Thursday, December 14, 2023
Chloe Bordewich, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in Critical Digital Humanities, Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto
Hegeman 204A 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm EST/GMT-5
In the late 19th century, an explosion of communication technologies and mass media made it possible to transmit more information across greater distances than ever before. State authorities panicked as older forms of official secrecy frayed, and began developing new forms of information control. For citizens, urgent questions emerged: What did people have a right to know? What was the state entitled to conceal? In Cairo, Egypt, these questions burst into the public eye at the 1896 trial of a telegraph operator and a celebrity publisher who were accused of spreading a military leak. The watershed case exposed rising anti-colonial fervor, government officials’ inability to grasp technology, and profoundly different ideas of the public good. This episode demonstrates the urgency of studying information in its own right—its flow, its obstacles, its ephemeral forms. It also introduces a new lens for understanding the 20th-century Middle East that can help us explain the myths and silences that have haunted frustrated struggles for justice for over a century.
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Dahlia El Zein, PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania
Hegeman 204A 5:30 pm EST/GMT-5
As a system of social differentiation in the Middle East and North Africa during colonialism and postcolonialism, race defied fixed categorizations, while also moving across time and space. This fluidity was exemplified by the increasing presence of Lebanese Syrians in colonial French West Africa (1895-1958) during French mandate rule (1920-1946) in the Levant. Although the economic prowess of this Levantine community in West Africa has been studied—emphasizing their role as an entrepreneurial trader class leveraging the colonial economy for upward mobility—the Lebanese Syrian diaspora in West Africa has been notably absent from histories of race-making under French colonialism, despite the enduring legacies of such processes in the Levant, broader Middle East, and North Africa.
In this talk, I discuss the main findings of my research, which traces the movement of Lebanese Syrians across the French empire in the early-to-mid 20th century. I show how racialization transformed as people moved from Beirut to Marseille to Dakar and back, influencing the shifting racial positionalities of this mobile group as well as those in the places through which they moved. Using diverse sources that include official documents, travelogues, memoirs, periodicals, family papers, cemeteries, and novels in Arabic, French, and English from Beirut, Dakar, and Paris, I argue that mobile processes of racialization were also gendered. Women faced the lion’s share of biopolitical regulation from French colonial authorities and Levantine and West African communities, while men became the visible face of this control as key bodies for the making of racialized subjects across the Empire and in the polities that would replace it.
Thursday, December 7, 2023
Benan Grams, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Loyola University, New Orleans
Hegeman 204A 5:30 pm EST/GMT-5
Since the second half of the 19th century, there has been a global recognition of the crucial role of hygiene and clean water in combating diseases that historically plagued humanity. Sanitary water systems became integral to a worldwide movement aimed at enhancing public health and minimizing waterborne illnesses. The 1903 Fijeh Water Project in Damascus was an Ottoman measure initiated to elevate hygienic standards and improve public health within the Syrian province, particularly amidst recurrent cholera outbreaks. It constituted part of the Ottoman Empire's efforts to develop its public health sector. However, the funding challenges the project encountered and the diplomatic tensions it sparked underscore the political nature of public health. The case demonstrates how the Ottoman public health sector was subject to influences from hygienic modernity imperialism, intricately linked to global imperialist and capitalist endeavors of major powers. The Ottoman government's ability to sustain hygiene services in certain communities was contingent upon not conflicting with the capitalist interests of influential entities. The narrative of the Damascus Fijeh water project elucidates how the Ottomans' endeavors to modernize public health were undermined by the same powers that criticized their inadequate public health measures.
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Hegeman 102 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm EST/GMT-5
Find out about Spring 2024 history courses and connect with history faculty and students at the Historical Studies open house. Food and refreshments will be served. Hegeman 102, 5:00–6:30 pm, Tuesday, December 5.
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Hegeman 204A 6:00 pm EST/GMT-5
Hamas’ attack on October 7 and Israel’s invasion of Gaza have had a profound impact on Israel, Palestine, and far beyond. How might we consider these events in the context of the history of Zionism, of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and of antisemitism?
We hope that an important part of the discussion will be questions from those attending about current events and the long, complex evolution that produced them. We will respond as best we can from our various perspectives.
Cecile E. Kuznitz, Patricia Ross Weis '52 Chair in Jewish History and Culture
Joel Perlmann, Professor, Bard College and Senior Scholar, Levy Institute
Shai Secunda, Jacob Neusner Professor of Judaism, moderator
Monday, November 27, 2023
Olin 102 5:00 pm EST/GMT-5
Court officials in early medieval China conducted their “work” in and for the imperial bureaucracy: they drafted and revised documents in the office, traveled for business, inspected cities and frontiers, and managed lawsuits and infrastructure as local governors. While an empire always needs clerks and scribes for its operation and expansion, the early medieval period in Chinese history, spanning from the 3rd to the 7th centuries CE, saw the court elite’s increasing awareness of their work and themselves being working persons within the aristocratic political structure that determined the perimeter and limit of their social mobility. This is especially shown in poems composed by courtiers that describe their thoughts and feelings when they are fulfilling the duties required by their office, which this talk will focus on. These poems accent the poets’ longing for leisure, human connection, and camaraderie, as well as their confrontation with the faceless bureaucracy that separates them from, and unites them with, other members of the court community. Issues such as friendship, mobility, and value become contested in these texts. By investigating poetry on work and working in the office, this talk delineates a poetics of bureaucracy in early medieval China that centers around a dialectical relation between tong 通 and se 塞, connecting and blocking. This study shows that lyricism is co-constitutive with bureaucracy, as the former would not exist without the systematic control of aesthetic forms, bodies, and identifications, and the laboring persons’ coming to terms with these constraints. In the end, poetic representations of work do not lead to the imaginary of liberated selves that shun work but the formation of a community of working subjects who negotiate with their work and value prescribed by the imperial center and seek to find lyrical moments in the mundane.
Wednesday, November 8, 2023
Naiima Khahaifa, Guarini Fellow
Departments of Geography and
African and African-American Studies
Olin 102 5:15 pm EST/GMT-5
Mass incarceration, characterized by unprecedented prison population growth in the US and a disproportionately large representation of Black men, has garnered much scholarly attention; however, a parallel increase in the proportion of Black correctional officers (COs) has not yet received the same consideration. During the early 1970s, demands made by the Prisoners’ Rights Movement led to the recruitment of thousands of Black men and women into the US correctional workforce over the following decades. Thus, focusing on New York State, I argue that as correctional workforce integration redefined the state’s prison system and broader carceral geography, the racialized process of mass incarceration came to depend on the labor of Black COs. Based on a qualitative analysis of life/occupational history interviews with Black COs in Buffalo, NY, recruited between the late 1970s and early 1990s, I find that dynamics of race, class, and gender shape relationships between Black COs and incarcerated individuals as their day-to-day encounters cultivated cooperation and consent in an otherwise volatile prison environment. Deriving from notions of community policing and fictive kinship, I developed the concept of carceral kinship, which refers to the formation of familial-like bonds that appeared the strongest between Black women COs and Black incarcerated men. This concept matters because it reveals the intricate dynamics and micro-politics of prison spaces and how carceral geographies rely on intimate, empathetic, and emotional care work that is profoundly raced and gendered.
Tuesday, October 24, 2023
Lecture by Yuliya Yurchenko
Avery Art Center; Ottaway Theater 10:10 am – 11:30 am EDT/GMT-4
Yuliya Yurchenko is a senior lecturer in political economy at the Department of Economics and International Business and a researcher at the Political Economy, Governance, Finance, and Accountability Institute, University of Greenwich, UK. She will speak about her book, Ukraine and the Empire of Capital (Pluto, 2017).
Sunday, October 1, 2023
Montgomery Place Estate 10:30 am – 12:00 pm EDT/GMT-4
Long before there was online shopping, there were print catalogs; before the internet there were journals; before social media there were social circles; and before podcasts there were dinner parties. Meet some of the visitors and residents who made significant contributions to life at Montgomery Place while also shaping a wider worldview of their special field of interest. Highlighted personalities will include: A. J. Downing, landscape designer and founding journalist; A. J. Davis, architect and A-list invitee; Alexander Gilson, descendent of slaves, businessman, and groundbreaking gardener; Violetta White Delafield, scientist, pioneering mycologist, and outdoor wellness advocate. Walk will be postponed until October 8 only if heavy rain is forecast. Wear comfortable walking shoes and long pants. Difficulty: Moderate. Not suitable for children under age 7.
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Montgomery Place Estate 10:30 am – 12:00 pm EDT/GMT-4
From farmland to pleasure ground, from national historic site to college campus, much has changed at Montgomery Place over its most recent 220 year history. We’ll walk the trails, meander through the meadows, and stroll the gardens while observing modernization’s impact on the land and water, and learning about the diverse peoples whose history here really goes back thousands of years. Enjoy a ramble through the remnants of a once romantic morning walk. Take in spectacular views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains while exploring the wilderness trails in the ravine formed by the Sawkill Creek. Historical highlights include cascading waterfalls and the hydropower station, the allée of the arboretum through the east lawn, the coach house, and the rough and formal gardens. Walk will be postponed until September 24 only if heavy rain is forecast.
Saturday, June 10, 2023
Montgomery Place Estate 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm EDT/GMT-4
Join us for an in-person community event with author Jane Delury for the launch of her novel, Hedge. This celebration will include cookies, lemonade, an author talk, book signing, and house tour (depending on your ticket tier)! This event is being hosted by Zibby Books, Jane's publisher, and Bard College: Montgomery Place Campus. Montgomery Place was the location for many scenes in Hedge and excerpts from the book will be displayed around the property. Finally, local bookstore Oblong Books will be onsite selling copies of Hedge!
In this “sharply drawn portrait of anguish, loneliness, fear, and desire” (Kirkus) from the winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, garden historian Maud Bentley packs up her daughters to spend a summer at a Hudson Valley estate, leaving her husband behind in California. More about Hedge
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Ketaki Pant '06, Assistant Professor of History, University of Southern California
Hegeman 106 3:30 pm EDT/GMT-4
Despite their centrality to Mauritius’s plantation economy, merchants from Gujarat (western India) remain in the shadows of histories of slavery and indentured labor migration on the island. This talk takes stock of these erased histories by retelling the story of one plantation, Bel Ombre, which was variously owned by French planters and Gujarati merchants in the nineteenth century. Moving between the space of Bel Ombre today, records in the Mauritius National Archives, and old ports in Gujarat, I analyze the archival processes through which Gujarati mercantile intimacies were recorded and obscured. I argue that the archival segregation of records about plantation property ownership and indentured labor was central to the erasure of Gujarati merchants from histories of racial capitalism on the island. I show that the colonial state enacted gendered violence on indentured women whose sexuality was policed and pathologized while Gujarati merchants were able to marry across racial lines through sanctioned property and marriage arrangements. These silences were amplified by Indian anticolonial nationalists who arrived on Mauritius in the twentieth century to take up the cause of Indian indentured workers but who, ironically, papered over racial capitalism in favor of a pan-Indian identity. In old ports in Gujarat, merchant families built and maintained houses (havelis) which were scrubbed clean of these messy intimacies across the ocean. Reaching across the ocean from Gujarat to Mauritius and back, this talk suggests that these are haunted houses and histories.
Ketaki Pant is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on South Asia and the Indian Ocean arena from the late eighteenth century to the present day. Her current projects examine interlinked histories of racial capitalism, gendered belonging, minoritization, and displacement centered on Gujarat. Recent publications include an article in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies and a chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Asian Transnationalism.
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Dr. Noriko Kanahara '04, Waseda University-Tokyo
Olin 102 5:30 pm EDT/GMT-4
This talk explores how in the 1920s through the early 1940s, Japanese state officials determined whether or not to accept Turkic Muslim refugees from the former Russian Empire. Though at most 1000 in number, the refugees left a significant impact not only on how Japanese state officials understood Islam and the power of Muslim networks in global politics, but also on how these officials formed national consciousness in contradistinction to them. Analysis of the journals of the Japanese intelligence police reveals that although the police considered the refugees' religion as an important marker, the refugees’ political interests were most significant in determining whether or not to accept them in Japan. This talk demonstrates that religion and ideology, particularly Islam and Communism, impacted how the refugees established transnational relationships and how Japanese state officials demarcated the nation during the interwar and wartime periods following the Russian Revolution and throughout the Second World War. More specifically, religious and ideological ties—precisely because they were considered powerful tools of transnational mobilization—served as grounds for the Japanese state’s ambivalent reception of refugees.
Bio: Noriko Kanahara graduated from Bard College in 2004 with a BA in Anthropology. She has a PhD in History from the University of Chicago, an M.Phil. in Migration Studies from Oxford University, and an MA in Area Studies from Tokyo University. She has held postdoctoral research fellowships at Tohoku University and Waseda University in Japan. She is currently a research fellow at the Ryusaku Tsunoda Center of Japanese Culture at Waseda University.
This event has received generous support from the Anthropology, Asian Studies, and Global & International Studies programs.
Friday, February 24, 2023
Matthew Delvaux, PhD, Lecturer in History and the Humanities, Princeton University
Olin 102 9:30 am – 10:30 am EST/GMT-5
Vikings are known for ravaging Europe for plunder and slaves during the early Middle Ages, but little is known of what happened next—once they slipped beyond the view of Western chroniclers and into the north where nothing was written. Archaeologists have found Christian trophies in graves across Northern Europe, but captives and slaves are harder to see. This talk will investigate what can be said about people taken captive by viking raiders, especially during the peak period of raiding in the 800s.
In addition to a few eyewitness accounts, annals and chronicles help paint a broader picture, but Western writers were simultaneously engaged in debates about the place of slavery in their own societies. Reading these texts requires attention to how ideas about slavery affected how viking slave raiding was recorded, and how viking raiding in turn transformed Western attitudes toward enslavement. This talk will conclude with consideration of how material evidence can further the scope of this study, ultimately reaching into the frontiers of the ʿAbbāsid Caliphate. At the same time, attention to archaeology helps place this research in productive dialogue with current work on the later transatlantic slave trade.
Matthew Delvaux is a Lecturer in History and a member of the Society of Fellows at Princeton University. He holds a PhD in History from Boston College and an MA with a Certificate in Medieval Archaeology from the University of Florida. He has excavated at sites in Florida, Massachusetts, and Sweden, and has worked in museum collections across Scandinavia. He previously received a BS in History and Foreign Languages from the United States Military Academy and served as a cavalry officer in the United States Army.
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Weis Cinema 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm EST/GMT-5
Prof. Michel DeGraff is a leading linguist known as one of the most prominent Haitian creolists. He is a professor at MIT and the founder of the MIT-Haiti Initiative promoting learning of science and technology in Kreyòl. His New York Times opinion piece, "As a Child in Haiti I Was Taught to Despise My Language" (published in October 2022), will be an entry point to this lecture where he will provide an analysis of some of the long-lasting nefarious impact of colonialism in Haiti, especially in the realms of education. The eventual objective is to enlist lessons from history in order to help usher better futures for those sufferers whom Fanon calls the “Wretched of the Earth” and whom Jean Casimir calls the “ Malere ”—better futures in Haiti and beyond.
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Jake Ransohoff, PhD, Hellenisms Past and Present, Local and Global Postdoctoral Fellow at Simon Fraser University
Olin 102 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm EST/GMT-5
Byzantium is unique in the post-Roman trio of Mediterranean “sibling cultures.” Outside both Latin West and Islamic East but influenced by and influential to both, Byzantium’s marginality makes it prey to essentializing discourses. This talk reexamines a case in point: the gruesome Byzantine punishment of blinding. From the eighth century to the fourteenth, blinding served as the penalty par excellence in Byzantium for crimes of high treason and rebellion. Yet historians have not so much explained this fact as exoticized it, presenting the punishment’s longevity as proof of Byzantium’s alien otherness. Blinding is often, incorrectly, considered a cultural borrowing from Persian Iran. Older scholarship lamented the “oriental delight in cruelty” that replaced Roman virtue; newer works appeal to foreign Byzantine sensibilities, horrid to us but reasonable to them, that cast blinding as an act of mercy.
The present talk challenges these essentializing approaches. Based on the first comprehensive study of judicial disfigurement in Byzantium, the Slavic world, and the medieval West, it shows how clustered bursts of blinding intersperse with long periods during which Byzantine authorities abandoned this practice. Such volatility reveals that the disfigured body was an unstable site of meaning: whether it revealed the injustice of the state or the iniquity of the condemned remained an open question. Meanwhile, visual and literary analysis, manuscript evidence, and archaeology all demonstrate that the Byzantines were not unique in their culture of blinding. In fact, judicial blinding emerged among Rome’s western European heirs before it first appears in Byzantium. By centering the disfigured body in our approach to authority and justice in the Middle Ages, this talk seeks to rescue Byzantium from what one expert has called “its habitual exceptionalism,” while also revealing the changing values of this medieval society. The result is a dynamic new picture of imperial legitimacy, punitive culture, and bio-politics across the medieval Mediterranean.
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Nathanael Aschenbrenner, PhD, Lecturer in History, University of California San Diego
Olin 202 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm EST/GMT-5
476 CE conventionally marks the fall of the Roman Empire. Yet the empire did not cease to exist in the centuries after—it was just ruled from Constantinople, the empire we call Byzantium. Byzantine emperors still structured the passage of time in medieval chronologies, stamped their image on coins traded across the Mediterranean, and received prayers in sonorous Christian liturgies. Yet Byzantium has largely been effaced from Roman imperial history. This paper aims to decenter myopically Western histories of the medieval Roman Empire by focusing on a critical moment at the end of the Middle Ages. After centuries of polemics alienating the eastern empire from the legitimacy of ancient Rome, the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 prompted Europeans to reconsider older animosity toward Byzantium. Drawing on oratory, genealogy, visual art, and humanist historiography, this paper reconstructs Byzantium's restoration to Roman imperial history in the 16th c. It argues that these dynamics re-Romanized Byzantium in early modern Europe, but they also signal an early and unrecognized stage of Europe's intellectual colonization of the East.
Monday, February 13, 2023
Valentina Grasso, PhD, Assistant Professor of Semitics at the Catholic University of America
Olin 102 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm EST/GMT-5
It is a recurrent trope for “early Medieval” hagiographies and histories to ascribe the evangelization of a region to the arrival of a lone itinerant figure who abruptly converted its entire population. However, group conversions were the cumulative result of socio-economic networks and migrations, as the exchange of ideas followed that of resources. Traders played an essential role in spreading their faith across the “Early Middle Ages”. For instances, trading diasporas and the establishment of a Christian Commonwealth formed by communities partnered with Rome created a social network of commerce. Thriving communities of Christian merchants established themselves in Iran, India, East Africa, and South Arabia as rulers pragmatically exploited the spread of cults to fill gaps in regions which lacked firm ethnic boundaries. While the world became increasingly globalized in the sixth century through its intertwining trade routes, people not only exchanged goods and ideas but also illnesses such as the bacterium Yersinia pestis. This pandemic contributed to a widespread crisis exacerbated by ecological factors and constant warfare. As the eclipse of centralized power in China led to the formation of political systems in Manchuria, the Arabians reacted to the tiresome war between Rome and Iran and the collapse of the Red Sea Kingdoms by transforming their tribal system into an imperial confederation. The emergence of Islam, the Muslim conquests, and the subsequent appearance of the Muslim Commonwealth smashed established geopolitical borders. Yet, it also created new mental challenges, exacerbating existing cultural divisions, reinforcing fears of otherness and leading to the rise of new frontiers built around faith. My presentation will explore identity formation during this period by focusing on the intersection of trade and faith. In doing so, I will offer a comparative analysis between the political entities of the Red Sea and those of Central Asia, to counter reductive mappings of peripherality in the “Early Middle Ages” and demonstrate the extent to which these entities were far from marginal.
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Panel discussion at Bard College with Masha Gessen (Bard/New Yorker), Anna Nemzer (TVRain/RIMA), Archie Magno (Bard)
Moderated by Ilia Venyavkin (RIMA)
Campus Center, Weis Cinema 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm EST/GMT-5
In his recent Nobel Prize lecture Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov called independent journalism “the antidote against tyranny” and promised that Russian journalists would never give up. Still, if we look at the history of independent media in Russia, we will see that the hope that unbiased media coverage would protect society from relativism, conspiracy theories, propaganda and — at the end of day — from dictatorship, has proven unjustified. Or has it?
The panel will discuss the history of the past 20 years of Russian independent journalism: How did dictatorship in modern Russia become possible? What did independent media do wrong? Have we learned anything new about freedom of speech that we did not know before?
At the panel we will also present the Russian Independent Media Archive (RIMA) — a joint digital initiative of Bard College and PEN America to protect the work of Russian journalists from censorship.
The event is sponsored by Center for Civic Engagement, the Gagarin Center at Bard College, and PEN America.