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Faculty News

The Summer 2020 Newsletter will include news from faculty with surnames in the second half of the alphabet.

Ken Alder is a fellow with the Kaplan Humanities Institute in 2019-20, where he is working on his project, “Lives of the Machines.” He recently presented his work on the origins of the metric system to the members of the Parisian Académie des Sciences, the body which got the whole operation started. And his paper “The Forensic Self” on the origins of the forensic sciences of identification has been accepted for publication, as a spin-off of the Hans Rausing Lecture he delivered last year at Uppsala University in Sweden. Meanwhile, back on campus, he is directing Science in Human Culture and keeping his head above water, just….

Michael Allen is is on leave this year at work on his book manuscript New Politics: The Imperial Presidency, The Pragmatic Left, and the Paradox of Democratic Power, 1933-1981. Other than that he organized a conference panel on the “Deep State” that was carried on C-SPAN where he discussed how the idea of a sinister security establishment migrated from the 1960s political left to the Trump White House. And this fall he welcomed Congressman Adam Schiff to campus for the Leopold Lecture, where he led a conversation in Cahn Auditorium with the sensible, sober, and scrupulous legislator about alleged deep state conspiracies and other things impeachment-related.

Lydia Barnett published her first book, After the Flood: Imagining the Global Environment in Early Modern Europe, which argues that the idea of humans having an impact on the global environment is both much older than is typically assumed and also owes an unacknowledged debt to religious thought. This book was a long time in the making and she has been grateful for the opportunity to turn her time and energy to other things! Including: joining symposia and roundtables on the historical roots of our present climate crisis, organizing the Premodern Studies Seminar at Chicago’s Newberry Library, and revamping an undergraduate lecture course on medieval and early modern European history as a Faculty Fellow with Northwestern’s Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching.

In 2019, Robin Bates pursued a research project on the nineteenth-century, post-revolutionary French debate about the relationship between colonial plantation slavery and the economic system that was soon to be named capitalism. He delivered conference papers on different aspects of this project at the University of Chicago and at the Western Society for French Historical Studies in Bozeman, MT. Beginning in September 2020, he will be joining the Department of History full time as Assistant Professor of Instruction.

Shana Bernstein is Clinical Associate Professor of Legal Studies and American Studies, and Director of the American Studies Program. Her first book, Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles (Oxford University Press, 2011), reinterprets U.S. civil rights activism by revealing its roots in the interracial efforts of Mexican, Jewish, African, and Japanese Americans in mid-century Los Angeles. She is currently working on a book, Strawberry Fields Forever? A Consumer, Worker, and Environmental History of the Most Toxic, Profitable, and Unsustainable Crop in America.

Henry Binford at long last finished his book on Cincinnati, which has been in preparation across two centuries. It is under contract with Temple University Press and slated for publication in early 2021. Current title, likely subject to change, is From “Improvement” to City Planning: Spatial Management in Cincinnati, 1786-1870.

Kevin Boyle was thrilled to be named a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence in 2019. When he heard about his selection he thought of his favorite comment on a student evaluation. “You’re the best professor I’ve had in college,” the student said. “Of course, I’m only a freshman.” In the balance of the year Boyle taught some courses, did some writing, gave some talks, and served as the department’s associate chair.

Lina Britto published Marijuana Boom: The Rise and Fall of Colombia’s First Drug Paradise (University of California Press, 2020). After more than a decade of archival research and fieldwork, Britto offers a detailed reconstruction of the inner workings of Colombia’s first drug economy, and an in-depth analysis of why the South American country that was considered a model of democracy and modernization became a narcotics nation. Currently, Britto is working on her second book project, which is tentatively entitled Healing Democracy: A Medical History of the Battle for Medellin’s Bodies and Soul. As part of this project, Britto worked in the fall at the most complete collection on Colombia in the United States, which is preserved at the Vanderbilt University Library. She had the support of a travel grant from Vanderbilt’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, CLAS.

John Bushnell used as much time as he could in 2019 to conduct research and bring to near completion a study of Russian peasant bride theft, which was a by-product of the mid 17th-century schism in the Russian Orthodox Church. Many leaders of the schism believed that reforms of text and rituals had produced a Church that was no longer Christian, no longer had any legitimate priests (as Orthodox, Catholics and Anglicans would say, the apostolic succession had been broken), and that therefore the marriage sacrament was no more. Bridal abduction (in a few different forms) was a pragmatic response to the problem: schismatic parents could deny that they had anything to do with their daughters’ marriages (in Orthodox churches, as well as in non-sacramental unions). And there is a book’s worth more to say! Routledge asked for the almost completed manuscript Bushnell had as of December, and he is now waiting for their response to it.

Gerry Cadava has just joined Kevin Boyle, Brett Gadsden, Leslie Harris, Kate Masur, Ajay Mehrotra, Robert Orsi, Danny Greene, and Shana Bernstein as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. In the second half of 2019 he was on leave, working on his forthcoming book The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, From Nixon to Trump. He also wrote a recent editorial on Bernie Sanders and the Latino vote.

For Peter Carroll, 2019 demonstrated that it is a small world. The year began with a reunion with former History Department colleague Sarah Pearsall (University of Cambridge) for a research panel, “Love Gone Wrong: The Politics of Subversive Affections in Comparative Perspective.” She analyzed a popular 18th c. tale of a woman (Native American or African, depending on the version) being betrayed and sold into slavery by her European male lover, while he discussed a notorious female same-sex love murder in 1930s China. July confirmed our global connectedness when a librarian at the National Library of China informed him that the book he wanted was only available at the Hunan Provincial Library, some 800 miles from Beijing. With the magic of a VPN, his cell phone vaulted the Great Firewall and searched a database via NUCat to prove that the National Library held the book, which eventually appeared. Now, in early 2020, global connections make it unclear when he’ll be back in China.

Deborah Cohen has ceased hitting “refresh” every five minutes on the Guardian home-page, though she still has Brexit nightmares. She’s trying to finish her book about John Gunther, H.R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean and Dorothy Thompson, which is due to the publishers in the fall of 2020. She’s looking forward to scrapping all of her British history lectures and trying to explain what happened.

Scott De Orio spent his postdoc with the Sexualities Project at Northwestern (SPAN) working on his book manuscript “Bad Queers: LGBTQ People and State Power in Modern America.” He is excited to workshop part of the manuscript in February 2020 and participate as a guest speaker at a symposium at Yale about gender and sexuality across the life course. Scott has also been enjoying developing and teaching two undergraduate courses, “Sex Offenses” and “Consent: Sexual Agency in Historical Perspective.”

The past six months have been busy for Dyan Elliott. In the summer she was an invited member of the seminar “Academic Partners for Peace: Conflict, Peacemaking, and Peace-building in the Context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (17-23 June, 2019). She toured Israel and some Palestinian territories, meeting with various journalists, academics, and civic leaders concerning the current state of affairs and efforts to bring about some kind of rapprochement. She was the recipient of the Chabraja Center’s Course Development and, equipped with a course release from teaching, spent the fall quarter planning her proposed course “The Black Death and Other Pandemics” – a course that is both transhistorical and transnational in its scope. Finally, in this past fall she submitted her revised manuscript The Corrupter of Boys: Sodomy, Scandal, and the Medieval Clergy to University of Pennsylvania Press. It is now in production and will appear in fall 2020.

Caitlin Fitz spent the past year on an ACLS-sponsored leave to research Latin Americans’ influence on U.S. abolitionism. The highlight of her year was giving a talk at Oxford and bringing her family along for two weeks of Harry Potter-themed tours (during which time she and her third-grader also successfully received a degree in potion-making). She also chaired the colonial North America search committee and is delighted to be welcoming an earlier Americanist to the department—for news of which she refers you to the next faculty newsletter!

In between coaching AYSO soccer games and hiking with the family in Moravia and Ecuador, Benjamin Frommer published two articles this past year: “The Saved and the Betrayed: Hidden Jews in the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia,” in Unlikely Heroes: The Place of Holocaust Rescuers in Research and Teaching, and “Der Holocaust in Böhmen und Mähren,” in Zwischen Prag und Nikolsburg: Jüdisches Leben in den böhmischen Ländern (which will also be published soon in English, Czech, and Hebrew). He also completed the preparation of a volume that he co-edited and co-introduced (and to which contributed a chapter): Intermarriage from Central Europe to Central Asia: Mixed Families in the Age of Extremes (Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, forthcoming 2020).

Paul Gillingham spent most of 2019 finishing the book he was supposed to finish in 2018, Unrevolutionary Mexico, and then spent several months being rebuked by an editorial assistant at Yale for assorted failings, including but not limited to formatting, permission-obtaining and writing “labour” instead of “labor.” On which, rather like Deborah, he has read the Guardian obsessively and is frankly glad to be in Chicago.

Daniel Greene became President and Librarian at the Newberry Library in 2019. He also remains an Adjunct Professor of History at Northwestern University. Prior to arriving at the Newberry, Greene curated Americans and the Holocaust, an exhibition that opened in April 2018 at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Greene is currently co-editing a primary source reader, Americans and the Holocaust, to be published by Rutgers University Press in 2021.

Sean Hanretta recently completed three “state-of-the-field” synthetic essays on New Religious Movements in Modern Africa, Islam in African History (co-authored), and Islam and Emancipation in Africa. He is also preparing an essay on the political philosophy expressed in the twelfth-century scholar Abu Hamid al-Ghazali’s The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife. As part of an ongoing research project on Muslim weddings and funerals in Ghana, he has begun collaborating with Ghana-based scholars to establish a center for documentation in Tamale, Ghana, focused on preserving oral and written materials relevant to the history of the northern half of that country, along with a sub-branch of the center in the town of Kete-Krachi.

Leslie Harris published her co-edited book Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies and completed an essay for Academe on the past twenty years of activism around the histories of slavery at higher education institutions. Closer to home, she participated in the launch of Truth Telling: Frances Willard and Ida B. Wells, a website that details the controversy over racism in women’s movements between two of the most well-known women activists of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Willard was also the first dean of women and the first female faculty member at Northwestern, and Wells was an internationally renowned anti-lynching activist who made her home in Chicago. And in Fall 2019, Harris taught a new course on African American women’s history. She also mentored two students via the Summer Research Opportunity Program and worked with TGS on the Dissertation Proposal Development Program funded by SSRC; as well as co-mentoring students working on the 150th anniversary of Northwestern.

For Peter Hayes perhaps the most gratifying development of recent months was something that he could not accept because of a scheduling conflict: an invitation from the Concentration Camp Memorial at Buchenwald to speak on April 5 at the 75th anniversary of the site’s liberation by American forces. A highpoint that did happen was being interviewed and consulting on the script for a Ken Burns documentary that will be screened in 2022 on “The United States and the Holocaust.” He also contributed essays to two new volumes, including a Festschrift in honor of Christopher Browning, spent a week at the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research as the Sara and Asa Shapiro Scholar in Residence, and delivered a public lecture there entitled “Makeshift Murder: The Holocaust at its Peak.”

Laura Hein is kept busy at NU as History Dept. Chair and representative of the Faculty Senate to the Buffett Institute. She is also bringing increasing doses of pressure to the 88 people who have promised to write or translate a chapter for a new edition of the Cambridge History of Japan by mid-2020. And she recommends a close look at today’s Japan to anyone who wonders what a highly industrialized society that rejects immigration for 30 years and suffers from decades of bad political leadership looks like. It is remarkable how long the obvious train-wreck can take to unfold.

Daniel Immerwahr is, to his happy surprise, still employed in the history department. He has recently published a book, How to Hide an Empire, that became a national bestseller and was featured on such NPR shows as Fresh Air and On the Media. Right now, he’s researching nineteenth century urban fires and co-writing a book about historical narration with his down-the-hall colleague and personal friend, Amy Stanley. His proudest achievement remains his commitment to all-seasons bike commuting.

Ștefan Cristian Ionescu was excited to join the Department of History as Theodore Zev and Alice R. Weiss-Holocaust Educational Foundation Visiting Associate Professor in Holocaust Studies in fall 2019. At Northwestern, he continued to work on his book manuscript examining the restitution of Jewish property in post-Holocaust Romania. He also completed several chapters that will be published in edited volumes in 2020; the chapters focus on Romania’s war crime trials during 1945-1946; the restitution of Jewish jobs in the aftermath of the Antonescu regime; the Romanian Jewish leader Wilhelm Fildermen’s strategy of resisting the Holocaust through petitions. He also conducted research in Romanian archives and libraries and presented his research on the restitution of Jewish property at the Special Lessons and Legacies Conference in Munchen, Germany (November 2019).

Doug Kiel offered two new courses this academic year, “Race and the American Midwest” and “Global Indigenous Histories.” In 2019, he was appointed an Adjunct Curator at the Field Museum. Kiel is part of a group of Indigenous scholars and curators that is developing the museum’s new exhibition on Native North America. The previous exhibition had remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. The new exhibition will open in late 2021.

Ashish Koul is a historian of colonial and post-colonial South Asia. She is particularly interested in the many histories of identity formation, especially those that occur at the intersection of religion, caste, and politics. Her current book project investigates the historical production of caste identity among the Arains, a Panjabi Muslim community living today mainly in Pakistan, with pockets in northwestern India and a significant diasporic presence in the United Kingdom. At Northwestern, she teaches the following courses: History of South Asia ca. 1750 to the present; History of the South Asian Diaspora; Islam and Gender in the modern world; Frontiers, Borderlands, and Nationalisms.

Beyond teaching and service in the History Department and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Program, in the past year Henri Lauzière has worked more closely than usual with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in his capacity as professional development officer. Among other things, this assignment involved teaching a graduate seminar on pedagogy, which confirmed Aristotle’s claim that “a sign of the one who knows is the ability to teach.” Now that he has taught about teaching, Lauzière is probably a better teacher himself. In December, he submitted an article about the emergence of the notion of “Salafism” among Algerian reformers in the mid-1920s, and how counterintuitive their understanding of it may seem today. He will discuss his findings later this summer at a workshop on “Genealogies of Salafism” in Amsterdam.

Kate Masur nearly completed her new book in 2019, Equal before the Law: Popular Politics and the Making of the Fourteenth Amendment, under contract with Norton and served as a core advisor to a Henry Louis Gates documentary on Reconstruction. She published an article in the Journal of the Civil War Era, just before taking on the editorship of that journal.

Sarah Maza implores you not to hate her, since her major news is that in the fall she had to interrupt a sabbatical in Paris to take up a monthlong residential fellowship at the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio on Lake Como, Italy. She has just had an article on dolls in nineteenth-century France accepted in the Revue Historique and is enjoying her research on “A Tale of Two Novels”—a comparative project on the fate of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in nineteenth-century France and Les Misérables in nineteenth-century US. In August she passed on directorship of the Chabraja Center to Jon Glassman, not without regret given what a wonderful opportunity it had been.

Joel Mokyr, who holds appointments in both Economics and History, continues to stroll between the Kellogg building (pretentiously named “the Global Hub”) and Harris Hall, which by last count takes 16 minutes and 43 seconds. It still beats flying, which he did to the tune of 200,000 miles on United this year, to give the Keynes lecture at the British Academy, the Clare distinguished lecture at Clare College, Cambridge (UK) and the Harris Lecture at the Harvard Economics Department (among others). He has been writing a number of papers in a foolhardy and thankless attempt to convince economists of the crucial role of human agency and competence in bringing about the Industrial Revolution and the Great Enrichment. Among his papers published or forthcoming this year were “Is Innovation Bad for Us?” (Journal of Economic History, Vol. 79, No. 4, December 2019, pp. 1183-89) and “Attitudes, Aptitudes, and the Roots of the Great Enrichment,” in Handbook of Historical Economics, eds. Alberto Bisin and Giovanni Federico, New York: Academic Press. He continues to serve as editor in chief of the Princeton University Press series on economic history, which published a number of major books this year. As co-director of the Center for Economic History he is organizing a conference on “The Economic History of War” once scheduled for April 2020 at Northwestern but now postponed.

The past year went without a major event in Ed Muir’s career. He kept working on a too big book on the history of trust in late medieval and early modern Italy, a topic that has led him down too many dark alleys without an easy exit. He continues to publish little articles in Slovenia and big ones in Britain, gave papers at conferences, delivered a keynote address on “Interdisciplinary Adventures” at Notre Dame, and the Gray Boyce Memorial Lecture for 2019 at Northwestern on “Could a Woman be a Citizen in the Middle Ages?”

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