essays, and other contemporaneous writings to show how Rustin’s fate serves as a reminder of both America’s moral potential and the limits of even its most capacious radical visions.
The Language of Climate Change in an Age of Global Syndemic
April 22, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Joni Adamson (Fellow, 2018–19; President's Professor of Environmental Humanities, Arizona State University)
In a COVID-19-affected world, the language of climate change must now illuminate the connections between climate change and contagions of various kinds, both biological (in the conventional sense of epidemiology) and anthropogenic (human drivers of global warming). For example, accelerating climate change often exacerbates the effects of poverty, displacement, and increased food insecurities, with significant feedbacks that ultimately influence malnutrition and other health crises affecting specific groups of people at a particular time and place. These factors, in turn, can become the complex “underlying conditions” exacerbating a pandemic. In this webinar, we will consider how the groundwork and main arguments put forward in a 2019 Report of The Lancet Commission on the mutually intensifying links between obesity, malnutrition and climate change provide a reasonable basis for understanding the present COVID-19 pandemic, arguably, as a “global syndemic”—a relatively new term that the authors of the report define as a “synergy of epidemics” that “co-occur in time and place…[and] interact with each other to produce complex” pathological conditions “that share common underlying societal drivers.”
Arabs in America: A Brief History
April 29, 2021 7:00–8:30 pm EST
Lead Scholar: Akram Fouad Khater (Fellow, 2005–06; Professor of History, North Carolina State University)
Arabs have largely been ignored in narratives of American history, appearing only at its shady margins. Nineteenth-century Orientalist representations, a century of stereotyped Hollywood images, and decades of militarized encounters in the Middle East have formed and fed a concept of “the Arab” as “the Other”: someone both physically and morally alien to America, harboring and villainously acting upon beliefs contrary to American core values. After 9/11, these long-standing impressions were only re-affirmed and magnified in public discourse when an Arab presence in America became symbolic of, and synonymous with, terrorism. What is most puzzling about this is that Arab Americans have been citizens of the United States for nearly 140 years, and their experiences are in many ways the very narrative of modern America and its various immigrant populations. They were/are immigrants, similar to many other ethnicities, working to make a living and contribute to their newfound communities, all the while struggling to fit into a fissured social and economic order, complicated politics, and fraught racial landscape haunted by a painful past. This webinar will shed light upon the long history of Arabs in America, and explore major themes in that history with particular focus on the early period (1880–1940).