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Faculty Highlight: Lydia Barnett

Lydia Barnett received a Dibner Fellowship from the Huntington Library, which allowed her to spend the 2021-22 academic year basking in the California sunshine in the Huntington’s famous botanical gardens and puzzling through early modern Italian treatises on hydraulic infrastructure and environmental engineering in the Huntington’s equally famous collection of rare books. In the last year, she got the chance to share the fruits of her archival labors with colleagues at UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, the University of Oklahoma, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia. Now she is back in the classroom in Evanston with renewed enthusiasm to teach students about the history of science and the environment in Europe and beyond.

Ken Alder returned this fall from academic leave at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), where he worked on his book of object autobiographies. On January 3, 2023, he appeared in a PBS American Experience documentary on “The Lie Detectors,” closely modeled on his book of the same name. This Spring, thanks to a CCHS course initiative, he’s teaching a new lecture class, “The History of the Future,” covering 5000 years of prediction from Mesopotamian astrologers to our current AI utopia and/or hellscape. How will it all turn out? A quick consultation with his Magic 8 Ball provides this non-answer: “Better not tell you now.” A typical historian’s evasion when asked about the future.

Since his last report Michael Allen supervised his ninth, tenth, and eleventh senior thesis and his fourth PhD dissertation, and was named Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence. When not teaching and parenting, he remains at work on his book about the political left and its relationship to presidential power.

Robin Bates taught new undergraduate courses on “The History of Socialism” and “The Age of Revolutions: The Birth of Modern Politics, 1789-1848,” as well as developing a version of the latter for the Alumnae of Northwestern University’s Continuing Education program. In addition, he’s been working with Deborah Cohen, Daniel Immerwahr, and Northwestern alumnus Ian Sanders ‘91 to develop a new two-quarter Sanders Seminar in History that will debut next year. When he’s not tinkering with new syllabi, he’s continuing to pursue research on the intersection of capitalism, slavery, and the rhetoric of moral education in the post-Revolutionary French Empire, presenting papers at the Society for French Historical Studies in Charlotte NC and at the Conference in Honor of Jan Goldstein, his mentor at the University of Chicago.

Kathleen Belew has spent her first year at Northwestern at work on her manuscript, Home, at the End of the World. She is very happy to be here, and looks forward to teaching in AY ‘23-‘24.

Kevin Boyle spent much of the year moving back through the twentieth century.  Last summer The New York Times ran his op-ed on the ghost of Richard Nixon. In the fall his publisher brought out the paperback edition of his book, The Shattering: America in the 1960s. He followed that with a few talks on political violence in the 1920s and 1930s, including a really stimulating exchange with colleagues at the University of Galway. Most recently, his undergrad lecture on turn-of-the-century working class life appeared on C-Span, to rave reviews. “My God,” wrote one fan. “You are just another left-wing idealogue. Pathetic.” Maybe Kevin should try the nineteenth century instead.

Lina Britto - The translation of my book to Spanish came out in early August in Colombia and got lots of attention. I did a book tour that included talks at universities and bookstores in different cities, as well as mass and social media appearances. A few examples: El Espectador, Colombia's second most important daily, did a video reportage that has more than 10,000 views by now. Caracol Radio, the most popular morning news magazine, did a short interview. Diario Criterio, an independent online newspaper, published another interview. El Diario, a newspaper from Spain that circulates in Latin America, published another interview. Visit Projects, a multimedia platform on drugs, politics, and violence, invited me to their podcast. The most exciting activity was a private visit to the JEP (the transitional justice system created by the peace accords between the government and the guerrillas to investigate war crimes and bring responsible parties to trail) to talk to a group of twenty researchers working on various cases, from drug trafficking to corruption. I answered their questions on how to understand the marihuana boom of the 1970s as part of the history of our internal armed conflict. By the end of the year, my book was listed as one of the best non-fiction books of 2022 by La Silla Vacía, Colombia’s most influential digital media portal, and Diario Criterio. 

Geraldo Cadava - It has been a busy year! The highlights are that I signed a contract with Crown to publish my third book—a history of Latinos over the past five hundred years—and another with The New Yorker, to write a monthly column on Latino politics, history, and culture. I’d love it if you were to read it and let me know what you think! I also didn’t spend as much time with wonderful colleagues in Harris Hall, because I was directing the Latina and Latino Studies Program, and now I’m directing the American Studies Program. Despite all this, my greatest accomplishment was coaching my son’s little league baseball team. We weren’t very good, but boy, oh boy, was it fun!

Hollis Clayson (courtesy joint appt in History), Professor Emerita, is the Stanton Avery Distinguished Fellow, 2022-23, at The Huntington Library, San Marino CA 91108

Deborah Cohen accidentally wrote an X-rated book that had some reviewers complaining about bad sex.  Not everyone objected, thankfully:  Last Call at the Hotel Imperial won the Mark Lynton History Prize as well as the Goldsmith Prize, neither of which are awarded for pornography.  She will finish her term as department chair this summer, which means that she will have to sever the umbilical connection to her email inbox.  This could be bloody!

Sarah Cushman - In January 2023, Sarah Cushman began serving as co-editor of Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History.

Jeff Eden is the New Guy and very awkward, but he is so happy to meet you! This year he made an edited volume with Eren Tasar and Allen J. Frank in honor of the great Central Asia historian Devin DeWeese. (It's called From the Khan's Oven, and colleagues have asked if it is a Mongolian cookbook. If only!) His 2021 book God Save the USSR was translated into Arabic and went lowkey viral on Arab Facebook before it came out, but by the time it was published the viral moment had passed. Ever since, Jeff has been writing in the third person. ("Perhaps it's all downhill from here," he thought to himself.)

Caitlin Fitz’s article, “Latin America and the Radicalization of U.S. Abolition,” was published last spring in the Journal of American History as an Editor’s Choice. She recently completed a term as Program Committee co-chair for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, which held its annual meeting in New Orleans last July. As the History Department’s newly-minted DUS, meanwhile, her favorite task involved purchasing 25 historically-themed Bennison’s cakes for faculty to serve to undergraduates while talking about upcoming course offerings.

In between runs and cheering on the next generation, this past year Benjamin Frommer published articles on comparative retribution in postwar Europe and the forced resettlement of Jews in Nazi-occupied Czechia.  In December 2022 he spent a week in Brno as a distinguished visiting scholar at Mendel University and in August 2023 he will co-lead a 10-day seminar at the US Holocaust Museum Memorial in Washington on “Intermarriage during the Holocaust: Jewish and Romani ‘Mixed’ Families in Nazi Europe.”  

Paul Gillingham met the Department of Homeland Security by providing an expert witness brief in a deportation hearing for a single mother who was seeking political asylum under threats from a drugs cartel; nasty even by their own - the DHS’s - high standards. His book Unrevolutionary Mexico got an honorable mention for the Herbert F. Cline Mexican History Prize.

Daniel Greene advised the filmmakers and was featured in The U.S. and the Holocaust, a new PBS documentary directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein. His co-edited (with Edward Phillips) primary source book, Americans and the Holocaust: A Reader, was published by Rutgers University Press in association with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Peter Hayes continues to write (four book chapters and two reprints of earlier essays are currently at presses) and lecture far and wide, most recently at Cal-Irvine, Cal-San Diego, the Chattanooga and St. Louis public libraries, and twice at Bowdoin, his alma mater.   A Slovak edition of his Why? Explaining the Holocaust appeared late last year, just after the politics of Holocaust memory in Poland stymied a Polish translation.  Chinese and Portuguese translations are in process.

Laura Hein’s most interesting teaching this year was a course on The Atomic Bomb to a mixed group of Northwestern and Hitotsubashi students on zoom in Winter 2023, which was thought-provoking for everyone involved, since the base-line stances varied a lot.  Some of the students must have liked it because they nominated her for the Associated Student Government’s Faculty and Administrator Honor Roll.  In the summer she wrote two articles, one on Okinawa Studies for a special issue she co-edited of Critical Asian Studies, and one on “Trauma, Reconciliation, Social Justice, and Artistic Commentary: Tomiyama Taeko’s strategies for repair through her visual art,” for an edited book on trauma and East Asian history.  She also presented papers at a conference on post-fascism in Japan and Germany at University of Wisconsin, on war reparations and reconciliation at Harvard University, and commented at a conference on Writing the History of Confucianism at National University of Ireland at Cork.

The force is strong with Daniel Immerwahr, who published academic research this year about the histories of Star Wars and Frank Herbert's sci-fi novel Dune. Fending off charges that he is just an overgrown child, Professor Immerwahr has also advanced his research about nineteenth-century conflagrations, which gave him the occasion to play with the fire trucks from the big boy box.

Stefan Cristian Ionescu has continued to work on his book manuscript examining the restitution of Jewish property in post-Holocaust Romania. He also taught a new 200-level course for the department, The Jews of Southeastern Europe.

Doug Kiel has been busy curating exhibitions lately. Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories opened at the Field Museum last May, and Kiel is a co-curator of the Newberry Library’s upcoming Indigenous Chicago exhibit, set to open in 2024. The Wisconsin Historical Society is building a new History Center, opening in 2026, and Kiel recently joined the project’s scholarly advisory board. Kiel’s first book, Unsettling Territory: Oneida Nation Resurgence and Anti-Sovereignty Backlash is forthcoming from Yale University Press.

Robert Lerner has lost his grit. He escaped life on the Midwestern tundra for three and a half months by fleeing to Berkeley, where flowers bloom in January -- even out of cracks in the sidewalk.  Lerner published “Sign Theory: Some Scholastic Encounters with the Fifteen Signs before the Day of Judgment” in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History for October 2022. (Some of those signs seem to be coming into view nowadays.) An interview with the German translator of his biography of Ernst Kantorowicz was watched via Zoom by over seventy people. (The Chinese translator was not allowed  by his government to zoom.)

Melissa Macauley’s book, Distant Shores, won the Bentley Book Prize from the World History Association. A paper on the East Asian Monsoon she presented to the Chabraja Center last year is now forthcoming in the Journal of Asian Studies, and she is grateful to all the colleagues who offered her useful feedback on that project. She otherwise weaned herself off Zoom by presenting lectures in-person at Princeton, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin.

Kate Masur continued to appreciate the reception of her book, Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction, which won three prizes in 2022. In collaboration with the wonderful illustrator Liz Clarke, she wrote a graphic history of Reconstruction in the DC region entitled Freedom Was In Sight!. She recently spoke about the as-yet-unpublished book – and about why we should stop saying Reconstruction ended in 1877 – at a symposium at the American Civil War Museum in Richmond. She taught a new undergraduate seminar on the history of abortion in the United States in winter quarter and is mulling her next steps.

Sarah Maza is enjoying a wonderful year on fellowship in New York City where she is a fellow at the Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library.  She is working on a project provisionally titled “Blockbusters Abroad: How Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Les Misérables crossed the Atlantic,” for which she is pretending part-time to be a U.S. historian.  She will return to Northwestern for her last (!!) year of teaching in 2023-24.

Edward Muir's term as President of the American Historical Association began officially at the convention in Philadelphia in January. The job is more intriguing than I imagined, much of it more about public education these days than about History. We continue to battle for the freedom to teach, especially in Florida. If you live in Florida, write your representative in the state legislature. As the largest historical association in the world, we keep being asked to intervene all over the globe, most recently to help rescue the President of the Haitian Historical Association, who was kidnapped.

Susan Pearson is proud to report than in 2022 she successfully won the dumb rhyming game contest at the Green Mill’s Uptown Poetry Slam not once, but twice. In addition, she was awarded a book prize from the Order of the Coif, the legal honor society, for her book The Birth Certificate: An American History. Susan also published a couple of essays in academic journals, including Modern American History and The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and she wrote an op-ed for The Atlantic about Oklahoma’s ban on nonbinary birth certificates. Now in her second year as Director of Graduate Studies, Susan has also memorized most of the grad program’s requirements. But you should still look them up yourself! 

Carl Petry - Now that I am 'retireorized' I have the time to initiate a project long in consideration but short on accessible evidence: the status of people in medieval Egypt and Syria marginalized because of religion, ethnicity, color or all of the above. Brief asides to such people appear often in a wide range of sources, but the references are just that: asides with little supportive detail. Nonetheless, the more one digs, the more one finds interesting figures hiding in plain sight. I am especially interested in persons labeled as "Habashi" or Abyssinian (indicating a broad swath of territories extending from modern lower Sudan to Somalia and Eritrea). I recently gave a lecture on the following topic: "A Child Custody Dispute between a Habashi Slave and her Jewish Owner: Issues of Gender and Ethnic/Racial Identity in Medieval Egypt" at the Center for International Studies, University of Michigan (an essay with that title is scheduled for publication next year). We shall see where this goes, but I can state with certainty that no grad student following a fast track to completion should pursue this topic.  

David Schoenbrun  - 2022 saw us emerge from the COVID crouch, stretch our legs, and head back out into the world. Schoenbrun took a step into the realm of creative non-fiction, publishing "Vashambadzi: The Coast Walkers," a piece on 14th century African mobility included in a special issue of the Radical History Review. New directions weren't the only thing coming back to life. His 2021 book, The Names of the Python: Belonging in East Africa, 900-1930 won the 2022 Bethwell A. Ogot book prize from the African Studies Association (U.S.). And he collaborated with NU colleague-to-be Prof. Akin Ogundiran, on "Orality, Language, and Technology History" for the New Cambridge History of Technology.

Michael Sherry - The highlight of my year was a panel regarding my scholarship and career at the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations in June 2022 in New Orleans.  The panelists were several of my former PhD students, with others in the audience.  It was a fun and moving occasion, leaving me once again impressed by how smart my students are. After a gala and well-lubricated dinner, we scattered, only to find out soon that many had come down with Covid.  Perhaps that's where I got the infection causing a second bout of Covid, which was definitely the low point of my year. 

Scott Sowerby finally got back to the archives for the first time since the pandemic began, making forays to the Vatican Library in Rome, the Staatsarchiv in Zürich, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, the Bibliothèque Royale in Brussels, the British Library in London, and the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. He can hardly believe he gets paid to do this.

Lauren Stokes has enjoyed talking about Fear of the Family to various audiences across the Big Ten Conference (Go Cats!). She was also grateful for invitations from further afield, including the University of Trier, the University of Halle, and the Université de Neuchâtel, where she keynoted a wonderful conference on the history of clandestine child migration in Europe.

Ipek Kocaömer Yosmaoglu’s co-edited volume, Turkish Jews and Their Diasporas, long time in the making, finally appeared in print in spring 2022.  In her capacity as the director of the Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program at the Buffett Institute, she organized several events in the 2021-22 academic year, including a series of talks with the theme “Reflections on Whiteness, Blackness, and Race in the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey,” and another series of article workshops for junior scholars in Studies on Contemporary Turkey.  The Keyman program hosted its first in-person meeting, an international conference, “Sites of Memory, Sites of Loss: Politics of Archaeology and Heritage Management in Turkey and Post-Ottoman Lands,” in June 2022.  She was elected as the new president of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association.

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