Faculty

Latinx History and Literature Students Explore Latinx NYC

During the last weekend in September, members of SP374/HI150/HU300—a team-taught interdisciplinary course on Latinx History and Literature taught primarily in Spanish—immersed themselves in the art, culture and history of Latino communities in NYC. Piling into a van at 5:00 am on Saturday morning, the first big stop was El Museo del Barrio, New York’s leading Latino cultural institution. Students viewed artwork from the Taino culture that preceded Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World and modern pieces that challenged current perceptions of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in NYC. Each student had a favorite, including senior Josephine Roy, a Biology and Spanish double major. She spent a full 30 minutes watching and listening to a video in which two Latina indigenas (persons of Native American descent) created a social experiment that played on the space between the public’s fascination with “uncontacted peoples” in Latin America but lack of knowledge of Latino culture in the U.S.

The group then met New York city artist Adrián Viajero Román, who creates immersive installation environments. We explored a recreation of his grandmother’s house from Puerto Rico, which was destroyed in Hurricane Maria, but which continued to exist in memories, salvaged and treasured furnishings, and protests of discriminatory treatment of the island’s residents, who are U.S. citizens.

We were lucky to be joined by Latino community builder and media promoter George Torres who gave us a four-hour tour of key parts of the Latino community in New York City. From the history of street murals and graffiti to the economic obstacles to generational wealth accumulation, Mr. Torres used personal history and humor to help us all see parts of NYC hidden from the casual visitor. As senior Abby Mitchell, a Sociology major and Spanish minor from West Hartford, Connecticut put it, “I have been to NYC many times with my family, but in one day George showed me how much more there is—and how much pride and energy many Latinos have invested in these less-seen parts of the city.”

Sophomore English and Secondary Education major and Spanish minor Cam McIntire was particularly struck by our visit to the Bronx to see Amaurys Grullon, founder of Bronx Native and recent recipient of the Bronx Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award. Mr. Grullon and his colleagues were preparing a party for Jharrel Jerome, the first Dominican American to win an Emmy for this role in Netflix’s When They See Us. Yet he took the time to explain to us his entrepreneurial approach to building respect for a borough that has historically been excluded and perceived as violent (with highways built to direct traffic away and trap residents within). Celebrating the rappers, politicians, and artists that have risen from the Bronx, Bronx Native seeks to curate art, make records, film videos, produce products, and build connections that promote Bronx pride and showcase Bronx successes. As Cam noted, “Bronx Native is both a store and movement that seeks to unite the people of the Bronx.  The owner and artist seeks ways to help the community build confidence in its identity, to know and understand its heritage and to have faith in its own culture.”

The Pregones festival was next, a series of performers highlighting all aspects of the Latino experience in NYC. Poet Rob Vassilarakis spoke about being gay and Latino in NYC, a theme of intersectionality or multiple identities that has come up often in class. LaBruja or Caridad de la Luz made clear that while her Latina momma expected her to sing Latino folk songs, this Latina rapped—and how!  Power Malu spoke about how the Freddy Gray shooting was originally an environmental tragedy, as lead in the soil of Freddy Gray’s neighborhood had robbed him of intellectual capacity long before police officers robbed him of his life. Power Malu emphasized the need for more urban Latinos to get involved in environmental awareness. Meghan Wilson, a senior Spanish and Sociology major with an Education minor, was particularly struck by a poet who told her personal story of struggle growing up Afro-Latino and feeling excluded in white, black and Latino culture: “We’ve learned about the history of discrimination and the challenges faced by Latinos, so it was inspiring to hear from a person who is living that reality today, but fighting and taking pride in her heritage, her identity, and her skin color.” Sophomore Valeria Mendoza felt that experiencing the Pregones festival was the best part of the trip because it provided such a diverse set of Latino points of view. She noted, “In class we see primarily the big picture, but here it was smaller with more specific and personal experiences. We could see what is similar or different across experiences and groups and hear people’s feelings.”

Kudos to the students for amazing energy (and Professor Jaime Orrego for organizing, and then handling a very long day of NYC driving and parking!). After this packed day, we trekked to the hotel, had an amazing pan-Latino dinner, and checked out the East River waterfront across which we could see the Empire State Building in lower Manhattan. Professor Orrego and a group of students even took an Uber to Times Square to see the bustling, hustling city on a Saturday night!

The next day, after sleeping “late” (breakfast at 9:30 was early for some students), we headed back into Manhattan for one last stop—the 9/11 memorial and a street food festival. Full of Bolivian salteñas (empanadas) y salchipapas (french fries with cilantro and pork), we finally headed back on the long drive to campus. Senior Josephine Roy summed up the experience well:  “When I enrolled in this class I thought we would be studying the past.  Now I understand we are studying the present, since people are still living with the impacts of the past today.”

For more information on the locations, activists, and artists mentioned in this piece, see https://www.elmuseo.org/ , http://www.viajeroart.com/work , http://sofritomediagroup.com/ ,   https://www.bronxnative.com/ , https://pregonesprtt.org/ , https://www.pepatian.org/roberto-simply-rob-vassilarakis/ ,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caridad_de_la_Luzhttps://www.facebook.com/IamPowermalu

Or if you are an Instagram user, you can check out @viajero, @thebronxnative, @powermalu, @labrujanyc, @simply_rob_vassilarakis, @pregonesprtt and @urbanjibaro.

Moore and Small Study the Relationship between Guns and Evangelicals

Last academic year, Professor Andy Moore obtained a summer research grant from Saint Anselm College’s Center for Ethics in Business and Governance. Moore used part of the grant to pay History major William Small ‘22 a stipend to serve as a research assistant. One Thing after Another asked them about the project on which they worked together.

The blog first asked Professor Moore some questions.

Q: Please tell us about your research topic.

A: Within the past couple of years, I started to notice a public and very distinctive relationship between Protestant evangelicals and the gun rights movement. This project explores that relationship both historically and in its current state. So in a sense, I am exploring the 21st-century culture wars and the nature of the conservative movement now. If we created a Venn diagram of the people I will be studying, there would be considerable overlap between Protestant evangelicals and gun rights supporters. Both groups are politically conservative, both tend to come from rural areas or the South, and both supported Donald Trump by overwhelming majorities in 2016. Beyond simply acknowledging the overlap, however, I hope to tease out some of the theological underpinnings of these evangelicals’ connection to guns and the Second Amendment.

Q: How did a historian come to work with the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance?

A: I have been developing a new course called “Guns in America” that I am teaching for the first time this fall. As part of my interest in guns, I started to notice these examples of Protestant evangelicals closely aligning themselves with gun rights, the National Rifle Association, and defending the Second Amendment. I started to collect news accounts and other sources about this trend, thinking I might come back to it at some point after I finished other projects that I have been working on for a long time.

When the Center for Ethics in Business and Governance (CEBG) announced its summer research grant, I started thinking about the ethical questions inherent in this topic. Because I think this could be a great opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary conversation with another discipline, I reconsidered the project in light of the CEBG’s mission. A good friend who is an ethicist critiqued my original proposal for me, so even in writing the proposal I have engaged in interdisciplinary conversation.

For me, one aspect of the grant that made it attractive was the opportunity to work with a student researcher. Will Small agreed to work with me this summer to track down and analyze sources. Last year, Will had helped me locate primary sources to use in my new course, “Guns in America,” so this gave the chance for us to continue that research and take it in a different direction.

Q: What types of sources were available for this project?

A: Will found a lot of online sources that were relevant. Those include news stories from both Christian and secular publications, as well as blog entries and discussion forums by activists on both sides and by people who have given this issue some theological thought. Also, I visited the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee. The Southern Baptists are the largest evangelical denomination, and they have leadership that has been increasingly political the past 40 years. There I found official church publications and letters from lay Southern Baptists from all over the country about gun rights and gun control. About 20 years ago, there was a mass church shooting at a Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas. I found some information about that shooting and its aftermath.

Q: Given the controversial nature of gun rights in the United States, have you envisioned opening up the discussion of them to Saint Anselm students in any way? If so, how?

A: I hope so. The research grant requires a public presentation of the research. I hope that proves to be an opportunity to engage with students—or anyone with an interest in guns and gun-related issue—in a fruitful dialogue about a controversial topic.

 Q: Besides the public presentation, what are the goals of this research?

A: I hope that an academic journal article will be the ultimate product of this research. By the end of the year, I expect Will and I to have a serviceable article manuscript that we can begin to shop around to potential journals for feedback and eventual publication.

Next, One Thing after Another turned to Will Small for some questions.

Q: What was your experience doing research over the summer? What skills did you develop? 

 A: I was allotted approximately 125 hours of work over the summer, so I decided to schedule this number out to encompass the entire season rather than front or back-load it all. I ended up with a routine that involved working two hours a day every week, minus weekends. Towards August, though, I began to work three hours every other day, including weekends, as I felt that it fit my schedule better. I found, as probably is to be expected, that digging up new materials on the topic was more engaging than taking detailed notes on what I had already found. Throughout the project, I was able to develop efficient methods of online research and further my knowledge use of the college’s databases. I was also able to put some analytical thought into action in attempting to figure out how all of these pieces of research fit into the larger narrative of American or evangelical history or culture.

 Q: Did anything surprise you during this research?

A: As Professor Moore mentioned, the majority of my research involved finding and taking notes on newspapers or other editorial articles that expressed a Christian perspective on gun rights. Surprisingly, much of what I found from evangelical authors supported a more restricted view of gun rights, especially from the Reverend Robert Schenck, president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute and a faith consultant for many officials in Washington, D.C. In fact, according to an August 2017 survey by the National Association of Evangelicals (https://www.nae.net/evangelical-leaders-own-guns-but-want-stricter-laws/), although 58% of evangelical leaders live in a home with guns, 55% of them also support stricter gun laws. I was not expecting the sheer volume of pro-gun control (or gun safety, as some prefer to call it) evangelical writings. Additionally, in rifling through public forums, I was a little surprised to find how common concealed carrying in churches is in some places in America. Since I had never come across this phenomenon in my daily life or given it much thought, it was interesting to find a way that others in the country lived differently.

Hardin’s Article Appears in Environment and History

Assistant Professor Sara Hardin has found out that her article “Charging Responsibility for the Repercussions of Pesticide Usage in Post-War Francophone Africa” has just been fast-tracked to appear in the online version of the journal Environment and History. Sarah herself has provided the following abstract of the article:

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1960) spurred regulation of pesticides in the west in the 1970s, but agricultural laborers in the tropics continued to work with banned insecticides through the 1980s. This article relates the experiences of farmers in Senegal and other former French colonies with pesticides and analyzes concerns over their uses. In mid-twentieth century West Africa, “prosperous peasants” launched economic booms and helped their countries gain degrees of independence. But overlooking pesticide usage ignores the sacrifices and violence done to the communities involved. Some French scientists were disturbed by insecticides’ consequences in the former colonies. Yet their concerns were dismissed in favor of economic expediency, public health, and political loyalty. The blame shifted from the industry and onto the users. When agriculture became less profitable and pesticides more expensive, sympathetic concerns were raised once again, but the damage had already been done.

Unfortunately, the online version is only available to subscribers. If you would like to know more, take a look at this blogpost that Sarah wrote for White Horse Press which publishes Environment and History.

Professor Moore Puts Research Assistants Warth and Small to Work

Over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, the History Department has continued to provide opportunities for a number of its majors to serve as paid research assistants for professors engaged in a variety of tasks. One Thing after Another thought it would ask Professor Andy Moore about the work to which he put his research assistants this year. American Studies major Katherine Warth ’21 (left) assisted with research on Moore’s forthcoming biography of Jimmy Carter while History major Will Small ’21 (right) helped collect material for a course that Moore will teach this fall: Guns in America.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about the purpose and focus of these research projects?

A: The Jimmy Carter research has been ongoing for a long time. Many years ago I agreed to write a biography of him for Louisiana State University Press.  Other projects and family obligations have slowed my progress almost to a standstill. The Carter Library in Atlanta, Georgia doesn’t really have any archival material from his post-presidential life.  But he has had a productive life since he left the White House—some would argue more productive than when he was in the White House—and he is still alive and active. So Katherine is trying to round up research material about that part of his life. The guns research originated in a personal interest in guns—an interest I’ve had since childhood. Probably a year or so ago, I decided that guns would make an interesting course—especially for non-History majors, who need to a historical reasoning course. I read enough secondary sources to know what the overall course narrative and the key themes should be, but I had no primary sources to build a course on. That’s the research that Will did for me. He found primary sources that I could have students read. I could not have made this a historical reasoning course—which was my goal—without his work.

Q: Why do you believe these projects matter?

A: The Carter project matters because Carter himself is an interesting person. My biography of him will approach him as a southerner.  I believe—and this is the direction my biography of him is taking for now—that he was far more typical of many white southerners in the years leading up to his presidency than he or other biographers have allowed.  And since his presidency, the ways that he has diverged from the majority of white southerners is an interesting window into the development of the South in the late 20th century. The guns project matters because guns matter in our current political and social climate. I hope that a historical perspective will help at least everyone involved in the course to see the complexity of the issue and maybe, in some way, help move the needle a little bit in public discussions of an emotional and controversial topic.

Q: What roles did the students play during these projects?

A: Their roles are invaluable. I wouldn’t be prepared to develop a new course without Will’s guns research, and Katherine’s Carter research will save me time when I do get around to writing again. I won’t have to look for sources; she will already have done a lot of that heavy lifting for me.

Q: What do you believe the students got out of their work?

A: Not as much as I have, I’m sure. I hope they at least gained some valuable research experience. I think that inadvertently they have gotten really good at playing, “guess what Moore’s thinking,” since sometimes my instructions were probably too vague and left too much uncertainty.

Q: How is the Guns in America course coming along?

A: I have a draft syllabus completed, and I have done the credit hour, historical reasoning, and citizenship applications, and am now waiting for approval. I hope that approval goes through, because it is on the books for Fall 2019 registration (which happens in a few weeks)! I am scheduled to teach two sections of it in the fall.

Q: Still plan on working with student researchers in the future?

A: I sure hope so. There is still plenty of guns and Carter research still to do.

At this point, since turnabout is fair play, once One Thing after Another finished with Moore, it asked Katherine Warth and Will Small for their perspectives about their work.

Q: How did you get involved with these projects?

Katherine: I got involved with this research project when I received an email from the history department over the summer explaining job offerings for the upcoming year. One of the projects was on the post-presidential career of Jimmy Carter with my academic advisor professor Moore. I’ve been interested in Jimmy Carter since middle school when I saw ARGO, a film on the Iran Hostage Crisis. This movie sparked my interest in American history and motivated me to conduct personal research on the event and on Jimmy Carter, who was president at the time of the crisis. I thought it would be fun and a good opportunity to be involved in this research, so I applied and was lucky enough to be offered the position!

Will: Either during the summer before sophomore year or shortly into the first semester, I got an email listing several job opportunities for the History Department. I applied for a few and, after different interviews for each position, I was invited to become Professor Moore’s research assistant. I wanted to participate in the Guns in America project for several reasons. Most important, I’ve always had an interest in guns to some degree. Regardless of where my opinion lies in terms of gun rights and ownership, I just think they’re kind of neat inventions. I also developed an interest in the debate over gun rights due to noticing several strongly opposing viewpoints being held by my fellow students on the Hilltop. Shortly after the shooting at Stoneham Douglas in 2018, I overheard a number of conversations regarding a need to enact stricter legislation. At the same time, I had visited dorms on campus with flags on the walls stating, “Come and Take It” with an image of a cannon proudly displayed beneath the motto. I wondered how these differing opinions came into being, which had been more prominent in the past, and which was currently in control of the debate. I figured that first-hand research would be a great way to find out.

Q: Please describe your experiences working on these projects. What were your primary objectives and methods of accomplishing them?

Katherine: My research mainly involves researching documents pertaining to the post-presidential career of Jimmy Carter from 1990 to the present. I read through articles from TIME and The New York Times, press releases from The Carter Center, and book reviews of Carter’s published works. I’m using the information I gather to create an account of what Jimmy Carter has done since 1990 and how he has been viewed by the public. A lot of what I do also involves summarizing and organizing materials as I am compiling these sources for Professor Moore to use on his book on Carter. I have to make sure that the work I do is easily understandable as I know it will be used by others in the future.

Will: I spent a lot of time researching primary sources related to the gun rights debate throughout the entirety of American history. As long as the 2nd Amendment has existed, people have been arguing over how to interpret it, and it was my job to discover what their exact arguments were and help form a timeline of when they came onto the scene. New York Times articles and editorials and any other newspaper reporting on local or national gun laws, old hunting and fishing magazines like Field and Stream or Arms and the Man, TIME, and a number of Supreme Court and circuit court cases proved to be most of what I found, aided by the bibliographies of secondary sources. Most of these resources were found using online databases that the college has access to or public databases like the Library of Congress’s public archives. Anytime I found a document I believed would be useful, I uploaded a PDF or transcription of it to an online repository and created an entry detailing the name of the document, when it was published and who it was published by, as well as a short description of its main points.

Q: What do you believe you gained from working on these projects? Similarly, what is something about the topics that you learned during the course of your research?

Katherine: I’ve learned a lot about how research is conducted through this project. I’ve taken history classes and done research projects before but they have all been structured by my professors. This research is a lot more independent. Even just finding time to do this research while taking classes and being involved on campus can be difficult at times and I’ve learned the importance of self-motivation in research. Ultimately what keeps me going is my love of research and my interest in Jimmy Carter. It’s so fun to use a jumble of documents to create a clear picture of the past, which is exactly why I’m a part of the American Studies program and the History Department! One of the most interesting things I’ve learned through my research is about the work The Carter Center does regarding mental health and overseeing foreign elections. Mental health and advancing care for those affected is a huge concern of mine and seeing what Rosalynn Carter has done to advance Americans outlook on mental health, even in the late 20th century, is truly astonishing. The Carter Center’s involvement in overseeing foreign elections actually helped me in my Intro to American Studies class when we were discussing the concept of expanding manifest destiny and American democracy abroad. It was really fun to add information I learned from my research to the class discussion, especially because Professor Moore teaches my Intro to American Studies class.

Will: I definitely gained a deeper understanding of the research process and discovered a few tips and tricks that allow me to find the information that I want, faster. For instance, Professor Moore provided me with an outline of subtopics, possible questions, and time periods that helped to guide the process. Had he just said, “Well, I need documents concerning the gun rights debate, go find some,” it would have taken much longer for me to collect sources, since I wouldn’t have known what was possibly useful or not. I also now have a solid grasp of what sort of research resources the college does and does not have at its disposal, which will help streamline any further research I do down the road. One of my favorite things about this topic that I’ve learned is that arguments in favor of gun rights became more and more fundamental as the gun rights movement gained popularity and organized. For instance, in the 1800s, it was established jurisprudence that concealed carry was against the law. Those who argued against it generally did not have any problems with the constitutionality of anti-concealed carriage laws, but rather their practicality. They stated that criminals were not going to follow the law anyways, which put innocent, law-abiding citizens at risk. As the National Rifle Association began to take charge of the movement, that’s when you really begin to see appeals for the fundamental right of individual ownership and concealed carry being safeguarded by the Bill of Rights.

Q: Do you plan to do more research for the History Department?

Katherine: I hope to do more research with the department! I’m currently working with Professor Dubrulle on preliminary research for a statistical study of life outcomes for Civil War veterans from the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. We’re only in the beginning stages of this project but I hope to be able to pursue it in my next couple years at SAC!

Will: Yeah! I actually plan on continuing to do gun-related research for Professor Moore over this coming summer, this time about the relationship between guns and Evangelical Christians, if his application for a faculty-student grant is accepted. Other than that, though, I’d always be open to research opportunities that match my interests.

Q: How does it feel to almost be juniors at SAC?

Katherine: It’s a little sad almost being a junior. Being halfway done with my time here on the Hilltop and only having two more gingerbread competitions makes me sorrowful thinking that in just two more years I’ll graduate. I’m also excited for everything to come in the next two years! Every day here is full of excitement, or at least some snow, and I can’t wait for the chance to make more memories, take more classes, watch my class of 2021 banner move in Davison Hall, and so much more!

Will: I don’t know! So I’m just not going to think about it until I’m already a junior and let the weight of that hit me all at once.

“So, What are you doing on your sabbatical” Part II: Talking Tiananmen

Professor Masur is on sabbatical this semester. Some of you may be wondering: what exactly does a history professor do while on sabbatical? This is the second entry in what may be a regular series of posts from Professor Masur about how he is spending his time.


During a department meeting last fall, Professor Salerno (our Department Chair) suggested that we give public lectures as a way to reach out to the campus community and give students a chance to learn about history outside of the classroom. It just so happens that I had been mulling the idea of some kind of talk in conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Because I would be on sabbatical in the spring, I felt that I could take the time to prepare a lecture without, say, worrying about a stack of papers that needed to be graded.

Tiananmen Square made sense as a topic. For our students—most of whom were born at least a decade after the demonstrations—Tiananmen is a bit of a mystery. Many of them are familiar with some of the famous images from the protest, but they may not have a deeper understanding of the origins, historical significance, or current relevance of the demonstrations. And even those of us who were alive at the time may be interested in revisiting those dramatic days of 1989.

The talk took place last week, well in advance of the anniversary of the demonstrations. The timing more necessity than choice—the calendar will be pretty full in March and April (including with talks from Professor Dubrulle and Professor Perrone), so it made sense to do the talk earlier in the semester. Nevertheless, we had a good turnout—to borrow a phrase from Sean Spicer, it was “the largest audience ever” to witness a talk at Saint Anselm. (Don’t believe anyone who says otherwise, even if they have data to support their claims. Haters.)

What did the lucky attendees learn, other than that I have some trouble operating PowerPoint? For those who could not attend, here is a brief overview:

First, I provided a summary of the demonstrations. The protests began in mid-April after the sudden death of Hu Yaobang, former General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who had lost his position because of his moderate views. In subsequent weeks, additional students, workers, and local residents joined the demonstrations, and they began calling for various political and economic reforms. Hardline Party leaders felt threatened and, after some deliberation, declared martial law in May. In early June, troops from the People’s Liberation Army violently suppressed the protests, killing and injuring an unknown number of demonstrators and bystanders.

Second, I explained the motives of the protesters. Although the demonstrations were ostensibly about honoring Hu Yaobang, the student protesters used the initial demonstrations as a way to criticize other CCP leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping. Many of the demonstrators simply rebelled against the suffocating control of the Party. And as the demonstrations grew, it became clear that the demonstrators were motivated by growing disappointment with political and economic conditions in China. Economic liberalization had brought prosperity but had stalled. Inflation cut into economic gains, and some workers were in danger of losing their job security. It had also led to endemic corruption, with high-ranking Party members profiting enormously from economic reforms. There was a general feeling of “malaise” among many Chinese in the late 1980s that fueled the protests.

Deng Xiaoping (L) and Hu Yaobang (R). Image source.

Third, I explained why these demonstrations were so threatening to hardliners in the Party. For one thing, Deng Xiaoping may have been feeling vulnerable because his popularity was already in decline. He had also been the victim of political attacks during the Cultural Revolution, which may have made him leery of the student demonstrators. The growing participation of workers in the movement was especially alarming. Workers were theoretically the base of the Communist Party—their discontent undermined the Party’s credibility. Plus worker unrest could threaten China’s economic growth. Finally, the demonstrations unfolded at a critical time. Several Eastern European countries had just experienced serious domestic challenges to Communist rule, which served as sort of a cautionary tale to hardliners in China. And Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to China in the middle of the crisis guaranteed that the world’s attention would be on Beijing. All of these factors led Deng Xiaoping and other hardliners to declare martial law and forcefully end the protests in early June.

The last part of the talk described China’s efforts to erase the memory of Tiananmen Square. This spring, we will undoubtedly see numerous examples of the Chinese Communist Party censoring references to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. This effort has been going on for years, and with some success: in People’s Republic of Amnesia, Louisa Lim describes her surprise to find that many current college students in Beijing are unfamiliar with the famous “Tank Man” image. She also describes the Party’s strategy of using economic growth and stirring up nationalism to legitimize Communist rule and preclude opposition.

Honor guards attend a flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square in 2017. Under President Xi Jinping, China has ambitiously pressed its advantage almost everywhere at once.

Flag-raising at Tiananmen Square, 2017. Image source.

I ended the talk with a slight note of optimism. In spite of the Party’s efforts, information about Tiananmen does break through the wall of censorship. Every year, images circulate on social media—even in China—that draw attention to the events of 1989. Chinese censors will certainly be active this spring, but it is just as certain that Chinese citizens will continue to find ways to remember Tiananmen.

Marking 25th anniversary of China's Tiananmen Square takes creativity

Covertly remembering June 4, 1989 (89/6/4) at Tiananmen Square, 2014. Image source.

 

“So, what are you doing on your sabbatical?”

Professor Masur is on sabbatical this semester. Some of you may be wondering: what exactly does a history professor do while on sabbatical? This is the first entry in what may be a regular series of posts from Professor Masur about how he is spending his time.

Sabbaticals are often used for research, and I do have some research projects that I’m working on this semester. But I am also trying to update and improve some of my classes. And I want to take advantage of a schedule that is much more flexible than it is during a regular semester. To that end, I decided to head down to the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts to check out an exhibit on Chinese Empresses. I thought that the exhibit might give me some specific ideas for my classes, and it would help me to learn a bit more about a topic that is part of my general teaching area.


Apparently Professor Masur thinks that he doesn’t have to look presentable while on sabbatical.

So, what did I take away from the exhibit? Here were my main impressions:

1) Empresses have often been dismissed or overlooked in accounts of Qing Dynasty China. However, the exhibit illustrated that Empresses were actually figures of great importance during this period. For one thing, they had to produce a male heir to succeed the Emperor—no small task. In a society imbued with the Confucian principle of filial piety, Empresses were granted considerable respect as mothers and wives of Emperors, and therefore symbolic mothers of all of China. Conditions in the imperial court reflected on China as a whole, so it was important that Empresses oversaw a harmonious and well-functioning household. While Empresses were generally not expected to participate in the affairs of state, their activities were central to harmony and stability in China as a whole.

2) As I made my way through the exhibit, it occurred to me that I could name every Emperor from the Qing Dynasty, but only one Empress: the Empress Dowager Cixi (more on her later). The exhibit used techniques both overt and subtle to fill this gap. Upon entering the exhibit, an audio recording played the names of the Empresses who were featured in the exhibit. Exhibit cards included the names by which the Empresses were known, including a phonetic pronunciation guide. Names of Emperors did not include pronunciation, reversing the common habit of ensuring that Emperors’ names are known while leaving Empresses out of the story.

3) The exhibit displayed the wealth, craftsmanship, and artistry of Qing China. The exhibit included robes, paintings, and other objects created by imperial artists, some of whom were European Jesuits. The robes—brightly colored and filled with various adornments—were particularly striking. Another impressive object—a silk screen from the 18th century—covered an entire wall.

Court vest (top) and wall hanging (bottom), both 1700s.

4) The final section explored Cixi, mother of the Tongzhi Emperor and eventually Empress Dowager and power behind the throne in the years before the end of the Dynasty. Cixi is an interesting figure because she managed to gain considerable power in the imperial court through alliance-building and other machinations. By the late 1800s, she had orchestrated a palace coup and was arguably the most powerful figure in the imperial court—more powerful than her nephew, whom she had installed as Emperor in 1871. She is often depicted quite negatively in historical and popular accounts of the Qing Dynasty. But the exhibit made her out to be a more complex figure. It also explored the various representations of Cixi, including photographic images, depictions of her in film, and an enormous portrait by American artist Katharine A. Carl in 1903. Carl’s nine-foot-tall painting was displayed at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 and given as a gift to Theodore Roosevelt. It was an important tool in crafting an international image of the Empress Dowager as a public figure—unusual for China’s Empresses.

Katharine A. Carl’s Portrait of Cixi, 1903.

Enjoying an afternoon at a museum was nice, but I do feel a certain amount of pressure to do something “useful” with my time on sabbatical. In this case, some of the key themes from the exhibit, and the images I took while I was there, will make their way into my courses on Modern China and Asian Civilizations.

Why We Write: SAC History Department Faculty on Their Books

In early January, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a short article by Rachel Toor entitled “How Academics Measure the Value of Their Books.”

https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-Academics-Measure-the/245365

In this essay, Toor stresses that the standard academic authors use to judge their books tends to be very different from that employed by non-academics. Not only that, she argues, but professors who write books see the value of their works in varying ways. Toor’s piece got One Thing after Another thinking. What do the authors of books in the History Department at Saint Anselm College think about their works? Why did they write their books, and what value do they attribute to their labors in this particular area?

Professor Beth Salerno: I wrote my first book because it was my dissertation topic, and I needed to get research out in order to get tenure. I liked the topic and thought it would help shape a conversation in my field about women’s antislavery activities. But mostly I really wanted to stay at Saint Anselm College, and for that I needed 3 articles or a book, so I valued the book as a doorway or key. It also gave me experiences I would not otherwise have had—being interviewed on NHPR as an author, giving talks around New England, being asked to review other books in my field, and serving as a field expert to a museum exhibit.

I am writing my second book because I started it before my dissertation, and at this point (almost 30 years later!) I owe its subject, Mary Clark, my colleagues, and my family (some of them deceased), the book I promised. I will measure its success by the number of people who enjoy it, by compliments from colleagues happy to see it finished, by tweets from student researchers who have helped with it, and by the vast expanse of time I can enjoy being “post-book”. I’ll also head over to where I think Mary might be buried, and let her know it’s done.

Professor Sean Perrone: Originally, I wasn’t planning to revise my dissertation into a book. I had moved onto a new research topic (Spanish consuls in the early American Republic), and I thought that the Assembly of the Clergy was behind me. Then, Professor Holder in the Theology Department gave me a push to contact his editor at Brill. Next thing I knew, I had a book contract. Well, after cursing Professor Holder for getting me into this predicament, I set to work.  Fortunately, I had a sabbatical and was able to devote several months to revising and expanding the dissertation into a book. The process was actually very rewarding. Going back to the material nearly a decade after having written the dissertation allowed me to look at the documents with fresh eyes and make a stronger argument about the nature of politics in early modern Castile. I also incorporated maps into the book—my first attempt at spatial analysis. The book came out in 2008, and its publication opened the door to many professional opportunities for me. Needless to say, I’m forever grateful to Professor Holder for giving me a nudge all those years ago.

Professor Hugh Dubrulle: Most people I know who are not academics express enthusiasm when they find out that I’ve written a book. What does surprise me, though, is the frequency with which they ask how many copies I’ve sold and how much money I’ll make. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t want my book to remain unsold and unread, but I never thought of the book as a money-making venture. To a great degree, it was a matter of self-respect. My simple syllogistic reasoning went something like this: I’m a professor; professors should publish books; therefore, I should publish a book. A number of different sentiments were bound up with this idea. I wanted to show myself capable of the sustained intellectual effort associated with writing a book. While this kind of effort can by trying and difficult at times, I enjoy the challenge of writing. Writing history is creative work, and I was greatly enamored with the thought of creating something. I knew I could write well, and I thought I had something original to say about British attitudes toward the United States during the Civil War. So darn it, I was going to write a book because that’s what professors do. I must concede that material considerations also figured in my decision; it was always part of my plan to use publication of the book to get promotion to full professor (although I could have attained the same rank by publishing a number of articles).

My book has been published too recently (June 2018) to have unlocked all the opportunities to which my colleagues have referred with regard to their books (although some have come my way already). Nonetheless, when I had completed it, I found new reasons to value the book, the most important being that I learned much about many things. I learned from other scholars in my field, but I learned mainly by reading a great deal on a wide variety of topics. That experience brought home to me in a clear and memorable way something that I had more or less already grasped: before one can teach either a reader or a student, one must learn much and learn it thoroughly.

Professor Andy Moore: For most academics who write books like mine, the short answer to the question, “why did you write this,” is, “in order to get tenure.” Academic historians look for work in a competitive atmosphere, and having a book published by a university press is supposed to make you stand out. But ultimately that’s not how I determine the value of my book. Doing the research that led to the book brought me into a world that was very different than my personal experience. My book is about Catholics in the post-World War II American South.  I am a southerner by birth, but I’m not a Catholic. When I began my research, one of my academic mentors said to me, “Andy, you need to learn the language.” He meant that I had to remove myself from the Protestant evangelical world I had grown up in and learn the extent to which Catholics viewed the world differently than my own people did. He was right. I wrote my book at a time when not many people had written on southern Catholics. As a result, my book created opportunities for me to engage with other historians working after me. I have read manuscripts for publishers, and I have shared my knowledge and research materials with other historians who contacted me because of that book. I did get tenure, but, for me, the real value of my book is that it introduced me to a new way of viewing the world, and it has created opportunities to shape other people’s scholarship that I would not have had otherwise.

Professor Matt Masur: I have co-edited a book and edited another one. The first thing I should note is that editing (or co-editing) a book is not the same as writing one. It is a different process, and it is viewed differently by academics.

I had two motives for working on these books. The first was to create a useful resource for other people like me: faculty who want suggestions from skilled and talented teachers at other institutions. I have always relied on advice from other people who take their historical knowledge and translate it into the classroom. These books are meant to collect those sorts of suggestions in a single resource. My second motive was more self-interested: completing these books would satisfy the incentive system in place at Saint Anselm College and help my applications for promotion. That may sound a bit calculating, but I don’t view it that way. The incentive system for promotion and tenure is in place because it reflects the goals we have for our faculty members. By “playing the game” I was fulfilling my end of the bargain. We want faculty members to be active in their field in a way that is demonstrated through publications (among other things), and these books were a way for me to fulfill that criterion.

I don’t know that these books gave me the same satisfaction as writing a monograph. They were not products of a long and agonizing intellectual journey, which is how some people describe a work of original research. Nevertheless, I am very happy with both books. Editing the books gave me a chance to collaborate with a large group of wonderful colleagues—my co-editors on the first book and numerous authors, including Professor Pajakowski. I also think that the books do give useful tips to other teachers. And realistically, these books are likely to reach a wider audience than a monograph that I might have written. I think they have sold relatively well, and I hope that the ideas in the books are being incorporated into classes in a way that helps students understand the past.

Perrone Named Jean Chair

In August, 2018, President Steven DiSalvo appointed Professor Sean Perrone of the History Department to serve as the first Robert E. Jean Professor of History and Government for two academic years. This endowed chair was made possible by a generous gift from the estate of Joseph Jean ‘53. The gift honors Joseph’s brother Robert. As part of the appointment, Prof. Perrone will work on a project titled: “Visualizing Historical Data: Opportunities for Students to Hone Historical and Computational Skills.” One Thing After Another sat down with Prof. Perrone to learn more.

Q: Can you tell us a little about the project?

A: My project involves mapping the payment of the ecclesiastical subsidy in sixteenth-century Castile, Spain. That might need a little explanation. Though the clergy were technically exempt from royal taxation, popes regularly granted monarchs a percentage of the ecclesiastical revenues in a given year. The kings then negotiated with their local clergy to determine the actual amount of the subsidy and the terms of payment. After an agreement was reached, clerical elites (e.g., cathedral canons in Castile) apportioned the subsidy among the kingdom’s clergy and arranged for the transfer of monies to royal coffers or directly to the king’s bankers. The local apportionment of the subsidy, however, burdened many clergy, and kings regularly provided discounts to over-assessed institutions, particularly monasteries.

Right now, I am working with students to finish preparing an Excel spread sheet on discounts to monasteries in the ecclesiastical subsidy. This data is culled from handwritten accounts located in the royal archive established by Charles V in 1540 in the castle of Simancas, Spain (see photo above). Over the past several years, I’ve been transposing the pertinent information from the accounts into Excel, and last year, computer science major Dan Kelly ’18 developed an easily searchable master Excel file on monastic discounts with assessment and discount data on individual monasteries as well as their latitude and longitude coordinates. Table 1, is a screenshot showing the assessment and discount data for some Franciscan monasteries. As can be seen in the table, the data is incomplete. We are missing the latitude/longitude coordinates for several monasteries, and the names of some monasteries are uncertain and their location (that is, city) unknown (see yellow highlight). In some cases, we’ve only been able to approximate the location of monasteries, using the coordinates for the city the monasteries were in or nearby (see purple highlight). With over one thousand monasteries receiving discounts between 1523 and 1558, there is a fair amount of material yet to process.

Table 1: Sample of Master Excel file on monastic discounts.

Perrone 2

Once the material is processed, we can upload it into ArcGIS to do spatial analysis. For example, using the incomplete data that we have, two computer science students, Caroline Parsons ‘19 and Pauline Yates ‘19, were able to visualize the percent of taxes discounted for Franciscan friars and nuns between 1544-1546 (see maps 1 and 2).

Map 1: Discounts to Franciscan Monks

Map 2: Discounts to Franciscan Nuns

Q: Why does this project matter?

A: By turning handwritten data into Excel data, this project makes the data more accessible to researchers. Then, even with incomplete data, these initial maps provide the beginnings for spatial analysis. For example, by comparing these initial maps, we can see geographic clustering of female and male houses. There were more Franciscan friars in the northwestern corner of the kingdom (i.e., Galicia) than nuns. We can also see that the area with the highest percentage of tax relief for both male and female Franciscans was in Old Castile (north central portion of the kingdom). The maps also make clear that the female houses received more tax relief than the male houses. But these maps also show errors and gaps in the data. First the errors. On map 1, the circle in Valencia (to the right of the map), and on map 2, the circle in Palma (to the far right of the map), indicate that incorrect latitude/longitude coordinates have been entered into the Excel Spread Sheet, because Valencia and Palma in the Balearic Islands belonged to the crown of Aragon and not the crown of Castile. Second the gaps. The archdiocese of Toledo in the middle of the map is blank. Franciscan friars and nuns lived in the archdiocese, but accounts in the royal archive only indicate the amount that those houses were discounted in the payment period of 1544-1546 and not the amount that they were assessed. Thus, we can’t calculate how much relief these discounts provided houses there. Therefore, the blank space on the map. This underscores a challenge working with the documents – they are often incomplete. In any case, the beauty of ArcGIS is that once we correct the errors and fill in the holes in the datasets, it will be relatively easy to update the maps.

Q: What is the role of students in the project?

A: Student researchers are essential to advance this project. I simply cannot do all the transcriptions and data processing by myself, and much of the progress with mapping made to date has relied heavily on Saint Anselm students. To meet this year’s goal of completing the databases on the ecclesiastical contribution for ArcGIS, I have hired three students. Two history majors, Brodie Deshaies ’21 and Mitch McLaughlin ’19, are currently finding the coordinates of the various monasteries using printed sources and Google Earth. We are hoping to identify the locations of at least 2/3 of the monasteries, which can be challenging as many no longer exist. A Spanish major, Braina Ruiz ’21, is learning paleography to help with transcribing data from the handwritten records (see photo) into Excel. Later in the semester, I hope to recruit some students from Professor Carol Traynor’s CS 210 Introduction to Geographical Information Systems class to help with preparing more maps.

Q: What benefit do students get from this project?

A: Through this research, students will perform vital tasks to advance the project and gain experience doing digital humanities research. Digital humanities is a new field that recognizes sources, tools of study, and methods of distribution far beyond the page or book, integrating computing and digital technologies in the study and spread of humanistic knowledge. All student researchers will develop collaborative skills by working as part of a team, while also honing both historical and computational skills. The skills obtained will vary by student task, but include:

  • becoming familiar with historical data from sixteenth-century Spain, understanding the basic types of primary sources for the project, and learning about transcription and crowd-sourcing
  • organizing data using controlled-vocabulary schemes to develop a process of metadata selection to create databases
  • mapping various data in GIS platform
  • developing content to display as a website or an online article, designing appropriate interface to convey the knowledge easily to users/readers, and allowing users/readers to access the information for their own research
  • using spatial and virtual presentations to interpret the past in conjunction with documents; students will begin to do original research and ideally see how their work contributes to knowledge and moves the historiography forward in an innovative way

Q: Sounds like you and the students are going to be quite busy!

A: The Jean Chair comes with course releases to permit an intense focus on the research and student engagement. The project is connected to the course I am currently teaching on Medieval Spain, and will also connect to a team-taught course on the Digital Humanities next year. Connecting teaching and research is one aspect of the Jean Chair. I’m very grateful to my colleagues and the College for giving me this opportunity. It is a real honor.

Professor Moore on the Catholic Church’s Response to Charlottesville and Racism

When white supremacists and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently over the removal of Confederate statues, they forced into national headlines a conversation over the meaning of historical symbols.  They also reminded some observers of civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s, when activists successfully convinced Americans that they were fighting for a moral cause.  Recently, Professor Moore spoke with a correspondent for the magazine America: The Jesuit Review and helped to place the Charlottesville protests into historical context.  The correspondent, by the way, is Michael O’Loughlin, a 2007 Saint Anselm alum.  The link for the article can be found here.

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.

History Students Rock the NEHA Fall Conference

History 359 Class Celebrating

On a recent fall Saturday, eight Saint Anselm College History majors and minors, one Saint Anselm College alum, and Professor Beth Salerno headed down to the New England Historical Association Conference held at Rivier University in Nashua, NH. The New England Historical Association (NEHA) is the regional branch of the American Historical Association (the largest professional organization for historians in America) and offers a conference twice a year. Professor Sean Perrone currently serves as its Treasurer.

Professor Salerno, Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18, and Sarah Hummel ’19 presented research they did in History 359 American Women’s History (see our related post). Other history majors and minors came along to experience their first history conference and explore areas of particular interest. One Thing after Another caught up with the attendees to find out what they learned at the conference.

Q: What made you decide to propose a faculty/student panel for this conference?

Professor Salerno: During the American Women’s History course, I collaborated with Professor Laura Prieto at Simmons College, sharing assignments and research materials. She suggested that we put together a panel for NEHA so our students could experience a professional history conference. I agreed and we wrote up a proposal for a Roundtable on “Teaching and Learning Historical Skills through a Crowdsourced Women’s History Project.” It included the two of us as Chair and Commentator, plus two Saint Anselm undergraduate students, one Simmons College undergraduate, and two Simmons College graduate students.

Q: What motivated the students to participate on the panel?

Sarah Hummel ’19 (History): I agreed to present my research experience because I was eager to share with other students and educators the lessons that the project taught me. The NEHA Conference seemed like the perfect place to network and share my experience as a historian with like-minded history students and professors.

Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18 (History) It was an opportunity in itself to be able to reflect on work in front of an interested audience. There are many times I have completed a research paper for class that I am very proud of, but the paper is never seen by anyone besides my professor. I was also excited to be able to express my enthusiasm about the assignment, because the crowdsourcing project was a memorable process for me.

Q: It must have been a bit intimidating to give a presentation in front of professional historians.

Lily-Gre Hitchen ’18 (History): I learned that it is important to relax. When I was preparing my talk, I was continuously second-guessing the language of my presentation. I wanted to use complicated diction to express my experiences, but I learned that simplifying the language is necessary for clarity. When giving the presentation, I realized that taking a few breaths to calm down really made a difference. Being too serious or too nervous can sometimes hurt a presentation, and calming down before speaking really makes a difference. It took a certain amount of confidence to be able to relax before the presentation, and this confidence came from trusting myself and my abilities.

Sarah Hummel ’19 (History): Presenting in a conference setting forced me to focus not just on paring down my ideas, but also expressions. I also learned that if you are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the information you are going to present, those two factors make presenting much less nerve-racking – but it’s okay to be a little nervous too!

Q: Did all the student attendees come to your session?

Professor Salerno: Whitney Hammond ’18, Alexis LaBrie ’18, and Chris Griebel (’16, now a fourth-grade teacher at St. Pius School, Lynn, MA) all attended our session. They had been part of the American Women’s History class and done the project as well. They contributed their observations about the impact and value of the project during the audience discussion. The rest of the students attended other sessions during the same time block. They had five choices during each block, giving them a wide variety of options.

Q: For those of you who were not presenting, what drew you to the conference?

Caitlin Williamson ’19 (History): I signed up for this conference because I had never done anything like this before and wanted to see what it was like. Before the event, I was a little nervous (despite not having to present anything) just because I wasn’t sure what to expect out of something like this!

Whitney Hammond ’18 (History): I signed up for the conference because as a senior history major I want to experience as much as I can before I graduate. I think attending this conference was a great opportunity for history majors because we were able to listen to historians and connect what they study to what we studied in our own history classes. It was also nice to be a part of a community of historians and listen to the work they dedicate themselves to.

Q: Can you describe your favorite session?

Cody Face ’20 (History): One panel I went to was War and Order. I found the presentation by Nathan Marzoli (Historian, US Army Center of Military History) rather intriguing. He discussed the 12th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, a Union regiment during the Civil War that fought at Chancellorsville. This battle happened to be one of the bloodiest of the Civil War, and a major Union defeat (It is often seen as one of Robert E. Lee’s greatest victories). Instead of focusing on the battle itself, Mr. Marzoli focused on the view of the soldiers. We heard about two brothers lying next to each other amidst the chaos of gunfire, shrapnel, and screams of agony when all of a sudden one of the brothers was shot and killed instantly. Such an incident was eye-opening in that it gave us a sense of what these soldiers faced. It added a sense of gravity to the Civil War, as if I myself was affected by it. His presentation was engaging, and his use of technology made it easy to imagine the battle being fought (he provided pictures of the battleground). All in all, it was a very effective performance on his part.

Lisette Labbè ’19 (Psychology Major and History Minor):  I went to one of the panels that discussed new and different historical approaches—which made me realize that although history is the study of the past, the discipline is still very much alive and adaptive. I think it’s fascinating to see historians find different ways to approach history, because it seems like there are many different approaches that have yet to be discovered.

Caitlin Williamson ’19 (History): My favorite panel of the day was focused on the 1860s and 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement. I immediately chose this panel because I’m in Professor [Andy] Moore’s Civil Rights Movement class this semester and was excited to see what different perspectives the papers on the panel would give me. My favorite paper out of the whole day was from this panel. It was on modern civil rights action and how college campuses are confronting their various histories, especially with notable alumni of many prominent institutions being slaveholders or having otherwise done something in the past that is unacceptable today. The professor had many examples at universities like Harvard and Yale, and her paper got me thinking more about how the Civil Rights Movement that is thought to be a thing of the 1950s and 60s is not over just yet.

Q: Did attending the conference change your sense of the past or the profession?

Alexis LaBrie ’18 (History and Criminal Justice Major): I gained a better sense that much of the historical profession is devoted to research. A person picks a topic that she find interesting and then she spend her whole life analyzing it. The other side of that is historians are constantly reevaluating moments in the past to incorporate new findings and perspectives. The questions that most commonly came up were, “What was the impact on the community/state/country?” I was struck by historians’ curiosity concerning the effect of the event and its lasting impact.

Sarah Hummel ’19 (History): Up until now, I thought the bulk of what historians did was researching and writing. This conference, both in presenting and in attending other panels, taught me that while writing and researching are important, the process of sharing this knowledge is just as important – and just as thrilling! It is comforting for me to have a better idea of how people can make a living and enjoy their career in a major that is often overlooked or underappreciated. Now, I am even more excited to be a history major – there are so many ways to share knowledge which are just as exciting as acquiring it.

Q: Would you recommend this opportunity to other history majors?

Whitney Hammond ’18 (History): I think it is a great opportunity for those interested in History, and I would definitely try to attend at least one conference before you graduate. I was even thinking of attending the next one because of how much I enjoyed it. It was really great to be surrounded by a community of people who all care about and appreciate history.

Lisette Labbè ’19 (Psychology Major and History Minor): I think more students should go to these conferences to really experience the culture of historians and learn about new topics that you may never have thought about. I think it is also a great opportunity to listen and learn about topics you are truly passionate about and to be able to talk to those scholars who specialize in it.

Caitlin Williamson ’19 (History): I learned from this conference how specific research such as this gets. Many papers looked at one specific individual, or a specific time period, rather than an entire group of people or a trend throughout decades. This was especially helpful as I look forward to possibly writing a thesis in the coming years. This conference presented me with examples of what historical research really looks like.