Fall 2018 – Archives
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As the History Department’s undergraduate students prepare their schedules for the Spring 2019 semester, they will find various new course offerings.
Among the new courses is an undergraduate seminar on Cold War Summits, to be taught by Dr. Michael Cotey Morgan. The course will focus on the major high-level meetings undertaken by international leaders during the Cold War, and it will offer students the opportunity to develop individual research projects that will draw heavily on primary sources.
By encouraging students to analyze the various summit meetings that took place during the Cold War, Dr. Morgan hopes to guide students towards considering larger questions about how countries engage in international relations.
“The broader purpose is to consider, ‘What’s the value of diplomacy more generally?’” Dr. Morgan said. “The Cold War is a great case study for this because there were so many of these summit meetings that took place and because we have rich, easily accessible documents on all of those cases.”
Students will spend each week during the first half of the semester analyzing specific summit meetings by examining primary and secondary sources together. During the second half of the semester, students will devote class time to workshopping their own twenty- to twenty-five page research papers on specific high-level meetings of their choosing.
“The first half will give them a sense of what they can write, what that sources are, what sorts of questions to ask,” Dr. Morgan said, “and then as we get closer to the end of the semester and the deadline for their final papers, it’ll be focused on producing drafts, analyzing the primary sources, editing each other’s work, and so on.”
The possibilities for students’ research papers are wide-ranging, as they will have access to a plethora of rich primary sources available both at Davis Library and online through government- and non-profit-sponsored digital archives. These collections include sources from the United States as well as translations of documents from the Soviet Union, China, Korea, Vietnam, and a variety of other Cold War players. Yet students need not be limited to translations.
“Depending on students’ linguistic abilities they can use documents in other languages,” Dr. Morgan said, noting the availability of French and German primary source volumes in Davis Library.
Dr. Morgan looks forward to guiding students through the process of undertaking an original research project. He expects students will find the writing process a challenging but rewarding one.
“It’s terrific to work with students and to see them doing the work of a professional historian,” he said. “Most students find it to be a challenge but I think they also, once they get to the end of the semester, derive a lot of satisfaction from having grappled with this intellectual challenge and succeeded.”
Dr. Morgan’s own research experience will undoubtedly prove a valuable resource for students stepping into Cold War summit documents for the first time. This year, he published his first book, The Final Act: The Helsinki Accords and the Transformation of the Cold War (Princeton University Press, 2018). Based on his doctoral dissertation, the book documents the 1975 Helsinki summit, which brought together representatives of thirty-five nations and proved a pivotal moment both in the Cold War and in the history of human rights.
“This phenomenon of Cold War summitry is something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” he said, “and it’ll be fun to help students think about that too.”
Yet Dr. Morgan’s own research was not his sole inspiration for designing this course. He also hopes such a course will help students make sense of and evaluate current international events.
“Summitry has been in the news a lot lately, if you think about President Trump meeting with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore or Vladimir Putin in Helsinki,” he said. “I think we can illuminate the present, what’s possible, what can be achieved, what can’t be achieved, what the risks might be today. We can understand some of those things by examining these past case studies.”
On the whole, Dr. Morgan looks forward to guiding students as they seek to understand Cold War summitry, not only for its importance in its specific historical moment but also as a means to grapple with major questions that carry enormous consequences.
“What we’re talking about in this class are fundamental questions about war and peace, and in some cases, especially when you’re talking about something like nuclear weapons, the fate of humanity,” Dr. Morgan said. “The stakes could not possibly be higher.”
This fall, the Department welcomed its first graduate students who specialize in African history. They will participate in the newest Ph.D. program concentration, which trains historians to undertake cutting-edge research and teaching in that field.
The three Africanist faculty members––Lisa Lindsay, Lauren Jarvis, and Emily Burrill––have wanted to establish a Ph.D. program concentration in African history for a number of years. “It was nice to find ourselves in a situation where the program was a long time coming in some ways, but we couldn’t really get it off the ground until we knew that we had enough faculty to offer the courses we needed. It was wonderful to see how supportive the department was in creating it,” Burrill said.
Each of the three Africanist faculty members works with one of the new graduate students. Emily Burrill advises Abbey Warchol. Both study twentieth-century Senegal and francophone West Africa. Lisa Lindsay and her advisee Emmanuel Osayande specialize in Nigerian history. Lauren Jarvis advises Laura Cox, who, like her adviser, focuses on twentieth-century South African history.
Because they approach African history from a global perspective, Osayande and Cox are co-advised by faculty specializing in other world regions. Osayande works with Michael Morgan, a specialist in global human rights who can help Osayande expand the focus of his project beyond the borders of Nigeria. “I’m trying to look at the roles of NGOs in sociopolitical developments in post-1945 Nigeria,” Osayande said. “Moving onto the dissertation, I’m hoping to be able to explore more international NGOs. Currently my focus has been on local NGOs in Nigeria, and that has been because of constraints in doing the research. If you’re working with international NGOs like Oxfam or Amnesty International, it would require you doing research abroad, in several other countries.”
Laura Cox is co-advised by Claude Clegg, who studies the African diaspora, particularly in the United States. For Cox, the opportunity to work with co-advisors drew her to UNC’s program, as she believes it will help her develop the tools to undertake a transnational dissertation project. “I’m looking at relationships formed between African American and South African women,” Cox said. “I’ll be looking at how ideas circulated–on gender, on femininity, on ideologies of race–and how that changed because this was a transnational movement.”
All of the new graduate students have prior experience researching African histories, and two lived or worked in African nations before coming to graduate school at UNC. Abbey Warchol frequently traveled to Senegal for her job as a project manager at a child sponsorship NGO, which inspired her to pursue research on the history of sponsorship and symbolic adoption programs.
Emmanuel Osayande is a co-founder of Erudite Drive, an educational development and advocacy NGO in Nigeria. One of its projects is History Club, which promotes history education in Nigeria’s secondary schools. “History became an endangered discipline in Nigeria,” Osayande explained. “It was scrapped from the high school curriculum for several years, and it was just reinstated last year, after much pressure. What we’ve been doing is to get volunteers to go teach the students in secondary school history, and we’ve been making meaningful progress. For instance, the last school where we carried out our volunteer work, they ended up hiring a history teacher after because of the interest from the students.”
Although there are only three Africanist graduate students in the department, 10 students are enrolled in the inaugural African history seminar this fall. They include historians studying French and Middle Eastern history, as well as graduate students in anthropology, religious studies, and art history. Burrill was pleased to see the popularity of the seminar, as she thinks historians in many fields can benefit from studying Africa. “I think that taking an African history seminar, for someone who does not define themselves as an Africanist, is useful for thinking about broader themes of colonial, postcolonial, and settler history,” she said.
Abbey Warchol chose UNC’s graduate program in part because of this interdisciplinary community of Africanists. “From the time I got my offer, I was contacted by folks in the Anthropology and Art History Departments who study Africa. Right from the beginning, I was welcomed into this community that they told me was small but was close-knit,” she said. Warchol and the other new graduate students also work closely with the African Studies Center, which provides funding, support, and training to Africanists across many disciplines. For example, Warchol secured a FLAS grant to take coursework in Wolof, one of the languages native to Senegal. The Center, which Emily Burrill directs, also offers professional development seminars specifically for Africanists.
Although few of the students in their other classes specialize in African history, the new Africanist graduate students are able to have thought-provoking conversations with their peers in other fields. “People have experience with subaltern studies, so we’re all grappling with these same questions,” Laura Cox said. “I think the community here is very well-equipped to understand some of the broad themes and challenges of doing African history.”
On July 1, 2018, the UNC History Department welcomed Dr. Lisa Lindsay as its new Department Chair.
Dr. Lindsay, a historian of Africa, has been a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member since 1999 and has previously served as the Department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies and as Chair of the Committee on Teaching. Prior to joining the UNC-Chapel Hill History Department, Dr. Lindsay was an Assistant Professor at UNC-Charlotte and taught at University of Michigan, where she received her PhD in 1996. Although Dr. Lindsay’s research has largely focused on West Africa, her most recent work has explored the transatlantic connections between Africa and the Americas fostered by the international slave trade.
While the department may expect some changes as a result of the change in administration, Dr. Lindsay does not foresee the need for a major transformation. For this, she credits outgoing chair, Dr. W. Fitzhugh Brundage.
“Fitz was a great chair,” Dr. Lindsay said. “He left the Department in really good shape in ways that are both visible and invisible to most people. It has made my job much smoother than it would otherwise have been that he created and maintained robust procedures and structures for the Department.”
She noted in particular the strength of the staff, many of whom began working in the Department during Dr. Brundage’s tenure. “They are highly skilled and also really dedicated to making sure the Department works well,” Dr. Lindsay said.
Dr. Lindsay also spoke of the faculty as one of the Department’s greatest assets. UNC’s historians are well-published and highly respected for their research contributions in their respective subfields. While this is often the case at large research universities, Dr. Lindsay noted that the UNC’s History Department’s faculty is distinctive in its dedication to teaching and service in addition to research.
“It’s not always the case that the people who are experts in their fields are also dedicated teachers,” Dr. Lindsay said, “and I’m really proud of the fact that our Department takes public engagement very seriously.”
Despite these strengths, Dr. Lindsay noted that she and her colleagues on the History Department’s executive committee—Associate Chair Benjamin Waterhouse, Director of Graduate Studies Sarah Shields, and Director of Undergraduate Studies Brett Whalen—will be working to address some challenges the Department faces.
“The biggest challenge is declining undergraduate enrollments, which is part of a national trend affecting the humanities more broadly,” Dr. Lindsay said.
Maintaining and improving enrollment figures is crucial not only because the faculty values expanding undergraduates’ understanding of history but also because funding from the university rests largely on such statistics. Nevertheless, the executive committee has already begun to develop programs to draw students to History courses. “We’ve got some new initiatives that will be unveiled little by little over the course of the year,” Dr. Lindsay said.
The executive committee will also devote much attention to the problem of graduate student funding.
“We get fabulous graduate students who do terrific work while they’re here and go on to bigger and better things in spite of the fact that we offer pretty paltry resources, especially compared to our peer institutions,” Dr. Lindsay said.
Dr. Lindsay acknowledged that the Department’s ability to support graduate students is limited by the funding constraints imposed by College of Arts and Sciences and the UNC Graduate School in addition to its own financial limitations. Nevertheless, the executive committee continues to seek new methods to assist students through their graduate education and to prepare them for the job markets they will face upon graduating.
“We are continuing to think creatively about how we might offer more support to the graduate students and also how we might equip them for a diversity of careers after their graduate degrees.”
As a historian of African history herself, Dr. Lindsay is also particularly excited to highlight and expand the Department’s programs in Global and African History, even as she continues to promote its more traditional strengths in United States, European, and other fields of history.
“We’ve been teaching and practicing global history, but we haven’t really promoted it to the extent that we could,” Dr. Lindsay said. “It’s really special and sets our Department apart that we have a PhD in Global History, and we have a brand new PhD program in African History.”
Dr. Lindsay’s experience within the Department prior to her tenure as chair will prove invaluable as she sets the course for its future. Her service as Director of Undergraduate Studies and as Chair of the Committee on Teaching have equipped her with a thorough understanding of the undergraduate program and the work that graduate students perform as teaching assistants. She thus takes on her new role as chair with a strong sense not only of the difficulties it faces but also of potential actions that she and the executive committee can take to guide the Department in a positive direction.
|History in Our World|
There is a long history of student activism at UNC. In 1968, students successfully fought North Carolina’s ban on inviting “known communists” to speak on campus. In 1987, students pushed the UNC Endowment Board to divest from South African companies as part of a broader mobilization against apartheid. In 2015, students pressured the Board of Trustees to remove the name of a purported Ku Klux Klan leader from a campus building. Current UNC history students are continuing this tradition, and, for many, their historical training shapes their activism and advocacy work.
J. Davis Winkie, who was a scholarship football player at Vanderbilt University before beginning a PhD program at Chapel Hill, reconsidered his own experience as a college athlete after becoming a teaching assistant for Jay Smith‘s undergraduate course on college athletics. “It allowed me to place my personal struggle into historical context. It was when I recognized my place on a long arc of historical injustice that I resolved to take a step forward in my public activism,” Winkie said. “My love for history blossomed during my undergraduate years in spite of my status as a college athlete rather than because of it, and I want to change that for future athletes.”
Now, Winkie uses his platform as an historian and former college athlete to advocate for academic reforms and changes to “amateurism” rules, which allow athletics programs to make millions of dollars from athletes’ labor, but do not allow athletes to make a profit beyond their scholarship. “Under the NCAA system, athletes are ostensibly ‘paid’ in education (and sometimes go hungry) while working up to 60 hours per week on their sport. But too many athletes leave empty-handed after years of abuse and economic exploitation¬¬–53% of black male athletes fail to graduate here at UNC,” Winkie explained. Recently, he published an opinion piece in The Raleigh News and Observer and testified at the NC General Assembly’s Commission on the Fair Treatment of College Student-Athletes about these problems.
Many of the Department’s student activists are also historians of social movements. Isabell Moore, who is involved in racial justice, anti-police brutality, LGBTQ, and immigrant rights campaigns in her hometown of Greensboro, sees connections between her historical research and her activism. “Studying history has been really integral to me developing the political commitments and values that I try to live my life from, and then it’s always been a component of activist spaces that I’ve been in–there’s some kind of political education happening that involves history. I got to a point where I wanted to come back to school to do a deeper dive and be able to study more about social movements and the strategies people used, and understand more of how can we not reinvent the wheel today,” Moore said.
As a field scholar at the Southern Oral History Program, Moore has been helping other historians consider how they might use their oral history work to support movements for social change. Recently, she and a collaborator piloted a program for that purpose. “We developed a workshop that was specifically about community organizing and power, not to try to convince oral historians to become community organizers, but if oral historians can better understand what community organizers are doing and the way that they think about power and social change, then oral historians can better offer their skillset to those struggles,” Moore explained.
Other history students have gained insights into their own research through their involvement in activism, including Jennifer Standish, who studies interracial organizing during the U.S. civil rights movement. “In being a student activist, I’m learning all of the obstacles around student activism and activism in general that are institutionalized and structural, and just the mental and emotional toll that takes on people,” Standish said. “That has really helped me think about and empathize with my historical subjects in a way that I don’t think I would have appreciated quite as much if I wasn’t doing both at the same time.”
Since matriculating at UNC, Standish has become active in both labor and racial justice organizing on campus. She is a member of an at-will union of graduate and campus workers, which she sees as “a possibility to create broader worker consciousness and a cultural change at the university.” Standish also works with the student-led movement against the Confederate monument called Silent Sam. When the statue was still standing, students wanted to “get people to see the harm that the statue causes to students, and workers, and faculty of color,” Standish explained.
Standish and other student activists frequently relied on historical research to advocate for the statue’s removal. For example, volunteers handed out flyers to students and community members with facts about the statue’s history. Now the students are using archival sources, including Julian Carr’s speech at the 1913 dedication ceremony, to fight the statue’s possible return.
|Out of the Archives|
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|Graduate Student News|
This semester, we welcomed 18 new students into the Graduate Program. These remarkable new scholars come from the US and five other countries (Canada, Indonesia, Nigeria, Scotland, and Turkey). This is the first year for our new field in African history.
Our students have been on the forefront of change in the department and on the campus. They continue to organize a series of events that focus on the variety of careers open to Ph.D. historians; this semester’s event hosted Robyn Shroeder of the Humanities for the Public Good. Our graduate students have also been among the leaders researching UNC’s past, educating others about the consequences of that history, and using that knowledge to actively promote a vision of justice consistent with the ideals of UNC’s mission. At the same time, they continue to pursue their research into a wide variety of other world regions. This fall, the Department Research Colloquium featured graduate students Till Knobloch on the role of personality and irrationality in Nazi diplomacy, and Donny Santacaterina examining the form and function of state media in early communist China. Our joint graduate research seminar exchange with King’s College in London continued as Robin Buller, Larissa Stiglich, and Aubrey Langsdorf and three students from London shared their dissertation research with local audiences.
Please check out the new Graduate web site, and send in your news so we can include it.
In the fall 2018, the History department inaugurated a new funding initiative aimed at fostering undergraduate research: the 398 Capstone Seminar Support Awards. These modest but important grants are intended to defray the costs of undergraduate travel to archives, libraries, and other historical sites, for the purpose of conducting research related to their 398 seminars. (Required of all majors, 398 seminars involve the production of a substantial article-length essays, based on original research with primary source materials.) The first round of awards went to Coby Devito related to his project “Roosevelt, Congress, and World War II: How Public Opinion Failed to Shape United States Foreign Policy Prior to the Second World War” (advised by Klaus Larres); to Robert Williams for his project “Focus on Failure: Why Focquismo was destined to fail” (Miguel La Serna); to Joshua Rodriguez for his work “Hope Through Defiance: Che Guevara and Latin American Autonomy” (La Serna); and to Kess Hendrix for her essay “Africans in Art: Visual Representations of Africans During the Slave Trade and Abolition Era” (Lisa Lindsay). All of these students carried out research at various locations in and around Washington, D.C., including the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Continuing its tradition of supporting our majors who study abroad, History also awarded fall Boyatt funds to Thomas Armacost for study abroad at the University of Oslo; to Jacob Koehler, at Lund University in Sweden; to Tyler Brown at King’s College in London; and to Julia Herring at UNC Montpellier.
Taking advantage of funding initiatives offered by the “Quality Enhancement Plan” (QEP), some of our faculty launched or began planning new courses that engage with the interdisciplinary, methodologically self-conscious spirit of the QEP. Specifically, three History faculty are involved in this year’s learning group for the “Research Related Skills” (RRS) courses. In fall 2018, Eren Tasar has been teaching a class on “Nation and Religion in Russia.” In spring 2018, Brett Whalen will be teaching a RRS course on the “Medieval University,” building upon the research questions raised in his team-taught (with Chris Clemens from Physics) First Year Seminar, “Time and the Medieval Cosmos.” That same semester, Ben Waterhouse will offer a RRS course “Taking Research Public,” that will guide students from various fall 398 seminars through the process of revising their historical essays for publication.