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Faculty News

Presenting Faculty News! Please scroll down to read our faculty happenings. 


Faculty Highlight: Caitlin Fitz

Caitlin Fitz (Associate Professor of History) is currently teaching the honors thesis seminar and takes delight in watching the undergraduates become experts on topics from the nineteenth-century Francophone Atlantic to the Russian Revolution. As DUS, she is further pleased to report that enrollments are up—between the Leopold Fellows program, the Sanders Scholars program, and above all our amazing classes, our undergraduate intellectual culture is thriving.  Caitlin also published new research on the Monroe Doctrine and the Indigenous Americas in Diplomatic History, just in time for the 200th anniversary of Monroe’s (overrated!) message.  In her spare time, she consumes inordinate amounts of women’s sports media.  Please send her your questions and concerns about NU Athletics, the Big Ten, the NCAA, the Chicago Red Stars, and/or the USWNT.

Michael Allen (Associate Professor) - Michael Allen designed and taught his first new lecture course in quite a few years. Titled "American ," it required him to read and teach about the olden times before the 20th-century, an experience he found invigorating. When not teaching, he delved into newly accessible archival materials from presidential speechwriter Richard Goodwin with the help of his teenaged daughter turned research assistant who braved the Texas heat with him in late July, and wrote another chapter and a bit more for his book manuscript The Center Ring: The Making and Breaking of the Liberal Presidency, which creeps along.

Ken Alder (Professor of History, Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities) - Ken Alder had enormous fun last Spring teaching the “History of the Future,” and next Fall he plans to do it again—if the gods allow.  He also completed a novella-length object-memoir for his book, Lives of the Machines: the autobiography of "Erewhon(1934)#898," a volume of Samuel Butler's utopian novel on the perils of machine evolution.  This volume of Erewhon is located in the stacks of the New York Public Library and has a crush on Frankenstein, located one shelf over. “As like breeds like, so books beget books.” Ken hopes his book appears after another couple years of gestation.

Robin Bates (Assistant Professor of Instruction and Ian Sanders Chair in History) - Robin Bates taught the inaugural two-quarter Sanders Seminar on the Historian's Craft. He enjoyed introducing our Sanders Scholars to leading historians who were kind enough to visit Northwestern to speak with them and help them develop original research projects. Outside the classroom, 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 a paper on the subject to the Society for French Historical Studies meeting at Hofstra University.

Kathleen Belew (Associate Professor) - I had a wonderful first year teaching Northwestern students, especially in our redesigned History of the Present class with Lauren Stokes. I'm hard at work on my next book, participated in several documentaries, and began discussions around a dramatic adaptation of Bring the War Home (will this happen? time will tell!).

Kevin Boyle (Professor) - In September, Kevin Boyle replaced the irreplaceable Deborah Cohen as department chair. Since then, he’s been trying in vain to do the job half as well as she did. He’s also given a few talks at interesting places and published a couple of short pieces, one exploring the personal dynamics of political violence and another connecting Donald Trump’s criminal trial to Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon.

Jonathan Brack (Assistant Professor) - Jonathan Brack has had an eventful year, having joined the department, and relocating with the family to Chicago. His book An Afterlife for the Khan: Muslims, Buddhists, and Sacred Kingship in Mongol Iran and Eurasia was published with the University of California Press in May of 2023, and he is excited about a new project comparing changes to burial practices and ancestor veneration across the Mongol Empire, from China to Iran and the Volga. His co-authored article reevaluating the sources for the recent argument that the Mongols introduced the Black Death in the thirteenth century has just come out in Medical History (the short answer: there is no evidence they had).

Geraldo Cadava (Professor of History, Wender-Lewis Teaching and Research Professor) - Gerry Cadava is in his second year as Director of Northwestern's American Studies program, which he's enjoying very much. He is also doing a lot of work with the athletics department, and teaching a new course on The History of College Sports – about which there's a lot to say these days! Meanwhile, he's trying to find time to work on his book about 500 years of Latino history, his regular essays for The New Yorker, and coaching not one but two of his son's baseball teams.

Deborah Cohen (Richard W. Leopold Professor of History and Executive Director, Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs) - After three years of chairing, Deborah Cohen found that she missed answering email around the clock so signed on to direct the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs. A wonderful part of the job has been the chance to bring more students into the Institute's work – and a tip of the hat to History colleagues, who have created so many initiatives (among them, the Leopold program and the Sanders Seminar) to be emulated. Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs.  A wonderful part of the job has been the chance to bring more students into the Institute's work -- and a tip of the hat to History colleagues, who have created so many initiatives (among them, the Leopold program and the Sanders Seminar) to be emulated.

Jeff Eden (Assistant Professor of History) - This year Jeff tried to "break the internet" with two academic journal articles about Central Asia: "Anatomy of a Caravan Raid: Peril and Possibility in the Kazakh Steppe, 1800-1860" and "The Legacy of a Far-Right Orientalist for the Study of the Uyghurs: The Making of the Jarring Collection." So, the next time your internet is down, that's why. Closer to home, Ben F. insists that Jeff must start sitting at the table during department meetings, but Jeff has become neurotically sentimental about his seat in the back corner. He even calls it his "Cozy Corner." But that is sad, and Ben is right.

Dyan Elliot (Peter B. Ritzma Professor in the Humanities) - Elliott gave a zoom lecture entitled “The Medieval Clergy and Sexual Predation: Chastity as Blind(ness)" for the Institute for Historical Research Seminar, University of London, 19 March 2024, and a paper entitled "The Medieval Clergy, Celibacy, and the Sexual Predation of Boys" at the conference "The Memory of Power and Abuse of Power" at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, April 20, 2024. Her article “The Theology of Exhumation in the Middle Ages," has recently appeared in a special issue on the Resurrection of the Body for the theological journal, Concilium (which is published in 5 different languages).

Caitlin Fitz (Associate Professor of History) - Caitlin Fitz is currently teaching the honors thesis seminar and takes delight in watching the undergraduates become experts on topics from the nineteenth-century Francophone Atlantic to the Russian Revolution. As DUS, she is further pleased to report that enrollments are up—between the Leopold Fellows program, the Sanders Scholars program, and above all our amazing classes, our undergraduate intellectual culture is thriving.  Caitlin also published new research on the Monroe Doctrine and the Indigenous Americas in Diplomatic History, just in time for the 200th anniversary of Monroe’s (overrated!) message.  In her spare time, she consumes inordinate amounts of women’s sports media.  Please send her your questions and concerns about NU Athletics, the Big Ten, the NCAA, the Chicago Red Stars, and/or the USWNT.

Benjamin Frommer (Associate Professor) - Aside from completing his first marathon, Ben's more prosaic accomplishments this past year include serving as the interim director of the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies and delivering the keynote lecture to the 2023 International Lessons and Legacies of the Holocaust Conference in the majestic, 650-year-old Karolinum Hall in Prague. His chapter on the Holocaust in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was recently published in its fourth language, adding a Hebrew translation to the Czech, English, and German editions.

Leslie M. Harris (Professor) - Leslie Harris began and ended 2023 with the opening of museum exhibitions for which she served as a consultant.  From January to May, “Crafting Freedom: The Life and Legacy of Free Black Potter Thomas W. Commeraw,” was on display at The New-York Historical Society. Commeraw is believed to be the only black potter to own his own business in early nineteenth-century New York City. In December, The Tenement Museum opened a new permanent exhibition, “A Union of Hope, 1869.” This the museum’s first permanent exhibition to feature an African American family, that of Joseph and Rachel Moore. The exhibition was featured in The New Yorker’s Talk of the Town feature (February 5, 2024), complete with a cartoon in the online version! It’s hard for her to imagine topping this career achievement! Continuing on the New York City theme, a second edition of her first book In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863, was issued by University of Chicago Press with a new afterword; and she completed an essay in honor of the 270th anniversary of the New York Society Library.  She continues to work on her next book, Leaving New Orleans: A Personal Urban History, although she doesn’t expect to include any cartoons.

Laura Hein (Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Professor of History) - Laura Hein, like everyone else who works on Japan, was frustrated by the long closure of the country due to COVID restrictions. She thus particularly enjoyed her Fall 2023 trip there, where she gave lectures at University of Tokyo and Osaka University, recharged personal and professional relationships, and happily also renewed her relationship with both the Japanese language and its cuisine. Her 2018 book, Post-Fascist Japan, came out in Japanese translation just before her trip, as did The Modern Japanese Nation and Empire, vol. 3 of the New Cambridge History of Japan, and it was truly satisfying to contribute through both volumes to the lively academic community there, which has sustained her for decades.

Daniel Immerwahr (Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities) - Daniel Immerwahr has been playing with matches. His essay, “Home Fires,” was published in The New Yorker, and The Atlantic published his essay about whether George Washington ordered the burning of New York City (probably). His article, “Burning Down the House,” about arson and slavery, won the Organization of American Historian's Binkley-Stephenson Award for the best article published in the Journal of American History. He also published an article in Past and Present, “All That Is Solid Bursts into Flame,” about capitalism and fire. Immerwahr describes himself as a “pyromantic,” as the word “pyromaniac,” he has been told, carries menacing connotations.

Stefan Cristian Ionescu (Zev and Alice Weiss and Holocaust Education Foundation Visiting Professor in Holocaust Studies) - Stefan C. Ionescu enjoyed his last year at Northwestern University by teaching several new courses: "Holocaust Memory," "Colonialism and Genocide," and "Jewish Refugees in 20th Century Europe." His new book –  entitled Justice and Restitution: Rebuilding Jewish Lives and Communities in Post-Nazi Romania, 1944-1950 –  will be published by Cambridge University Press in summer 2024.

Henri Lauzière (Associate Professor of History) - Lauziere has been spending the academic year 2023-24 at New York University in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, where he has been working on a book about our understanding of reason in modern Arab Islamic thought. The book argues that scholars and commentators are misguided in thinking that reason declined among Muslim activists in the modern era. On the contrary, and perhaps counter-intuitively, it was the advent of a modern type of rationality – which we may call the "scientization" of Islamic knowledge – that paved the way for many of the rigorist religious movements that these scholars and commentators consider regressive. Research for this project (and others) brought Lauzière to different locations this year. In addition to the United Arab Emirates, he traveled to Oman in November, Egypt in December, Saudi Arabia in January, and still has to do some research in Qatar and Kuwait. Which of these locations was the best? Oman: the land of frankincense. Even Muscat airport has built-in automatic diffusers. The country's stunning landscape is something to behold, too.

Melissa Macauley (Professor of History) - Melissa Macauley’s book, Distant Shores, was translated into Chinese and published by the China Times Publishing Company. She published an article in the Journal of Asian Studies and presented papers at the annual meetings of the AHA and Association for Asian Studies as well as at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, the latter in their Distinguished Lectures in the Humanities Series. She was invited to join the Editorial Board overseeing the digitization of the British Foreign Office records on China from 1830 to 1930 held in the British Archives. She is currently Chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, where she is learning the language of the administration in addition to honing some of the language skills she acquired in her youth.

Kate Masur (Board of Visitors Professor) - Kate Masur has been on leave this year and finished Freedom Was In Sight! A Graphic History of Reconstruction in the Washington, D.C., Region, which will be published this fall by University of North Carolina Press. She feels lucky to have worked with and learned from the brilliant illustrator Liz Clarke and to have collaborated on this project with the National Park Service and the Organization of American Historians. Her son Milo, born the summer after her first year in the NU History Department, is graduating from high school this spring. Go figure.

Sarah Maza (Jane Long Professor in the Arts and Sciences and Professor of History) - Sarah Maza is completing her last year on the active faculty with everyone under strict orders not to mention how many years it's been. She's looking forward to a big celebration in early June after which she walks off the cliff to become a professor emeritX. Her latest attempt to get into productive trouble is an article on presentism and the American historical profession which will appear in Past and Present next fall and should annoy everyone on all sides. Thinking About History continues to do well; there are Chinese and Arabic editions now as well as a cringeworthy audio version. She's writing a book on the transatlantic fates of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Les Misérables  and plans to continue to live mostly in Evanston, haunting the occasional CCHS talk.

Joel Mokyr (Robert H. Strotz Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Economics and History) - Joel Mokyr served as the Upton Forum Visitor at Beloit College, an honor previously awarded to scholars such as Nobel Prize winners Douglass North and Eleanor Ostrom. He gave the John R. Hicks annual lecture at All Souls College, Oxford, and the Annual Bogen lecture in the Economics Department at Hebrew University. His book Two Paths to the Twentieth century: Culture and Institutions in Europe and China, 1000-2000 (joint with Avner Greif and Guido Tabellini) was accepted for publication at Princeton University Press. His other book, Why Britain? A New Look at the Industrial Revolution (tentative title, joint with Morgan Kelly and Cormac Ó Gráda) is in preparation for Princeton University Press. Among his publications this year are “Culture vs Institutions in the Great Enrichment” forthcoming in the Handbook of Institutional Economics and “The Benefits and Costs of Diversity: Lessons from Economic History,” forthcoming in The Wealth and Well-being of Nations. His proudest achievement of the year, however, is walking back and forth between the Kellogg Global Shlub, on the north edge of campus, to Harris Hall on the south edge, with a torn meniscus in his left knee.

Edward Muir (Clarence L. Ver Steeg Professor in the Arts and Sciences) - 2023 was Ed's year as President of the AHA, which ended at the annual convention in San Francisco, which still has its charms. The NU History Department sponsored a lovely reception where many old NU alums met. His Presidential address on "Conversations with the Dead" did not put anyone to sleep as far as he could see, but then he was not paying attention to the back corners of the large hall where the somnolent effects of his rumination were hard to discern.

Akin Ogundiran (Professor of History, Cardiss Collins Professor of Arts and Sciences) -

Of Closures and Openings: Akin Ogundiran’s First Year in Harris Hall

It was an exciting year of closures, openings, new beginnings, and transitions! Following many goodbye parties in Charlotte, the Ogundirans, including Sharp—our handsome bearded dragon pet, drove 755 miles from Charlotte NC in July to begin a new life in Chicago-Evanston. We made it in 14 hours! Why spend that long time on the road? No airline would allow a reptile on board. I happily did the driving. It was Sharp’s longest road trip. He seemed to have enjoyed it.

With lots of hugs and kisses, and some tears, our twin boys began a new life as college students the following month.  With the boys partially out of the house, Sharp has been a great low-maintenance companion, cushioning the hard effects of empty nesting.

I spent the academic year unpacking, settling down in Harris Hall, setting up our new Material History Lab, welcoming postdocs to the lab, and getting to know students and colleagues in Harris Hall and beyond. In addition to teaching classes on Climate and Civilizations (first-year seminar), Drugs and Alcohol in Africa, Early Modern Empires, and Black Atlantic Cultures, I served on my first dissertation committee at Northwestern University—in the Comparative Literary Studies doctoral program. Yemi Ajisebutu successfully defended her dissertation, “Oríkì and Being: The Yorùbá Consciousness in Africana Diasporic Fiction and Art,” in April 2024.

In the fall, I started my three-year term as a Senior Fellow of the Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC. On December 31, 2023, I completed my five-year appointment as editor-in-chief of the African Archaeological Review, and began my two-year term as president of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists the following day.

The roster of invited lectures during the academic year included the Distinguished Africanist Lecture at New York University on December 4 titled “Critics of the Oyo Empire and Atlantic Modernity in the Age of Revolution: Rethinking Black Atlantic Historiography with Archaeology and Òrìṣà Archives.” Three weeks earlier, on November 13-17, I was in Brazil to deliver the keynote of the 22nd Congress of Sociedade de Arqueologia Brasileira (Brazilian Archaeological Society). My speech was titled “The Ties That Bind Us: An Archaeological History of African/Yoruba Cosmopolitanism and Implications for South Atlantic Collaboration.” During my visit, O Globo, Brazil’s leading newspaper, granted me an interview on the importance of Africa to understanding the history of the Early Modern world. 

Of peers’ recognition, there is much to the grateful for. I was elected a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society of London and a Fellow of the Archaeological Association of Nigeria, and the Field Museum appointed me as a Research Associate. Capping it all was my investiture as a Cardiss Collins Professor on May 14. It was great to see many family members, mentors, friends, colleagues, and students joining the celebration.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern (Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies) - Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern prefaced, annotated, and edited two volumes (in Ukrainian), as part of his Jewish Museum project: a monograph on Jewish architectural legacy in Lviv (by Yuri Biriulov) and a monograph on Jewish photographers and photo studios in Lviv (by Iryna Kotlobulatova). He published two chapters in, and edited a volume of, the memoirs about his father, a prominent historian of culture and philologist Miron Petrovsky (in Russian and Ukrainian). Yohanan's chapter on the Ukrainian contexts of Zeev Jabotinsky appeared in a book "Cosmopolitan Spaces in Odessa" (in English). His analytical interview focused on Sergei Loznitsa's documentary film on Babyn Yar was featured in KRYTYKA journal in English and Ukrainian. Yohanan appeared with comments about Ukraine at the Ukrainian "Espreso" channel with such anchors as Vitali Portnikov and Mykola Veresen and he spoke with Joan Esposito about parallels between Ukraine and Israel on NPR. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation announced him, together with 500 other US citizens, a persona non grata, whereas the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art organized his solo art show "Confronting Catastrophes" which was attended by Northwestern faculty and students, Chicagoans of all walks of life, and VIPs and dignitaries, including the only Ukrainian Nobel Prize winner. At present, supported by a grant from Israel Institute, Yohanan is working on a new course that delves into the "history, memory and fantasy" of Jerusalem.

Scott Sowerby (Associate Professor) - Scott Sowerby spent 2023–24 on research leave in California, working on a book on religious toleration in Early Modern Europe. This means that he is dealing with the usual questions that beset historians writing monographs: Is a 20 000-word chapter too long? (Yes.) Can he bear to leave out that one story he traveled all the way to Utrecht to track down? (Yes.) Will he finish chapter four in time to send it as promised to his editor? (No.)


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