Spring 2018 Speaker Series

Spring Semester Schedule for the History Speaker Series


  1. Mar. 12, 2018 at 4:00 PM  in History Conference Room, 255 Old Horticulture, Professor Tisa Wenger of Yale University will present “Race, Empire, and American Religious Freedom.”


The ideal of religious freedom is so often presented as a timeless and self-evident American ideal. But its history is far more complex and contested than such an exceptionalist narrative can allow. American ideas about religious freedom were continually reinvented through a vibrant national discourse—let’s call it “religious freedom talk”—that cannot be separated from the evolving politics of race and empire. More often than not, religious freedom talk worked to privilege the dominant white Christian population. At the same time, a diverse array of minority groups at home and colonized people abroad invoked and reinterpreted this ideal to defend themselves and their ways of life. In so doing they posed sharp challenges to the racial and religious exclusions of American life—but found their own identities and traditions transformed in the process.


  1. Mar. 16, 2018 at 1:00 PM in the History Conference Room, 255 Old Horticulture—Professor Jesse Hoffnung-Garskoff, University of Michigan, “Migration, Maps, and Revolution: Telling a Transnational History of Race in a Digital Age.”


Abstract: In his forthcoming book, Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof tells the stories of a group of working class, Afro-descended, exiles from Cuba and Puerto Rico. At the end of the nineteenth century, they helped create a multi-racial movement to throw off Spanish colonialism in Cuba, predicated on the promise that in a free Cuba there would be no blacks or whites, only Cubans.  Hoffnung-Garskof traces the evolution of this political coalition and its promise of a nation “ for all” from the perspective of the black and brown migrants who took part in it, arguing that their experiences of mobility, and especially their experiences as settlers in Greenwich Village, were fundamental to the evolution of racial politics in Cuba and Puerto Rico.  In this talk, he will discuss the digital research methods he employed in the book, taking one episode from Racial Migrations as a case study for thinking through the “entanglement” of the transnational turn and the digital turn in the contemporary practice of history.


Bio: Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof is Associate Professor of History, American Culture, and Latina/o Studies at the University of Michigan, where he teaches courses on the history of Latinas/os in the United States, Latin American popular music, and immigration.  He is the author of A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950 (2008) and Racial Migrations: New York City and the Revolutionary Politics of the Spanish Caribbean, 1850-1910 (Forthcoming).


  1. Mar. 21, 2018—3:00 PM in 201 International Center—Professor Alex Borucki, UC Irvine History Department, “Digital Humanities and African Diaspora Studies: The Intra-American Slave Trade Database”


From the publication of Phillip Curtin’s The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census in 1969 to the launching of the webpage Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database in 2008, scholarship on the slave trade has focused primarily on the forced Atlantic crossings of captives from Africa to the Americas. By contrast, the slave trade within the Americas has received scant attention from historians, especially before the abolition of the transatlantic traffic. Yet hundreds of thousands of African survivors of the transatlantic slave trade endured extensive continued journeys on the American side of the Atlantic. “Final Passages: The Intra-American Slave Trade Database” is a project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and directed by Alex Borucki (UC Irvine) and Greg O’Malley (UC Santa Cruz), which aims to document and make publicly accessible evidence on slave trafficking voyages within the Americas. This new database will be added to the website Voyages, which already charts the transatlantic traffic of captives.


  1. Mar. 22, 2018—History Department Conference Room—255 Old Horticulture at 4:00 PM—Professor Alex Borucki, UC Irvine Department of History, “The Vernons of Newport in the River of Silver: Slave Trading and Circuits of Silver in the Atlantic-Oriented Global Markets of the Eighteenth Century”


This presentation examines the slave voyage conducted by the ship Ascension (1795-1797) connecting Rhode Island, Mozambique, and the Río de la Plata (The River of Silver, today’s Argentina and Uruguay), as a window into the eighteenth-century slave trade to Spanish South America. In this era, the slave trade became the key to accessing Spanish American consumers and silver for foreign traders. As a result, Spanish American silver entered English, Dutch, and Portuguese commercial circuits beneficial to metropolitan merchants and public revenues. The story of the Ascension’s captives goes beyond Anglo-American conceptions of the Middle Passage born out of the triangular trade, as the yearlong ordeal of these Africans involved Indian Ocean embarkation, Atlantic crossing to Montevideo, a journey on oxen-carts throughout the Pampas and on mule-trains across the Andes into Chile, and their final reshipment in the Pacific to Lima. Professor Borucki is the author of From Shipmates to Soldiers: Emerging Black Identities in the Rio de la Plata (University of New Mexico Press, 2015).


  1. March 30, 2018 at 2:00 PM in History Conference Room, 255 Old Horticulture,  Professor Robert Bain will present “Taking Up the Levels or Scales Problem: History Teaching’s Hidden Thinking Practice.” Bain will speak on his most recent research on historical thinking and history education.  He is director of the International Institutes and School of Education’s World History and Literature Initiative. Bain led the effort to revise the Michigan state social studies content expectations, and has directed significant grant-funded initiatives in World History and Big History, most recently a project funded by the British Council, “Nesting World History Instruction for Future Faculty, Secondary Teachers and Students: A Project to Prepare Teachers of World History at Multiple Levels.”  Interested faculty can review his TEDX Talk on Big History.


Associate Professor Robert Bain, University of Michigan Educational Studies Department and the Department of History, where he also directs the World History and Literature Initiative and is faculty lead on the Big History Project. Co-sponsored with the Department of Teacher Education and H-Net. Before coming to the University of Michigan in 1998, he taught high school history and social studies for 26 years in the Cleveland, Ohio area. Bob’s research centers on teaching and learning history and the social sciences in classrooms, on-line, in museums and homes.  Currently he is studying distinctive approaches to “doing history” and the teaching of history across multiple scales of time and space. Bain has received awards for his research on and his teaching at both the high school and university levels, including the College Educator of the Year Award from the Michigan Council of Social Studies in both 2008 and 2011.  In 2000, the Carnegie Foundation selected him as a Carnegie Scholar in the Carnegie Academy of Teaching and Learning and he continues as one of the Organization of American Historians’ Distinguished Lecturers.


Lunch with Bain: An Addition Event with Professor Bain, cosponsored by the History Department, Department of Teacher Education, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online, will be a lunch with grad students in History and Social Studies Education, hosted by Department of Teacher Education. There is no formal agenda but this is an opportunity for grads in both departments to discuss history education with Professor Bain and one another.  12.30PM, Room 133F Erickson Hall.  RSVP to Terry Edwards, <edwar375@msu.edu>, Department of Teacher Education.


  1. Tuesday April 3, 2018 at 12:00 in the History Department Conference Room—255 Old Horticulture— Professor Jordan Sand, Georgetown University, “Imperial Japan and World Culture”


The idea of a single world culture is not discussed much today, but it had a robust life in the first half of the twentieth century. It appealed particularly to intellectuals in the Japanese empire, in part because of Japan’s anomalous position among the imperial powers. This lecture will examine some of the key trends in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan where world culture played a role, including the Esperanto movement, the “Culture Life” movement, and architect Kon Wajirō’s “Modernology.” It will conclude by considering Japan’s role in UNESCO.


Bio: Jordan Sand is Professor of Japanese History at Georgetown University. He is the author of three books– House and Home in Modern Japan (Harvard, 2004), Tokyo Vernacular (California, 2013), and Teikoku Nihon no seikatsu kūkan (Living Spaces of the Japanese Empire; Iwanami shoten, 2015)–and has written widely on the history of culture and everyday life in East Asia.


  1. Mon. April 9, 2018—7:00 PM—Kellogg Center—Lincoln Room—


Professor James E. Young will present:


In this illustrated lecture, Dr. James E. Young, Distinguished University Professor and Founding Director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will trace what he calls an “arc of memorial vernacular” from the “Memorial to the Deportees” in Paris, to Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, to German counter-monuments and the Berlin Denkmal, to Michael Arad’s design for the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Drawing on his experience as a juror on both the Denkmal and 9/11 Memorial design competitions, he will reflect on how they came to be and what they may portend for future national memorials in America, Europe, and Israel.