Tag Archive for History Department

Tucker Speaks at Arsenals of History Symposium

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

On May 21, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, spoke at the Arsenals of History Symposium held at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyo., May 21–23. The theme of the second annual symposium was “Ethics of Firearms in Museums.”

The symposium brought together authorities in the field to discuss practical guidelines for museums with firearms. Other presenters came from the Autry Museum of the American West, the Art Institute of Chicago, Colonial Williamsburg, Dutch National Military Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NRA Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Marshals Museum, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and the Royal Armouries Museum. Representatives discussed teaching firearms in universities, reconversion and restoration of flintlocks, how a museum gets a gun, and collecting objects with dubious pasts.

Tucker spoke specifically about the role of public collections in the gun debate and her new research that looks at the historical coevolution of cameras and firearm technology.

“We know that people talk about shooting pictures and shooting guns, and we know the language is similar, but one of the things that I am interested in is how the technology for cameras and guns evolved together,” she said.

The conference garnered much media attention. In the May 28 issue of the Billings Gazette, Tucker discussed how the interest in firearms is the “charisma” of guns, whether it’s addressed in museum displays or not.

“Museum collections of firearms can engage with contentious issues,” said Tucker, who is serving on the first Board of Directors of the Association of Firearms History and Museums.

On June 20, The Firearms Blog, which covered the workshop for the museum, featured Tucker and other curators speaking about their presentations.

Tucker is the author of “Display of Arms: A round-table discussion about the public exhibition of firearms and their history,” forthcoming in the July 2018 issue of Technology and Culture, Volume 59, Number 3.

The Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press also has accepted Tucker’s book manuscript on “Firearms and the Common Law” for publication next year.

Tucker also will be speaking on “The Role of Gun Collections in Museums in Today’s Debate over Firearms,” Sept. 29 at a conference on Guns and Museums: A Workshop for Museum Educators, to be held at Fairfield University. The event is open to the public and registration is online.

Meyer Remembered for Shaping Curriculum in History Department

Professor Emeritus of History Donald Meyer passed away on May 27 at the age of 94.

Meyer received his BA from the University of Chicago in 1947 after taking a three-year hiatus to serve in the United States Army (1943–1946), and then went on to complete his MA and PhD from Harvard University. He taught at Harvard for two years and UCLA for twelve years before arriving at Wesleyan in 1967.

Meyer was a social and intellectual historian who published three books and numerous articles over a long and productive career. According to colleague Nat Greene, “He was an expert in offering a vigorous challenge to prevailing views, especially about sectors of our society that figured much too little in our history.” He also made some lasting impressions on Wesleyan. His colleague Dick Buel said, “He was one of the founding organizers of Wesleyan’s American studies program and took a leading role in shaping the curriculum and personnel of the history department between the mid-1960s and his retirement in 1991.” The Meyer Prize was established in 1991 in his honor and has been awarded annually by the Department of History to deserving history majors for honors theses in American history.

Meyer is survived by his wife, Jean; his sister, Barbara Backstrom; and by his children and their spouses and partners—Rebecca Berwick; Sarah Berwick and Claude Dohrn; Jeffrey Berwick and Viv Kwok; Rachel Berwick and Warren Johnsen; and William and Kate Meyer—and his five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made in Professor Meyer’s name to the Meyer Prize and sent to the care of Marcy Herlihy, University Relations, 318 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

1. President Michael Roth publishes op-eds in The Washington Post titled, “We can’t let cynics ruin college,” and “What is college for? (Hint: It’s not just about getting in.).” He also sat for an “On Leadership” interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education.

2. The Conversation: “The dangerous belief that white people are under attack”

Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins writes about her research on perceptions of reverse discrimination in light of recent societal trends.

3. Marketplace: “Here comes the tax bill marketing”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, is interviewed about the proliferation of advertising campaigns focused on the federal tax reform law after its passage.

4. Hartford Courant: “President Trump Takes Page from P.T. Barnum’s Book”

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history and chair of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, writes about the legacy of circus creator Phineas T. Barnum in connection with the recent release of the film about his life. Tucker is also associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of science in society.

5. Association for Psychological Science: “Playing to Chronotype”

Assistant Professor of Psychology Royette Tavernier is interviewed about her research on the topic of sleep.

Recent Alumni News
1. TheNetworkJournal.com: Majora Carter [’88, Hon. ’13]: Social Entrepreneur

This profile of the founder of Sustainable South Bronx details her newest venture, StartUp Box #SouthBronx, “a tech social enterprise designed to help residents of low-income communities participate in the tech economy.”

2. SFGate.com: 5 Lessons You Can Learn from Uber Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John [’99] [Also: Entrepreneur.com, RealwiseRealestate.com, Uncova]

Saint John offers common sense and inspirational keys that she says have helped her in business and in her personal life.

3. BroadwayWorld.com: Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Will Honor Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02] with Monte Cristo Award! [Also:TheHollywoodTimes.net, CTNow.com]

4. Jewish Journal: Hello, Beanie: Feldstein [’15] Having a Moment With ‘Dolly’ and ‘Lady Bird’

In this profile, Feldstein discusses her roles in two award-winning productions, one on Broadway, one on screen and now in theaters. She tells writer Ryan Torok, “I loved Lady Bird so much because it [drew on] a much more vulnerable side of me than I was asked to bring forward [previously]. I was so nervous and excited to tap into that side of myself, after doing things more strictly comedic.”

5. TalkingBizNews.com: Reuters Names Five Global Industry Editors; including Jonathan Weber ’82

Weber, now based in Singapore, was previously West Coast bureau chief and later named technology editor. Reuters credits him for their “strong coverage of cybersecurity,” which “helped build the U.S. tech team into a competitive force.”

6. BostonGlobe.com: Lisa Chedekel [’82], 57, an Esteemed, Intrepid Journalist [Also: Courant.com]

After Chedekel’s death on Jan. 12, 2018, Vinny Vella of the Hartford Courant wrote of her career: “Chedekel had been a member of a team of Courant reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the deadly shooting rampage at the Connecticut Lottery Corp. . . . ‘Lisa was a fearless reporter and elegant writer,’ said John Ferraro, a Courant editor who worked closely with Chedekel. ‘She searched for truth wherever it led. She was an advocate for the powerless and a thorn in the side of the powerful.’”

 

Elphick Edits Late Professor’s Book on the History of South Africa’s Racial Segregation

Book by Jeffrey Butler

Book by Jeffrey Butler

The late Jeffrey Butler, professor of history, emeritus, is the author of Cradock: How Segregation and Apartheid came to a South African Town, published by the University of Virginia Press, December 2017. Richard “Rick” Elphick, professor of history, emeritus, co-edited the book with the late Jeannette Hopkins, a former director of Wesleyan University Press.

According to the book’s abstract, Cradock, the product of more than 20 years of research by Butler, is a vivid history of a middle-sized South African town in the years when segregation gradually emerged, preceding the rapid and rigorous implementation of apartheid. Although Butler was born and raised in Cradock, he avoids sentimentality and offers an ambitious treatment of the racial themes that dominate recent South African history through the details of one emblematic community. Augmenting the obvious political narrative, Cradock examines poor infrastructural conditions that typify a grossly unequal system of racial segregation but otherwise neglected in the region’s historiography. Butler shows, with the richness that only a local study could provide, how the lives of blacks, whites, and mixed-race individuals were affected by the bitter transition from segregation before 1948 to apartheid thereafter.

Scholars Discuss Digital Methods in Research and Teaching

Faculty and students from Wesleyan, Binghamton University, Marlboro College, the University of Illinois and Exeter University participated in a two-day workshop titled "From Theory to Practice: Digital Methods in Research and Teaching" Sept. 7-8 in Allbritton Hall.

Faculty and students from Wesleyan, Binghamton University, Marlboro College, the University of Illinois and Exeter University participated in a two-day workshop titled “From Theory to Practice: Digital Methods in Research and Teaching” Sept. 7-8 at the Allbritton Center.

A new collaborative research hub, supported by Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center, provides faculty and students with the tools to prepare, analyze and disseminate information on movement, travel and communication in easily-accessible formats.

The Traveler’s Lab, developed by faculty members Gary Shaw, Jesse Torgerson and Adam Franklin-Lyons at Marlboro College, connects the faculty with each others’ projects, but also with students who are interested in an interdisciplinary approach to historical research.

Environmental History Class Produces Radio Program

This year, students in Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker’s class, Seeing a Bigger Picture: Integrating Visual Methods and Environmental History, had an opportunity to share what they learned in an unusual format. They produced an hour-long radio program, which debuted on WESU 88.1 FM on Memorial Day. It will air again on the station this summer, and can be heard on wesufm.org or on SoundCloud.

Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), teaches Phie Towle '20 and Alea Laidlaw '20 about radio program development. 

Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), teaches Phie Towle ’20 and Alea Laidlaw ’20 about radio program development.

The course introduces students to key landmarks in the visual history of environmentalism and environmental science, from the 18th century to the recent past. The class studies the power and the limits of visual representations, addressing how images of nature have changed as well as how the nature of images has been transformed in the past 250 years, according to Tucker, who is also associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of science in society, and associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. The students received training in radio storytelling from Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Tucker and Dawson first met two years ago, when Tucker contributed an essay to a BBC series that Dawson was producing

Media and Power in Latin America Course Concludes with Pop-Up Exhibit

On May 4, six Wesleyan students presented a pop-up exhibition titled "From Amate to Artists' Books: Crafting Community through Media in Latin America" in Olin Library's Special Collections & Archives. The student curators included Lauren Salazar '17, Brooke Kushwaha '20, Nate Barton '18, Marcos Plaud Rivera '18, Leah Cabrera '17 and Caroline Diemer '18

On May 4, six Wesleyan students presented a pop-up exhibition titled “From Amate to Artists’ Books: Crafting Community through Media in Latin America” in Olin Library’s Special Collections & Archives. The student curators included Lauren Salazar ’17, Brooke Kushwaha ’20, Nate Barton ’18, Marcos Plaud Rivera ’18, Leah Cabrera ’17 and Caroline Diemer ’18. All of the objects in this exhibition shed light on how media artifacts have served as tools for forging and imagining communities in Latin America. The objects date from the Pre-Columbian era to the 21st century, and range in form from stone tools, to photography and artist books. Together, they shed light on how media have been used as components in the construction of empire, to resist political systems of power, and to negotiate individual and collective identity.

Grimmer-Solem Delivers Talk at Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences Meeting

Erik Margot Kohorn

Erik Grimmer-Solem

Associate Professor of History Erik Grimmer-Solem presented a talk, “The Wehrmacht Past, the Bundeswehr, and the Politics of Remembrance in Contemporary Germany,” at the meeting of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences (CAAS), April 12.

Grimmer-Solem also is associate professor of German studies and a tutor in the College of Social Sciences. His expertise is in modern German history with specializations in economic history, the history of economic thought, and the history of social reform. He has also developed research interests in German imperialism, German-Japanese relations before 1918, and Germany in the two world wars.

Grimmer-Solem discussed his research, which uncovered the involvement of a Wehrmacht general, honored in public as a member of the military resistance to Hitler, in massive war crimes and crimes against humanity. He discussed how his findings were received by the German public, how that resulted in the official renaming of an air force base, and what that reveals about German perceptions of the war of destruction waged in the Soviet Union by the German army. The talk explored the deep involvement of the Wehrmacht in the Holocaust, the Janus-faced nature of many members of the German military resistance, and the ongoing problem of basing contemporary Germany’s military tradition and “official memory” on aspects of this tainted legacy.

CAAS, chartered in 1799, is the third-oldest learned society in the United States. Its purpose is to disseminate scholarly information through lectures and publications. It sponsors eight monthly presentations during the academic year, hosted by Wesleyan and Yale, that are free and open to the public, allowing anyone to hear distinguished speakers discuss current work in the sciences, arts, and humanities.

 

Smoklin Contributes to “Year of Russia” at KSU

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock

Victoria Smolkin

Participating in Kennesaw State University’s “Year of Russia” program, Assistant Professor of History Victoria Smoklin presented on the current state of US-Russia relations. KSU’s “Year of Russia” invites academics, artists and dignitaries “to promote a deeper appreciation for and understanding of Russia and its people.”

During her presentation Smoklin discussed ideological struggle over national identity in contemporary Russia. She noted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s involvement in this struggle. His strategic engagement with his country’s history he has led to an unprecedented gain approval ratings. In particular, she cited Putin’s construction of a 54 foot tall statue of the 10th century Slavic leader and proponent of Orthodox Christianity, Vladimir the Great.

Commenting on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Smoklin argued that Russia’s actions suggest not merely a desire to seize control of the area but rather to assert its claims. This increasing expansion is part of Putin’s desire to create “a spiritual geographic entity” that will replace the “narrative of liberal democracy” that inadequately supported Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

You can learn more about “Year of Russia” online here.

Experts Discuss Fake News, Then and Now at History Matters Panel

eve_historymatters_2017-0307173459

On March 7, the History Department sponsored a History Matters Panel on “Fake News: Then and Now.” Speakers included Courtney Fullilove, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of environmental studies, assistant professor of science in society; Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Erik Grimmer-Solem, associate professor of history, associate professor of German studies.

Tucker Comments on Victorian Pseudoscience, Romance

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

The pseudoscientific myths about love and sexuality that abounded in the Victorian era, many of which seem “cruel and oppressive” by today’s standards, could also offer women relief from the era’s “rigid gender politics,” according to Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker, who comments on the topic for a Broadly article.

For much of the 19th century, the Western world was fascinated with a variety of pseudosciences, or theories that lack a basis in the scientific method.

“Definitions of science were malleable and hotly contested in the 19th century,” said Tucker, who is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and associate professor of environmental studies. “Far from being on the sidelines of intellectual life, spiritualism and other unconventional forms of knowledge often provided a means for Victorians from a variety of different social backgrounds to question scientific authority and to ask what counted as a proper science, or as a ‘scientific practice.'”

“One of the great myths about the Victorian age [was] that it was sexually repressive; on the contrary, Victorian society was obsessed with sexual reform, heterosexual and homosexual love, lust, and sex (as well as of the policing of sexual desires),” added Tucker. “Love and sex were both controversial and politicized.”

Pseudoscientific theories included phrenology (which was used to explain the different propensities of men and women toward love and sexual desire); the use of love potions made of dangerous ingredients such as arsenic and belladonna; beauty face masks made of raw beef; cures for low libido such as bull testicles; and vibrators used to treat “hysteria” in sexually frustrated women.

According to the story, “Victorians were also surprisingly progressive on what would eventually evolve into more enlightened views on gender.

“Theosophists [occult philosophers] believed that life in male and female bodies taught different lessons; for some, this meant that it was necessary for the Ego to incarnate many times as both female and male,” Tucker explains. “Many theosophists believed, for example, that in their evolutionary progress men reincarnated as women, and women as men. Therefore at any given time, as one believer in this theory said in 1892: ‘We have… men in women’s bodies, and women in men’s bodies.'”