Alina R. Amvrosova, Lomonosov Moscow State University
“Searching for American national identity: Cultural pluralism in the works of American intellectuals”
The paper is dedicated to the understanding and usage of categories “America”, “Americans”, as well as “Americanism” by American intellectuals, and to its connection with shaping of cultural pluralism as an alternative model of American national identity in the first two decades of the 20th century. The author of this work attempts to answer the following questions: how writers, publicists and philosophers addressed to the problem of Americans’ and immigrants’ identity in 1900-1910s; were they influenced by the idea of cultural pluralism or by the others (“Melting Pot” or Anglo-Saxonianism); in which discourse they used the above-mentioned categories; to what extent their perception of America and different ethnic groups varied.
Valerie Babb, Emory University
“Early Black Print Culture and the Making of America’s Better Self”
Ideas of what should constitute community and subsequently national identity in what would become the United States of America took shape in the print culture of New England colonies of the 17th and 18th century. The cartographic images of John Smith symbolically claimed land; the histories of William Bradford and John Winthrop cemented various geographies and ethnicities into one; and the religious musings of Cotton Mather offered one vision of a moral society. The eighteenth century made many of these ideas into law and national spirit with the framing of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Though never explicitly stated, a black presence was key to shaping early New England conceptions, and as early black print culture emerged in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, the writings of that presence became the moral conscience of America, challenging the nation to live up to its better ideals. A look at writers such as of Phyllis Wheatley and David Walker, as well as the black print network of which they were a part, reveals how their interventions into American intellectual history shaped national self-conception.
Peter Bastian, Australian Catholic University
“‘It’s not the Great White Fleet’: Australian Post-War Adjustment to British, Japanese and American Influences in the Pacific, 1918-1925”
The visit of the American Great White Fleet to Australian ports in 1908 has long been noted by historians as an important part of the changes in Australian views of the world including its attitudes to the British Empire, its fear of Japan and the growing importance of the United States in the Pacific region. However, the First World War was to accelerate many of these views. The eventual entry of the US into the war in Europe in 1917 reinforced racial views in Australia of the Anglo-Saxon races now united in a common struggle. However, the emergence of Japan in a stronger position in the Pacific by the end of the war and the relative decline of British power after 1918 also had consequences for the Australian outlook. For some it was important that the imperial ties be maintained as the expense of what were perceived as growing US influences while for others, the need for a greater America presence in the Pacific was crucial for Australian security. At the same time Japanese naval visits led to ambivalent feelings towards that country. The second visit of an American fleet to Australian ports in 1925 revealed conflicting feelings for many Australians as they remembered and compared the visit to that of 1908. This paper explores these post-war adjustments being made by Australians to the issue of security in the Pacific.
Bruce P. Bottorff, Kansai Gaidai University
“Faith Under Fire: Military Clergy and America’s Moral Crisis in Vietnam”
Three hundred years before American combat veterans sought moral clarity on their failed mission in Vietnam, the Puritans drew on their faith to justify the violent expansion of English settlements in seventeenth-century New England. While a fervent belief in themselves as a chosen people of God provided comfort and a shared sense of identity to colonial settlers who participated in the brutal Indian engagements of the Pequot and King Philip’s Wars, Americans who served in Vietnam were, by the end of the 1960s, left without a heroic spiritual conception of their efforts to contain the spread of communism. This despite the persistent conflation of Christian values and patriotic virtues during the Cold War, which positioned America’s moral authority in opposition to a godless Soviet empire. America’s war in Vietnam was not a holy war, but the U.S. military command charged military chaplains with responsibility for promoting soldiers’ combat readiness by bolstering their spiritual convictions. This presentation assesses the ability of military chaplains to reconcile their conflicting roles as soldiers of war and men of God. It examines the chaplaincy as an institution and the published narratives of chaplains themselves to elucidate their role as moral advocates. America’s Puritan heritage and the military clergy are viewed as critical touchstones, bringing into focus the nation’s moral crisis in Vietnam.
Thomas C. Buchanan, University of Adelaide
“A ‘Very American’ Pedagogy?: Reacting to the Past in Transnational Context”
Teaching and learning trends are usually considered as a transnational force, adapting easily from place to place with seamless translation and easy adaptation. Humanities scholars are well acquainted with the idea of countries engaging in ‘selective adaptation’ in various ways, but there has been no consideration of how country specific pedagogies are part of this process. This paper will argue that Reacting to the Past, while fitting into the global embrace of ‘active learning’, ‘group work’, and many other popular buzzwords, does so in ways that are rooted in a particular American context. While Reacting founder Mark C. Carnes correctly presents role immersion games as a revolt against American orthodoxy, the pedagogy looks even more radical from the context of Australasia. There are many dimensions to this. Reacting poses administrative challenges, but it also cuts to the core of Australasian academics’ identities. How should we be spending our time? The paper will thus explore how Reacting’s slow adaptation reflects a collision of academic cultures.
Bao Bui, University of Illinois, Chicago
“Gossip, Social Policing, and Community Ties during the American Civil War”
From 1861 to 1865 millions of Americans marched off to war with the expectation that they could maintain regular contact with their home communities via letter writing. The Civil War armies constituted the most literate military force ever known until then. The vast quantity of wartime mail provides compelling testimony of the thoughts and experiences of millions of Americans living through the Civil War era. Through an examination of hundreds of archival manuscripts and published collections, this paper explores how letters nurtured group identity and extended the bonds of social life and solidarity. Channels of gossip and news, often spread through personal letters, linked the regimental campmates with the neighborhood circles they left behind. Many regiments were comprised almost entirely of volunteers from the same locale; the home communities hence experienced vicariously through letters what their regiments endured and witnessed. In the camps and barracks personal space simply did not exist. Soldiers lived under the constant observation of their campmates, who habitually reported to the home communities the behaviors and moral transgressions of their comrades. On the one hand, letters helped reinforce collective social identities across the miles and years of separation. Yet, the gossip spread through the mail also had a divisive effect by demarcating those who had access to information and those who did not. For Civil War soldiers and their communities living in the pre-electronic age of social media, epistolary gossip helped to imposed boundaries, structure, and hierarchy on their social lives.
Trevor Burnard, University of Melbourne
“A New Empire? Britain and its Plantation Empire, 1690-1756”
I will begin this work by exploring the insight made by an important scholar of the British West Indies, Richard Dunn, that the Glorious Revolution of 1689 saw the emergence of two varieties of colonial relationship. There was a West Indian kind, tailored to the requirements of the big sugar planters and heavily dependent on a supportive imperial state to ensure sustainable prosperity. There was also a North American kind, in which colonists sought and gained a looser relationship with the Crown, with less political and economic dependency than in the British West Indies. To these imperial relationships, I would add one that pertained in that part of South Asia in which the East India Company had influence and another relating to Britain’s oldest and most significant imperial possession, Ireland. My argument will be that between 1690 and 1756 Britain developed a workable imperial “system” (the word “system” was one used by British statesmen like Lord Halifax and Charles Townsend, who knew the workings of the imperial centre intimately). In this system, component parts of empire were treated according to their differing roles in imperial conceptions of their value to Britain. It was deliberately not a unified system of imperial management. It was this system, unfairly maligned as a policy of “salutary neglect,” that unraveled in the American Revolution when inexperienced British politicians sought to impose unity and conformity on a diffuse empire marked by difference rather than similarity. But if some of the principles established between 1690 and 1756 about how empire should work fell away after 1763, many of the underlying ways in which Britain dealt with the world (and how the world coped with Britain) were established in this understudied but vitally important period.
Kit Candlin University of Newcastle
“Sir John Gladstone: Amelioration and Capitalism”
In this paper I will explore the rise of 19th century capitalism and its links to late model plantation slavery in the British West Indies through the prism of one of its principal exponents John Gladstone. This paper will also look at Gladstone’s efforts to ameliorate the conditions of slavery in the 1820s and improve plantation profits and ultimately to dictate the terms of capitalism. This paper will argue that Sir John Gladstone was one of the principal architects of late model third stage plantation slavery but also a man with new ideas in slave amelioration and modern business practice. He represents a planter out of step with slavery but very much in step with capitalism.
Julian C. Chambliss, Michigan State University, Scot French, University of Central Florida, Walter D. Greason, Monmouth University, Kathryn Tomasek, Wheaton College
“Digital History, Race, and the American Dream: Reflections on the Economic and Social Realities of American Exceptionalism”
While the popular narrative of American success has always emphasized access and opportunity, the historical reality of systemic barriers to the public square has long been the focal point of historical study. Segregation in housing and commerce emerged in the late eighteenth century as part of the process of extended enslavement (often wrongly called ‘gradual emancipation’). As an alternative to racial slavery in the British colonies in the eighteenth century, legal restrictions on African-American movement, suffrage, and property ownership defined the formation of early commercial markets in North America. White authorities maintained these barriers with fines, imprisonment, and exile, while extralegal violence served as an additional deterrent after 1800. During Reconstruction, these types of restrictions expanded, evolving into systems of local segregation that became the basis for the Plessy v. Ferguson decision by the Supreme Court in 1896. Jim Crow segregation became the dominant paradigm for American society for sixty years. Even after the Court reversed itself in 1954, state and local governments (as well as most private enterprises) maintained layered commitments to racial segregation and discrimination that persist to the present day. The panel focuses on digital history projects to explore the hidden realities of American Exceptionalism. Beginning with accounting records produced by the very (white) New Englanders to whom Perry Miller referred as he developed his thesis of American exceptionalism, these projects highlight how digital humanities allow us to understand black community activism during Reconstruction through institution building and by examining black ideas about citizenship and community.
Billy Coleman, University of British Columbia
“‘A New Political Danger’: Music and Respectability in Antebellum Electoral Politics”
The presence of music in modern-day election campaigns is now so commonplace that evidence of its presence in antebellum American elections can almost take on an air of inevitability. Of course, opportunistic performers would exploit partisan politics for their own gain. Of course, politicians and political managers would exploit popular melodies and popular personalities. And, of course, political opponents would, in turn, criticize the propriety of each other’s cultural appropriations. Antebellum Americans, however, did not share the assumption that music was either a natural or necessary part of achieving political change (despite its many precedents). Using the famously musical presidential election of 1840 as a centrepiece, this paper traces how Whigs drew from evangelical religion and reform to cast their campaign music as a respectable and refining influence over an otherwise unruly process of popular democracy. For Whigs, the use of campaign songs was less about attracting voters to the polls than it was about reining in the dangers attendant to those who had already shown their willingness to participate. Accordingly, when Democrats criticized Whig campaign singing, they were not criticizing the idea of music in elections so much as they were highlighting the supposed hypocrisy of a party whose use of campaign songs betrayed, as Democrats saw it, a preference for improving the people rather than submitting to their will.
Allison Dorsey, Swarthmore College
“‘Slaves, Soldiers, Citizens’: The Black Freedom Struggle in Coastal Georgia”
Black freedmen in the Georgia Lowcountry understood America as a nation of laws and rights. They organized their political life and communities around a commitment to the ideals embodied in the founding documents of the nation. White southerners and the nation’s highest courts rejected the idea that such rights and laws applied to newly made black citizens. Whites manipulated the electoral process and used brutal violence to deny blacks access to both democratic rights and ultimately to their hard won freedom. “Slaves, Soldiers, Citizens”: The Black Freedom Struggle in Coastal Georgia,” details the fierce battle for democracy in the last quarter of the 19th century. I argue these former slaves, men who ran from plantations to join the fight on the battlefield and marched home to claim their freedom and citizenship rights embodied the true spirit of American-ness. In an era marked by lynching, corrupt robber barons, and violent expansion of the American empire, black men held onto and fought for a brighter vision of America. They personified in word and deed the beliefs that held up our loftiest principles while also recognizing how much our politics (national and international), economic system and social relations differed from our idealized values.
Prudence Flowers, Flinders University
“‘Disrespectfully yours’: Justice Harry Blackmun, Hate Mail, and the Anti-Abortion Movement”
For opponents of abortion, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun was a notorious figure. As the author of the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade (1973), many right-to-lifers held him personally responsible for the legalization of abortion in the United States. From Roe until his retirement in 1994, he received more than 70,000 letters from the public, most of which were fiercely critical. Although there was a flurry of activity whenever an abortion case appeared on the Supreme Court’s docket, the letters primarily served as a daily protest and a form of right-to-life witness. This paper explores how these letter writers understood Blackmun as an individual and as a symbol, for he quickly became a canvas upon which anti-abortionists projected their anger and their fears. It also analyses how right-to-life letter writers understood the function of the US Constitution, the Supreme Court, and its Justices. In doing so, it seeks to illuminate the social, political, spiritual, and historical worldviews contained in 21 years of hate mail.
Nick Foss, University of Canterbury
“Leavenworth: Early Origins of the United States Disciplinary Barracks “
The United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas is America’s only maximum-security military prison. Despite its well-known status in American popular culture, little is known about Leavenworth’s evolution as an institution. The existing sources on the subject tend to offer a factual account of which buildings were built when, and when certain vocational programs began operation, but they offer little analysis of the wider factors that influenced the evolution of the institution. This paper argues that the evolution of Leavenworth into a permanent military institution has been driven by certain key events that have forced the intersection of the civilian and military spheres. By supplementing the previous sources with more civilian sources that have not been considered, such as memoirs from within the prison and newspapers, a broader understanding of the civilian pressures which helped drive Leavenworth’s evolution is achieved. Fort Leavenworth did not arise within a vacuum of military thought, but rather was influenced by key events that forced an intersection between the civilian and military spheres. The result of these changes has been the evolution of a military institution that has remained separate from the civilian penal system, while at the same time adopting some of the more functional methods of that system.
Benjamin Gannon, University of Warwick
“The struggle is here: Exploring the use of US foreign policy engagement in the promotion of domestic agendas amongst Hispanic American elites”
Despite emerging interest in the consequences of Hispanic population growth for US politics, its significance on the discourse and practice of US foreign policy has remained largely overlooked. This is due in part to an assumption that Hispanic American elites are largely focused on domestic concerns at the expense of foreign policy, leaving many to conclude that Latino elites remain as disinterested in 2019 in the international affairs of the United States as they have always been. This paper argues that this assumption is misguided as it fails to appreciate the extent to which Latino elites engage with US foreign policy where it highlights, advances or promotes their domestic agenda. Rather than choosing to focus on problems at home over those abroad, Hispanic elite activists across different generations have found the two to be complementary. To illustrate this, it will briefly explore two case studies: First, it will analyse the use of a high profile campaign of opposition to the Vietnam War by elites in the Chicano movement in the 1970s as a means of attracting support for local civil rights campaigns. Second, it will examine the relationship between support for activism on global climate change among Latino advocacy organisations in the 2010s, and wider interest amongst the Hispanic population in the United States in tackling environmental degradation in their local communities. It will conclude by stressing the necessity of further research into Hispanic engagement with US foreign policy as the demographic grows in both size and political importance.
Laura Garbes, Brown University
“Public broadcasting’s sonic color line: tracing racialization in National Public Broadcasting and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation”
Public broadcasting is known for its racially egalitarian and politically progressive aims. Yet in both the United States and Australia, it has been predominantly white in its audience and workforce composition. My proposed dissertation investigates how this discrepancy in vision and practice emerged; in which ways it informs the cultural production of each nation’s public media network; and how it impacts the lived experience of employees within the network organizations. The project builds on sociological scholarship that explores how organizations are racialized; it also extends the Du Boisian insight of the color line (Du Bois 1903) to better understand how working in a racialized organization shapes the lived experiences of its employees.
Elizabeth Gibbons, Victoria University of Wellington
“The Power and Disempowerment of Food: American Food Policies in Post-war Germany, 1945-1949”
The significance of food and its influence on major historical events is frequently treated as a side note to economic, political, and social histories. Yet food, or the lack thereof, can hold critical influence over a community or nation’s actions, opinions, and beliefs. My presentation will explore food policies during the American occupation of Germany, 1945 to 1949, and why these policies evolved from punitive actions in 1945 into the humanitarian aid presented in the Marshall Plan in 1948. Food and hunger appear prominently in post-war memoirs. I will discuss the connection between food and memory and its influence on American and German relations. The hunger crisis that occurred in Germany from 1946 to 1948, and the food policies implemented by the United States Occupied Military Government (OMGUS) in response to that crisis, had a lasting impact on relations between America and Germany. How the Truman administration and OMGUS responded to the Hunger Crisis was influenced by both domestic and international concerns, specifically the rising tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Food became a weapon of ideological conversion wielded on both sides, leading American Occupation Governor Lucius Clay to state “There is no choice between becoming a communist on 1,500 calories and a believer in democracy on 1000 calories….” Whereas previously the Hunger Crisis was regarded as a consequence of Germany’s own making, and therefore unnecessary for United States to provide relief, the emerging Cold War meant hungry German civilians became a threat to the democratic ideals the United States sought to establish.
David Goodman, University of Melbourne
“Superstition and the ‘meaning of America’ 1880 – 1930”
One of the great truths claimed by 19th-century evolutionary social science was that irrationality and superstition were ‘survivals’ of earlier periods of human history – British anthropologist E.B. Tylor introduced the idea in his 1871 Primitive Culture. American folklorist and philosopher William Wells Newell acknowledged Tylor’s influence in his own 1896 definition of superstition as ‘a belief respecting causal sequence, depending on reasoning proper to an outgrown culture’. In modernising America, there was a lot at stake in locating superstition as a survival from older, less rational, less modern – and less democratic – societies. In the 19th-century United States, superstition was criticised as undemocratic – James Russell Lowell wrote of democracy in 1868 that its rise went with a decline in reverence for authority, due ‘partly to the decay of superstition, by which I mean the habit of respecting what we are told to respect rather than what is respectable in itself.’ For all these reasons, American anthropologists and folklorists found superstition a rich field of inquiry – not just for its intrinsic antiquarian and ethnographic fascination, but because in evolutionary terms it offered a glimpse of the past of all humanity and a measure of how far the US had come from those origins. Anthropologist Daniel Garrison Brinton summarised this line of thought when he wrote that ‘what we call “modern superstition” is the most ancient stuff in our make-up’. Ethnologist and linguist A.S Gatschet gave a lecture in December 1880 to the Anthropological Society in Washington DC. ‘‘It is not possible to say where religion ends and superstition begins”, he observed, “they flow into each other, because the supernatural has produced both”. Gatschet predicted optimistically that: ‘The better use of common sense and rational science will make an end to all belief in supernatural & miraculous ideas & facts.’ This paper examines the inquiry into and debate about superstition in the US from 1880 – 1930, examining them both as contributions to an international social science dialogue and also as part of a distinctively American discussion about what ought to be the characteristics of the exceptional United States.
Ian Gordon, National University of Singapore
“Chiquinho and Buster Brown: Domesticating an American Comic for a Brazilian Audience”
In 1905 the journalist and caricaturist Renato de Castro, the poet Junior Cardoso and the professor and journalist Manoel Bonfim created a new Brazilian children’s magazine, O Tico Tico. The first issue published October 11 featured a comic strip entitled “As Desventuras do Chiquihno.” Although this strip was clearly based on the American strip Buster Brown the first week’s episode contained original art. But by the next week and thereafter the strip often reproduced the American comic passing it off as a local production. The style of reproduction though varied. Sometimes the episodes were direct borrowing from the American original albeit with text underneath panels rather than speech balloons of the original. O Tico Tico had a mission of uplifting children and in Brazil, just as in Europe, word balloons belonged to a coarse tradition of satire and the comic strips were perceived as children’ fare and so in need of an educational function that was better conveyed in text under the panels. Another way O Tico Tico refigured the American originals for local audiences was by using composites of several different American strips to create fresh strips. This paper examines the shifts in tone and character from the American version to the Brazilian version and argues that rather than simply being a translation of the American strip the Brazilian version represented a domestication of the character and comic strips in general for Brazilian audiences. Chiquihno was more a Brazilian comic strip with a thin patina of Americanness.
James Gourley, Western Sydney University
“Panic in DeLillo: American Emotion in the Globalised 1980s and 1990s”
Prompted by the changing definitions of panic proposed by succeeding editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III ; DSM-IV ) this paper examines the nature and function of panic in Don DeLillo’s novels of the 1980s and 1990s. It observes that panic (as well as anxiety and dread) manifest themselves in DeLillo’s novels precisely when America engages with the globalised world. Reading short sections from White Noise (1985) and Mao II (1992), this paper reads panic as indicative of a national anxiety predicated on the negative consequences of American exceptionalism in both American life and global politics.
Alisha Graefe, Boise State University
“The Aryan Nations and Wild West Mythology”
The Aryan Nations, an influential white separatist group based out of Northern Idaho, ruled the area throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s with rhetoric steeped in Wild West myths. They portrayed themselves as true American cowboys – independent, rugged, and violent, ready to take back the land their forefathers had fought and died for. They were simply taking back their inherited land. This Western identity and romanticization was essential in the formation of the Aryan Nations as it gave them a way to relate to Idahoans. They were able to tie their White separatist ideals to the Western freedom rhetoric and idealization common throughout the West to transform themselves into a powerful racist right group that still has influence throughout the nation. The Aryan Nations bought into the cultural imagination of the Wild West and hoped to become the cowboys of their new homeland – masculine, rugged, gunslinging protectors of their Aryan West. They were successful for a time as they bombed government buildings, harassed people of color, and were responsible for bringing like-minded racist organizations together on their white haven compound. Their influence still ripples through Idaho, as the state still tries to distance themselves from this haunting legacy of hatred and racism.
Richard Hardack, Independent Scholar
“An Exception to Exceptionalism: Subverting National Narratives of Race in Ellison, Baldwin and Morrison”
In this paper, I argue that Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison situate mainstream (or monumental) narratives of what I term U.S. racial exceptionalism, and especially narratives of white purity, as predicated on assumptions regarding black impurity. By racial exceptionalism, I refer to a still-influential series of tropes and beliefs that reify notions of white national virtue by excluding and denigrating the black self. Emerson, for example, defined Nature itself, which was anything other than his white male subjectivity, as the “not me,” which was often racialized and categorized as primitive, animalistic, and atavistic. In response to such claims, many twentieth-century African American writers narrativize a version of Fanon’s proviso, that “The real Other for the white man is . . . the black man . . . . The Other is perceived on the level of the body image absolutely as the not-self.” Many African American writers object to and invert the basic premise of such racialized national identity constructions. Whites should look for the exception to their exceptionalism in the mirror. In the main part of my paper, I explore the strategies Baldwin, Ellison and Morrison devise to negate the negations of U.S. narratives of U.S. racial exceptionalism.
Peter Hooker, University of Newcastle
“Republics at War: American prisoners and identity during the Quasi-War with France”
This paper explores the impact of the United States’ Quasi-War with France (1798-1801) on conceptions of American identity during the early republic. Largely neglected by scholars and characterised as an uneventful or unimportant war, this paper will show that while the war lacked major military engagements on the scale of the concurrent Revolutionary Wars, it nonetheless gave validation to a beleaguered United States, and helped to form nascent notions of American identity. Focusing primarily on American mariners who became prisoners of war, this paper will delve into the problems associated with distinguishing Britons from Americans, and how each side struggled to enforce a definition of what constituted an American citizen. It will also examine the efforts made by American officials to ensure that the proper treatment and rights were afforded to prisoners, especially since notions of sovereignty and national honour were strongly tied to the care of non-combatants. Finally, this paper will touch on issues of race relating to American prisoners during the conflict, and the legacy of captivity in the aftermath of the war.
Dolores E. Janiewski, Victoria University of Wellington
“Spy vs. Counterspy: The Clash between Two Surveillance Networks in California, 1932-1952”
This paper examines the clash between two ideologically-opposed surveillance networks which sought to expose and disrupt the rival apparatus. The networks enlisted on different sides in the effort to organize workers or prevent unionization in vital industries. Each benefitted from alliances with federal and state agencies and investigative committees. One network operated under the watchful eye of Ralph Van Deman, who had overseen the Army’s Military Intelligence Division in World War I. The opposing surveillance network emerged from active collaboration between leftist labor lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, the La Follette Civil Liberties subcommittee, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB], and, to a more covert extent, the Communist Party with the goal of protecting union organizing along the Pacific Coast. Each network spied on the other network. The Van Deman network cooperated with and benefitted from efforts by the House investigative committees on Un-American Activities, the Bureau of Immigration, the FBI, the Justice Department, and federal courts to use immigration legislation and the Alien Registration Act [Smith Act] to target leftists. The leftist network sought to expose, disrupt, and defeat parts of the Van Deman network using the investigative and subpoena powers of the La Follette Committee, the NLRB, and friendly city and state authorities to collect incriminating information about labor spies, employer front groups, police, sheriffs, and vigilantes. Records created by San Francisco lawyers, an industrial espionage operation working for employers and the American Legion, the La Follette Committee, the Bureau of Immigration, the Van Deman collection held by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, the California Un-American Activities subcommittee, the ACLU, the Un-American Activities committees enable this investigation into two public-private surveillance networks engaged in covert spying and overt exposure of their adversary.
Scott Kaufman, Francis Marion University
“A “Wealth of Excuses”: Gerald Ford’s Decision Not to Meet Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn”
In June 1975, President Gerald Ford rejected a request from Republican Senators Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Jesse Helms of North Carolina to meet with the Nobel Prize-winning Soviet author and dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Numerous scholars have pointed out that Ford based his decision on a desire not to disrupt his pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union, and that his refusal to meet with Solzhenitsyn angered increasingly-influential conservatives within his own party and neoconservatives among the Democrats. What the scholarship has failed to note is how Ford’s action was one of a series of domestic and foreign policy determinations he had made since taking office—including granting clemency to Vietnam War draft evaders, nominating Nelson Rockefeller as vice president, and signing both the Vladivostok Accords and Helsinki Final Act—that infuriated the Republican right and neoconservatives. Moreover, Ford’s avoidance of Solzhenitsyn ran headlong into an emerging sentiment within the country that favored giving more emphasis to human rights in U.S. foreign policy. Frustrated GOP conservatives endorsed Ronald Reagan’s effort to wrest from Ford their party’s nomination for the presidency in 1976; when that failed, they forced the president to adopt a “morality” plank that made explicit reference to Solzhenitsyn. Meanwhile, Ford’s Democratic opponent for the presidency, Jimmy Carter, promoted human rights in his successful bid for the presidency. Ford’s decisionmaking vis-a-vis Solzhenitsyn thus offers a means of highlighting a conservative shift in U.S. foreign (and even domestic) policy as well as a desire to condemn repression abroad.
Hayley Keon, University of Hong Kong
“Consuming the Nation: Food, Drink, and Diaspora in the American Missionary Memoir”
Scholars have long recognised the centrality of food in diasporic writing. As tangible symbols of belonging, dishes, drinks, and sundries serve to link the past to the present, bringing displaced communities into communion with homelands (both real and imagined) through the rituals of preparation and consumption. But while these ‘powerful semiotic devices,’ as Arjun Appadurai describes them, often function as sites of perceived continuity with historical forebears, they also expose anxieties of difference as changing appetites become representative of the estrangement that lies at the heart of the diasporic experience. In this paper, I examine the connection between food and diasporic American identity in two memoirs written by the former missionary and academic John Jenkins Espey (1913-2000). Born to Presbyterian missionaries based in pre-communist Shanghai, Espey’s first tastes of America were literal ones; and as he narrates in Minor Heresies (1945) and Strong Drink, Strong Language (1990), American fare assumes an almost mythic stature in his childhood imagination as a metonym for the “home” he has never seen. At the same time, the exoticism with which this food is portrayed marks his alienation from American tastes and ways of living, embodying the tensions between diasporic and mother cultures that underwrote missionary childhoods throughout the vast expanse of the American evangelist enterprise in the early twentieth century. Thus, by exploring these linkages between food and the youthful narrative self, this paper also contributes to a wider discussion about the experiences of children as conflicted agents of American imperialism in East Asia.
Lili M. Kim, Amherst College and Hampshire College
“North American Dream in South America: The History of Transient Communities of Koreans in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Their Remigration to the United States”
My paper examines the history of Koreans who migrated to Argentina beginning in
1965 and who subsequently remigrated to the United States beginning in the early 1990s. Thus, this paper addresses how multiple migrants in the age of globalization, such as Korean Argentine Americans, have negotiated and constructed their identity in the twentieth-century United States given their multiple loci of belonging and cultural identifications. By examining the history of Korean women’s migration to Argentina beginning in 1965 and their remigration to the United States, my paper will discuss the gendered nature of labor that Korean women “in transit” performed in their multiple sites of global migrations. Korean women in Argentina worked in family-owned garment-related businesses that simultaneously bettered their economic situations and provided means for their multiple migrations. Given their many loci of belonging and cultural identifications, Korean Argentine American women necessarily forces us to rethink the traditional framework of acculturation and diasporas that poses binary categories of old and new cultures, and homeland and new adopted country. By focusing on the life and labor of Korean Argentine women I will examine the accumulation and movement of cultural, social, and economic capital in the age of globalization that transcend multiple national boundaries.
Clayton Koppes, Oberlin College
David Kelly, Independent Scholar
“The Politics and Culture of AIDS Care in America: From Activism to Institutionalization”
This paper will analyze the salient political and cultural developments in the AIDS movement leading to what is now virtually an HIV/AIDS industrial complex. It will attempt to answer why the transformation was necessary and whether community groups still have an impact in a largely corporate healthcare environment. In addition the paper may point out opportunities or cautionary tales for future community/corporate participation with the communities HIV/AIDS is currently affecting: opioid drug users, minority communities (especially in the South, the site of the highest incidence of new HIV infections), and other micro-populations that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
Lon Kurashige, University of Southern California
“Revisionism and Racial Theory: A Dialogue about Race and Ethnicity in U.S. History”
The “racial turn” in the study of U.S. immigration and ethnic history has been championed, described, globalized, and nuanced, but rarely historicized or critiqued in the field’s leading scholarly outlets. To address this absence, historians can profit from understanding revisionists approaches in sociology that have challenged prominent race-centered theories undergirding the racial turn. In explicating this revisionism and the theories it opposes, the analysis sheds light on how and why it has been ignored by historians. The study also addresses the analytical benefits of putting revisionism and racial theory in dialogue. These include raising important questions about limits to objectivity, the purpose of doing history, independence of race and ethnicity in socio-historical analysis, relationship between scholarship and praxis, creation and policing of ethno-racial boundaries, and—most relevant to the ANZASA conference theme—the uniqueness of American racism and racial processes.
Daniel McKay, Doshisha University
“The Comedic Turn: Combat as Comedy in Errol Brathwaite’s An Affair of Men”
Throughout the Second World War, the majority of New Zealand’s overseas troop deployments went to Europe and North Africa, with token commitments to the invasions of Vella Lavella and Nissan Island in the Pacific. As a consequence, anglophone novels of the Pacific War would be dominated throughout the twentieth century by publications from Australia, Britain, and, in particular, the United States. Only Errol Brathwaite, a veteran pilot of the RNZAF, made a contribution in his novels Fear in the Night (1959) and An Affair of Men (1962), though even in his case depictions of island invasions, after the fashion of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (1948) and James Jones’ The Thin Red Line (1962), were ceded to American authors as a topic. In this presentation, I examine Brathwaite’s prizewinning novel An Affair of Men, a work that is unique among its peers insofar as it focused upon a Japanese combatant as the protagonist (American author Jeff Shaara would partially redress the attention deficit in U.S. literature in his 2011 novel The Final Storm). My reading acknowledges the work of Asian Americanists and Cultural Studies theorists who identify race relations within the United States as the principal explanatory factor for the paucity of sympathetic depictions of the Japanese enemy. Instead of holding up depictions of Germans as a ‘control’ methodology, I take Brathwaite’s narrative as an example of the ways in which American depictions influenced ‘enemy image’ depictions in anglophone cultures of the mid-twentieth century.
Timothy J. Minchin, La Trobe University
“America’s Other Automakers: A History of the Foreign-Owned Automotive Sector in the U.S.”
This paper explores the rise of the foreign-owned or “transplant” automotive sector in the U.S. Established in the 1970s, the sector is highly-successful; by 2018, 49 percent of all vehicles made in North America were produced at transplants, which grew as the domestically-owned companies contracted. Most of these factories were based in the lower Midwest or in the South, dispersing the industry beyond its traditional base in the upper Midwest. Despite this, the sector is only just starting to receive scholarly attention. Scholars, particularly historians, have generally concentrated on the domestic “Big Three.” The paper will explore the two central questions at the heart of the project – why did the biggest carmakers build plants where they did in the U.S., and what impact did these plants have on the local communities? Focusing on seven case studies of important factories – most of which located in small towns – I argue that the industry’s growth needs to be critically interrogated much more than has been the case. In each case, the arrival of large car plants into small communities led to significant tensions, including anxieties about growth, traffic and loss of small town values; tensions over land needed by companies to build their plants; complaints that carmakers were avoiding hiring representative numbers of African-Americans; opposition to costly incentive packages used to lure these firms to poor areas; and community hostility to the Japanese, especially in the industry’s early years. There were also significant labor tensions; jobs were hard, workers lacked security, and companies bitterly opposed workers’ efforts to organize with the United Automobile Workers (UAW). The paper will review all of these tensions, concluding that the sector matters because it re-frames thinking about the U.S. car industry, which remains focused on the domestically-owned companies.
Harry Melkonian, US Studies Centre, University of Sydney
“Puritan Orthodoxy and the Acceptance of Scientific Discovery as Contrasted with Modern Fundamentalist Resistance to Climate Change and Evolution”
In the 20th Century, belief in human evolution by fundamentalist Christians in America was not popular. And, in the 21st Century, climate change also finds many of its most fervent deniers among evangelical fundamentalists. Yet, among 17th Century American Puritans, who were hardly known for tolerance and liberality in other areas, there was a surprising acceptance of radical new science. The 17th Century was a time of revolutionary scientific advances as the inexplicable forces of nature were suddenly explainable through principles of mathematics and physical science. The old order based on magic and faith was threatened with irrelevance. In 1687, Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy was published and, overnight, the world could be explained logically and rationally – further aided by Newton’s discovery of calculus. A century later, Antoine Lavoisier’s Elements of Chemistry ended alchemy and began the well-ordered science of chemistry. In The New England Mind – The Seventeenth Century, Perry Miller confronts the challenges posed by scientific discoveries to the Puritan world. Miller shows how Puritan religious orthodoxy readily accepted modern physics and religious leaders taught that scientific innovations did not undermine but actually supported piety. This paper begins with Miller’s insights to the Puritan mind and how deeply religious people of the 17th Century could accept revolutionary science. Then Miller’s thesis is employed as a theoretical lens to explore the troubling response of modern fundamentalists to theories and discoveries that seem far less revolutionary than what confronted the 17th Century mind.
Hannah Lauren Murray, King’s College London
“Bartleby and the Communal Origins of Institutional Whiteness”
In her 2007 essay, “A Phenomology of Whiteness”, Sara Ahmed terms whiteness a “‘straightening’ device” that takes hold in institutional and professional spaces through everyday habits, in order to delineate who does or does not belong. Reading alongside Ahmed, this paper argues for the origins of “institutional whiteness” in Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853). Furthering scholarship of the past fifteen years that attends to Melville’s depiction of professional life, I employ critical whiteness studies to read the Wall Street office as a white-encoded institutional communal space, in which workers must conform to a set of identity expectations. The working body’s failure to produce is only one aspect of a broader concern regarding white citizenship in the short story. As whiteness became an “enforced identification” (Peter Coviello) in the antebellum period, the workplace was significant as a communal space for professional men to demonstrate white civic qualities, namely self-improvement cultivated through socialising. Through his polite refusals to engage in workplace conversational habits, Bartleby challenges the demands of cohesive sociality for white professionals. Unable to “straighten” Bartleby into these habits, the narrator marks him out as a less-than-white figure, transforming him into a dependent and spectral noncitizen who must be exorcised from the professional community. In asking what happens when professional white men fail to act or speak as citizens, Melville imagines the origins of policing the institutional space for whiteness.
Elizabeth Miller, Monash University/ Macquarie University
“The Bear River Massacre and American Bicentennial: Community, conflict and the making of American identity in Preston, Idaho”
Between 1970 and 1985 a Northern Shoshone woman called Mae Timbimboo Parry and an Idaho based heritage worker called Newell Hart exchanged a series of letters about the Bear River massacre. Parry was the descendant of the Shoshone Chief Sagwitch who survived the massacre that occurred on the outskirts of the small town of Preston, Idaho on January 29, 1863. Newell Hart decided to write a book about it. The result of these letters was an unlikely friendship that can be traced across an exchange of stories, heritage, knowledge, photographs and ideas. Set in the lead up to Preston’s bicentennial celebrations in 1976, my paper analyses how Hart and Parry reckoned with the magnitude of the Bear River massacre in Preston’s founding narrative. In my discussion I analyse how their exchanges confronted the complicated role of violence in pioneer histories and the ongoing silence of Indigenous voices in chronicles of the American past. In doing so, my paper examines the interplay of race and violence in definitions of American identity in 1976 and how these debates unfolded on a local level. As such, I argue that Parry and Hart’s exchange of letters is symptomatic of a broader anxiety over the veneration of violent histories and the potential these histories had to undermine redemptive narratives of expansion.
Deirdre O’Connell, University of Sydney
“Wish Not to be Forgotten”: Hollywood, Imperial Modernity and Harlem’s former Trumpet King.
In 1910s New York, an African American trumpeter named Crickett Smith presided over the modern dance craze in the cabarets of Broadway. In the 1930s, a series of Hollywood films recreated these moments, excluding the contribution of Crickett Smith and his African American colleagues. In those years, Crickett Smith was in Bombay, a contract musician in poor health working in a hotel ballroom, staging floorshows based on Hollywood musicals about and black southern life for the city’s Indian and British elite. He occupied a paradoxical status within Bombay’s colonial hierarchy. In a city where handspun Khadi was a symbol of economic, political and spiritual renewal, the scenes featuring cotton and traditional spirituals held special meaning for the ballroom’s pro-independence clientele. Crickett Smith’s Bombay years raises questions about the transmission and reproduction of American popular culture, the racialized construction of memory and the “hidden transcripts” that linked the African American freedom struggle to Indian anti-colonialism. This paper will deconstruct Crickett Smith’s stage performance in 1930s Bombay to explore how different groups accommodated, reworked, and resisted American popular cultural forms.
Brendon O’Connor, US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney
“Putting the Pop into Populism: Popular culture, politics, and Donald Trump”
During the 2016 presidential campaign Trump lived by the entertainment industry maxim that you can get away with almost anything so long as you are not boring. In many ways the Trump campaign was politics catching up with popular culture. This paper will argue that extreme cultural forms – namely punk, pornography, shock-jocks, anti-PC humour like South Park, 4chan, trolling, confessional television, World Wrestling Entertainment, and on-screen violence as entertainment – all made the rise of Donald Trump as a successful candidate possible and far less shocking to many voters than it is often claimed. The gatekeepers of liberal democratic discourse clung onto the belief that politics stands above popular culture with more exalted standards and principles. This view is generally based on the misconception that culture and politics are relatively divorced from each other and do not affect how people judge behaviour in the other sphere. Trump’s ascent to the presidency showed how faulty this thinking was. Given these relatively obvious points it has been intriguing to follow how the New York Times, CNN and many other established media outlets around the world have reacted with endless shock and horror during and since the 2016 campaign, as if they had never seen anything like Trump before. My aim with this paper is to develop explanations that better help us understand how politics has often become a component of popular culture in the Trump era. My term to describe this fusion is “celebrity populism.”
Toby Nash, University of Melbourne
“‘Tumult by the Wharves’: Disorder on the Waterfront in French and British American Port-Towns”
My talk looks at the colonial waterfront as a locus of disorder and anxiety in the context of British and French imperial administration in North America and the Caribbean. My project takes ten high-traffic port-cities from across the Anglo-French Atlantic World. In the British Empire: Boston and New York. In the French Empire: Louisbourg and New Orleans. It focuses specifically on the space of the docks as a point of analysis. By fusing a diverse variety of threat perceptions felt in this age by both local and imperial authorities. With this, a more complex emerges of the priorities and anxieties of urban citizens within an imperial framework, and, by extension, the place of port-cities in this system. Fundamentally, in a fragile colonial setting on the environmental level, port-cities had to negotiate with the threats of natural disasters, fire, and disease. Fiscal and security issues such as smuggling and the maintenance of military protections became huge issues in need of regulation and control at the docks. In addition, the waterfront was a crucial social space, generating a battle to maintain the existing social order and control, particularly over race and gender relations. In comparing and contrasting French and British case studies this work also seeks to analyse the similarities and differences in imperial administration and the colonial mindset between Atlantic empires.
Luis Paterson, University of Canterbury
“Rescuing the Radical: Abolitionist Historians of the New Left and the Challenge of Defining the Citizen Critic”
Pure, Von Rankean objectivity is an unattainable and arguably undesirable goal for historians. The act of engaging with history will always be influenced by two intertwined aims. The first aim is to ask questions about historical ideas, events, and people in their own time. The second aim is to draw ideas about the present from the past. Historical and ahistorical questions will always linked, like the twin snakes of the caduceus. Focusing on one or the other does not make for a bad historian. Yet in the case of the historiography of the abolitionists there are two distinct generations that predominantly favour one aspect of caduceus. The traditionalists and the revisionists are concerned with determining the abolitionists’ role in the causation of the Civil War. The post-revisionists, the new left, and children of the new left, are more interested in studying the abolitionists to make ahistorical conclusions about the present. I aim to explore how this imbalance of the caduceus methodology influences abolitionist historians, with a particular focus on the new left school of the 1960’s and their desire to ‘rescue the radical’ agitator and define what it means to be a citizen critic in the United States.
Nicole Perry, University of Auckland
“American Nationalism Abroad: Buffalo Bill in Germany”
Frederick Jackson Turner declared the Frontier closed in 1890. His statement signalled a new era of American history – one that situated the settlement of the American West and the Indians Wars in the past, creating out of them an American national myth. William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, founded Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1883 and travelled not only North America but also Europe recreating the myth and magic surrounding the American West for all to see. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West toured Europe eight times and enjoyed significant success in Germany, making Buffalo Bill an international celebrity and was considered a quintessential American. In offering a glimpse into the fading frontier, he also offered the European audiences a distinctly American idea of nationalism- one that the young nation of Germany found intriguing. This paper will examine the lasting influence and impact of Buffalo Bill’s Will West show and its brand of US nationalism on German audiences. As Louis S. Warren has remarked: The German fascination with the American West is rooted primarily in the widespread interest in North American Indigenous peoples, this paper will pay particular attention to the German interest in the Indigenous people of North America.
Barbara Postema, Massey University Manawatū
“‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’: Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and the Age of American Mass Immigration”
The 2006 wordless comic The Arrival by Shaun Tan shows a father leaving his family and traveling to a strange land to establish a new home to share with his family. As he is getting settled, he meets other people who tell him their own experiences of flight and immigration. As a depiction of refugee experience, The Arrival relies on universal themes of home and family, underscored by its technique of creating a narrative that needs no language to communicate, telling its story in images only. However, it is worth dwelling on the specificity of these images and relating their historical significance to the particular context in which this comic was made: created in the early 2000s by Australian picturebook illustrator Tan, the narrative has a backdrop of the intense debate about immigration that was raging in Australia. The comic does not reference this debate directly, and in fact avoids reference to the early 21st century completely by setting the story in a world that is both fantastically futuristic and evocative of an earlier age. The work’s most recognizable and consistent historical reference is to immigration to the United States in the late 19th/early 20th century, making the reference explicit with its adaptations of Ellis Island photographs. This paper will argue that The Arrival evokes the age of mass immigration to distance the work from its contemporary Australian context and to reframe the conception of what immigration is and does by linking it to New York in the Progressive Era.
Hollie Pich, University of Sydney
“Seizing Control: Black Families in the Shelby County Juvenile Court”
In the early twentieth-century thousands of black children appeared before the newly formed Shelby County Juvenile Court, as Memphians sought to control “incorrigible” boys and girls. Scholars have examined how white policing of black children fits into the long history of black criminalization and incarceration in the United States. Very little attention, however, has been paid to black efforts to control the “incorrigible” children in their own lives. African American families and communities turned to the juvenile court to resolve conflicts. They took advantage of the rehabilitative, and deterrent aspects of the court: not only did they turn to the court and its employees for advice, support, and access to a broader network of welfare services, they also served warrants against their children, asked for them to be committed to institutions, and testified against them in court. This paper will focus on black Memphians’ efforts to control children—and will specifically focus on their attempts to harness the court as an extension of their parental and familial authority. I argue that instead of thinking of the courts as agents of social control that only reaffirmed the racial status quo and shored up white supremacy, we should instead understand the juvenile court as a complex system of negotiations between African American families, communities, reformers, and court officials.
Emilie Raymond, Virginia Commonwealth University
“Bring Paul Home: Love and Heroism during the Vietnam War”
In 1966, when Naval pilot Lt. Commander Paul Galanti, was shot down and imprisoned by the North Vietnamese, he and his wife Phyllis both maintained traditional views of masculine and feminine heroism. He the tough adventurer on the front lines of the Cold War, she the military wife tending the home fires. However, Paul’s imprisonment—which lasted almost seven years in horrific conditions—challenged these concepts. In order to survive, Paul practiced a more empathetic masculinity, communicating with and taking care of his fellow prisoners, while also practicing self-reflection, prayer, and an appreciation for even the smallest things in life. These attributes strengthened his resilience and embodied a more cooperative, empathetic masculinity that was neither the traditional hero, nor the cynical, anti-hero emerging out of 1960s radicalism. Meanwhile, frustrated with the U.S. government’s handling of POW matters, Phyllis worked with a small group of wives to form the National League of Families of Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia in order to protest North Vietnam’s “inhumane” treatment of the POWs. Phyllis overcame her shyness to start a “Write Hanoi” campaign in Richmond, Virginia that led to multiple media spots and speeches, trips to Stockholm and Paris, and finally to becoming chairman of the League. Phyllis’s activism reflected the more assertive femininity that had entered American culture yet Phyllis did not identify as a feminist, often disapproving of the feminist movement’s tactics and goals. This paper seeks to explore the cross-currents of the Vietnam War, the POW experience, and the anti-war and feminist movement on the home front to discuss larger re-conceptions of masculine and feminine heroism.
Mario Rewers, Vanderbilt University
“Perry Miller and the Origins of American Studies: A Twice-Told Tale”
Mainly because of Amy Kaplan’s contribution to Cultures of United States Imperialism (1993), two ideas about the beginnings of American Studies have become widespread among Americanists in the United States and abroad: first, that Perry Miller’s famous “epiphany at Matadi” marked an important moment in the creation of the field, and second, that Miller’s story about his adventures in the Congo foreshadowed the exceptionalist and imperialist politics of the field’s early years. My paper provides a reassessment of Kaplan’s interpretation of Miller. By relying on a wide variety of archival sources, ranging from personal papers to institutional records, I contextualize Miller’s place in the history of American Studies. At the same time, I provide an alternative interpretation of his decision to retell the story of his journey to the Congo in his preface to Errand Into the Wilderness (1956), placing it in the context of Miller’s penchant for scholarly self-fashioning and self-dramatization.
Kate Rivington, Monash University
“‘I am as much an enemy to slavery as any one can be, yet I a little scruple whether it is your duty to leave your people on that account’: The Effect of Anti-Slavery Activity on Personal Networks in the American South”
This paper examines the growing hostility of Southern society towards anti-slavery activity by analysing the local reaction to Southerners who spoke out publicly against slavery. In debating whether or not there was ever a substantial anti-slavery presence in the American South, scholars have not paid much attention to how these instances of Southern anti-slavery, which often occurred in deeply pro-slavery areas, were received in the communities in which they transpired. This paper analyses the experiences of a number of Southerners who relocated North as a result of their views on slavery, and how their anti-slavery views and subsequent relocation were received by their Southern family members, friends, and the local townspeople. What views did their loved ones themselves hold on slavery? Did these anti-slavery individuals continue to communicate with their loved ones in the South once they had left? Did they try to return to the South? If so, were they subject to any anti-abolitionist violence? What was the reaction of the local press at the time of their departure and/or return? Analysing the experiences of anti-slavery Southerners sheds light on the complexities surrounding slavery and dissent in the post-revolutionary and antebellum South, and helps us to understand the changing tolerance levels towards openly anti-slavery behaviour in the South.
Zohar Segev, University of Haifa
“Ethnic Identity and Divided Nationality: American Jewish Community and the Meaning of American Zionism”
The emergence of Theodor Herzl as a Zionist leader and the creation of the Zionist movement occurred in parallel to the large Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe to the United States, starting after 1881. Those millions arriving in New York produced one of the most significant demographic changes in modern Jewish history. The image of Herzl the Zionist leader, his writings and world-view were central to American Zionists for generations. Speeches, sermons, memoirs and letters, and the social clubs named for him, all attest to this. In this presentation, I shall present the reasons why early American Zionism received Herzl’s ideas so enthusiastically despite communication difficulties, language barriers and ideas born of his familiarity with Europe and thus difficult to adapt to American Jews’ needs. In addition, I shall describe the unique way in which the American Jewish leadership adopted the Zionism of Herzl from the First Zionist Congress until the establishment of Israel as a state. Adapting Herzl’s work and thought to the American reality produced a special interpretation of Zionism centered around the legitimizing of Jewish existence in America while at the same time constructing the Zionist movement as a political, communal and ideological tool for improving and reinforcing the Jewish position within American immigrant society. Observing the processes whereby American Zionist leader accepted Herzl’s theory sheds light on the development of American Zionism and allow us better understanding of its uniqueness.
Charles J. Shindo, Louisiana State University
“Mickey and Martians: The War of the Worlds in Comics and Graphic Novels”
Comics adaptations of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898) as opposed to the more famous mediated adaptations in radio, film, and TV, have either retained the Victorian English setting of the original, such as Classics Illustrated (1955) and Marvel’s Classic Comics (1977) comic book series, and the 2006 graphic novel H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli) or they have taken the story of a Martian invasion as a backdrop for such existing characters as Superman: War of the Worlds (graphic novel, 2000), Killraven (comic book series, 2002-2003), and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel, 2004). One example which illustrates both of these tendencies particularly well is Disney’s Mickey Mouse in The War of the Worlds comic book (2012). By setting the action of Mickey’s Martian adventure in Victorian England, the comic stays relatively true to much of the story, simply replacing the novel’s unnamed narrator with Mickey Mouse, the astronomer Ogilvy with O’Goofy, and the narrator’s wife with Minnie Mouse. The Martians invade with their superior technology, but in the end succumb to earthly bacteria. But the story sits comfortably in the world of Disney in that no one dies, not even the Martians, who decide that catching a cold is deterrent enough and head back to Mars. By examining this comic book, the uses of Wells’ cautionary tale in the last 120 years comes to light, demonstrating the ways in which time, place, and form all affect content and illustrating the development of modern American culture.
Nicki Tarulevicz, University of Tasmania
“The Triumph of Student Experience: Reflections on Teaching the Reacting to the Past Pedagogy in Australia and the United States”
The Reacting to the Past (RTTP) pedagogy is well established in the United States, and is gaining increasing popularity in Australia. Originally designed in an elite residential college setting, my first experience of teaching RTTP was in an urban commuter campus, where it worked very well, despite a different institutional and student context. My second experience was in a regional Australian university, where it also worked very well, but required some adaptation. Small content adjustments, especially around shared cultural knowledge, were needed. Differences in student population, such as high numbers of non-traditional and mature aged students, presented minimal issues. There were, however, administrative hurdles, which have been shared by others teaching RTTP in Australia. Differences between Australia and the United States in teaching pattern, learning and teaching standardization, class size, student demographics, attendance requirements, and pedagogical flexibility, provide challenges, and opportunities, for RTTP implementation in Australia. Alternative modes of delivery – in tutorials, online, in intensive mode – are necessitated by a ridged higher education sector. Creative approaches to the constraints of learning and teaching administration, (issues such as variance in student experience, moderation of in class components, asymmetrical grading curves) are frequently required. Despite these structural challenges, what is striking is how similar the student experience remains. The appealing aspects of the RTTP pedagogy – greater engagement, deep reading, cohort building, learning that continues outside of the classroom, instructor satisfaction – are still evident. The triumph of positive student experience over administrative obstacles paves the way for wider adoption.
Danielle Thyer, University of Sydney
“‘American Civilization Illustrated’: The New York Tribune and the Great Slave Auction of 1859”
Over two days of incessant rain in early March 1859, 436 slaves from the two Butler plantations in Savannah, Georgia were sold off in one of the largest slave auctions ever held on the north American continent. The owner of the slaves, Pierce Mease Butler, a Philadelphia native, had sunk his fortunes into speculation and gambling and lost almost everything in the devastating panic of 1857. To appease his creditors and to prevent further loss to the estate, Butler saw that his only option was to sell his most valuable assets—his slaves. Thus the ‘Great Slave Auction’ of 1859. One witness at Butler’s auction was a reporter for the New York Tribune, Mortimer ‘Doesticks’ Thomson. Disguised as a slave buyer, he had travelled from New York so that he could report on the auction for northern audiences. His undercover investigation entitled, “American Civilization Illustrated,” offered a scathing critique of the auction and, in focusing on the way the sale broke up slave families, appealed to middle-class sentimentality to underscore the barbarity of slavery. The report was reprinted by the Anti-Slavery Society shortly after it was published, and again in 1863, demonstrating the potency of the work for the broader abolitionist movement. While scholars have examined the significance of the auction for the slaves of the Butler plantations, this paper will focus on the nature of the investigation within the broader history of mid-nineteenth century investigative journalism. It will show how the article bolstered the New York Tribune’s anti-slavery stance and contributed to the abolitionist fervour prevalent in northeastern cities, like New York, on the eve of the Civil War. Because of the distinctive qualities of undercover investigative journalism, the article was able to draw attention to more profound questions of life, suffering and death, and the injustice and cruelty of slavery that led the nation into the barbarities of war.
Ian Tyrell, University of New South Wales
“Two Faces of American Exceptionalism: Seymour Martin Lipset and Perry Miller”
Seymour Martin Lipset and Perry Miller offered two largely incompatible approaches in the 1950s-1960s on American Exceptionalism. Among historians and in American Studies, Miller is well known. But Lipset is almost totally forgotten in history, despite his eminence in American political sociology and his cooperation with historians such as Richard Hofstadter. During a stellar and highly influential career in political sociology at Columbia and Stanford, he was president of both the American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association, the only person to achieve this feat. Lipset and Miller’s views on American exceptionalism were shaped in the context of World War II and the Cold War, though in vastly different ways (Lipset was Jewish, New Yorker and a Trotskyite), and Miller was none of these. These two figures can be used to stand for, in some measure, two poles of American Exceptionalism. Lipset offered a theoretically informed empirical study of American history around questions such as egalitarian values; while Miller inspired the idea of ‘America’ as a ‘chosen nation’, though it can hardly be said that he took an uncritical view of this phenomenon.
Tim Verhoeven, Monash University
“Mass Petitioning and Political Contests in Nineteenth-Century America”
Across the nineteenth century, the petition was at the core of a series of bitter political contests. Activists sent more than a hundred thousand petitions to Congress on subjects as diverse as slavery, suffrage, immigration restriction and prohibition. Yet scholarship on petitioning is sparse. One moment of controversy, the so-called ‘gag-rule’ on antislavery petitions, has attracted most attention. To date, however, there is no comprehensive history of petitioning across the long nineteenth century. As a result, a host of questions about the function, organization and impact of petitioning remain unanswered. Rather than examining a specific campaign, my aim in this paper is to offer an overview of the evolution of petitioning as a democratic tool. Drawing on my research into secularist petitions, the paper tackles a broad set of questions about the practice of petitioning and its role in mobilizing political communities. In what ways did petitioning evolve? How did Americans understand the right of petition in relation to other key democratic rights? Why did petitioning activity explode in the nineteenth century? Answering these questions, I argue, provides a critical perspective on the emergence of mass democracy.
Christa Holm Vogelius, University of Copenhagen
“Jacob Riis’s Sentimental Negotiations”
This project as a whole examines the work of Danish-American photo-journalist Jacob Riis through the lens of sentimentality, racial ethics, and turn-of-the-century notions of social reform. While Riis’s use of sentimental appeals—and more broadly tropes of the domestic novel— are often unacknowledged or dismissed by critics, these tactics reveal essential aspects of his reform project. Riis, I argue, is heir to mid-nineteenth century sentimentality, as well as accompanying theories of racial evolution that liberally blended Lamarckism and Darwinism, figuring personal and racial evolution as a process that could take place through environmental influence. In The Biopolitics of Feeling, Kyla Schuller has argued that such pre-eugenic theories were a subtext in a range of sentimental literature, including notably mid-nineteenth century to early nineteenth-century writing and reform efforts in Manhattan’s tenements such as those of which Riis was a part. In this paper, I read Riis’s classic text of tenement reform, How the Other Half Lives (1890) in the light of much more critically overlooked works such as the auto-biographical The Making of an American (1901) to argue that Riis’s national nostalgia deeply influences his ideas about integration within the multi-national and multi-racial setting of New York’s Lower East Side. I show how both texts veer between sentimental and rationalist/realist modes, using both as methods of persuasion, but ultimately structuring their arguments in the sentimental mode. This sentimentality, though, is remarkable in framing the home as distinctly transnational, opening up a reading of Riis’s reform texts wherein the immigrant is also an (unhyphenated) American.
Christine Walker, Yale-NUS, Singapore
“‘A Cruel, Inhumane and Barbarous Manner’: Female Violence and Contests for Authority in Colonial America”
In 1729, a fourteen-year-old girl named Sarah Jennings was tied up and whipped in Kingston, Jamaica. The severity of the violence inflicted upon Sarah might lead us to conclude that she was a person of African descent. Rather than conforming to our expectations about gender, race, and power, the case involving Sarah Jennings challenges them. When her suit was brought before the Crown in 1730 the young woman was identified as a free white person. Sarah’s abuser was not a white man: it was her own mother, Anne Rogers. My paper will consider why the local inhabitants of Kingston believed that Anne Rogers’s treatment of her daughter was “very cruel inhuman and barbarous” in a society which was predicated upon violence. Anne Rogers’s actions, however, overstepped implicit local standards of acceptable behavior. On the other hand, her daughter, who was accused by her parents of “catching a foul distemper” from a “negro,” was perceived of by islanders as the victim of excessive abuse. The actions of both of the women unsettle contemporary understandings of the dynamic between legal status, race, age, gender, and sexuality in colonial America. My paper focuses on this suit, while also referencing other examples of female cruelty. It questions a gendered binary which posits the white male as the perpetrator and free and enslaved women of European, Euro-African, or African descent as victims, of brutality. By reconfiguring the boundaries between licit and illicit violence, I aim to expand our knowledge of how free people maintained authority in rapidly developing slave societies throughout the Atlantic world.
Samuel Watts, University of Melbourne
“Street fights and schoolhouses: Reconstruction’s education revolution in Charleston and New Orleans”
In the decade following the end of the Civil War, both government and private organisations launched one of the most significant series of educational reforms and initiatives in the history of the United States. School buildings, teachers and learning materials were provided to extend educational opportunity to not only formerly enslaved men, women and children, but also – as was the case for much of Reconstruction’s progressive reforms – to poor white Southerners. Focusing on the cities of Charleston and New Orleans, this paper argues that educational reform became an essential part of Reconstruction’s social revolution; one that was driven primarily by local and regional forces. Radical politics, as well as the often-brutal reprisals from recalcitrant white Southerners, galvanized formerly enslaved and free people of colour in both cities to join together in an effort to provide and maintain educational access. The Reconstruction schoolhouse linked together two very different social groups within both cities, helping to build a new and more unified African American community and identity. Drawing on the extensive archival material available, this paper will also examine the experiences of teachers and students, the daily challenges faced by both, and the cultural and political significance of education within black communities and national debates over race, citizenship, and equality in this era.
Marama Whyte, University of Sydney
“Take off your white gloves, ladies”: Cultures of discrimination and harassment at Newsweek magazine, 1969-1973”
On March 16, 1970, a copy of Newsweek featuring the magazine’s first cover story about the burgeoning women’s liberation movement hit stands with a bold headline proclaiming “Women In Revolt.” The same day, forty-six women employed at Newsweek filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the magazine, charging their employer with sex discrimination. While sex discrimination was rife throughout the media during this period, what other outlets enforced through preferential treatment and biases, Newsweek institutionalised with a blatant “caste system” where all women were researchers and all men were writers. This system was further reinforced by a culture of overt harassment toward women staffers that ranged from dirty jokes to sex in the office and even stalking. The Newsweek complaint is noted primarily in the limited historiography of women in the media only for being the “first” sex discrimination complaint at a U.S. media organisation. In broader histories of the feminist movement, it is conflated with the better-known feminist sit-in at Ladies’ Home Journal that took place only two days later. By focusing on the explicit nature of discrimination and harassment at Newsweek, and the specific class and race aspects of its predominantly white, affluent, and highly educated workforce, this paper emphasises the role of unique workplace cultures in differentiating the experiences of women at different media outlets throughout the 1970s, even as women throughout the media filed similar discrimination complaints