Goldstein’s ‘On Middle Ground’ Named Finalist for National Jewish Book Award

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Congratulations to Eric Goldstein for his recent book On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore (Johns Hopkins Press, 2018), which was named a finalist for the American Jewish Studies Book Award of the Jewish Book Council. On Middle Ground was co-authored with Deborah R. Weiner. Goldstein is the Judith London Evans Director of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies and Associate Professor of History and Jewish studies.

Joseph Crespino in ‘The Washington Post’: “How will Broadway change Atticus Finch?”

Jimmy Carter Professor of History and Department Chair Joseph Crespino recently authored a piece in The Washington Post on the Broadway adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Crespino, who published Atticus Finch: the Biography with Basic Books in 2018, discusses the current production in the context of the 1962 adaptation of Lee’s novel as an award-winning film. The play is written by Aaron Sorkin and stars Jeff Daniels, and it has set box office records since opening in mid-December. Read an excerpt of Crespino’s piece below and the whole article here: “The ever-shifting hero of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: How will Broadway change Atticus Finch?

“…Sorkin has the difficult task of pleasing throngs of Lee devotees while also making the story relevant to contemporary audiences. Can Sorkin avoid writing another white savior narrative? Can he acknowledge the agency of Calpurnia and Tom Robinson, the African American characters in the story? If he muddies the character of Atticus too much, will he run afoul of Lee’s estate, inviting further legal action? And how does he present the racism that was pervasive in the 1930s South to a new generation of Americans accustomed to trigger warnings and safe spaces?

Given the challenges, Sorkin and crew would do well to recall the definition of courage that Atticus gave to his son Jem: ‘It’s when you know you are licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.’”

Crespino’s ‘Atticus Finch: The Biography’ among ‘Atlanta Magazine’s’ 2018 Standouts

Atticus Finch

Atlanta Magazine has included Dr. Joseph Crespino’s Atticus Finch: The Biography among their list of standout books with Georgia ties from 2018. Crespino, who is Jimmy Carter Professor of History and Chair of the History Department, published the biography of the Harper Lee character earlier this year with Basic Books. Listen to and read an excerpt from Atticus Finch at Basic Books, and explore the other nine Georgia-linked titles from the Atlanta Magazine list here: “10 standout books with Georgia ties that you might have missed in 2018.”

 

Patrick N. Allitt Sees Election Recounts as “Sign of a Healthy Democracy”

Cahoon Family Professor of American History Patrick N. Allitt recently published a piece in Spectator USA. Writing in the wake of the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S., Allitt describes the numerous recounts throughout the nation as the sign of a healthy democracy. Read an excerpt below along with the full article, “Election recounts are a sign of a healthy democracy: Americans are more eager than ever to get results right.”

“Thousands of men and women are working to make sure the count is accurate. They know that, all over the world, democracies fail when the losers refused to accept the verdict of the electorate, or when the winner abolishes the system that brought him to power. From their earliest schooldays they’ve had drummed into them the idea that fair elections are sacrosanct, their nation’s bedrock.”

Tehila Sasson on “A Truly Global Britain” in ‘Journal of British Studies’

Assistant Professor of History Tehila Sasson published an article entitled “A Truly Global Britain?” in the October 2018 edition of Journal of British Studies. The piece is part of a roundtable of historians who examine the emerging subfield of Britain and the World. In addition to her article, Sasson co-authored the introduction with James Vernon. Read Sasson’s contributions along with the full collection here: “Britain and the World: A New Field?”

Jason Morgan Ward in ‘The Washington Post’: “A Mississippi senator joked about ‘public hanging.’ Here’s why that’s unacceptable.”

Acting Professor of History Jason Morgan Ward recently published an article in The Washington Post’s “Made by History” section. Ward discusses Mississippi’s long and tragic history of lynchings in the context of recent comments from Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. Read an excerpt of Ward’s piece below along with the full article here: “A Mississippi senator joked about ‘public hanging.’ Here’s why that’s unacceptable.”

Any mention of a “public hanging” taps a deep well of racial memory in Mississippi, and for good reason. The state led the nation in lynchings, with more than 650 killings between the Civil War and the civil rights era documented in the Equal Justice Initiative’s recent report, “Lynching in America.” While public execution by hanging persisted in Southern communities into the 20th century, spectacle lynchings outpaced and eventually replaced these “official” killings as the South’s preferred form of “public hanging.” While many lynchings occurred under cover of darkness or at the hands of small gangs of vigilantes, white Mississippians gathered by the hundreds, and occasionally thousands, to witness racial killings.

Recent Faculty Publications: Q & A with Yanna Yannakakis about ‘Power of Attorney’

Associate Professor of History Yanna Yannakakis recently launched a digital publication entitled “Power of Attorney in Oaxaca, Mexico: Native People, Legal Culture, and Social Networks.” Yannakakis, who is a specialist of colonial Mexico and also holder of the Winship Distinguished Research Professorship in History (2018-2021), discusses the making of this innovative digital humanities project in the latest installment of “Recent Faculty Publications.” Read the Q & A below and check out the project here.

Extensive projects like these are produced over years if not decades. Give us a sense for the lifespan of this project, from initial idea through final production.

I came up with the idea for this project in the fall of 2013. I had been researching indigenous legal culture in colonial Oaxaca, Mexico and had encountered dozens of letters of attorney – a simple and formulaic genre of notarial document — produced by native litigants in the state’s judicial archive. I noticed that in addition to information about native litigation, the letters contained spatial data, including the names of native communities and the locations of their legal representatives. I began to wonder if I could map the interethnic relationships and networks created by power of attorney across the space of the Spanish empire, from the remote highlands of Oaxaca to Madrid, Spain and places in-between. I brought my research questions to Emory’s Center for Digital Studies, which serves as an incubator for digital projects, and in collaboration with my colleagues at ECDS, we developed a research plan and method. We launched the pilot for the project in May 2018, and the work is ongoing.

Digital humanities projects often entail collaborative work with other historians as well as specialists who work primarily outside of the humanities. Who were the partners on this project and how did you all develop productive approaches to dialogue and workflow across disciplines?

Digital humanities is by definition collaborative because it is rare for a single scholar to be able to master all of the necessary skills. In my case, I had graduate research assistants – Selene García Jiménez (El Colegio de México); Jon Coulis, Angie Picone, and Alex Cors (Emory University) – photographing, transcribing, and culling data from letters of attorney. At ECDS, Joanna Mundy, Sara Palmer, and Jennifer Doty contributed to the design of the project data base, and Sara oversaw the production of the Gephi network graphs. Megan Slemens, ECDS GIS librarian, and Michael Page, ECDS Geographer spatialized the Gephi network graphs in Google Earth, and developed CARTO maps. Phil MacLeod, Latin American Studies Librarian at Woodruff Library helped me to locate historical maps and geographical data. Julius Kniffki, a freelance photographer contributed photos for the website (as did I), and Erin Hecht, a freelance web-designer developed the streamlined and user-friendly and artful layout for the website. I designed the categories of analysis, interpreted the maps and visualizations, and wrote the text for the site.

Coordinating workflow could at times be a challenge, especially at the outset when my graduate assistants and I seemed to be speaking a different language from our ECDS colleagues. The historical context of eighteenth century Oaxaca – from the names of native communities, to the geographic layout of administrative units, to notarial language – required translation and explanation. So too did the language of relational databases, network graphs, and google earth coordinates, especially since all of it was novel to me. After about 18 months of work, we found our groove, and came to understand what each part of the team needed and where to find it. It was really rewarding to develop these collaborative relationships over time and see the project unfold.

How do the maps and visualizations on the site reshape our understanding of indigenous legal culture?

It has been hard to shake the misconception that native communal life in colonial Mexico was parochial; that, as the saying goes, it extended no further than what could be seen from the church bell tower. It is true that many conflicts and concerns were locally rooted and oriented around communal structures. But as the maps and visualizations of Power of Attorney demonstrate, native people were well aware of the spatial organization of colonial bureaucracy and the court system, and they contracted legal representation in order to maximize their advantage within the patchwork of legal jurisdictions that made up the Spanish Empire. Scholarship on native litigation has blossomed in the last decade, so the argument about native legal strategizing is not new. But seeing how relationships born of litigation played out in space and over time, and how they connected native communities to one another and to distant courts provides a much richer understanding of the material and cultural ties that bound the empire. Crucially, the trajectory of these relationships, initiated by native litigants, moves from the indigenous region outward, rather than the other way around.

How does this project align with your broad research agenda?

I am currently writing a book about native justice and jurisdiction in Oaxaca from the eighteenth century through the first three decades after Mexico’s independence from Spain. “Power of Attorney” has helped me to understand in much greater depth the relationship between native and Spanish jurisdictions. It has also helped me to train my eye on contracts (letters of attorney were a form of contract) as a key source for understanding changes in customary law and legal and institutional relationships at a variety of scales. Early on, I imagined that this project would be part of the book, but then decided to keep the two projects separate. As the book has developed, though, I am beginning to see more connections, and am re-thinking how they might come together.